This is one of those posts that is either going to relate to a lot of people or I am going to hear crickets….
If it connects with one person and helps them from making the same mistake that I did then it’s worth it to me.
In early 2015 we paid off all of our debt. We were 100% debt free! It was great. No more student loans, no more credit card debt and no more car loans. Once we started our debt free mission, we (or at least I) were extremely motivated. I loved seeing a student loan destroyed. Every time I paid off one debt I was even more motivated to pay off the next and the next and the next. And then something happened….
We ran out of debt to pay off. And that’s a good thing right? It seemed like it at the time and yes, of course it’s a good thing! We didn’t owe anybody anything! What an awesome feeling!
So, what in the world is a debt free hangover?
A debt free hangover is exactly what happened to me and I don’t want it to happen to you.
Winston Churchill said (or at least the internet claims that he said) “Success is going from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”. Now, let’s flip that quote on it’s head and I think it perfectly sums up what happened to me.
“Success is going from one success to another with no loss of enthusiasm” This is where I dropped the ball. Major failure on my part. I had a huge success and then lost all enthusiasm.
I was so focused on this one goal that when I reached it I had no idea what to do next. I know I’m not the only one that has had this happen to them. Some people even revert back to their old ways and go back in debt. I “wandered” in the desert for a while you might say. Maybe close to a year. I didn’t go back into debt but I had lost my purpose. I knew there were other things that needed our attention financially but I wasn’t as excited about those. I was not mentally prepared.
I tend to be a very focused, hard core kind of guy. Place a goal in front of me and I will run people over trying to get to it. That can be a good thing. It was in the case of paying off our debt. I just didn’t see the whole picture. I had the blinders on chasing down Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo. I chased them down like Ndamukong Suh going after Aaron Rodgers (this was a couple years ago). I stripped the ball, ran for a touchdown and did my dance in the end zone. That’s when it hit me. I looked around and no one cared. There was no crowd cheering me on and celebrating my victory. I wasn’t ready for the next step. I got the touchdown but I was still down 35-7. It was a bit demoralizing. Getting that touchdown was a great first step but I still had to play the rest of the game. I had forgot about the big picture. When you are almost debt free keep pushing but also think about where you are going next so you don’t miss a beat. I don’t want you to take your eye off the prize but when you can see light at the end of the tunnel you need to start planning for what is next. Are you moving right into saving for retirement? Do you need to save for a down payment on your first home? Do you need to upgrade that piece of crap car that you have been driving since college?
Everyone’s situation is different. For us, the next step was saving for and buying a house. If I was ready to take that next step and move forward we probably would have bought a house a year ago when interest rates and home prices were both a little bit lower. Missed opportunity. Now that we have got the house bought, saving like a madman for retirement is the goal. If there is only one thing to take away from this whole story it is this:
HAVE A PLAN AND EXECUTE IT
I had a short term plan but didn’t have the long term plan mapped out.
Send me an email and tell me about your debt free story. What did you do next? Did anyone feel that same loss of enthusiasm and direction as I did?