What is your just-getting-started story?


Unless you are born with a silver spoon, the journey toward financial independence will most likely be arduous. Even those who've reached the happy state of retirement have stories to tell about the ups and downs they experienced, their mistakes and triumphs, and what it really took to get there. And most of us — especially those who regularly read this site — are still in the midst of our own journey and trying to enjoy the ride as much as we can.

At the moment, that's exactly where my husband and I are. After 10 years of marriage and two kids together, we stay pretty busy figuring out ways to make our small online business grow, sticking relentlessly to our zero-sum budget, and saving a large percentage of our incomes. On the other hand, we still have plenty of years of saving and investing ahead of us. And while I'm truly thankful for the progress we've been making, I'm not in any hurry to get there, either.

Our humble beginnings

But we haven't always had our finances figured out like we do now. When my husband and I got married in 2005, I was working as a nanny for around $10 an hour. Meanwhile, he had just graduated from a mortuary science program and was ready to start his internship.

Young couple just getting started in new apartment

Even though I made very little and he was paid only $20,000 for his one-year program, we were lucky that the funeral home afforded us a small apartment upstairs in which to live. Extremely lucky.

It was less than 500 square feet and set right above the funeral home's embalming room, but that apartment was a godsend. Because it was part of his compensation package, we didn't have to pay rent or utilities while we lived there.

As we all know, keeping your living expenses low is one of the best ways to get ahead. So, even though we didn't make a lot of money, we stashed away quite a bit of cash in our savings account during the year we lived in that tiny home. It helped that we didn't have kids to take care of and that we only had one car loan to service, too. We didn't have a lot, but we were happy. And we were so hopeful about the future. I look back on that time with absolute pleasure; we had so little, but we also had so much.

We're in different places together

Even though we're all in different stages of our journey, we're also all in this together. We all want the same things — financial stability, enough money to take care of our families, the ability to sleep at night without worry.

While some of us are in the throes of paying down a mountain of debt, others are just learning why it's even important to care about their finances. Many of us are further along in the journey, either working toward financial independence or getting pretty darn close to our goals.

But we all started somewhere, right?

And even just hearing someone else's story can be very instructive — and inspiring. It's interesting to learn how someone got where they are today. You never know what you could use to improve your own financial picture or up your financial game. In fact, that is the very nature of being innovative — taking what you see and making it work for you. It's what we're all about.

What is your just-getting-started story?

So in the spirit of helping one another, we thought it would be interesting to devote a place for all of our “just-getting-started” stories. Tell us what you did to get where you are now, and what you're doing to get where you're going. And, of course, we want to hear about the mistakes you made along the way and how you remedied them. Even though we can't change the past, sharing our stories of where we went wrong in our financial journeys might help someone else avoid the same path.

Here's what to do

  1. Tweet using #justgettingstartedstory! The more the word gets out, the more likely we are to get fresh, new stories to learn from and appreciate.

  2. Vote! We'll consider it your vote of recommendation if you “like” someone's story in the comments. Then we'll reach out to the people whose comments are really popular among you and see if, hopefully, they'd like to tell us more for an article profiling their story.

If you have always wanted to share your getting-rich-slowly or your just-getting-started story, now is your chance. Here are some questions to start the ball rolling, but you can make up your own question if you like:

  • How hard was it for you to get on your feet?

  • What strategies are you currently using to save and build wealth?

  • What was the turning point that got you started on the path to financial health?

  • If you had one tip for someone who is trying to get rich slowly, what would it be?

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lmoot
lmoot
5 years ago

This will be fun to read! I hope folks participate. I don’t have an awe-inspiring story. Basically my turnaround came in my senior year in college when I came home to visit and my dad pulled me aside, showed me my bank statements for the last few months and calculated right there what I would need to earn after I graduate in order to keep up with my current lifestyle, plus insurance and other grown people expenses that exist in the real world; I think it was something like $50k. That opened my eyes in multiple ways. One eye opened… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
5 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Oh, and the financial crash happened about 6 months after I graduated. I’m sure that had an affect as well.

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
5 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

It didn’t have an “affect”, but it did have an effect.

lmoot
lmoot
5 years ago
Reply to  Mysticaltyger

Thank you. To this day I still get them mixed up when I’m not thinking at full capacity. I guess I should also admit that my degree was in English. ha!

Another Beth
Another Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  Mysticaltyger

lmoot, think of it this way: In general, “affect” is the action (that is, the verb), while “effect” is the noun. That’s not quite always the case, though, and Grammar Girl has an excellent guide regarding the nuances on her website: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/affect-versus-effect

lmoot
lmoot
5 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Thank you Beth. I feel I should clarify (maybe defend myself lol) though that I know the difference. If someone were to ask me what the difference was, I would be able to answer with a 0-second lag. In this case it was just a typo…like when I said “about of volunteer hours” intead of “amount of volunteer hours”. Oy, I miss edit capability.

Michael Tully
Michael Tully
5 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Regarding your advice to parents of college students: amen, and amen! In my opinion the lack of a Life Skills 101 course is one of the biggest faults in the education system in the USA today. But if it were me, I’d put it in the high school curriculum rather than college, so everyone could be exposed to it.

My congratulations and best wishes to you.

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
5 years ago

To answer the questions: –It was very hard for me to get started. I had major self confidence issues that limited my ability to work and do a lot of other things. It took me until I was 25 to get a driver’s license, for example. Unlike a lot of people, I was and still am naturally frugal. My mistake was in assuming everyone was like me and/or was at least interested in saving, etc. I got into a relationship with someone who was bad with money. Overly optimistic about how much money would come in, and when that didn’t… Read more »

True for me too...
True for me too...
5 years ago
Reply to  Mysticaltyger

“The turning point for me had nothing to do with money, which I think is true for a lot of people. Getting your money straight is often usually about clearing up emotional issues and mental hangups/misconceptions. It was about admitting—and then getting out of—a relationship that wasn’t working and also about working on my own self confidence.” This was also the case from me. A decade-long marriage to an addict wreaked havoc on our marital finances; a divorce, five years on my own cleaning up the emotional and financial baggage, and I’m now married to a stable, loving man and… Read more »

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
5 years ago

Yep. My ex-bf didn’t have any addictions, but he did have childhood trauma issues (that I didn’t know about or understand at the time) that created his own self confidence issues which prevented him from handling money well.

freebird
freebird
5 years ago

I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, I was blessed with something much more valuable, namely a talent for math and science that got me through graduate school with a positive net worth from surplus scholarship money. But once I started work my middle-aged hiring manager told me how an engineering career can be like one in sports– don’t expect it to last forever. This warning and wave after wave of layoffs at the MegaCorp I just joined motivated me to find an early exit. My turning point was reading an article in Money magazine about the Terhorsts, who amassed… Read more »

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
5 years ago
Reply to  freebird

Imoot, it always seems like the engineers and computer programmers are the ones who get the concept of retiring early. I wish I had been better at math and science. Not acquiring marketable skills has always been the bane of my existence. I would be retired now if I had a better paying job (or if I hustled a bit more). Despite my low-ish income, though, I’ve always been a save-a-holic tendencies…but I only briefly got to that 50%+ savings rate that gets you to retirement at a very young age before I upgraded my lifestyle. (Just couldn’t handle being… Read more »

Sanjeev
Sanjeev
5 years ago

Great Article Holly ! I came here as a foreign student and life was pretty much a struggle because I had to maintain certain GPA. After Bachelors degree, I had to find a job that would sponser permanent resident. So, I understood little bit about money during those years. At the time, I was not a big spender but I was definitely not a saver or investor. Whatever I had, I thought I have to spend. The turning point came when I saw big family feuds over wealth when my grandfather from dad’s side passed away. I saw relationships gotten… Read more »

Carla
Carla
5 years ago

36 and still getting started.

taoigh
taoigh
5 years ago

My turning point was when I graduated with a wonderful and idealistic humanities degree and then realized I had to figure out how to support myself and pay all of my student loans back. Luckily, I found a job that I really enjoyed that also covered my bills okay. But since it wasn’t super high-paying, I had to get creative about finding ways to keep my costs low while paying off loans quickly. My best tip: keep housing costs low. I was lucky enough to have friends to share housing with, and we lived a number of years with two… Read more »

Reesa
Reesa
5 years ago

I was good with my money through college and my first two years of working. My mom died when I was 23 and I went through a couple years of really rough emotional issues and faced some health challenges and surgeries. I was in a pretty dark period in my life at that point and racked up credit card debt equal to 80% of my annual income, plus I still had student loan debt. At 26, I was just beginning to realize how much I had royally messed up when I found out I was pregnant. It was unplanned and… Read more »

akoilady
akoilady
5 years ago
Reply to  Reesa

Reesa, One of the reasons I read GRS is to read stories like yours that are so inspiring. You have done a great job of turning your financial life around and it is reassuring to those of us who are just beginning to get started.

Ryan
Ryan
5 years ago

My wife Nicole and I got married in December 2012 with a $60K mountain of student loan and wedding debt. Also, we both decided my then professional role was not best going forward so I resigned. I was out of work for 6 weeks. The biggest asset was for us to remain faithful and disciplined to the “Budget and Financial Plan” we made in our first month. It has helped us in 2.5 years to decrease our debt to $24k. We are excited about the journey to $0 debt! It can get tough but making it fun along the way… Read more »

lanthiriel
lanthiriel
5 years ago

My husband and I met when I was 18 and he was 23. I was always racing to be ahead of the curve. I had a Masters degree less than four years after graduating from high school and haven’t been unemployed for a minute since I was 19. My husband, while extremely intelligent, is highly unmotivated. After almost a decade together, I’m pretty sure he’s on the autistic spectrum. It was very important to me that he pursue higher education (note the distinction there…). When we met he had an AA and a number of credits from multiple universities, but… Read more »

Paul
Paul
5 years ago

It wasn’t hard for me to get on my feet since I started at an early age. I was 12 when I got my first job as a paperboy (back in the day when that job existed). It was empowering making money at that age. And since I didn’t have anything to spend it on (except that drum set my dad wouldn’t buy for me), I saved it. That was the first step that eventually led to me becoming a doctor, M.D. My system for saving and building wealth is not the status quo and is very simple; I invest… Read more »

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
5 years ago
Reply to  Paul

I am all for getting rich quick. But people need to know that getting rick quick is not easy.

Paul
Paul
5 years ago
Reply to  Mysticaltyger

I think getting rich quick is easy IF you have the right business model. Evaluate the model with my tips to see if it is sound. Now “quick” is relative in terms of time to get there and how much money you need/want/think is “rich.” Most people can probably get there in 2-5 years, to me that’s quick. This blog didn’t ask “how would you get rich quick” so I didn’t go into it.

Diancey
Diancey
5 years ago
Reply to  Mysticaltyger

@Mysticaltyger – People need to know that getting rich quick[ly] involves a certain amount of knowledge and a willingness to work hard…
Many people use this as an excuse to avoid getting started, or worse, not trying at all.

Andrew
Andrew
5 years ago

There is no exact date on when I started on this life path to be financially independent. The reason I don’t remember exactly when my desire for financial independence began is because in the beginning I felt as if I was just waking up, like a baby opening their eyes for the first time and discovering a new world-a world full of possibilities. It all started innocently enough from a conversation I had with my uncle, an antique dealer, during which he explained to me how gold was money, or a form of it, anyway. That conversation was the first… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
5 years ago

There is no exact date on when I started on this life path to be financially independent. The reason I don’t remember exactly when my desire for financial independence began is because in the beginning I felt as if I was just waking up, like a baby opening their eyes for the first time and discovering a new world-a world full of possibilities. It all started innocently enough from a conversation I had with my uncle, an antique dealer, during which he explained to me how gold was money, or a form of it, anyway. That conversation was the first… Read more »

Emilia
Emilia
5 years ago

Hi everyone, I’m new to the site and I’d like to share my story. When my husband and I met in college 8 years ago, neither of us knew anything about money, and we spent it like crazy. I was going to school for my doctor of pharmacy, and figured that since I’d never have to worry about finding a job or money, why save it? It was a dangerous mindset. Well, after a few years in the profession, all I want now is out! Thankfully, we are on our way to early retirement as a result of things we… Read more »

jestjack
jestjack
5 years ago

I look back fondly at the struggles of our “early years”…Our BEST move was buying our first home 37 years ago tomorrow September 8th…It was a “fixer upper” but was a 2 apartment home that came with a tenant. Our house payment was $344 per month and the tenant upstairs paid $200 a month rent. The place had a fireplace and I installed a woodstove insert which cut the heat bill considerably. Lived in this place for about 6 years. Fixed the place up and found a new place to buy. We rented our unit in one hour after placing… Read more »

Cory
Cory
5 years ago

My story begins with a negative $45,000 net worth at age 30. I was stuck on the Golden Gate Bridge in a traffic jam on a Sunday afternoon when I asked myself, “Why am I living in one of the most expensive cities in America?” I immediately decided my life needed a reboot since the cost of living in San Francisco, CA was growing faster than my income and savings. One week later, I told my boss I was moving back to the Midwest. He told I was crazy to give up on the California dream but offered me the… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
5 years ago
Reply to  Cory

***I’ve also discovered that working is more fun when you have a second source of income that provides everything you need and then some*** This is beyond true. It also lessens everyday stress and worries, because if you lose 1 income, you can slow down the trickle with additional income. And that feeling of peace increases with each new source of income you gain. I’m completely biased because you’re living my dream, but I would love to hear more about using income property as part of a long-term retirement plan (vs. the get rich quick scenarios that are usually presented).… Read more »

Cory
Cory
5 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

I don’t know what a FIRE standard means since this thread caught my attention and I have never been to this site. Assuming it means maxing out 401k, IRAs and savings, I’ve found I don’t have to do this since my real estate makes it easier to hit my retirement goals via the the 5 benefits of a cash flowing property. 1. Cash Flow 2. Depreciation (I pay little in taxes due to this amazing write off) 3. Equity capture (buying distress and making the property worth more via strategic improvements) 4.Principal pay down on mortgages. My tenants pay me… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
5 years ago
Reply to  Cory

Thanks for the reply. FIRE is a goal of a lot of people in the PF world; it stands for Financial Independence/ Retire Early. I’ve always been interested in alternative retirement savings methods, and have a plan similar to yours (but less thought out than yours).

Diancey
Diancey
5 years ago
Reply to  Cory

@Cory “I still max out my Roth but see the 401k as pointless since it’s only worth 2/3 of its value once you retire and cannot be touched unit your 59 1/2. Why 2/3? When you pull the money out its taxed as ordinary income. If your goal is to be a millionaire and live in a decent tax bracket, it’s not worth 100% of the investment value.” “My real estate is worth way more on a after tax basis. For example, I could refinance my equity and pull it out tax free and continue to cash flow.” I love… Read more »

Jake Green
Jake Green
5 years ago

Hmmm, I would say my turning point came when the IRS started to contact me about my current tax debt. I have to say it was one of the scariest moments of my life! Thank god I’ve gotten serious about it and I should be debt free in a little over a year and a half.

Ray
Ray
5 years ago

We got married in December 2012 with a $60K mountain of student loan and wedding debt. Also, we both decided my then professional role was not best going forward so I resigned. I was out of work for 6 weeks. The biggest asset was for us to remain faithful and disciplined to the “Budget and Financial Plan” we made in our first month. It has helped us in 2.5 years to decrease our debt to $24k. We are excited about the journey to $0 debt! It can get tough but making it fun along the way makes a big difference.… Read more »

Laronda B
Laronda B
5 years ago

We’ve been “getting started” for probably 8 years now… We had run the numbers and figured out that we could afford for me to stay home with our first child. A few months after he was born, my husband’s health insurance tripled in cost and stopped covering well-child checks and immunizations. Insurance got even more expensive after we had child #2. We finally got him payed off, and decided it was so much fun we’d have a third. 🙂 We went into it all with open eyes, and for our family, having a parent home with our young children has… Read more »

Michael Tully
Michael Tully
5 years ago

Our turning point was the day we got married. I didn’t have a dime of debt, but my wife was drowning in it. We immediately set to work getting it paid off. She quickly came to see the folly of gratifying one’s every material wish through “easy” monthly payments, but she was still hooked on maxed-out credit cards (over $20K in balances carried), and it took her a long time to break the cycle of this month’s purchases equaling last month’s minimum payment. At long last, we overcame that issue, and went to work on paying off the mortgage. We… Read more »

Beth
Beth
5 years ago

My story isn’t so much a “getting started” as it is “starting over” because I changed careers after a period of underemployment and lack of full time job prospects. By the time I finished school (again!) I had student debt, was five years behind on my financial plan and starting with an entry level position. Needless to say, I made a few mistakes along the way and had a few challenges thrown at me (such as my employer going out of business). It’s not a dramatic get-out-of-massive-consumer-debt or finally-learn-all-those-financial-lessons type story, and it’s perhaps not all that exciting. But it… Read more »

Dano
Dano
5 years ago

My wife and I have been blessed with an easier startup situation than most. Out of college, we each had no debt but that wasn’t due so much to us being savvy as it was our parents taking care of the costs. The catch was, we had never learned any lessons along the way. Thankfully, we didn’t make the typical mistakes you see so often these days. I can’t remember the exact moment, but my brother told me over a couple of occasions some really good advice. First, read Dave Ramsey’s stuff. We weren’t in debt so I didn’t understand… Read more »

stellamarina
stellamarina
5 years ago
Reply to  Dano

As a Grandma……your Grandmas need to be better appreciated……I would not do it and most do not want to. It is hard to physically and emotionally look after little kids for more than a few hours when you get older. I hope they are getting some kind of returns even if you do not want to pay them.

Dano
Dano
5 years ago
Reply to  stellamarina

Fair point, but I dare say you don’t have enough info to judge our particular situation. I gave a very basic summary of the arrangement. The grandmothers are both retired/semi-retired and asked to be a part of this at no charge. One takes the morning, the other takes the last part of the day. This way each has their freedom the rest of the day. We wouldn’t be doing this if it was too taxing on them, and they each enjoy the heck out of it. We also have other backup options, and are very considerate of their time spent.… Read more »

Shifting Perception
Shifting Perception
5 years ago

I am 36 but I think I am only just getting started. At least it’s only now when I truly understand and appreciate my life. I always thought that I will be happy when I have a great job, be in a good relationship, have a nice place to live in, only to realise that I have had all of those things for years but I was still not happy. Leaving my ‘great’ job that never made me happy was one of the best decision I have ever made. I do not want to settle for something just for financial… Read more »

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