“You write about what?”
“But of all the things to talk about! Money?!”
“You, uh, know money stuff?”
Five years ago, I decided to start this blog. I wasn’t writing as an expert or as anyone with anything particularly interesting to say. Instead, I wanted to chronicle my journey of trying to spend more cents a little more wisely — and share some stories about picking up pennies along the way.
Over the past five years (otherwise known as half a decade!), I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also found some real success. But what that looks like maybe isn’t what you’d expect.
So here’s a quick look at five years of blogging and how it led me to a new six-figure milestone:
The truth is, the Internet is overrun with Experts and Overnight Success Stories. Five years into blogging, I can happily say…I am neither.
I’m a teacher clinging onto my early 30s married to another teacher who is solidly middle aged. (He’s two years older than me and doesn’t read my blog, so I can tell you that!) We have one little boy who is the love of our lives and also an absolute tornado. Our little family lives in a suburb of Chicago where we pay too much money for, well, everything compared to the rest of the Midwest in exchange for the priceless benefit of being near family.
We aren’t millionaires. We still don’t track our net worth to the penny. Ballparks work fine when you’re not planning on retiring early. Plus, I’m not interesting in pretending that progress is a straight line anyway. A chart would only get my hopes up and proceed to dash my dreams.
So if I’m not an expert, what exactly what five years of blogging gotten me?
The Big Sexy Six-Figure Milestone
We’ve hit some pretty impressive milestones. At least, I’m impressed. We’ve thrown a ton of money at our mortgage. Considering I didn’t even know a mortgage was debt when I first gave Bluehost my credit card number, I think we can all say that I’ve come a long way, baby.
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In fact, we just recently got to the point where we saved enough that we can fell the mortgage in a single
swoop click when we’re ready. Six figures of savings and some serious debt pay down is certainly more than I was dreaming of five years ago. (Let’s be honest. Five years ago, I was still dreaming about buying another pair of Jimmy Choos to keep my wedding shoes company.)
Most recently, though, we crossed another big milestone. My Roth IRA crested the six-figure mark last week. After celebrating briefly with Vanguard on Twitter, I spent some time thinking about how I got here.
Not long after starting this blog, I got some advice and virtual hand-holding from a few blogger buddies. With their encouragement, I rethought my investing approach. We’ve all heard that the first $100,000 is the hardest. I’m here today to add to that wisdom. It’s that much harder when your idea of investing is socking away money in a Roth IRA…in a bank CD earning maybe 2%.
With some online encouragement, I stopped trying to roll that particular boulder and opted to make my life a lot easier. Once I moved my Roth to Vanguard (I started in a target date fund!), I committed to maxing it out every year. For five years, I’ve done exactly that. I buy the highs, I buy the lows. Even when the market noise tells me the sky is falling, I keep putting money in.
And now, I’m here: $101,105.79
Not too shabby for someone who opened the account and wasn’t entirely certain I wouldn’t somehow end up owing the stock market money in the event of a downturn.
Of course, I know the market could tumble enough tomorrow to take me back to five figures. That’s OK. I learned how to get here. I arrived once–I can do it again.
A Future Millionaire
Using a compound interest calculator, the money gods say that my Roth will be worth $580,700.21 in 30 years, compounded annually at 6%. That’s if I add exactly nothing. If I add another $6,000 a year, I’ll be looking at $1,055,049.33 in 30 years.
Should I use a more optimistic rate like 8%, the outlook gets even brighter. Even without adding another penny, I cross the million-dollar mark in 30 years. If I indulge the delusions of Dave Ramsey and pop in 12%, I might quit my job now. (Kidding. I’m in it for the long haul!)
In five years of blogging, I’ve spent more money than I’ve made on this blog. But I’ve also turned myself into a future millionaire based exclusively on my Roth IRA.
What Success Really Looks Like
Success is slow. It’s messy. It’s downright unrecognizable when you’re in the midst of it.
Are there overnight success stories? Sure. But most of the time, there’s clickbait and a spotlight on the last few seconds of a very long journey most of the time. (I’m looking at you, Business Insider editors.)
So I’m going to call this a success. I’m not a millionaire yet, and I won’t be one for a while. I’ll get there eventually.
Of course, there’s still plenty of room for mistakes and for growth. Maybe in the next five years, I’ll figure out what to do the with traditional IRA I accidentally opened up in college when I didn’t know the difference. Maybe.
Only time will tell.
So Tell Me…What successes are you celebrating now that you have a clearer view?