Seven years ago, the crushing weight of being $300,000 in debt (including their mortgage) and shattered trust left John and Maddi with a marriage hanging by a thread.
They were living separately. Their attorneys were already paid. It seemed like they were on the fast track toward inevitable divorce.
Then a friend of Maddi’s invited her to a Dave Ramsey live event in San Antonio, Texas that changed everything. After listening to Dave, Maddi asked John to go through Financial Peace University with her, and he accepted.
Between FPU, marital counseling and their faith in God, they went “all in” and began to slowly climb out from their financial hole—and they saved their marriage in the process.
How did they do it? They dramatically cut down their lifestyle, living on half of their household income. They sold pretty much everything in their house that wasn’t tied down and threw every spare dollar they could toward attacking their debt.
In just 15 months, John (an information technology officer) and Maddi (a quality assurance analyst) paid off all $108,000 of their consumer debt, which included everything from 401(k) loans to credit cards! More importantly, they renewed their faith in each other in the process.
But they weren’t finished yet. Not by a long shot.
Taking the Next Step
With their debt in the rearview mirror and a fully funded emergency fund in place, they were ready to start investing for retirement and focus on paying off the rest of their mortgage as fast as they could.
They were determined to follow Dave’s plan and invest at least 15% of their income in mutual funds, but they needed help putting that plan into practice. So they turned to SmartVestor, a program that helps you find qualified investing professionals in your area who are committed to educating and empowering you.
Working with a SmartVestor Pro gave the couple confidence and a guiding hand while they continued to push toward their dreams of a paid-for house and retirement.
“Our SmartVestor Pro has the heart of a teacher and will go through everything with you until you understand what you’re investing in,” John says. “He’s been a great partner for us on this journey, giving us a wealth of advice and helping us make the most of what we’re investing.”
“Our SmartVestor Pro has the heart of a teacher and will go through everything with you until you understand what you’re investing in. He’s been a great partner for us on this journey, giving us a wealth of advice and helping us make the most of what we’re investing.”
Living like they were still in debt, eating bean and cheese nachos almost every night, John and Maddi maxed out their IRA and 401(k) contributions while throwing as much money at the mortgage as they could.
Five years and six days after they began their debt-free journey, they made their final house payment and became completely debt-free! For the first time in their married lives, they didn’t owe a cent to anyone and celebrated with a trip to Nashville to do their Debt-Free Scream in the lobby of Ramsey Solutions.
As they prepared for Dave’s questions in their hotel room the night before, they made a stunning realization as they crunched the numbers. Over the same five-year span, they not only erased $300,000 in debt, they also saw their net worth increase by almost $900,000!
John and Maddi made a stunning realization as they crunched the numbers. Over the same five-year span, they not only erased $300,000 in debt, they also saw their net worth increase by almost $900,000!
“We just kept our head down and kept fighting to pay off all the debt, to save and invest, and pay off the mortgage early,” Maddi said. “We were gazelle intense and weren’t really watching the results.”
Focused But Not Finished
You would think that after five years of gazelle intensity and not having any more payments in the world, it would be safe to take your foot off the gas a little bit. But not for John and Maddi. That’s just not their style.
Market chaos, inflation, your future—work with a pro to navigate this stuff.
“It didn’t sink in immediately that we didn’t owe anybody anything anymore,” John said. “It was surreal! But we still had things we wanted to do, so we stayed focused.”
Now in their early 50s, John and Maddi are everyday millionaires. Their net worth is $1.4 million, which includes their paid-for house and all the money they’ve saved and invested for retirement. They still meet with their SmartVestor Pro every year to see where they are and make sure they’re on track to reach their retirement goals.
They’re still focused on continuing to transform their financial legacy by keeping their lifestyle in check. They still live on half their income while they continue to save up to use cash to buy a new home somewhere out in the country and invest for retirement.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t have some fun along the way! They save up for vacations—like a trip to Colorado Springs—and cash flow their trips and keep their expenses low however they can. And throughout the entire process, John and Maddi made giving a top priority—not only with their finances, but with their time, as well.
In addition to budgeting more for spontaneous giving and giving to their local church, they also coordinate multiple FPU classes each year and lead other recovery groups at their church. Together, John and Maddi have led a total of 23 FPU classes, paying forward everything they’ve learned to dozens of families and individuals.
“This stuff saved our marriage and, for us, it’s about helping others find financial freedom,” Maddi said. “It’s about remembering where we came from and never wanting to go back there. Seeing those lives changed in those nine weeks is what keeps me going.”
“It’s about remembering where we came from and never wanting to go back there. Seeing those lives changed in those nine weeks is what keeps me going.”
John and Maddi will be the first to tell you the key to building wealth isn’t complicated. They say it’s all about living on less than you make, consistently saving and investing every month, and getting out (and staying out) of debt.
“I tell anybody, especially young couples, that debt is a scam. If you’re always paying payments, you can’t build wealth,” John said. “When you do the right things with money, God seems to bless you with more.”
It’s Never Too Late to Start
You don’t have to do it alone. John and Maddi didn’t! If you’re ready to start investing and don’t know where to start, you can do exactly what they did and connect with a SmartVestor Pro in your area.
Whether you’re 25 or 52, it’s never too late to start working with an investing professional to help build out your retirement dream and create a plan to help get you there.
And if you're looking to learn more, Dave's newest book, Baby Steps Millionaires, doesn’t just tell you what to do. It also tells you why to do it, how to do it, and when to do it. Grab a copy today to learn how to bust through the barriers preventing you from becoming a millionaire.
This article provides general guidelines about investing topics. Your situation may be unique. If you have questions, connect with a SmartVestor Pro. Ramsey Solutions is a paid, non-client promoter of participating Pros.