Imagine standing in front of a camera, talking to your personal hero about a major life milestone, knowing that your image and story are going out across the entire nation in front of an audience of millions. Think you might be nervous? I was nervous. I was unsure-I-wouldn’t-pee-myself nervous (I didn’t). I was quite-sure-I’ll-mess-up-my-own-story nervous (I did). But in the end, October 7, 2015 was a perfectly imperfect, rollicking, exultant day that we’ll never forget.
As I promised in our recent Five Year House-iversary post, we have completely paid off our 30 year mortgage! Our last payment was Oct 1, and we are 100% DEBT FREE!! Since we’ve been following the Dave Ramsey “Total Money Makeover” program together for five years – and on my own for a few years before that – we’d been planning all along to take a trip to Nashville to be on Dave’s radio show to do our “debt free scream” live on the air (a show tradition) when the deed was finally done. And that’s exactly what happened.
Well, not EXACTLY exactly; check out the video below if you haven’t seen it yet, and then I’ll tell (and show) you the rest of the story.
It Takes a Village: Did you notice the lobby looked pretty full? Half of those were other students in the financial coaching class I was there for, the other half were members of Dave’s “SmartDollar” team, who run the corporate financial wellness program I spearhead at my employer. I was extremely touched that so many of them took time out of their days to come down in person to meet me and celebrate the moment!Dave Ramsey – Amateur Massage Therapist: Right after my call, Ken Coleman – the onsite host of the show – pulled me into a short interview about SmartDollar in the gift shop. Dave usually comes out to meet the debt-free screamers, but since I was sitting down with Ken, he settled for a quick congrats and a shoulder squeeze. A Dave Ramsey shoulder rub? Now THAT is a good story!
Signing The Wall: One cool thing every debt-free screamer gets to do is sign the wall in Dave’s lobby after their segment. I signed ours “Debt Free and Free to Be!” That message – and the title of this post – comes from an inscription Courtney put in the copy of The Total Money Makeover she bought me (up til then, I’d just borrowed it from the library). It was her way of telling me; “I’m with you honey! We can do this!” It’s become our rallying cry on our financial journey.
What Comes Next: Writing this now – one month after we made our final mortgage payment – it’s just starting to hit us that this is REAL. It’s probably because it’s the first of the month again, but this time there’s no mortgage payment to make! That’s big for us, since we haven’t just been making regular payments; we’ve been paying triple, quadruple, quintuple – or more! – payments for the last five years. Now, we get to move on to the GOOD stuff! Sure, there’s some financial items: We plan to max out our son’s college fund along with our various retirement plans each year; we’ll definitely be increasing our charitable giving; and – of course – start spending a little (okay, a LOT) more on “fun”! We’ve even got a list; electronics, home improvements, trips, etc. But more valuable than any of that is the sense that we are truly free.
I’ve said it before half in jest that after the house is paid off I could meet all of our household bills with a part-time job at a gas station. That’s not my career plan, I enjoy doing work that matters, but that knowledge frees something up inside you that you never even knew was there. I’ll never have to tell my son I don’t have time to go camping or play ball or something else that matters to him. I’ll never have to take a job I hate – or keep one – because I can’t afford to miss a paycheck. We can pursue our passions, take time off, or start new a new venture; risks I never would have considered when I was badly in debt and stressed to the max.
I can’t thank my wonderful wife, Courtney, enough for all the belief, support, and hard work these last five years. And for the love. Thank you for that, honey, and the new little life that gives us all the inspiration we’ll ever need to follow our hearts; truly free to be!
Group photo by Courtney Navey – Art Director, The Lampo Group