This financial success story is from Dawn with SteppingStonesToFI.com. After coping with the tragic death of her husband, she was able to significantly increase her income; have a savings rate of 40%; and purchase two rental properties to help achieve her goal of financial independence. Learn how she did it so you can too.
Dawn’s Financial Success Story
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was a stay at home mom when my husband passed away. My son was 3 and I had no money saved, no income and no idea what to do. This was 11 years ago.
I stayed in the downstairs apartment at my parents’ house, took the first job on Craigslist that I could qualify for, put my son in daycare and began the process of searching for a career option. I found a FREE one year accelerated medical program that I could (mostly) qualify for and when through the rigorous application and interview process.
Landed it, started working one year later and focused on building my new career in medical imaging.
Fast forward 10 years and I earn a strong income, save 40% of everything I earn, purchased two rental properties and have the goal of financial independence within 5 years.
When did you start your financial journey?
While it started the day my husband died, I didn’t get serious about building wealth until about 5 years ago.
What were your financial goals when you started? What are your financial goals now?
My goal 11 years ago was to:
- Stay out of debt,
- Build my career and earning potential,
- Be able to afford rent and monthly living expenses, and
- Build a modest emergency fund.
A few years ago I discovered the concept of financial independence. This is when I started focusing on saving more aggressively and investing.
What was the main thing that caused you to want to change your financial situation?
Being a financially unstable single mother that was relying on family for assistance was a very bitter pill to swallow.
What was your biggest financial struggle? How did you overcome that?
My son went through a very difficult grieving process. He battled with depression and anxiety and didn’t receive proper support from the public school system.
I had to cover medical bills out of pocket and place him in private school. My expenses were overwhelmingly high.
I tried working more but that caused me to be away more, which was the exact opposite of what my son needed. So I had to focus on working smarter.
I pushed to excel in my field so that I could seek out a higher paying job closer to home. This helped to rebalance my finances.
What was the biggest change you made to achieve your financial goals?
I went through such a shift in money mindset. I live in Silicon Valley, alongside doctors that earn over $300k a year, and probably spend every penny of that.
It’s normal to drive the latest flashy car, live in the most expensive home you can afford and wear the latest trends. If you don’t, you are looked down upon. I had to let all of that go and just do my own thing. If I lost friends for that, I had to be okay with it and actively seek out my real tribe.
I’ve done that and never been happier. It was downright liberating.
Have you done anything out of the “norm” or “extreme” to reach your financial goals?
I don’t follow the norm. For example, I have an older car that I won’t upgrade, I buy my clothes from an online consignment shop (after I sell my older clothes) and I don’t go out and spend money with the other moms at my son’s school.
I bike commute and take public transportation so that I don’t have to sit in traffic, pay for gas, add the wear and tear to my car, and pay for parking where I work.
I learned to stop caring about what other people think of this odd behavior and I don’t worry how they judge me for it. I’m super content that I’m going after my financial goals and making progress.
How much debt did you have? Are you still paying it off? If so, when do you hope to be debt free? If not, how long did it take you to pay it off?
I have one mortgage on my rental home, which my tenants pay and still clears $600 extra every month.
How do you stay motivated to keep going on your financial journey?
It has become a game and a hugely important goal. I can see the progress I make and it just continues to drive me to do even better. Every month is a new opportunity to beat my savings from the last month.
What advice would you give someone who’s just starting their financial journey, or feels like you’re a unicorn and can’t achieve their financial dreams?
I am certainly no unicorn. It took drive, dedication and consistency to get where I am.
Set a long-term goal then break that goal down into the 5-year goal, 1-year goal, 6-month goal, 90-day goal, monthly goal, weekly goal and finally the daily tasks you need to focus on right now.
Each little step will get you closer to that long-term goal. Just be consistent and don’t lose sight of that dream.
Download this FREE Daily Goal Planner to make sure you do something every day to get closer to your financial goals, so you can have your own financial success story one day.
I hope Dawn’s financial success story will motivate you. She went from having no income and no money saved, to having a good income where she’s able to save 40% of her pay. Dawn also purchased two rental properties and hopes to accomplish her goal of financial independence within 5 years. She was able to achieve all of this by setting financial goals and consistently working towards them.
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