Starting Your Journey to Debt Freedom Later in Life

I recently got a question from a reader asking for more stories and information on those who start their journey to debt freedom later in life. Ruth and I can both testify that it seems very overwhelming – and sometimes useless – to bother trying to pay off your debt when you’re in your later forties and beyond. It can often feel like “Well, I’ve screwed everything up for so long; what’s the point in trying to correct it now? By the time I finish I’ll be too old to enjoy the wealth anyway.” 

Why Starting Late is Better Than Not Starting at All

I thought I’d share some encouragement for those who started their journey late like Ruth and DH did, and Rick and I did. Or give some motivation to those who haven’t started yet at all. No matter how deep you’re starting out, a late finish is worth the effort. Here are 4 reasons you should not hesitate to start your journey to financial wellness, even if you’re 50-plus.

Every Step Closer to Financial Wellness Will Make Life Easier

It may not seem like it now, but having $45,000 in consumer debt will feel less stressful than having $50,000 in consumer debt. Having a $275,000 mortgage will feel better than having a $300,000 mortgage. Every month that you see the numbers go down means less bondage to banks and credit card companies, lower monthly payment obligations and a shorter trek to the finish line of debt free.

While it can be tempting to say “So what? I’ll be debt free in twenty-five years instead of twenty-six,” you never know how much happiness that extra year of debt freedom might change your life.

Just start, and worry about the details later.

A Journey Out of Debt Often Goes Faster than You Think it Will

When Ruth and her DH started their journey, they never expected it to move as quickly as it did. In less than five years, they are now amazingly close to total debt freedom.

In our case we started with a much higher DTI, much higher debt and much lower income, but we are still moving forward. And although things haven’t moved as fast as I would have liked (I can be a little on the impatient side 🙂 ), we are making forward progress and the steps we’re taking are working faster than we thought they would.

You Might Live Longer than You Expect

It’s often tempting for those who are older and deep in debt to think that life is close to being over so what’s the point? I just read an amazing story on The Retirement Manifesto about a couple who didn’t start saving for retirement until they were forty-nine. They hardly had a dime in savings, but wanted to retire eventually and knew that social security on their lifelong smaller salaries wasn’t going to cut it.

They made a plan, got serious about saving and were able to retire in just………..nope. Not telling you. You’ll have to go read the story to find out. 🙂

However, I will tell you that now they are in their 80’s and livin’ large, and SO happy that they started late, rather than starting never.

Do it for the Kids

If you have children, start your journey out of debt – even if you’re starting late – for the sake of your kids. I wrote last week about my grandparents and how they spent their entire lives depending on their adult children for support. It was a sucky way to live. They often felt bad that they didn’t have money to give and were always in need of financial help. Grandpa was a super-hard-working guy – he and grandma just never learned how to manage money, and so they never had any. My mom would tell me that money always burned a hole in his pocket it went out so fast. They hated that they never had much cash but felt powerless to do anything with it. They believed – and we did too for years – that one’s money situation was simply luck of the draw.

I know firsthand that living with large amounts of debt and no savings is a horrible, stressful way to live. Rick and I did that for far too long simply because we were never taught differently. Now that we know better we’re taking the necessary steps to becoming financially independent. Yep, we started late, but I’m so glad we started.

Most everyone struggling with debt or a lack of savings has hurdles. Maybe your hurdle is a high debt-to-income ratio like we had. Maybe it’s a spouse who’s not on board with the whole debt payoff thing. Or maybe your hurdle is just that you feel it’s too late to start. Whatever your hurdle, I hope you begin making the steps to overcome it, because you can. 

Never, ever give up on debt freedom. You deserve it!!!

What’s holding you back from starting your journey to debt freedom?

 

19 comments on “Starting Your Journey to Debt Freedom Later in Life

  1. I would say that getting rid of debt at any age is sooo much more than the financial debt noose around your neck!!
    Even though getting rid of debt does relieve the financial burden, it is sooo much more than that as it touches every other area of your life.
    I have had the privilege to watch Ruth and DH go through their journey and see a lot of the other benefits taking care of money produces. Seeing a happier couple, working together toward a common goal now getting along better than ever. A calmer household with clear guidelines in place. Better relationships. The freedom to choose, yes or no and be guilt free in that choice. The ability to control their money instead of having it control them and all the negative outcomes of being controlled by money. Being proactive instead of reactive. Being able to shift the focus from crisis mode onto things/desires/accomplishments that one wishes to do. Having more energy to do the things you want to do instead of having to do, is another plus!! Stress is such a huge part of most peoples daily lives now. There are things we cannot avoid, however, we can choose to have less stress when we get financially out of the noose. It starts as a ripple effect that turns into a positive wave!!! =o)
    There is so much more I could say but I think you get the idea.
    I heard a quote recently that I would like to share…
    “The road we take determines where we end up!”
    Keep on getting back up every time you feel knocked down.
    DFF

  2. This reminds me of the scale. I got on it this morning. That weight did not get on me overnight, and yet I feel like it did because it’s been about 3 years since I checked. It’s the same with debt. Being in denial and not looking at the numbers does not a proactive person make. Great post as always Laurie! 🙂

  3. It’s funny because I hear people say FIRE isn’t worth it because you’ll miss out on so much living. “You might as well spend all of your money; YOLO!” But I’ve never, ever regretted starting our debt freedom journey. Granted, I’m a young’n’, but financial security is great to have at any age.

  4. My husband and I achieved financial freedom at ages 67 and 69, after six years of penny pinching. That was almost two years ago and we have remained debt free ever since. We don’t worry about a rise in interest rates, and living in Canada aren’t concerned about medical costs, so the future seems pretty bright. Now our thoughts are centred around where to travel and what to spend our money on. Living debt free is the best, at any age. I only wish we had done it sooner.

  5. We started in our 30s, and though we aren’t 100% debt free (we have a mortgage), we don’t have nearly the stress we had when our debt was higher. My parents are great examples of this – they paid off their last debt in their 60s to enable my dad to retire from a job that was physically and mentally stressful. Though my mom won’t quit her part time job until next year, the one thing that made a difference between retirement and working another 5-10 years was debt freedom.

  6. The feeling of control, the stress reduction, the communication with your spouse/family, are all benefits we found once we decided to get our bad money habits under control. No matter what age I’ll like to have those things.

  7. That Retirement Manifesto post is delightful.

    At my current rate, I’ll be starting to save “for real” around age 45. My current biggest motivation for achieving financial independence is how quickly the cost of my asthma and allergy medications have gone up in the past few years. Didn’t really give much thought to how I’d pay for them in my 20s and 30s 😉

    1. Funny how old age and its impending arrival gives one a different thought perspective, isn’t it. 🙂 I’m hitting fifty this summer and am finding myself eating more leafy greens and less junk than ever before, and not necessarily because I like it that way. 🙂

  8. When we started out at ages 49 (me) and 53 (DH), I felt a huge embarrassment about being in the situation we were in. I thought by our age we should be wise – and I felt foolish. But we got humble and we got going, and while I wish we’d started earlier, I’m so grateful that we started! Almost 5 years later, our financial reality really has turned around. You don’t have to reach the finish line before life starts getting better. Every step closer really does make things easier. But we’re still very keen to reach that finish line!

  9. This is such an encouraging post! Yes, I wish Mr. Money Tree and I had gotten our financial “smarts” earlier, but we are still young enough to make some BIG retirement goals into reality. It just comes down to persistence and belief.

    Don’t give up, don’t give in, if you don’t quit, you win!

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