Looking Back at My Financial Life 10 Years Ago

I’m not a member of the Money Blog Network, but they pose interesting group writing projects from time-to-time. This month they asked bloggers to compare their finances today with how they were ten years ago. Ten years ago was an interesting period in my life, and I just happen to still have the tax records from 1998, so here goes!

My Career
Ten years ago I was three years out of college and still working in the field of my degree. It was a low-paying field but I’d managed to snag a relatively high-paying job in 1997, around $36K a year, plus medical. 1998 was my highest paid year for a long time because a miserable work situation forced me to start cutting my hours after that year. I was also renewing my interest in writing and earned a whopping $20 from side projects that year.

My Debt
After college, I had a string of low-paying freelance jobs, and then a low-paying full-time job ($6 an hour). That meant that I had about $10,000 in debt racked up by 1998. The money went for things like groceries and gas, not for anything fun. I had no college debt and was transferring the credit card debt between zero-interest cards while I worked it down. I also had a car loan, which I was still paying off.

Unfortunately, I received an inheritance of $52,000 that year (which is why I have the tax records still). That allowed me to pay off my debt, buy decent furniture, save a little for retirement, and invest in the stock market. Yes, I invested just in time for the big crash of 2000. Yay me!

My Living Situation
Due to a series of bad living situations, I moved into a one-bedroom apartment by myself in 1995, and was still living there in 1998. My landlords had never increased my rent, so I was paying $600 a month for a nice little place with a kitchen I miss to this day.

Fast Forward Ten Years
Now I’m working in a field that didn’t exist in 1998, and have another degree. I’m also married. Together our income is significantly higher than my solo income ten years ago, but it’s taken us a long time to get there. Although I had no credit card debt when we married, he did and we created more while we were both in grad school. I also married into significant student loan debt, and have some of that of my own.

I hoped we’d own a house by now, but the market run-up made that impossible. I do regret investing in the stock market rather than buying a small condo in 1998. If I’d bought real estate, I would have had to sell it at the peak, because that’s when I got married and our stuff won’t fit in a one-bedroom. I could have $400K to put down on a new house! But instead, I have $0 to put down. The retirement savings and investments were used to pay for school and a period of self-employment when that bad work situation got so bad I had to quit.

So ten years later, I’m starting over again on building a financial future. My financial resolutions will have a significant chunk of debt paid off by the end of this year, and we’ll be boosting our retirement savings, too. It’s not a great place to be, but I think the next ten years will be much, much better financially than the last ten.

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