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Wednesday, August 15, 2018
How I Doubled My Net Worth In Five Years On A Crappy Salary

With all of the things that I share on this site my net worth has never been one of them. It’s not like I’m an incredibly private person, but I always felt as if I should hold at least ONE thing close to the chest. That’s about to go right out the window.

Blogging buddy J. Money asked bloggers if we were willing to share our net worth and I guess I felt challenged enough to (1) calculate that number and then (2) share that with the world (okay, the three of you who read this site).

You already know about my debt. This blog was established with the sole purpose of documenting my way out and upward and it’s been some ride.

When I started this blog way back my very first post detailed my debt of $105,665.31 and optimism. I started owing less money than I do now but the circumstances are so much more different (grammatically incorrect, but it stays) than they were then. Back in 2009 the only thing that I owned was my debt and two degrees…and a lemon of a newish car that I had to have constantly repaired at the dealer.

What I didn’t know was that the number quoted wasn’t correct. I owed a friend another $5,000 that wasn’t listed in that number, and a few months later I would learn that I actually owed state taxes that were a bit over $10,000.  I can’t remember how much my car was worth, but let’s conservatively say that I began 2009 with a net worth of -$120,665.31.


What a perfectly unsexy number, especially when you consider that I owned absolutely nothing outright. Well, I owned the lint in my pockets and the dust in my purse, but that was it.

Let’s fast forward five years later and work with the numbers as of February 1. Even though I now owe $123,333.89 my net worth is actually $122,084.12.


Yeah, baby. I did a complete 180 degree turn in five years all while owing just as much money as I did back then. You’re wondering what I did in that time. Nothing special really, and nothing that you can’t do either.

First, I have switched jobs two times since then. Each time I changed jobs I tried to increase my salary. So, five years ago I brought home $1,100 every two weeks after taxes. Nothing splendid there. Now, I bring home a little more than that. Okay, a decent bit more than that. Fine, much more than that. I realized that I was worth a lot more than I had been taking home. While I felt loyal to my employer, I decided to be loyal to myself and left a job that I actually liked quite a lot.

Second, I contributed to my company’s 401(k) even while I was paying down my debt. I believe in putting in at least enough to get the company’s matching funds. It’s free money as far as I’m concerned. I was also smart enough to continue contributing in the down market thereby positioning myself to take advantage of the market’s spectacular rebound.

Third, I purchased two investment properties when property values were absolutely crappy. This is one of the smartest things that I could have done for myself. I like the prospect of being able to collect rental income for years to come.

Fourth, I am the queen of the side hustle. Side jobs have allowed me to push money to debt. Honestly, had I not purchased the rental homes I would likely be left with just the student loans and maybe one credit card bill by now.  It’s all good though because I’m working this debt down like a mad woman.

Fifth, I’m more open to possibilities. This one was the hardest one to accomplish but the one that has had the most impact on my life. I’m not the fluff and roses kind of girl, but I promise you that when you change the way that you view the world, you are open to the possibilities of accomplishing so much more. When you think positively and view the world from a place of “yes, I can do this” you attract more positive energy and you’re better able to handle and/or deflect the negative.

I was horrible at dealing with negative things, but now I face them head on. Am I now the guru of all things positive? No, not at all. But my outlook on life and my space on this planet, my purpose, my goals and ambitions have shifted dramatically since then.

The great part about my net worth is that every month I see it slipping more and more into positive territory as my debt falls. Had we spoken five years ago about being where I am now, I probably would have laughed a little at you because I didn’t have that vision. Now, I’ve set my sights so much higher that I’m shooting for the millionaire club.  Check in with me five years from now. We’ll see how far I get.

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This messy little blog was all my doing. I started this blog four years ago as a way of keeping myself accountable to my own debt reduction plans. Now I'm using this blog to help others get out of debt as well. Consider subscribing to get more delicious posts like this at least twice per week.

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Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions February 14, 2014 at 11:56 am

Nicely done! I have noticed recently the same subtle shift in my perspective that you wrote about in #5 — just being open to more opportunities has helped increase my income and increased our ability to live frugally.

    Sandy Smith February 14, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I used to hear people, okay Oprah, talk about how this positive thinking can help and I thought, okay, “rich people problem”. What I needed was to be able to pay a bill right this second. But as you learn and evolve you realize just how powerful this can be.

Karen @ Money Saving Enthusiast February 14, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Go Sandy! I’m very happy for you. Unlike cars, us humans can actually appreciate. So glad you are making progress and getting the money you deserve.

    Valerie Rind February 14, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Karen, I like your comment that “humans can actually appreciate.” We sometimes lose track that we are our own best asset – and Sandy’s a great example!

Fig @ Figuring Money Out February 14, 2014 at 12:46 pm

That’s pretty spectacular that you did a complete 180 and have gone so far in the first direction with your net worth! I’m seriously impressed! It’s inspiring to see someone make so much progress with good choices and commitment.

Debt BLAG February 14, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Yowza! That’s like $50k a year! And that is truly spectacular. Love your methods too 🙂

    Sandy Smith February 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    You know, I didn’t even really think of it that way. That’s pretty awesome right?

Agatha February 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm

I love this part especially: “I was horrible at dealing with negative things, but now I face them head on.”
Boo yah! I sooooo applaud you for doing this. And look how amazingly it turned out. You are a true inspiration!

    Sandy Smith February 15, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks Agatha! Not easy but necessary. Ain’t nobody got time for negativity!

Sam February 14, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Wow, that is a HUGE improvement, especially since it was in the negative! Congrats! I like how J’s list is encouraging more folks to share their net worth.

Hope you keep on making money.

Romeo Jeremiah February 14, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Way to triumph me by a cool G. The race is on “for real, for real” now.

    Sandy Smith February 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Bring it!

Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life February 15, 2014 at 10:57 am

You are a rockstar! Thanks for the inspiration. I guess I need to put myself in a position to get some rental properties.

    Sandy Smith February 15, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Glad that you’re inspired! But beware, rentals and landlording isn’t easy.

Cashville Skyline February 15, 2014 at 1:56 pm

J Money’s list seems to really be inspiring all of us. Thanks for the motivation!

Dave @ The New York Budget February 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm

I am looking into rental properties myself. Doing a lot of research on BiggerPockets. Congrats at the amazing progress!

FI Fighter February 15, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Holy smokes, that’s some amazing progress you’ve made in only 5 years! Kudos to you, you are kicking some serious ass.

Keep it up! Very inspiring stuff.

Shannon @ Financially Blonde February 15, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Sandy, thank you so much for getting financially “naked” with us and sharing your story. I know that debt can put you in a negative space, but confronting it head on and staying as optimistic as you can has certainly contributed to your growth in the other direction. Congrats!

MAria February 15, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Hi! awesome!!!! i love hearing stories about debt paydowns. I am on the same track. What kind of side hustles can you recommend? Thanks in advance.

    Sandy Smith February 15, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Hi maria,

    I have a series called I Make Money Online and then check out an article that I wrote to a reader called Help, I Need Money. Good luck.

JC @ Passive-Income-Pursuit February 16, 2014 at 11:21 am

That’s some great progress! I like the side hustle aspect if you’re looking for extra money to throw at debt or invest. Even an extra $100 per month can do wonders over time. And great job picking up the rental properties, I wish I’d have done the same back then.

Ginger February 16, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Talk about inspiring. You have now pushed me to really start killing our debt, and increase our networth.

    Sandy Smith February 16, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I’m glad that you’re inspired! If I can help in any way, let me know.

Rich February 17, 2014 at 7:19 am

Congrats on the amazing progress!

Just FYI, you’re underselling it when you say you “doubled” your net worth. If you’d gone from $60k to $120k, that would be doubling your net worth. From $30k to $120k would be quadrupling it. Etc. You went from negative to positive… and unfortunately, the math descriptors just aren’t available for that! At least not any that I know. 🙂

You COULD say that you grew your net worth by nearly a quarter million dollars in that time. $242k is close enough to $250k for that statement. 🙂

Congrats again!

    Sandy Smith February 17, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    You’re right when you take about how to describe this negative to positive. I struggled with that for a while before settling with “double”. I would have been cool going from negative to zero! Actually when I realized that if I sold everything I could be debt free it was a pretty freeing moment.

    Lee @ BaldFinance.com February 18, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    My work life revolves around Excel, so here is the mathematical formula. The answer is a 202% increase — In Excel =((+122) – (-120))/abs(-120), where “abs” is the absolute value. +122 – -120 = +242 / +120 = 202%.

      Sandy Smith February 18, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      Thank God for you math people!

J. Money February 17, 2014 at 11:49 am

Congrats friend! That’s quite the turnaround indeed! Going now to add you to my net worth tracker 🙂 Here’s to another doubling soon!

Lee @ BaldFinance.com February 18, 2014 at 11:55 am

Congrats on seeing such great results on all of your efforts to reduce debt and build your net worth.

I have some even better news for you… you didn’t double your net worth (which mathematically is an increase of 100%)… you’ve actually increased your net worth by over 200%!!! The first 100% would take you from -$120k to $0k, then the next 100% from $0 to +$122k.

Keep up the great results! I look forward to reading about how you earned your first $1 million. 🙂

Yvette February 20, 2014 at 9:11 am

I live vicariously through people like you:) Thanks for sharing.

    Sandy Smith February 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Don’t live vicariously, live it! you can absolutely do this too.

Caitlin February 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm

This is pretty awesome! Congrats! This is inspiring to me. I think our net worth is positive, but not by a whole lot. We have a good bit of debt too. Sometimes it’s hard to see past what’s due this month. I can’t even imagine where we’d be in five years. Thanks for giving me some perspective!

Tahnya Kristina February 22, 2014 at 10:18 am

Sandy I love this post. I honestly believe that people can change their financial situation no matter what the circumstances are and no matter how much money they make. I did. People just have to be willing to make changes. CONGRATS on your positive net worth.

Miel February 28, 2014 at 11:38 am

Way to go out on a limb and share about your net worth. I know from experience that this is one of the harder things to do. The first time we did our net worth (we still do both individual and joint), I was a bit hesitant since I knew it would be in the negative. I’ll have to dig to see what our initial figure was, but when we started blogging about 8 years ago it was $300k and now we are at $1.1M. Like yourself, I would have had a hard time believing that kind of trajectory. We also own several investment properties and now manage three LLCs, so we also get you on the side hustle aspect. Keep up the great work and look forward to connecting more.


Elizabeth May 17, 2014 at 5:14 am

where you state the fifth point…

I have to say this has biggest factor for me in starting to change things around. It’s like “stop the pity party, suck it up, and use what you have at the moment”. Thank you for sharing your story.

DealForALiving August 28, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Absolutely fantastic victory for you! Congratulations!

EL @ Moneywatch101 November 18, 2014 at 10:23 am

Congrats on killing it in such a short time frame. No pressure going forward of course. Keep on motivating others with your great success.

The Roamer December 8, 2014 at 6:20 pm

I really enjoyed your write up. And how it didn’t just focus on the Financials but the whole story.

Congrats on making so much change

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