We interviewed our friends Kathy and Tom (pseudonyms to protect their personal financial details). If you are in your 20’s reading this then listen up. 10 years may sound like a long time, but the next ten years will fly by in a flash. Where do you want to be financially? Here is the story of Kathy and Tom. Here is how they chose to have a $2,000 wedding and 10 years later they are rich.
Kathy and Tom met each other about 14 years ago. Kathy works as a nurse and Tom works as a Teacher. They currently make about $80k a year each, but 14 years ago they were making around $50k each. For having good regular middle class careers and solid middle class jobs, you may be surprised to know they have a current net worth today of a whopping approx. $740,000 at the age of 39. They attribute much of this success to two simple things: a real estate investment and contributing to their 401k religiously!
A house or a fancy wedding?
After dating for a couple years they decided to get married. Tom proposed on a beautiful trail near their home in California. They had $40k in savings. They were worried about being able to ever afford a home. This was around the time that housing was at a crazy high, fueled by easy money. They decided to have a $2,000 wedding with 10 family members as guests. They were partly worried that if they blew $25-30k on a one day party they would never afford a house. There wedding was beautiful and simple. A ceremony at the beach, pictures taken by family and a nice dinner at an upscale restaurant. Perfect, low key and low cost. Kathy wore a lovely $34 dress!
Shortly thereafter the economy collapsed into the brutal recession. Housing and stocks plummeted! Kathy and Tom had not blown $30k on a one day party for their friends. You see where this is going. Asset prices were falling fast and here was a young couple with cold hard cash not losing their asses. They did not know it, but they were perfectly positioned to capatilize on the moment. This was one of their big financial opportunities in life:
A fixer upper
Right before they were married, Kathy and Tom thought they may never afford a house on modest incomes. Oh how things changed as 2008/2009 took hold and housing plummeted. They purchased a single family home in an upper middle class neighborhood with good schools. They fixed up the property, started a family. Then as prices stayed depressed for a couple more years they bought another house and rented out the original.
Cash Flow, Appreciating Assets
Fast forward 10 plus years. They are enjoying $1,000/month in cash flow from the rental and sitting on top of over $500k in equity! Wow, how their fortunes changed in 10 short years. They also have been diligently contributing to their 401ks. They now have a net worth of about $740,000! Not bad for young humble middle class people.
Added bonus: lasting relationship
A recent study showed that people who spend less on their weddings than average tend to stay married. So perhaps their choice to have a modest wedding paid off in a huge way.
Here are some takeaways:
– A big expensive wedding is not always worth it.
– we will be presented with occasional opportunities to buy depressed assets. Be ready for these chances.
– Even middle class folks with middle incomes can build some substantial wealth.
I realize that part of their situation had to do with luck and timing. I feel for current young folks who are trying to deal with student loan debt and buy a house. The point here is that if you play your cards right, you may end up better off in the long run. And let’s not fool ourselves, luck and timing play a significant role in life. BUT, if they had decided to spend their savings on an elaborate wedding, they would not have had the initial funds to purchase an asset, which put them on a path to build some great wealth. They did this all before turning 40!