July 2016 Report: Olympic Inspiration Squashes Mortgage-Payoff Complacency

I’m finding it really hard to pull myself away from the Olympic Games coverage! Ever since my early teens, I’ve manifested symptoms of Olympic Addiction Disorder (not a real thing – at least I don’t think so). So I’ll make this quick!

Here’s a recap of where we are in our journey out of debt since June of 2012:

  • Consumer debts of $21,400
  • Business debt of $80,800
  • Mortgage debt of $155,000
  • Grand total debt of $257,200

Following Dave Ramsey’s strategy as outlined in The Total Money Makeover, we attacked our two smaller consumer debts first, and then moved on to our business debt. It took us just over 3 years to pay off all non-mortgage debt. In July of 2015, we were left with the mortgage to tackle, and the new step of saving up our big emergency fund (to cover 3-6 months of expenses in the case of job loss).

From June 2012 to July 2015, we paid about $27,000 off our mortgage just by our regular monthly payments. Starting in August 2015, we put extra against our mortgage, and in the last year, we have paid off almost another $26,000.

  • The grand total of our debt (just the mortgage) now sits at $102,800

Psychology of debt-reduction: Focus on what has been paid off, not on what’s left

In June, I made the discovery that it is better for the psychology of our debt reduction to focus upon what we have paid off rather than what we still have left to pay. In the first few years of our debt reduction, it was natural to think in terms of how much we had paid off. Once we got past the half way mark of our grand total, it became natural to think in terms of what we had left to pay off. But that had a discouraging impact, so I’m trying to focus again upon how much we have paid off.

In July, we paid $2,000 against our mortgage, bringing our total mortgage reduction since June 2012 to $53,000.

2 significant milestones

  1. Our emergency fund is now full (I should be more excited about this than I am), but we will continue to save at the same rate for big upcoming expenses as well as for retirement.
  2. The mortgage that we have left is roughly equivalent to the total amount of non-mortgage debt that we paid off from 2012-2015.

A wall of exhaustion? Or a wall of complacency?

Ramsey talks about people “hitting a wall” when they reach this stage of debt reduction. Consumer and other non-mortgage debts are gone; the emergency fund is saved; and all that’s left is the mortgage. Ramsey compares this wall-hitting stage to a marathon runner reaching mile #18 out of 26. Exhaustion sets in, and every muscle in the body screams, “Enough already!”

I think I might be facing a wall, but it’s not of exhaustion. It’s of complacency. We are at the point now where we’re “normal” – even for people in our age group (in our fifties). No longer do we have a debt-to-income ratio that is way above the record breaking household national average. We’re well below that average. While we felt a sense of urgency about our non-mortgage debts, it’s hard to muster that same urgency for a mortgage – and a pretty modest one at that.

Refocus

Hold on here! We were never going for “normal” to begin with. We were going for complete freedom from debt. When it comes time for us to retire, we don’t want to fit in with “normal” – which is to retire while still in debt. So time to refocus, to stare down that wall of complacency, and to attack our mortgage debt like champions. The Olympic athletes, whose competitions I’ve been watching, strive for way beyond “normal”, and they certainly don’t give up before they reach the finish line. My finish line still lies ahead. The course has changed, but it still needs to be covered. On to the next stretch of the race!


Do you have a lower sense of urgency about your mortgage debt? Do you have Olympic Addiction Disorder? Do Olympic athletes inspire you – either towards physical fitness or some other pursuit of excellence? Your comments are welcome.

Image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net.

Thanks for reading our report for July ’16! Please check out my weekly posts at Fruclassity.

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19 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I think both my wife and I suffer from Olympic Addiction Disorder. I’ve always been a big Olympic fan. I remember watching the USA hockey teams beating Russia back in 1980, as a ten years old and I’ve been hooked ever since. Gymnastics is my wife’s favorite. We do have a lower sense of urgency about our mortgage debt, its not that we don’t want it gone, it just we have other shorter term goals we are working on. College funding for three children will do that.

      • Thank you, Brian. Your wife will be loving these gymnastics competitions! The American women’s team is incredible this time around! College funding for 3 kids . . . Yikes! Our 3 kids are spread out over a decade, but yours are all close together in age (especially with twins), so there will be no chance for you to breathe in between. That is definitely the right focus for you now, and the mortgage will be ready for attack afterwards : )

  • I started to write something similar for today’s post and decided it was too meh to post. Not your case, however, lol! For me it’s not about debt reduction but about that laser like focus I used to have when it came to my budget, but now I’m loosey-goosey. I know I have enough coming in, I’m saving a lot…but that doesn’t mean I “should” be spending money on certain things because I certainly could do better than I’m doing. So I get it!

    • I’m sure your post wan not “meh” : ) (And I’m very glad you don’t think mine is!) I’m able to get back to my old focus for 2 reasons I think. 1 – Just because of our ages, retirement really could be only a few years away for us. 2 – I know that our home business is vulnerable, and that there are no guarantees. I wish I could be more motivated by the positive side of frugality, but I’m not there yet. Maybe your “loosey-goosey” is just a stage. I hope you hit your new normal soon : )

  • This post really resonated with me today. I’ve been feeling blah about reducing the mortgage debt and even saving more lately. Not that I want to spend – that’s not it, I’m just not excited about it. How do I get excited again? Maybe I need to set a lofty goal for myself, I don’t know, but I should take a page out of the Olympians’ book and continue to strive for that “finish line”. Thanks for the needed inspiration today!

    • You and Tonya are both feeling that “blah”. Interesting. Maybe the summer months do this to us? I think it’s OK to know that the best you can do right now will not be your overall best. Like athletic training, there are peaks and plateaus. I hear the real improvement is made when people “stick-to-the-stuff” during those uninspired plateau times. So let’s do this, Amanda! And make way for a new peak!

  • I’ve never been a big Olympics fan, but I’ve always enjoyed Iron Man competitions. They really get me revved, like anything is possible if you want it enough and are willing to put in the hard work. Congratulations on your Financial Iron Man accomplishments Ruth and DH ! 🙂

    • Iron Man events just make me tired. Crazy distances those people go! But I’m glad they give you a sense of anything being possible. I don’t think we’ve been very Iron Man in our finances lately, but we’re still in the race. There are ebbs and flows to this thing. Time for a flow.

  • As a former gymnast and gymnastics coach, I’m a total Olympic addict. At least I warned my husband ahead of time that I’ll be useless this week. And told my dad, who is visiting from out of state, that he’ll have to watch me watch gymnastics. He always watched it with me when I was growing up, though.

    Anyway, it’s awesome that you’re striving to go beyond normal. I can see why you’d hit a wall at the point of having only a mortgage. When we reached our last debt payoff goal, the following month was very spendy as we caught up on some things we’d put off.

    • I should have warned my husband that I would be useless this week. He doesn’t quite get this particular addiction, though you’d think he’d be used to it after all of the Olympics that have happened since we married. My eldest daughter is visiting from out of town, and we are bonding over the Olympics – like you and your dad are. I’d say that’s a high quality bonding experience : ) Enjoy! (You must be thrilled with the American Women’s Gymnastics team!)

  • Right now our sense of urgency in regards to our mortgage debt is pretty low, but that’s only because we have higher interest debt that needs to go first. But once it’s gone, I want to attack the mortgage or possibly rent out our current house. Not sure. Way to go on your awesome progress! Continue on, champions:)

    • You are very right to focus on your other debt first, Latoya. Kill that thing off before worrying about that mortgage. Interesting that you’re thinking about renting out your house. There has got to be more to that plan (and I’m interested). Where will you live? I’m all for radical strategies to pay off debt, and it sounds like you might be considering one.

  • Not a bit of it. Debt is debt, and it’s dragging down my net worth! 🙂

    Even when mired in a ton of debt, I set my sights almost impossibly high so that being down to “only” a mortgage is really only maybe 1/10th of the way down our road to debt-free, early retirement. Also it “helps” (hah) that the Bay Area is so expensive, but it’s home now, so I don’t feel any complacency about affording a moderate lifestyle here.

    We recently refinanced our mortgage to lower our payments, interest rate, and shorten the life of the loan. We’re still more than $200K in that hole but I have plans to knock that out! The biggest challenge right now is figuring out how to deploy our saved income to go make more money, paying off the remaining mortgages (our primary and the rental) is almost an aftermath in the overall plan.

    • People have different ideas about the value of paying off the mortgage relative to the value of investments that could be made instead. It sounds like you are favouring investments over mortgage pay-off for the next while, with a definite plan to take the mortgage out before your FIRE date. (Is that right?) I have no doubt that you will balance these competing priorities well. In my case, I have a good old fashioned pension coming my way, so our emphasis is best placed, I believe, in the direction of mortgage pay-off.

  • The Olympics has been fun for us, because our daughter is old enough to pay attention. She’s really enjoyed the swimming and diving. so we’ve watched a lot lately but may slow down next week.
    We haven’t really targeted our mortgages, even though that’s the only debt we have. Some of this is because we’ve been working on increasing rental holdings without taking more debt, but I’d love to be able to get the debt gone.

    • The swimming has been SO exciting! Especially tonight! We were just watching as our new Canadian swimming sensation, Penny Oleksiak, tied for first with America’s Simone Manuel in the Women’s 100m freestyle. What an incredible race! As for when to target your mortgage, I think the important thing is to have a plan to do it – whether it’s now, or once you’ve reached some other financial goal. For you, it sounds like it could be after you’ve increased your rental holdings to a certain amount? Good luck in reaching those goals, Emily, and in getting rid of that mortgage.

  • I do that strategy that I always focus on what has been paid off, which is like a positive thing for me as it encourage me to push on and keep on. In the Olympics, I never miss the games in swimming, diving, and athletics. Phelps and Bolt are whom I am always to see.

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