From Bankrupt to Building Wealth Within 3 Years – A Personal Account

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personal finance stories, saving money, financial planning, investing, salary, bankruptcy, budgeting, zero-based budget

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer Kristina. Kristina has over a decade of experience working in personal finance at a bank branch. She helps people plan their financial lives from college to retirement.  You can follow her on Twitter @TKBlogs.

In 2006 when the market was strong and I was a 26-year-old professional who was working in the financial services industry; I was earning a 6-figure income and I thought that my life couldn’t be better. 

I was enjoying my life by filling it with luxurious vacations and expensive electronics.  In 2007, I moved into a luxury apartment building that came fully equipped with underground parking, a fully equipped gym and an indoor pool. I bought a brand new car because that’s what I thought a 27 year old young professional with a six figure income should do. In 2008, I found myself with a car payment and an expensive downtown apartment. I was spending thousands of dollars on my daily living expenses and I thought that I was happy…but then the market crashed.

From Six Figures to Almost Bankrupt

Not only did I lose my income but I also lost my comfy “secure” office job in personal finance.  If anyone has ever lost their job, then you know that not only is it a financial loss, it is also a huge personal loss and a major hit to your ego.

My six figure income was my safety net, my emergency savings fund, and my lifeline; within a matter of days, I lost them all. One day, I woke up and I realized that I have no money because I spent money carelessly and recklessly because I took my six figure income for granted. I lost my job and I felt worthless; unfortunately, the reality was that not only did I feel worthless but I was actually worth nothing. I had no savings, no safety net and no monthly income.

During the good market days, I was so excited about my accomplishment of earning a six figure income before I was 30 years old that I didn’t save or plan for my future. I had a great life, but I had no savings and then one day I had no income. This is a little bit ironic since I was working in personal finance.  I didn’t take my own advice and therefore when I lost my job and my income I had to make changes in my lifestyle, my spending habits and my living costs.  I sold my car, I cut my grocery bill, I immediately stopped eating out in restaurants, and I cut my monthly cell phone bill. With the loss of my income, my lifestyle dramatically changed overnight, and it was all because I didn’t take the time to plan and save money for my future.

Rebuilding Wealth One Step at a Time

After living through the worst three years of my entire life, I now know that money cannot (and does not) buy happiness. I had to hit rock bottom in order to learn the importance of financial responsibility, but I am happy to say that I have officially learned my lesson. I am happy to say that I finally found a new job. I earn less money than I did three years ago, but now I am a lot happier.  I don’t have the stress or pressure of trying to “keep up with the Jones,” and I like knowing that my bills are paid on time and that there is money in both my checking and savings accounts.

My new found financial responsibility has taught me to live on a fixed monthly budget because I have a fixed monthly income. I don’t have a very exciting or luxurious life but at least I don’t have the stress of worrying about whether I will be able to pay both my rent and my cable bill in the same month.

My savings, for both the short term and for retirement, are now included in my monthly budget.  I keep my living expenses to a basic minimum so that I can afford to save.  Some days, I wish I had my old life back, but the truth is that my previous financial lifestyle was careless and irresponsible. I can honestly say that my new financial life is not so bad, and I know that many people who were financially (and personally) affected during the financial crisis have not yet fully recovered; so I guess that I am one of the lucky ones. 

How about you all? Has the economy from 2008 until now caused any drastic changes to your personal finances?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/59937401@N07/5929474535/

    Comments

    1. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

      It has changed our habits in that we're more intentional savers now. We were living pretty disciplined before hand and have become more so now. That said, that discipline came from my own experience of hitting rock bottom and am so thankful for the lessons I learned through it.

    2. Tahnya Kristina says:

      @Thomas S. Moore – Thank you very much for your comment. I think that budgeting and saving are the keys to being financially successful.

      @Money Beagle – Oh yes I definitely learned my lesson the hard way, but oddly enough I don't regret it because I learned from my mistakes.

      Thanks for reading

    3. I heard about stories like this from friends. I remember telling them to take it easy with the spending and they would all give me crazy looks like the were never going to run out of money. I would say save and live a little less. When many of them lost there jobs they couldn't continue with the lifestyle the had created. I am glad to at least hear you are rebounding. My wife and I had a tough time but we started paying down debts and saving more. We live a lot under what we could be it helps out alot.
      My recent post Contrographic from PointBlankSEO

    4. moneybeagle says:

      You definitely learned your lesson the hard way. I think so many people out there understand and agree that saving is important, but there's a mentality that it can wait for later, especially when you're young. The reality is that the best time to save is when you're young, as those habits will carry with you, you'll have more opportunity and time to save, and it'll cushion you from the job loss you described and other financial calamities that are always waiting just around the corner. Thanks for sharing your story, including your 'comeback'
      My recent post 5 Things Republicans Need To Do To Get Back In The Game

    5. Tahnya,

      Fantastic post! Impressed you were making so much so young too. What are you up to now?

      2009 rocked my world. I lost 30% of my net worth in a nanosecond, and I was SUPER diversified. Not enough though! Without 2009, I wouldn't have started my site. Without my site, I wouldn't have quit the corporate world 3 years later and wrote my book on how to profitably quit your job w/ a severance.

      The motivation of 2009 was incredible!

      Sam
      My recent post The Main Reasons To Borrow Money Through Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Lending

    6. @Sam – Thank you for your comments. After the market crashed I took a break from personal finance to figure out what I really wanted to do in life. I have been working in banking for so long that I didn't even know there was any other option for me. I am now working back at a retail banking branch, but my focus is on writing. I went back to school to study journalism and my first book titled “A Better You” should be finished by the end of the year.

      I guess that I should thank the market crash because it gave me the motivation to find a career that truly makes me happy.
      My recent post I support The Montreal Children’s Hospital

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