The Real Reason I Live Debt-Free

The Real Reason I Live Debt-Free

I’m sure some of you noticed – the last two weeks I have been a lot less active on M$M. My wife and I were taking a well deserved vacation in Jamaica, when we learned that her father had passed away.

Needless to say, things have been a little crazy since that day. We flew home, made preparations for the service, and have been doing everything we can to help get loose ends taken care of.

I debated for a while if I would even write this post because obviously it’s a sore subject right now for us, but I think when you experience the passing of a close one, you gain a new perspective on life and your goals (financial or otherwise).

I want to share the real reason I live debt-free.

From a lot of the personal finance blogs or financial personalities you see out there, “debt-free” is this goal they want you to achieve so you can be happier or find “peace”. I think that stuff is fine and probably sells a lot of products, but happiness or peace haven’t really been my motivators.

The truth is that most of my financial goals and perspectives came from being very observant of people who are much older than me. Millennials really tend to surround themselves with like-minded young people (totally understandable), but for whatever reason I haven’t.

I enjoy spending time with people who are older than me, because it’s like a glimpse into my own future.

I’ve seen people at the brink of retirement, people desperately trying to build wealth at the end of their careers, and specifically for this post: finances at the end of someone’s life.

My father in-law was diagnosed with a disease called Inclusion Body Myositis about 8 years ago. I’ve known my wife for 10 years, so I was a full witness to what happens from diagnosis to passing from complications with this type of illness. It sucks. Really no other way to put it without dropping f-bombs.

He fought it every step of the way, and made it YEARS further than any doctor thought he would. It was pretty incredible really; I could only hope I would have that much dignity in the face of such a cruel and $hitty disease.

Here’s how this all ties in to my site:

My in-laws were never rich people, but they were savvy AF. They paid off their house much earlier than most people, were smart with how they paid off cars, and avoided debt whenever possible.

This was HUGE for them when my father in-law couldn’t work any more. It was so important when he went on hospice and eventually passed. He left this world giving the gift of no financial burdens on his family, just straight-up assets.

That’s why I do what I do. I drive a $6,000 car, not because I have to but because I should. I live a cash-based life because I want things to be easier for my wife and future kids when I pass. I’m terrified of debt – and I wish other young people were too.


Millennials don’t see the world for what it is.

Even the smartest of my friends play with the loaded gun called debt like it’s a toy because they lack perspective.

We pretend that we won’t need the $50,000 we just borrowed for a new car because SHINY.

We make the minimum payment because we will pay it off someday.

We borrow money for travel because we think the younger years of our life are more important than the later years (Hint: You will be the same person later, just older looking).

We finance the biggest house possible because 30 years is really really far away right?

We ignore our student loans because a politician promised to make them disappear.

We sit around at low paying jobs because “work-life balance” sounds better than “hard work”.

Remind yourself of this from time to time:

You will die eventually, and it won’t happen the way you imagine it. It might be long and drawn out, and I guarantee you it will be massively expensive one way or the other. It’s something we don’t want to think about for obvious reasons, but you have to make it part of your financial plan.

Just to be clear – that doesn’t mean you need a morbid outlook on life. In fact, it means the exact opposite. Be realistic about what life is, and try to enjoy the hell out of it. But for the love of everything good in this world don’t be dumb with your money, because you WILL need it. Your spouse and kids WILL need it. It’s one of the most important gifts you can give to your family when you are gone.

Don’t borrow money for stupid crap, get real with life, and live financially for the future rather than the now.


Live differently. Your bank accounts will thank me later. ~ M$M


Rest in peace Bill. Thanks for the $$$ lessons, we will miss you.


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91 comments… add one
  • The Green Swan Jun 20, 2016, 9:38 am

    Sorry for your family’s loss M$M, I wish you all the best. Thanks for the money reminders as well, good post.

  • FinanceSuperhero Jun 20, 2016, 4:44 pm

    First, I am very sorry for your family’s loss. Your father-in-law sounds like a tremendous man who fought valiantly and honorably in the face of a terrible illness. What a remarkable legacy he leaves behind!

    Second, I agree fully with your reflections. As a fellow millennial, I am equally aggravated by how my peers lack perspective when it comes to money matters. Deep down, I think they know it is wrong to swipe their credit card for cruises and finance $40,000 trucks. Somehow, those feelings are ignored in favor of foolishness. If only they knew that the future was to be lived for rather than borrowed from.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 20, 2016, 5:00 pm

      Much appreciated, he was an awesome dude. It’s frustrating, but that’s why we do what we do!

  • Amanda @ centsiblyrich Jun 20, 2016, 8:23 pm

    I am so sorry for your family’s loss. He sounds like an amazing guy!

    Thank you for the reminder. You are so right – we can plan the heck out of our life and think that 20, 30, or 40 years in the future things will work themselves out, but we have no idea what the future holds. Having our finances in order and taking responsibility right now ensures we can be ready for whatever life brings.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 20, 2016, 9:51 pm

      Hey thank you, very much appreciated Amanda.

      I wake up EVERY day and am thankful I opened my eyes. Being good at money is just part of it, but it’s important!

  • Thias @It Pays Dividends Jun 20, 2016, 8:33 pm

    So very sorry for your family’s loss. He sounds like he was an incredible man and definitely someone worthy of looking up to.

  • Chonce Jun 21, 2016, 9:20 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. You share such an important lesson though. I spent a lot of time around older people too when I was 19 and 20 because that was the majority of who worked at my job and I learned so much from them in terms of what I wanted to do with my life and finances and what I didn’t want to do. Now that I am a mom I have so much more motivation to get out of debt.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 21, 2016, 9:30 am

      Thanks Chonce, we appreciate it. I HIGHLY recommend spending time with people that are older than you – so much to learn. Can’t wait to see your post when you are debt FREE. 🙂

  • Matt Spillar Jun 21, 2016, 4:24 pm

    I’m really sorry to hear about your loss, but thank you for sharing your story. These are such valuable lessons that more people need to take to heart. It’s a really refreshing perspective.

  • Alaya@Hope+Cents Jun 22, 2016, 4:31 am

    So sorry to hear of your loss. Thanks for sharing these lessons and bringing to light something that is necessary to think and TALK about!

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 22, 2016, 9:17 pm

      Thanks for the condolences – we appreciate it! You’re right, we have to talk about it some time!

  • Jim Jun 23, 2016, 8:32 am

    Thanks for another great post! Sorry for your losses. My condolences!

  • Alyssa @ GenerationYRA Jun 23, 2016, 4:10 pm

    Bobby – I am so incredibly sorry to hear of your family’s loss…quite honestly, I know sometimes there are no words, or acts that can console the ache that comes from the grief of losing someone that is incredibly close to you. My father passed of pancreatic cancer 6 years ago, and the financial aspects that came from such a sudden happening lend itself to one of the main reasons why I kicked everything into such high gear. I know this is a vulnerable time, but if your wife ever needs someone to reach out to – please tell her to not hesitate to email me. If there’s one thing I learned, grief (like finances) are another ‘taboo’ subject in many ways. Thank you for sharing this post, I full-heartedly agree with ensuring that your future family is taken care of. It’s very real. My thoughts are with your family!!

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 23, 2016, 4:22 pm

      Thanks so much Alyssa, I’ll let her know! It’s amazing how much your outlook on your finances changes when a close one passes.

  • Claudia Jun 23, 2016, 6:15 pm

    Bobby and Coral, we’re so sorry for your loss. Just lost my dad last year. Our thoughts are with you–we know how difficult this is.

  • Millennial Moola Jun 23, 2016, 10:48 pm

    A wise person once told me that your treasured possessions are someone else’s 15 minutes at an estate sale. Cherish the people around you not the stuff in your closet

  • Lori Jun 24, 2016, 12:29 pm

    People live on in the lessons they teach others. Sounds like your father-in-law imparted some great lessons to you and your wife in words and actions. So sorry for this loss to your family.

  • Elliot @ Our Growing Wealth Jun 25, 2016, 12:50 pm

    So sorry for your loss. My condolences to you, your wife and the rest of your family. It sounds like he was a great man though and really know what he was doing when it came to life and money. Plenty of life lessons to be learnt and shared.

  • Andrew @ Family Money Plan Jun 28, 2016, 6:19 am

    Sorry for your loss Bobby. Thank you for sharing this. For some reason the topics you touched on have been on my mind a lot lately. I can’t tell why, but I’m thinking a lot about living a better life. I think we all battle the SHINY disease. It’s a hard one to overcome especially when everyone else seems to be so enamoured by it. I’m with you for hanging out with older people. It gives you a great perspective on what your life can be and how you can use their life lessons to learn. For us Debt free is part of our future. I’m all for designing your ideal life and then working your way to building towards it. Future over now is a way of life. Deepest sympathies.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 28, 2016, 8:44 am

      Thanks Andrew – much appreciated. And no problem for sharing!

      We do all battle the “shiny disease” (I like that btw) every day. All of us are flooded with advertising, some are just better at ignoring it than others it seems. Hanging out with people that are older than me is probably the only reason I have had some financial success so far. I wish more people did it – we would have less bad debt and financial stress if we were able to have someone explain the real consequences of our poor decisions!

  • Harmony@CreatingMyKaleidoscope Jun 28, 2016, 9:40 am

    I am so sorry for your loss, but think you did the right thing by sharing this post. There are so many millennials that lack perspective. We do need to keep future us in mind when we’re making decisions in the present. I’m on a mission to destroy our debt so we don’t have to live in constant fear. Not having debt gives you peace of mind, security, and freedom. These commodities are so much more valuable than the newest electronics or a shiny car. My best wishes for comfort, to you and your wife . . . hold on tight to the good memories <3

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 28, 2016, 10:01 am

      Thanks – I think it turned out pretty well. That’s true about debt – we never have to worry about money, very freeing.

  • paul Jun 28, 2016, 10:01 am

    Sorry to the both of you for your loss. Never easy. Thanks for writing this post. It made so much sense and it was to the point. We should talk about death and the what ifs in life. Your perspective is spot on. You mentioned when buying and spending the maximum amount you can borrow on the purchase of the house, I am glad you mentioned that as this one one piece of advice that I continuously received which in itself could be problematic in the future. I think the effect is called house rich, money poor. Thank you for sharing.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 28, 2016, 1:03 pm

      Hey thanks Paul and no problem for writing the post. It would totally suck to be house-rich and money poor!!!!

  • Jack Jun 28, 2016, 12:07 pm

    Losing family sucks.

    The only good that comes from it is when you have the intelligence to gain insight into your own existence and improve yourself and lift those around you.

    Well done.

  • Alyssa Fischer Jun 28, 2016, 2:04 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. I fully agree with all of your sentiments regarding living life debt-free and I thank you so much for sharing this story.

  • Brandon Jun 28, 2016, 2:45 pm

    Sorry for your loss my friend but very good article. Unfortunately too many of us are caught up with wanting fancy things that they think will make us feel better and will impress people. All that matters is family and love. If you work too much, you miss out on both. And if you spend lots of $$$ on unnecessary crap you don’t need, you’re only hurting yourself in the long run.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 28, 2016, 6:53 pm

      Thank you – you’re right. TONS of people are caught up in stupid crap that doesn’t matter. Family is all we have at the end of the day, and we don’t have them for nearly long enough.

  • Xyz from Financial Path. Jun 28, 2016, 3:46 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. I fully agree with all of your sentiments and try to live debt-free too. thank you so much for sharing.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 28, 2016, 6:52 pm

      Thanks for the thoughts, we really appreciate it. Glad you’re going after debt-freedom too!

  • ZJ Thorne Jun 28, 2016, 7:28 pm

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. I’m glad to hear that more and more younger people are planning seriously for their families’ needs when they are no longer here.

  • Latoya @ Life and a Budget Jun 28, 2016, 9:45 pm

    My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, we need A LOT more messages like these. It’s important to remember to gather all the little gems our elders have to offer us while they are still here and from the sound of it, you’re collecting your fair share:)

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 28, 2016, 11:07 pm

      Thank you Latoya – I agree, this is something we need to talk about more. Just sucks to do it. Fortunately I have collected a bunch 🙂

  • Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds Jun 29, 2016, 5:28 am

    So sorry for your loss 🙁

    Your points are all so valid, we just never know what’s going to happen in the future, and debt is not a nice thing to leave behind.

    • Millennial Money Man Jun 29, 2016, 7:54 am

      Thanks Francesca! If you are going to leave behind debt, at least have a killer life insurance policy!!!

      • Jennifer Jul 29, 2016, 3:27 am

        That’s something for sure. I’m 28, own a cruddy trailer and 2 cars free and clear. Less than 1k medical debt and less than 5k other debt including student loans. I just utilized my guaranteed insurability option to up my whole life policy to 100k and can add 50k every 3 years.

        Need to start working on retirement savings soon, but completely covered for a freak occurrence.

        • Millennial Money Man Jul 29, 2016, 7:37 am

          That’s great! Pretty low debt-load as well, I’m sure you’ll have that taken care of in no time! Life insurance is definitely a great tool to make sure your loved ones are covered…it’s usually so cheap that it’s a no brainer. Thanks for sharing!

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher Jul 12, 2016, 8:38 am

    Rest in peace, Bill; he sounds like a great guy. 🙂

    I love this article so much. My mom passed away unexpectedly at the age of 42. She left behind a lifetime of debt and no assets, which my Dad struggled to pay. After seeing that, I know how important it is to get rid of debt AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I want to not only leave this world without owing a soul, but also to make life a little easier for my children.

    We’re taking a lot of steps in the right direction. We live on 50% of our income and just paid off our $14,000 credit card debt. 🙂 Right now we’re saving up for a house, but starting in December we should be able to tackle our student loan debt in 18 months. Life’s looking up!

    • Millennial Money Man Jul 12, 2016, 9:03 am

      Wow – I appreciate the kind words! Thanks so much!

      It is important. It’s one of those things that we obviously don’t want to spend much time dwelling on, but it’s SO important to make sure that you have your stuff taken care of for your family. Had Bill not done that, my mother-in-law would be facing a way harder financial challenge that might have been impossible to solve.

      Good luck on your debt – seems like you are definitely doing some great things! Just keep plugging away and you’ll be done before you know it!!!!!

  • Jaymee Jul 19, 2016, 11:52 pm

    Great reminder… I consciously have to remind myself that being in my 20’s doesn’t guarantee me a longer timeline. I just rethought a purchase I was thinking of financing..

    • Millennial Money Man Jul 20, 2016, 9:22 am

      Sorry, I know that sucks to think about! It’s just one of those realities in life we have to deal with. Glad I could help change your mind! 🙂

  • Mortimer Jul 21, 2016, 1:12 am

    Really powerful post. I’ve known some cancer survivors who said they never felt more alive than when they felt death was near. Using your money with the clarity of what will happen at the end of your life is a great meditation, especially if you view your earned money as a proxy for life energy.

    • Millennial Money Man Jul 21, 2016, 4:01 pm

      Thanks Mortimer – glad you liked it. Clarity is a great way to put it. I’ve NEVER had my financial goals as clear to me as they are now.

  • Holly Jul 22, 2016, 8:34 pm

    Great post! Love to hear your encouragement of the debt free lifestyle for younger generations.

  • Anastasia Jul 30, 2016, 10:21 pm

    Hey there, just found your website. Thank you for being so transparent during your family’s loss! I’ll definitely be tuning in!

  • Cindy @ Smart Family Money Aug 2, 2016, 2:41 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. Debt is just making our future self pay for something our present self wants… And as you pointed out, someday that future self will be dying and will have much more important worries than a fancy car or house. I am glad you were able to learn those lessons younger than most people.

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 2, 2016, 2:48 pm

      Thanks Cindy, we both appreciate that a lot. In the end, cars and material stuff just don’t matter. Family does. Very simple concept that we forget.

  • Kim Aug 18, 2016, 11:07 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss…

    I think this post is fine and great, but not everyone has the luxury of living debt free. I think most people would like to be debt free, but we can’t always control the circumstances we are born into. I think this post is somewhat ignorant of the struggles some people are born into. Not to mention a four year education costs tens of thousands, if not, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 19, 2016, 7:46 am

      Thank you. Kim…I think you should read more about my story. I didn’t just snap my fingers and make my $40k of student loan debt disappear. I worked my @$$ off and lived way below my means until I got to that point. I get more emails from people that struggle with debt than I ever imagined I would. I’m also very well aware what college educations cost; it’s one of the main things that the site covers.

  • Kim Aug 18, 2016, 11:13 pm

    Actually, the more I think about this article, the more offended I become. It’s as if you think the debt I’m accumulating is a choice. Sure I could have chosen to not get a college degree, but that would have screwed me over too. I don’t think this is as insightful as you think it is, in fact, I think it’s quite offensive. I would love to be debt free, I’m pretty sure every person would, it’s not an easy task that everyone can do. It’s unfortunate that you don’t understand that.

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 19, 2016, 7:54 am

      Well, I think you may be the only highly offended person out of the literally tens of thousands that have seen this post. I can live with that. I hate to mention this because it’s awkward, but you said that debt isn’t a choice and then immediately said you could have chosen not to go to college.

      There’s nothing wrong with borrowing money to better yourself in my opinion. I did it, and it was totally worth it. I’m sorry you feel that I don’t understand debt, but I have to say this is one of the most bizarre comments that I’ve ever had on M$M. Hopefully I’m just getting trolled here! 🙂

      • Mshipester Aug 26, 2016, 7:19 pm

        Great article, one theme I noticed was a ton of college debt. I was fortunate to have school paid by working full time and having it paid by company I worked for…. I have been debt free for years and anyone can do it…

        • Millennial Money Man Aug 26, 2016, 7:24 pm

          Thank you! That’s pretty awesome, congrats on being debt free (and thanks for commenting).

    • Mary Sep 21, 2016, 10:53 am

      it’s a free country! you CAN live debt free. I’m sure he stepped on your toes but no one can justify debts. do what he did and find an older wiser mentor. then do what they recommend

      • Millennial Money Man Sep 21, 2016, 11:03 am

        Thanks Mary! 🙂 Finding someone to mentor you is huge. Definitely one of the reasons I’ve had success with debt and business early on.

  • Lisa Sep 14, 2016, 8:09 am

    Even thought the blanket .. “Millennials think and do XYZ” annoys me, I agree about the debt. I had a health scare and a lay-off that really got me in a better space. I didn’t even get into the fire – just saw the smoke. If I didn’t have a savings I would have never even been able to get the tests needed to find out if I had cancer or not – it hit me right there. You cannot control everything but making good decisions for the 30% of things you have some power over, arm you to weather the other 70%. I am have been on the Pay it off, Save more train ever since.

    • Millennial Money Man Sep 14, 2016, 9:19 am

      That’s cool, no need to like everything I write! 🙂 Would be boring that way. That’s a great point about the 30% vs. 70%. Never thought of it that way.

  • Lynn Sep 19, 2016, 11:25 pm

    My new husband and I are debt-free, and hoping to stay that way. We aren’t millennials, but our kids are. I’m printing this article for them to read. I paid off $40K in student loans TWICE (undergrad and then, grad school), while going through a divorce. Now, we are paying for $1000/month daycare for our new baby while raising college-bound teens. I know we are in different financial times than when I was young, but wisdom is wisdom, it doesn’t have an expiration date! thanks for a touching post…I think it’s nice that your father-in-law kept life and money in perspective when it mattered most.

  • Teresa Sep 27, 2016, 11:04 pm

    Great article. There are a lot of young widows out there who would wholeheartedly agree, because sometimes “someday” comes much too soon.

  • Chris Oct 9, 2016, 9:24 pm

    Loved your article. As one of those “older guys”, your message is one I have been trying to get across to people of all ages on my blog.

    Well done!

  • Wally Jordan Oct 12, 2016, 4:51 am

    As one of the “white-headed aged folk” it is cool to read your article. I have spent a generation making foolish decisions with money. When I was your age I simply did not “peek through the curtain” and observe the other side. You have.
    I am getting rid of debt; and, at my age, it does bring peace. I want to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren teaching them gently what you have already discovered. Thanks. I’m sharing this.

    • Millennial Money Man Oct 12, 2016, 5:47 am

      Thanks Wally! Glad to hear you’re getting rid of your debt, it is a nice feeling isn’t it? I think leaving an awesome legacy is a great goal. 🙂

  • Cikida Oct 23, 2016, 10:41 pm

    Loved this article! Resonates with me on so many levels since I have parents who are 40 years my senior. I believe they gave me so much perspective to life regarding money and opportunities. Would love to syndicate this article on our site if you would allow me to.

  • Joyce Dec 29, 2016, 3:30 pm

    So very sorry for your loss. I was given the privilege of caring for my baby sister and her small children for two years while she battled leukemia. Most heart wrenching thing I have ever done, and then my dad died of a heart attack 5 days before she died. I felt like a professional funeral planner for a while. And with them both gone, now I watch over my mom. It’s been two years and I’m still recovering. Living a debt free and a frugal life, along with having a fantastic husband gave me choices…. I chose to have no regrets. Debt free and frugal is the ONLY way for us!

    • Millennial Money Man Dec 29, 2016, 5:00 pm

      I appreciate that Joy, sorry for yours as well. Definitely takes time; we’re only about 6 months removed but my wife and mother in law are doing pretty well. Glad to hear you’re living debt free!

  • Sydney Fitzsimmons Jan 25, 2017, 10:38 am

    When my sisters and I were young we would question my parents about why we didn’t go on vacations (we would fly to visit family) like our friends? Why don’t you buy a new car? etc. etc. My parents would tell us two things. First, they’d say look in the mirror and smile due to all the orthodontia work we were undergoing. Then they’d say, the best gift a parent can give (to their children) is to be financially secure so they are not a burden on their children. The older I get the more grateful I am for their foresight and the example they set for my sisters and I. I wish all my family and friends would have this same mind set! Great post and I’m so sorry for the loss of your father in law. It sounds like he was an incredible person.

  • Ione Jan 27, 2017, 11:46 am

    Sorry, for your loss of your father-in-law. Loved what you had to say. I just lost my husband unexpectedly at the age of 56. As I sat on my couch the next day, I realized that financially everything was going to be fine. We have lived debt free for a number of years and while there isn’t a huge life insurance policy, the retirement savings is adequate and I am still able to work. We started working toward being debt free almost 20 years ago and I am so so thankful that we learned to live with just a tad less, enjoy life and in the end not have this loss be a financial burden on top of the grief. Keep sharing the live with less and stay out of debt message.

    • Millennial Money Man Feb 11, 2017, 12:09 am

      I’m sorry for your loss too. 56 is too young, but I’m glad that you both set things up correctly so that you can keep going. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  • Anastasia Feb 10, 2017, 11:59 pm

    Absolutely Beautiful article. I have been carpooling to work so that I can pay cash for my car. It’s a great reminder to fight this debt until it’s our of her. Rest in Power to your father in love!

  • Lisa Feb 15, 2017, 5:18 am

    Totally agree. It’s not easy sometimes with the world as it is, marketing as powerful as it is. I have to be thankful for my husband who saw this same phenomenon but grew up understanding it because of his father, as you saw through your FIL. It’s aggravating at times, but much easier to sleep. <3 Thanks for the words of wisdom! Condolences and best wishes.

  • Brian Feb 18, 2017, 6:47 am

    And purchase term life insurance.

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