Jan. 7, 2021
One of the people who has inspired me most on my financial journey is my mother-in-law, Natasha. She is 70 years old, divorced, and an immigrant. Even though her upbringing was not wealthy, she taught herself about personal finance by reading and always living below her means.
- After leaving Russia for the US, my mother-in-law set to out retire comfortably with a full emergency fund. She saved $30,000 in two years by following three rules.
- First, she always lives below her means, shopping at discounted grocery stores and taking public transit.
- She finds way earn extra income, too, including taking in a roommate and selling hand-made clothing and ceramics.
- She also pays her credit cards in full every month, assuring that she never has high-interest debt.
My mother-in-law is proof that you don't have to come from a wealthy family to be financially literate, and that you can save, invest, and efficiently manage your cash flow without having a big salary.
Natasha was able to save $30,000 in two years using three strategies in her financial life: living below her means, creating multiple streams of income, and never carrying a balance on her credit card.
She lives below her means and saves as much as possible
My mother-in-law started saving early in her career back in her country, Russia, and she always managed to save at least 15% of her income by living frugally. She had three kids back then. Now, she saves at least 40% of her income and more. But, as she always tells me, "Consistency is what will help you build wealth." So if you can save 5%, 10%, or more of your income, that is OK, and what really matters is that you do this consistently. Increase your saving percentages as you go, if you can.
She was able to save $30,000 in two years by saving more than $1,200 a month. She is very frugal and lives below her means; she saves by shopping in thrift stores and discounted supermarkets. She doesn't own a car, and instead uses discounted public transportation as a senior.
She was able to buy an apartment in Russia when she was 25 years old, then started renting out one room in her apartment to earn some extra money. She came to the US after selling that property and saved the money she earned on the sale in a high-yield savings account. She also started to work as a caregiver to earn an income.
Her goal is to save as much as possible, and to have a comfortable retirement and a stable emergency fund, and she will be reaching those goals by the end of next year. She wants to be able to have a strong safety net as she would like to become work-optional.
She finds ways to create multiple income streams and doesn't depend on one income
My mother-in-law warns against depending on one income; she says that is like "having a table without four legs." If we lose our only income, we'll be completely affected, but if we have more than one income, we'll have balance.
She always says that we have to find ways of creating income, but make it interesting. She works as a caregiver, taking care of elderly patients during the day, but also has different sources of income: she creates and sells ceramic pieces, and she sews and designs clothing that she sells locally. She was able to buy a two-bedroom apartment in Miami, Florida and rents one of the rooms for $800 a month, earning additional monthly income by having a roommate.
She pays off high-interest debt as soon as possible
It is important to pay off high-interest debt, such as credit card debt, as soon as you can, in part because it's not recommended to start investing for retirement until that debt is paid off.
My mother-in-law likes credit cards and doesn't think they're bad — if used the right way. She personally has two credit cards and recommends that before we apply for new credit cards, we ask ourselves if we really need that new card. How often will we use it? Most importantly, can we pay it completely at the end of each month? She doesn't worry about her card's interest rates as much because she always tries to pay them in full, treating them like a debit card.
Our network is our net worth, as the saying goes, which means we should surround ourselves with people who add value to our lives and teach us by example. It's never too late to take control of our finances, and we have the power to start again regardless of our age, to create multiple sources of income, to have fully-funded emergency funds, and to invest for the long term.