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One day, in my late twenties, I woke up and realized I had little to show for working a full time job for the 5+ years since I graduated college. I was earning a good living as a CPA, but was living paycheck to paycheck. I was juggling credit card debt, a car loan and a mortgage. I was supposed to be living the American Dream, but I was just feeling stressed, hoping no other unexpected bills popped up before each pay day.

In 2003, I was laid off and my ex-wife and I decided to divorce in a span of about 2 months. Somehow, in the midst of all the change, I saw this as a great opportunity to regroup.

My brother and I used to play Mario Brothers and other games on the old Nintendo (NES). Sometimes when we were playing against each other and one person started winning, the would-be loser would press the RESET button. I saw the summer of 2003 as a way to press the RESET button on my life.

I voraciously started reading books on personal finance (PF) and investing. I only wish the blogospehere would have been around back then. I would have fit in perfectly with the thousands of folks that read the beginner PF blogs that are so common today.

The divorce took care of the mortgage, which was the leading cause of stress back then. We actually did salvage some home equity from the sale, split it 50/50 and parted amicably. I moved back in with my parents to save money, no easy task at age 28 (remember I was unemployed at the time). I found a job about 3 months after being laid off, and as soon as I felt comfortable in the position I used most of the money from the home sale to pay down my car loan.

Within a year, I was a new man. I paid off my car and credit cards, was living in a new apartment close to work and embraced frugality. I realized I had lost about 5 years of saving and wanted to make up for it.

During this time, I also met the love of my life and future mother of my children, who just happened to share my love of living frugally and simply. I realize now that having the right partner makes even the most basic financial decisions so much easier.

In 2005, we were married and bought a small house, a fixer upper by anyone’s definition. After moving in, we set a goal to save 6 months expenses and a 20% down payment for our next house within 4-5 years. We barely missed out on the 20% down payment fund, but did have enough to put 15% down on our dream house we bought in July 2009.

Those years were a time of great change in my life, a time I look back on fondly and proudly. But this blog is about what happens after the debt is gone (stage 1) and the emergency fund is established (stage 2).

Welcome to stage 3.

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