Looking Back — 10 Years And More Than $1,000,000 Ago

Today, I am riding a personal-finance blog wave! Meaning I am going to copy some other bloggers’ same topic for this post!

Bloggers will sometimes write on the same topic unintentionally. When there are approximately 5,210,463 blogs in one space, like personal finance, this is bound to happen. But bloggers will also sometimes write on the same topic intentionally.

This can come through games of “tag” (denominated also with various other names, none of which come to my tired brain at this moment), in which a blogger writes a post on the topic and then “tags” some number of other bloggers to write a post on the same topic (or answering the same question, for instance). And this can also come from planned-out “group writing projects.” This can be bloggers hitting the same topic around the same time, so readers can get several views or aspects of that topic around the same time.

Today, I’m tagging along with the Money Blog Network, which is a group of 8 popular personal-finance blogs. Their May writing project is looking back 10 years—examining how their lives (and their personal finances) have changed. (Check out Money Blog Network Group Writing Project: Looking Back; it includes links both to the network members’ posts and other personal-finance bloggers’ posts on this topic).

10 years ago versus now? Here goes!


May 30, 1998

May 30, 2008

Marital Status







rented 3-BR house w/2 roomies

own 3-BR house

Top Pop Song

“My All” (Mariah Carey)

“No Air” (Jordin Sparks)

U.S. President



Credit Card Debt



Student Loan Debt



Mortgage Debt



Natural Disaster

6.6 earthquake in Afghanistan

7.9 earthquake in China

Super Bowl Champ

Denver Broncos

N.Y. Giants

World Series Champ

Florida Marlins

Boston Red Sox

Time at Current Job

6 mos

10½ yrs

Financial IQ


1 or more clues

Emergency Fund

none designated

no longer tracking

Checking Account


five figures

(previous day close)



S&P 500
(previous day close)



Individual Retirement Savings


six figures

Investment Properties



Household Net Worth


$1 million

Personal Finance Books Read

maybe 2-3?

scores… 20? 40? not really sure.

Personal Finance Blogs Authored




not too bad


Jump Shot

wildly inconsistent

wildly inconsistent

Age (self-reported)



Okay, a few notes, disclosures, confessions, …. The data’s just approximate, of course, but is pulled out of Quicken, which I had been using back to 1998 (and quite a bit before that). The current “$0” student loan debt is feasibly deceptive. My wife paid hers off outright; some years ago, I folded mine into our house. Some personal-finance gurus think that’s a terrible idea. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. It has worked out okay for us, but the loan balance can’t be tracked and compared separately now. The current checking-account balance is a bit high, somewhat randomly so. We actually try to keep our checking-account balance lower and move money into our savings accounts more often.

Regarding the emergency fund, there was quite a while during which I was contributing to and separately tracking my emergency fund. But I hadn’t even started it by the date that’s ten years ago. And somewhere along the way, our cash position became strong enough that it became less important in my view to continue separately contributing to and tracking an emergency fund.

Regarding “household net worth,” our current net worth is over $1 million, whether you include the equity in our primary residence or not—and fortunately remains over $1 million after quite a period of ups and downs in the stock market in 2008. This number jumped of course because of going from single to married. Married life is wonderful, as far as I’m concerned—and that it happens to bring personal-finance strength is gravy. The financial advantage comes from dual incomes (in our case) and from certain economies of scale. I think I read that a single person does not spend half as much as a married couple without kids—and instead spends about 70% as much. (Sorry, I don’t have the time right now to try to dig up the source and link!) If that number’s right, you are doing better than twice as well from getting married. Of course, even if that’s right, things can quickly change with kids!

Over the past 10 years, the stock market at a quick glance looks like it went up appreciably. But breaking it out into compound annual gains turns out to be depressing. If I have done the numbers right, the DJIA overall increase of about 41.5% works out to a compounded annual gain of only about 3.5%; and the S&P 500 overall increase of about 28.3% works out to a compounded annual gain of only about 2.5%. This is a stark reminder that, although the stock market is in my thinking a great place to put your money, you must have quite a long time horizon for that money. On the other hand, that 10-year period included quite a bit of turbulence. Including the crash in 2000—the 10th worst in history, about a 38% loss from 2000-2002. So it is also nice to see and encouraging to be reminded that stocks will at least be positive over most 10-year periods (though that does not take inflation into account).

10 years is a pretty long time. My life was totally different 10 years ago, personally and financially. I had somewhat forgotten the extent of my credit-card debt (and the number of cards I had maxed out!). 10 years has turned out to be enough time to effect a considerable turnaround. It could be interesting to check how long it took me to get the credit-card debt under control (though that’d take some more digging through Quicken, especially since I no longer have many of the cards I had 10 years ago)—but I think that it did not take a big portion of the 10-year period. And really, our net-worth gains have been concentrated largely in the last 4-5 years. So I continue to believe you can effect change reasonably rapidly once you have figured enough things out and have a plan.

How have the last 10 years been for you? And how about this—look ahead. Where do you think you’ll be in your personal finances 10 years from now, realistically or aspirationally? What's it going to take to get you there?

Related Posts:

Inside The Millionaire Mind of Mush—How We Became Millionaires

The Progress of Our Net Worth In The Last Four Years

How Did I Get Here? My Personal-Finance Origins.

Economic Mobility — What Are Your Chances of Moving Up, Really?

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