A Decade Of Net Worth History Revealed

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Net Worth vs. Time

A voyeuristic blow-by-blow after the jump…

I’ve gotten a couple of requests for a net worth-over-time type of post, so here it is.

College (1996-2000)
While heavily supported by my parents, I had also agreed to take on 1/3rd of all college-related expenses to the out-of-state university that somehow accepted me. I worked part-time every year doing various jobs, and also worked full-time every summer. By the end I had paid off more than $10,000 in student loans, but I was still looking at about $16,000 of debt. I had managed to avoid getting any credit card debt, only getting a few cards for the free t-shirts. (You may be amazed to know that I used debit cards exclusively during this time!)

Grad School (2000-2003)
Did I decide to get a job and pay it off? No, I loved to teach, so I wanted to be a professor. That meant graduate school. I received a fellowship that covered a significant portion of my tuition and living expenses, and also took on part-time teaching assistantships. Overall, I was making under $20,000 a year.

Soon I realized that in order to get a Ph.D., you had to love the long hours of research and churning out those papers. Teaching is clearly secondary at top universities. Not only that, but professors get zero geographic mobility. If a tenure-track position opens up anywhere, you had better take it. Other personal stuff happened, and I left the program.

Still, by living frugally, I had managed to pay off most of my student loans during that time. I still had some debt, but I also had some money in the bank and a few thousand in one of those newfangled Roth IRA doo-hickeys. I remained clueless about investing.

Single Worker Bee (2003-2004)
I thought about teaching high school, but instead off to the corporate consulting world I went. Triple the salary + bonuses, 8am-5pm, traffic, cubicles, yada yada. Within the first few months, all my student loans were paid off. (Want to know how?)

After that, my bank account started growing… Huh? A four-digit balance? What? A five-digit balance? I bought a few new toys. I started eyeing out the new BMW 3-series. An apartment with a lobby that didn’t smell like urine? Hmm…

Wait, maybe I should learn how to manage my money first. And so, this blog was born. Soon I had some set goals, which led to opening a savings account paying interest and switching my investments into low-cost index funds. I kept my used car and barely-above-code apartment.

Married Worker Bee + Partner Bee (2004-2006)
Tricked a girl into marrying me in 2004 and combined all finances. The net worth you see now on the top right is both of ours combined, even if I use the words “I” or “my” instead of “we” and “our” at times. I tend to do that as I am the only one writing this blog, and otherwise it feels weird.

If you’ve been reading this blog you know 2004-2006 in scary detail. If not, it’s all here in the archives (see sidebar on right). I don’t track my net worth in order to compare with other people, I do it to keep myself honest about my goals.

The future looks bright. I think my wife and I are aligned in our goals. She also has more earning potential than me, and is climbing the corporate ladder. I’m enjoying my new field. (We chose to keep our jobs vague. I don’t think it really matters to this blog.)

We stay focused on the big things that guarantee future success. I continue to enjoy messing around with the little things that make side money (and help make that success come faster). Stay tuned for fun things like house-buying, job-finding, and children! 🙂

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  1. Thanks for the detail, i am in the sameboat. May be it is the same story for every grad student.Just got married lets see how things will turn….. good luck

  2. Binary Dollar says

    How old are you Jon?

  3. The big 2-8.

  4. “Tricked a girl into marrying me in 2004 and combined all finances” ..so you marry up huh? according to your chart you have 0 dollars before marriage…now, “you” are worth 115k..haha =P …that might be the best financial tip for a single guy..Marry a girl with Money!!! haha


  5. Jon,
    How did you managed to pay off your student loans and save $40k in just one year?

  6. samerwriter says

    Like many people, I’ve found marriage to be pretty valuable for increasing net worth. First, you save on all the money people seem to spend trying to impress members of the opposite sex. Second, you keep each other honest.

    When I start buying too many bike components, my wife points it out to me. When she starts drinking too many mochas, I comment on it.

    Not in an accusatory way, of course, just a gentle nudge.

    One does have to be careful, though. One year I printed out our savings goals on one of those United Way fundraising thermometers, and put it on the wall in our office. We hit the goal, but my wife wasn’t too happy about my methods!

  7. I increased my net worth by 40k in one year by mainly living like I was still making $18k (aka living like a student) and socking away all extra income. Other things included buying and reselling items on eBay (which I no longer do) and various stuff like the things I blog about here (which I still do).

    I had already paid down most of the student loans during grad school. Net worth of zero was from having $5k in student loans and $5k in bank account.

    I definitely recommend marrying up 🙂

  8. Marrying helped me (us) accelerate our growth a bit too.

    Btw, I notice the rate of your net worth growth is highest when you were single between 2003-2004. If marriage increased your net worth, the graph should be steeper after 2004…but I see some hesitation there after 2005… hope you are not spending on stuff without telling your wife 🙂

  9. Neat graphic. I don’t track my net worth. And I don’t have “typical” years, just atypical ones. My net worth probably rips all over the place.

  10. It’s very impressive that you paid off your student loans when you were still a student, and it’s more impressive to go from 0 to 6 figures in less than four years.

    Marriage didn’t just double our income and our expenses. It actually made us more careful in spending as both of us have to agree on big purchases and try to make the most out of our money. Sometimes when I saw something that I wanted to buy, I had to think what my wife would say once she sees it and eventually I might give up the idea.

  11. ‘Tricked her’? I’m sure she was a willing victim. But a major life change like marriage makes you re-evaluate where you are headed and I think that your story pretty much says it all. I mean, if you didn’t have positive net worth growth after becoming a 2-income family, then what would that say about you?

  12. Hey–I’m a new blogger and a recent college graduate, and this was awesome to read. Both impressive (your accomplishments) and reassuring (I’m still in the early stages of figuring out my financial life). Anyway, thanks!

  13. Great chart. I’m amazed that you did so well during your grad student years, I’m sure that is atypical!

  14. You better prepare to go logrithmic with your scale because you clearly have a handle on “playing good defense” with your money (ie, saving), which is way more important than earning (being taxed) more.

    My net worth grew most after I got married (and I “married down” financially) because I could afford to take more risks since we had 2 salaries. Also, we weren’t going out as much since we had fun doing free things. ;). We also became way more focused about our future and being financially independent. Even after we had a baby (I highly recommend getting one) we still save a lot; the tax benefits almost outweigh the costs if you don’t feel the pressure to do everything and anything for your kids.

  15. you were already fiscally sound by not having taken on the typical college credit card debt (the bane of my existence since, but enjoyable during the charge ups). you also benefited from the parental assistance. funny how marrying makes you do crazy things like saving. plus you do get benefits like insurance discounts etc, for being married, especially if you are a single male. although i was eager to follow the die broke mentality, getting married changes that mentality quickly. we had a similar experience in our net worth jump in one year considering all my debt was paid off in 18 months ($60k) from when I got married, then turned over into $55k in savings within the subsequent year without any debt offsetting savings.
    p.s. this is a very good blog.

  16. Neat older post, I would love to follow that trend!
    I’m currently about a year out of college and quickly approaching zero net worth!

    Interestingly, I read a few places that it is often financially smarter to NOT pay student loans quickly–the interest rate is low so the money is better off invested elsewhere. But do I really want to be paying 150 a month for the next 30 years? Not particularly. I guess it has to do with how comfortable an individual is with debt. My boyfriend seems to think I should pay them off immediately, even when I explain to him that I could be earning more interest even just in a high interest savings account! I don’t think he’s ever owed a penny in his life, lucky guy!

  17. Mathematically, you’re probably right, and if it was today I would probably not pay it my very-low-interest student loans off right away. But back then, I was like your boyfriend and just hated any form of debt. Either way, as long as you keep saving your net worth will still increase 🙂

  18. Ariel Hoffman says

    I love your blog!

    Reading this post makes me wonder, though. Is this YOUR net worth alone, or yours and your wife’s combined? Because it seems to me that the graph should have been a little steeper for two than for only one.

    Anyway, keep writing! I’ll send you my referrer $ as thank-yous.


  19. Dear John,

    I really your blog, and visit it regularly.


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