This Couple Dug Themselves Out of $50,000 of Debt and Are Now Millionaires. Here’s How They Did It

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Andy and Nicole Hill were on the couch watching an episode of The Suze Orman Show when they heard a familiar phrase: wealth.

“On the show, they talked about power all the time,” Andy Hill said. “Net worth, net worth, net worth.”

A light bulb went out. Their net worth would certainly be high… right? The couple had a combined income of $130,000 and they had already built up $16,000 in retirement accounts.

So the Hills sat down and calculated — and the number shocked them. They weren’t as rich as they thought. In fact, they had negative net worth of -$50,000.

Finding out your net worth is a relatively simple calculation. You take your assets, or what you own, and subtract your liabilities or what you owe. †[Nicole and I] wrote it [all out] on a large whiteboard upstairs in our spacious bedroom,” Hill said. Wealth change over time and can rise or fall as your financial situation changes.

At the time, most of the Hills’ debt came from student and car loan debt. They also owed more to their home than it was worth after they got out of the 2008 recession.

This wake-up call, which took place in 2010, gave Andy and Nicole the kick they needed. They wanted to have children and be in a good financial position before their children were born.

Today the Hills are millionaires. Andy runs their blog, Marriage Children and moneya platform dedicated to helping young families build wealth and thrive.

Here’s how they did it.

A Negative Net Worth Reality Check

The first thing was first: getting out of debt. They agreed to live on just one of their incomes so that they could use the other’s income to save, pay off debt, and invest.

They wanted to be debt free before the arrival of their first child a year later. To reach their goals of paying off $50,000 in debt in one year, they started meeting once a month to talk strategy.

Pro tip

Write down your numbers and understand your current situation. Once you tackle a small debt-paying feat, you’ll be inspired to pay off more. Don’t let the nuances of your debt repayment journey deter you from being in good financial shape.

They reduced their expenses. “We spent a lot of money going out to bars and restaurants, going on holiday or going to concerts. But we also looked at areas where money flew out the window, such as unnecessary subscriptions and high bills,” said Andy Hill.

And they became more aware of how they were spending their money. They used a spreadsheet to budget and track their expenses. Twelve months later, they had paid off their student debt and car loans.

“After a year of restraint, we did something that helped start a movement for us that would change our family tree. It gave us the courage and motivation to move forward,” said Hill.

Then they decided to start working on paying off their mortgage. They put in $3,000 a month to pay off the mortgage, using tax refunds, bonuses, and working commissions on the mortgage balance. In four years, the Hills paid off their $195,000 mortgage.

Increase income and invest aggressively

A key to the Hills’ success is that they increased their income through sideline activities. Andy launched his podcast, Marriage Kids and Money, and learned how to make money from it.

“I started figuring out how to make some money from my podcast around 2017. By 2019, Nicole and I were both hustling. She was organizing at home, and I was making a little bit of money, mostly from podcast ads,” Hill said.

The couple also sold items on Craigslist: “I sold things like a road bike I used to do triathlons, purses Nicole no longer used, old baby gear, furniture.”

The Hills had an average annual income of $190,000 for ten years, but lived on around $70,000 to $80,000 even after having children. They saved about 40 to 50% of their income, which mainly went towards paying off debt and investing in tax-efficient accounts. “We had the privilege of making six figures at the time, and it just grew from there,” Hill said.

The Hills benefited from taxable investment accounts such as 401(k)s, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

Andy maxed out his 401(k) to take advantage of his company’s 15% dues match. The pair also made the most of their Roth IRAs and HSAs. “I saw the benefit of tax diversification in our accounts,” Hill said.

Experts love Roth IRAs because they help boost your retirement savings. Because of their flexibility and tax benefits, Roth IRAs help protect you from taxes while putting money aside. Also, the money in the Roth IRA grows tax-free and you can take it out without paying taxes on your earnings or contributions when you reach retirement age.

For many years, the Hills have invested in low-cost index funds. Index funds allow investors to invest their money in a number of securities rather than just one. They help keep financial portfolios diversified. “I probably saw the convenience of index funds six years ago, and I’ve been investing in them ever since,” Hill said. “I love index funds because it keeps things simple. It helps me relax and get my life back on track. I want to do other things with my time and not worry about that,” Hill said.

Life after reaching the millionaire milestone

The Hills became millionaires in 2020 by paying off their debts and increasing their savings in their 401(k)s, Roth IRAs and HSAs. The couple also achieved Coast FIRE, which is when you have invested enough money in your retirement accounts that your investments are expected to grow without further contributions to cover your expenses at traditional retirement age. Those milestones gave them extra freedom.

“We made some lifestyle changes around the time we hit the million dollar mark. In January 2020, I left my corporate event marketing career to create content on the web. I work about 25 hours a week, and I’m a current father and current husband. It feels like the more balanced life I’ve been looking for,” said Hill.

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