How I Was Able To Achieve Greater Success At Work

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smartest financial decision alliantThe smartest financial decision that I ever made was paying off my mortgage early.  Mainly because it gave me the freedom to take risks at work.  Some people believe that you shouldn’t pay off your mortgage because you could invest the difference.  However, this is not always better.  


The Math

I ran the numbers and found that by paying off my home instead of investing in the stock market, the difference was a minuscule 0.1%.  During the period that I was paying off my mortgage (2004-2012), the S&P 500 rose a paltry 3.6%, including dividends.  In turn, my effective mortgage rate (when factoring the refinancing and mortgage tax deduction benefits) resulted in a return of 3.5%.  I would gladly forgo 0.1% in order to get out of debt.  Wouldn’t you?


Drastic Improvements

smartest financial decision alliantIn turn, once I paid off my debt, my work life really improved.  Since I no longer had a burdensome mortgage, I took more chances at work.  I figured the worst thing that could happen was I could be fired.  But since I had the house paid off and had accumulated an emergency fund that could sustain me, I figured I had nothing to lose.


Taking Risks

With that mentality, I started to go on the offensive at work.  I took on interesting and challenging projects that others shied away from.  Some of my friends even warned me that I’d probably fail, so I shouldn’t bother.  Heck, I remember being one of those people at one point.  Who wants to rock the boat?


smartest financial decision alliantI remember like it was yesterday, when I took on my first hard project.  I was passionate about the project but knew that it would be incredibly challenging.  I’d love to tell you that I achieved a breakthrough, and everyone praised me.  But unfortunately, I didn’t reach my goal.  But there was a silver lining.


Receiving Accolades

Somehow, I impressed management with the progress that I made.  That opened other doors to pursue the projects that I was passionate about.  I built success upon success with each new project.  Before I knew it, I received rewards from my employer, along with an improved reputation.  I received promotions, then bigger promotions and bigger teams.  My sphere of influence became greater, and I ended up in a managerial position that I would have never anticipated.  I experienced all of that simply because I was able to work fearlessly without a mortgage weighing me down.


Looking back, I kick myself and think that I should have been even more aggressive from the start.  But knowing myself, I needed to have the security of being debt-free before I took those risks.  


So when you ask me about the smartest decision that I ever made, it’s a no-brainer for me.  My satisfaction and overall experience at work has drastically improved since paying off my mortgage.


smartest financial decision alliantReaders, what is the smartest financial decision you’ve ever made?  As one of the largest credit unions in the U.S., Alliant places a high value on those who make smart money choices because they know what a positive impact those decisions make on people’s lives.  Alliant Credit Union is currently sponsoring a contest where you can submit your response here, and enter for a chance to win $5,000.  Those who enter the contest will receive a referral link once they submit.  If that link is shared broadly and at least 2 people use that unique referral link, you are also entered for a chance to win $500.  You can share on social media using #SmartMoney along with your referral link for greater exposure!

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.


  1. Impressive that a financial decision had so much impact on your further career. Sounds like you got great results but also created your own path to get there.

    My smartest financial decision is probably to get start saving and investing in the first place. Not only because it’s our way to reach FIRE, but also because it changed my view on life altogether and motivates me to take that extra step moving forward.

    • Totally agree – simply starting to save and pay attention to what I was doing with my money transformed my perspective on what was and wasn’t possible in life.

      It just shows that it can take one simply change to completely alter your life!

  2. I can imagine freeing yourself of the burden of a mortgage feeling totally liberating – no wonder it pushed you to take risks in other areas of your life. i’m glad they (eventually) paid off!

    One of my biggest fears of getting into home ownership is the huge commitment of a mortgage for potentially decades after. My current stance is that I’m going to continue living the ‘alternative’ nomad lifestyle until my finances are in a place where I’m not going to be ruled by those debts.

  3. It’s great that you leveraged your mindset of financial freedom to overcome fears. You provided great value at work and got rewarded for it. I’ve been pondering the benefits of getting out the debt fast instead of investing and I will be making some adjustments so that my mindset can be different. Thanks for this post.

    • Thanks for stopping by KP!!! Paying off debt was definitely the right decision for me but I can see how others would feel differently through investments 🙂

  4. Great move in paying off your mortgage! For us, investing, instead of buying a home outright might have been the better decision if you go by numbers only. But people underestimate the psychological benefits of having no mortgage. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you know a couple of $10 an hour jobs will more than cover your essential expenses. Living for 10+ years without a monkey on our backs has been awesome!
    Mrs. Groovy recently posted…Do You Live Your Life Like a Financial Hermit?My Profile

    • One of my favorite quotes is personal finance is personal for a reason. I know on paper that it makes sense to invest instead of paying off the house but I just couldn’t get my head to follow my heart. For me at the end of the day it was the right decision but totally see how for others it would be different 🙂

  5. Having the financial freedom to take risks is a great option to have. I don’t think that I had made many smart decisions that changed my life. However, I think that I made the commitment from an early point in my life to be responsible with my money and invest my savings prudently.

    The result of managing my money prudently is paying off right now and I am able to use my money to increase my net worth a lot faster than five to ten years ago.
    Leo T. Ly @ recently posted…What’s The Financial Benefit Of Growing Your Own Food?My Profile

  6. Wow great post! I’m 100% with you on paying off the mortgage early. Mr. FAF and I are trying to do the exact same thing!

    A lot of people talk about taking advantage of the difference in interest rates. But the thought that we are in debt no matter what kind of debt it is weighs us down in life, not to mention economic downturns. I’m glad to know that we agree on this! 🙂
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…A Day In The Life of Ms. FAF – Workdays EditionMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Ms. FAF!!! I hate debt and it’s definitely something that weighs heavy on my mind when I think about incurring some in the future 🙂

    • Sounds like we have similar stories when it comes to debt. I definitely felt more comfortable speaking up when I felt like I had nothing to lose 🙂

  7. Paying down debt or paying the minimum and invest the difference…hmmm…I don’t really think it matters as long as you reach your goal(s). And if your goal is to retire early, like the rest of us, then it really doesn’t matter how you got there.

    I’ve been saving a ton over these last few years because I rent in NYC, so I am curious to see what I am going to do when my wife and I decide to throw down on a permanent residence. Toss it all in and be debt free? Or toss a significant amount down, pick a the mortgage deduction and be more liquid for other opportunities?

    Great post. Great thoughts. Enjoyed the read.

    • Thanks for stopping by Church!!! Sounds like you have quite the choice to make. I can’t wait to hear what you end up dong down the road. I’ll be following along 🙂

  8. Great story MSM! It has to be wonderful knowing you can grasp opportunities or knowing you don’t have to put up with too much workplace stress in order to pay for a roof over your head like most people do.

    Getting out of debt besides our mortgage was a good feeling for us and so I really look forward to eliminating our mortgage. Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. Having money provides so much opportunity to make different choices. I love how it made such a big difference in the trajectory of your career. For me, having money means we can move to another location where wages aren’t as high, take some risks with business opportunities and simply have more time by hiring things out.
    Making Your Money Matter recently posted…Choosing Progress Over PerfectionMy Profile

  10. There was definitely a mind-shift when I paid off my mortgage before I FIREd. I finally had zero debt so it felt like no matter what happened, I would always have my house.

    This is ironic since we recently sold our house and downsized into an apartment in downtown Philly. 🙂
    Mr. Freaky Frugal recently posted…Adventures in negotiating rentMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Mr. Freaky Frugal!!! I have that same feeling. At the end of the day they can’t take away my house. It was such a game changer for me!!! Not sure I ever want to get back into debt.

  11. Thanks for sharing! I think it impresses people (management in your situation), when it’s out of the ordinary. Especially when it comes to financial stuff. I had a VERY similar experience as you. Slightly different, but similar. My boss (the president) and our CFO, was super surprised at how much I knew about finance, stocks, etc. When I told them, a while ago, around towards the end of my twenties, I had $500K in stocks, that got them asking me for advice. They knew I had a good amount in my 401K, but didn’t know I had a substantial amount in my taxable and my IRA’s. I showed them the balance on my phone and their eyeballs almost popped out of their skulls. Similar to you, I impressed management (from very early on), starting with me buying a house when I was just 27. In an HCOL area, this is a big deal; most people in their mid 30’s don’t have their own place because even a 1bed 1 bath apartment in the area costs like $2K a month. More surprisingly, I come from a relatively poor background. I immigrated to the US from Eastern Europe (Hungary), because my parents are missionaries there. They run a homeless ministry, a church, and a gypsy slum ministry. So yeah, started from the bottom, unlike Drake (I hope you get this reference, lol). Very grateful that I met some great mentors along the way and happened upon some great books early on that taught me sound financial advice. Because my parents were clueless! Again, thanks for sharing!

    • hahahah…I definitely get the Drake reference. That’s awesome how far that you’ve come in such a short time period.

      BTW…I think that’s super cool that your parents are missionaries. I definitely would love to do that in the future 🙂

  12. I enjoyed and related to this post. Life is different when you are not trapped with a mortgage. It is even better after you have 15 or 20 years worth of living expenses saved. I can relate to being able to communicate freely at work. You can take a risk and share openly. I obviously don’t mean that I am rude or insubordinate. It might be part confidence and part lack of fear. Anyway, it is a great position to be in.
    dave recently posted…Investing in Your 20s – It’s the Chance of Your LifetimeMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Dave!!! I definitely agree that not having debt is really freeing and opens up some doors that wouldn’t necessarily be open otherwise.

  13. The benefit you saw from paying off your mortgage early is the same benefit that I have seen from keeping my expenses low. In a two-income couple that can get by on one income, you can take a lot more calculated risks at work without the fear of losing a paycheck. I can’t even imagine the flexibility if we didn’t have monthly housing payments to make!
    Matt @ Optimize Your Life recently posted…You Always Have a ChoiceMy Profile

  14. I get it. Being downsized early from Nortel Networks was a gift. I got severence pay and didn’t need to explain to anyone why I was out of work. If I hadn’t lost my job, I’d still be there today (I was a “lifer”) . Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my work and the people l worked with but I like my current life way better. I know that I wouldn’t have taken the risks that I did like leaving the country for three years in the prime of my earnings years. I wouldn’t change a thing which is great because I can’t. Life is short and you have to make the best choice you can with the information you have and only look back to remind you not to make the same mistakes. Thanks for sharing this story with us. Besos Sarah.

  15. I’ve seen how having a financial safety net can give people incredible courage in the office. We had a CIO who was leaving the company and he gave a month’s notice. In the last month, he went on the attack, he was aggressive and told everyone like it was because he had nothing to lose.
    Brian recently posted…Leaving a Legacy: Class of 2030My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Brian!!! I had a boss that retired and went out blazing with middle fingers up. I am definitely glad I didn’t catch his wrath but it was interesting to see what happens when people have money and don’t care what others think anymore.

  16. Interesting point of view, I think I’m working way harder because I have to pay all the loans that I have. I’m more focused on the full-time job just because I took more risk to get to FI. BTW considering that ROI you really made a great decision, but don’t you feel like you’re not having the same motivation to work harder?

    I mean I know that’s what’s bothering me, I’m becoming more comfortable day by day and the risk is the only thing that keeps me way more active.
    Alex @ Asset plus recently posted…Small steps towards financial independenceMy Profile

    • Hahhaa…Alex I definitely feel like things have gone on autopilot a little bit. The motivation is definitely not as strong as it use to be. I have a savings rate of 65% and getting to 70% is not a huge motivator at this point. So I definitely agree but it is nice enjoying some of the fruits of my labor.

  17. I think the mentality of being debt free was the best thing I read about in this article. You’re right, what prevents us from taking risks? it is that we have other obligations that we may not be able to meet. once you take the shackles away, you unlock your ability to pursue what you want when you want. If work provides you the best opportunity to meet your end game, then having nothing holding you back from performing is what it is all about.

    Thanks for writing this article! Great read today.


    • Thanks for stopping by Bert!!! I definitely agree the mentality behind being debt free unlocks potential to pursue things that otherwise wouldn’t be able to 🙂

  18. Good reading! I am on the same path to paying off the mortgage as quickly as I can for 2 reasons. #1) I absolutely hate seeing the amount of money that goes to the bank for interest every month. #2) The mentally of not having mortgage is huge. That said, I am still saving as much as I can, I am trying to tackle both (mortgage & savings) at the same time.
    FIbythecommonguy recently posted…Net Worth Update #2 – May ’17My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing!!! I definitely agree it hurts watching that much interest that we pay each month on our mortgage. Definitely hope not to go back in debt in the future 😉

    • Thanks for sharing SMM!!! I used my mortgage as a diversifier from the market. It worked out well for me but I know for others they’d love to dump more in the market 🙂

  19. I think having the flexibility or ability to take more chances at work is key and one of the reasons that financial Independence is often a boon to your life. Once you have a certain financial safety net, it’s a lot easier to speak up and take chances at work which can help you get promotions and raises that you might not otherwise get if you keep your head down.

    The ability to not worry about layoffs and quit readily when a job is too stressful knowing you’ll have some funds to tide you over while you look for a new gig is helpful as well.
    timeinthemarket recently posted…Relationships, personal growth and marriageMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective. I couldn’t agree more!!! Being able to take chances is such a game changer for me and something that I never would have done if it wasn’t for paying off the mortgage 🙂

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