What Makes You a Financial Success?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

I had a chance to eavesdrop and start thinking about what makes you a financial success?

Last night was a writing night. I headed to Starbucks in the late afternoon to spend focused time writing without interruptions. Hallelujah for a quiet space away from home!

Near the end of my time, I was transcribing some notes so I didn’t need to think about the task at hand. Instead, I got to eavesdrop on the people next to me. They were young twenty-something friends, a man and a woman. Friends — they didn’t appear to be romantically involved. They were catching up with how things were.

I didn’t hear everything. I’m not that big of a snoop, but what I heard showed me that they were both honest, single, hardworking folk trying to make life good for themselves and for others.

The conversation turned to homes. The guy was lamenting the fact that he didn’t own a home. All his co-workers were buying houses and what kind of failure was he that he was still renting.

She immediately went into debate mode:

That doesn’t make you a failure. Having a mortgage does not make you a success. They have bills. They have huge mortgages. Cash is king. You’re better off having money in the bank than plunking it down in a house. Our generation cannot measure success by the owning of a home.

Her counsel continued in the same vein and eventually I was motivated to pipe up. Of course, I apologized for eavesdropping and interrupting, but I couldn’t be quiet when I was so encouraged by what she was saying. We had a lovely chat, and the woman was thrilled that I chimed in to take up her cause. He needed to be encouraged that his hard work was not all in vain.

Now, I’m not going to debate the buy-versus-rent issue, though I do have quite a few opinions. Another time, perhaps.

But, the doing what everyone else is doing?

Measuring success by an inaccurate and potentially outdated yardstick?

Basing your financial goals on all the other fish in the stream?

Yeah, not good financial moves. Don’t buy the lies that you need to follow the crowd. Instead,

Whether you own or rent, your mode of housing is NOT a measure of your success. What you do with what you got in the place God has put you does.

So, whaddya think?

What do YOU base your financial success on?

This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link. But better yet, chat with us in the comments.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. My husband and I bought a one bedroom condo when we were 25 and interest rates were *so* low. We thought we were so smart, until we realized that what we really wanted was to start our family, and then property values dropped. Then my husband was laid off from work in November and I’m paying the mortgage, and all of the other bills. The value of our home has dropped $20,000 since we bought it, so now we owe more on it than it’s worth and can’t sell without taking a huge loss. So now we play the waiting game, what will run out first, the money or my eggs? LOL, waiting for a miracle!

    1. have the baby anyways. my husband & i decided to use our lack of employment to start our family. best thing we ever did. my husband essentially had a 2.5 year paid paternity leave from the state of california.

  2. My husband and I are so deep in homeowner lust at this point, it’s sad. We’ve been renting for the past five years since we married while first I, then he, went through school. While we totally want to own a home (and pay it off quickly) we know we cannot afford it at this point…I work halftime at my daughter’s preschool so I can be with her most of the time…he’s finishing school so he can be employed in a field he cares about and can help others through…we have a nice flaglot rental for a small price with the nicest set of landlords…if we were both working full time at jobs we hated while our daughter grew up in daycare just so we could buy property, our lives would not be at peace. (I know, we’ve been there, minus the property). The right timing to buy property is different in each person’s situation. I know our situation will be ready for property in the next five years, after we’ve paid off our debts. That way we can make a sizeable down payment on property we want, where we want, and focus our finances on paying off our mortgage early.

    As a twentysomething, it is nice when someone who’s been there and has some life experience chimes in to confirm that what we’re doing is on the right track…I’m glad you chimed in!

  3. I agree with you. When I was first married I wanted the whole big house dream and we worked hard and have it. We are still very smart with our money and work hard and have very little debt but I have come to realize with age that my happiness has nothing to do with the structure we live in but in the home we have made it. It doesn’t matter if you have a big house or a small apartment as long as you make a life you can be proud of inside your home.

  4. I would of spoke up, as well.

    My hubs bought our house before he knew me. Fast forward 5 years- 65% of the houses in our subdivision have been through foreclosure. Our housing values dropped over 50%.

    We did everything “right “but trying to sell our house in this market? Not happening.

    Owning a home isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

  5. Great post, Jessica! You keep on telling people as it is!

    I think it takes a level of maturity to realize that we should measure our lives according to our own standards, not someone else’s. I love your final words:

    “Whether you own or rent, your mode of housing is NOT a measure of your success. What you do with what you got in the place God has put you does.”

    Especially since we’re pilgrims on this earth.

    1. I think we have to speak up because there are so many other competing (and misinformed) voices.

  6. All of my life I wanted a home. It could be a rental or own but I have wanted to go to the same location each night and know that I can rest my head on a pillow and keep warm in a home. Never have had it . I will be 57 this year. Not certain I will ever have it. Right now I would just like to be able to go to a doctor to get my health taken care of, and have some food . So , watch the choices you make.

    I started off working at 11 years old with the goal of a house and retirement in mind. I managed to ruin my health , put a husband through school,raise two children on my own and still I have nothing. No money in the bank , no where to lay my head, no place to call home and no retirement. Now I am old and it gets harder and harder to find work and keep working, so food is scarce.

    Learn to be happy with what you have!

    1. It may be difficult to find a job these days, but 57 is NOT old. Sometimes I think young people dont realize they HAVE choices. We are so used to following what we see….people, tv, commercials. We are not taught to think for ourselves.

    2. Sara:
      I know I and I suspect many other readers would love to get an update from you. Are things better? Worse?
      Prayers for you

  7. I think it’s great that you chimed in and shared some thoughts with those young friends. It is way too easy to get lured into keeping up with the Joneses. I wish that I had happened upon Dave Ramsey or someone had told me that “cash is king” a long time ago when we were making dumb decisions that we are still paying for. We own a very modest house, but there are very affluent houses nearby with very snotty people living there. I have only recently started appreciating that this house is all that we need, that we can live here until we are old without moving if we need to, and I don’t have to worry about having all that space to clean. I recently ran into one of the snobs in the grocery store who told me they had downsized and moved out of that neighborhood since their oldest was in college and the youngest graduates this year. They didn’t want to keep paying the huge mortgage payments and pay for college at the same time. It was kind of a lightbulb moment for me. And some day all of the old debt will be paid for, baby steps…

  8. Great points! I think home ownership is wonderful, but I don’t think it’s the holy grail that we have been taught to believe. I think it’s good to question financial “absolutes” like that.

    1. Here is my post about how “buying” a house has lost us almost $15,000 (and that’s not counting the cost of repairs that we had to do that we wouldn’t have been responsible for if renting, or the $10,000 + in lost home value)…http://www.servingjoyfully.com/2012/09/27/budget-why-we-no-longer-see-a-mortgage-as-good-debt/

      I do think that a mortgage can be okay in certain circumstances…but the thing to remember is that if you have a mortgage, you don’t really own your home, the bank does. We want to be free and clear as much as possible…we’re still trying to get out of our house, since we’ve moved 5 hours away. We had the house listed for 6 months at $12,000 BELOW appraisal and we never got a bite 🙁 We finally got approval from our mortgage company to rent it, starting next month, so that will take a load of worry off, but still very frustrating situation.

  9. this is so encouraging. we have been married almost 4 years and have lived in a small apartment the entire time. i SO want a house, but only when i start comparing our situation with that of our friends. when i’m truly honest i realize it’s not the ownership i want, but the space of a house and the peace of a neighborhood instead of the chaotic change of our apartment complex. but i know the reality is that God may not have that for us, now or in the future. it’s hard but i am thankful for the frugalness of renting in this stage of life!

  10. Funny, you should run this today. I provide a lot of counsel to home business owners on my blog about how to stay healthy while building your business. And if there is one fundamental bit of wisdom to pass on it’s this: Don’t build your business success based on your bank account alone.
    First of all – building a business is rife with “failures” or stepping stones. More often than not it will be a long haul and you need to find a sense of success and satisfaction in not just a growing bank account, but steps forward, control over your life, ability to meet your basic financial needs, etc.

    Secondly, focusing your success on this will in the end bankrupt you when it comes to health and enjoyment of life. 1 out of 6 business failures are due to personal issues (divorce, illness). I say, focus on what you can do right now – whether or not you have the money – to live life well.

    When our kids were young and we lived on anywhere from 25,000 to 35,000 a year we had a rich, full family life. Every evening, we gathered around the table to be thankful that we were together, had food on the table, had a warm and safe bed. So many in the world are desperate for food, safety, clean water and time with their family. Even when we lived below the poverty line I considered ourselves rich.

  11. As a Dave Ramsey fan, I couldn’t agree more! This article brought a smile to my face!

    1. No, I’m phasing out the link-up in order to make Frugal Friday more interactive. But, feel free to share the link in the comments section.

      1. Thanks 🙂 I’m a little sad though, because I always looked forward to all the frugal posts. I got some great ideas from your other readers. But I completely understand that you have to do what’s best for you and your blog overall.

        1. I understand. It’s more about making it interactive. I’ve rec’d great feedback and we’ve had great conversations so far. Folks are still welcome to share their links in the comments. But, they’re also encouraged to engage more.

  12. My husband and I are in our early 40’s and have always rented (been married 19 years). Not by choice but because of finances and being self-employed is difficult to prove a good income after paying employees and write-offs. In the last 10 years we have moved WAY too many times, away from even the best rentals. But we have found that there is always a reason for one of our moves. Everything happens for a reason. Many of our family would move out of there current situations but they are tethered to a house that they owe more than it is worth anymore. We want to buy someday but hope to catch the housing market when it starts to take off, someday.

  13. financial success is paying the bills before they are due, having a full tank of gas and enough money to pay for a second tank if needed, having enough food in the pantry to go 3 mos without going to the store except for perishables and enough money put back to take care of three months bills if there is no paycheck coming in the house. I had 3 children and wasn’t working outside the home when my husband passed away unexpectedly. No health ins, no live ins, no money saved and no groceries stocked. NEVER AGAIN.

    1. Good advice. Learned the hard way. I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing.

  14. For us being financially successful is being able to pay our bills while still living a lifestyle where we are comfortable. We rent, we always have and we’ve been together for 6 years now, married for 5 of them, We have had people tell us that we’ve been married long enough to buy a house now, but we don’t see the point. We don’t live in a place we want to call our forever home yet. When we do find that place we will buy a piece of land and start building our home. We won’t do it with a mortgage, we will use the money we are saving now to fund it because a mortgage is not something we are willing to take on.

  15. I need to remember that my financial success may not look like others and will change as our lives change. I appreciate your general ideas on how to be financially successful instead of “you need to follow this plan….”

    Thank you.

    1. In our Dave Ramsey days, I was always frustrated that he didn’t get into nitty-gritty specifics about how to spend less. Now I get it. Folks can get so nitpicky at each other. And situations can be so very different. There’s not a one size fits all outside of the general principles. How we apply the principles can be diffferent.

  16. Owning a home was more like “The American Nightmare” for me. I did NOT enjoy it.
    In the last 6 1/2 years we have lived in 2 very beautiful houses that we would not have been able to afford to buy. We have been in our current home for 2 years and have extended our lease another 2 1/2 years.

  17. Really I think you can either way and be successful or be stuck in a big fat mess. My husband happened to buy a 2 bedroom townhome when he was single for an OK price. The market soared, we met, got married, moved my stuff in, got pregnant (real fast), realized we had to have more space. We were able to sell at a $60K profit so we had downpayment money. Of course I mentioned the market soared, so we were shopping in a crazy inflated market with no idea the plummet was coming. We bought in a less than desirable neighborhood, but a solid 97 year old home built to last that allows my husband to walk to work. After baby came we traded his cool single man truck and my old accord for a new SUV. Having one car and him walking saved us a ton of money that first summer the gas soared over $4/gallon for the first time ever. The chips fell well for us….of course now our house couldn’t sell for what we owe (luckily we don’t want to sell). If we were just starting right now I think we’d buy since the prices are so cheap….but we wouldn’t have enough downpayment money so we may have to rent awhile. Really there’s no one right way. Sometimes I think it’s just the luck of the draw or the grace of God that it works out well!

  18. When I was in my 20’s, I worked for a home builder and finally decided that having a mortgage was a very mature, grown up thing to do. And hey, since I was single too, what an amazing success was I to own a home and have a mortgage…Yes, my mortgage was less than my rent, but only after I socked $25,000 as a down payment into it…I found a great house in an up and coming neighborhood that was exactly what I was looking for. But fast forward 2 days after closing when I met my husband…we married 6 months later, sold his house in a very desirable neighborhood in a day for more than asking price (those were the days), and moved into mine…then the baby came…then I decided not to go back to work…then we decided to sell the house and buy something closer to where we wanted to live premanently. Moral to this story – I sold the house 4 months after listing it for $1000 less than what I paid for it, 17 months earlier…I took a HUGE financial hit on it from all fronts. Wish I would have just listened to my internal speaker that told me renting my apartment was perfectly fine. But I let the pressure of what my peers were doing run my financial equation. Sometimes it’s best to swim against the stream and do what’s really right for you at that very moment.

    1. You may want to rethink your loss. If you took the interest as a deduction on your taxes, you probably came out ahead.
      You did live there for the 17 months.

  19. Funny how your idea of what financial success can change. 4 yrs ago my husband was the top paid person at his company, we are in Michigan and so when our economy started to crumble he was the first to go. Instead they hired two people to do his job and paid them each a fraction of what they paid him. At that time to the outside world we probably looked like total financial successes, we owned a home, two cars, I stayed home etc. My husband had always dreamed of being self employed so we took a leap of faith. Our income was cut by $100,000! At first I was devastated and thought life was over but now 4 yrs later it was the best thing that ever happened to us. We are debt free except for our mortgage that we thankfully have been able to modify a few times and our payment is lower than any apt rental would be. I am frugal using coupons, shopping thrift etc. and life is good. My husband is so much happier, he spends tons more time with the family so in essence is a better husband and father. Yes we may be considered poor by some because we don’t get to take our spring breaks in Cancun anymore and we rarely buy new things but we are so rich in the things that really matter. Honestly we both look back and say we are glad that he lost his job. I know that the really valuable things don’t come with owning a home, my feeling was as long as we are together as a family and all healthy everything would work out and it certainly has.

  20. Great article! As one who is quite guilty of eavesdropping and jumping into a conversation myself, I can relate. Plus, I love and appreciate your wisdom and encouragement to our younger generation!

  21. Hmmm, very interesting to read a lot of these comments. It seems many have a love/hate reaction when it comes to home ownership. Many also seem to think of financial success in terms of self. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I think it is human nature to think in terms of self preservation. My husband and I save for retirement and have life insurance.
    But for the past three and a half years, I have learned so much about the provisions of God. He will provide all we need but our ideas of what we “need” in the US seem to be a bit skewed. It has saddened me in recent months the comments I have seen and heard from other believers regarding helping those in need- both here and abroad. The Lord calls us to help the “least of these” and to me financial success comes from being able to follow this command. I have discovered that even with very little, I can do this.
    My husband is in the ministry so we doubt we will ever own a home. In some ways this disappoints me but we also know that the eternal home that awaits us is so much more magnificent that anything here on earth!
    Putting all this in practical terms will be different for all of us, I believe. We know from scripture that God wants us to be good stewards of all we have. We also know he wants us to give, sacrificially even. But how each of us puts these two commands into practice may depend on how we feel called by God to behave. It is very easy for us to stand in judgement of how others are spending their money and it’s also easy to become envious of those who have more than we do. For me, looking to those that have less always reminds where my attention should be- not on the things of this world, but the people- those who need to hear the gospel, those who are hungry, thirsty, sick….the work is plenty.

  22. Oooh, juicy topic! I completely agree that you can’t judge success by whether or not you own a home. Personally, I’d rather be debt free. To me, financial success means not having to analyze every little purchase. If you run out of something, you buy it. It doesn’t mean you get to go on spending sprees, but you don’t have to wait on necessities either.

  23. When we were first married we lived in my in-laws basement for 5 months. At the time my husband had a temp job, I had just graduated from college. I had a teaching contract, but wouldn’t start until Aug & my first check wouldn’t come until Sept. When we moved, we got a two bedroom apartment. We got pregnant that same month. We were pretty sure that the people a building over we’re drug dealers. I cried & cried because I didn’t want to bring my baby home to that apartment. We ended up mortgaging a house (much less than we were approved for). 3 more kids & 7 years later I was a SAHM & my husband got a nice raise. A month later people were asking us when we were going to move to a bigger home. We saved for a year and a half to have a nice down payment on our new home that we just moved to 4 months ago. God willing, we plan to still be here in 30 years!

  24. Thanks for this conversation. I read it on Friday and thought about and shared it with my husband this weekend. Just popped back to say thank you.

  25. Couldn’t agree more. Isn’t it so wonderful that we are all so different? How boring if we all wrote blogs exactly like this one instead of our own, with our own ideas to share. Wouldn’t life be great if we turned all the “keeping up with the Jones'” energy into “helping the Jones'” or “serving the Jones'”?