How Our Net Worth Increased With $250,000 In 3 Years

HOW OUR NET WORTH INCREASED WITH $250,000 IN 3 YEARS

In the world of personal finance and financial independence, we often have a tendency to focus on the goals ahead and how much we have yet to accomplish.

Today, I would like to take a look back on our FI journey so far. Writing this blog post, I realized that we have increased our net worth with ~250,000 USD since the end of 2015 when we started working full-time. To me, that is a really large amount and much more than I thought.

If we look even further back, we also managed to increase our net worth with ~37,000 USD (~240,000 DKK) while we were studying between 2013 and 2015 and working part-time jobs.

I’m equally proud of both those achievements.

The story behind the numbers is not as simple as going from A to B. Many things have influenced those numbers during the years, but the largest movements have been caused by investments in real estate, a strict focus on savings and consistent investing.

Our net worth has developed like this since 2013:

Let me take you through our story behind the numbers πŸ™‚

Pre-2013: Only 50% financially savvy

Net worth: <30,000 USD

Before 2013, my wife and I treated money very differently.

I spent all my money every month. I even borrowed some money to live a relatively lavish student lifestyle. I stayed in my own studio apartment, I travelled a lot and spent quite a bit of money on going out.

My wife had received smaller amounts of stocks as birthday presents from family since the 90s and instead of cashing in as many young people do, she kept the stocks and saw them steadily increasing over time. She even invested some of the savings in stocks during high school too – how cool is that?!

I am definitely going to give our kids stocks from a young age and teach them about compound interest.

Prior to 2013, my wife was clever with money and I didn’t really know better at that point, but luckily that changed.

Obviously, we didn’t share finances back then, so our net worth was a combination of my debt (roughly -15,500 USD) and her stocks (roughly 40,000 USD).

2013-2015: Studying and becoming house owners

Net worth, end of 2013: 43,000 USD
Net worth, end of 2015: 130,000 USD (+87,000 USD)

In 2013, I discovered the concept of “being your own boss”, compound interest and the importance of saving through a couple of self-help books such as “The 4-Hour Work Week”, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and “The Richest Man In Babylon”.

This got me started on a few years of frugality. I continued living a lifestyle bringing me happiness, but without all the stupid purchases. I was set on paying down my debt and during those two years I paid off 15,000 USD, which means I graduated with zero debt.

In 2013, we also decided to move in together. Selling some of the stocks as a down-payment for an apartment, we managed to secure a cheap loan and buy a small apartment in Copenhagen. This later proved to be the most important contribution to our net worth and has had a huge impact on our lives since then.

So how did our net worth grow by 87,000 USD from 2013 to 2015?

  1. I paid off my student debt of ~15,500 USD
  2. Our apartment’s market price grew with ~69,500 USD
  3. My wife’s stocks gave a return of ~2,000 USD

2016-2019: Discovering FIRE and working full-time

Net worth, 2019 YTD: 378,000 USD (+248,000 USD)

The past three years have been the period where our net worth has really taken off – we have started to feel the snowball effect of saving and investing.

In this period, we both started working full-time in relatively high-paying jobs. We also started getting employer-paid pension payments each month.

We discovered the concept of FIRE in 2016 through an article in a Danish newspaper that mentioned Early Retirement Extreme. I was blown away and started reading everything about FIRe and personal finance until I started this blog at the end of 2016.

We made some changes to our lifestyle to reflect the FIRE ideology, although we were already quite mindful of how we spent our money. We started tracking our budget and savings every month.

Most importantly we started saving and investing aggressively. We started paying ourselves first every month with an automatic transfer to our investment account. We also started investing

In 2018, we got married and combined our finances making our financial independence goal a common journey rather than just my side project.

In this period, we also experienced decent returns on our stock and crowdlending investments that equally contributed to the net worth increase.

Our salaries increased significantly in this period and we also increased our savings not spending the additional disposable income. Given the industries we work in, we get quite large salary increases if we stay on (+100% from 2016 to 2019 in my case).

Finally, we sold our apartment and realized gains of roughly ~125,000 USD that we used to buy a new and bigger apartment. This new apartment’s market value has already increased by roughly 55,000 USD. So, you see how important real estate has been to our journey so far?

The short answer: how we increased our net worth by 250,000 USD in 3 years

We started with a small amount of stocks and some student debt. My wife took care of them for a decade and used the money to buy our first apartment. I paid off my student debt before graduating. We started saving and investing aggressively paying ourselves first. We sold our first apartment and used the gains from our first apartment to buy a new and bigger apartment. We have continued saving and investing in different assets even though our income grew.

The 250,000 USD net worth increase in the last 3 years came from:

  • Real estate market price increases: 46%
  • Savings: 18%
  • Real estate loan principal payments: 14%
  • Pension (incl. returns): 13%
  • Stock returns: 8%
  • Crowdlending returns: 1%

This increase means that we have managed to triple our net worth in three years. I’m actually quite proud of this even though there’s definitely also things you can question and point fingers at.

There’s no doubt that real estate has had a huge impact on our lives. Our net worth would have been much lower if we had not become home owners early on.

To tell you the truth, I was certain we had bought our apartment at the top of the market in 2013, so I was actually slightly against the decision back then. I was very wrong. However, I could have been right, and I believe it is important to recognize that real estate investments are not for everyone and they come with certain risks. Risks that can be just as damaging to your net worth (and lives) as the benefits we have received from investing in real estate. We have never invested more money than we could afford to lose in real estate (and any other asset class for that matter), and we have never put ourselves in a financial situation where we couldn’t pay our rent and other expenses from only one of our incomes.

Thanks for reading this far and learning a bit about our life since 2013. It was definitely a good exercise to look back and see how things have developed since then. I hope we can keep this relatively high net worth growth rate up in the future – also without being too dependent on real estate price increases πŸ™‚

Your turn: What had the biggest impact on your net worth looking back?

8 comments

8 comments

guido April 26, 2019 - 16:09

hi carl,

could you give more insights about the average salary people can reach in Denmark and what kind of industry both of you are working in?

That could be useful to understand the context from people who are not in denmark and can’t believe salaries can be so high.. thanks

Reply
Carl Jensen April 30, 2019 - 12:53

Hi Guido. The average Dane earns 48,000 USD before taxes per year. I would assume that would be 27,000 USD after taxes roughly. My wife and I are top 5-10% earners, so not really representative. We work in management consulting (typically a high earning industry) and make roughly 70,000 USD after taxes per year each.

Reply
Nick @ TotalBalance April 26, 2019 - 12:17

There’s two factors that would be unwise not to factor in to the equation, when comparing your “home real estate” to other assets – timing and longevity. Let’s face it; you (and me) were lucky to get into the market when we did. Had I bought my first home back in 2006, and sold it again 4-5 years later, it wouldn’t have been a very good investment! πŸ˜›

Most people when they buy their first home, isn’t planning for longevity. If you own a house/apartment for less than 7 years (the avg. home owner in Denmark move after 7 years), then there’s no guarantee that it will be a good investment. The same can be said for stocks.

Also, unlike stocks your house cost you a shit load of money while you own it. – Remember to consider those ~DKK 50.000 in property taxes that you pay every year πŸ˜‰ There are actually cheap rental apartments (in the rural parts of this country), which will run you LESS than your yearly property taxes (food for thought!)…When you subtract your maintenance+tax+interest+loan fee costs on those property appreciations, your latest property might not turn out to be quite the same healthy investment as your previous one – all because of timing πŸ˜‰

Reply
Carl Jensen April 30, 2019 - 12:44

You are very right, Nick! Only time will tell πŸ˜‰ until now, though, it has been a good investment (and rental properties in our urban area cannot compete), but if we moved out of the city and invested the money saved instead, we might have made a better return. Here’s where money and β€œlife quality” needs to be balanced, and for now owning an apartment (that I can do some work on) and living in the city also carry some weight πŸ™‚

Reply
Omar April 26, 2019 - 00:04

Hi Carl.
Very Inspiring πŸ™‚ Congratulations and all the best for the next years to come !

I’m very (veeeery) far from you but indeed, real state is with no doubt what is taking the lead in my case too. At the beginning I had some questions, but then I realized that is not so bad idea.

To summarize after my analysis all this time:
I own +/- between 10 and 15% of the apartment (I’m paying to the bank) but I do get the increase of the total price (I am the owner), that’s great, it’s like magic! If I would have all the money I wound not buy an apartment (I would so something else) but as I do not have the money, buying it with very low interest rate it’s quite a good business. I hope I was bit clear πŸ™‚

Reply
Carl Jensen April 30, 2019 - 12:39

Yes, I fully agree. Historically, it has been a really good idea to own real estate in most urban areas in the long run, but we of course never know what the future will bring πŸ™‚

Reply
Peter April 25, 2019 - 21:48

Congrats on the achievements. Our net worth growth has also been driven by real estate and pensions. However, it is important to note that currently we have high real estate prices and the market will turn. Further, the value of increasing prices of your home is not really something I see a lot of benefit in other than the possibility of better mortgage rates because if we realize the gains ie selling we need to buy another home which has also become more expensive.

Reply
Carl Jensen April 25, 2019 - 21:52

Thanks, Peter. Yes, you are right.

We don’t know what will happen to the real estate market though. I thought it had maxed out in 2012, but I was wrong, so we might have some bumps on the way, but in the big cities, I’m confident it will go up in the long-term. And you can realize the gains by renting instead or buying something smaller (or further outside the city), which we are considering too.

Reply

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