What Does Financial Freedom Look Like? How 4 People Defined—and Achieved—It
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"Paying off my mortgage gave me peace of mind in uncertain times."

Sharon Marchisello, 64, money blogger and author in Peachtree City, Ga.

"When my husband Michael and I bought our four-bedroom house in 1994, we were on the hook for $183,000, which felt like a mountain of debt. Fortunately, we were otherwise debt-free, so we immediately started hacking away at the 8.8 percent loan. I was working as a project manager, Michael as a flight attendant, earning a combined $95,000 per year.

We began by sending the next month’s principal along with each month’s regular payment. Four years later, the strategy had helped us shave $20,000 off the total balance. That’s when we refinanced from a 30-year to a 15-year loan with 6.75 percent interest and began contributing anywhere from $100 to $1,000 each month toward extra principal payments.

We’d whittled our balance down t just $65,000 in 2003, when the major airline Michael and I both worked for was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. With our jobs anything but secure, it felt like the right time to eliminate our mortgage payment—our biggest monthly expense by far—just in case we found ourselves unemployed.

Interest rates were going down, which had us thinking about refinancing again—but we ultimately decided to transfer money from a savings account that was earning just 1 percent in order to retire the loan altogether.

This majorly increased our cash flow, allowing us to quickly replenish our emergency fund and start maxing out our 401(k)s. Paying off our mortgage reduced our expenses so much that I was able to retire in 2008, which has freed up time for me to pursue my passion for writing. In other words, life is good!"

"I love my work, and enjoy tons of family time on my own terms.”

Liz Coyle, 33, travel blogger in Phoenix, Ariz.

"For many years, I thought I had financial freedom. I had a director-level position at a law firm, a six-figure salary and the purchasing power to cover all my needs. But that all changed when I had my first child in 2015, and 60-hour workweeks translated to precious time away from my husband Chris and son Jude. I kept up with the 9-to-5 working mom routine for about 18 months before hitting a wall.

But I couldn’t just quit my job—we really needed to two incomes to live comfortably. So I reevaluated my skill set: I’m a travel junkie by nature and love water sports. And having majored in journalism, I was no stranger to writing. So I decided to try my hand at blogging, relying on Chris’s income as a sales exec and our savings while I worked out the details.

First, I created a goal roadmap, researching everything I needed to know to launch a profitable blog. At the three-month mark, I wanted to have my infrastructure and digital platform in place. After six months, I needed 60 articles on the site to provide a solid base and drive traffic. After a year, my goal was to have 500 visitors per day and earn $6,000 per month.

The six months that followed were defined by late nights and hard work. I even put Jude in daycare part-time in order to get more done. But I ultimately hit my 12-month goal two months early, earning enough to cover half of my household expenses! Almost two years have passed and I'm going stronger than ever. These days, I’m even earning more than I did at the law firm.

The best part? I work from home and enjoy tons of family time. And since my blog is all about travel and leisure, we get to go on adventures fairly frequently. So far, my work has taken us everywhere from Maui to the coast of Maine. Instead of having to choose between work and motherhood, I've been able to create a life that blends both.”

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