Two years after graduating from college I bought a house. For once in my life I didn’t struggle to make a decision. I acquired financing with my boyfriend and signed my name on the dotted line five days after turning twenty-two.
The down payment came in part from money I’d saved in college. The rest came from a principal free loan offered by my employer. The company provided me with $12,600 and every two weeks I paid $18.89 in interest on that loan. I couldn’t pass up free money; $12,000 was more than a third of my starting salary in 1999.
There was only one caveat to that loan. I had to remain employed for five years. If I left at any point before that time I would be responsible for paying back the principal. There were many times I considered leaving in those first few years but that loan always convinced me to stay.
I’ve never been in debt. My parents paid my tuition bills while I was in college and my grandmother always told me to pay off of my credit card bills each month. Despite the free money I didn’t like feeling shackled to my employer.
I created a giant spreadsheet that included sixty cells and taped it to my office wall. As each month passed I pulled out a red pen and crossed off one date. In the beginning there was more black ink visible then red, but eventually the red marks began to outpace the black.
I remember pulling that paper off the wall and feeling elated when that loan was finally forgiven.
This month my husband and I reached the five year mark on our mortgage. If all goes according to plan we will pay off our mortgage sixty months from now.
I know it sounds rather silly, but I’d like to create a giant paper chain to commemorate the occasion. I could hang it around the ceiling in our sun room and pull off a link every thirty days.
When I told my husband he laughed at the idea. It’s not the first time I’ve talked about celebrating a life free from mortgages. Of course, I told him no one else has to know what it symbolizes. They’ll just think it’s a colorful decoration I made with my son on a quiet, summer afternoon. Only the two of us will know that it symbolizes financial freedom. The flexibility to work if we want to, not because we have to pay the mortgage!