Andy and Nicole Hill were on the couch watching an episode of The Suze Orman Show when they kept hearing a familiar phrase: net worth.
“On the show, they would talk about net worth all the time,” said Andy Hill. “Net worth, net worth, net worth.”
A lightbulb went off. Surely their own net worth would be high…right? The couple had a combined income of $130,000, and they had already accumulated $16,000 in retirement accounts.
So the Hills sat down and did the math—and the number shocked them. They weren’t as wealthy as they had thought. In fact, they had a negative net worth of -$50,000.
Finding out your net worth is a relatively simple calculation. You take your assets, or what you own, and subtract your liabilities, or what you owe. “[Nicole and I] wrote it [all out] on a big whiteboard upstairs in our space bedroom,” Hill said. Net worths change over time and can go up or down as your financial situation changes.
At the time, most of the Hills’ debt came from student and car loan debt. They also owed more on their house than it was worth after coming out of the 2008 recession.
This wake up call, which occurred in 2010, gave Andy and Nicole the kick they needed. They wanted to have children, and to be in a good financial place before their kids were born.
Today the Hills are millionaires. Andy runs their blog, Marriage Kids and Money, a platform dedicated to helping young families build wealth and thrive.
Here’s how they did it.
A Negative Net Worth Reality Check
First thing was first: getting out of debt. They agreed to live off just one of their incomes, so that they could use the other’s income to save, pay off debt, and invest.
They set out to become debt-free before the arrival of their first child a year later. To meet their goals of paying off $50,000 of debt in one year, they began to meet once a month to talk strategy.
Write down your numbers and understand your current situation. Once you tackle one small debt payoff feat, you become inspired to pay off more. Don’t let the nuances of your debt payoff journey deter you from a good financial standing.
They reduced their expenses. “We were spending a lot of money on going out to bars and restaurants, going on vacations, or to concerts. But, we also looked at areas where money was flying out the window like unnecessary subscriptions and high bills,” Andy Hill said.
And they became more intentional about how they spent their money. They used a spreadsheet to budget and keep track of their expenses. Twelve months later, they had eliminated their student and car loan debt.
“With a year of buckling down, we did something that helped to spawn a movement for us that would change our family tree. It gave us the courage and the motivation to move forward,” said Hill.
Then they decided to work on paying off their mortgage. They put $3,000 a month towards paying off the mortgage, using tax refunds, bonuses, and work commissions towards the mortgage balance. In four years, the Hills paid off their $195,000 mortgage.
Increasing Income and Investing Aggressively
One key to the Hills’ success is that they increased their income through side hustles. Andy launched his podcast, Marriage Kids and Money, and learned how to monetize it.
“I started to figure out how to make a little money around 2017 with my podcast. By 2019, Nicole and I were both doing side hustling. She was doing home organizing, and I was making a little bit of money, mainly from podcast advertising,” said Hill.
The couple also sold items on Craigslist: “I sold things like a road bike that I used to do triathlons, purses that Nicole didn’t use anymore, old baby gear, furniture.”
The Hills averaged an annual income of $190,000 for ten years but kept living on around $70,000 to $80,000, even after having kids. They saved around 40 to 50% of their income, which mostly went toward paying off debt and investing in tax-advantaged accounts. “We were privileged at the time to be making six figures, and then it just grew from there,” Hill said.
Andy maxed out his 401(k) to take advantage of his company’s 15% contribution match. The couple also maxed out their Roth IRAs and HSAs. “I saw the advantage of having tax diversification in our accounts,” Hill said.
Experts love Roth IRAs because they help supercharge your retirement savings. Because of their flexibility and tax advantages, Roth IRAs help shield you from taxes as you’re putting money away. Also, the money in the Roth IRA grows tax-free and you can pull it out without paying taxes on your earnings or contributions when you hit retirement age.
For many years, the Hills invested in low-cost index funds. Index funds allow investors to invest their money in a number of securities instead of just one. They help keep financial portfolios diversified. “I saw the ease of index funds probably six years ago, and I have been investing in those ever since,” said Hill. “I love index funds because it keeps things simple. It helps me relax and go back to living my life. I want to do other things with my time and not worry about that stuff,” Hill said.
Life After Hitting the Millionaire Milestone
The Hills became millionaires in 2020 through paying down their debt and increasing their savings in their 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, and HSAs. The couple also reached Coast FIRE, which is when you have enough money invested in your retirement accounts so that without any further contributions, your investments are expected to grow to cover your expenses at the traditional retirement age. Those milestones gave them additional freedom.
“We made some lifestyle changes right around the time we hit that million dollar mark. In January 2020, I left my corporate event marketing career to become a content creator on the internet. I work around 25 hours a week, and I am a present dad and a present husband. It feels like the more balanced life that I was looking for,” said Hill.