Ask the Readers: How Do You Define Financial Success?

By Ashley Jacobs on 12 November 2013 (Updated 19 November 2013) 64 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Rebekah, Abby, and Mary for winning this week's contest!

We all strive for financial success, but financial success means different things for different people. The end goal may be financial independence where you have enough resources to live on without working (too much) for it, or you may focus on other achievements along the way: reaching your retirement goal, wiping out your debts, paying off your mortgage, and others.

How do you define financial success? What are you doing to make sure you achieve financial success? Have you encountered any setbacks? What did you do to get back on track?

Tell us how you define financial success and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — here's how you can win!

Mandatory Entry:

  • Post your answer in the comments below. One commenter will win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, November 18th at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after November 18th on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook.
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Good Luck!

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Guest's picture
Mary Happymommy

Financial success is feeling secure in your future. We're working on that.

Guest's picture
Peggy Mooers

Zero debt. That is a start. Onward

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Trang

No debt, which I'm working on through frugal living. :)

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Christie

Financial success. What a loaded question. I would deem financial success as having the money to pay one's bills, save, and have some left over for fun and projects or travel; but the biggest part of financial success is someone that is generous and gives money away. Learning that money is not the be all-end all of life, but rather other people are -- that is one of the greatest things in life. A selfish, stingy, greedy person is not successful to me, no matter how big their house, how expensive their car, or how fat their bank account. They would have failed at one of the most important parts of life.

Guest's picture
MG

Financial success is not having to worry about the day to day living expenses or the unexpected. It is about handling money in a reasoned way so that the big stuff takes care of itself. We buy on clearance (the prices can be better than used). We save for the expected expenses monthly even if the expenses are annual (life insurance, taxes, Dues). We discuss big purchases and think about them. Savings is not the driving force behind spending; spending is. How much are we spending and is the purchase worth it.

When the little stuff is automatic and we can take care of our family, we have reached financial success. When we can see the end of the mortgage and there is no other debt, we have reached financial success. When we can leverage income, savings, credit cards and anything else and STILL not have debt, we have reached financial success. When we are not wasting money on things or services we do not need (and we need fewer of them), we have reached financial success. When we have passed this on to our kids, we have reached financial success.

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Rea Liz

I define it by being debt free!

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Sierra

For me financial success means living without debt and unnecessary waste, being able to make the full yearly contributions to a Roth IRA, and working as much (or as little!) as I want without living paycheck to paycheck.

I'm only a few years out of college and things have been much more difficult financially than I imagined, but I have healthy saving/spending habits and only $15,000 in student loan debt, so once I get that paid off I should have no problem building my wealth.

Even on my measly income ($25,000/year) I have managed to pay off $4,500 in credit card debt and $5,000 in student loans in less than two years. My goal is to have my student loans paid off by the end of 2015, and then I can shift my focus to saving for retirement. :)

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Betty

I would feel successful if I had all my needs met, with a few comforts/wants on top.

Guest's picture

I would define financial success as having zero debt, a good sized emergency fund, and enough savings and investments to be financially independent. My wife and I are mostly there (no debt w/ emergency fund), and expect to be financially independent in a few more years.

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Monica

Our success is really defined by the situation we are in. Our current "success" will be to be spending less than what we make, and our next success will be to pay off all of our consumer debt and our vehicles. As we get more successful with the little things we will want to be more successful with bigger things like having a retirement fund and money for kid's college but who knows exactly when that would be.

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Guest

Financial success for me means living debt free, being financially independent!

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Ernest S.

Financial success, to me, is having confidence, control and freedom with your money. It's not necessarily how much you make, but how well you manage it, and whether you feel empowered by it, or stressed and disabled.

Guest's picture

Financial success to me is paying off a credit card, thus getting closer to being debt free!

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Elena

I think financial success is when you have enough passive income and you don't have to work anymore

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Gina

Financial success is being employed and debt free with an emergency fund and savings for retirement. I'm slowly paying off my debt. I've had several setbacks in the form of layoffs and an apartment fire which was not covered by insurance. I bounced back and found a job and am working toward being debt free.

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Maria S

Having no debt & not owing anyone anything!

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Dana G

Financial success for me means that I have successfully cut all of my debt, with the exception of one mortgage. If a mortgage is included, I should have put down at least 10-20% as a down payment, and mortgage payments should be no more than 15% of my gross monthly income (this is my individual contribution, excluding my partner's). Living humbly (not constantly buying new clothes or the latest tech gadgets) but enjoying life through travel, outdoor recreation, etc. is my ultimate priority and being able to accomplish that would spell financial success. I'm in the process of shedding my minimal credit card debt and more substantial student loan debt ASAP. Living humbly also will enable aggressive retirement savings, another cornerstone of financial success, and a 6-month emergency fund.

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KelR1

To me, financial success is freedom: the freedom to live your life the way you want because you're not held back by debt. That's why I'm currently trying to pay off my credit card debt because, right now, I'm restricted in doing what I want due to bills. I've paid off my CCs completely before, then racked up more debt. So I'm now trying not to incur any additional debt and pay off what I already have in an effort to be more free.

Donna Freedman's picture

Financial success to me is no debt, money set aside for retirement, and the ability to pay for everything I need and at least some of what I want.
Setback: Going broke during divorce.
Rebound: Cutting way back on both needs and wants, paying off lawyer debt, and building a retirement fund.
Maintenance: Sticking with the intentional spending, plenty of frugal hacking.
Serendipity: Finding a new partner who is as frugal as I am, and who finds joy in the everyday.

Guest's picture

It starts with spending less than you make and saving so that you're on track so when you retire your income from that nest egg is enough so money isn't a concern. You don't need to be retired or financially independent to be successful. That would be silly, it would mean the couple with $2M saved by their 50th birthday isn't a success because their goal is $2.5M and they plan to work another 10 years? I believe it's being on the right path. Zero month to month credit card debt is part of this, but I'm not hung up on zero mortgage debt. A retiree looking at their next egg and the 4% withdrawal rate may very well be below budget including a mortgage payment. My $2.5M couple above? Who cares if they still pay $15K/yr to the mortgage from their $100K/year income at retirement?

Guest's picture
Thrifty Writer

Not having to worry about paying for the basics (food, clothing and shelter - all within reason) with actual cash (not credit) and after putting some aside for a rainy day, a little extra left to spend on things that make life better - travel, the occasional good meal, good chocolate bar, etc.)

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Abigail P

I feel like that definition will always be changing for me. But, honestly, I think I'm pretty much there.

We're not independently wealthy, we don't (yet) max out our IRAs. But we have an emergency fund and savings are able to save each month. I used to be on disability and thought I'd never be able to work full-time again.

Now I have a job that lets me work from home, and it allowed us to buy a house. The house also meant my in-laws wouldn't be homeless. So every time I see my paycheck or pay extra on the mortgage, I feel pretty successful.

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Amanda H

Not being in debt; spending less than you earn so you can set aside savings every month to use wisely.

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MELISSA HANSSON

Sadly, right now any month where we spend less than we made is a financial success.

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Rebecca B. A. R.

To be financially successful is to be debt free, owning where you live in full, being able to pay your bills, have some of your wants, and able to generously give to others.

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Monique

To me, financial success is feeling like I have the freedom to make the choices I actually want to make. To take the job I enjoy, to live in the place that makes me happy and feels like home. Take time off or pursue other passions.

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DeeDee

Being debt free and a large retirement fund

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C.j.

I define financial success as someone that has no major debt aside from education a home or car and has financial plan for their money like retirement accounts and good savings account Basically someone who can live today and still have tomorrow taken care of

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Bethany

Financial success to me is a fully funded retirement plan when you're ready to retire.

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Karl

Saving for retirement and no mortgage or debt.

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Lynda

financial success to me is being able to live out your dreams without having to worry exceesively about "can i afford this".

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jade

$$$ and less debt

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Diane

I define financial success on several basic levels... 1st having no debt (other than a mortgage); 2nd is spending less than you make and having an emergency fund; 3rd is having retirement savings; 4th is having a house that's paid off.

Being comfortable with your expenses in every day life and not panicking when something goes wrong is a good indication...

Guest's picture
Aly0306

Having no debt and increasing our credit score!

We have about two months of paying back debt then we would like to start saving for house. :)

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Shannon

Since I know that no debt is not a reality for me anytime in my near future, I define financial success as the ability to take steps forward each month with debt reduction and savings. Seeing positive movement toward both is a constant work in progress, but totally worth it.

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Beverly

Financial success to me is:
1. having no mortgage
2. having no car payments
3. having no credit card debt
4. having enough money to last the rest of my life (including long-term care insurance)
5. having enough money to buy what I want without going into debt
6. having the ability to assist my daughter with her life problems (financial)
7. having an estate plan that equally divides assets to daughter and two grandchildren when we no longer have financial needs.

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Ken Alcorn

Financial Success means being able to do whatever you reasonably want to do, whenver you want

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kristina

no debt

Guest's picture

I like to believe that financial success is something that can happen over and over again. When you achieve a single financial goal, that is financial success. When you fully fund your Emergency Savings, when you erase credit card debt, when you begin maxing our an IRA. All of these are financial successes. And the small financial successes along the way, get your more motivated for big financial success...RETIREMENT!

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Tabathia B

To me it means being in no debt, have your home almost/partially paid off, having significant savings in the bank, some small investments, car paid off. All this to not worry about living pay check to pay check.

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Nicholas

Financial success is being able to live day to day without fear of losing any basic needs. Starting with no debt and efficient spending and living contribute to obtaining financial success.

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OFG

To stop worrying about money. To have enough to pay the bills and to have the bills automated so you no longer have to worry about them.

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Aubrey

For me, financial success would be the ability to live worry-free about the present and future - mortgage paid off, adequate retirement savings to live comfortably, and enough to treat myself and my family once in a while (a vacation, a second TV, etc.) without feeling guilty about it.

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Kristine R.

I feel like I am financially successful when I don't ever worry about money.

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J. Pario

For me, financial success is when work is optional.

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A Fla. Mom

Having ALL of your needs met with some of your wants, while being DEBT FREE :D

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katie

financial success is not when i don't have to think about it, but when i'm happy when i do. not stressed or scared, but pleased!

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Danielle

Financial success to me is paying basic living expenses and still having enough money leftover to honor my values. Those are things like: being able to afford a plane ticket to visit family, helping those in need, or spending money on a date night with my husband. They're all relationship based it would seem!

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Rachel

Financial Success for me means that I can afford the realistic things I want without worrying too much about it. I wouldn't go out and think I can just buy a new car because I want to, but I don't worry if I want to grab a pizza tonight instead of cooking dinner. But I will really be excited when my student loan debt is finally paid off!

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prathee chandar

I set a goal and if I achieve it before the due date, I call it a financial success.

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SerenityNow

For me, financial success means having the ability to work at a job that I love in the non-profit sector, even if the pay is on the lower end of the spectrum. I hope to achieve that by paying off student loans and becoming debt-free!

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Alissa A

Financial success is feeling comfortable on a monthly basis that I will have enough money to pay my bills and that I am saving for emergencies and the future.

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Liisa

No debt, savings and money to give away, maybe a house paid for in cash. And freedom from the crazy consumer-driven culture we live in!

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Jennifer Marie

Financial success is being debt free.

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Guest

Financial success is having financial resources that give me choices - choice of where I live (and for how long), what I do (and for how long), what I give away and what I keep. Success is having the ability to cover the basic needs, add some wants and, most important, share - through experiences.

Guest's picture
Guest

I define financial success as having enough money to work and live as I please. That means a healthy savings account; an emergency fund that meets my needs; growing investments; retirement money to help supplement part time or occasional work as I age; a nest egg to use for continuing education or career change; and some extra money to play with once I meet all of my housing, utility and medical needs.

I did this once a couple years ago and am now rebuilding my savings, emergency and other funds while working at a job I enjoy by living within my means, re-adopting a frugal lifestyle and saving up for classes to make the career change in the future.

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Margaret Davis

Financial success for my husband and I would be getting a good night's sleep knowing we aren't scrabbling in the morning to answer calls from creditors while trying to work and figure out how to try and make ends meet.

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JordanEL

Financial Success is a personal and subjective metric - to me, being debt-free and with a solid nest egg as a recent University graduate is alright - yet on my standards is expected, rather than successful because I am on track, not above it. Financial Success in my point of view is being able to exceed your planned budget and savings goals, always somehow finding extra money in the most creative ways possible (i.e. dividends, bonuses, bartering and selling old items etc.).

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Christina

I don't have a definition for financial success, I just it's a "I'll know it when I get there" for now. I still have a mortgage and a car loan (too low interest to pay off the car loan fast) and an annoying student loan that I am focusing on first. Focusing on a goal for an early retirement of work we like to do. Setbacks have included house repairs and renovations being more than we expected...

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Happy Love

Financial success is living without debt and having enough money to be comfortable now and in retirement.

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Rebekah

To me financial success means enjoying the biological pleasures of life - first of all, being able to raise quality kids, then enjoying organic natural food, clean air, a good bed in a clean house and a library subscription. It's about having the financial resources AND the time to spend time with the loved ones.

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Carmen

$0 in debt and a healthy emergency fund

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Abby

I define financial success as having no credit card debt and having 3 months of money for bills in the bank.

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Jess

Well, the first step is an emergency fund.