- A millennial teacher used three strategies to build her net worth in two years.
- She paid down credit card debt using a balance transfer credit card and saved an emergency fund.
- She invested in her employer’s retirement account and took advantage of the match.
- This article is part of a series focused on millennial financial empowerment called Master Your Money.
Meriam Seboka wanted to reach her money goals, but didn’t want to wait decades to do it.
Mainly, the now-32-year-old wanted to pay off her credit card and student loan debt, and start saving and investing for the future.
First, the high school teacher had to free up cash to do it. She started by keeping her housing expenses low by sharing rent with a roommate. She also cut back on going out – and found the limited opportunities to spend during the pandemic helped increase the amount of money she had to save, invest, and pay off debt.
Ultimately, she built her net worth (a measure of wealth that subtracts debts from assets) by $30,000 in two years. To work towards those goals, she tackled three major goals at the same time: paying off debt, saving, and investing for retirement.
1. She used a balance transfer credit card to pay off credit card debt quickly
When Seboka started her payoff journey in 2019, she had $12,700 worth of credit card debt, which can grow quickly with high interest rates. To get out of this cycle, Seboka turned to a balance transfer credit card.
Balance transfer credit cards come with an introductory offer of 0% interest for a set period of time, generally a little over a year (but once that period expires, regular interest rates kick back in). They’re called balance transfer cards because they allow you to move your balance from another credit card onto the new card and buy yourself a period of 0% interest to make more progress with your payments.
“My whole philosophy going into this was, ‘How can I give my lenders the least amount of money possible in interest?,'” she told Insider. Seboka used two balance transfer cards that gave her 15 months and 21 months to pay off the balance.
To ensure she’d finish paying off the balance before the 0% interest period expired, she divided the balance by the number of months she had to pay it off and used that calculation to determine her payments each month. By doing this, she was able to pay off her credit card debt, and free up cash each month to contribute to her saving and investing goals.
2. She built an emergency fund
An emergency fund is a savings account set aside for only unexpected expenses. Experts generally recommend amassing three to 12 months’ worth of living expenses, depending on your situation. It’s meant to be stored somewhere accessible, like a savings account, where you can access it quickly in an emergency. While Seboka had a small emergency fund to start, she felt it could be larger.
“When the pandemic started, I shifted towards saving money,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, now I need to wrap up my emergency fund because you never know what’s going to happen.’ Even though I had a pretty stable job as a teacher, you really never know.”
To do this, Seboka shifted her goals temporarily from paying off debt to saving more, and built her emergency fund to three months’ worth of expenses.
3. She contributed to her employer’s retirement plan
An employer’s retirement plan – if you have one – is a great place to start investing, and it’s where Seboka turned to start building up her net worth.
“While I was paying off debt and saving money, I was still investing through my employer’s retirement account,” she said. With employer-sponsored retirement accounts, like 401(k) plans, 403(b), and 457(b) plans, the money comes directly from your paycheck each month, and is invested automatically. Without ever seeing that money, it’s hard to miss.
These plans can have other advantages, too, to help your savings grow faster – an employer match, if available, can help to double the amount you’re saving, up to a set percentage of your salary. Seboka took advantage of her employer’s match, growing her balance even further.
Seboka says this account has been incredibly helpful. “That’s really how my net worth grew that much, because I was paying off debt, saving, and investing at the same exact time,” she said.
Even though she’s made some major changes, she’s not done yet: Nex, she’s planning to save more and to tackle the final $6,000 remaining on her student loan balance.