We had just finished building our dream home only a few years ago. My businesses were thriving, and this allowed my wife and I to create a 3-year goal that sounded more like a fairy tale — paying off our mortgage.
We had roughly $450,000 in our home, but we only had around $250,000 left to pay it off. We were already ahead of the curve compared to most, but to have it completed paid off BEFORE my oldest son started high school was hard to accept as a possibility.
In our case, it wasn’t just a possibility. It was becoming reality…
Well, that is until God gave us the nudge to sell our dream home, uproot our family and move out of state.
And that’s exactly what we did; we sold our home to start a new life in Nashville, Tennessee.
But, the road to get there wasn’t easy, and we hit a lot of bumps along the way. When we started thinking about a move to Nashville, we quickly discovered buying a similar home in such a booming area would easily cost us 3x or 4x more. That seems crazy when I think about it — the fact we walked away from a cozy financial situation into a new reality with nearly a million dollars in mortgage debt.
The thing is, our move to Tennessee actually makes so much sense to me now. We were happy where we were, but something needed to change so we could grow and become the family we were meant to be.
5 Reasons We Went from Almost Debt-Free to Almost $1 Million in Debt
Why did we move? And why did we willingly take on so much debt? There are actually quite a few reasons, and only a few of them have to do with money at all.
Reason #1: We were 2.5 hours from the closest airport
The first reason we started considering a move has to do with convenience. Our home in Illinois was wonderful for sure, and it was great living close to where my wife grew up, but we were so far from an airport going anywhere became an enormous hassle — especially with kids.
Imagine wanting to go on vacation and having to drive 2.5 hours to get to the airport before you could depart. Since you have to be at the airport two hours early, that would mean we’re packing up the kids and the car nearly 5 hours before a flight leaves. Early morning flights were practically impossible for this reason, and the entire process just became a stressful mess.
We also started to think about the future. Would our kids want to visit us if getting to our home was such a pain?
We wanted to live in a place our kids could easily access no matter where they wind up living as adults. In the middle of Illinois is not that place, and that became increasingly apparent over the years.
It’s funny; I still remember the first time I went to the airport from our new home in Tennessee. It took me around 45 minutes to get from my driveway to TSA security at the Nashville International Airport, and I was ecstatic!
Reason #2: We lived in a dying area
While our finances were great when we lived in Illinois, that didn’t change the fact we were living in an area with diminishing opportunity. The job market in Illinois seemed like it was getting worse every year we lived there, and taxes were starting to get crazy.
In fact, the property taxes we paid in Illinois were twice as much as what we pay in Tennessee for a home that costs 4x as much!
That doesn’t even make any sense, but that’s just one example of Illinois making decisions that stunt economic growth.
We also worried how the job market would be for our kids in the future, and what kind of opportunities they would have if we stayed in the area. When we started looking at places to move, it didn’t hurt at all that Tennessee doesn’t have a state income tax, either.
At the end of the day, we were living in a place that seemed like it was moving backward. We wanted more than that, and we knew sticking around wouldn’t make the situation in Illinois any better.
Reason #3: We needed access to healthcare specialists
Another reason we left Illinois has to do with health and the kind of access to healthcare we desperately needed at the time. I’ve talked about this quite a bit in the past, but my youngest son has an attachment disorder that has made our family life challenging to say the least.
In Illinois, we tried working with quite a few healthcare providers before we realized they didn’t really have the kind of specialists we required. To get our family the right help, we needed to live close to a bigger hospital system with a lot more resources.
Our move gave us access to so many professionals who had experience with the kind of issue we were dealing with, and that alone made the money we spent well worth it.
Reason #4: I was ready to transition my business
Around the time of our move, I was also trying to figure out who I was — at least in a business sense. I had always been a financial advisor, and I had built a successful financial planning practice in Illinois. In the meantime, I had been blogging and growing an online business, and I was starting to earn a lot more online than I was as a financial planner.
For a while, I tried to have the best of both worlds. I hired financial planners who could be in the office every day, which gave me the option to work on my practice from a distance — at least, that’s how it was supposed to work.
The thing is, being that close to the financial practice left me constantly putting out fires or being asked to meet with clients who didn’t want to speak with my employees. I very clearly remember when, one day, a longtime client insisted on meeting with me on a day I wasn’t feeling it, and it wrecked my whole day.
I was frustrated because I didn’t want to be a financial planner anymore, yet I couldn’t seem to get away.
I remember venting to my wife that day when she said something that caught me by surprise.
“Then why don’t you sell it?” she said.
I actually had no idea she would even consider selling the practice, and that was exactly what I needed to hear in the moment. Her words gave me the freedom to let go, and that’s exactly what I did after we moved.
Until then though, I just felt like I needed some distance from the practice and that old part of my life. I was ready to move on, both physically and mentally, and moving let me do both.
Reason #5: We wanted to give our kids more opportunities
The final reason we moved ties back to the fact our Illinois town was basically dying. As most people know, where we live now is the exact opposite of that. In fact, Nashville, Tennessee is absolutely booming!
We have access to so many more opportunities than we would have if we stayed in Illinois — some little and some big.
For example, one of my sons was able to join the golf team in 6th grade, which would be unheard of when we lived in Illinois since no team existed. He loves golf and it has been such a blessing for him to work on his game and get involved in a school sport, and I am so grateful I was able to give him that opportunity.
We have also been able to connect with more entrepreneurs we have things in common with, and sometimes in the craziest ways. For example, I have a really good friend named David Molnar who is a photographer. I met him through a personal finance blogger friend I already had and I also knew that David was friends with Josh Axe, the founder of DoctorAxe.com and the co-founder of Ancient Nutrition.
Josh was someone I wanted to meet because he had a similar career trajectory I did. While he was originally a chiropractor, he eventually quit his practice to work on his online business.
I figured I would meet him eventually since he also lived in Nashville, but lo and behold, we discovered our new nextdoor neighbor was the COO of Ancient Nutrition — one of his companies!
It’s just crazy how many more entrepreneurs live in this area. There are so many people I can connect with and learn from, and that’s something I was definitely missing.
Another fun fact: Dan from the country duo Dan + Shay was my neighbor for a while, and he lived with his family just a few doors down. We wound up making friends with his family and even went on vacation with them.
Basically, none of these things could have happened in Illinois.
The Bottom Line
If you think taking on almost $1 million in debt for a big move sounds crazy, I totally get that. But when I add up all the blessings we got in return, I feel confident moving was one of the smartest decisions we have ever made.
We listened to the nudge God gave us, and we put our fears aside to move toward something new — something better. Along the way, we learned that sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to get what you really want. And time and time again, I’ve learned you often have to give up something good to get something great!
When I look around at our Nashville home and our kids who are truly thriving, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I may have a house payment now, but I have so much more.