We have a mortgage and a car loan (for a vehicle we bought brand new last September and which we expect to drive into the ground).
I agree with the pp who said that some of their current situation was luck. Although DH and I have worked hard to get to where we are, we started from very strong baselines. We both come from families where there is a strong sense of stability. Our parents have been married for 35+ years. DH moved into a house when he was 3 and didn't move again until he was 36. I only moved 3 times in my life before I got married. Both of our mothers worked, his from when he was about 6 and mine part time nights when my sister and I were both in school and then full time days when we were in 5th and 6th grades.
In my case, I grew up with parents who were very open about finances and tried to encourage me to learn how to manage money. I had a checking account when I was 12 years old. I had a paper route, and I was required to pay the newspaper company for the papers with a check. So we went to the bank and opened a checking account for me. The bank wanted my mother on the account as co-signer, but she refused to sign. She made a fuss in the bank and spoke to a manager and so I got a checking account, in only my name, at 12 years old. For a couple of months, she sat with me and taught me how to balance the account, but after that it was up to me.
I don't know about DH's family and money. I should ask him, but I get the impression they didn't necessarily talk about it much. I have been encouraging him to talk to his parents about their current situation. They are in their 70s and still working full time. His mother is the president of the chamber of commerce, and has been for many years; his father is self employed. DH believes we will need to assist in supporting them in order for them to be able to retire. More than once, his mother has commented that she doesn't have a pension and doesn't know how they will survive when she stops working. Regardless, DH picked up some very good habits regarding money. He started college as an accounting major before switching to computer programming, so maybe that helped!
My XH did NOT have good money habits, and I allowed him to run roughshod over me much more than I should have. When he left me, I was stuck with $25,000 in debt and he took anything that was valuable in our house, including the computer and the car. I didn't even know the extent of the problems because he literally hid bills from me and I kept finding them as I began sorting through our stuff in order to pack up all his things.
Even at this low point, I was very blessed in many ways. I had no children, which means I never have to talk to the XH again, but also meant that I could be more creative and flexible with my finances. I already had an excellent job which was sufficient to pay the bills and then some. We only had one car, and XH took it with him. But I lived walking distance to a bus stop and had already been taking public transporation to work. I lived walking distance to the laundromat and could take a bus or walk to the grocery store. My parents and one of my aunts lived near by, so if I needed help, they were there (I never asked for or received financial support from them, but they did help me in other ways, like allowing me to borrow a car when needed so I didn't have to walk down a steep, icy hill with my laundry in the winter). I also had an apartment that was $300 less/month than comparable apartments in the same town (I had a co-worker in the same town, in a same sized apartment. In addition to mine being $300 less, hers did not include utilites and mine included heat, which saved me another $200/month).
I was paying off the debt, and sometimes making high enough payments that I wasn't always sure if I would have enough to eat, although it always seemed to work out somehow. Eight months after XH left me, I met DH. We dated for a year, and then he moved in with me. He agree to pay all of our living expenses so that I could use my entire income to pay off the debt XH left me with. (For perspective, my entire living expenses including rent, food, electricity, etc were the same as just the rent on his apartment, so he actually saved money even though I wasn't contributing to our expenses and he did a few things to increase our standard of living, like getting cable television and a window a/c for the apartment -- I only had one in the bedroom before and it was muggy in the summer, even if it was Boston). DH already had a car, which he bought before I met him and paid off in a year. That vehicle was the one we just replaced this last September, after 7.5 years of driving and 150k miles, because it was going to require a $3000 engine repair to keep it on the road.
It took about a year to get through the rest of my debt, and I can't begin to tell you how relieved I felt! After that, I started saving money. I also began paying $100/month to help my grandparents. All four of their children do this, but I was and am the only grandchild who does, and I have continued to contribute this for the last 8 years, with a one year break due to our own difficult situation.
At the end of that year, we moved to FL. I didn't work for almost a year; DH was working a contract with a company in MA. We got married 10 months after moving to FL, and a few weeks before we got married, the company DH was working for went bankrupt owing him $20,000. It's been 4 years and we have never gotten the money, and don't expect to ever get it. We paid cash for our wedding and honeymoon ($8000 total between the two). When we got back from the honeymoon, I figured I would get a job to tide us over until DH was able to get a job. I did, but our household income that year was less than $12,000.
It took DH a year to get a job. The only reason we survived this time was that DH had saved a lot of money before I met him. He had something like $40,000 in CDs which we cashed out as they matured and used to make up the shortfall in our budget. At least in part, we used this money for 2.5 years, and just as we were beginning to get nervous, DH got a job. A good job, with an excellent salary and work he liked and co-workers he liked. A few months after that I got a new job make 50% more than my old one.
However, 6 months into the new job, the company was bought out and DH was laid off. They gave him an 8 month notice of when he would be laid off, though. He got 2 months of severance pay regardless, but if he stayed through the entire 8 month transition period, he would get an additional $25,000 bonus. He stayed. He found a new job, so he ended at the old one on a Friday and started at the new one the following Monday. Between the severance and the bonus, we got $35,000. This is what we used for the downpayment on our house.
That year, our gross household income was $120k -- 10x as much as it had been only 2 years previously! It hasn't stayed that high as DH doesn't routinely get bonuses like that, but it was a healing experience for us in many ways. I have become much more relaxed about what might happen in the future. We have been through difficult times and survived. We know that if we have a plan and we work it, we can make it through. DH is still paranoid about the what if though, and we are still working on building the emergency fund back to the level it was before all this happened.
I strongly believe that one of the reasons we have been able to do so well is that we both have college degrees and neither of us ever took an educational loan. This is already a ridiculously long post, so I won't go into how that happened for me, but if anyone is interested, I did post the story in a thread velochic started re: her nephew and college not too long ago. If you can't find it, pm me and I'll find it.
I am going to law school in the fall, and we are not going to take any loans for that either. I got a $21,000/year tuition scholarship from the school. Tuition is $29,000, so we still have to pay $8,000/year, which we will pay out of pocket. We will pay this out of pocket while continuing to fund DH's 401k at the maximum level. I am still working on the budget, but I believe we will also be able to continue saving some money in a savings account, although much less than we have been. We have already discontinued making additional payments on our loans as part of our preparation. I am going to quit work and go to school full time, so the next couple years will be tighter than they have been for us recently, but we will have NO school loans. This means I will be much more flexible in choosing a position when I get out and will be able to do something I love.
Even the low end of lawyer salaries is about $4000 more/year than I make now, with the high end being substantially higher than what I make now. DH is 10 years older than I am and my current salary is not likely to be sufficient to support me if something were to happen to him. So part of the point of me going to school is that I will have the ability to grow into a new profession, with a salary approaching what DH makes, before DH ever contemplates retiring. We also do want to have children and need to plan for the fact that DH will be retirement age right about the time we might be sending a child to college!
If you have actually read this huge post, you totally deserve a gold star or something!