A long time ago, in an internet far far away, I wrote about the honeymoon my husband and I took to Japan back in 2001. In that post I wrote the following:
“… as soon as we got home I started a “someday” fund to hopefully someday return to Japan. “CMO, almost three years ago
Well friends, someday is coming soon.
Today I’m going to tell you the story of our “dream fund”, an investment I made and kept since that first trip to Japan.
My First After-Tax Investment
This “someday” fund was actually my first after-tax investment. I put it into the Vanguard STAR
As a newbie twenty-one year old investor, all that sounded good to me!
Over the years, I put a little bit of money into this dream fund every month. And if I got a bonus, or a tax refund, I would sometimes put a bit of money into it as well.
The original thought we had, the young and naive people we were, was that we would use this fund to go back on our tenth anniversary. Well, a few years later, we became parents. Then a few years after that we welcomed another son to our family. On our actual tenth anniversary, I was in the middle of an MBA program, and we had two small children.
So we didn’t go to Japan, but our dream wasn’t forgotten. It was simply deferred to an unknown date.
On our eleventh anniversary, we were in Arizona,
He was too unwell to travel to Japan at that time. But we were able to tap the dream fund for that Arizona trip.
The rest of the dream fund sat there, waiting patiently. We didn’t contribute to it anymore, because we were so focused on getting rid of debt and financial independence. But the stock market contributed to it. It grew and grew. Dividends and capital gains were reinvested, buying more and more shares every year.
Redefining The Dream
Over the years, we often debated whether or not to just use this fund to pay down the mortgage. Every time, we decided to leave it alone. That dream fund would wait for us, patiently, growing while we decided what to do.
Then we started talking about using it for a huge family trip once the mortgage was paid off. At first, this seemed like it would be years and years down the line. But talking about it, and dreaming about it, kept us excited.
Frankly, it can be a long, slow slog in the middle of paying off a mortgage. Or saving for financial independence, or college, retirement – essentially any large goal. The beginning is exciting and fun, as you find new and creative ways to work towards your goal. But the middle is hard, and long, especially if you can’t see the light at the end very easily.
This is why one of my twelve mortgage payoff tips is to have something waiting for you at the end. There are plenty of times that talking about this dream of a huge family trip, using the dream fund, were what kept us going towards this goal.
Our Dream Fund Comes True
As you may know, we did pay off the mortgage a few weeks ago.
And a few days later, I sold the STAR fund to put the money into cash.
We were going to use it, and use it all, without guilt, to take a family trip to Japan.
This dream looks much different than when my twenty-one-year-old self first opened the STAR fund. Back then, we were newlyweds in our early and mid-twenties with no kids. I was in the middle of a bachelor’s degree, working full time and going to school full time. My husband had a full-time job, and we lived together in a condo.
Today we have three kids. I work full time in a corporate job and my husband stays at home with the boys all week. Taking a family of five to another country is an expensive
Although life has changed in ways my twenty-one-year-old self could never have imagined, the dream fund stayed there. It has enough to cover a huge trip to Japan – flights, hotels, attractions, and food.
Amazing how that can happen.
Live Like No One Else, And You Can Live Like No One Else
There are a lot of times since 2001 where we could have cashed it out, but didn’t. It could have accelerated our debt freedom journey. It could have covered expenses when my husband was sick. I’m sure I could have spent it on upgrading a car, or a bigger down payment on this house. Or I could have used it all to upgrade my wardrobe, buy fancy furniture, or any number of things.
But we always held out hope that by leaving it alone, it would one day help our dream come true.
There aren’t a lot of people who will save and invest money for almost two decades for a dream.
Not many people in their early twenties start an investment fund specifically for a goal years down the line – and leave it alone.
When I was in my early twenties, I didn’t know anyone else who did the kinds of things I was doing. And I never let the fact that I couldn’t contribute much to this fund bother me.
Sometimes people will think “if I can only afford to contribute $50 a month, or a few hundred dollars once in a while, it’s not worth it.” I can tell you now from experience that it most certainly is worth it.
If we had spent that $50 going out to eat, or to an amusement park, I wouldn’t be able to remember that today. If I had spent that $50 on kids toys, they would long ago be broken, outgrown, tossed or donated. And if I had used that $50 per month to buy a fancier car with a more expensive payment, we wouldn’t be able to go to Japan today.
Today we’re a debt-free family, well on our way to financial independence, and off to Japan this summer. We’ll visit all the places my husband and I went to back in 2001 – and some new ones. My husband and I will get to see how the country has changed in the past eighteen years, and my boys will be able to see the country for the first time.
This may be the one of the last opportunities we have to take a large trip together as a family. Next year, my oldest son will be sixteen, and old enough to work over the summer. Soon he’ll be off to college, and it will be just my husband, myself, and our older two boys at home.
I’m so grateful to my twenty-one-year-old self for scraping together that $1,000 to buy into the STAR fund, and for putting aside little bits of money into it whenever she could.
Start Your Own Dream Fund
So today, friends, I would like to encourage you to start your own dream fund. Even if your situation, or the dream itself, changes over the years, the power of a dream fund can’t be understated.
This fund is what made possible an anniversary trip to Arizona after a major medical crisis, and before another major surgery.
And this fund will make possible a journey for five across the globe, to another country, without financial worry.
Start your dream fund today, with whatever you can. Find a company that allows you to open an account and start investing with whatever money you have. Commit to yourself that you’ll put a bit aside from any windfalls towards your dreams.
After all, aren’t your dreams worth it?
As Dave Ramsey always says, “live like no one else and you can live like no one else.”