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Are You Better Off Than 4 Years Ago?


Are you better off than 4 years ago?Are you better off than 4 years ago? This is the question we’re asked every presidential election in the United States. I know it is still a little early in the election cycle, but I just filled out my ballot this weekend so it’s been on my mind. I wrote this article in 2012 and it’s time for the quadrennial update (I had to look that up).

Don’t forget to take my poll at the end of this post.

Back in 2012

This question was a simple in 2012. We made tremendous gains in our financial and personal lives from 2008 to 2012. This was easy because the US economy was in the midst of a huge recession in 2008. By 2012, the economy had recovered somewhat and the rising tide lifted all boats. We were also making great income and I was saving all of the paychecks from my job in 2011 and 2012. Our net worth increased over 60% from 2008 to 2012 and it gave me the confidence to leave my engineering career.

This question is actually a trick question. All of us who are of working age should be able to keep improving our financial situations over time. Even setbacks like unemployment should be temporary and can be overcome. Unless you have a serious long term issue such as a chronic health condition, you should be better off than 4 years ago.

Now in 2016

If 2012 was easy, what about now in 2016? It’s been 4 years since I quit my job to become a stay at home dad/blogger. My income dropped quite a bit since I retired from full-time work. Luckily, Mrs. RB40 is still working, I have some income from this blog, and we have some passive income. We haven’t been able to save as much as before, but we still save and invest over $50,000 per year. The stock market and housing market also improved quite a bit since 2012.

Before I checked the numbers, I felt we wouldn’t be able to beat the previous 4 years (2008 to 2012). Our saving rate was lower because I didn’t work full-time. However, the stock market and the local housing market did much better than the previous period. As a result, our net worth improved 64% from 4 years ago! That’s just a little better than from 2008 to 2012. Our net worth gain is in the same range as the S&P 500’s. That’s pretty good because our asset is a mix of stock market, bonds, real estates, P2P lending and more.

better off

Our net worth grew over 3x since 2008. That is a tremendous gain and I can only hope it keeps growing. I doubt it will continue to grow at this rate, though. I’d be happy as long as it grows a little every year.

I know things are tougher for the Millennials. Many of them graduated into the recession and had a difficult time finding a well paying job. They also had a lot of student loans. However, I think everyone still should be able to improve their finances over the long term.

Spend Less Than You Earn

The RB40 household motto is spend less than you earn. If you can do this consistently, then you will be better off financially in the long run. We never spend more than we earn and this enables us to grow our net worth like we have. I started investing in my 401k as soon as I started working in 1996 and have branched out since then. You can read more about our investments through these links below.

  1. 401k
  2. Roth IRA
  3. Taxable Brokerage Account, our dividend portfolio.
  4. Rental properties
  5. P2P Lending

Everyone should start saving and investing as early as they can. It can be difficult to save for retirement when you’re young, but think of it as building your wealth instead. Retirement funds aren’t very accessible, but they will be there in your time of need.

Power Through The Down Market

The stock market has been on a great run since 2008. Many of our younger readers have never gone through a bear market before. It will be difficult to go through a stock market crash, but young investors should know that it is the best time to invest. You’ll be able to buy shares of quality companies at a great price. We kept investing through the last recession, our net worth recovered nicely and tripled since the 2008 election. Many investors missed much of the recovery because they pulled during the bear market and didn’t know when to get back in.  S&P 500 VS me

Beyond 2016

The last 4 years has been great for our family. If we can keep growing at 60% every 4 years, we’d be rich in a few more election cycles. This is an unrealistic expectation, though. The stock market valuation is high and we are overdue for a bear market. We should do well over the long term as long as we keep investing. Mrs. RB40 plans to work until 2020 so we should be able to continue to save over $50,000 per year for at least that long.

Once she quits working full time, then we will need to make some adjustments. My plan is to live on my online income and our passive income. We will leave our retirement funds alone until we reach full retirement age. It will be interesting to see if we can continue to increase our net worth after Mrs. RB40 retires. I’m optimistic because our retirement accounts should keep growing as long as we don’t withdraw from it.

Are you better off than 4 years ago? (2016 edition)

  • Most definitely (87%, 414 Votes)
  • About the same (6%, 29 Votes)
  • Worse, Thanks Obama! (7%, 32 Votes)

Total Voters: 475

Loading ... Loading ...

Gallup did a poll in January 2016 and about 50% of those surveyed are better off than 8 years ago. That’s a lot lower than I thought. I guess it’s tough to break out of the cycle when you’re struggling financially.

Are you better off today than 4 years ago? If not, what’s your plan to improve that situation?

Image by Gage Skidmore

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 104 comments… add one }
  • Joshua Williams April 16, 2020, 2:37 pm

    It’s that time again, but 2020. Can’t leave the house, no job, portfolio down, and no toilet paper. I’m worse off now then I was 4-years ago.

  • TheMoneyMine May 18, 2016, 6:09 pm

    With a cover photo like this one, you knew you’d get attention 😉
    Like most of your readers, I am definitely better today than 4 years ago. Job wise (a promotion), family wise (a wedding), health wise (ran a half-marathon this year) and of course finance wise (net worth doubled).
    And my guess is that in 4 years, most your readers will be much better off, regardless of who’s the next POTUS!

  • Alan May 17, 2016, 3:27 pm

    The best thing to happen in the last four years was before this time, health insurance providers could reject covering you if you had a pre-existing condition. By the time you are 40, almost everyone has some kind of condition that would exclude you from coverage. My wife and I both do. Today the law prevents that. Without available health insurance it would be nearly impossible to retire before 65 when Medicare kicked in. Health insurance today certainly isn’t cheap, but it is available, which four years ago it wasn’t for many at any cost.

    • retirebyforty May 17, 2016, 9:41 pm

      That is a great point. Health care is still a big problem in the US, but it’s better than before.

  • Chadnudj May 17, 2016, 1:26 pm

    “Gallup did a poll in January 2016 and about 50% of those surveyed are better off than 8 years ago. That’s a lot lower than I thought. I guess it’s tough to break out of the cycle when you’re struggling financially.”

    I’d be VERY hesitant to trust those poll results, as they suffer from a TON of bias/faulty memory. Almost surely much greater than 50% of people are doing better than they were in 2008, when the economy was in major disruptions amidst the real estate collapse/Lehman/AIG, etc.

    I’m guessing a lot of the nearly 50% who say they are worse off are only saying that out of personal/political animus towards the President, and not based on any real accounting of how they were in 2008 vs. how they are now.

    • Chadnudj May 17, 2016, 1:40 pm

      Also, I should add — I’m definitely better off today than I was 4 or 8 years ago. Some of that is personal (got married, had a kid, bought a condo, got a new car), a lot of it is financial (great jobs for both of us with better income, saving way more/paying down debt), and other is just general (have taken a few nice vacations, family is great, friends are great, and I enjoy the work I do).

      I can’t go back all the way to 2012 to give you exact data, but I do know in the 2 years since we combined all our accounts, our net worth has gone up from around $61k to $225k today, which I consider a pretty big win.

      And while many say this has nothing to do with the government, I’m pretty sure the steady hand of the Federal Reserve, smart tax policy by the White House, improvements to health care via Obamacare making it easier for people to become entrepreneurs, and a myriad of other changes (marriage equality, not defaulting on the debt ceiling, winding down 2 expensive and arguably unnecessary wars, Dodd-Frank financial reforms making banks safer, changes to fiduciary rules for retirement investors) have surely or will soon have a positive impact on the economy overall, and on growth in our economy in particular.

    • retirebyforty May 17, 2016, 9:42 pm

      Yeap, the party affiliation makes a big difference in that poll. Republicans think they are worse off and the Democrats think they are better off.

  • Andy May 16, 2016, 1:57 pm

    everyone should be better off! no matter who was or who will be the president.

    • mike May 16, 2016, 4:43 pm


      If it matters to you who the president is as to whether or not you are better off, then you are doing it wrong.

      Last time I checked, no President has ever helped me save, get a job, or build my financial plan.

      • Fred May 17, 2016, 11:04 am

        Actually my income taxes went down a few hundred under GW Bush. But overall you’re right, it doesn’t really matter.

  • Ms. Montana May 16, 2016, 12:55 pm

    Our next worth has constantly doubled every 4 years. I can’t image it continuing to, but then again I have been shocked every time. I still vividly remember when our bank account hit $10,000. Small steps, taken consistently can take people farther than seem rational.

  • Tawcan May 16, 2016, 10:17 am

    Financially we’re definitely better off now than 4 years ago. Our net worth has grown quite a bit, so has our family size. It’s amazing how many things we’ve managed to accomplish in the last 4 years. 😀

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:31 am

      Congratulation! You can accomplish a ton in 4 years. Great job.

  • AC May 16, 2016, 9:32 am

    I’m a little fuzzy this morning.

    What are the Y-axes in both charts?

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:28 am

      The Y-axis is just the baseline. It starts from 1 and goes from there.

  • Jason In Vancouver May 16, 2016, 7:47 am

    Financially, we’re definitely better off than 4 years ago. However, as our nest egg becomes bigger, it’s becoming more difficult to match the “percentage gains” in net wealth during earlier years. Savings contributed a large amount of our net wealth gains at the start. But with our nest egg growing larger, we’re more dependent on investment returns which influence the rate of growth more than just our savings.
    And as others have mentioned, I don’t find government policy and budget decisions really impact our financial well being significantly.

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:30 am

      We have the same problem. It’s more dependent on the stock market and less on the saving rate as our nest egg grew. That’s always the goal, though. Eventually, the saving rate will become negligible and that’s when you can stop saving. 🙂

  • Mike H. May 16, 2016, 7:44 am

    You filled out your ballot, not your ballet 🙂

    3 of the past 4 years have been really good financially, and a rising tide lifts all boats. I was able to make a solid financial plan and really figure out how to be successful. But I’m still at the point where the miracle of compounding interest isn’t really working for me yet, so it’s still a bit of slog through the mud.

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:28 am

      Thanks for the catch. My editor is slipping. She was watching Game of Thrones while editing…
      Keep at it. Compound interest starts off small, but it builds up over time.

  • Justin May 16, 2016, 6:25 am

    Heck yeah we’re better off than 4 years ago! 🙂

    Spring of 2012 had me at just under $800,000 net worth. Today we’re at almost double that amount. Not too bad considering I didn’t work for the majority of the past four years and my wife only worked full time for about half that period.

    We are spending so little from our portfolio (and it’s pretty close to zero other than some dividends from our taxable account) because I have this new found blog income. My expectation is that our net worth will keep growing slowly over the years even if the blog income goes to $0 and our spending slowly creeps up as the kids get older (and with inflation). We’re only spending 3-4% of our portfolio and long term I wouldn’t be surprised to see 5%+ real growth in our investments.

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:25 am

      Oh wow, 2x in 4 years. That’s awesome. Great job!
      The next 4 years would be interesting for sure. We’ll probably get a bear market at some point. Hopefully, we’ll both be able to ride it out with minimal impact.

  • Mike Drak May 16, 2016, 5:58 am

    I’ve invested the last couple of years re-positioning myself for my last great adventure one that hopefully will take many years to play out. I’ve achieved FI, left my primary career and have started my own version of a Victory lap which is based on helping people learn about money and transition into their own VL. Life is fun again, the pace is a lot slower and I’m starting to notice things much more than before. Just watched a Michael Moore film called Another Country to Invade and it made me realize that we need to make some major changes quickly if we want to get things back on track before it is too late.

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:24 am

      It sounds like you are much better off than 4 years ago. Great job finding your own way. Sorry, I haven’t had time to read VL. Life has been kind of crazy the last few weeks..

      • Mike Drak May 16, 2016, 1:31 pm

        That’s o/k Joe take you time reading the book. I look forward to hearing what you think about it. There is a chapter about the dangers of working in a corp that you will relate to.

  • Petra May 16, 2016, 5:00 am

    The CDC has numbers about how many people are insured, and how many people couldn’t afford medical treatments. Insurance levels are up, the percentage of people not being able to afford a medical treatment is down compared to four years ago. I’d say that that are two important wins. Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/earlyrelease201506.pdf

    Personally, I’m also doing great. I have had work all this time and I’ve been able to add a lot to my savings and investments. I changed to a different line of work and while my salary is the same, stress levels have gone down a lot.

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:22 am

      That’s great that you were able to reduce stress while keeping the same income. Great job! 🙂

  • Apathy Ends May 16, 2016, 4:38 am

    We are definitely better off than 4 years ago, my salary has more than doubled (my starting salary sucked) and we have a positive net worth with a lot less debt!

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:22 am

      Great job!

  • The Green Swan May 16, 2016, 4:29 am

    Thanks for bringing back this article. It is interesting to look back and see how things have changed the last four years. I voted that I am better off personally, not sure I’d vote the same for the country though.

    While I am a millennial, I graduated in ’07 and was fortunate to find a good job out of college and hold it through the recession (I guess the cheap employees don’t get fired as quickly right?). Being young in my career through basically the whole Obama presidency, I can say my position has continued to improve as my career advances, etc. I can see how many who had more seasoned careers would not have seen the gains I did.

    It will be interesting to see over the next four years though!

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:21 am

      The debt is definitely worse. Hopefully, we can pull back to a reasonable level at some point.
      Everyone need to focus on their own personal finance first, though. Good job building your wealth over the last 8 years. I’m sure the next 4 years will continue to be great for you.

  • Eric Bowlin May 16, 2016, 4:19 am

    I just read an interesting article about the top earners in North Korea. They have just about everything you’d expect a rich person to have anywhere. Juxtapose that with the starving masses of people…

    The point is, the people with the right mindset will always be successful regardless of politics, the economy, or world events.

    I can say I’m better off than 4 years ago. 4 years ago I could say I was better off than the previous 4. It’s really not related to politics, but more to the personal mindset and drive to succeed. Really, I built the most wealth when the economy was the worst.

    The key is the mindset.

    • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:18 am

      Really? I still wouldn’t feel safe. Didn’t Kim Jong-Un beheaded his uncle or something like that last year. That’s a crazy situation over there.
      Yeap, everyone should be better off every 4 years. If things aren’t going well, you need to change your life.

      • Jay May 16, 2016, 4:01 pm

        My friend’s family got out of North Korea, and I’m somewhat surprised to hear that any article would equate not starving in North Korea with someone kind of positive mindset. Could you post the link to the article you saw? From what I’ve read, including Nothing to Envy (a good book about North Korean defectors by Barbara Demick), that doesn’t hold up.

  • Diane C December 10, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Oh, yes I am better off! I just got married for the first time at the ripe old age of 54!!! Retired last week. My new husband is not quite as frugal as I am, but he is much better at balancing wants vs. needs. He can also fix anything, so our skills balance out. When we realized that our balance sheets were almost an exact match, I chucked my [insert bad word here] job and am setting out to discover married *and* retired life. Husband loves his job and can retire with a full pension in ten years. In fact, he likes his job so much, he says he feels like he’s already retired. Yay for him. He made his own luck by switching to an [initially] lower-paying job that includes pension benefits, and continuing to save outside of that.

    One of my favorite planning things to do is to check all of my statements once a month on the same date. A good month is when the combined balance grows by more than that month’s income. It’s been a good yardstick and very motivating. I will continue to do so once we get out finances blended. It’s going to be easier, since my income will be effectively reduced to zero! I didn’t make it by forty, but I sure am happy to call myself retired now.

    • retirebyforty December 10, 2012, 2:48 pm

      Congratulation on your retirement and marriage! I like your yard stick, it sounds very motivating.
      Great news about your husband too. A full pension is awesome.

  • Staz @ EssentialFinances December 8, 2012, 9:31 am

    Way better! 4 years ago all the jobs were taken in my area and it was nearly impossible to get a job competing with everyone so I ended up racking up about $14,000 in credit card debt and debt owed to family. Now I have a steady job, owe about $1500 on my credit card (no more family debt), about $500 in an emergency fund and about $22,500 in various investments.

    On my way to retire by 40!

    • retirebyforty December 9, 2012, 12:30 pm

      Great job! I’m sure you’ll be debt free in 2013. You made such huge progress over the last 4 years.

  • Joe Cassandra October 31, 2012, 8:54 am

    I’m better off than 4 years ago, but it doesn’t have to do with any politics.

    I graduated college and got a job, then took the initiative to start my own site. Income could be better (but it always could right!)

  • 101 Centavos October 26, 2012, 1:17 pm

    You don’t look any older. Certainly better dressed and more dashing. Must be the semi-retirement.

  • [email protected] October 4, 2012, 7:19 am

    4 years ago I had just graduated from college a year prior, had been working my job (same job as now) for about 6 months, net worth right around 0.

    Now I’m at the same job, my individual income has almost doubled, got married to the best woman ever and our combined income is close to 4x my individual income from 4 years ago, net worth is now around 150k. When the market took its down turn instead of selling to get out I put in as much as I could afford to.

    It’s unfortunate that the “are you better off” question is used for politics, although I’m much better off now than 4 years ago, I don’t think it’s due to who has been in office. If McCain had won the 2008 election, I would likely be in the same position I am now. I may or may not have changed jobs, my net worth would probably be about the same. Why? Because I believe my circumstances are 90% a result of my own actions, not which political party supposedly is in control of the country.

    Great post, it was my goal to retire by 40 before I found your site and I’m enjoying what you’re writing.

    • retirebyforty October 5, 2012, 8:44 am

      You made awesome progress in 4 years. You’re 100x better off than 4 years ago!
      Good luck with early retirement. I’m sure you can do it because you are starting off so young and are doing so well already.

  • jim October 2, 2012, 2:39 pm

    I’m better off. Our net worth is up and my pay is up. We have a lot of real estate assets and those are down in value but we made up for it via savings and gains in retirement and paying down mortgages.

  • First Gen American October 1, 2012, 12:11 am

    I’m definitely better off financially, but I was not impacted by a layoff during this downturn. I’m not sure I’d have the same answer if I had to relocate and job hunt…but I’m 4 years older, so I have 4 years more of savings, am debt free, earn more, and have fewer expenses than I did 4 years ago.

    That’s all about to change though. Just bought a house…going back into debt for a while.

  • anon September 30, 2012, 9:20 am

    Got married, had 2 kids, paid off student loan, got master’s degree, changed jobs twice, moved, increased income by 60%, and net worth by ~100k. It’s been a great 4 yrs!

    • retirebyforty October 1, 2012, 11:25 am

      Great job doing all that with 2 kids! 🙂

  • Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals September 29, 2012, 6:21 pm

    Wow, that’s a loaded question! I answered that I AM doing better. If you’re talking merely about income, than we’re about the same, but the difference is that in the past four years (which coincide with me becoming a parent; my daughter was born in September 2008) I’ve learned to take control of my career, my finances, in ways I hadn’t before. I’m in charge now, and even if that means I make a few grand less a year, it is MORE than worth it for my independence!

  • Dominique Brown September 28, 2012, 4:41 pm

    I’m better off today than I was 4 years ago. My networth has increased by 300k. I really can’t complain at all about how great life is. Let’s toast to progress lol

  • Kelly September 28, 2012, 7:41 am

    Four years ago we were debt free (minus our mortgage), maxing out our 401K, had great college funds going for the kids, and had a years worth of savings. We’re still there. So things are still the same, but they weren’t that bad 4 years ago.

    • retirebyforty September 28, 2012, 7:51 am

      Your net worth must have grown since then, right?

  • FI Fighter September 27, 2012, 7:51 pm

    YES! Much better off. 4 years ago, I was still a green, newbie engineer just starting off. I had basically no savings, and worked 12 hour days (yes work was just so much fun ;))

    In the past 4 years, I’ve been able to: max out 401k + roth ira every year, build up a taxable dividend account for early retirement, and purchase my first investment home.

    I’m very encouraged by the amount of progress one can make in a short period of time, especially if they save aggressively and invest wisely. I can’t wait to see how much more progress I can make in the next 4 years.

    Best wishes!

    • retirebyforty September 28, 2012, 7:35 am

      Hahaha, I hear you about work. Green newbie engineers are so gullible.
      I’m so happy to hear how much progress you made. Young people are not doing as bad as the media said after all.

  • Aloysa @My Broken Coin September 27, 2012, 6:30 pm

    I am definitely better off: 15K in debt gone, didn’t lose a job, Beaker is employed, we have less bills to pay, build up 401K a little bit more, travelled some more. We are better.

    • retirebyforty September 28, 2012, 7:32 am

      That’s great to hear from a shopaholic. 🙂 Great job!

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets September 27, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Yup! But as some have said, nothing to do with the government, and more to do with taking personal responsibility. That, and now I’m a husband and father, definitely wasn’t 4 years ago. My pay has increased about 50%, I started a 2nd and possibly 3rd job, bought a house, and have paid down some debt.

    Definitely in a better place, but again, nothing to do with who sits in the Oval Office.

    • retirebyforty September 28, 2012, 7:32 am

      3 jobs and kid? That’s crazy!

  • Travis @Debtchronicles September 27, 2012, 4:01 pm

    I’m better off than I was 4 years ago….but I can say with utmost confidence that it has nothing to do with anything our government has done. Nothing, nada, ZERO. Through increased financial responsibility and and reducing spending I have improved my finances – something our government wouldn’t know anything about.

    • retirebyforty September 28, 2012, 7:31 am

      Great job Travis. It’s always better to depend on yourself than the government to do something, right?

  • Flexo September 27, 2012, 3:55 pm

    Much, much, much, much, much, much better off. Much. 🙂 I wouldn’t say that has anything to do with government policies, but … well, I guess there is a tenuous relationship… something to explore for a new article, perhaps.

    • retirebyforty September 28, 2012, 7:30 am

      Haha, nice! Your hard work finally paid off. 🙂

  • Sandy September 27, 2012, 6:46 am

    I’m much better than before. I’ve bought two houses, changed careers, have a blog that I can be proud of, my family is alive and I have a solid plan for my future. A lot can happen in four years. I never dreamed that I would be this far along.

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:37 pm

      You are doing so great! Keep it up.

  • Little House September 27, 2012, 6:46 am

    Four years ago, I decided to go back to school and complete my credential thinking the educational system would be better off today. Not true at all, unfortunately. I’m now credentialed, but the district I work for is worse off and there’s no job in sight for a few more years at least. Now, I’m have to look into other districts, probably move (which I’m okay with). So, things are about the same for me just now I have student loan debt and am really wondering if it was worth it. Very frustrating!

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:37 pm

      That’s kind of sad to hear about the education system. Hopefully when the economy improve, there will be more money to hire teachers. 🙁

  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc September 27, 2012, 5:28 am

    Wow, you got great results and good participation. Our answer is yes and for the same reasons you outlined. Of course, I wonder about bias in your population, which may be skewing the results to be more favorably. For example, we know that comments do not reflect a blogs true audience, which is obviously much larger. Additionally, give the niche (personal finance) and the sub-niche (early retirement) that you are in, I would expect for this population of people to be doing better anyway. None of that in any way diminishes the value of this… I guess it just shapes the takeaway points. Fun stuff!!!! LOVE IT. Please do more!

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:36 pm

      I think you are right about the bias.
      This mean the readers who took the poll have a much higher chance at improving their lives than the average voter. 🙂

  • Mike September 27, 2012, 5:24 am

    Congrats! You definitely look a lot better! On the money front, I am slowly starting to see a fair amount of improvements coming with the time that I have been spending on some of the activities!

  • William @ Drop Dead Money September 27, 2012, 3:21 am

    Much better off! We we blessed to be able to retire. Not by 40, but better late than never! 🙂

  • krantcents September 26, 2012, 4:45 pm

    I am definitely better off in certain areas. Others not so much. As a teacher, I am worse off because of budget cuts. I still have a job, but my classes are huge and opportunities for extra money is almost nonexistent. My portfolio has increased and my home value is increasing. Along with a lot of people, I feel optimistic.

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:34 pm

      Really? I thought you are doing very well. It sounds like your net worth is up so that’s good right? I’m really optimistic too.

  • Sustainable Living Blog (Jeff) September 26, 2012, 1:53 pm

    Man joe, you look great! What an awesome coat!
    I answered with the “im better off” but that’s a loaded question – I was a student in 2008, and living off of 1k a month, driving a total heap car (that literally caught on fire once while I was in it) and had very little savings and investments to speak of. I lived in a small apartment with a roommate too.
    I’ve been doing a lot of stuff to make myself better off over these 4 years though – it’s nothing that I feel like I can directly connect with who is leading the country.

    • retirebyforty September 28, 2012, 12:37 pm

      Thanks! I got that coat for $40. 🙂
      You are doing a great job with your finance.

  • Kathleen @ Frugal Portland September 26, 2012, 11:26 am

    Yes indeed I am better off but you’re right — that’s a trick question! I moved back to Portland four years ago, which is the real reason I’m better off!

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:32 pm

      Good move for you then. 🙂 Portland is great, isn’t it?

  • Marie at Family Money Values September 26, 2012, 11:25 am

    Get ready to invest during a down market, we will probably have one after the Nov. election!

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:32 pm

      Why do you say that?

  • RichUncle EL September 26, 2012, 10:20 am

    I am much better off than I was 4 years ago with the happiness family factor, but for some reason I have more expenses now than in 2008-2009. So since this a financial website I am a bit down when it comes to looking at my bills then and now. Income raises are not keeping up with inflation and back in ’09 I didn’t have student loans as they were in deferment. Have to increase my blog income to help with loan repayments and then with a house down payment.

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:33 pm

      So you still had student loan in ’09, but just didn’t have to pay yet right?
      I’m sure you will get rolling and be better off in 2016. 😉

  • Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter September 26, 2012, 8:36 am

    I am much better too than I was 4 years ago. I have made a lot changes to how I live my life and manage it in various aspects. When it comes to finances, I actually manage my money now which I never did before. I have been able to save and stay out of debt which is huge.

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:31 pm

      The early 20s can be turbulence and I’m very happy to hear you are doing much better. Staying out of debt is great!

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor September 26, 2012, 8:17 am

    My wife and I are much better off. Since 2008 we made a Big Move, contemplated for years, to a beautiful part of the world, and we’re really happy we did. Our finances have improved, though that has little or nothing to do with the fortunes of the equity markets. We remain debt-free, and continue to live below our means.

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:30 pm

      That was a big move. I’m really happy it works out for you.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina September 26, 2012, 7:14 am

    I am way better off than I was four yrs ago at age 18.

    I love my husband, slowly improving relationship with my family, financially more stable, two degrees + a job, car…the list is endless!

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:27 pm

      That is so great to hear. It’s a big transition for you over the past 4 years and you did a great job.

  • MoneyMouse September 26, 2012, 7:04 am

    Just looking at your photo, i was having a hard time telling which is the BEFORE and AFTER. Yes honestly, you look the same like no changes at all physically. May i ask how are you doing financially? Oh i’m sorry its probably too much. hehe.

    • retirebyforty September 28, 2012, 12:38 pm

      really? Thanks! I thought I got a little softer around the jaws, but that’s OK. 🙂

  • Emily @ evolvingPF September 26, 2012, 7:03 am

    I have the exact same job with the same (inflation-adjusted) pay that I did four years ago, but I’m much better off now because I’ve had four years of savings! I also got INTO the stock market in January 2009 so… yeah. That’s going really well.

    Also in the last four years I’ve gotten married – a major improvement over dating!

    • retirebyforty September 27, 2012, 4:26 pm

      Congratulation on getting married! 🙂 I agree that’s a huge improvement over dating.
      Your saving is exactly what I’m talking about in this post. If we spend less than we make, then in 4 years we should all be better off.

  • Christa September 26, 2012, 6:48 am

    I love your positive outlook on how and why you’re better off than four years ago. I’m in the same boat with a lower family income but much more joy in my new family structure — it’s amazing what the addition of a tiny human can do in the way of bringing more joy to an already happy family!

    • retirebyforty September 26, 2012, 1:35 pm

      It’s so much better to have a kid when you’re older. We weren’t ready for a kid when we were in our 20s. 🙂

  • [email protected]&More September 26, 2012, 6:40 am

    That is a tough question for me to answer because I was in college 4 years ago! I do have a good job and have done well since I have graduated despite the down times.

    On your RB40 vs S&P500 did you just use the value of your initial investments in 2008 at today’s prices or did you include the additional investments you have added since then?

    • retirebyforty September 26, 2012, 1:34 pm

      I included additional investments. SP500 also include reinvestment, right?

  • Leigh September 26, 2012, 6:22 am

    I’m definitely better off than I was 4 years ago – I was still in college then and in a terrible relationship! Now, I own a condo, I have a great relationship, a great, well-paying job, plenty of money, and don’t plan on moving anywhere any time soon. Ah, college. That is starting to feel like ages ago 😀

    I’m curious – how did you get the S&P data to compare to yours?

    • retirebyforty September 26, 2012, 1:33 pm

      That’s great to hear. College was fun, but life is so much nicer when you make some money. 🙂
      I got the SP500 historical data from Yahoo, then I used Excel to chart it. Let me know if you have further questions.

  • W at Off-Road Finance September 26, 2012, 6:17 am

    I’m definitely better off than 4 years ago, but not really related to the markets. My market activities are almost all market neutral (ie. they don’t care about up vs down markets) so I rarely see much difference. The high volatility of 2008 & early 2009 was nice though.

  • jefferson @SeeDebtRun September 26, 2012, 5:30 am

    i think that we are better off in general.. i am at a better position in my career, we certainly have a better handle our budget.. and more than ever- we have a clear path going forward.

    as long as you can stick to your “motto” Joe.. you guys will no doubt continue on the right track.

    • retirebyforty September 26, 2012, 12:27 pm

      You guys are paying off a ton of debt so you should keep improving. Great job!

  • The College Investor September 26, 2012, 12:44 am

    I’m much better off than I was 4 years ago. I have my primary job, which I make much more than 4 years ago (probably 50% more over 4 years), and my online business is having its best year yet. Investments are up, bought a house, started a family – everything seems to be running on all cylinders.

    I feel like there is so much opportunity, much more than when Obama took over. I wish I could clone myself multiple times to take advantage of all the opportunities.

    • retirebyforty September 26, 2012, 12:27 pm

      Wow! That’s great. So much optimism. Congratulation on doing such a great job over the last 4 years. I’m sure you’ll keep it running on all cylinders for years to come. I wish I could clone myself too. 🙂

      • Dividend Growth Investor May 16, 2016, 7:08 am

        I am better off than I was 4 or 8 years ago.

        I make more at my job, and I also earn more from dividends as I have saved and invested a lot of money during that period. The power of compounding helps a lot, after you have saved and invested for a while.

        My ultimate goal is to have more time for myself and my family, and more flexibility in my schedule. Perhaps that would be the goal in the next 4 years, but should ultimately be the case 8 years from now. I am curious to see where the next 4 years take us

        • retirebyforty May 16, 2016, 10:26 am

          Nice job! I think most readers here would be better off. We are driven to improve our situation and we wouldn’t stay down for long. Good luck in the next 4-8 years. Sounds like a period of big changes coming up.

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