Unfortunately, financial independence and early retirement is not for everyone. Not everyone can do it. And it isn’t just sheer will-power holding some people back. Many people have not been blessed with the lives we have been given.
Our Head Start
We are blessed beyond measure to live the life we do. Growing up, Richard and I both had enough. We weren’t rich and we definitely didn’t get everything we ever asked for, but we never went without the basic necessities.
We had educated parents who cared about our schooling and success. They pushed us to do better in school and taught us valuable life lessons to give us that step up.
Many people have not been afforded those same luxuries in life that we have.
Some people spend their entire childhood waking up and not knowing from where their next meal will come. Many people we see grew up in poverty and did not have role models to help them through life’s struggles. A few even had to take care of ailing or addicted parents as an adolescent because there was no one else to do that job. Many children jump between foster homes with no sense of stability or belonging. Some have chronic illnesses that sap every penny they have for treatment.
I had to deal with none of that growing up. I lived in my rather small but completely adequate house. At no point in time did I ever worry if I was going to be able to go to college – it was a given. I knew I would have to get scholarships and pay for it, but college was there for the taking.
Pursuing Better for Ourselves
After high school, we knew college was the next step. We had both worked minimum wage jobs and, while it was great for a bit of income for gas to go see friends, it was not enough to adequately sustain our desired lifestyles.
In college, we both studied engineering. We are good at math and knew we wanted jobs that made a decent amount of money. I originally wanted to be a doctor, but the extra schooling and additional debt I would incur to do that knocked that out of the running for me (mostly the schooling – I had already been in school for 13 years before college).
Within a year of graduating college, we both were able to get good jobs working a set 40 hours a week. We even got a signing bonus when we started working our jobs, which was great considering we still had $60,000 of student loan debt between us from college. That’s a very significant amount of money.
We had to pay for college ourselves, and we funded a wedding just 2 months into our new jobs. Our family helped some with it, but we felt most of it was our responsibility as adults.
With our signing bonus and throwing all of our extra money at our student loans, we had them completely paid off within 4 years of graduating college. That is no small feat.
But I do not tell you that to pat our backs or make you jealous. I pose our situation to you as an example of how we are blessed to lead a life of excess. We were able to do all of that because we have been given much privilege in this life.
Setting Ourselves up for Success
By going to college and choosing marketable degrees, we were able to ensure we could (probably) get good-paying jobs. After securing those jobs, we were able to buy the things we needed (and some splurges that we wanted) but we kept consistent and put aside money every month to pay down our student loans.
It is also critical that we have the same goals in life. Richard and I both want to be financially independent as soon as we can (within reason) because we want the freedom it provides. We both wanted to work in our careers to earn money to put toward this goal. We are also both frugal. It is close to impossible to come to a spending agreement with your significant other if financial independence is only the goal of one half of the party.
We have always put money into our retirement accounts up to or exceeding the amount that the employer matches it. As we continue our day-to-day lives, we purposefully live on much less money than we make so we can have that extra money saved up for emergencies or to retire on. We always look for ways to optimize our spending and throw more money at our savings. It is awesome to see our net worth hit another major milestone just by simply putting extra money towards it.
We started saving money as soon as we got jobs. We did not wait until we had children, or we completely furnished a brand new house, or we bought two brand new cars, or we even felt retirement was getting close. Because we started saving immediately, that money had time to compound and grow, making us even more money in our retirement and investment accounts. And it was easier to save more money before Monkey was born, giving us a bigger emergency fund on which to rely.
We don’t let balances carry over on our credit cards, ever. If we cannot afford to pay something off at the end of the month, it doesn’t get purchased. And even if we can pay it off, we analyze it to ensure we actually need whatever it is. Because we are blessed with the jobs we have, we do not have to worry about putting food on a credit card or going hungry. Side note: If you are spending money on luxuries and still have to put food on a credit card to pay off later, you need to cut out some of those luxuries.
We have paid cash for the two cars we currently own. It is very difficult to see hundreds of dollars every month go toward paying a car payment and realize that only a small fraction of it is actually going toward paying on the principle. For this very reason, we have saved up money for many months to be able to purchase our cars with cash. Fortunately, we have not have a car completely die on us or get totaled without warning.
We are Beyond Blessed
We live a life of excess not only because we set ourselves up for excess, but also because we are blessed to have started out with a leg up in this world. For that, we will be forever grateful.
We know not everyone has been given the same opportunities we have. Some families only have one income. There are people that have major medical issues that require extensive treatment. Many people get laid off from their jobs without warning. Even some skilled labor jobs are being overcome with automation and technology.
Another major point to note is that people make mistakes. When the mistake deals with large amounts of money, it can be very difficult and feel impossible to get back on the right track and overcome it. Whether it is a huge credit card debt you wracked up in the past or a new car you bought and shouldn’t have, it is in the past. You can decide now to work on correcting that money issue in your life and get in a better position financially.
One way to get on the right track is to make a budget. It is an invaluable tool to help see and control all of your finances. If you would like to receive the free budget worksheet, you can request it below.
Once retired, one of my desires is to volunteer in organizations that help children work toward bettering their futures and setting themselves up for success, like STEM groups, Girl/Boy Scouts, and church groups. I would love to help children and teens learn to manage money early and help give them the tools they need to better themselves and others.