I was reading some past blog posts and I came across this one and it reminded me how lucky I am to have met Mrs. SSC. I’m also often reminded by Mrs. BITA, how lucky I am that she is so patient with me, especially because it took me 6 years to realize that achieving financial independence and early retirement (FIRE) before we turned 45 was really possible. Yes, 6 years… The following post elaborates on that backstory and the struggles Mrs. SSC has had to put up with before I finally “got it.” Thanks for sticking with me Mrs. SSC, even though I know it gets difficult at times.
So if you’ve read any of my posts you realize I suck at good financial management. I’m new to this whole realm and am still trying to get my own way figured out financially. Fortunately, I married excellently and have a financial wizard as a partner. Well, she’s just disciplined with money, doesn’t overspend, hates buying on credit, and loves spreadsheets. That all adds up to an amazingly gifted financial maven leading our household towards FIRE in 5 yrs. Yep, we’re targeting April 2019 to tell our jobs, “Thanks, but I’m good.” and transition to stay at home parents in a town that isn’t Houston. Nothing against Houston, but we both miss 4 seasons, and snow, and just cold weather in general.
Finances and relationships – A Match Made in Heaven (for me anyway)
For almost 6 years now, our relationship has been like this in regards to finances:
Mrs. SSC: “I’ll take over the finances, and budgets, and track all of that, I like spreadsheets.”
Mr. SSC: “Thank-God, and don’t please don’t mention budgets again, I thought we were doing okay with money, why do we need a budget? Do we really need a budget, are things bad?”
Mrs. SSC secretly thinking: “Thank goodness, he can’t manage his way out of a paper sack with regards to money and good decisions.”
It was a match made in heaven. I trusted her, she dealt with the finances and occasionally would seek feedback like:
Mrs. SSC: “Here’s what I’m thinking of doing with our money, and here’s why, and here’s the benefit, and here’s the risk, and here’s why the risk is worth it at this stage, but are you too worried about that and does that seem reasonable?”
Mr SSC thinks: “I couldn’t pay someone to manage our money this closely or well. Sweet! I love you Mrs. SSC!”
Mr. SSC says: “That sounds great, so how does this affect our current lifestyle and spending?”
Mrs. SSC: “It doesn’t.”
Mr. SSC: “Let’s do it, sounds excellent!”
Secretly, I was just stoked we wouldn’t be cutting back so we could be saving more, or adding to the kids college funds, holy crap they’re expensive, or whatever the hell else she had been talking about.
Yep, I trusted her with everything, and still do. Best financial decision I’ve ever made. Because of her tracking finances and realizing as long as our “apparent spending” isn’t reduced, I don’t care what she does with the money. She doesn’t have an affinity for the racetrack, online gambling, drugs, or poor non-logical decisions. Remember she’s vested in this 50% too. But there isn’t any reason to not trust her wholly with our money, especially with me knowing I would just run us into the ground. It would be fun getting there, but ultimately, we’d be a financial ruin.
Why Did This Take 6 Years to Sink In?
Lately, I have heard this from Mrs. SSC repeatedly, and I think she was hurt when she realized that either I am so bad with money it took 6 yrs to sink in, OR I wasn’t paying attention enough until recently to realize that, holy moly, she wasn’t kidding, we really can retire in 5 more years!
Our friends got it. Often they would discuss 401k elections, stocks or family budgeting. Sometimes, Mrs. SSC would volunteer her spreadsheet and send it around and I’d get emails for a few days that usually read like this. “Holy shit, are you kidding me, you guys are planning on retiring at 45! How is this right, you guys can’t retire then. We make as much and are saving as much and we won’t be able to do that!”
I was in the camp of “we can’t retire then, who retires then, how do you cover expenses until you’re 60, how do you save that much money?” I skimmed the spreadsheet and was like – Yep, looking good, thinking it was all optimistic and anything but reality. Except it was reality. It was reality. It took me 6 yrs of looking at it before it sunk in. Six years I’ve been contributing to this, working towards it (unbeknownst to me) and holy cow, I’m amazed! She is pulling it off. I can’t even begin to explain it here because it all seems like magic and witchcraft, with maybe some voodoo chicken rituals thrown in there to get our dividends up…
How Did This Happen?
It is pretty simple. We started off with a mountain of debt brought in by me, “You’re welcome Mrs. SSC”. Then we started paying it off. Aggressively, very aggressively. Since we’d been living off grad school stipends, well one of us anyway, Mrs. SSC knew that we could live off less than our combined salaries. So when she took control of the budget, she diverted as much as she could out of our checking/savings accounts to a separate account online. When it would get to a certain point she would invest it. Pretty simple.
We had a comfortable life, and except for the occasional argument around, of course we can afford it, why can’t we get it? To which Mrs. SSC would reply, “We can afford, but we choose not to afford it. If you want it that badly, get it with your allowance.” So in the background, money was always getting funneled to one place or another.
The Lightbulb Finally Turns ON!
When Mrs. SSC sent me the spreadsheet I was like, “Okay, I don’t see how this is going to work”, especially because she was talking about reducing our budget. This evoked an immediate negative reaction and recoil In horror from me and I got defensive, ready to nip this in the bud. No way was I walking away from a sweet salary at a job I like, just to be free and broke. Haha! NO WAY, NO HOW!! Let’s put the brakes on this crazy train.
I went to Mrs. SSC and said, “Yeah, I don’t see how that number is going to work. This is crazy talk. I’m not quitting to live off of Ramen.” Then I hear a sigh followed by, “OMG, what aren’t you getting?! This is the budget that we live off of now. These are all of the expenditures that will go away in 5 years, (marked out in red so even I would notice them – I didn’t notice them). Finally, here’s a column showing our expenditures to live how we do now without things like daycare, commute, house payment, etc… This is essentially what we live off of now minus those expenses.” Well, that sure had my attention!
A light bulb finally went off and I was like, “Whoa! you’re serious, that’s what we live off of?” She replied, “Well, there’s a 13% cushion but all the scenarios I’ve run has us not running out of money even with market downturns, and when we hit 60, we’re golden, because we have our 401k’s. Yeah, we can do this and quit in 4-6 years.” To which, I stupidly replied, “Why the hell haven’t you told me this before?!” Ahem, it really did take 6 years to sink in…
Its still sinking in… Sort of
Then I looked hard at the spreadsheet and said, “You know it looks like we might be able to do this sooner than later.” Of course the next few weeks were followed by daily emails from Mrs. SSC explaining, “We should hit FIRE in 2020, with a slight chance for 2019. You know, actually 2018 looks pretty doable. Nope, 2019 or 2020 for sure. Hold on! We might hit FIRE in 2017 if we really ramp up our savings…” It still goes on like that, just not daily.
Now I’m just trying to wrap my head around the fact that I’m willingly going to walk away from a great job, in the prime money making years of my career to retire and raise kids and hope it all turns out well. Who does that?! More to the point, why would anyone do that? What if the kids get sick, what if the economy tanks? Those are all legitimate concerns, but we’re both ready to deal with them and work again if we need to. To me, it’s not about leaving a job I hate, I love my job, it’s about being able to be there for my kids and get to raise them on my terms, not my employers. I want that, because my kids will remember me more than any colleague.
I’m nervous and excited and nervous, but I can’t wait. Everyday I keep thinking how I’m getting closer and closer to not making that drive, and being governed by someone else. I’ll soon be able to see the kids off to school and then slowly sip coffee before I figure out what I’m doing for the day.