Slowly Sipping Coffee

Visualizing Early Retirement – It only took me 6 years…

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.

I miss snow and cold weather.

I miss snow and cold weather.

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!”

Our Retirement Baby grows bigger each day!

Our Early Retirement Baby grows bigger each day!

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.

Please Mum, May I have some more?

Please Mum, May I have some more?

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!

What I pictured immediately after I realized we could retire early. Living the good life baby!!

What I pictured immediately after I realized we could retire early. Living the good life baby!!

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.

35 thoughts on “Visualizing Early Retirement – It only took me 6 years…

  1. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    Congratulations on finally realizing that you’re going to be able to retire soon!

    We have a similar setup with finances in our house. I tried to yet the Mr. interested in all the spreadsheets and such, but it never really took. I’m glad to hear that one day maybe things will sink in and he’ll hear what I’m telling him!

    He plays along well with the budget, so I don’t really have any complaints. He was also in the “why would anyone want to retire early?” camp, but a few months on parental leave knocked that out of him. I’m a stay at home mom now, so I guess we’re halfway to early retirement. I still usually talk about the freedom from being financial independent instead of “retirement” though. That seems to hold his attention a little longer than the crazy retirement talks.

    1. SSC

      Thanks for the comment! There is hope he may have the light bulb go off yet, and like you mentioned with parental leave helping that out –maybe he’ll come around sooner than later.

      My biggest hangup was reading about all the sacrifices people were making just to retire early. I like my job, so why would I want to give that financial security and social aspect up to scrimp and save and “get by”? No thanks, I went through enough of that growing up, lol.

      If you treat it as “transitioning to stay at home parents” or like you said financially independent, it seems a lot more enticing than “retirement”, trust me. From someone that just realized the crazy retirement camp wasn’t so crazy, congrats to being halfway there and maybe your husband will come around sooner than I did.

      -Mr. SSC

  2. Mrs. PoP

    Congrats on the realization. I was pretty similar, but it was Mr PoP saying “we can do this!” and me needing to sit down with some spreadsheets and really figure out that it *was* do-able!

    1. SSC

      Thanks! I wouldn’t have made that realization without years of “reviewing” the budgets and it was realizing that, “Holy cow, we really don’t spend a lot each year, this totally could be do-able!” The key was having those budgets and tracking spending to know what number we would need to get to FIRE. And for me, constant repetition of reading and re-reading those spreadsheets before it really sank in.

      -Mr. SSC

  3. Mrs. Maroon

    Mr. Maroon was definitely the driver in our household, like Mr. PoP. I was skeptical at first. I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I’m 100% comfortable with the retired budget. I fear it might be a little lean. But we have time on our side to work out all those details. Maybe it will sink in for me too once I have it beat into my head enough times…

    1. Mrs SSC

      I built in a 15% slush for Mr. SSC, I think that made him a little bit more comfortable. And I always round up – just for that extra cushion!

  4. Even Steven

    I’ve had a similar conversation with the wife, explaining what goes away after we pay off X, Y, and Z, then doing some napkin like budget on what would be left and how much would be coming in, I don’t think I have her just yet, but I do think she realizes it is possible and the closer we get the more I mention the possibilities. She’s actually a little afraid to tell her parents, I think that will be when she really believes.

    I would love to see the spreadsheet, even if it’s a blank one/template. I haven’t minimized my spreadsheets yet, I feel like I have 4 diff ones for whenever I get an idea in my head.

    1. SSC

      I’ve got a couple different spreadsheets too – I’m always working on optimizing them! Just this week, I fixed up my tax estimations (before I was assuming tax on the full amount we would be ‘cashing out’ from investments/dividends) -so I added in deductions, which cut out a good $4000 from our yearly budget.

      I’ll work on ‘cleaning up’ a spreadsheet for you to see, but I think I might up a quick post – I just found the email I sent Mr. SSC that made the lightbulb go off!

  5. RocDoc

    You and Mrs SSC have a good analytical approach. You’re taking your time and making sure the money is in place. I agree with you that I don’t want to retire early to an impoverished life!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yeah that was definitely my biggest fear early on. I’ve already lived a lot of my life like that, and it’s nothing I want to return to. The stress from worrying about money is way worse than any work stress I’ve ever encountered.

      Fortunately, I finally had it click that it wasn’t just spreadsheet voodoo. 🙂

  6. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    Hahaha! In our household it’s Mr. Picky Pincher who is the Gatekeeper Of The Spreadsheets. He has a natural gift for math that I severely, *severely* lack. It works out in the end though, because he does the math and I come up with cost-cutting measures. I’m the frugal/savings side and he’s the income/investment/debt payoff side. Put together, it’s a perfect financial match. 🙂

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That is a nice match! As least it’s a good balance and you both aren’t competing with your own version of the same spreadsheet. Or worse, you’re both like me and not good with finances. 🙂

  7. Mrs. BITA

    Hahahaha. I didn’t realize I had made fun of you so many times that I deserved a special mention in your post. I stand by my assertion though – Mrs. SSC is just a better person than I am. I would have clocked you over the head with an iron.

    Our household is similar to yours – I deal with all things financial and Mr. BITA is happy to let me do it. The only difference is that he took weeks to come around – not 6 years! Well, mostly come around. The one area of our budget that still makes him a little grumbly is spending on alcohol. We’re trying to reign it in a tad, and he isn’t enjoying not being able to buy what he wants when he wants. He is trying though, and I’m doing my part by trying to loosen up that budget by tightening other areas just a bit.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I don’t know that it’s been a lot, just anytime it gets mentioned, lol. On the plus side, I wasn’t against the idea – I just didn’t think it was reality, because seriously, who does that? Hahahaha It wasn’t until I thought I was truly against the idea that I actually realized it was not only doable, but we could even speed up the timeline. 🙂

      Also, Mrs. SSC was pretty laissez faire about pushing that agenda for the first 3-4 years. Yes, it was sort of in the background, but not in a “convert to FIRE mentality” sort of way. That didn’t happen until around 2013 maybe, and then it didn’t take too long.

      You know, that same sort of situation (along with my poor spending habits) is what led us to adopt the allowance system. You each get X dollars per month to spend on whatever you want, no questions asked. Ok, hookers and blow would cause some problems, but logical, within reason sort of purchases. So, if Mr. BITA wanted more alcohol, it comes from allowance.

      It’s worked well for us, but it may not work for everyone. Just a thought – but that’s the idea behind our allowances, at least when they first started.

  8. Mrs. COD

    I love your recounting of the conversations between you and Mrs. SSC! It’s awesome to have a great partner to pursue FIRE with and then enjoy FIRE/FFLC with! How exciting to be so close to those big numbers and the big lifestyle change! I’m still in awe at times when Mr. COD runs the numbers for me again and we see just how doable this FIRE thing is. It depends on how soon I return to work, of course, but the idea that retirement before 50 is totally plausible…Is sort of unbelievable to me! We’ll be watching to see when your FIRE date ends up!
    And by the way, the slow-sipped coffee is pretty darn enjoyable ?

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Isn’t it a great feeling thinking, “Holy cow, not only is this doable, but it’s even doable for us!” I know it is on my end, even if it took forever for me to realize that, lol.

      The FIRE date still bounces around and has never been one hard date. We shaved off 3-4 years just by adjusting our risk tolerances. Then we shaved off another year or so from our initial date by ramping up our contributions to investments. Now we’re pretty solid on somewhere between 2018 and 2020.

      If she gets a cool job for next year, I’m out as soon as possible, if not we keep saving and doing our thing for another year or two.

      I can imagine that slow sipped coffee on a weekday is nice. 🙂

  9. Go Finance Yourself!

    Ha! My wife and I are pretty much opposite of you. Although she’s never fought me on retiring early, she pretty much just glazes over if I show her a spreadsheet or get into any details with her. She just wants to know high level how we’re doing and how much she can spend next month (we use the allowance method too).

    Although I’m leading the charge in our family towards FIRE, I sometimes think about how crazy it is to leave a job that I love and pays really well, right in the middle of my prime earning years. But when you look at the numbers, we’ll have plenty to recreate our current standard of living in 8-10 years. At some point, earning more money becomes meaningless when you’re trading years of your life for it.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Well, it wasn’t until I got the spreadsheet and was interested in it that I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa… Fortunately, it was only about 5 minutes after that, when I realized, oh yeah, we’re good. 🙂 Until then it wwas definitely more of a “eyes glaze over and elevator muzak starts playing in my head” sort of scenario. 🙂 I was essentially the same as your wife – how are we doing, will it affect our current spending, No, then we’re good, go for it!

      I totally agree about the earning money starting to become meaningless. Our current standard of living is pretty cushy, comfortable but not extravagant, and I’m still surprised every month and year reviewing our expenses how “little” we spend. That’s looking forward to our FIRE budget, but still… Well worth leaving a career at peak years for.

  10. Fruclassity (Ruth)

    “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.” OK, that makes me weepy. SO exciting that you’re almost there! And I really appreciate the mixed emotions you’re sharing here. It is a strange thing to witness a concept becoming a reality. We can get very comfortable living life with the concept in the background, but when it emerges as reality, it can throw you off balance. So great that you appreciate your wife as you should and do. Very good Valentine’s post : )

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks for the kind words! It is getting closer, but soon is still relative, and the emotions haven’t calmed down much even after blogging about it for over 2 years now. 🙂

      It’s very strange witnessing a concept come into reality, which is what I think drives the one more year syndrome. People get afraid to step into the new phase of their life because it’s unknown, and then what if it fails and they were the ones that chose to try that and it failed. Yipes!

      What do you tell the kids, “well kids, we did have a good comfortable life where we didn’t worry about money, but your mom and I thought we could retire early and be fine financially. We were wrong…” That’s my biggest fear in all of this. I know I can deal with those situations because I’ve been in them for more of my life than I’ve been financially fine, but what would you tell the kids if it all goes pear shaped? yikes…

  11. Elephant Eater

    “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 love that line. As I’m getting close to taking the plunge, I admit I also have some fear and anxiety. Am I really going to do this?” Reading that one sentence makes it all make sense again.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Oh man, reading a lot of my earlier blog posts like this one, they’re all mostly filled with that sort of anxiety. Is this for real, can we really make it happen, what if it fails? Even after looking at our monthly numbers, and reading countless other bloggers takes on every scenario imaginable, the anxiety hasn’t necessarily dissipated.

      But… Re-reading some of those early posts make me remember, oh yeah, it’s not really about me. I’d rather try and fail and have that time with my kids, even if I eventually have to go back to the workforce at some point, rather than just keep grinding it out because I’m scared something may not work out right.

  12. Mrs. Groovy

    Gee your dialogue reminds me a bit of some conversations between Mr. Groovy and me that I recounted in a post. Except neither of you called each other an idiot!

    Congratulations on seeing the light, shaving off a few years of working, AND on your choice of spouse! The future looks bright indeed, Mr. SSC.

    And love the baby money burrito photo!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Haha, some conversations may have been edited, lol.

      Thanks for the baby money burrito comment. I’ve been wanting to use that pic for over 2 years now. 🙂

  13. TheMoneyMine

    “Who does that?! More to the point, why would anyone do that?”

    Who would NOT do that? 🙂 Last week a colleague (my age) quit his job because “he just had enough passive income to not work anymore”.

    People were shocked (me included), but that was only the confirmation that people actually do it.

    Next time someone asks you ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’, you know what to answer : RETIRED!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Coming around to realize, who would NOT do that did take me a bit, but I think it’s mainly because it’s SO outside the normal realm of thinking. People get complacent just buying things and being comfortable now, and don’t realize that you can move the goal up by 10-15 years with minimal effort.

      That’s awesome about your now ex co-worker. I’ve only run across 1 other person that’s working towards FIRE.

      Retired would be a good answer in 5 years from now. 🙂

  14. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    LOL, this reminds me so much of Rick and me. 🙂 Although I was initially the huge spender, things have changed and although I wouldn’t call Rick a huge spender, he still took years to get into the big picture thinking about retiring early. I’ll still have to reign him in from nickel and diming it, though. Yesterday it was lollipops at Walmart. I called him to check when he’d be home. “I’m at Walmart! They have 20 lollipops for $1.50!” Okay, so we’re wasting $1.50 (plus tax, mind you) and getting our kids doped up on sugar? NOOOOOOO!!! I told him “no” in a half-joking manner like a mom would tell her kid. He put them back. We have an extra $1.60 to put toward debt. 🙂 Good for you, Mr. SSC. You’ll love early retirement, although I have a feeling the snow will start to get annoying after awhile. 🙂

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      It’s amazing how the little things add up. Yep, I just fritter it away on little things like lollipops too. I think Mrs. SSC is coming around to the fact that all of that snow and extended cold may get annoying for her too.

      We’ll see how it all plays out in the near future. Congrats to you guys for reigning it in and both getting on the same page for the big picture of where you want to be.

  15. ZJ Thorne

    I really love this post, because, even though I’m the one with the FIRE goal, it does not feel like a real possibility yet. I’m not averse to the knowledge and am actively seeking it out, but it still just feels unreal.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Even though it’s closer than ever, it still doesn’t feel like it’s real. Maybe eventually it will get there, hopefully… 🙂

  16. Jason

    It still sinking in with Mrs. ROB, but there is slow but sure progress. One day at a time. Until then I will continue to move us to financial independence.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I really appreciated that Mrs. SSC just kept doing her thing in the background even if I was so slow to actually get it. At least it’s sinking in, even if it’s slowly. 🙂

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Good luck! To be fair, once I realized she was for real and really working towards FIRE and it wasn’t just a pseudo dream on a spreadsheet, i came around a lot quicker. That was probably only the last year of the 6 that I was still clueless or non-believing. 🙂

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