A little about me the Wannabe Retiree!
I did not and do not come from money. I was a Navy brat until my teenage years. Those of you that have grown up in the military may know that money and military are rarely used in the same sentence unless it is referring to the lack of money. Many nights were spent listening to the parents argue about bills and not having any money. I won’t get into a sob story about it. I know many more people had it worse.
I had to get my GED at age 16 because of some circumstances that prevented the traditional route of getting a diploma. I have been working full time since the age of 16 except for a five month period of unemployment. I started at Subway as a sandwich artist for $4.25/hour! I had many jobs in my youth and sometimes two full time jobs at a time. At the age of 18 I leased a brand new car. How could I not. The payment was only $234 dollars/month. I mean that was cheaper than my insurance rate of $300/month for full coverage in the great state of Arizona (How stupid is that and how stupid was I?) Before I turned 19, I decided to join the U.S. Airforce. I started out at a whole $800/month. Of course the first thing I did when I finished with basic training and technical school was to buy a stereo system for my car. Credit? No problem! I had excellent credit. Let’s go ahead and finance the $2,500 stereo at 22% interest on my Circuit City credit card. It probably only took me two years to pay that off.
I eventually got married at the ripe old age of 20. I left the military after only a few years and got a job in an aluminum extrusion/anodizing factory. I was finally making $7.80/hour working 12 hour graveyard shifts at least 4 days a week but usually more. I took classes at a university hoping to get a computer science degree but eventually stopped because I hated it, but not before I received my associates degree in general studies. Woo hoo! I was well on my way to financial freedom! Sarcasm aside, this was an accomplishment and it has helped me in my career, because any degree is better than no degree. Anyone that furthers their education to reach their dreams is usually on the right path. We rented a crap apartment during this time and eventually saved up enough money for a down payment on a house. The second item on the American dream/American nightmare checklist was finally checked off.
During my factory days(dark days) at the age of 22, I started a 401k, contributing a whopping 6% of my paycheck. When I quit, I had about $6,000 in my 401k to show after 5 years in that shit hole (This was right after the dot com bubble bursting). I was getting divorced and “luckily” kept the house and after a 5 month hiatus from work I landed a job as a research and development technician for $11.00/hour. I put a whole 8% of my paycheck into my new 401k. Life was pretty good. I eventually sold my house for a profit and lived with a friend on the cheap. During this time I also had a son and helped support him. I tried going to the university to study art but eventually had to drop out after a year and a half. I moved up in the company I worked for and stayed there for almost 6 years until a better opportunity came. I was 31 and was now going to be making about $40,000/year! I really thought that my life was coming together. I rolled over my 401k to my new Vanguard 401k plan and had about $34,000.
I have been at my current job for the past nine years. During that time I got married again to the Mrs. Wannabe Retiree and we have a total of two kids. I bought a town home and eventually started renting it out after buying another house. My family and I now live in a single family home that is probably bigger than what we need but suits our needs/wants for now. My raises and promotions increased pretty steadily because I busted my ass to show that even though I did not have a degree, I knew what the hell I was doing. My contributions to my 401k fluctuated from around 8% to 13% of my pay until I got serious about early retirement. Now I contribute close to the max of $18,000 a year to my 401k. I dabble in the company stock and sell it when I get a bit of profit to help fund vacations and other life events. I was putting money into a Roth IRA then stopped so that I can start contributing to a taxable account.
I wanted to write a little about myself, my education level (or lack thereof), and work history for a couple of reasons. First, I want to hold myself accountable for my goals and how I plan to achieve them. Second, I hope that readers(hopefully there will be readers) will find some similarity in their situation and have hope and a desire to start their own journey. Life constantly changes. Our way of living, what is important to us, what we value, how we see our life is constantly being challenged and evolving. The only person responsible for how we end up is ourselves. Ok, enough with the self help babbling. If people are going to read this blog then I just thought it would help to have a little background on the blogger.
For the past several years I have been obsessed with retiring. When I say obsessed, I mean checking my retirement account several times a day, what I will spend, how much I could potentially save, how much I need to retire, what I could spend in retirement, and on and on the cycle went. My goal for the past 8 years or so, was to retire by the time I am 60. This seemed daunting but feasible and people thought it was ridiculous that I though this was a possibility. I was confident in my ability to do so but 20+ more years of working seemed like a long nightmare, but I figured I had been through worse. Retiring at 60 would allow 10 good years of traveling and to pursue the things I enjoy before I was decrepit and done enjoying new things.
I researched and read many online articles that spewed the same retirement advice. Max your 401k, take advantage of your employer match, cut out lattes, have a savings account, buy a house, buy rental properties, and etc. I was putting money into a 401k(not the max but what I thought I could), I did buy a house (now on my 3rd), I didn’t go to coffee shops very often, I converted my second house into a rental property, and I always had some money in savings. Don’t get me wrong, most of these suggestions are relevant and important. However, these things will not get me to my goal of financial independence as soon as possible.
I compared myself to the average retirement investor, the average consumer, and the average family. I know that I probably shouldn’t do these things but i couldn’t help it. I wanted to better off, ahead of the game, and be secure in my present and future. Trying to just stay ahead of the pack of my peers was never enough for me so I toolk the next logical step and have decided that I am going to retire at age 50. That’s right, my goal has now been revised! The things that I thought were possible can be achieved earlier if I make the right choices. Thanks to other blogs (MMM, GoCurryCracker, jlcollinsnh, and many others) I have a chance to achieve early retirement just as they did or are going to. It took me 40 years to get to this point but at least it was later rather than never.
Do we need another financial independence journey website? Does anyone care? Probably not but I’m doing it anyway because I feel like I have to. If I’m going to be obsessed about something, then I might as well write about it in a permanent space so that I can keep my goals on track. Maybe this site will help other people that have the same goals. There has to be more people out there that have the same trepidation’s, concerns, and lack of education in financial independence as I do, right? Others have written how they got their financial independence after the fact. Others have posted their own journey. Many have been extremely helpful in my education to start down this path of financial independence, with what I am sure will have many twists and turns.
My hope is that whoever reads this will want to contribute and discuss ways to financial independence(fi), help each other reach their goals and believe that life beyond work that you have to do is possible. I plan on adding more information to this site, which will include financial goals, stories, and random thoughts. I have never blogged before, so I will stumbling along as I go. Thanks for reading!
I’m 40 right now and our new goal for both myself and Mrs. Wannabe Retiree is to retire by the time I am 50, she will be 44. You may wonder if we are on track. I wonder that too. This is my first post on the subject and so only time will tell. I may change my mind on the final numbers if life takes me that way but here are the goals as of right now.
Our Financial Goals to retire by 50:
Roth IRA: Don’t care!
Am I crazy? Maybe. I’m sure if there is anyone that does reads this site, they may think so. But, I can’t concern myself with them, unless they can help me get there. How far along am I? Well, that is a complicated answer in some aspects but I will try to break it down.
Current Financial State:
401k: about 26% there
ETF: about 2% there
Cash: who knows, its constantly fluctuating! It’s dwindling down as I write this. Gotta love diy remodeling!
Roth IRA: I do have some money in there. Enough for an economical car.
How in the hell am I going to reach our goal. I have been putting away money into a 401k for 18 years and I am only a 18% of the way to my financial freedom number…. It’s hopeless. I should just quit now and hope I can retire by the time I am 65.
Ok, I took a deep breath and now I’m back on track.
First, I bumped up my 401k savings. That seems logical I thought. Now, I am contributing the max allowed which of course is $18,000 per year according to my age. The company matches 3.5% of what I make per year which will add another $2,500 to my 401k for a grand total of $20,500 deposited into my 401k. Easy peasey right?! Now a lot of people would probably stop reading right now. I get it. Life is not that simple. It’s not easy raising a family, paying for rent or mortgage, utilities, car payments, food, entertainment, insurance, vacations, and everything else we are accustomed to. But for those of us that have a different goal, a different pursuit of what happiness is. It comes down to a simple philosophy for me. Reduce or get rid of what doesn’t matter!
Second, I opened up an ETF(electronic traded fund). I wanted to have an account that I can access at anytime, without penalty, and with the freedom to do with it as I will. I decided that I will deposit a minimum average of $200 a week into this account. I then talked to the Mrs Wannabe Retiree, and she will be doing the same as soon as she finishes nursing school and starts her career this summer. That totals a minimum of $20,800 being shoveled into the ETF account. Holy crap, that’s about how much I made in a year when I was in my early 20’s! Ok, now those that have not left after reading the last paragraph are probably f’n pissed off or don’t believe a word they are reading right now. Younger people just getting started may only be taking home $200 a week. Just remember these are my numbers because I didn’t do as much as I could/should have when I was younger. I have to allocate this much to even have a chance of making my goal.
Third, we will save any extra money not allocated to something. (Extra paycheck month, bonus, tax returns, raises) I anticipate that this will be between $5,000 to $10,000 added to the pot every year.
Some people may have some serious questions about how I came up with these numbers? Well, I figured out that we will need about $40,000 a year to sustain our current lifestyle. This will include house payments, food, utilities, vacations, insurance, and all the other bills that most of us have. We need about 25x what we spend annually to fund our retirement.
“How the hell are you going to fund your whole retirement on this amount?” Others may think it is more than they would need. If you run the numbers, which I very much like to do. Use FireCalc to see what you may need to retire with confidence. FireCalc takes the history of the stock market and outputs your probability of being able to be retired for X amount of years. This includes all eras, like the great depression, dot com bubble, housing bubble, and all the good years as well. I find that a total of 1.1 to 1.2 million should be enough for me and mine. As I get older I may not need as much as I think, I may need more. I will prepare as best as I can and adjust when the time comes. One thing I have figured out in my life, is that people in general are resilient and will find a way to survive. And if you don’t survive, well…. none of this will matter anyway.
I didn’t take into account social security although I do believe there will be benefits dispensed when the time comes. I wanted to focus on the things I can control which is our savings rate. I may miss out on the latest and greatest technology, toys, and superficial desires. But you can probably guess that none of that is important to me right now. I will still have my house, my used paid off cars, my hobbies, a couple of vacations a year, and my family. Will I live like a king? Nope, of course not. Will I be suffering just to meet my goal? I hope the hell not!