I’m writing this blog as a means to push myself forward on the journey to financial independence. I’m one of thousands of people trying to reach “Financial Independence Retire Early” or FIRE. I don’t think I want to retire. I enjoy my job. I work for a non-profit organization. I love what I do. I’m passionate about it. I feel like I belong. This is where I’m happy. But it’s not enough.
I have a wonderful wife, who always puts her book down when I want to share whatever inane thought I let escape my mind. We have twin toddlers. And that’s where things really got REAL. Pre-twins: we are the most fun people you could ever meet. I think in our entire relationship we never had a serious argument. We traveled, tried new restaurants, and spent a lot of time building a community of family and friends.
Then, twins hit us like a ton of bricks and we’ve never really recovered. Complete strangers approach us on the street and encouragingly say, “Just wait until they’re 4. Then it gets easier.” I want to believe that, I really do. But I’m a skeptic.
Twins demand that each parent have total focus on at least one other human being at any given moment, and often two other human beings with competing demands. There hasn’t been too much time for ourselves, and crucially not much time for each other.
We have been seeking ways to take the stress off our lives. First, we employed the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We completed the entire process and it felt great. But, then we started thinking about other changes to make our lives better. And that led us to the potentially fateful decision about whether to purchase a bigger home.
We live in one of the top 20 most expensive cities in America. We love this place and it is our home. But housing and child care are crushing expenses. We have a modest 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house, which keeps our housing costs relatively inexpensive for the city. But childcare for twin infants and now toddlers is more than $2,000 per month out of pocket. Yikes.
My wife got a promotion at work. She also works for a non-profit. We thought, “Why don’t we add some living space by selling this house and ‘buying’ a new home with an extra bedroom or two for the boys to play in and for when family visits us?” You see, it can be a tad uncomfortable asking an older family member to share a single bathroom amongst 5 people. Especially on nights where we eat Thai food – you know what I mean. There is no privacy.
I know people used to live like this all the time with 4 people sharing 1 bathroom and 2 bedrooms. Right – I get it. But I’m fine with standards changing or improving to having an extra toilet around in case there are dual emergencies. WHICH HAPPENS ALL THE TIME WITH TWINS. I mean, try telling a toddler who desperately needs to poop that he has to wait because his brother is already on the toilet. The desperation is real, people.
So we looked into purchasing a 3 bedroom home with 2 bathrooms. The problem is that in our city such a home, in a good public school district, would cost twice what we currently owe the bank. Even though my wife and I just started earning enough money to weather the occasional bad month (like a bad car repair), we would’ve been going back to a month-to-month living existence because of the massive new debt. And then where would we be? Sure, we’d have a comfortable house. But the financial stress can be overwhelming and frankly we just spent three years experiencing that – and don’t really want to return to it.
As we considered whether to buy this house, we asked ourselves: would we stay in our current living situation if someone paid us $10,000 per year to stay here. Now, that’ s a trickier question than, “Would you prefer to have an extra bedroom and bathroom?” Because my wife and I like to not waste (too much) money. Neither of us has credit card debt. We pay our credit card balance in full every month. In fact, our mortgage is the only debt we carry.
I started reading a few blogs from the FIRE movement and on our way to a hike, we did some back of the envelope calculations of our Net Worth if we stayed in our current house versus purchasing the new house. The bottom line is that we would’ve had a negative Net Worth. That isn’t what we want. If we are struggling to keep up with house payments, then we can’t pay for our other priorities like helping our kids with their college tuition (PLEASE GET SCHOLARSHIPS, TWINSIES – IT’S A MATTER OF YOUR DEAR DAD’S SANITY) and other things we want to do in our lifetimes.
We discussed the idea of pursuing financial freedom. My wife and I would probably both stay in our current jobs if we had “financial independence retire early” lifestyles. But we would no longer have the anxiety, stress and worry about “How are we going to pay for X, Y and Z?” about every. single. thing. And that would be worth it.
My job is to keep my regular job and in my free time learn how to achieve FIRE. I will employ the day to day tactical decisions to stretch our dollars and achieve financial independence. I’m good at research and I care about every dollar. I’m the guy who spends a free minute adding coupon’s on my grocery store app. My wife’s job is to keep earning income, discuss every decision, and think about our lives strategically.
Our goal: Achieve a $1,000,000 Net Worth in 10 years. What do we do when we get there? Who knows. If you had asked me 5 years ago what I would do with financial independence, I would’ve given you a different answer than today. For now, I’m not going to answer what we will do in 10 years when we reach our goal because I don’t know who we might be at that time. Everyone tells me that it gets easier when my twins are 4. Maybe then we’ll be able to figure out what to do with our lives.
Just keep going,