Hey everyone, today I've got an awesome guest post for you by Katie of Retiring To The Road!
I'm going to get real on you for a second – I'm not a FIRE blogger (even though I get mistaken for one all the time). I'm not even actively trying to reach FIRE, because I already have my dream job and don't see a situation where I'd want to step away from it if we're being honest. However, I am part of the personal finance blogging community, so I see stories of people retiring early all the time and think it's a fascinating movement.
But I do think that there is one problem with the FIRE community. There's very little diversity. From the outside looking in, it seems like a lot of the people that write about retiring early are high earners that don't have kids. There's nothing wrong with that of course, but I've talked to enough M$M readers over the years to know that a lot of people don't relate to that scenario, even though those stories typically get featured on media outlets all the time and seem mainstream.
So nothing against anyone out there that has reached early retirement the way I described above. I'm happy for them. But…I want to hear and share stories from people that are doing it differently. Non-multiple-six-figure salaries, people that have children, etc. That's why I'm super excited about today's post! Katie and her husband Matt are trying to retire early while raising children, which I'm sure sounds like the dream life for a lot of you (unless your kids drive you crazy haha). Enjoy! ~M$M
If you looked at my life right now you’d see the model suburban household: a happy couple with full-time jobs and two happy children playing in the backyard. On the surface, our lifestyle resembles any other house on our street.
What you can’t see is that we’re saving 60% of our income and investing it in what many people consider to be a pretty radical plan.
When we tell people that we’re planning on retiring in two years (I’m 31), selling all of our stuff and traveling the country in a towable tiny house, we usually get the same response: “Really?! But you have kids!” I totally get this reaction. I figure it’s part confusion about why anyone would want to do such a thing, but also part incredulity that it was possible to save at such a high rate while raising tiny humans.
While my kids can drive me nuts, they also bring me more joy and love than I ever could have dreamed. Sipping cocktails on a beach sounds nice (and I won’t turn you down if you want to babysit my children while I do that), but I’m also pretty amped to see the Grand Canyon for the first time with my kids.
Our personal philosophy has changed since we discovered the possibility of early retirement. We’ve learned to enjoy the simple pleasures, instead of just the material BS that screams at us all day long. If we want our children to have the ability to be financially independent one day, doesn’t it stand to reason that we want to raise them with these values from the start?
Given the savings crisis that’s currently happening in America, I would argue that all families could benefit from showing their children that living minimally doesn’t have to be a sacrifice but can instead be a ticket to freedom.
Parenting for Financial Independence
Our first secret is that we’re not actually doing anything all that radical.
We’ve just turned our backs on the notion that more is better when it comes to raising kids. Our kids aren’t deprived by any means, they’re thriving. They have time and space and freedom to be kids, the way that kids used to be.
I think that most people would be hard-pressed to find fault in the guiding principles we’ve chosen to adopt when it comes to raising our kids:
We Show Our Love with Time
We don’t show our kids we love them by buying them new stuff. We show our kids we love them by making the time to be with them. There aren’t any “just because” presents at our house. They get gifts on Christmas and on their birthdays. When they get those gifts, they are appreciative, not just in search of more. For the rest of the year, we show them that we care by giving them our attention.
We Have What We Need, Nothing More
We still live in the 1,500 square foot “starter home” that we bought when we got married ten years ago. It turns out that you don’t actually need 1,000 square feet per person to live comfortably.
We do just fine in a smaller home (obviously, since we plan to go even smaller) that requires less cleaning and less stuff to fill it with.
We Consider Our Impact
Given the epic amount of damage that we are doing to our planet through the overproduction, overconsumption (and then subsequent disposal) of goods, we do our very best to avoid bringing unnecessary stuff into our house. Our kids each have one drawer full of clothes: enough to make it through the week until laundry day.
When possible, we get products second hand from buy/swap sites or thrift stores to avoid the necessity of manufacturing a new product complete with packaging waste. This isn’t something we force on the kids. They feel proud of the fact that they’re helping our environment by reducing their consumption.
We’re Mindful of Purchases
Our kids have enough toys to fill one small shelf. They have high-quality toys that encourage creativity and critical thinking. When they’re making their Christmas lists, we help them think of toys they’ll still like in two years rather than the hot new character that will fall out of favor in three months.
We don’t bring a toy into the house if we can’t envision our kids playing with it many years down the line. When a toy does fall out of favor, the kids will be the first ones to tell you that we should send them it to someone who will love it via a local charity.
We Take Care of Our Possessions
After we’ve been mindful about our purchases, we take care of those things. Our kids understand that we spent our time working to earn money to buy the things that we have and that we don’t want to have to work even more hours to replace those things.
When clothing rips, we mend it; bicycles get put in the shed so they don’t rust. We buy things once and use them for as long as possible.
We Have a Goal
Our children know our plan. They know that we are saving our money so that we can have more time together as a family. We talk to our kids about the decisions we make that support the goal. They get to see their mother and father have discussions about money and working towards a master plan.
When they have a choice to spend $1 now on a useless trinket they noticed in a checkout line or to save toward something that will be more meaningful to them later, they usually make the right choice.
We believe in giving our kids time to explore and create. They each choose one extracurricular per semester because overscheduled, stressed out kids are not really happy. They spend most afternoons after school playing in our backyard.
We spend our weekends looking for wildlife while hiking, reading books at our local library, or learning about physics by making paper airplanes. By the way, all of these activities just also happen to be free.
The Reality of Having Kids
I’m not saying that kids won’t cost you any extra cash. You have to pay for healthcare, food, childcare, etc. It might mean you have to spend a couple extra years saving before you can FIRE. What I am saying is that you don’t have to write off the possibility of financial independence if you also want to have kids.
I am never happier than when I’m fully immersed in hanging out with my kids. Having the opportunity to experience that joy full time is totally worth any extra cash that I’ve spent on them along the way.
Bio: Katie and her family are working towards financial independence and early retirement. When they reach their goal, you’ll find them traveling the United States in a towable tiny house while homeschooling their two girls. She writes about personal finance and her family’s journey to early retirement at RetiringToTheRoad.com. You can find her on Instagram at RetiringToTheRoad and on Twitter at RetiringToRoad.