early retirement, retire early, savings, laying bricks

How To Build a Brick Wall

She said: We didn’t start out with the goal of retiring early. I think our whole savings philosophy slowly began about 8 years ago when we had a credit card with a very shady bank. When random fees and charges began to show up, we had enough and decided to pay off the card so we wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore. It felt great, so we set the goal to pay off all credit cards and loans, including student loans and both of our cars. We got to the point where the only thing we owed on was our home, and due to great timing in the market we even had a lot of equity in that. On top of it, all of that money that we had been using to pay off cards and loans was now going into savings, and we were finally moving to the positive side of the equation.

L and I were both working full time and making decent money. However, a cute little baby boy entered into our world in 2011, and on my first day back to work after maternity leave I knew I could not keep it up. I ALWAYS thought I would be a working mom, but all of a sudden found myself desperately wanting to stay home with him. After a few months I got a great offer from my job to work part time, which seemed a great balance between being with our boy and still bringing in income. However, our lack of family time was wearing on me, and I knew with us planning another child that I would have to go through it all again. We set another goal of being able to have me stay home with the kids, and we crunched the numbers to see if it was possible. I made some major concessions, like I would quit shopping and eating out and I’d make cheaper dinners at home and save on commuting costs. We finally decided that it was possible, but only barely, and we’d basically be able to pay all of our costs but not be able to save any additional money.

Looking back on that now, I almost have to laugh. We thought we could barely meet the goal of having me stay home, but now with our new goal of early retirement not only are we paying off all of our bills but each month we put a MINIMUM of $1,491 into our savings and investments. It’s through our small changes, our big decisions, and our daily commitment to save money for retirement that makes it all possible.

He said: Once we saw our initial progress and how much we were saving, it made us wonder how much more we could do. Since this “big change” we spend every month trying to come up with ways to save more. Some months we have great ideas to make more money or reduce a major cost. Other months we may only increase the amount an additional dollar or two.   Either way this process has turned into a game and has become exciting. I think this has happened because we truly understand the relationship between financial independence and freedom from societal norms. In other words the sooner we reach financial independence the sooner we can do whatever the hell we want. As S said, early retirement was not the initial plan but has come about through increasing these monthly goals. If you’re reading this you probably either think we are crazy or have some interest in increased freedom and reduced debt. Either way you don’t need a grand goal to get started and you don’t have to save a fortune by tomorrow. This is a slow process that begins to snowball, for us the snowball has grown into early retirement.

I once heard an analogy about building a brick wall. When the wall is being built the builder has a general idea of what he/she wants the wall to look like and an understanding of the wall’s purpose. This wall can be as grand as the Great Wall of China or as small as a retaining wall in a back yard. Size doesn’t matter (your wife may not agree) because both walls are built the same way and must be built properly to serve their purpose. The way the builder starts this is by laying one brick at a time as perfectly as they can lay that brick. If they do this enough times they form the retaining wall in their back yard or, if so desired, the Great Wall of China. The same is true for those reading this blog. Is our goal the Great Wall? Probably not, but it is lofty. I don’t know what your goals may be, I just hope that you have them and also have the courage to lay that first brick. After that first brick is laid start working on the next one, and one day you might be surprised by what you have built.

We said: Maybe you don’t want to retire early; maybe you love your job and don’t want to leave. Maybe you just want to get out of credit card debt or pay off student loans, or just want to start being able to save SOMETHING each month. Maybe you want the peace of mind of having your home paid off, or you want to put more money aside each month for your travel budget. For some, maybe you just want to stop stressing out at the end of each month as you live paycheck to paycheck.

The great news is all of these financial goals are possible through the strategies we implement and will be talking more about in this blog. So even if you don’t share our goal of wanting to retire early, if you have ever wished you had a couple more dollars in your bank account we’re in the same boat. You don’t have to take it as far as we do to benefit from these strategies (or you could take it even further if you want!). We want to challenge you to create a goal for yourself. Maybe it is saving $10 this month, paying off a credit card, saving $5,000, paying off a house, donating more, making a small change to create a big difference, etc. So go out and lay your first brick, or in this case, save your first dollar.

 

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