Are you – or do you know – a mom on FIRE?
Not literally, of course.
Before I started this site, most of the financial sites and blogs I read were devoid of women. My usual round-up included Mr. Money Mustache, J. Money’s Budgets Are Sexy, the White Coat Investor, and sites like Bogleheads which frankly have very few women. The few blogs I found run by women were pretty much unanimously run by women without children. I was hoping to find people more like me. Moms who were seeking financial freedom, who may or may not be the breadwinner, but were interested in nerding out about money and refused to accept that retiring at 60/70 (or never retiring) was the only path.
Luckily through writing on this site I’ve been able to find (and even feature) some amazing women on a similar path to me. So today I wanted to write a bit about what it’s like to be a mom on FIRE, and get your perspective on the subject in the comments.
When Mom Wants To Be Financially Free
I’ve guest posted over on Budgets are Sexy about being a bread-winning mom seeking financial independence for my family in my 40’s (that post was even picked up by Business Insider!). Why? Well, I’ve been on a journey to seek financial independence for about 20 years now, since the time I was a teenager. At first I wasn’t really sure why – I was just drawn to the idea of being independently wealthy and being able to really choose what I want to do with my time – not selling it to the highest bidder.
As I read more and more books, and later websites and blogs, the idea of financial independence stayed with me but the timeline to achieve it kept shrinking. At first I just hoped to achieve financial freedom in my 60’s, at traditional retirement age. Then it was in my 50’s, and it seemed achievable since I started so early. Then as my income increased from $22k per year to six figures, from community college to an MBA, I kept lifestyle inflation in check and brought it down to my 40’s.
Why not my 30’s? Let’s just say that when you started your investment strategy in the year 1996 the market winds were not at your back. In fact they actively worked against you, decimating your early first few years of savings (when having set aside $10k was a huge achievement) in the dot com crash of the early 2000’s. Then of course there was the Great Recession (which came along with a job loss when my husbands workplace closed), medical crisis when I was 32 that resulted in my husbands near death and many years of tremendous medical expenses, and the fact that the S&P 500 gained exactly nothing from the time I started my career until I was in my 30’s. And lets not forget the fact that I have three kids – and if you ask most parents, they “spend so much money on their kids” that they could never think about financial independence.
Despite the setbacks and the market forces working against me, I never gave up my dream of reaching financial independence. I believed in myself, and in the power of the market, and that there would one day be a reversion to the mean with the markets going up again. While my peers were out free spending in their 20’s, I set aside money for retirement. Co workers might have given up on investing ever returning what it did in the 90’s, but I kept squirreling money aside. Since the market’s been on a tear since the Great Recession ended, and I had set aside a solid base of funds, the money I have has doubled and is doubling again (compound interest at work).
With Kids In Tow? Yes.
I had my oldest son when I was just a few months out from turning 23. So for almost my entire adult life, I’ve been a mom. I don’t know anything else, really. Most of my co-workers are just having their first child at my age (or have only very young kids), while I have a son headed off to high school.
This means that college costs are a much more immediate concern to me than my co-workers – but it also means that when I’m in my 40’s two of my three children will be out of the house. College costs will be done and over with, and there will be only one child left to go.
You can read the press around how hard it is to raise kids, how expensive they are, how kids need to have this or that or the other thing to keep up with their peers. Hogwash, I tell you. My kids remember nothing from their first six – seven years of their life. How do I know? I just took a poll for this post and asked the earliest things they could recall. The memories they shared were from when they were six and seven years old. Childhood amnesia is a real thing. If you give them simple home parties, do fun free activities, take them for activities at the library, and do other free and inexpensive things – you’ll save a ton of money and your kids won’t feel a bit deprived.
Fun Free Stuff We Did in June
What about when they’re teenagers? When they want to succumb to peer pressure? My oldest son couldn’t care less what other people think about him, has no desire to follow the crowd, and in fact has a general disdain for the stuff the “cool kids” are doing (like dabbing, bottle flipping, and fidget spinners). I take all these as signs I’ve done my job well. And guess what? If your kids don’t get the latest and greatest stuff at all times, they’ll live. A little bit of not getting everything they want when they want it is good for building character.
This doesn’t mean that I deprive my kids. We do still do tons of library passes, visiting free museums, and free/discounted activities. But we’re also active in Boy Scouting, with my oldest son working toward Star Scout – going on camp outs, to scout camp, meetings every Tuesday and many weekends. We take my oldest son to the bus stop at 6 AM and pick him up at 4 PM so he can go to a magnet arts school. My middle son played several sports in addition to being in drama club. And the little guy goes to swim lessons at the YMCA, and will be off to preschool next year.
Where do I not spend? On fancy expensive vacations, instead going for road trips and camping (post on Friday!). On new clothes until they’re older – clothes are given as birthday/Christmas gifts and purchased at thrift and consignment shops. On new toys – same rules apply. On ultra-fancy, ultra expensive lessons/activities at obscenely young ages, on expensive birthday parties for toddlers, or on a bunch of stuff they don’t need/won’t remember in five minutes.
Kids can be as expensive – or as inexpensive – as you want them to be. Plan accordingly, and remember that you’re the parent – it’s your money – and your kids don’t make the decisions on where you spend it.
Seeking Financial Independence With Kids – The Challenges
How is seeking financial independence with kids different than without? Two main ways:
-You have a responsibility to your children to provide for them, and to provide for them reasonably well. Most people with kids won’t move into a tiny home, or a motorhome traveling the US when they have young kids. When I hear about people doing that I think that it sounds like fun, but I wouldn’t do it while my kids are at home. Same goes for quitting a job and eating ramen to get a business up and running. You might do it to yourself, but you won’t let your kids go hungry.
-They are expensive, especially over time. Kids won’t ever cost zero dollars. You can get the cost down pretty low, but they’ll still be there – and even a few thousand a year compounds tremendously over 18 or 22 years (or more, if you let them move back in with you after college)
But despite the challenges of seeking financial independence with kids, and the fact that a larger family is a larger drag financially, I wouldn’t trade my three boys for earlier retirement.
What Do You Think?
Is it harder to seek financial independence with kids in tow? Why is financial independence important to you? Do you also wish there were more women – and moms – out there talking about their FI journey? Let me know in the comments.
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41 thoughts on “Moms on FIRE – Thoughts On Seeking Financial Independence With Kids In Tow”
My parents both retired before traditional age and raised 3 kids. I can check off the boxes for hand me down clothes, and camping road trip vacations. I remember my birthday party the year I had a loose tooth. Mom would make stuffed shells, sausage & peppers, maybe we’d get a party sub. She would make the cake. Then everyone hung out in the backyard. Often there was a homemade pinata and kids games. It became a joint birthday party with my brother as he is born in the same month.
Dad’s company picnic was at a theme park (it was the 80s), they’d have the picnic grove for food, and then we had admission to the park. That solved any ‘need’ for that as entertainment because we knew we would go once a year.
I can’t think of a way spending more money would have enhanced my childhood. I am still all about museums and National Parks, and the library and free events in town.
I did ask for something pretty expensive that lead to a second expense. I suggested we could adopt, so I could have a little sister, and then we said, ‘hey we should get a brother for dad to play sports with’. Who listens to a 4 year old!!?!? My parents, apparently and totally worth it.
Love the expensive brother and sister story-kids are costly in terms of money, but they’re just priceless in terms of life. I’d rather have my kids and a lower standard of living than more money but no kids.
I think it’s possible and very doable! But only when the family is on the same team and are working together! There’s no reason you can’t get the family working as a closely knit team and all excited about the same goals!
I may not make it there as fast as other people, but at least I’m in the running to get there! Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming, as Dory says!
I’m so with you-just keep swimming!
I’m a mom pursuing FI, and I get you!! Sometimes I’ll read blog posts from people who obviously don’t have kids, and realize they don’t have to make decisions about childcare, careers, what to do during the summer, college… but for me, the whole reason I’m pursuing FI is for my kids. To be there for them when they’re older, help them out, teach them how to manage money, show them that bY saving and investing, they have a ton more freedom! The choices I’ve made and the sacrifices, especially career sacrifices, have been worth it.
I know what you mean. I have nothing against people who don’t have/don’t want kids-I’m all about making decisions on what works for you! Some people choose to not have kids and some have that choice made for them for various reasons. Although I enjoy reading those bloggers stories I know that my life and my circumstances mean that my choices/issues/challenges will be very different from theirs. I hope I can help other moms to see that this is a possible journey-and although a lot can go wrong, we can keep striving for those big goals! 😀
I am very glad to be able to read a FIRE blog by a mom! At the age of 37, I just gave birth two months ago to my first child and, although I always considered myself a good saver, the sudden realization of all the expenses to come is quite overwhelming. Daycare? Nanny? Or have Grandma move in with us? Asking for reduced or flexible hours at work means less pay? Pump in the middle of the work day (stepping out of conference calls and meetings)? Or pay for formula? Constantly buying new clothes and toys for an ever growing child? Most other FIRE blogs don’t tackle this issue and it is refreshing to see that you have written about this. Thank you.
Congratulations on your first child! You’re exactly my age – 37 – and I can relate to all of the questions you have. Clothes and toys need to change so often for young kids that I never buy new until they’re much older. My boys always outgrow everything well before it wore out/got ruined! Best of luck to you & enjoy the time with the baby. They grow up faster than you think.
My husband and I consider ourselves partially retired, and our seven-year-old asks us a lot of questions about why we’re so different than the parents of her friends. Why do we go on less fancy vacations (although I think we still have nice ones.)? Why don’t we go out to dinner more? Why don’t we work regular jobs?
What we’ve told her is that we used to work a lot more, but now we’ve made choices that we made so we can spend more time together, and spend more time doing things we enjoy. But that means we have to be careful about money so that we can have that time, and we can’t have everything. Making those choices means we’re always around to take her to Girl Scouts, or to volunteer at the school, or go to the park or have a bonfire evening or just hang out with each other.
Sometimes I think she might want that other stuff. A lot of her friends’ parents have some high powered jobs and get to do some crazy extravagant stuff. But the parents also might be out of town for work for 4-6 weeks at a time. My kiddo knows what our choices are, and understands choices have to be made.
My middle son can be like that sometimes-he always seems to be wistfully talking about big houses, home renovations, and SUV’s. Like you, I use those discussions as jumping off points to talk about choices and how you can’t have everything. You choose what to do with your time, and your money, and sometimes having more of one means less of the other.
Home renovations – this could be a great opportunity to teach him some useful skills! Home Depot runs a kids program (I think the first Saturday of each month) where they teach kids simple things like how to build a birdhouse with hammer & nails (FREE, including supplies). If your son has something specific in mind (say a subway tile backsplash for the kitchen), why not take him to Home Depot / Lowe’s and show him the whole process of selecting the product, pricing it out among various stores, learning about tile adhesives & waiting periods for drying, let him smell it so he knows it will stink up the house for a while… and make that “his” project – i.e. if it’s gonna cost $200, tell him it’s all his and he can save up for it and do any renovations he wants. Kind of like if a kid wants a tree house – they can save up for it and learn to build it from scratch.
Another 37-year-old FIRE Mom here! I discovered the concept of FIRE after I already had my first child, so I can’t say that the quest for financial independence without children would be easier based on actual experience. But it sure seems like it would be! In a way, I’m glad that I didn’t discover FIRE until after kids. I have a feeling I would have turned a blind eye to it otherwise. Time, and thus financial independence, seemed a lot less valuable before my kids came into the picture. Now, I pursue FI so that I can spend more time with them…and to give our family a sense of security.
One of my biggest struggles as a mom pursuing FI is something you mention in your post….and that’s trying to curb the spending on the lessons/activities that are available to them at such a young age. It’s certainly an area that we can improve upon and one that I think I will struggle with throughout their childhood. When push comes to shove, though, I ask myself whether this activity/experience now (which they may not even remember or enjoy) is more valuable than a debt-free college experience later…the answer becomes pretty clear at that point!
I do the same exact thing with activities for my little guy! It can be so easy to get caught up in all the different things they could be doing, but we need to carefully weigh what they’re doing now vs what they’ll need in the future. My 13 year old doesn’t remember anything from before elementary school, but he’s certainly going to remember either taking out student loans or getting a debt free education. The equation gets trickier as they get older but I still want to make sure the activity will be adding real value to their lives and that it’s worth the time/money/transportation time.
I think there are more then you account for. Take myself. I’m male and write my blog. But…. Our actual persuit of fire is a team effort. My wife with our kids is just as much persuing fire as other women. But you can view the blog as a male persuing fire. The same with the bigger blogs you mentioned. Couples finance is a team sport. Who writes it doesn’t define who is persuing.
That’s a good point, but I think many of us have trouble finding others like us writing on the topic. Reading MMM or 1500 days and reading them talking about their wives part of the FIRE plan is just different that reading their wives themselves talking about the subject. Speaking for myself, that’s what I was missing in reading most finance blogs. Many of the “mom blogs” I’ve found are very basic or are about couponing/frugality. I enjoy those subjects but wanted to read about the story of moms on the financial freedom path.
We are still in the early stages of FI, although we’re working hard to get there. We are both 28, have 3 kids, 5,3,&2. My husband is moving up through the company he’s in, helping provide the 50+% savings rate we do. But although the company is a great one, he doesn’t enjoy his work.
After trying 3 different things from home on my own, we decided to build a blog together. We dream of having a platform that teaches others how to live differently, while sharing our faith through our finances.
Now that I put our background out there 😁, I think kids can slow down the pace for sure. But, I also think that’s a choice you made when having them. Oddly, in our case, the kids are a big part of what pushed us to do this. Because he feels that he is missing alot of time with them.
Honestly, it can slow you down or push you to work harder. And in the process, they make you enjoy where you right now.
I think it’s a great point that for some people, having kids can be the catalyst for FI rather than holding you back. Before kids maybe there just wasn’t a strong reason to be financially independent, but once you have them, you want to spend more time with them-and provide for them. PS when I was 28 I also had a five and a two year old! 😀
Before kids, you have plenty of time and money to do whatever you want. When those little minions join the family, everything changes!
Since you survived, I have hope, right? 😆
Yep! They’ll grow up before you know it
It’s definitely harder with kids in tow, and even more so on only one income! My son is almost 18mo, so not near old enough to understand how our choices look different from other families, but I plan to be semi-retired by the time he’s 5. He (and future siblings) will have a lot of questions I’m sure, but we are ready to explain our choices! I hope it shows him there is no one way to live your life and to follow what makes him happiest!
Also, I’m totally with you on having kids earlier than most professional women. I was older than you (25, a couple months from 26) but wayyy younger than anyone else in my company had kids. Our founder had kids relatively young and at a Christmas party said to his wife, “She’s even younger than we were!” #awkward
Glad there is another breadwinning, FIRE seeking mom blogger out there!
Yeah it can be pretty awkward when you have kids a lot earlier than your colleagues. I get some interesting looks when I talk about my son going into high school. My cube neighbor is about 10 years older than me, and both her kids are still in elementary school.
I started investing in 1999 so thanks for that painful memory. We are pursuing early retirement of sorts and will get there eventually even with three kids. Not only are they a higher cost but we have prioritized them over the hours and effort required for explosive career growth or side hustles so the income side hasn’t grown as it could have if we didn’t chose to leave early for appointments and school events or miss meetings for their sick days or just spend time together. I also worry more about the future risks because I know I would sacrifice our early retirement to fund their medical needs such as drug rehab if it came down to that. And I still don’t understand how you find the time to blog about your journey but I am loving reading about it and the inspiring working women you have featured.
Thanks so much, I’m glad you’re enjoying the site! I’m with you on some of those choices -my husband being a stay at home dad has definitely not grown the family income. Even though we could probably become FI earlier if he were working, it’s worth it to us to have him at home.
I’m not a Mom – though if I’m the only one I’m supporting, am I still a breadwinner? But I love reading posts like these and seeing such inspiration and determination : ) Things to keep in mind for the future, if I eventually (hopefully) do have kids!
You’re definitely the breadwinner if you’re supporting yourself! 😀
Nice post! I would also like to see more women talking about financial independence and early retirement. I recently retired at 37 and have 3 kids as well. Wasn’t always the plan, but life doesn’t always go how you expect it and it’s important to have options. I have found The best part of financial freedom is the ability to allocate your time the way that you feel aligns best with your own priorities. Look forward to reading more!
So true that life goes in unexpected ways! That’s why it’s great to have financial independence/financial freedom, so you have more options open to you when life happens.
Not a mom yet, but kids are a major part of pursuing FI for me. I really appreciate hearing about the ways that it is possible to have kids and keep saving, especially for those for whom it hasn’t been the easiest road. Thanks for adding your voice and experience to the FIRE community!
Glad to be of service! I love meeting so many amazing people through this site
Great post. I am a rare blog commenter but so many of your posts really resonate. I have four school age sons and am also on a personal path to FI with a bit of a later start than you. Very similar path and recently completed a masters degree working full time. At one point I was working two jobs with four very young sons. I have toyed many times with the idea of a blog but I often wonder if we are to the point of saturation with PF blogging? I also wonder if I’d have a hard time narrowing down my many interests from FI to couponing to education to public policy to philosophy to organization and minimalism and everything in between. Yet a post like this, and probably why I am drawn to your blog, makes me realize there are not that many solely from the point of Mothers driving the FIRE bus. (although seemingly lots of new pf Moms recently on twitter which I’ve enjoyed seeing the updates.) I love all of your posts and pictures.
So glad you commented Amanda! Your path sounds very much like mine. 😀 Yes there’s definitely not many posts from the perspective of moms seeking FIRE, but there certainly are some other great moms out there. I wondered the same thing about blogs before I started mine (thinking….aren’t there a ton out there already?) but I’ve found it to be a great experience. You meet so many awesome people online that you might not otherwise! If you start one be sure to drop me a note to let me know 😀
I didn’t learn about FIRE until after I starting having kids and we were already loaded down with debt. I am the breadwinner and my husband is starting his stint as a stay-at-home dad because we just had twins in May.
With the debt and late start, there is no way we can fully retire anytime “early,” so we’re working towards financial semi-independence by the time we turn 40 years old. It will involve part-time flexible work to cover frugal living expenses, while we receive rent from an investment property and let a 401k grow for later years. The reason we’re doing things a little differently is that we want more freedom while the kids (all five of them!) are still relatively young. We have plans to go on a cross-county road trip in 2022 when I semi-retire. After that, we’ll focus on homesteading to keep our cost of living low, while we do project/freelance work here and there.
Sounds like you’re on an amazing track! Semi retiring at 40 sure sounds early to me. 😀 Hope your husband enjoys his time as a stay at home dad-I know my husband loves being home with our three boys
I’m a dad but I appreciate this article all the same. For me and my wife, it’s a complete partnership — we both work full time, we both have an equal share in raising the kids (twin boys, age 5).
We’re not pursuing FIRE but whatever one’s financial goals, there’s no doubt that priorities change with kids.
Interestingly, we both noticed our careers take off after having kids. We were more motivated and focused at work and enjoyed work more, because hey it’s time with adults and not as hard as child care!
The biggest expense we have is sports and piano lessons. The kids LOVE the sports and want to do them. The piano is something we think is important. But it all adds up! Most months, we are paying about $560 on soccer and piano (two kids, one in club soccer, one in a rec league). I find it really hard to picture FI with that sort of overhead. We have trimmed a lot in other areas. We rarely go out to eat, we don’t take expensive vacations, we do lots of outdoorsy (read: cheap) things. Do you have your kids in club sports or music?
My middle son has done soccer, football, and currently does drums/drama club/Scouts. My oldest in the past has done soccer, swimming, and piano lessons, and current is focusing on Boy Scouts working to earn Eagle rank. So yes I have experience with all those, but I would be surprised if we paid $560 per year. We did a lot through the YMCA. That being said, if it’s a priority that you’re willing to sacrifice for, and there aren’t alternatives to give the same experience for less, then there’s nothing wrong with making it a priority in your lives.
YES! Thank you for blogging. I read MMM or ERE and think “but with a 2 yo and another one immanent, I just don’t have that degree of control over my life right now”. So frustrating. My time will come again, but for the moment we’ll just try and avoid unnecessary expenses (we’re pretty frugal anyways) and tuck money away each month.
What I find hardest is the rubbish financial decisions my husband and I make because we’re so flipping tired! Ready meals? Oh go on then. Driving instead of walking? Just this once. Can’t think of anything I want to do less in the evenings than check the spreadsheet 😀
You are very inspiring! I am a mom of 1 on my way to FIRE. It is possible, most of the costs people have with kids are really just luxuries. And other costs you may have, like childcare, are just temporary anyway! Having my baby motivated me to use my time more efficiently and on the things I love, it motivated me even more towards FIRE 🙂
Great post! It sounds like you’ve got a great balance with your spending and quality family time. Mr FU and I are in our forties and have six children ranging in age from 19-9. Like you we’ve always been pretty frugal with them without depriving them. Birthday parties were at home but they didn’t miss out because they’d always got plenty of friends having swim parties or laser quest ones for them to experience (and yet I’ve had loads of comments over the years from other parents that MY children’s parties were the best – maybe children just like to hang out together without loads of structure for their birthdays?!) and now that they’re all older they love getting clothes and trainers for birthdays, or money, then they can buy themselves something and save the rest.
Food is an unavoidable expense but I try to keep cost per head as low as possible without buying rubbish. It’s what I’ve always done before we discovered the FI path but even more so now. So before I might have bought some cake as a treat for the children now I encourage them to make some instead – my youngest two, who are home educated, love baking. I think my next blog post over at http://www.fiukmoney.co.uk might be about food budgets – I’ve not written about that yet. What are your thoughts on keeping food and household product budgets down? Apart from bulk buying and batch making (I really need a bigger freezer!) do you have any good tips?
Mostly bulk buying and a large freezer, but also being smart where you shop. I shop at Aldi and the warehouse clubs pretty much exclusively. It cuts way down on the cost
I am a wife and a mom. ALL OF THIS. It’s refreshing to hear this perspective from another woman who is doing it! I recently ‘broke up’ with my corporate IT career to pursue financial freedom so your message really speaks to me. When I decided to follow this path, I began paring down expenses and getting rid of all of my unnecessary spends, etc. I was so disappointed at how much money was just slipping through my fingers via subscriptions and non-essentials. After reevaluating, I was able to cut a lot of costs. Also, our only debt is our home. YES!