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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