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(Photo courtesy of Kevin Newton)
This week we have: FIwith2kids!
Wins & Losses
Much like most of my peers in the Millennial generation, my parents pushed me down the college path. Both of my parents took some college classes, but never completed their degrees as life events such as weddings, houses and kids got in the way. They both regret not finishing their studies to this day.
Since they saw many of their degreed coworkers getting ahead, they felt that college was the most likely route to success for their children.
I was lucky enough to have a knack for school from an early age. I especially excelled in the areas of math and science where the clear-cut rules, laws, and theorems seemed to come naturally. I was always inquisitive of how things worked and enjoyed taking apart toys to see what made them tick.
Based on this combination of interests and skills I decided to pursue an Engineering degree when it came time for college
I was lucky enough to get accepted to my dream school which was a prestigious state school with a Top 10 Engineering program.
When I arrived on campus my freshman year, I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I definitely wasn’t the big fish in my small town high school anymore. I struggled mightily in my early college years as my uber-competitive classes were filled with brilliant minds who were all used to being straight A students.
As I progressed through college I found that I could succeed by out working some of my smarter classmates.
That is why Life Win #1 was graduating from college with honors
I have never worked harder for any single goal in my life. The years of grueling work were totally worth the moment of walking across the stage to accept my diploma as the 1st college graduate in my family.
The embarrassment of not finding a job
Unfortunately, after graduation, the smile quickly left my face as reality and Life Loss #1 sank in. I had been unable to secure a full-time job due to the poor job market in 2009. Most of my friends were able to get jobs through the companies where they had interned the previous summer.
I had interned as well, but the automotive supplier from my internship was on the brink of bankruptcy and wasn’t going to be an option.
I continued my job search during the summer after graduation. It was by far the least enjoyable summer of my life.
Each week was another opportunity to add to the pile of rejections
This disappointment was compounded by the never-ending stream of social media posts from my former classmates detailing their new dream jobs.
After a long summer and as fall approached, I was finally able to secure a job. The economy seemed to be turning the corner from the financial crisis and employers were beginning to hire again.
This came at a good time as the 6 month grace period on my student loans was almost up. Even though I had attended a public in-state university I still managed to rack up nearly $70k in student loans.
The pay was decent for a first job, but most of it disappeared to pay back my loans and to cover the rent on my modest apartment. After a year of living paycheck to paycheck, I discovered that the balances on my loans had barely decreased and I was informed by my landlord that my rent was going up 10%.
It was at this point that I realized I had to get out from under my debt and start saving if I wanted to ever experience the success my parents had envisioned for me
Reaching Positive Net Worth
I already lived simply and wasn’t much of a “Consumer”. Since there wasn’t much fat in my budget I decided that my best chance of getting ahead was to increase my income. Over the next 5 years, I focused my energy on my career and was able to gain a couple of promotions.
I also changed employers twice during this time which allowed me to double my income.
Each time I got a raise I split the extra money between investing in my tax-advantaged retirement accounts and increasing the monthly payments on my loans.
Along the way, I discovered Mint which I began using to track my monthly spending as well as my net worth. At first, my net worth was tens of thousands in the red. It seemed like only a dream that it could ever reach the positive territory on the chart.
However, after 3 long years, the dream finally came true for Life Win #2. The day I reached a positive net worth I could feel the weight of my debt disappear. At this time I still had loans, but I had cut the principal to $35k and I had the savings to pay them off in full if I needed to.
I no longer felt like I was drowning without a life raft.
Losing My Grandfather
Over the next 5 years, life was mostly good. I went through several life milestones including getting married, buying a house and having two children. I was also excelling in my career allowing my wife to pursue her dream of being a stay-at-home mom.
Everything seemed to be falling into place when my mom called and said my grandpa was suffering from another bout of pneumonia and wasn’t doing well. Within 3 days he would be gone (Life Loss #2).
Until this point, I had been blessed with having all of my grandparents. However, living out of town for the last decade had significantly decreased the amount of time I had been able to spend with them. I wished I had had more time with my grandpa.
Additionally, I feared that this same scene would play again and again over the next few years as my other grandparents got older.
I realized that although I had resolved the money issues in my life, I had done so at the sacrifice of my time. I hoped there was a way to make the opposite exchange. This thought and subsequent Google search led me to discover the Financial Independence community.
The implication that I could use money to create complete freedom of my time was remarkable.
I became a voracious reader of all things Financial Independence/Retire Early. It even recently pushed me to launch FIwith2kids so that I could join the conversation. The blog has been a wonderful learning experience and has allowed me to discuss my thoughts on time management as well as my financial plan for early retirement.
The best thing from starting the blog has been the relationships I have been able to build with others in the FIRE community. I have met and interacted with so many amazing people each of whom have been so supportive. I’m looking forward to continuing to build these relationships and hopefully reaching Financial Independence (Future Life Win) in the coming years.
The first time I read through this submission, I had a problem… I wanted to highlight every sentence early on. There are so many nuggets and takeaways up there so make sure that you’ve got your reading glasses on. What was your favorite takeaway from this post? Let us know in the comments below so that we can keep the conversation going!
Thanks for reading!