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In the lucky thirteenth installment of the Educators on FI/RE series, we get to read about the couple from Financial Pilgrimage. I started the series to share the stories of educators pursuing FI – no matter how they were doing it, or their place in the journey. I’m so thrilled to be able to share all the perspectives and approaches.
Mr. FP is the primary author for the site, but we get a rare visit from Mrs. FP, a middle-school english teacher! Enjoy this story of a young family pursuing FI.
Tell us about you.
Thanks for the opportunity to participate in this interview series. I hope that you and your readers enjoy our story.
At Financial Pilgrimage, our mission is to help young families pay down debt and live financially free. Behind the mask at Financial Pilgrimage is a family of four. My wife and I live in the midwest and have two young children, a 4-year-old boy and 1-year-old girl. I am 37 and my wife is 34. We’ve been married for eight and a half years.
I have worked in the banking and finance industry for the past 12 years. Mrs. FP was a middle school English teacher for 6 years. Her route into teaching was winding. She initially graduated with a degree in Communications and went to work at an advertising agency for a few years. Realizing that wasn’t her calling in life, she decided to go back to school to get her teaching certificate. After teaching for six years, she decided to take a few years off to be a stay-at-home mom. While doing so, she is completing her masters degree at a local university and is expected to graduate next summer.
What do/did you like most about working in education?
I’ve been trying to get Mrs. FP to write for my blog for months. While she edits all of my posts, I’ve been unsuccessful in getting her to write for my blog. Well, you’re in for a treat here because she agreed to respond to this question and this question only. As you’ll see, she is a way better writer than I am. I’m somewhat jealous that her first writing will be on someone else’s blog, but it is what it is. 🙂
As I was considering my answers to these questions, I realized that not one negative thought about working in education stemmed from the students and nearly every positive thought did come from them. Working with young adults, students who aren’t quite children any longer yet not teenagers either, is an exhilarating and rewarding challenge. I love watching my students grow throughout the year and I’m honored to play a small role in that growth. I also enjoy learning from my students. They have so much to teach us!
What do/did you like least?
If there’s anything I dislike about working in education, it’s the unnecessary paperwork, frivolous meetings, and lack of proper training for new initiatives. Fortunately though, I had a wonderful mentor who helped me see past these few downfalls of teaching!
(PFI Note: Thanks for writing for us, Mrs. FP!)
What is your Why of Financial Independence? (Why are you learning about or seeking FI?)
Our why of financial independence is simple: to provide more options and flexibility. We are already living this out with Mrs. FP being able to stay at home with our young children. Without being debt-free, it would have been very challenging.
I started working in 2007 right before the financial crisis hit. While I was fortunate to keep my job, all around me people were unemployed or underemployed, dealing with bankruptcy, losing their homes, or other financial ruin. For years we thought we were on the right path, but without being intentional we slowly accumulated nearly $200,000 in debt. While most of it was mortgage debt, my wife’s student loan total was almost $50,000 when she graduated with her teaching certificate.
One day in 2011 we were sitting in a bank lobby preparing to take out a home equity line of credit as two bathrooms in our house were falling apart. We had little money in savings, a mortgage, student loan debt, two car payments, and other debt. It was at that point we realized that we were on the hamster wheel and continuing to take on debt would keep us spinning. It was in that moment that we decided to change our financial story. That started with paying off debt.
- FI Curious – Just learning and becoming interested in financial independence
- Future FI – On the path, but still learning. Destined for financial independence!
- FI Success – Financially independent!
On August 9, 2018 we paid off our mortgage and became completely debt-free. Our next steps will include purchasing assets that allow us to generate passive or semi-passive income on the path to financial independence. Therefore, I would say that we are “Future FI”.
While we are in pursuit of financial independence, neither of us necessarily want to retire early. The company I work for now is outstanding and I’d like to work there until my early 50s if possible. However, I know that decision isn’t completely in my control. Industries change, organizations consolidate, and people get fired. We want to be in a position where if one of us ever loses a job unexpectedly, we are able to walk away smiling and can take our time finding our next place of employment.
Share any financial numbers you are comfortable sharing.
During the past several years, our income has increased quite a bit as we enter our prime earning years. During our 20s, we didn’t make anywhere near six figures. I started making a six figure salary in my mid-30s only a few years ago. My wife never made more than $40,000 as a teacher. While our gross pay has exceeded the six figure mark over the past several years, we’ve never had six figure annual take home pay. While we’ve recently made more than median income levels, our combined income is about average compared to others with similar education levels.
At this point, almost all of our net worth is tied up in retirement accounts, pensions, and our home. Now that our mortgage is paid off, we plan to start aggressively saving and then buy assets, likely a mix of stocks and real estate. With so much of our net worth already tied up in the stock market via retirement accounts, real estate is really appealing as a means of diversification. We live in a low cost of living area where affordable rental property is still a possibility.
Tell us about your path to FI.
What are your successes/wins?
Our recent big win was paying off our mortgage in August 2018. Being mortgage free gave my wife the flexibility to step down from her teaching job for a few years after the birth of our second child. This was a decision completely left up to her, and she hasn’t regretted the decision one bit. Young children grow up so quickly and this has allowed us both to be more active in our children’s lives.
What are your challenges?
Our biggest challenge is impatience. We started our debt-free journey after coming across Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover in 2011. While we were paying down debt, there were a lot of ups and downs. Many times it felt like three steps forward and two steps back. It wasn’t until 2016 when we had a rental property under contract that we planned to purchase with home equity, that we realized using debt to try to make money investing was not something we were comfortable with. At that point we made the decision to go all in to pay off our mortgage. That decision gave us the level of focus needed to pay down about $60,000 in remaining mortgage debt over a two year period.
What is your long-term goal? Do you have a FI target?
Our long-term goal is to become financially independent. I don’t think either of us will ever want to retire early, but being financially independent provides options. My current job is in an industry that likely won’t look the same in the next 10 years. While I would love to work at my organization for the next 15 years, the reality is that may not be my decision to make. My wife also loves teaching and will go back at some point, but if she doesn’t have to get a job it will allow her to be picky on what schools she applies for when she’s ready to go back.
We don’t really have a FI target. Our goal is to own four or five rental properties debt-free within the next 5-8 years. That won’t get us completely to FI, but if all goes as planned (which it probably won’t) it would get us about half way there. Right now, to live the lifestyle we want for our family of four, it costs about $50,000 a year. Therefore, if we can get to a point where we’re making $4,000 per month in passive income, we’ll consider ourselves FI. The reality though is even if we hit that number, we’ll still be working in some capacity, just maybe more on our own terms.
If you become financially independent will you:
- Retire early?
- Continue to work in education? (How/why?)
- Do something different?
Speaking for my wife here, I do believe that teaching is her passion and will be what she does for the rest of her life. She taught 7th graders for the past six years and that can be a really challenging age. Not many have the patience and mindset to teach kids at that age. Becoming debt-free has given her the flexibility to stay home for a few years with our young children. However, when they are older, I have no doubt that she’ll find herself back in the classroom.
Tell us about a short-term goal you’re working towards.
We are currently saving for our first rental property. If all goes as planned we hope to make our first purchase in 2020. We are still debating if we want to take out a loan or purchase with cash. If it’s with cash, it will take longer to build up and we probably won’t be able to get as nice of a property. Honestly, I go back and forth between the buy with cash and take out a loan decision almost daily. I guess time will tell where we end up.
Who/what inspires you?
My family, my parents, God, my co-workers, and many others. However, the older I get the more I appreciate my grandparents and the legacy they left for me and my family. They were first generation immigrants who started from nothing in their mid-30s here in the United States. They worked challenging jobs and saved so that their future family could live a better life. I’m inspired to do the same.
What’s something you want to say to other educators about financial independence?
I know that it’s tough to work personal finance related topics into an already crammed curriculum, but look for opportunities to do so. When I was a senior in high school, I took a US Government class. Every semester the teacher took one week out of the year to teach about the basics of investing. It was so impactful and is what I remember most about the class.
For teachers who may not feel comfortable teaching these topics, there are options to invite a guest in to do so. Next week I’m participating in Teach Children to Save Day. I’ll have the opportunity to tell a story about saving to a classroom of 2nd graders. It may not register with many, but for some children, it may be the the first time they hear this message. I had the opportunity to teach my cousin’s class years ago. She’s in high school now and we still joke about how she gets her frugal nature from my one hour lesson way back in 2nd grade.
Where can readers reach you if they want to connect?
You can connect with us on our blog at Financial Pilgrimage where our goal is to inspire young families to pay down debt and become financially free. I’m also active on Twitter @financialplgrm. We would love to connect with you!
Thanks to Principal FI for the opportunity to participate in this interview series!
Thank you for sharing your story! I love the clear plan you have, and how you’re demonstrating the power that financial independence brings already. Good luck with the rental property purchases – I can’t wait to read about them on Financial Pilgrimage.
Second grade is my favorite – and a great time to begin learning about finances. Second-graders are eager learners, so you’ll definitely have an impact!
The FP story fits in well with the other educators on FI/RE. As a group, we all seem to want financial independence but are not pushing to retire early. It’ll be interesting to see in the coming years what happens as we achieve our financial goals.