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The Educator on FI/RE interview series features educators exploring routes to financial independence. They come from a variety of roles and at various points on the path. It’s my hope that these interviews build community and help show other educators what is possible. It’s a chance to learn from others and seek feedback – reply in the comments below.
Today’s interview features Dave (and Ashley!) from Minimalism and your Money. Their site recently launched and is off to a great start exploring minimalism and personal finance. Make sure you click over and check it out after reading this interview.
I’ll stop typing and let you read their story:
Tell us about you.
I am a high school social studies teacher in a smaller town outside of Boston. I currently teach US History and Psychology. My wife, Ashley, is also in the education field as a school adjustment counselor. We have two kids, ages 5 and 4.
As Ashley and I have grown older, and especially once we became parents, we started to really prioritize things in our lives. I started to really learn about personal finance and think about the idea of financial independence about four years ago. The idea of minimalism came about a year after that. I think I have defined what I want out of both of those categories in unique ways, but ultimately I want to have as much time as possible for the things that matter to me. Both personal finance and minimalism have helped me head in that direction and made me much happier.
What do you like most about working in education?
The best part about teaching is having summers off and being out of work at 3:00 every day! Just kidding, I wish that were the case.
My favorite part of working in education is the actual teaching aspect of it. I love interacting with my students and I enjoy developing and improving lesson plans to engage students. I have the most fun when the period starts and it’s just me and the kids in class. I am fortunate to have a lot of freedom and flexibility in how I teach my classes. I think autonomy is one of the most important factors in a job.
What do you like least?
The hardest part is all the meetings and the paperwork. Writing up goals, evaluations, and student reports can be a bit of a drag. Basically, I struggle with whatever takes me away from the actual time in the classroom and time preparing a lesson. Teaching is by far the best part about being a teacher, so the more time I can just teach, the happier I am.
What is your Why of Financial Independence? (Why are you learning about or seeking FI?)
I’m trying to learn as much as I can about financial independence because I love the flexibility that it offers. In my first post, I talked about how I was fake frugal. Basically, I thought I was being smart with my money, when really I was just fooling myself.
- 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!
I would consider myself Future FI at this point. Granted, that is a ways down the road, but I do plan to get there earlier than my normal retirement date would be. There’s a lot to learn!
Share any financial numbers you are comfortable sharing:
Ashley and I are both on the higher ends of our respective pay scales. I am basically at the top, with over 11 years of experience plus two master’s degrees. The only way I would be able to make more would be to get my doctorate, and that is not happening! Ashley also has her master’s degree, but she still has a few more years to move up the pay scale because she had started later. I have a 403(b) and Ashley has an older retirement account from a previous employer. At this point, however, we are still working to pay off various student loans. We still owe about $29k, so that is our biggest target for any extra money at this point. We do own a house, and although we have a mortgage, we do have a decent chunk of principal put toward it, so if we count that towards net worth, we are well in the positive.
Tell us about your path to FI.
What are your successes/wins?
Wins – We have been able to pay off nearly $40k in student loans over the last two years. We have also become much more mindful of our purchases throughout the last few years. We still go on vacations, we still buy things, we still do some work to the house, but each major money decision is carefully thought out. Previously, we probably would have just done it and figured out the money part later. I traded in my expensive, gas guzzling truck for an older Mazda 3. I do miss the truck, but I don’t miss the money flying out of my wallet with the expensive repairs and the 12 MPG it was getting.
What are your challenges?
Challenges – Over the past few years, with two working parents and young kids, our daycare costs were nearly twice our mortgage payment! It seems insane, and it is! Massachusetts has one of the highest daycare rates in the country, and it hurts. Our oldest son started kindergarten this year, so that has felt like a massive pay raise to us. In 2020, we will finally be daycare free and we can really dedicate our money toward saving and investing.
What is your long-term goal? Do you have a FI target?
I know we’re supposed to have long term goals and target dates to help motivate us, but we really don’t. The long term goal is to learn as much as I can about personal finance and be in a position where I have flexibility.
If you become financially independent will you:
- Retire early?
- Continue to work in education? (How/why?)
- Do something different?
I’m not sure about this one. I really do enjoy my job as it stands right now, but a lot can change in a short period of time. If I did decide to retire, I feel like I would still have to be involved in education in some form. Maybe that would be volunteer work, or a part-time position within a school, but I don’t think I could just leave the education field completely at a younger age and not look back.
Tell us about a short-term goal you’re working towards.
We are trying to kill this last chunk of student loans by the end of next school year. If we can pay about $1400/month for the next 15 months or so, we should be very close.
Who/what inspires you?
On a personal level, I’m consistently inspired by my wife, Ashley. She has always been there for me, and when I came up with this crazy idea to start a blog with her, she was so supportive. Also, my parents are an inspiration. Despite growing up in a pretty affluent household, they taught me the value and importance of money. I was incredibly fortunate to be as well-off as we were growing up, but my parents never let me take that for granted. Looking back on it now, that is one of the most powerful lessons I received from them.
What’s something you want to say to other educators about financial independence?
Take the time to learn about personal finance and financial independence. I think many educators, including myself for the first ten years of my career, don’t know all that much about 403b’s, investing, and all of the options we have. I think many educators look at a pension as the only thing they need. That’s not necessarily the case, plus it provides no flexibility. I would also encourage everyone to read your post, The 15 Money Things I’d Tell a New Teacher.
Is there anything you’d like to get feedback on from the community?
I would love to find out more about the ongoing debate about where to prioritize my money. In a few years, we will be reallocating our daycare money. Should it go toward investments, paying off mortgage, or 529 plans? Decisions, decisions.
I would also love any feedback on my new blog. It is a work in progress and I am always up for new suggestions.
Where can readers reach you if they want to connect?
Impressive progress by two educators juggling daycare expenses and student loans while living in a high-cost-of-living area. I encourage you to go to the website and read more about their story. I know I’ll be following Dave and Ashley’s progress.
If you missed it last week, don’t forget to check out Diana’s story of supporting a family on one educator income in another eastern metro area.
So many impressive educators taking control of their finances. You can find all the Educator on FI/RE interviews here.