"kids and fire"

 

When I first started thinking about having kids, there was one thing that I couldn’t wrap my head around. How do kids and fire go together?  I thought about how having kids would affect my own fire goals, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted to know how everyone else was planning on achieving financial independence with kids!

Bloggers speak out: Kids and Fire

First, I reached out to the blogging world. I knew my blogging friends would have awesome advice, and they didn’t disappoint!

 

Tread Lightly, Retire Early

For some people, having kids is the catalyst for pursing financial independence.  Tread Lightly, Retire Early discusses how having her first child and trying to “do it all” (as women are told we should) was exhausting, so something had to give. She was able to cut down to part time work and “live like she was financially independent”. Find out how she did it!

 

Retiring To the Road

Katie from Retiring to the Road wrote an amazing guest post about how she is able to reach fire with kids at Millennial Money Man. Her and her husband have “learned to enjoy the simple pleasures, instead of just the material BS that screams at us all day long” which I think is just fantastic. They are also raising their kids to value quality time over material items. I’m loving her plan and her advice. Read the full story here.

 

Median Millionaire

Sam from Median Millionaire also has some wise words when it comes to having children. According to Sam, “Children add to our riches, though it may take us a bit longer to retire”.  He also outlines ways to save money while raising children, which is super helpful for someone wondering how it can be done. Find out his full thoughts on kids and fire here.

 

Financial Samurai

I also found an amazing podcast on the subject. The Fire Drill Podcast interviewed Sam from Financial Samurai about the timing of kids and Fire, and he brought up some very interesting points. He admitted that kids can mess up your financial plans, but he also said that you can always readjust your finances, but you can’t always have kids. That kind of makes me worry that maybe I waited too long to figure out that want kids!  Listen to the full interview here.

 

Kids and Fire: Non-Bloggers

But I wanted to hear from non-bloggers too!  So of course, like any good journalist, I went to Reddit. I went to the FireyFemmes sub-Reddit, which is dedicated to women in pursuit of financial independence. This is the best place to get advice on all topics surrounding financial freedom from real women who are pursuing it. I got some amazing honest responses to my question there (and if anyone from there is reading this, thank you!)

Redditors Speak out

First, pretty much everyone agreed that kids can be expensive (especially childcare!). One Redditor said she was paying nearly three thousand dollars a month in childcare expenses alone!  That can really slow down a FIRE plan. Most parents had already included the cost of children into their plans though, and many chose the stay at home route to reduce costs. It was a relief to see that there were so many different ideas and options available for childcare and to mitigate the other expenses associated with raising children. 

Some parents did admit that I might not be able to achieve some of my other goals if I decide to have kids. Some children just don’t travel well. Redditor ParcelBobo explained that her child screams during car rides, and nothing she does will calm her down. I do have to accept that fact that my children’s personalities will play a role in how my future unfolds, and I’m extremely grateful to ParcelBobo for the honesty.

Many parents timed their early retirements with having kids. A lot of the answers in the thread discussed leaving work or dropping to part time when the kids reached a certain age. This gave parents the opportunity to spend more quality time with their kids. It also meant saving and paying off debt prior to having kids.

My Biggest Inspiration 

The thing that stuck out with me the most was the way most people thought about having kids. Nobody in the thread said they avoided having kids to achieve financial independence. In fact, for most people, the entire reason for pursing financial independence was their children!  But what struck me most of all is the fact that most people’s life plans included children!  I know, this is probably normal for most people, but it was strange to me!

My favorite answer was from Redditor Sugoi2, who said that one of her life goals was to have a kid. The entire point of pursuing financial independence is to live the life you want, and having kids is part of living the life I want. Sugoi2 made it so easy to understand:  I don’t need to see it as a negative, like if I have kids my goals will be pushed back. Having kids is the goal!  Thank you Sugoi2 if you are reading this, your answer was truly an inspiration to me.

Financial Independence and Kids can go together!

As you can see, there are tons of paths to financial independence that include having children. Most of them revolve around having children!  I’m really glad that I asked this question and did this research. Hearing other people’s stories, struggles, and triumphs really re-affirmed my decision to have kids. Knowing that kids and Fire really can co-exist makes it so much easier!!  And if you have a story about how having kids fit into your goals of financial independence, I’d love to read about it in the comments!

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"Mental Illness"

 

Mental Illness

Mental illness effects tons of people across the world in a variety of ways. I have suffered from a series of mental illnesses including alcoholism, bipolar and severe depression for most of my life. I would estimate that I didn’t even know I had issues for about 90% of it.  As sad as it sounds, I always just assumed that there was something wrong with me. Now that I know about these mental health issues I can look back and understand exactly how they have affected me. I’m also able to see how they fed off of each other making my mental state worse and worse as each one fought for dominance in my head. I used alcohol to combat my bipolar so things would seem normal, but that fed the depression and led to some incredibly erratic moments.

 

The Early Years

One of the earliest things that I remember is constantly spending money on superficial items. I used this as a way to boost my self-esteem. Another thing was my inability to focus in school, which affected my grades so much that I didn’t go to college. The lack of a college education resulted in missing out on a lot of job opportunities in life.  Nevertheless I was still ambitious about my opportunities.  I didn’t give up; I kept trying to live by the idea of “you can accomplish anything in life if you try hard enough”. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. I ended up failing miserably at a lot of my life goals, which gave the depression a chance to gain a solid foothold. This opened the floodgates for all of my illnesses to band together and create a never-ending train wreck of epic proportions.

Train Wreck

This period of my life was a blur of wild drunken binges, manic phases that usually involved blowing large amounts of money, and severe bouts of depression that made my obsession with hating myself worse. Throughout these years I could barely hold down a job, and when I did there was this inevitable feeling that I would find a way to lose it. I finally got to the point in my life where it was just easier to do nothing rather than having to worry about something. My philosophy was “if you don’t do anything you can’t fail at anything”.

Meeting M

It wasn’t until I moved in with M that I started on my path of recovery. However, there were still a lot of hurdles to overcome and the process was slow. Finding yourself as a person isn’t easy, and having a mental illness makes it all the more difficult. Over the years she worked with me, and I began to overcome some of these issues. However, my mental illness fought back. I struggled to manage them and this was a trying period for both of us.

 Do you struggle with Bipolar II? Check out this workbook on Amazon that teaches you how to manage your symptoms*

Life on its terms

Currently there are still parts of my life that haven’t been fully corrected.  I have been slowly addressing all of the mental illnesses and seeing a therapist. I’m working on managing a budget and learning to live life on its own terms, whereas in the past I tried to fit everything into my own narrative. I have a job that I like, and I’ve started putting money into my 401K and buying company stock. It’s not much yet, but this is my start to FI/RE and my path to financial peace.

 

Mental Illness

My Path to FI/RE

I know my path to financial peace isn’t going to be quick or easy. It’s a long-haul journey,  and I’ve accepted that steady will win the race. I have a great start with a good job that offers a 401K. I’ve started putting away money (starting small, I know I can’t afford to give up 20% of my paycheck yet, and that’s ok!). You would be amazed at how far a small win like starting a 401K goes towards boosting my energy and making me actually want to do more with life. I’ve learned that having a mental illness doesn’t have to keep me from FI/RE or anything else in life. It can be tough, but it’s not impossible.

I want to stress that if you or someone you know struggles with mental illness it’s not impossible to get on the right path. The key is to start slow. Get the little things in life figured out first – find a good job and manage your medication correctly (Can’t stress how important this is!). It’s also incredibly important to see a therapist once or twice a month. Sometimes just being able to vent every once and awhile can make all the difference in the world. I’m not going to sugar coat things, it’s a long process that won’t be figured out overnight (One of the biggest mistakes I made was attempting to fix everything overnight). But nothing worth doing is easy, right?  It’s definitely achievable, and having partners on your path will make it that much easier.

I’ve just started my path to financial freedom, but I am loving the journey so far. Here’s to the coming years and all it has to offer.

– Sincerely, J

 

*Links with this next to it are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything extra!

 

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Why Fire?

Jonathan and I are on a path to fire because we want to live life on our own terms. We don’t want to be tied to any job or employer. We don’t want the stress of needing a job. Being stressed out at work sucks!  We don’t want to deal with that anymore.

Our Path to Fire

If you recall from our article on the Fire Fundamentals (and you can read it here if you don’t!) I mentioned that there are four steps to getting on a path to fire. Step 1 is learning about Fire – I think I have that covered. Step 2 is deciding what you will be comfortable with. The third step is to make a plan for getting there, and the final step is to execute that plan.

What type of Fire will I be comfortable with?

I know we want to travel, so lean fire probably isn’t for us. But we also want to have a comfortable, secure traditional retirement (We absolutely don’t want to be in poverty when we are seniors!), so we need to at least get to Coast fire. We want to be financially independent as soon as possible, and we decided that we will probably need about 60K per year to be comfortable. We are also ok with working odds and ends types jobs, so I’d be totally comfortable with a barista fire type of lifestyle (financially independent, but taking an easy part time job to fill any holes that come up or for extra spending money).

How are we going to get there?

Sixty thousand dollars per year without working a full-time job seems pretty daunting. We need big gains and passive income! I got super lucky with real estate – and by getting lucky I mean I bought at a great time in a market that would only increase. My big gains could come from selling the house! But we also knew that meant we couldn’t stay in the crazy expensive metropolis of Los Angeles. We needed to find a new city in order to really capitalize on those real estate gains. 

Passive income is the real key though, so we needed to figure out a way to generate income without working. Blogging and Investment funds for the win!

Executing the plan

The first step to executing the plan was selling the house in a high COL area and moving to a low COL area. Done!  We packed up and moved from Los Angeles, CA to Savannah GA. Next, I used  my new found capital to set up diversified investments and open an account with Vanguard. Third, we dedicated ourselves to working like crazy for these next three years to shore up our investments and ensure that we are 100% ready to take that plunge into early retirement.

Related: Which Vanguard Total Market Fund should you chose?

We also set up additional income streams. We launched this blog, and have dedicated ourselves to updating content and marketing it whenever we can. I went back to my travel blog and updated the content, adding affiliate links and increasing the social media presence. Every little bit helps!  Every cent we can make via blogging gets us one step closer to freedom (full disclosure, we haven’t really made anything blogging yet. But Partners in Fire is super new, so we are hoping to generate some income off it in the coming months!)

I also have my 401K account for additional income when I reach retirement age, a pension, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), and a few individual stock holdings. These different types of holdings should ensure that we are well diversified and should provide dividend income when we are ready to stop working.

Not Your Plan

We get that not everyone owns a home in a high COA area, and not all those who do will make huge gains by selling. That’s why my path may not be your path. Don’t worry, there are tons of other ways! Check out this small list of personal finance bloggers to see their paths to fire. You can take what you like from each and start your own journey!

Other Paths

 Downsize your 2080’s  Path to Independence involves downsizing the amount of time spent working. Some paths are simply about finding that work/life balance! Check out how they do it here!

Fifty Week Vacation is investing in both the stock market and real estate to create short, medium and long-term cash to achieve FIRE. Read about their investment journey here!

Saving Sherpa is perusing FIRE by putting experience over luxury, not having kids, and saving 70% of his income w/o side hustles. Read more about his $26k/yr Boston lifestyle here!

Military Dollar is going to achieve Fire by taking advantage of the programs offered to members of the armed services and creating multiple streams of retirement income. Follow her journey and learn some additional awesome finance tips for service members here!

Tread Lightly Retire Early is going to reach Fire by living an eco-friendly life and cutting spending to maximize their savings rate while minimizing their carbon footprint. Find out how they help the planet while gaining independence here!

What’s your Path to Fire?

As you can see, there are lots of different ways to get to financial freedom. There isn’t a one size fits all approach. And these blogs I listed are just a small sample of the paths different folks are taking, there are thousands more out there. Hopefully you will get some ideas from these and other blogs about what will work for you.

What does your path to Fire include? Do any of these bloggers resonate with you?  Is there a totally different path that I’m missing?  Let me know in the comments!

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I finally bought my Vanguard Total Market fund!  I’ve heard amazing things from tons of people about this fund (the biggest perk being the instant diversification), so after a lot of my own research, I decided to buy in. If you are serious about your quest for financial freedom, you should definitely look into investing in a total market fund. As you could probably tell, I prefer Vanguard.

Which one though?

Apparently, there are three different funds that you can buy which are technically “Vanguard Total Market” funds. I had no idea! I knew I wanted the total market fund, but I had no idea what the difference was between these three. Time for more research!  But luckily for you, I did the research so you don’t have to!

Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Investor Shares (VTSMX)

Vanguards Investor Shares fund is a mutual fund with holdings in the full range of the equity market. This fund invests in small cap, mid cap, and large cap stocks in addition to growth and value stocks.  The minimum buy-in amount for this fund is three thousand dollars, and the minimum additional investments are only one dollar. This is a great fund for someone who wants to track the whole market and also wants to use dollar cost averaging to add to their investment. The expense ratio for this fund is .15%, which is well below average.

Vanguard Total Stock Marked Index Fund Admiral Shares (VTSAX)

The admiral shares index fund is pretty much exactly the same as the investor fund. The only differences are higher buy-ins and lower expense ratios. If you have ten thousand dollars to invest and want to keep adding to your investment, the admiral shares are definitely the way to go (this is what I bought!). If you can only scrape together three grand but want the same re-investment privileges, you should go with the investor shares. Just be sure to switch it over to Admiral shares once you reach the 10K mark!  There is no reason to pay more in expense ratio fees than absolutely necessary. The expense ratio for the admiral shares is only .04%! It’s a total steal!

Vanguard Total Market Fund ETF (VTI)

If you are not interested in adding more money to the fund (outside dividend re-investments) then getting the ETF may be a better option for you. The expense ratio is the same as with the Admiral Shares (.04%!) and there is no minimum buy in amount!  The problem with this fund is that you can’t add to it automatically from your paycheck like you can with the other two. This ETF works more like an individual stock, where you have to go in and do the whole “ask” price thing. You have to buy full amounts at the market price when you place an order, and you will probably have to pay a brokerage fee each time (which varies depending on which platform you use for trading). You can buy more of this ETF whenever you want, but its not as easy to set up automatic investing.

Related: Use credit card rewards to score big!

So…

Vanguard total market fund

which one should I chose?

Like I said before, I chose the admiral shares because I had 10 thousand dollars to invest and I wanted to automatically invest more every paycheck. If you have 10 thousand dollars or more, this is the absolutely the best option, because it has the same expense ratio as the ETF, and gives you the option to add the automatic investing (and even if you don’t want that now, you never know, you may in the future).

But not everyone has 10K to dump into a fund, and if you don’t the fund you should chose depends on what your goals are. If you have less than 3K to invest the ETF is probably best for you (unless you want to save up 3K before investing, always an option!). However,  If you have between 3K and 10K but don’t have any desire to set up automatic investing, the lower expense ratio of the ETF makes it a better option. But if you have between 3k and 10K and plan to set up automatic investing, the investors share fund is probably going to work best for you.

Related: Hopefully our Vanguard Fund Will help us achieve our 2018 Goals!

Clear as Mud?

I know investing can be confusing. I love that Vanguard makes investing in the stock market super easy, especially for the lay person. And hopefully, this short post can hep you decide which Vanguard Total Market Fund will best meet your needs.

 

Final Word

For the sake of a full disclosure, you should know that I have absolutely no affiliation with Vanguard other than having my own account. I will not make any money if you click one of the links, open a Vanguard account, or buy into one of the three accounts I wrote about. I’ve written this post because I have an account with Vanguard, I believe in their product, and I was confused when trying to figure out which fund to purchase. I’m not gonna lie though, if Vanguard had an affiliate program I’d sign up in a heartbeat, because I truly believe in their product (and I’m only going to add affiliate links for products that I believe will add value to your life).

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Hey folks! Transparency Disclosure- Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything extra!

New Years GoalsEveryone needs goals!  And what better time to set new goals than the new year?  M and J both have loads of goals for 2018, some of them are ambitious, and some should be pretty easy. But we need accountability! And not just from each other (its waaayy to easy for me to convince him to have pizza for dinner!).

That’s why we are writing this post. We need all of you, our partners in fire, to help hold us accountable for going after these goals. And hopefully this will motivate you to set your own goals!  We will help motivate you as well – That’s what partners are for!

J and I have some joint relationship goals (#relationshipgoals), but we have some individual goals as well. We are going to put all of them right here for everyone to see!

Relationship Goals!

Goal 1: Work on Us

Every relationship has its ups and downs, and ours is no different. Our number one goal has to be to work on us, even though we are doing well. We can’t take each other for granted, and we can’t let any of these other goals come before the relationship. Communication is going to be key. We are both dedicated to this relationship and focused on making it the best it can be. That might mean taking a weekend get-a-way instead of updating the blog. And that’s ok, because if our relationship isn’t strong nothing else really matters.

Goal 2: Increase net worth by 60k

Yeah, that’s ambitious. We increased our net worth by about 100K in 2017, but the main driver of that was real estate. We were able to cash out big on real estate in 2017!

Related: Getting Lucky with Real Estate

Investing

This year, we want to increase our net worth by 50K without the benefit of cashing out on property in Southern California. Luckily, I have a job with amazing benefits, so step one will be to continue contributing to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP, the government’s 401K). I make around 90K per year, and I’m investing 7% in my TSP. Yeah, I know, all my FIRE friends will say that’s way too low. However,  I’m investing more than enough to get the match (about 5%) and a good portion of my income has an investment home elsewhere. So with that 7% and 5%, I should be able to increase our net worth by 10800 just by contributing to my TSP. Yay, 1/6 of the way there!

Jonathan just got a new job with great benefits as well. He’s going to be contributing to his company’s 401K, and he gets a 6% match. Yay for free money!  Unfortunately, he can’t start contributing until he’s been on the job for 90 days, so his gains this year won’t be as significant as mine, but hey, it’s a start!  We should be able to increase our net worth by 15K just with contributing to our respective retirement accounts. That’s a pretty significant chunk.

We have other investments that I’m hoping will pay off big in 2018 as well – Vanguards Total Market mutual fund, individual stock holdings, lending club, and a small Roth IRA. A healthy stock market and dollar/cost averaging should help us make some pretty solid gains this coming year.

Hard Work

But its not all about investing. We are also going to work harder at the blogs (more on my blog goals below!), find more ways to save, and look for additional streams of income. 50K is an ambitious goal, but I think we can get there.

We ended the year with a net worth of $209000. So next year we need to end with 260K!  Wish us luck on that!

Goal 3: Blog Goals

We have so many new year’s goals when it comes to blogging. Most of them right now are social media based, because we realize how important marketing is to running a successful blog. We do, however, have a few blog specific goals. The main blog goal is to write at least two posts per month. Yes, that’s way less than recommended to gain and keep a following, but with our full-time jobs, my other blog, and actual life we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.

One of the blog goals is more specific to me than to Jonathan. That goal is to re-do many of my articles on Travels Near and far (TNF). I started that blog a few years ago, and I think I’ve learned how to be less robotic in my writing since then (here’s to hoping anyway!). Maybe I’ll convince him to help me with those. 

Monetizing the blogs is our other big blog goal. We are going to sign up for some affiliate programs and add relevant links to some of the posts. Don’t worry though! We aren’t going to be overly spammy about it. Everyone hates that. The goal with monetization is to make enough money off our blogs in 2018 to pay one month’s mortgage payment. So we’ll need to make roughly $1200 off the blogs for the year. Difficult? Yes, I think it will be. Impossible? Never!

Goal 4: Social Media

We are also going to focus heavily on our social media presence for both blogs (Yes, I’m totally going to rope Jonathan into helping me with Social Media for TNF!). Here are our social media goals for each blog:

               Twitter: – 5k on Partners in Fire (PiF), 10K on TNF

               Instagram – 1000 on TNF and 1000 on PiF

               Facebook – 100 on PiF, 250 on TNF (Facebook is hard!)

               Pinterest – 5000 (I’m sure you all know by now, I only use the one Pinterest account)

I know some of our social media goals are super ambitious (5K on Pinterest, is that even possible??) but some should be pretty easy (we can probably get to 100 on FB just by inviting our friends!).  Balance is always good though! Sometimes it’s easier achieve a harder goal after you’ve achieved an easier goal (can we call that the snowball method of goal setting?).

Melanie’s New Year’s goals

Goal 1: Health

Being healthy is a huge part of my financial independence journey. Healthy people live longer, fuller, more productive lives.  A great thing about this is that a lot of times, our health is in our own hands.

Sub goal 1: Fitness

My fitness goal for 2018 is to lose the 10-15 pounds I’ve packed on since moving. I’m joining this “biggest loser” style competition at work that I think that will really motivate me to work out. I have a few free hand weights at home that I’m going to use, and I also have this really cool stand up punching bag (it also helps a lot with stress relief!).

In addition, I’m going to do some jogging in my neighborhood, and I’m planning on taking my super energetic pup Coyote out with me. Maybe I can burn off some of his extra energy while I’m losing weight!  I also talked to my neighbor about biking, so that’s something I’m going to get back into as well. Having someone to do it with will really help keep me motivated. The bottom line here is that I know I have a bunch of tools at my disposal to help me with this weight loss journey. I just need to find motivation (and I think the “bragging rights” at work will be all the motivation I need!).

Jonathan also has a fitness goal…he wants to lose 5lbs. But he has a super high metabolism and can lose 5 lbs just by looking at food. I hate him.

Related: Check out this dumbbell set I found on Amazon*!

Sub goal 2: Mental Health

Another huge component of a healthy lifestyle is taking care of your mental health. In that vein, I’m going to make meditation a priority. I have dabbled in meditation for the past few years, taking it seriously for a week or so then forgetting about it. But I want to take it seriously for the entire year. I know I felt better after that week of meditation, I would just get busy or tired and forget to do it.  My goal is to do better this year.  As they say, self-care is the most important thing.

Sub goal 3: Healthy eating

The last stool of my healthful 2018 pyramid is healthy eating. I’m going to eat less junk and I’m going to cook healthier meals.  The only bad thing about this is that I’m a terrible cook. I guess I’m going to learn!  And I’ll be sure to share my most delicious healthy recipes (and biggest disasters, because everyone likes a good laugh, right?). Eating healthy is going to involve creative meal planning and using fresher ingredients, which will be way easier than it ever has in the past because of my next big goal.

new year's goals

Goal 2: Gardening

One of the reasons I wanted to move was so that I could have a garden. I bought a house with a very nice backyard, and come spring I plan on growing my own food!  This has a double benefit…first I’ll save money at the grocery store (basic financial independence stuff, right?) and second it will help me eat healthier!  Yay for two birds! Jonathan is going to help me grow tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, potatoes, herbs, onions, and I think I’m going to plant a fruit tree or two. I’m so excited to see what will happen! I already started this fall with a composter; so I’m working on making delicious nutrient rich soil for my veggies. And, since I live in Georgia, the composter works year-round! Though not as well in the cooler winter as in the sweltering summer.

Related: I got my composter on Amazon*! 

Goal 3: Get back into my side hustles

I haven’t sold anything on Ebay since before I moved. Long long before I moved!  And the sad thing is that when I was taking it seriously, I actually made some money with it. I’ve made between $200 and $300 per month!  My goal is to get back into. That means going to garage sales, finding cool products to sell, and taking the time to post things on Ebay. The best part about having this as a goal is that I love the hunt!  I love scouring garage sales for that one amazing item. It’s so much fun!  Unfortunately both of us hate the posting to Ebay part, but making money isn’t always fun. Sometimes you gotta suck stuff up.

The final part of my side hustle goal is to get back into creating and selling art. I love painting, and I even have a Facebook page for my artwork!  Amazingly enough, I’ve even sold a few pieces over the years. So why haven’t I been hustling at it?  Unfortunately I let other stuff get in the way. But I love it, so my goal for this year is to create a few new pieces and sell one piece. Anyone here like abstract?

Jonathan’s New Year’s goals

Goal 1: Maximize Space Usage

Jonathan and I moved from a 1200 square foot condo into an 1800 square foot single family home (and it was half the price!). But one thing we realized is that we have loads of extra space. We discussed getting a roommate, but I don’t want to move someone into our home that I don’t know and trust. So Jonathan decided one of his goals for this year will be to maximize our usage of space.

He wants to turn the two spare bedrooms into usable rooms for us. One of the bedrooms is currently the cat’s room (yes, my babies have their own bedroom) but he’s going to utilize the extra space in there to make a small gym. This will help me with my work out goals too!

He’s going to turn the other bedroom into a studio/Ebay office. We will be able to utilize the room for creating art and for storing all of our amazing garage sale finds. It will be like a mini-warehouse!  I love how his goals help support my goals.

Goal 2: DIY around the house

Moving into an older home is challenging. There is always something to fix. We’ve had a few minor problems since moving in (plumbing, drywall, electrical) and neither of us is really knowledgeable about home improvement.

Jonathan’s goal for this year is to change all that. He wants to learn how to be a master DIYer so that he can fix things around the house instead of us having to pay someone to fix it. His first big project is going to be the sprinkler system that the old owners installed for landscaping. There is a leak somewhere in it (cost us a nice $600 for our first water bill). Jonathan is going to hunt that leak down and fix it! 

He is also going to work a lot on the back yard. The previous owner decided to build a deck and a gazebo without pressure treating the wood, so everything is rotting. Seriously, I’m not even a DIYer (I totally suck at all that stuff) but even I know that if you want an outdoor wooden deck in someplace like Georgia where it’s all wet and humid and buggy, you need to treat the wood! But he didn’t, so we are stuck with a rotting deck. Jonathan has big plans to DIY our backyard into a southern paradise this spring.

Goal 2: Become assistant manager

One of Jonathan’s big goals as far as work is concerned is to rise up in the ranks at his company and become an assistant manager. He found an amazing manager to be his mentor, and they both think that with Jonathan’s work ethic and ambition, that goal is definitely achievable. It will probably take a lot of hard work and some long hours, but it’s definitely something that Jonathan is motivated to work for and capable of achieving. And if he makes it, it will make our joint goal of increasing our networth that much easier!

Goal 3: Quit Smoking

This is probably the hardest New Year’ goal either of us has.  Jonathan has been a smoker for over 10 years. He smokes about a pack a day. I hate it (its stinky and a huge waste of money!). Jonathan hates it too. He’s struggled to quit in the past, but he’s never been super dedicated (and it’s hard!).

Jonathan’s company offers healthcare and smoking cessation incentives. He’s going to take full advantage of those things to develop a plan for quitting. His first step is transitioning from regular cigarettes to a vape, and from there he plans to slowly decrease his nicotine levels.

Lets all root for Jonathan to overcome his addiction to the nicotine monster!  If anyone here has been successful in quitting smoking, please let us know and share your best tips

Jonathan is going to try these first…maybe he will write a blog post with all his results!

  
                                                                                   

Final thoughts

So folks, there you have it. Our new year’s goals for 2018. We will keep you posted with updates on how we are doing, best practices for weight loss, gardening, and quitting smoking, and all the fun we have on the road to financial freedom.  What are your goals for 2018?  Are you working towards similar things? Is there a big category that we may not have thought about but should be thinking about? Let us know in the comments, and help keep us on track!

 

Speaking of Monetizing….if you are loving Partners in Fire support us by shopping on Amazon!

 
                                                                             
                                            

*Links with this next to it are the affiliate links that we talked about above. We appreciate your readership!

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The Military and Financial Independence

The military isn’t for everyone (hell, it was barely for me!). But the military does offer a lot of benefits, and if you do decide to join, these benefits can be a great boon to your quest for financial independence.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, joining the military was a huge step towards financial independence. There is absolutely no way I would be in the financial situation that I’m in if not for the benefits that I received from joining the military.

The best thing about this is that almost anyone can join the military and gain these benefits. I promise, I am not an Army recruiter!  But it is true that many people feel like they will never be able to achieve financial independence because they don’t have a STEM degree, or aren’t good at math, or college is affordable. There is a path, if you are physically able and meet the age requirements, and that path is the military.

Full disclosure: I hated being in the military. It was fun during ROTC, but it got old once I got into the National Guard. There were too many rules and I’m too much of a free spirit. Also, as I got older, I realized that a lot of what we were doing probably wasn’t right. I don’t blame the Soldiers for that though, I blame the politicians who put the Soldiers into that position. But I digress.

Even though I didn’t necessarily enjoy my time in the military and I don’t necessarily agree with how the military is being used, I still think it’s a great opportunity for people without a lot of options to start working towards financial independence. If you join the guard, you make an extra few bucks every month (it’s the ultimate side hustle!).

 

 

how did the military help me?

Paying for College

 

First, the military paid for my college education. I went the ROTC route, so the military paid for my tuition. Unfortunately, I still had to take out student loans for housing, but I graduated with only 20K in student loan debt, while most of my peers had over 40K. That’s a huge difference. The year I graduated, they changed the rules so that the ROTC scholarship could cover either h

ousing or tuition, so if you can find a grant to cover tuition, you will be set!  But the military also amazing educational opportunities if you decide to go the enlisted route. Check out the GI Bill for more information.

 

VA Loans

The second huge helping hand my military service gave me was a VA loan. VA loans are amazing. They are backed by the Veterans Administration, and make it super super easy for Veterans to buy a house. There are two huge advantages to using a VA loan. The first is that you don’t need a down payment. There is no possible way I could have afforded a down payment on a home in Southern California, even at the bottom of the market.  Condos and town-homes were selling for above 200K, so to afford a traditional loan I’d have to come up with 40 thousand dollars!  That’s a tough thing to do for a twenty-something year old from a lower middle-class family.

Related: Getting Lucky with Real Estate!

The 2.5-5% down payment needed for a FHA loan is more reasonable, but even that’s between five and ten thousand dollars, and when you add in closing costs, that gets un-affordable as well. Also, after the crash of 2008, borrowers have to pay Primary Mortgage Insurance if they can’t come up with a down payment, which sometimes makes the mortgage itself un-affordable. Another big plus of the VA loan is that you don’t have to pay PMI, even if you don’t have a down payment! There is a funding fee which depends upon the value of the loan, but they can roll that into the mortgage so you don’t have to pay it up front.  The VA helped my buy my first home with only 10 grand up-front for closing costs. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.

 

 

 

Healthcare

   

 

 

 

 

 

Military service also offers an additional bonus that may help you gain financial freedom: healthcare. Obviously the VA doesn’t have the best healthcare, but its definitely better than having nothing. I don’t currently use the VA for healthcare and I actually don’t plan on using it anytime soon, but its nice to know that I have that option to fall back on.

Other benefits

These are the financial perks of military service that I have been able to capitalize on, but there are others as well, such as sign-on bonuses, retention bonuses, free job training, and Basic Allowance for Housing to name a few.

 

The military is also a great equalizer. It doesn’t care how smart you are, where you came from, how much money your family has. The military treats everyone the same, and offers everyone the same benefits. It just cares that you are physically capable of doing the job.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifestyle

Although I hated my time in the military, I’m glad I did it. It gave me a hand up out of the lower middle-class. It also benefited me in other, immeasurable ways. I wouldn’t be the confident leader that I am today without the experience that I gained in the military. 

I understand that the military isn’t for everyone. It is definitely a lifestyle adjustment, especially active duty and deployment. There are many physical, emotional, and political things to consider before deciding to join. But its a great option for people without any other options. It’s a great path out of poverty, and a great way to start on the road to financial freedom. 

 




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Hey folks! Transparency Disclosure- Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything! extra!

Was it Luck?

When I tell Jonathan we got lucky with real estate, he tells me it wasn’t about luck. I know, it wasn’t entirely luck, it was a lot of research, a lot of watching what the market was doing, and a lot of buying and selling at the right times. But did luck play a role?

I bought my condo in Los Angeles in 2011, when the housing market was still struggling and properties were relatively cheap (for Los Angeles, they were still crazy expensive!). I couldn’t afford a single-family home, even then the best single-family homes I could afford either needed a whole lot of work or were in the middle of extremely questionable neighborhoods. If I was going to buy, it would be either a condo or a town-home.

 

I decided to buy a nice two-bedroom town-home in a safe, gated community. The town-home was brand new when I bought it, which was a big plus! It also had solar panels, an electronic water heater, and a bunch of other energy efficient upgrades. It was in a nice community with a pool, a basketball court, and park. It was a great first home!

Related: Are you a Real Estate Agent trying to sell a home? Have you tried Clicky Homes*?

 

lucky with real estate

I loved my town-home, and I loved my life in Los Angeles. I had amazing friends, a great job, and a beautiful town-home. But sometime in 2016, I realized that I was working to basically pay for my house. The mortgage payment and HOA fees ate up more than half of my monthly income! I also realized that the housing market had made a pretty amazing recovery. The homes in my area were selling like hotcakes, at prices 40% higher than what I had paid. Jonathan and I talked, and we decided it was time to move.

 

Hard work can lead to getting lucky with real estate

Getting the house ready for sale was a huge project. Jonathan is amazing at things like this, he helped me so much! I don’t think I could’ve done it without him (Another reason why having in partner in fire is beneficial, wink wink). He said we’d sell the house faster if it was a blank slate, and he worked diligently for a month to get it ready for the market.

We got rid of all our extra stuff (yay for downsizing!), replaced the carpet, re-painted, and power cleaned everything! I paid for the carpeting and the painting, because we wanted the house to look absolutely amazing, and it did. The house was immaculate, it looked like a model home! Our real estate agent (REMCO) was super impressed with all of our work (I say our, but I use that term very loosely. This was mostly Jonathan!). We put the house on the market for 50% more than we paid for it, and within in 5 days had a full value offer. Score!

Hard work and Luck!

I do think luck played a part. It was very fortunate that I was able to buy a home when I did. I credit that “luck” to being a veteran in the Army. But Jonathan is right about that too.  It wasn’t lucky that I joined the Army and served for six years, it was hard work and dedication. But the Army did offer a VA loan, and without that, I would never have been able to afford a home in Southern California, even at the bottom of the market. Check out my post on Military Service and financial freedom to learn more about how the VA loan helped, and to discover whether joining the military can help you in your quest for financial freedom.

But it was lucky that I was in a position to be able to buy when the market was low.  It was also lucky that the market made a great recovery in my area. However,  Jonathan is right too, a lot of hard work went into this real estate success. Sometimes big wins take a lot of effort and a little bit of luck.

Why FIRE 101?

So why is this post in the FIRE 101 section instead of finance or lifestyle? Easy!  One of the best ways to achieve financial independence is to move from a high Cost of Living area to a Low Cost of Living are (HCOL —> LCOL). It was our first major step towards FIRE, and big sacrifice.  We did it though, and maybe you can too!

 

*Links with this next to it are the affiliate links that we talked about above. We appreciate your readership!




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