First of all, thanks for stopping by and checking us out! Second, let me tell you a bit about who we are and why I’m blogging. My name is Becky and my husband is Stephen. We are originally from Texas, and when Stephen retired in 2018 we moved to the mountains of Colorado. We moved from sea level with heat and humidity to 8500 feet of cold and dry.
I grew up in a 2-working parent home. My mom was a school teacher and my dad was a blue collar worker. We had what we needed, but not a lot of extras. Mom was the main provider and decision maker. Dad was impulsive and had grown up in a family with an entitlement attitude. Unfortunately, that got passed down. I was an adult before I realized the attitude I had about my employer and co-workers was skewed. I grew up in a Christian home, but faith and money were not discussed. We either had the money for something I might want or we didn’t. There was no education on how to handle money.
College and Early Career
Stephen and I met in college and married after graduation. We both secured good jobs earning more than our parents! We thought we were all that! Little did we know, that disaster was coming. One of the first things we did in our newly married life was buy a new car and a house. That’s what you did, right? This was the late 70’s when oil was booming and things were only going up. The advice we received was not only buy a house but get as much as you could afford. So we did. Six months into our new marriage and we were homeowners. At a 13.25% interest rate! If you lived through the 80’s, you know it got even worse.
We were making our payments fine, but not much of it was going to principle. Someone even told us about making extra principal payments to shorten the 30 year mortgage and save a lot of interest, but we didn’t listen. We were too busy spending everything we made. After all, we were in a position to have fun and have some material things for the first time in our life. This even included a sailboat and yacht club membership. Life was good.
What wasn’t good was our lack of a relationship with the Lord or any vision for saving for the future. We knew we really needed to think about those things, but they were not a priority. “We’ll do that another day.” Our lives seemed to be on autopilot. Problem is, autopilot looks a lot like just drifting through each week, month and eventually year.
How Can We Possibly Save Anything Now!
When our first child arrived, we decided I would stay home with our son. This was a big decision because my salary was a little over 50% of our income (we had never heard of the “Save one salary and live on the other” idea).
A few years later, Stephen’s company transferred us from Houston to Boston. Our hope was for a large increase in salary that wouldn’t be walked back when we returned to Texas. This was not to be. Our home in Texas was rented at a loss and his salary didn’t keep up with the increased cost of living. The final insult happened when we returned to Texas. Soon after moving back, his company started downsizing and he was laid off. So much for the salary bump! There were several job changes after that, but never one that really helped our financial situation.
God Enters Stephens Life
During the mid 80’s, God did a miracle in our lives and marriage. Stephen and all 3 children came to know Christ. Stephen’s new life in the Lord caused him to look at life differently and a day came when he decided that the ethics of his coworkers did not match what he was striving for. He decided that something had to change and he started his own business and worked from home.
There were good years and some not so good. But like the old MasterCard commercial, having Dad at home was “priceless”. He attended every school sporting event or concert. We were blessed by him being at home and in control of his schedule.
Now, back to the financial part of this story. Remember, we had not saved anything for the future. That means no retirement OR college savings. While Stephen owned his own business, there again was not enough income to start any saving. Or so we thought. Oh, how I wish someone had showed us the power of compounding interest!
Falling Off the Financial Cliff
In the same year, two of Stephen’s clients decided not to pay him. I know this happens in business, but we had not experienced it. The amount was equal to about a year’s salary. This sent our finances and our relationship into a death spiral. Not only did we not have any income, but other companies that Stephen had contracted still needed to be paid.
Our financial situation deteriorated to the point that it was affecting our marriage and family life. I was frightened and Stephen felt like a failure. We set ourselves up for hardship because of our failure to even have an emergency fund. All our poor choices and indifference to the future had landed us in the middle of this storm and we were paralyzed. We had what felt like a mountain of debt, we were buying groceries with a credit card and we were about to start the college phase of life with 3 kids. I honestly felt like we could pay on our debt for the rest of our lives and not pay it all off. This is when Satan steps in and gives you a big dose of Hopelessness.
This time in our family was basically awful. No hope and, as the old saying goes, the light at the end of the tunnel felt like an oncoming train. But, God’s grace is new every morning! He didn’t leave us in our mess even though we really deserved it.
Enter God’s Comfort and Hope
With the recommendation of a friend, Stephen was connected with a small business owner that had a position to fill. He was hired and we were finally in a place of stability with a steady paycheck. He worked in this position for 2 years and, in that time, paid off his old business debt. We had room to breathe! After those 2 years, Stephen took another position at a firm he had admired for many years. We felt like God had held this position just for him. It was perfect and he fit right in. The salary was good and the bonuses were even better.
Stephen started this position is 2008. Our oldest son was in college on a full ride scholarship. Our second son would be starting college soon and had a ¾ scholarship. We were in a much better position than before, but still didn’t know how to handle our finances well. We just knew we didn’t EVER want to go back to where we’d been.
A friend mentioned some tapes they had from someone named Dave Ramsey. (Yes, I said tapes, as in cassette tapes!) I listened to a few and after discussing what I heard with Stephen, we decided “What can it hurt?” It didn’t take long before we realized we needed a change in our thinking and our attitude.
We saw how Big changes could be made if you worked at it and we wanted more. We were hooked on Ramsey’s simple, bible-based approach to finances. After all, God has given us all we have and we had not been good stewards. Now we were ready to change that for good. A desire for helping others out of their mess and hopelessness became a passion of ours. Stephen and I became Dave Ramsey leaders. It was very rewarding to see others make positive changes that can last a lifetime.
The Big Shovel
The next few years consisted of paying for college and saving everything we could, which still wasn’t much, but we had a different attitude about our spending. When the youngest was done with college, we were able to really make a difference with our savings. Stephen’s salary and bonuses gave us a HUGE shovel to use for retirement savings. It felt so good! And, we had 3 adult children with 4 degrees between them and Not One of them had any college debt. Funny thing about making better decisions. God can bless them. It was like He was waiting for us to grow up, act like adults and then He truly poured blessings on us.
Finding Choose FI
After we got to a place of stability, we thought our lives could somewhat go back on autopilot. Not only that, but we could loosen the purse strings a bit and enjoy some of the income we had. At that point, we assumed retirement would come at “normal” retirement age of 66 or 67. In May of 2017, our oldest son introduced us to the ChooseFI podcast. (We had not entered the podcast world yet!) We listened to a few selected episodes and were quickly hooked. The information covered in ChooseFI, along with other podcasts and blogs, took what we knew and put it into warp drive! We learned about travel rewards, tax optimization, being even more frugal and many other topics. After re-evaluating our position and checking out some of the speadsheets found on blogs like Big ERN and Retirement Manifesto, we decided to keep our spending low. That allowed us to shave off 3 years and retire at 63. Not early, but early for us!
Our whole family had survived the bad years and come out the other side in good shape. A little charred from the experience, but in good shape. In fact, I thought many times that I never want to go back to where we were, but we learned lessons we wouldn’t have otherwise. I don’t think we would be in the great place we are now if we hadn’t walked through that pain. We probably would have continued to drift through life thinking normal is good enough. Unfortunately, normal is in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. Also, many people assume that normal can’t be changed, but it can totally be changed with a shift in your thinking. We have had our eyes opened. Opened to better attitudes and more efficient ways of handling money and life.
I will go more in depth with those changes in future posts. Right now, I want you to know one thing. If you’re young and don’t know where to start, there is a way to get your money under control and make BIG changes for your future self! If you’re not quite so young, it’s not too late. Let me say that one again. IT’S NOT TOO LATE! BUT, you need to start NOW. In either case, forgive yourself and let’s begin to make positive changes for your future.
Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.Ephesians 3:20-21