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Mr. Money Mustache: Father has freedom to make choices based on more than finances

Using the 4% rule as a rough guideline, he can rely on $885,000 nest egg to provide about $35,000 of income, fairly reliably for the rest of his life. 
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Photo by Vladimir Solomyani on Unsplash

Editor's note: This column is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional financial advice for your individual situation. Please consult with a financial professional before making any serious financial decisions.

Hello Longmont. 

I am a dad, carpenter, writer, and retired software engineer who has been living in Longmont since 2005. I used a few simple but powerful life principles to become wealthy enough to retire at age 30, and went on to start a blog called Mr. Money Mustache that has now reached over 30 million people in the past nine years. Now it’s time to take these ideas to the streets of Longmont, so send in your questions about money and life!


Hi MMM,

When my wife and I got married she said “What if we lived on one of our salaries and saved the rest?” A Google search led me to the idea of FIRE — financial independence, retire early — which of course led me to your blog. We are very fortunate to be on this path.

A few years later and we’re here with a toddler and a baby on the way, and I’m itching to have more time to focus on my family, my fitness and my hobbies.

I have a few “golden handcuffs” that vest at the end of Q1 2021, which will roughly line up when baby No. 2 arrives, at which time I am wondering if I can afford to take a year or more off.

Details at that point

Investments: ~$885,000

House: $360,000

Mortgage: $288,000

Net worth: $957,000

Income

Me (36): $170,000 a year plus variable of approximately $50,000 gross annual bonus payout plus $20,000 to $30,000 of vesting stock options (I acknowledge this is a crazy amount of income and I can’t actually believe it some days).

Wife (31): stay-at-home parent for now, but is a registered nurse with various speciality certificates and wants to do paid work in the nursing field in the future.

Expenses

Estimated $1,700 of mortgage payments including property tax and insurance plus approximately $2,000 of “living” expenses driven mostly by food spending. We are quite frugal otherwise. For example, we get by very nicely with a single 2009 Honda Fit hatchback.

Total for planning purposes: $1,700 + $2,000 = $3,700/month x 12 = $44,400 per year.

With all of this in mind, I am considering these options, with the most cautious one first:

1. Continue working for another year or more, save hard, until we have saved enough to be set for life (a little over $1.1 million).

2. Go part-time right now, keep the employer-subsidized health insurance plus cover monthly costs, leave our investments untouched to keep growing.

3. Throw caution to the wind and just quit now. Take at least a year off to focus on happiness and time with my young family. Worry about more income (if needed) sometime in the future.

What do you think? What would you do?

— Jim

Dear Jim,

Wow! I think you are doing great, and none of your options are really all that wild - you can afford to choose any one of them and your future will be bright regardless. That is because of these fundamentals:

You have $885,000 in investments. Using the 4% rule as a rough guideline, you can rely on this nest egg to provide about $35,000 of income, fairly reliably for the rest of your life. 

This is fairly close to matching your total spending, even including your $1700 per month mortgage payment - but your mortgage is only partly an expense. About $400 of that is probably actually savings - the portion of principal that you are paying off each month. Eventually, this goes away when your mortgage is paid off.

Secondly, based on your story you are both absolutely certain to make more money in your future. You are highly qualified professionals, and very young, and seem to be filled with plenty of optimism and energy. So, you can pick up part-time work whenever your Dad schedule allows it, and your wife can resume  her medical career on her own terms as well.

So, I would think of your situation as being completely flexible. Money is not your primary concern - you could go for decades without earning a penny if you wanted to do so. Your real decision should be around how you want your parenting life to look. 

Some kids (and some parenting relationships) are easygoing, and they allow lots of flexibility for work for both parents through the magic of trading back and forth between your “on-duty” time, kids taking naps, and eventually spending their days in school. Other situations can be more demanding, in which case you would be very glad you didn’t also have a full-time career to support. 

(My own life was somewhere in between these two, although with our boy almost 15 now the sailing is smoother every day!)

Since you’ve already been through the war zone of your first newborn baby, I am sure you have a good idea of what you are in for. So you can prepare accordingly for the second. 

But I just wanted to weigh in on the financial side of things - you are so far ahead that you can afford to keep the money low on your list of priorities. 

You should work hard because it’s satisfying and provides a nice balance to changing diapers and washing bottles and reading bedtime stories. But you and your partner have the luxury of never having to compromise on your family experience just in the pursuit of more money. 

And this is really the biggest benefit of financial independence. So, congratulations!

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