Late Starter to FI series #9 – Recovering Women Wealth

Welcome to the Late Starter to FI series!

I am a Late Starter – I did not discover FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) concept until I was 47. This was way later, I thought than others who seem to have it all together in their 20s and 30s.

Since I started to write about my own journey, I have discovered there are many more Late Starters like me, yay! It is such a relief knowing I am not alone. 

I want to share our stories, our unique perspectives and show that it is absolutely not too late for us.

So in this series, I particularly highlight those of us who start our FI journeys in our 40s, 50s and 60s. And explore questions such as ‘where do we start’, ‘can we still retire early(ish)’, ‘what are the specific challenges for us late starters’. We look at our past, not to castigate ourselves but so that you can learn from us.

Please join in the conversation in the comments below. I encourage you to share your story if you fit the profile of a late starter. You absolutely don’t have to be a blogger or podcaster to share your story. Please email me at info@latestarterfire.com or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook.

Today, I am very honoured to share Deanna’s inspirational story here. Please note, I do not use the word ‘inspirational’ lightly. 

Take it away, Deanna.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

A bit about me

Hello, I’m a 47 year old single gal from the good ‘ole United States of America. I currently reside in Ohio and have a fulfilling career as an account manager for a broker/third party administrator.

Additionally, I just celebrated 10 years of sobriety. Part of my calling in life is to help other women in recovery. Furthermore, I help women with gaining financial control of their lives and I blog at Recovering Women Wealth.

I live a very active lifestyle and have fun playing outside, whether it be on the ski slopes in the winter or on the bike path and beaches in the summer. While I am still active in quarantine, I’ve slowed down a bit. 

My family is of key importance to me and I love being Auntie Dee to an awesome niece and two stellar nephews.

While I’m not working, working out, playing or doing recovery work, I like to read and obviously, write. People can connect with me on my blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

My light bulb moment

Well, my real light bulb moment came in 2009 when I was in a destructive relationship and addicted to drugs and drinking. Literally, I was on something 24/7 but somehow, I was still managing to function and maintain my job.

Although, underneath it all, I was completely broken. It was the darkest time in my life. Fortunately, I hit my bottom, admitted defeat, prayed and surrendered to a program of recovery. Ultimately, this program led me back to my faith in Christ.

I spent the early years of my recovery working on forming new habits, reconciling with my past, making amends, forgiving and receiving forgiveness. All good stuff, right? Well, this stuff set the stage for me to have the capacity to work towards financial peace as well.

In 2014, I began to work on paying down my debt. In the process, I did lose my home to foreclosure but was able to make some extreme choices, like moving back in with my folks at the age of 42, in an effort to pay off my debt.

On December 29, 2017 I paid my final payment and became debt free for the first time in 23 years!! All in all, I paid off $46 763 in about 3 and a half years on an average salary.

By the time I paid off my debt, I had already learned about Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement via the ChooseFI podcast. So I was 44 when I first learned about the concept of Financial Independence (FI) and was 45 when I fully started implementing a savings rate with the intention of hitting it.

FI appeals to me because it equates with freedom and choice. As a woman of faith, I go where God calls me. I know by achieving FI, I’ll be freed up to go further and do bigger things for God.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m only further convinced of the importance of not only having financial stability but also being financially independent. The year 2020 is proof that we just never know what is around the corner.

Emergency + Money Problems = Bigger Problems

Looking back ...

I was raised in a middle class two parent Christian household. My parents have always been wise stewards with their finances. They did and do things like:

– Living within their means

– Having no consumer debt other than a mortgage most of their lives

– Saving and paying cash for cars

– Saving for their children’s education

– Lastly, planning and saving for retirement

Unfortunately I learned none of these things growing up mostly because I was rebellious against them. I had a very strained relationship with my father. Additionally I was always searching for completeness in things outside of myself (relationships, drinking, drugging etc)

That being said, I did recognise that money equated to freedom but it was short sighted and all I wanted was to be out on my own at any cost. I began living with debt at the age of 18 and that became a habit for the next 23 years of my life.

I did go through a divorce and bankruptcy at the age of 27, went to graduate school in my 30s on loans, and financed what I couldn’t afford.

Additionally, it’s probably no surprise as my addiction waxed and waned, I spent a lot of money to feed this also.

On the way to FI

The first step I took was figuring out all the tax advantaged accounts I was eligible for and then began maxing them out. For me, this includes the following accounts:

– Employer Sponsored Simple IRA

– Health Savings Account 

– Individual IRA

Additionally, I do some post-tax investing. The majority of my investments are in low cost broad based index funds.

In light of the market’s recent volatility, it’s really important to understand that investing is for the long haul. In the short term, anything can happen but in the long run, history shows us the market always goes up.

How do I keep my cool especially being that this is my first bear market since becoming an investor? I have an investment policy statement before I began. Moreover, I know my risk tolerance. As I get closer to my retirement, I adjust my assets to be invested more conservatively.

In addition to my investments, I have a savings account for the following things:

– 4 to 6 month emergency fund

– future car

– skiing and vacations

– future house hack

How am I able to so this? By being intentional with my lifestyle choices. I practise mindful spending, meal prepping, driving a paid-for car and short radius living.

Disclaimer: After writing this interview, I bought a new to me used car and financed part of it – you can read about it here. However, it will be paid off in the next several months so I am only financing it for a total of 5-6 months.

How my relationship with money has changed

The first thing that changed in me when I was paying off my debt was that I didn’t need to spend money to feel joy. I really thought about what I valued and for me, that answer was relationships. There are plenty of ways to foster relationships without spending a lot of money. For example, taking a walk, working out, playing board games, hosting friends over for dinner and the list goes on and on. I think #SurvivingCOVID19 has also taught us about the simple pleasures in life.

I would do nothing differently because all that I’ve been through and have overcome has chiseled me into the woman I am today. I am blessed and now I get to help others. Sure, if I could go back, I wouldn’t choose a life with addiction but the truth is we cannot go back. So I embrace where I’ve been and how it’s made me stronger.

Specific challenges for late starters

Hmmm, being someone who’s come back from a mountain of hard obstacles mid-life, I think the hardest challenge we can face is mental. We have to overcome questions like, is it too late? Look how much time I’ve lost? And only if?

However, I’m here to say:

1. No!

2. All the stuff we’ve been through has made us who we are. So, stand proud!

3. Glance back to learn but look forward for growth!

The main financial advantage I see in starting late is that at age 50, we are allowed to put more into some of our tax advantage accounts.

And the main life advantage I see is that we’ve gained wisdom and hopefully know how to pace ourselves to enjoy the road to FI rather than steamrolling our way there.

Where am I at now?

I’m making better money than what I was making when I was paying off debt. I’m still employed during the pandemic fortunately. My savings rate is around 50% and I’m satisfied with that.

Although, I’m a fan of progress so I continue to work hard in my career and look to keep growing my income. My lifestyle is comfortable so if my income grows, so will my savings rate.

At this rate, I can retire around 60 which is earlyish. The good news is that I’m doing what I’m called to do now. I was planning on going to Uganda in the Spring for a mission trip but alas, it’s been postponed to 2021. Prayerfully, I’ll still get there!

What's next?

I’m well on my way to FI but still about 12-13 years away from achieving it. That may seem like a long time compared to some of the stories which get featured in the big media outlets.

However, let’s pause for a second. Ten years ago, I was just getting sober. Six years ago, I began to focus on paying down my debt with intensity. Two years ago, I began maxing out all the tax advantaged accounts I could get my hands on as well as some post tax investing.

If I can truly achieve financial independence in 15 years, that’s amazing.

Additionally, I do cut back on many areas of life but I also am enjoying the journey. That being said, I’m just fine with my current pace.

My plan is to keep on writing, living my dreams, helping women, spreading my faith, and saving money. I’m thinking about how I can teach more, in particular with my blog, so stay tuned for more on that …

Back to Latestarterfire

Deanna, thank you so much for sharing your story here. Although I have heard and read your story many times before, every time I come across it, I am inspired anew by your determination and grace; your faith in God and steadfastness in following His ways; your commitment to helping others to manage money wisely and your willingness to share your story with humility. 

Thank you.

There is so much to learn from Deanna’s story. I love in particular, her point that for us late starters, it is often a mental challenge; to ‘glance back to learn but look forward for growth’. And to stand proud – all our life experiences have made us who we are. Let’s all look forward and grow together.

I am personally inspired to write a investment policy statement – been meaning to do that for a while but I’m a great procrastinator …  

What obstacles have you overcome to make you the person you are today?

15 Replies to “Late Starter to FI series #9 – Recovering Women Wealth”

  1. You know I started reading through this and it was interesting, but then she mentioned her superstition and she lost me. This is 2020 for goodness sakes. Hello science… Now she’ll be brainwashed and join the rest of the american sheeple and pay her 10% of her pay to her church or should I say pastor…. FFS, So 1930’s. Just my opinion.

    1. Edsta67, we all have the things that help us stay (or become) strong enough to turn our lives around, and while god isn’t my thing, I would never want to put down someone who has found strength in it. Deanna, we’ll done for making massive changes in your life and it’s never too late to turn things around. Good luck!

    2. I’m sorry you feel that way, Edsta67.

      Whether you believe in God or not is not the point.

      The point is that Deanna does and lives her life according to her faith. And has managed to turn her life around from a life of destruction – that requires strength, self belief, determination, guts, courage, humility, and a willingness to reach out for help and be helped.

      Now, she is turning her finances around and helping others in recovery.

      She started all this in her 40s. When many of us feel stuck in our way of life, bemoaning that life sucks.

      Deanna, you continue to inspire me 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story here

      1. Latestarterfire, thank you for the feature, your support and kind words.

        Very well said on your comment, BTW. I think the highlight of my story is that I’ve done a 180 from a life of destruction to one of thriving.

        I share my faith because it’s what I believe to the core; however, I respect that not everyone shares my faith.

        Let’s all keep on keeping on!

    1. I think most of us were a bit dumb with money in our early 20s, Ivana! Glad you have now turned things around 🙂

  2. Very inspirational Deanna. So many of us were a bit dumb (definitely me!) in our younger years and yet we turned a corner &, like you, put that internal strength, faith, etc into making our futures positive and productive. Great work moving beyond your challenges & perspective on not regretting the past.

    1. Totally agree that we have so much internal strength, faith etc at this time of our lives to help us move forward to a positive future. I love that Deanna is so committed to sharing and teaching from her lived experiences.

  3. Very Inspirational story Deanna, and thank you so much for sharing it LSF.

    As you say, truly Inspirational for all of us coming to FIRE late!

    I particularly resonated with the line – ‘All the stuff we’ve been through has made us who we are. So, stand proud!’
    Years ago i put off making a major change in my life .When I finnaly made that change I remember thinking that I had no regrets, because it was the things that happened leading up to that point in time that made me the person i wa who was able to have the perspective to make that change. To be strong enough to not only make that change happen, but to thrive in that new life.

    So well done Deanna for not only making changes in your own life, but for sharing it here. I often think that the FIRE community sometimes feels a little ‘selfish’ – thanks for being so generous with your time and spirit.

    Shaun

    1. You are welcome, Shaun – it is an honour to share Deanna’s story here. So glad that her story resonated with you. And I add my thanks too to Deanna for her generosity of time and spirit to help us in the FI community!

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