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.
And if you’ve missed any of the previous stories, you can catch up here – Late Starter to FI series
Today, I’d like to introduce you to late starter, Todd from 50PlusOnFIRE.com
Todd writes about his journey to Financial Independence with his wife, using a different strategy instead of investing in the stock market. And about their motivation to put generosity first.
A little about us
Wendy and I live in beautiful Meridian, Idaho where our children are fourth generation students in the school district, going back to their great grandmother. I, on the other hand, like many residents of Idaho, grew up in California although I have not lived there since the summer of my sophomore year of college back in the late ’80s.
I am in my mid 50s and am known as ’50+’ on my blog, while my wife goes by and will forever be ’50-‘.
We married back in 2003, each bringing a 5 year old child from previous marriages, and we’ve had two children together.
I’ve worked in management since college – despite my original master’s degree in French and intention to teach. And have been a financial educator and education manager with a nonprofit credit counseling agency since 2004. We have been fortunate that Wendy has chosen and been able to be at home full-time to raise our family, mostly thanks to her thrift and savvy shopping.
Our favorite things to do together include spending time on the windy and rainy Oregon Coast, watching Harry Potter movies, and visiting any Disney or University Studios theme park.
COVID really cleaned out our social schedules. Our evenings are spent with our two boys at home rather than at activities or social events.
Just before spring break 2020, my employer sent all employees home to work. Those six weeks left a delicious taste in my mouth for financial independence and working from home.
Use this FREE Checklist to start your journey to Financial Independence
As a financial educator and blogger for my non profit credit counseling employer, I had been hearing about FinCon and the FIRE movement since 2016 or 2017 or so. I have attempted many times since 2002 to start and run my own business and earn side income.
My moment finally came when I started reading several FIRE blogs that shared their journey experiences, including the income they were earning from their blogs. I realized there were two differences between these FIRE bloggers and me: first, I had far greater experience with writing and financial principles, and second, they were earning far more money and were in a far stronger financial position than I was.
I had always lacked discipline in my finances growing up, maxing out my first $2,000 credit card in 36 hours at age 21. I overshot my first $500 gas card credit limit the next year by $300.
In the fall of 2019, just as I was coming to these realizations, I spoke with a friend in my church about what he does. He was the volunteer scout leader and always seemed to be available for every event and activity. I learned that he and a friend had started a website that teaches bloggers to take their idea from conception to income replacement within 24 months – incomeschool.com With his mentorship, I launched my first niche blog on the type of dogs we own that few have heard of: ShihpooCentral.com
Finally, as a person of faith, I was ready to change my relationship with money from one of earning and entitlement to one of appreciating my blessings and sharing them with others in need. One particularly meaningful passage from our holy text refers to seeking riches with the intent to do good. That is when I committed to giving at least half of all revenues generated by my FIRE efforts.
The whole idea of FIRE fit well with our vision of what we want to achieve in our remaining decades. In order to volunteer for service and humanitarian missions for our church, to spend time with our adult children and their families, and to do good now in our communities and neighborhood, we needed to create Financial Independence sooner than later.
Our financial situation
I was nearly 40 by the time I opened my first IRA, and we have always justified not maxing out our contributions because of needing things for our four kids. We had twice the retirement fund average in the US, but it was not near enough to support ourselves in retirement, even with Social Security.
Now in my 50s, I sense much more strongly the finite nature of time and know that we do not have enough saved for retirement and will not, even if we maxed out both my 403(b) and our IRAs (which would basically leave us homeless and in need of food pantry assistance).
I post our FIRE Journey progress monthly on my blog. It’s early, but after a major impulse purchase set us back in June, we corrected and have made some good progress on our debt. Our main focus is building what I call our PIGs, or Passive Income Generators. For now, these include our two blogs that will eventually grow to replace our full time income and will last well into retirement.
Other than a propensity to take our kids to Disneyland or Disney World every four or five years, we live pretty frugally. Wendy has worked wonders over the years, putting food on the table for a family of six with a $400 monthly grocery budget.
First steps on the path to FI
Honestly, the very first step on our FIRE journey was to accept that any income we generated for our financial independence would not belong to us but to God, to do as much good as we could. We’ve been very blessed in our lives and want to empower others.
Once we accepted that principle, we needed to decide how much we needed to live on long-term. Finally, creating our PIGs to cover those needs was the third step.
How far along the path to FI are we now?
Specific challenges or advantages of starting late
Compared to those who start in their 20s and 30s, those of us starting later have much more drastic options to choose from. We can choose to max out our investments (401k/403b, IRAs), create one or more long-term PIGs, or both.
Personally, I was not ready to consider FIRE earlier. Before marriage and family, I was too self-centered, living too much by a consumer driven Carpe Diem. With young children, we tried to focus on providing a loving home and experiences rather than just material things.
Now, in my 50s, I’ve authored several books and have much greater confidence in my abilities to focus on our goals and achieve them. Having earned a second masters degree in 2017 (International Management), I am much better prepared to run my own business and am by far a better writer than I was even 10 years ago.
Will we reach FI?
Yes, I am both hopeful and confident.
Originally, our goal is for me to retire from my full-time job at age 60. For a little while, I wavered because by doing so, I would miss out on any sort of social security. However, our goals for our PIGs are such that they will far outweigh any Social Security benefits we would receive at 62 or even 67 years old.
Still, I really do love my job as a financial educator. I could easily picture myself stepping into a part-time role after 60, even taking a sabbatical before returning.
The only reason we would really want to retire early (6-7 years early) would be to spend six to eighteen months at a time on humanitarian and service missions through our church. Our youngest will have graduated high school by then and will be in college.
Six years of working on my PIG for two hours each weekday morning before heading to my job plus one or two nights a week writing blog posts and developing my PIGs will get us there.
I’m working on my first FIRE book, after which I will develop and begin offering corresponding eCourses and digital downloads.
Back to Latestarterfire
Thank you, Todd for sharing your FIRE journey and story with us.
Creating passive income streams in retirement is the holy grail, isn’t it? I have been thinking about this a lot lately too, wondering if it is safe to rely on Australian shares continuing to reward investors with good dividends in the future. Having another source of passive income is prudent, especially when starting late on the investing journey.
And your spirit of generosity is so inspiring – giving half of your income earned from passive income generators to your church.
I look forward to following your progress on the path to financial independence and eventual retirement 🙂