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
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In this episode, I had a great conversation with Vikki, a late starter like us. We connected through Instagram, and since she didn’t have time to answer my questionnaire, we decided to chat over Zoom. I recorded our session – I’m excited with the result – it’s intimate and honest.
Vikki has been through her own financial struggles, including debt. She shares her money experiences and how she’s tackling her debt now.
A little about me
I’m 49 and married with a 9 year old daughter. We live in LA. I have been here now for 21 years. I’m originally a New Yorker, a very proud New Yorker, who came to Los Angeles for law school. An internship turned into a 14 year career at my last employer.
I grew up obsessed with the entertainment industry. I was always trying to figure out how to make all that work but right now, what I like is spending time with my family.
I really love adventures, a good road trip and definitely travelling and just seeing where the day takes you. I also love volunteering at my daughter’s school and do it whenever I can.
Looking back ...
Our financial situation at the time I found FIRE
My first steps on the path to FI
How far along the FI path are we now?
Advantages of starting late on the FI journey
How my relationship with money has changed
I would overspend, so it would usually be a trip. It would usually be something big like my bonus every year. I’m really good at spending money.
I would take my mother on a trip. When my stepfather left my mom, I wanted to cheer her up. I love going over to London so I took her to London, Brussels and Germany. And because I was still using credit cards, I overspent.
I didn’t have budgeting tools. I didn’t know about zero dollar budget yet. So I had gotten out of debt, but I didn’t know how to not live beyond my means. I got my first credit card when I was a minor – I was 12. I got my first major credit card and first student loans at 17. I never knew a life of not living beyond my means.
I just thought I never made enough money to live ‘the’ life. I knew how to live. And that’s what it is. It was the ‘just not enough’ mentality. I didn’t think I made enough. I didn’t. And I keep thinking that if I just keep working harder, if I just make more money, I’ll get to a place where it will all be ok. I was like a junkie.
They don’t call it the treadmill for nothing. It’s like that hamster going round and round.
I didn’t understand any of it besides feeling like I was doing something wrong.
It wasn’t until financial peace university that I learned about zero dollar budgeting and that there is a way to make this work. I didn’t understand until I read The Simple Path to Wealth and you want to try to get to a 50% savings rate.
But honestly, it worked. One of the first stages is you cut up the credit cards. I’m like, holy shit. But then you get to a thousand dollars emergency savings. It’s like, okay. We’re not screwed. Okay. And then, and then there’s a software budgeting tool called Every Dollar that I still pay for.
Every Dollar, where you create a $0 budget really works for me. My husband and I may tap into the next month’s budget during the last 10 days of the month but we’re sill not using the credit card. We’ve stayed off the cards since that summer of 2019, when I started financial peace university.
For instance, I just went to New York for a friend’s 50th birthday. I figured out how to do it in the budget. And that feels better. That honestly feels better than spending money that wasn’t mine.
My daughter and I just did a seven day road trip in the summer, in my 21 year old car while my husband stayed home. He watched the house, took care of the dog and went to work. He’s an hourly employee.
We did it on budget. We made it work. So it’s honestly the better feeling – pulling off something in budget than spending money that wasn’t ours.
Back to Latestarterfire
I remember LA Law too and the excesses of the 80s – big hair, big shoulder pads and the feeling that we can do anything when we grow up 🙂
Your story is a reminder that our personal experiences with money from a young age shapes our money story and the choices we make later in life.
It speaks to me of the power of community but it cuts both ways. You grew up with spending on credit cards being the norm while Ray, your FIRE colleague modeled a different money story. I wonder how many more people will pick up JL Collin’s The Simple Path to Wealth from that book shelf and have their lives changed as a result.
Tackling your debt speaks to me of your tenacity and resilience. Thank you for sharing your struggles and the strategies that work for you – having a zero dollar budget plus attacking the debt in a hybrid of the snowball and avalanche methods.
You were so excited that you’ve taken trips within budget and not on credit cards. I remember that excitement coming through the Zoom call. “It’s honestly the better feeling – pulling off something in budget than spending money that wasn’t ours.”
Yes, 10 to 15 years is a really long time. I’m so glad you are prioritising your self care and mental health now. It’s a fine balance to look after oneself in the present moment and to work hard for the future self.
I know for me, celebrating milestones along the way, no matter how small, helps to keep me motivated and maintain momentum.
I look forward to celebrating many milestones with you, Vikki as you progress one step at a time towards your goal of being debt free and FIRE 🔥
Thank you so much for your generosity, Vikki – we appreciate you sharing your money journey thus far.