I’m in IT and my wife is a teacher. My wife loves her career and I like mine, but I’d like to do something for a living that I love. As I write this, we are a few months away from paying off our 4 bedroom home in a beach city of Los Angeles. I’ve been focused on this goal for a few years and it came sooner than I expected. As a result, I’m setting new goals–my biggest one is to get out of the human rat race and paying off our house gives us a great start! I don’t necessarily want to stop working, but I want to be at a point where I can feel excited and secure in the work I want to do.
I’ve always been a saver, but not the obsessive kind you read about that never vacations or goes out to eat–I’ve simply worked hard, made good money, and prioritized saving. I have many friends who’ve made as much or more than me, but still have lower net worth’s. They are fantastic people, but they don’t seem to shop for deals, they seem to buy more expensive items than they need to, and typically don’t have a lot to show for it. I’m not here to judge, but I do plan to share tips on how we’ve been able to maintain a great lifestyle while also saving.
I graduated from a decent state college on the east coast and headed out west due to the struggling economy at the time. I wasn’t the best student, but I always tried when I had to in school and felt I had more interest in making money than being a great student. Years later, I came to regret the attitude I had about school as I know I could have done better, although I’m not sure how much more it would have helped me in work.
I found a job in Santa Barbara, CA out of college, traveling for a small technology company. Although the pay wasn’t great, I learned a lot and had a great opportunity to save money while traveling around the world on the company’s dime. After traveling for 3 years and seeing many of my coworker friends leave the company, I knew I needed to move to a more metropolitan area to move my career to the next level and create more stability in my life. I saved $50,000, had no debt, and quit my job in search of better opportunities (it was hard to interview when traveling). At 25, I found a job in Los Angeles and found roommates.
Within a couple of months of living in my new place, I bought a small studio condominium as it happened to be a little cheaper to own than rent. Always having a curiosity of having tenants, I eventually rented this place to a college student and moved back in with my roommates as it was more fun than living alone and I was making a small profit by renting it out.
By my sixth year out of school, I was making a low 6-figure salary and had limited expenses–without sacrificing much on lifestyle, I managed to save over $150,000. I had switched jobs and was working hard. Without kids and major obligations, I always felt an appreciation for being employed with a nice salary, always took pride in my work, and often worked more hours than most of my peers. I’m not always the smartest person in the room, but I am usually one of the harder and passionate workers–which I believe matters more than just smarts alone.
During this time, I met my future (and lovely) wife. We share common values and, although she makes a lower salary as a public school teacher, she is also a decent saver. With the housing market starting to drop in 2009, I sold my condominium and we were able to pick up a good-sized home for under $650,000. We were very fortunate for this purchase as it has appreciated almost $500,000 in seven years. Between our home equity and retirement savings, we’re happy to be worth more than $1 million, although this doesn’t mean what it used to.
Within a year of getting married, we were blessed with our first child (a beautiful girl) and less than two years after her, we had our adorable son. I love my kids and my family more than anything. While I am still a hard worker and am doing well in my career, my family and life priorities started changing my mindset . A few years ago, my father planted the idea in my head that we should pay off our house. Watching many Suze Orman shows and the like, I had always learned that a mortgage is good debt; however, as a home builder and entrepreneur, my father recommended that I have no debt. He never held a mortgage and felt that having a large debt (even with a tax write-off) gave you a monkey on your back. I became curious and started calculating how I could pay off our house sooner.
Fast forward two refinances and switching into a 7/1 Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM), I became obsessed with this idea. For over three years, I’ve spent way too much time reviewing amortization charts, calculating our expenses and brainstorming ways to pay off our house. While my wife didn’t get as obsessed as I did, she came onboard with the plan and has been an amazing partner on this journey. As we got closer to the goal, I realized I didn’t simply want to pay off the house–I wanted to get out of the rat race altogether!
I’ve made this site to write about my journey to here and going forward. By no means are we out of the rat race as our expenses have increased with two kids in preschool, rising healthcare costs, and more. I’m hoping to provide insight into how we got to where we are for other like minded or curious people, while also documenting decisions, goals, and experiences we’ll have going forward.