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My first teaching contract was for a magnificent $6K in 1967, when I was a peach-fuzzed 21 who loved getting carded. Hamburger was $.39/lb. and gas was about $.29.9, unless there was a "gas war" when it was less. My DW of 1 month and I lived in a $100/month apartment (utilities furnished, of course, lol!) and actually wondered what we'd do with so much money. On some paydays, we walked to a Mom 'n Pop meat market while coals in the small Hibachi got hot and sinned by buying $1.49/lb. ribeyes. There. I've just dated myself :-)

This post will describe a non-gastronomic "sin," one I hope most readers here didn't commit (or won't) commit. I'm talking about possibly the main self-infliction to a successful retirement: not starting early.

For the first 10 years or so, I remember being mighty PO'd that my employer withheld a whopping (and non-matched) 3% of my gross and sent it to the state, where IN's backward laws required that it be invested in a GIC (guaranteed interest contract). This was a super-conservative instrument of bonds and Treasurys, I believe. When I rarely looked at quarterly statements, I thought of those ribeyes and my mandatory 3% deprivation. I asked myself why they were acting on my behalf when the actuaries said that I had a whole buncha' years to live--the nerve!

Truthfully, there was some discretionary money available all along, mostly due to a 25-year mortgage of $156/month on a $25.5K ranch. (Ring that one up as "dating myself #2 :-P). The kids came along when I was 28 and 31, giving me solid excuses not to investigate that bothersome 403(b) thing that the "old teachers" in their 40's tried to discuss. My dad asked me in my mid-30's the puzzling question of how I thought I'd be situated at his age. "I'd get started if I were you," he said. "And don't be pissed about that 3%. It's not much. Trust me."

In the summer of -87, at age 42, DW pushed me out the door to a retirement planning meeting. With a deep sigh, I committed $20 per check to Fidelity. I made my first two ($20) investments that September. The very next month (you may recall) came Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987, when the Dow plunged 508 points, or about 22%. Damn those colleague-oldsters and even my father! My begrudged 403 (b) of $40 at that juncture was trashed.

DW was a SAH mom for 11 years. When she returned to work, we had quite a bit of discretionary money. I'd love to say that we maxed or near-maxed our accounts after the heart-stopping 10/19/87; that we'd learned about ups and downs and asset allocation and panic-avoidance and buying on dips and a host of other things. Nope. That extra money went mostly to the credit union, where we enjoyed a nice 5-digit balance for too many years. Meanwhile, our retirement contributions increased too cautiously and incrementally. I didn't know then that some friends/colleagues who occasionally complained about their liquidity being marginal had been stashing away large amounts for years.

When I came to TMF, I lurked "back in the day" when the original REHP was focused on FIRE strategy. I realized that while our nest egg wasn't disastrous, its shell wasn't thick, either. No vacations from 1998 'til I retired in 2005. One "new-used vehicle" was purchased. 403's were maxed, and, fortunately, selections were good to us.

As I said in the subject box, I hope my story isn't yours. If it is, you probably will agree with this: "Catch-up?" One condiment that's much more palatable on hamburgers & fries!

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