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First, I apologize for rambling in this post. I have not fully recovered from a late night trying to get my Braves past the Cubs.

I wanted to start a new thread as it seems distinct from the "Hello my name is..." thread earlier. A significant number of us seem to trying to juggle FIRE, parenthood and possibly some SAHM time. I fit right into this group, with three kids moving into late Grade School. My wife has been a SAHM for eight years now, though she has added 8-10 hours of work a week at pitiful rates helping out at a good local preschool. She does this primarily because she enjoys it.

Anyway, I would love to hear how people are working to manage this. An even heavier emphasis on LBYM seems to be one theme. We drive an old beater station wagon when hauling kids around locally and shoehorn the five of us into a Jetta when on longer trips. Renting a van for 7+ hour drives may be in our future. We always buy used cars and have been able to get some great deals, like that old station wagon purchased from family friends years ago.

It can get old driving older cars than other families and taking fewer big vacations. However, the peace of mind we have earned by setting aside quite a chunk in the bank comes up at interesting times. We had a bunch of families over for an Octoberfest this weekend, and several folks remarked about uneasiness about holding on to jobs and not enjoying work but being afraid of change. We have the same concerns, but a huge benefit of working toward FIRE is when you have "up yours" money during a terrible job market like we have today.

As an aside, we do not throw a lot of parties but want to start doing this more often. We run into a number of families all the time because our kids go to the same school/pool/scout troop/sports team/sunday school/whatever. There is a nice sense of going through the same kinds of things together. One of the things I would do more often if FIRE is to visit with friends. If we don't do this more often now, it will be far more difficult later. This is worth loosening up the purse strings for now, to us, to build quality of life later. It really didn't cost much to get a keg and some food anyway.

Today's TMF article on saving for college is part of the equation. My wife and I are working to ensure we can cover at least 50% of each child's college expenses. In an ideal world, we would bump that percentage up but make sure each child was paying something out of pocket. When I built my personal retirement spreadsheet, my figures assume retirement savings gets slashed during years my kids are in college even though we already have a fair bit set aside already.

My greatest struggle between parenthood and FIRE revolves around the time and energy invested in my career. The cliché about kids only being kids once is a core truth. We have been extremely happy about the decision by my wife to be a SAHM. I now struggle with keeping my life happily balanced with my own personal hobbies, good time with the kids and putting "enough" into work.

On financial stuff, we were pretty good about saving early and often during our first five years out of college. Some friends of ours splurged on the "last big trip before we have kids". I don't know if that will work well for them. We have tried to stay the course and keep ratcheting up the percentages saved without getting miserly or silly about things. In a way, it was easier at times to save when our kids were very young. It seemed like everyone expected you to be broke if you had kids under the age of five. This seems less true of our current generation of parents, though, who were a bit more prone to have the newest SUV and take young kids out to fancy restaurants, etc.

Anyone have thoughts or experiences on trying to balance FIRE goals with parenthood?

Cheers,

JohnH
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Anyone have thoughts or experiences on trying to balance FIRE goals with parenthood?

Wifey and I "hired" our children (14 and 11) to do some cleanup work at our business we just sold. They agreed to work for $5 per hour for 40 hours.

Once we paid them, the new game cube, cds and videos didn't seem nearly as impressive as holding (and keeping) the HARD-EARNED $200.

JB
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On financial stuff, we were pretty good about saving early and often during our first five years out of college. Some friends of ours splurged on the "last big trip before we have kids". I don't know if that will work well for them. We have tried to stay the course and keep ratcheting up the percentages saved without getting miserly or silly about things. In a way, it was easier at times to save when our kids were very young. It seemed like everyone expected you to be broke if you had kids under the age of five. This seems less true of our current generation of parents, though, who were a bit more prone to have the newest SUV and take young kids out to fancy restaurants, etc.

Anyone have thoughts or experiences on trying to balance FIRE goals with parenthood?


Well, my DW and I may have taken a slightly different road to our current stop on the road to FIRE but I think some things may apply. We had our first child at a pretty young age (23) and now have two kids. When we had our first child, we were still battling with consumer debt and living paycheck to paycheck to some degree. We were putting money into my 401(k) account but not much else was being saved. We did not have an eFund or any short-term savings.

Now we are at a point where we have two children and have eliminated the CC debt. We do carry a loan on a Chevy Trailblazer for my DW and on a Harley for me. When we evaluated everything, these expenses were worth any potential delay in FIRE for us. My DW previously had a Toyota Corolla that was paid off but with the kids getting older and my DW doing more and more carpooling, we felt it was worth the cost to get the bigger SUV.

As far as balancing FIRE goals with parenthood, my personal opinion is that we will do what it takes to allow our kids to pursue their interests without derailing our FIRE plans. For instance, my OS may soon be starting karate classes. This is something he has shown an interest in so we found a great instructor and have talked with OS to see if he is interested in pursuing lessons. If he is, we are more than happy to pay for that even if it resulted in FIRE being slightly delayed. While we attempt to provide for our kids interests, we do not give/buy them everything they want. Toys and material items are things we do not really indulge the kids in. However, we will typically open the purse strings for classes/experiences that interest them or will expose them to new things.

Another example is our annual memberships to the local zoo and the Children's Museum. While the cost of these things could go into our savings, we think it is more important to enjoy that time as a family and go with a goal of learning at least one new thing on each visit. In my opinion, things that are worth delaying FIRE for because I can see the enjoyment my kids, DW and I get from it.

Of course there are limits to the thought of "we will do X even if it means delaying FIRE" but so far we have not really hit them. One area that may fall into that category that you mentioned was savings for college. My goal is to provide 100% funding for a 4-year college degree at the school of their choice. Granted that will not be possible if they choose Harvard or something like that but that is my goal. As we progress, I am evaluation whether or not we should continue with that goal or scale that back and send the difference to our FIRE savings.

On the Saving for College board we recently had a discussion weighing the different savings vehicles for college. Presently I was going with 529 plans for both kids. However, I am now thinking of supplementing that with taxable accounts that can be used for college expenses or be applied to FIRE if we change our mind.

As I think you are aware, the path to FIRE can be an ever-changing journey and requires periodic re-evaluation. I really cannot tell you if the way we are approaching things are good or not but we created a plan for FIRE that made us happy but still left enough cushion to enjoy things along the line.

Sure I might like it if my DW was not a SAHM and earned a substantial income so that we could FIRE in 10 years instead of 20, but I am comfortable with working 20 more years so we can enjoy the things that we do now. It is a delicate balance and really is a personal decision as to what things are worth the extra time of working.

Not sure if I really addressed any of your questions because it really feels like I have just been rambling away myself.

dt
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"As I think you are aware, the path to FIRE can be an ever-changing journey and requires periodic re-evaluation. I really cannot tell you if the way we are approaching things are good or not but we created a plan for FIRE that made us happy but still left enough cushion to enjoy things along the line"

I agree the path to FIRE while prioritizing for children is far from a straight line. As a philosophy I very much have followed a path that seems much like yours.

I share the goals of 100% financing of college, and try to make sure that when a sincere interest appears that it does not go untended. We have diving lessons rather than Karate. We also try to be a little materially stringent, but to allow as many experiential opportunities as come along.

Our simplest path has been in making sure we have our major saving requirement funded automatically. THis is both for education and retirement. Even our emergency fund is in I-Bonds, that automatically come one a month, building a nice safe fund that is tough to touch but not untouchable as we draw down savings in this abysmal 'safe money' environment.

We decided that we will be a little more aggresive and hope to spread out risk by going international and REIT rather than heavily into bonds. I am hoping to hangem up by 52, with my wife having the chance to retire at 50. Fortunately, she loves her job so I will likely spend a few years with the enviable activity of persuing hobbies for enjoyment while she persues what she enjoys.

But our keys, and they have served us well is pre-allocating savings and then scrambling to cover extra desires. We have cut back at times, and I have done things like referee basketball games to cover excess expenses to stay on track, or at least until we change allocations. But getting debt free, and staying that way(except for mortgage which runs out at FIRE date) is of primary importance.

Having a plan, even if it is fluid and oft adjusted is the only way to FIRE. Having it written and finding the holes and thinking things through is also IMO a good idea.
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Good Post John!

My wife has been a SAHM for 20 years, occasionally doing part-time work to get through a few tough spots. She substitutes now but is now looking for full-time work for the 1st time in our marriage.

We saved and invested an average of 20% of our income and gave 10% to charities but decided that in order to FIRE by the ages of 50, the college educations would have to be handled in some other way.

Both my wife and I were collegiate athletes and saw the same inclinations in all 3 of our children at an early age. So we were reasonably sure that they would be getting athletic scholarships. We have spent a lot of time and money on the way preparing for that though. So far, are expectations have proven right as my oldest daughter is in her 2nd year playing basketball on a full scholarship. My 2nd child is being sought after for football by about a dozen Division 1 schools (including West Point) and baring no injuries this year, will have a paid for education as well. My 3rd child is 9 and appears to be following a similar path so in that regard we have been extremely fortunate.

Unless you make a good deal of money, it would seem difficult to accomplish both FIRE and college educations for several kids. It would take extremem LBYM and possibly some help by relatives.

I would go the community college route and make the kid work. FIRE is more important IMHO. Kids who work for their own college appriciate it more and are generally more responsible adults.

decath
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As an aside, we do not throw a lot of parties but want to start doing this more often. We run into a number of families all the time because our kids go to the same school/pool/scout troop/sports team/sunday school/whatever. There is a nice sense of going through the same kinds of things together. One of the things I would do more often if FIRE is to visit with friends. If we don't do this more often now, it will be far more difficult later. This is worth loosening up the purse strings for now, to us, to build quality of life later. It really didn't cost much to get a keg and some food anyway.


I do this a lot. It's great fun and some people are starting to really look forward to it. I think I fed 25 people a full dinner for about $40 last time.

On the other hand, I don't generally serve alcohol. I wouldn't want to encourage any of my friends to drink and drive. How much is in a keg? How many friends will that go into? How drunk will they be trying to drive home? Just something to think about....

(Not to mention that alcohol can easily be the most expensive part of a party.)

Vickifool
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Anyway, I would love to hear how people are working to manage this. An even heavier emphasis on LBYM seems to be one theme. We drive an old beater station wagon when hauling kids around locally and shoehorn the five of us into a Jetta when on longer trips. Renting a van for 7+ hour drives may be in our future. We always buy used cars and have been able to get some great deals, like that old station wagon purchased from family friends years ago.

It can get old driving older cars than other families and taking fewer big vacations.


The secret to a happy life is having a good mechanic!

We drive a minivan that's older than my middle-schooler. She recently commented, "All the teachers at my school are always complaining about how low their salaries are. Why don't any of them drive used cars?"

I think she gets it!

(Probably didn't hurt that when she was assigned to write a persuasive essay and chose "teachers should get paid more" I made her find out how much teachers get paid and how much a few other jobs pay. She decided to write a different essay.)

What's your problem with "driving older cars than other families?" Is your self-image related to consuming? Why are you comparing yourself on that metric? Compare on "financial savvy" or "FIRE fund balance" instead. (Yes, I know. Bragging about purchases is a major topic of conversation. Bragging about savings isn't. This is just male posturing. Yours really is bigger but you can't show people.)

Vickifool
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As 38yo parents of a 6mo my DH & I have are in this club. In the past our approach to LBOM was to increase our means. Now our desire to spend time with our daughter cuts in to that. I enjoy my job so after a 1yr maternity leave I'll return to work. Our goal is 4 children (2 adopted) and I intend to take at least a year off with each and work part-time as much as possible. This way I can continue funding my 401k, payoff the loan we used as a down payment for our house and take advantage of my companies free medical and other benefits.

In 15yrs at 53, I'm eligible for a generous defined-benefit pension including medical insurance. We contribute 3% of our income to my union's ROTH-like pension plan for my DH and both max out our 401ks & Roths.

We chose our house with FIRE in mind. Since housing is expensive in NYC we purchased a 2family. This allows us to fix our housing costs as well as take advantage of the escalating rents. We can afford the house on one income with some belt tightening. The current under-market(my single brother lives there) 3br rental is funding our adoption fund and later will go towards education expenses for our child(ren). My company will pay some of the costs as well. We also have a 4rm basement apt, which will allow us to keep childcare expenses low by offering my 22yo niece and her baby due in Jan. a place to live while she cares for our daughter. Her college is in walking distance (we pay her tuition) and I'll watch her baby in the evening while she finishes her degree in Early Childhood Education. Her goal is to open her own childcare center and we plan to invest in it for an additional income stream in retirement. My SIL already has her Masters in Education and works for a very exclusive private school. She's ttc baby #1 and will be a partner in the business along with her DH, another of my brothers.

Thats our plan for now. A work in progress at best.

Crazyinlovefool




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"I think she gets it!

(Probably didn't hurt that when she was assigned to write a persuasive essay and chose "teachers should get paid more" I made her find out how much teachers get paid and how much a few other jobs pay. She decided to write a different essay.)"

Boy, this also probably rules out a future in either sales or politics :}. Though obviously good to stick with honesty, the power of telling the teacher what they want to hear is a great tool for the college bound to posess!
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I just finished college. I got my best grades and honors when I was forced to pay my own way. Your children are smart, they'll be fine. Plus student loans are easy to get and offer many features such as subsidized interest etc... Our government makes it easy for us to own a home and get an education!!

Worry about your goals and know that there are many options to finance an education--including scholorships & grants.

Just my 2 cents...
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First, if you are looking for a new job, check out the opportunities at a nearby university or college. At many schools family members of staff/faculty get free/discounted tuition.

Second, if you have college bound children that are at all interested in teaching in public schools you can get a substantial amount of a student loan fogiven if you teach certain subjects at certain schools. (You would be surprised to see how many schools qualify.)

Third, always explore in-state (resident) tuition. Not only will the fees be substantially less, your family will incur less travel and living expenses. If they perform well academically and develop strong interests they can transfer to a school that meets those interests.

Talk to your kid about his or her interests, and be honest about what you can afford and/or are willing to pay. Explain to your kid that leaving school with 100 grand in student loans only makes sense if that education will lead to both personal happiness and a very high paying job.

My four years of in-state tuition at the best public university in the state was 12,500 dollars. Just to be clear, that is 3125 a year. (Actually, my parents and I paid a little less than due to a small academic scholarship.) Today, in-state tuition at this same University is still only 4500 a year.

I busted my butt, lived at home for the first two years, worked 30-40 hours a week to help pay my tuition, didn't take out any student loans, maintained a 3.9/4.0 GPA, and graduated with a full scholarship and stipend to one of the top graduate schools in my discipline.

When I arrived at graduate school many of my fellow graduate students were flabbergasted to learn that their undergraduate tuition was 4 times more than what my family paid, and that's not counting what they paid/owe to stay in dorms, living expenses for not working, and travel expenses to visit home. Yet, we ended up in the same place.

It is not a parent's responsibility to pay 20k a year so their kid can party and find him/herself. They can do that for free.

marxtacy
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I was a SAHM until three years ago when my youngest went off to kindergarten. Bringing in a second income again (with an 8:00 to 2:00 job) has been an absolute windfall. Think about it...you've lived off the one income for years and then you have extra money. I think most non-fire types actually start taking more vacations and "treating" themselves, but I am getting great satisfaction just sockin' the dough away. Don't just live below you means, consider investing the entire second paycheck.

I know you said your wife already has a job, but I offer this thought to other SAHM's, or their DH's, who are considering getting back in the workforce. Give a lot of thought to where you'll work. If you really want to be home before school's out for the day, consider self-employment (don't sell yourself short, there's lots of opportunity here) or working for a place that brings added benefits like store discounts, etc. It may be cool to take the job at Starbucks, but working at a retail store may get you free clothing, etc. Also, I've noticed that many of my friends went back to work and it didn't last. They took a low-paying job because it worked with the school schedule and then when the school break hit they found that the money they made working didn't cover the cost of childcare for their kids. Or, the employer said they'd be flexible and weren't. I recommend a plan for getting back into the workforce gradually. And, hopefully finding a job that you're passionate about.

cautiousone
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I was a SAHM until three years ago when my youngest went off to kindergarten. Bringing in a second income again (with an 8:00 to 2:00 job) has been an absolute windfall. Think about it...you've lived off the one income for years and then you have extra money. I think most non-fire types actually start taking more vacations and "treating" themselves, but I am getting great satisfaction just sockin' the dough away. Don't just live below you means, consider investing the entire second paycheck.

We have a few years yet until both of our kids are in school all day but this is something my DW and I have discussed. As you mentioned, the key is finding something that will allow to work around the school schedule to some degree or pay well enough to cover childcare when needed. And since we are used to living on just my income, that would give us additional funds to stash away for FIRE.

If you don't mind sharing, what do you do? Are you self-employed or are you working for a business? One place my DW has thought might work well when she is ready is Target. They are right near our house and seem to have many shifts available. Plus she loves to shop there so the discount would be a benefit as well.

She may also focus more time on becoming self-employed. She has been doing rubber-stamping, making jewelry, and other crafty things and thinking about the possibility of turning that into a small business. Since we have a few years until her time will be more available, we can take some time to think about what she really wants to do.

dt
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I am self-employed. I have a retail web site on the web and absolutely love it because my life is totally in balance. This is my third year and I have been profitable (although very small) from the get-go; mostly from choosing not to spend on anything until I absolutely had to. For example, I was willing to put up with the snail-pace of windows 98 and a dial-up line for the first year and I found a web host that was free. I just felt that there was no sense spending money until I was 100% sure that my idea would work.

As I said, my life is in balance. Orders are emailed to me and I pack them while my kids are at school. If I'm backlogged, which happens twice a week, I work when my husband gets home and he helps me out.

My advise is don't get started before the kids are in school full time (kindergarten is half days here and that was a bit stressful - what can you accomplish in 3 hours when you're a startup?). Now is a great time to do research though. Two years before I took the plunge I set up a business name, got a resale permit and started attending tradeshows and researching the web for competition. This is all very fun - a little bit of much need travel and shopping!

She has been doing rubber-stamping, making jewelry, and other crafty things and thinking about the possibility of turning that into a small business.

This was exactly me...not the rubber-stamping and jewelry making, but taking something you really enjoy doing in your free time and turning it into a small business. I encourage you to see what's already being done out there. Look on eBay and the web. It doesn't have to be something that's never been done before. You just have to fill a niche.

cautiousone
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I am self-employed. I have a retail web site on the web and absolutely love it because my life is totally in balance. This is my third year and I have been profitable (although very small) from the get-go; mostly from choosing not to spend on anything until I absolutely had to. For example, I was willing to put up with the snail-pace of windows 98 and a dial-up line for the first year and I found a web host that was free. I just felt that there was no sense spending money until I was 100% sure that my idea would work.

Thank you for the response. If you don't mind, I would be interested in seeing your website just to see what you have done.

My advise is don't get started before the kids are in school full time (kindergarten is half days here and that was a bit stressful - what can you accomplish in 3 hours when you're a startup?). Now is a great time to do research though. Two years before I took the plunge I set up a business name, got a resale permit and started attending tradeshows and researching the web for competition. This is all very fun - a little bit of much need travel and shopping!

That is very good advice. The kindergarten in our area is also half days and it would be too much to try and balance all of that at once. Right now, our kids are in so many classes and activities that my DW would not have the time to do it but we can do the research together.

This was exactly me...not the rubber-stamping and jewelry making, but taking something you really enjoy doing in your free time and turning it into a small business. I encourage you to see what's already being done out there. Look on eBay and the web. It doesn't have to be something that's never been done before. You just have to fill a niche.

Thanks again. It is nice to hear from someone that has done this and is currently a living example that it can be done and work well. I know my DW and my Mom have talked about starting something and doing craft shows or selling on the web. Given my programming background, setting up a website will be something we can take care of. When I get home I will mention this to my DW and see how she feels about starting a research project and starting our due diligence.

dt
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<<Thank you for the response. If you don't mind, I would be interested in seeing your website just to see what you have done.
>>


No, no, no! This NOT the way to attract the interest of a small businessperson. Better to say that you have a new credit card and you want to see how many increases in credit limits they will give you if you max it out.

Just a tip.



Seattle Pioneer
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No, no, no! This NOT the way to attract the interest of a small businessperson. Better to say that you have a new credit card and you want to see how many increases in credit limits they will give you if you max it out.

True, but I was waiting to say that until I at least learned what type of product was being offered. :-)

dt (has lots and lots of available credit :)
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No, no, no! This NOT the way to attract the interest of a small businessperson. Better to say that you have a new credit card and you want to see how many increases in credit limits they will give you if you max it out.

Not to change the subject, but I found it interesting how my CC company would arbitrarily up my credit limit. I'm one of those people who pay in full every month, and, with one exception, never went over $3000 on any one bill. When I got my card some seven years ago, my limit was $7000 or so. I looked at it last year and it was up to $27,000. While flattered, I knew this was trouble if I ever decided to move and buy a new house (available credit counts against you), so I had them lower it by over half and put a 'cap' on it.. ie no increases w/o my approval.

Mark
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While flattered, I knew this was trouble if I ever decided to move and buy a new house (available credit counts against you), so I had them lower it by over half and put a 'cap' on it.. ie no increases w/o my approval.

Assuming everything else on your credit report checks out positive, I doubt that having too much available credit would seriously hinder your chances. To verify, you could place a call to a mortgage broker and make an inquiry so you know for future reference. And if you are carrying any debt, lowering your limits may hurt your credit score more than help as you will be skewing your debt to available credit ratios.

dt
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