I’m not the talented writer of the family, but what the heck. I’ll give this a shot. Just know, if this flows and makes sense, Mrs. Nickels did some editing.
The Information “Sponge”
Gaining control of your finances as a couple is hard. Having to do it on your own without support is even more difficult. It has already been an adventure, and over time, our plan has continued to evolve. At first, it felt like a daily struggle. Obviously getting rid of the debt was the number one priority, then we started putting big chunks of our salary into retirement accounts.
Mrs. Nickels’ first wake up call was the catalyst that initially sent us on this wild ride, and being that she, by profession, analyzes statistics/finances, it was obvious to me that she should be in control of our retirement plan. And, it turns out, Mrs. Nickels is an information sponge. When she gets an idea in her head, she will read, read, and read more, in a never ending cycle. Then the Googling begins and she reads even more. I do have to say, when she wants something, she’s all in. (I’m lucky she wanted me).
Then it happened. What I like to call the “Suze Orman” effect. We had a basic plan of what we wanted to do and we were diligently putting away money for our future. Then Mrs. Nickels read one of Suze Orman’s books. (Not a good idea.) It scared the crap out of her. All of a sudden, so much money was going into our savings, that we were basically broke.
I probed to find out her thought process behind this move. She was scared. She was under the impression that if we didn’t feel the pain of saving, we weren’t saving enough. With no goal, we didn’t have a clue as to how much we should be saving, or how long it would take us to be financially independent. After some discussion and research, we arrived at a goal. Mrs. Nickels did some Excel magic and we had a timeframe to meet a goal that we were both happy with. And, we didn’t have to cut back to eating only three days a week to reach it.
Your goals and priorities need to be clearly defined. They may change, but not having a goal can lead to those “What the heck are we doing?” moments. Sure, we could live an extremely frugal lifestyle and reach our goal that much faster, but at what cost? What would our lives be like? Is it worth it to reach our goal but have no happiness along the way? It’s not worth it to us. We decided that we need to have a life while saving for a financially free life down the road.
Going Overboard (the other direction)
There are bad ideas that come out of thinking this way also. Soon after starting my new job, I got it in my head that we could afford to get me a new car. I always liked the BMW Z4. I started looking and saw the new body style for the first time. What a SWEET ride! I wanted that. We talked about it and came to the conclusion that we would make a large down payment and could afford the monthly payments while reaching our goals.
It would mean that our goals would be reached a year or so later, but we were already planning to retire early, what’s another year? Then I took a hard look at the numbers. Mrs. Nickels had put together a detailed spreadsheet of our retirement plan. After the realization of what this car would really cost, I quickly moved past my selfishness and made the right decision for us.
A Balancing Act
For our situation, it’s all about balance. There are things we could cut out to save even more money, but we aren’t willing to give up those things to shave just one more year off of our working lives. At the same time, most material possessions aren’t worth extending that working life either. We are constantly having discussions about our plans and where we want to be. Right now, the majority of our investments are in stocks, but we are considering moving into peer to peer lending and/or real estate. Are we willing to be landlords? Is the risk too high for peer to peer lending? These are questions we ask ourselves and discuss almost daily.
Communication is key to our success. It would suck to reach our goals and hate each other when we arrive. Our plan is to start our new financially free life the same way we started our married life. Happy and wanting nothing more than to be together. Being best friends and enjoying life.