Many say the American dream is dead. That getting married, starting a family and building for the future is no longer possible. Even worse, many others believe it when they hear it. All the while, though, there are people with “normal” jobs building the American Dream step by step.
One such person (or couple) is Molly and her husband. He works as a teacher. She works part-time. They have a home and young daughter but still save 15% of their gross income. From our conversation, they don’t seem to do anything magical. They simply work at being intentional with how they spend money.
Lessons I Learned From Molly’s Story
- The word retirement is changing. It’s becoming more about working on your own terms than leaving the workforce. This is significant, and if you share this vision you can use it to plan more intelligently for your future.
- It’s important to be careful about what you spend on your education. According to Career Builder, over half of college grads are in jobs that don’t require a degree. Education is important, but it may lead you to work you hadn’t considered.
- It is possible to start a family, build a life and save for the future in “normal” paying careers. It takes being very intentional about your spending and working together.
- It’s important to learn about the time value of money and investing early. Although parents and schools generally do poorly at this, there are lots of great resources for those that want to learn. In fact, today, I had a perfect example. A 19 year old called me to discuss how to start saving for the future. This young man is working, going to school and has extra money he wants to start saving and investing with. Where’d he learn this attitude? Books and podcasts!
- It’s so easy to buy things that we forget about the great free resources available to us. Whether it’s on the internet or at the local library, there are free resources to help you learn about nearly anything. Molly gives a great example of this in her quest to learn Spanish. Rather than buy a expensive (highly marketed) language program, she found free resources at the local library.
- Early 30s
- Married 5 years
- A toddler daughter (20 months)
- Registered nurse
What Does Retirement Mean to You?
“In my 20s, it was this nebulous way in the future concept that happens to other people, but would never happen to me because I’m never going to grow old.”
“Retirement to me would be a continuation, where I’m able to work just the amount that I want to. Maybe some of that is paid. Maybe some of that is volunteered. ”
“I think of retirement as the point that we hit financial independence, so that I’m not just working because I have to. I’m working because I want to.”
What Are You Most Excited About Retirement?
“The flexibility to do whatever I want to do with my time.”
“I would love to live close to my children when they have children.”
What Are You Most Worried About?
“Unexpected future expenses (home remodeling, more kids) could push back the date of our financial independence.”
“I spend most of my time focusing on what I can control.”
How Do You Think You’re Doing on Your Journey Towards Retirement?
“If you’re looking at the average American in their mid-30s, I think we’re ahead of the curve.”
“We’re saving about 15% of our gross income towards retirement.”
Do You Use a Financial Planner?
“I took a Retirement Planning class today at a local community college. They offered a free consultation. It was very sales oriented.”
What is the Worst Financial Decision You’ve Ever Made?
“I have an undergraduate degree that I’m not using. I have a teaching credential that I’m not using. I even went back to school to start to get a masters in nursing (and then dropped out). So, I’ve spent a lot of money on education that I’m not using.”
“I didn’t pay attention and try to learn about investing in my 20s.”
What Do You Struggle With When Making Financial Decisions?
“I would probably say, I’ve gotten borderline obsessed with learning about personal finance.”
What is Your Number One Resource?
“I am in love with the public library.”
How Do You Want to Be Remembered?
“Well, I think I want to be remembered by what kind of relationships I had with people in my life.”
Question: What is the One Thing You Can Do Today to Be More Intentional With Your Money?
For me, it is having better conversations about money with my wife, Shauna. Lately, we’ve gotten a little lazy in our spending. Actually, I’ve gotten a little lazy with our spending. Not crazy lazy. More like I’ve become less intentional than I’d like about my spending decisions. Sorta like there’s a hole in my pocket that bits of money fall through. I know it’s there, I just haven’t gotten around to fixing it, yet. My wife helps me stay focused and fix these little things.