Five Years In

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

My wife and I passed a couple of milestones in the last week. First, it was our fourth anniversary on Thursday. Four years may not seem like a long time, but I have a feeling that dealing with me on a daily basis may make time go slowly at times. We had a quiet “date” at home – I made us the most garlicky caesar salad I could put together (her favourite) and we watched some Netflix. Besides our anniversary, this month also marks 5 years that we have been involved in a goal of early retirement.

The five years from the time I graduated University to when I started planning for early retirement were definitely lost years. My significant “investments” into booze and video games while in school really didn’t help my long-term goals at all. I could make an argument for much better personal finance education, but that has been kind of pounded into the ground by basically everyone.

Besides my lack of education in personal finance, and slow start where I spent almost as much as I made, there are a couple of changes that I may have made, looking back:

1) Invested in more than just my house:   Having a little more cash would have allowed me to take in some of the significant gains available in the market between 2008 and 2009 – Not terribly original, but I would be significantly richer right now if I somehow would have foreseen the bottom of the market and bought in at that point.

From a net worth perspective, this strategy would have assisted immensely. My personal finance plan is based on attaining financial freedom as quickly as possible, and reducing debt will allow us to work less in the future (if we choose to extend the number of years we want to work).

2) Finished school faster: I took a couple of summers off that would have decreased the time I had to take accounting courses for. At the time I justified the break from school as necessary, but being done now I realize how much of a relief it would have been to be done. I really enjoyed the learning part of school, but always having something over my head was more stressful than I realized.

While writing this post I considered most of the major choices I have made in the last 5 years, and generally there was a good reason for most things my wife and I have decided. For example, we could have rented a place to live instead of bought. In order for this option to work, I would have had to talk my wife into living in a small basement apartment – our mortgage and condo fees every month cost as much as rent in the city we live in. We also could have bought a cheaper car, but I think the cheaper car would have lead to more repairs later.

I’ve found that before most purchases now, whether big or small my wife and I mull them over (probably to excess). We would prefer to not make a “mistake” that will cost us a half-year of financial freedom.

Would you have changed any of your major decisions you’ve made in the last five years? How would this change alter your life today?

6 thoughts on “Five Years In”

  1. Hear hear to the first comment. I would have bought older vehicles than the 2 year old ones I purchased and I wouldn’t have bought a brand new SUV 8 years ago. I still slap myself in the head for that one.

  2. I had a lot of guilt surrounding my sons and divorce and I compensated by buying them stuff. I have a lot of extra debt because of it. They don’t need stuff they need a mom who is able to care for herself in retirement so she is never a burden on them.

  3. A small change to the first post: I would have chosen to not have a car and live in a basement apartment instead of a nicer place (even if it was still a small studio). This got better two years later as I got rid of the car, but it took an additional year to restrict my living expenses. But that means a lot because they significantly dominate my expenses.

    On this:
    “my wife and I mull them over (probably to excess)”

    1. You have a loving wife with goals aligned to yours – that is amazing. I personally find it very difficult to find younger people that are frugal where I am.

    2. It may be excess now, but IMO the security is worth much more than the cost you pay; frugal behavior adapts you to a lifestyle that will continuously pay dividends relative to the alternative. Being frugal (some others say miserly) brings me constant criticism from family and friends, and voicing the previous opinion has been with little effect >_<

  4. Honestly in the last 5 years of my life I can’t think of anything I would have done differently. I’d say save more but we’ve already got a tight budget. That’s a tough question for me.

  5. “I’ve found that before most purchases now, whether big or small my wife and I mull them over (probably to excess). We would prefer to not make a “mistake” that will cost us a half-year of financial freedom.”

    For a second there I thought you were in my head. My wife and I mull over the simplest of decisions. Sometimes to the point of more time spent researching and mulling over them then how long the item might actually be used for. I think we enjoy and like you said we are not people that like to make mistakes. Mistakes seem to cost more money time and general disruption. I totally related to this post. Thank you.

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