Mr. Mt and I wasted nearly 3 years before we started maxing out our Roth IRA. There were other things we felt needed taken care of first. Credit card debt. Emergency fund. Student loan debt. Medical debt. Yeah, we had a lot of debt. $50,000 to be exact.
But now I regret that.
While it sounded smart at the time to tackle the high interest rate, urgent stuff first, in reality there will always be something “urgent” to put that money towards. There is no need to speculate what those things could have been for us. Here is a recap of all 14 years we have been married and all the things that could have prevented us from saving for retirement. You know, till later.
Excuses from before we started.
We were married in college. Flat broke. Broke as joke. Worst than broke, really. $50,000 in debt. Credit card, student loans, medical debt. We had it all. Oh and were earning a whopping $12,000 a year. Perfect combo… said no one ever. Did not max out IRA
Mr. Mt joined the Army. They started paying off his student loans, and we started paying down the other ones. Did not max out IRA
We finally paid off the debt, but then 2 years into our marriage we adopted a teenager. Enter a food bill like I had never seen before. Did not max out IRA
Ok, we finally draw a line in the sand and say, “No matter what, we will max out this Roth IRA”. Luckily for us, it was only $3,000 back then. But life kept happening. Because that is what life does. In wonderful ways, great opportunities and tragedy. Life happens.
We are way too cramped in our tiny apartment with our teenage son, so we move to a bigger house. Still maxed out the IRA.
I had just been promoted at work, shortly after I was injured and had to quite. Found a new job I loved, but with lower pay. Still maxed out the IRA.
We needed a larger car, the little 2 door coupe wasn’t cutting it for 3 very tall people. I’m 5’11! Still maxed out the IRA.
While trying to conceive a biological child, I had a miscarriage. The loss was so devastating I took a month of leave from work and traveled coast to coast with my best friend. Still maxed out the IRA.
I changed jobs 2 more times. And then found out we were expecting our first biological child! Such a blessing but it also brought child care costs! Still maxed out the IRA.
We started saving aggressively to buy a house, but in the end we decided not to because of the crazy DC market. (One of my best financial decisions ever!) Still maxed out the IRA.
We moved to Europe! I went back to college, this time for Business, HR and German. I had always dreamed of traveling in Europe. So we seized the day and travel through 27 countries over those 4 years. We opted for frugal travel to be able to see even more. Still maxed out the IRA.
We set a crazy goal to pay cash for our very first house! We funneled every red cent that wasn’t going to travel to help fund this dream. Still maxed out the IRA.
Mr. Mt was medically retired from the Army, and we moved back to the US. He had a hard time finding work at first because of his injury. Still maxed out the IRA.
We did in fact pay cash for our very first house! But it also needed $30,000 in renovations, which we paid for with cash, bit by bit. Still maxed out the IRA.
A week after we closed on our house, our oldest son passed away unexpectedly. He was 20 and had been living in Nebraska getting ready for college. The funeral and travel ended up being about $10,000. 2 weeks later the engine seized in our only car. We bought a new car the next day and paid $2500 to have that one fixed. The home we had just bought was gutted, but nowhere near finished. 2 months later, my doctor informed me that we did in fact have secondary infertility, and it would be thousands of dollars for treatment.
Grief and loss have a way of compounding on each other. Each event multiplying the weight of the pain. That was the worst year of my life. The weight of the tragedy almost crushed me. But we had started this habit long ago so…. Still maxed out the IRA.
We bought our first rental scrapping together every cent we had. We even had to put a few thousand dollars on a Lowes credit card. But it has over doubled in price today and provides amazing cash flow.
We spent over $10,000 on fertility treatments and surgeries over a year period. None of them worked. Still maxed out the IRA.
We were finally able to adopt again. But instead of 1 or 2 children. We got a sibling group of 3. Our lives exploded. I quit my job. It was a year of 13 appointments a week. Our hearts were so full of love, and schedules so full of appointments. We had to buy new furniture for the kids. We had to buy a minivan. We now had only one income and crazy expenses. Still maxed out the IRA.
So naturally with all this happening… We bought another rental property. Again, it took every dollar we had, and a few we didn’t. But again, that rentals value has almost doubled and we have amazing cash flow. Still maxed out the IRA.
We found out we were approved to adopt our 3 kiddos and went away to celebrate for the weekend. I felt a little sick while we were gone. A week later, surprise! We were pregnant!
During that lovely weekend away we had looked over our financials and estimated, we were set to retire early, maybe in 5-8 years. Well… that plan changed fast! Instead we decided to take a yearlong sabbatical! Still maxed out the IRA.
For the first year since we started investing, we planned to NOT Still max out the IRA. Instead on this yearlong sabbatical we would travel, renovate, and have adventures.
But old habits die hard. So we Still are maxing out the IRA.
I really thought that it would be easy to max our the IRA after our debt was paid off. Ha! It might never be easy. There are always other goals, emergencies, and dreams that will require your cash. When I stood on the alter with Mr. Mt 14 years ago and said “I Do.” I had no idea. Just no idea. The last 14 years have been more amazing, more productive and filled with more love-joy-pain than I could have ever imagined.
Who knows if the future will be easier to save than it is right now. Just start. In 2015, we became work optional and our passive income covers our monthly nut, plus some. It’s such an incredible blessing. I’m so glad we didn’t put off investing a year longer!