Max it out, no excuses!

Roth IRA Challenge: Max it Out! No Excuses!

Today, Ms. Montana is here to take the Roth IRA Challenge. She writes over at Montana Money Adventures and is currently in the middle of a year-long family sabbatical! Not only did Ms. Montana take the Roth IRA Challenge, she has annihilated the challenge! Remember how we’re failing on maxing out our Roth IRAs this year? What’s our excuse? Well, uh… Yeah. Now read all of the setbacks the Montana Family had. After this, I hope your resolve for 2017 is much greater (mine is!). Take it away Ms. Montana…

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!


Coloring Your Finances


A Grateful Year-in-Review


  1. Beautiful story. I have only been reading your blog for the past month and had no idea the amount of pain and triumph you all have endured. Good for you for keeping spirits up (AND maxing out your IRA) in the most difficult of times. You have a good partner in Mr Mt and your life has been blessed with all your children. 🙂

    This just goes to show that when you make something a priority, all the distractions in the world won’t get you away from it. No excuses people!!

    • Thanks! Mr Mt is a great partner. After traveling this journey so far, I feel like we have been forged together by fire, in the best possible way. =) I am beyond grateful for all the amazing experiences and just the fullness of our lives. There is never a dull moment. =)

  2. My wife and I also adopted a sibling group of 3! Such a unique and challenging experience, so I’m always thrilled to meet others who have done the same.

    • MaggieBanks

      That’s so awesome! You guys are my heroes (I’m adopted).

    • That is great! It is just so MUCH. So much crazy, love, challenges, and joy. It defiantly adds an interesting dynamic. We are very invested in the adoptive community. It’s so nice to get to hang out with other families who are on the same kind of journey. =)

  3. TJ

    I love how you went through all these varying life experiences, but you still managed to reached your goal of maxing that IRA every year after you started. I’ve maxed out my IRA ever since I graduated college. I regret that I didn’t fill up that bad boy during my occasional summer jobs in college. Probably was in the 0% tax bracket too. But I get over it. 😀

  4. Matt Spillar

    This is an incredible post, I loved getting to read through your incredible journey. So many twist, turns, ups, downs! So inspiring that even through it all you were able to stick to such an ambitious goal and max out your IRA each year. I’m in the middle of paying off student loan debt (while still contributing to my 401k) and one of the aspects I’m most excited about for reaching debt freedom is the added flexibility that comes with it. One of my biggest goals is to max out my IRA each year. It feels like something I’ll never regret. Thanks again for sharing your story!

    • MaggieBanks

      Super inspiring story, right? I’m definitely figuring out how to change my ways next year! Good luck on your journey!

  5. ChooseBetterLife

    Yes, life happens. Kudos to you for making your IRA contribution non-negotiable, and double-kudos on putting family first.

  6. TheRetirementManifesto

    Ms Montana, I’m always inspired by your transparency and story. You’ve lived an amazing life thus far, and continue to inspire us all with your determination. You’re a gifted writer, and it’s great to see you with Maggie on Northern Expenditure!! I agree with Maggie, “She’s Pretty Amazing!”

  7. What an incredible story. I love how you didn’t make any excuses and hit your roth ira goal each and every year. It was a non-negotiable for you and you hit it. I definitely don’t have the twist and turns that you have but I’ve been fortunate enough to max out my contributions each year since I graduated from college. It’s amazing how quickly those balances grow over the years. Keep up the awesome work!!!

    • MaggieBanks

      I know! True inspiration for me to figure out which financial goals are non-negotiable!

  8. That’s the power of habit on steroids, maxing out your IRA under all those circumstances.

    Such determination, commitment, grit, and kindness. You’re a renaissance woman. You can do anything, Ms. Montana. So glad we’re getting to know you better. Thanks for sharing your personal story.

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