My downsized goals: chasing the miniature American Dream

The baby (singular or plural) may – or may not – happen. But, I’m turning 34 NEXT FUCKING WEEK and I feel like I need to have some new goals in my life. Some new goals that involve not living like a just-graduated-from-college person for the rest of my life.

I was absolutely fine living my 20s in shared living situations to save money, and my early 30s were completely acceptable sharing a 1 bedroom apartment with my husband. But – as I’ve taken home $160k+ per year, minus taxes, for the last 3 years – I wonder what on earth am I doing this for if I can’t have some semblance of the adult life I want.

All the east coast dreams of the grande house with the huge backyard are gone. I’ve downsized my objectives – but I still have them. I’d like to own a house on not-the-crappiest street. I’d like to be able to take time off in the future (in health or in sickness) and not worrying about running out of money. I’ve made progress, but I still have a long way to go.

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The plan (with flat stocks):

2017 – close the year with ~$525k networth
2018 – savings = $45k investments + $30k after-tax bonus = $600k
2019 – savings = $45k investments + $40k after-tax bonus = $685k
2020 – savings = $45k investments + $40k after-tax bonus = $770k
2021 – savings = $45k investments + $40k after-tax bonus = $885k

OR

The plan (with ~5% growth):

2017 – close the year with ~$525k networth
2018 – savings = $45k investments + $30k after-tax bonus = $625k
2019 – savings = $45k investments + $40k after-tax bonus = $740k
2020 – savings = $45k investments + $40k after-tax bonus = $862k
2021 – savings = $45k investments + $40k after-tax bonus = $990k

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This all assumes I can perform well in my current job for the next four years, age 34-38, and not take significant time off, all while (hopefully) having two children.

My goal has always been to have $500k in the bank before having children. I have obtained that goal. My next goal is to have $1M in the bank before 40. Ideally well before 40. I’d like $1M in the back as my emergency fund and retirement fund and the fund which I do not touch. Over this same time, my husband will be doing what he does and not investing his money because he’s very risk averse. This is fine, because he will be saving up for the down payment on our (not in this part of the country) house.

Assuming I have one child in 2018/19 (age 34-35); and one in 2020/21 (36-37); by the time I have achieved this plan, I have one child who is ~3 and one who is ~1. This will enable us to, before we have to think about putting the kids into school, move to a part of the country where housing is more affordable. My husband can continue his career as a teacher in a region it is more cost effective, and I can perhaps pursue an entirely new career – or take time to spend at home with the kids.

I realize $1M is NOT “early retirement.” This is step two in my… however many step, not very well thought out plan…

Step 1: $500k before having children (age 30-35)
Step 2: $1M before 40 / + $200k cash downpayment (husband)
Step 3: $2M before 50 / + home 33% paid off (or more)
Step 4: $3M before 60 / + home 66% paid off
Step 5: $4M before 70 / + home 100% paid off / retirement

I’m not sure if any of that makes sense. So far steps 1 was achieved (woohoo) and step 2 seems like it might be achievable, if I can hold on to this job for the full four years. I am going to hold on to it with all my might. The having kids things definitely may throw a wrench in this plan regardless, but I’m hopeful I can take minimal time off for my kids when they’re really young (and/or work remote and still do my job, which might be possible)… then, after four years, we leave. We have to leave. We will never be able to afford a house here. I don’t know why that’s so important to me – I realize homeownership is a horrible financial decision – but it is. I can’t shake it. I want to design my own bathroom and kitchen… I’d like a backyard I can sit in and enjoy the sun without feeling the prying eyes of others all over me. I want a place for my children to grow up and a home to know.

So, that’s the plan. It suddenly seems all so very short term. I feel quite old. 34 is no joke. 34 is just a few years away from 40. And 40 is no longer fake adulthood. It’s serious, full-on, you’re an adult – and you’re only going to get MORE adult until you’re PAST that… and, I’m trying not to freak out about that, because I know life is so very short, and I need to just enjoy the moments and try to achieve some semblance of both freedom and control before I’m too old to enjoy it.

 

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One comment

  1. rubin pham says:

    you have accomplished a lot at this age. the children thing, sometimes destiny will guide you to a different path for you regardless of how much you want or plan for it.
    you have a talent of being a very insightful writer. maybe this can be your side gig when you finally get out of san francisco.
    best of luck with your new job and future children.

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