Back in my July 2017 report I got a few comments from a reader Dan who asked me what advice I would give a 26 year old MFJ. My first thought was holy crap people still read this blog and my second thought was holy crap I’ve been writing this blog for a long time and was actually 26 when I started it. So it seemed like a pretty good idea for a blog post.
I originally started this blog as a way for me to keep track of my thoughts and decisions and use it as a learning tool for myself. I also thought well if things go as planned some day I will have a ridiculous sum of money and I will have a detailed record of the simple steps that I took to get there that my friends, children, or random strangers on the internet could follow. I’m certainly not quite there yet, but I think this is a good time to do a retrospective of what I’ve done and if there is anything different I wish the 26 year old me would have done.
Spend Less Than You Earn
I think this is probably the most important piece of advice I could give the 26 year old MFJ and I think this is something that MFJ and Mrs. MFJ did a pretty good job with and something that came natural. When we got married I was making $45k per year and had to pay for full-time school for both my wife’s college and my MBA out of my pocket and still managed to save a good chunk of money. A few years later I was making $57k and had managed to live on less than $8000 outside of our mortgage cost. If you really want to become wealthy and have that financial independence you need to save at least 50% of your income and invest it wisely.
The 10-15% stuff that is the general rule of thumb is great if you want to work until you are 65-70, but if you want a different path which the 26 year old MFJ wants you need to save and invest a much larger percentage of your income. I have a liquid 7 figure portfolio and I’ve done it while not making ridiculous money on a single income while having 5 kids and living a pretty posh lifestyle. Had I been hardcore through it all I would probably have double this amount now.
Invest in yourself
That MBA you are going for will pay you back many times over. It’s just an excuse for people to pay you more money. You don’t need an expensive MBA from a fancy college, that $10k MBA will be paid back in earnings in year 1. Continue to learn and read and pick up new skills both within and outside of your area of expertise. Nothing is more valuable than the knowledge you accumulate and it has the same compounding affect that your portfolio does and is very likely related to how fast that nest egg will compound.
Continue to learn all about personal finance and investing. Read personal finance blogs, listen to podcasts, and become a resource for those around you when it comes to finance. Find out as early as you can that becoming very wealthy is actually very simple. If it’s not you are doing something wrong. Save, invest simply, and wait for your number. There are no shortcuts, no get rich quick schemes, and nothing that requires any serious brain power. Ignore everything you read or hear in the news or from the financial experts – they are not serving your interests and their advice is 99.99% garbage.
Spend money on experiences and not things
It’s always a fine line between frugality and cheapness – life is all about balance. Enjoy things now and don’t be afraid to spend money on experiences that you will enjoy. Travel more and see more things especially before you have kids. Yes traveling can increase your expenses, but like most things the best things in life don’t have to be expensive. Instead of the all-inclusive resort where you see nothing and empty your bank account – go see a national park, sleep in a tent, and spend the money getting to these amazing places, once there live frugally just like you would at home. Buying that fancy hotel room or dinner will be forgotten tomorrow, but what you will remember are all of the free things you saw and experienced.
Plan for the future, but live in the moment
Life goes by so incredibly fast. Enjoy every minute with your kids – that job is just a means to an end so don’t put it or co-workers ahead of spending time with your family. That point where you decided to take $10-20k less per year to get a job with a more work/life balance will pay for itself in spades. Seems counter-intuitive to tell you to take less money when every bit of advice is about saving money and finding ways to make more money to accelerate that nestegg growth, but don’t lose sight of why you are doing it. It’s simply to be able to be a better husband, father, friend and spend more time with your loved ones. That doesn’t start when your nestegg hits some magic number – it starts now and you should never feel guilty about turning down a career opportunity or putting in those extra hours to make the boss happy for spending time with your family. Find that job that allows you to drop the kids off at school and leave early to coach their sports teams or run them to doctors appointments. They are the most important thing in your life and your job/employer should respect that. If you have invested properly in yourself you will be valuable enough to call your own shots and find an employer who will gladly give you this freedom. Take all of your vacation damn it and do something fun with it!
Write your goals down and follow up on them
This silly blog that you started one a whim after running across 2 million’s blog will be invaluable. All of those thoughts, plans, and ideas running around in your head should be put down on “paper” and design actual plans to reach those goals. They might seem like lofty goals, but you will easily blow through them somehow without even putting anywhere close to full effort towards them. You will make mistakes and hoard loads of cash for a new house during one of the largest runups in stock market history and it won’t even matter. You’ll get your cake and eat it too, and that basketball court.
Stick with your plans
You will never regret not driving a fancy car or not blowing money on clothes, liquor, cable tv, or other necessities that many of your friends blow their money on. You will still be driving that used Honda Accord you bought for your wife 14 years later with minimal repairs and a weird sense of pride every time someone comments about how old and crappy your car is. I’m 100% confident that you will enjoy that much more than if you lost your mind and bought a new car every 3-5 years. Know why you are quote “making sacrifices” that others aren’t and that some day they will be looking at you with jealously and confusion when you stop working 20 years before they do.
I know it makes sense on paper, but your small bit of skepticism about if this is really possible and if it’s so easy why won’t everyone be doing this doubts are unfounded and yes it really is that easy and yes you will have accumulated millions in retirement accounts and be well on the way to a 2 million dollar net worth before you are forty. Did I mention you are going to have 5 kids and your wife will be staying at home to take care of them and yet you still still easily achieve your financial goals. It really is easy. Save money, invest it, and keep doing that until you have more money than you need.
Enjoy the journey.
38 year old MFJ