Just a few months ago I turned the big four oh!
This is typically a huge milestone for people, but with the passing of my dad just days before, I didn’t really get a chance to reflect on what significance this milestone had for me.
Even in the last few months, I haven’t had much time to dwell on it.
Then a few weeks ago I stumbled across a post from Angela at Tread Lightly Retire Early where she made a list of her 30 Financial Successes for her 30th birthday.
Reading her post really inspired me to look back on my four decades on the planet and realize that I’ve been super blessed. Some might even say privileged, and I would be hard-pressed to deny it.
I recognize that no matter how much hard work my wife and I have put into our financial success, it simply would not be possible without the countless friends, family, coworkers, strangers, Internet friends, and even some downright lucky circumstances.
Trying to deny the shoulders we stand on and those that have carried us when we were struggling would be foolish.
So for my 40th birthday, I present 40 financial blessings that I’ve experienced and am so incredibly grateful for.
My 40 Financial Blessings
- My dad. He was a blue-collar, hard-working, kind-hearted soul. He survived his own family of 12 kids, a lackluster education, and the jungles of Vietnam to come home and build a strong marriage and raise 2 amazing (and super humble) kids. He was no financial genius, but his willingness to do whatever was needed for our family instilled principles in me that have definitely spurred our financial growth and success.
- I went to community college. This wasn’t the cool option, but my blue-collar family didn’t have money for college, so a bootstrap education was the only way to go. Most probably wouldn’t consider this a blessing, but I worked full time and went to night school, allowing me to pay cash for all my classes.
- I later transferred to a local 4-year university and left school with a grand total of $20,000 in student loan debt. That number sounded huge to me at the time, but in hindsight, I realize how blessed I was to be “unable to afford” a better college.
- My wife also had to bootstrap her college education, working and paying for most of it herself, amassing only $5,000 in student loans.
- When my wife and I got married, our wedding and reception cost $10,000 – all paid for by my wife’s parents. That was a lot of money for them, but they were happy to do it. (Their only daughter!) And we had our reception in a flight museum surrounded by vintage WWII airplanes. That was epic!
- In the first week at my first job out of college, my boss encouraged me to contribute 16% of my income to my 401(k). I was dumb and knew nothing about money, so I just did what he said. What a blessing!
- My wife’s grandmother graciously offered her wedding ring for my wife. Not only is the ring more emotionally valuable than anything we could find at Jared, but it also cost 100% less. My own wedding ring cost less than $300. The quality of a marriage has no relation to the cost of the rings we wear.
- When we moved to San Antonio and were unemployed, we had great friends that let us stay in their house for almost 3 months – rent-free – while they were in California for the summer.
- My wife is far better at managing money than I’ve ever been. Her budgeting skills are rock solid and ensure I don’t drive us into poverty town.
- My wife is an incredible cook. She not only loves creating fantastic healthy meals in the kitchen, but is a master at meal planning for our family of 6.
- We have never paid for a TV. The 2 TV’s we have ever owned were both gifts. The first for my birthday over a decade ago, and the second a gift from our new sister-in-law who didn’t need hers anymore when marrying my wife’s brother. Free TV’s are the best.
- We have never paid for cable television. In fact we had never paid for any TV service whatsoever until finally breaking the bank to pay $7.99/mo for Hulu this year. TV has never been a big part of our lives, so paying for TV has never been a priority for us.
- We haven’t had a car payment since 2006. We paid off both of our cars that year and haven’t had a car payment since. So nice!
- We’ve paid cash for all 3 of our cars since 2006, having never paid even a penny in interest to a bank.
- I’ve driven my 16-year-old car for 9 years and it is still going strong.
- We bought our very first home in 2008 right before the economy imploded. The home continued to lose value for years, but we didn’t care. This was a long-term investment. Today it’s worth 38% more than we paid for it, but we have no intention of selling.
- As the housing market continued to tank post 2008, we refinanced our 30-year mortgage down to a 15-year mortgage at a lower rate. Our mortgage payment only went up $26 a month.
- We paid off our mortgage in 7 years. Even though we refinanced to a 15-year mortgage, we always planned to pay it off as fast as possible. Fifteen years sounded really fast to us, so even we were surprised when we did it in just 7. (I attribute being without a mortgage payment for 3 years to our freewheeling decision to drop $7.99/mo for Hulu.)
- Not having access to HGTV has saved us thousands of dollars in unnecessary home upgrades. In 10 years of ownership, other than building a really nice deck on the back, we’ve done very few upgrades to our house. It’s completely functional and spacious and fine just the way it is. We’re not chasing some ideal style or fashion or fad perpetuated on television.
- Our house is just 6 miles from my job…on purpose. That means a super short commute and less of my life wasted in traffic.
- Working close to home means I can come home for lunch, attend mid-day school events with the kids, and simply have more flexibility in my work and home life.
- I bring my lunch to work every day. I’ve never calculated how much money I’ve saved by packing my lunch, but over a 15-year career, I’m guessing it’s in the six figures.
- I’m a technology geek, but I’ve never been one to chase the next best thing. I’ve been blessed to realize that using technology for as long as possible allows me to spread the cost out over many years, making it possible to enjoy high-quality toys cheaper than those who upgrade on some unnecessary 1 or 2-year cycle.
- My first smartphone was the iPhone 4, meaning I waited a full 4 years after the iPhone debuted to dive in. I used that phone every day for 8 years until I upgraded to my current iPhone 8.
- I used my 2010 iMac for 8 years until I upgraded to my new 5K iMac this year.
- When my wife’s 2008 MacBook finally died, we never replaced it. The need to have 2 computers just isn’t necessary for us. One desktop computer and 2 phones is more than enough to accomplish everything we need.
- We’ve never owned an iPad or tablet device of any kind. We simply don’t have a need for one.
- Our kids have never had any mobile devices or game systems. Our oldest, our 8-year-old son, has never had an iPad or iPod Touch or even a Playstation or Xbox. Neither he, nor our 7-year-old daughter care, even though just about all their friends have one or all of these types of devices. It’s simply not a priority in our home. (Our 3-year-old and 1-year-old still don’t even know these things exist…and we’ll keep it that way for as long as possible.)
- Our video streaming device of choice is a $29 Roku. I mentioned that we are an Apple family, but I could never bring myself to pay hundreds of dollars for a video streaming device when sub $100 options appeared to do the same thing. We got our $29 Roku earlier this year with the assumption that it was cheap and if it sucked, we would get something better. It doesn’t suck. It’s fantastic. We’ll use it until it dies, stretching that $29 cost across as many years as possible.
- We still watch DVD’s. We’ve never even owned a BluRay player. Heck, we never even had a TV that could display BluRay quality until this year. But the occasional DVD at the Redbox still works just fine for us.
- I only get my haircut 4 times a year. I’ve been getting my head shaved since I was in high school. My friend and I used to do it ourselves to save money. Later I would get it cut more often to keep it short and clean. But in the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve been noticing I can go pretty much a full 3 months, sometimes longer, before it’s too unruly.
- Our frugal lifestyle has given us the ability to travel quite a lot. We’ve never fully jumped into the travel hacking pool, and for years never even realized this was a thing, but simply living below our means has meant having more than enough money to travel to places like California, Indiana, Washington DC, Chicago, New York, Toronto, Panama, Aruba, Jamaica, Haiti, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman. We’ve been to some of these places multiple times. A growing family has yet to be a barrier to our travel plans.
- Our family loves the library. Free books are all over our house.
- Our minimalist lifestyle means that we can actually fit both our cars in the garage. So when the softball size hail storm blew through our city in 2016, our cars were completely unaffected. Meanwhile, our whole community was struggling with rental cars, insurance companies and, in some cases, having to go out and buy new cars.
- In 2017 we welcomed our 4th child into the world. There aren’t many people with 4 kids on the FI path (that I can find), but it’s our unique path and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Our family is a blessing that outweighs any financial goal. It helps that we already had a solid financial foundation before welcoming these precious cherubs into our lives.
- My wife chose to have our 3rd child naturally with a midwife at a local birth center. That saved us a bunch of money over a traditional hospital birth.
- We saved again when she chose to have our 4th child at home. This is something we didn’t even know was a thing before we had kids, but research leads to knowledge and knowledge is powerful.
- Just last year my employer expanded their maternity and paternity policy to offer moms 4 months of paid time off and dads 3 months of paid time off. I got to experience that with the birth of our last child and it was as amazing as you think.
- I’m blessed to work for a company that offers an incredible 8% 401k match. Eight percent! I’ve been taking that free money every year.
- My wife was able to transition out of full-time teaching to become a stay-at-home mom for our kids for the past 8 years. Our kids have no idea how spoiled they are to have such an amazing mom home with them every single day. I, on the other hand, DO realize how blessed I am to know that my kids are in the best hands each day as I leave for work.
Wow! That’s a Lot
It’s so heartwarming to think through just how much help we’ve had along this incredible journey with our money.
It’s not possible to fully count one’s blessings, but it’s always worth it to try.
If you’re one of the blessings listed above, know that we are eternally grateful for you. If I missed your blessing, I’m sorry. I know there are likely hundreds more that aren’t listed here. We’re grateful for all of you too!
Do any of these blessings sound familiar in your life?
I wonder how many blessings you could think of as you take a look back on your journey.
What blessings stick out the most in your mind?