I won't get into too many details in this post, I might save those for a post where I expect it to be seen. I am a 36 year old teacher / volunteer firefighter, who is considering moving to full time paid firefighter. Neither job pays exceptionally well. The firefighting job starts out $4k less than I make now, but offers lucrative overtime opportunities. More importantly, I really enjoy it and think of it as less of a job and more something I do for enjoyment. Obviously, since I do some of it now for free.
I haven't always been the brightest with money, although I have avoided the worst of sins. I graduated from college with a lot of student loans, but paid them off and had the balance forgiven after teaching in a low-income area. I've never carried credit card debt. I use a card for monthly expenses (for the rewards) and pay it in full each month. I got a car loan with my first job. It was a used car, to replace my VW Fox. That Fox was my baby. I bought it for $550 in cash and rode it into the ground over a 4 year period. There was very little that still worked in that car. I replaced it with a 4 year old Jetta (not my best choice). Bought a house, 80/20 no money down and interest only on the 20% loan (which was at 7.625%!). I paid that 20% loan off in 3-4 years. While single, on a starting teacher's salary, and knocked out the car loan at the same time. I then managed to save up $14,000 in cash (nothing to most here, I know) in the next year or so after that. I didn't have much, but I spent as little as I could while remaining happy and saving up all I could spare. I was on the right path.
I started teaching 11 years ago. I still have that Jetta. It's going on 15 years old, but runs fine for the little driving I do. About five years ago, I met my [now] wife. I love her. I really do. But, the Mustachean way is not her way. I stepped in and got her out of a cycle of payday loans (my first warning sign), and other bad debt. I showed her my way. She fought it. She earned her money, and deserved to spend it as she wished. This has always been an area of tension between us. We worked through it. I didn't save as much as I wanted. In truth, I was barely saving anything. And, slowly, various emergencies popped up that ate away my cash reserves. Some of them I could have probably found cheaper solutions to, but that's the past.
Her dad died. Her mom moved in with us. Our house is too small for 3 adults and a child! No, it wasn't! It was a 3-bedroom house. It was plenty big enough. But, I agreed to house-shop for a larger place to make everyone more comfortable. We ended up finding a new house that I do love. But, it was expensive. And, I didn't have money down. And, we had to do it all in my name alone (which is a whole different issue). Her mom "gave" us money for the down payment for an FHA loan. Ugh, admitting it makes me sick. Mortgage interest for life unless I refinance, and a big MI charge right at the start of the loan. We sold the other house, and most of the profits (aka equity that I built while single) went to pay back her mom and pay off $10,000 in credit card debt my wife had been hiding (that's the whole different issue that kept her from being on the loan).
I'll be honest. The hidden credit card debt was nearly the breaking point of our marriage. The stress from that, issues selling the house, and losing all the progress I had ever made, caused me to get shingles and develop a bad case of being a miserable jerk to everyone around me. My wife has given me all her cards, and I plan on checking up on making sure she's not getting new ones. She is using cash only. She was making as much as me, but her income recently took a hit and now she makes $23k. This happened right after we bought the new house, naturally.
Anyway. After 11 years of work, I have a net worth of only around $53,000. Most of that is in my 403b account (no match and horrible returns). I have $14k in cash, which I might invest, when I figure out which direction makes the most sense.
But, it's not all bad! My starter goal is to increase my net worth by $2,000 a month this upcoming year. It's a stretch unless my wife's job picks up or I can convince her to cut some very non-Mustachean expenses in our budget (annual theme park passes, satellite radio, a $250 a month cell phone bill). Even with her current income and without killing those expenses (which I will do as quickly as she can handle it--working on getting her to buy into alternatives and having her develop the idea of shedding the crap), I can probably hit $1700 a month. It's not great. It's not enough. But, it's a first step.
You've already inspired me and saved me $4,000. It won't show up in my savings, but it won't come out of it. During the recent hurricane, our fence was destroyed. It was chain-link. We got some insurance money, it went to other repairs. We got quotes, for a new [upgraded] fence to replace the whole broken fence. That's the $4,000+ expense. What am I thinking! I can get a few poles, a new top pipe, a few bags of concrete and the hardware for less than $300 (much less as that's my over-the-top estimate). Then I spend a weekend doing it myself, or with a buddy, and we have a perfectly fine fence again.
I'm going to do this. At the current rate, it might not be as fast as some people here, but I can do it. I also have a pretty solid pension (which gets twice as good if I move to paid firefighting), that will mean I have more when I get to traditional retirement ages, and thus might not need to save as much as if I had to rely on it alone forever.