How Hubby & I Discovered We Will Be Millionaires By Doing One Thing

When Mr. FAF and I were two poor graduate students, our biggest wish at the time was to get a full-time job.

We would love to have a good salary, but as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.

All we wanted was a stable source of income to support ourselves and have our son back with us.

After both of us got a full-time job, however, we have upgraded our goal to becoming millionaires and retiring early. Before joining the personal finance community, I always thought it was a far-fetched dream.

I was more concerned with how best to save money, do well at my job to be promoted and get a raise, and pay off our mortgage as fast as we could.

The mortgage payoff plan

After following many early retirement bloggers such as Joe at Retire By 40 and Mr. Money Mustache, I gradually realized that the millionaire status may not be out of reach for me.

I didn’t have any plan and just continued doing what I’ve been doing all my life: trying to save money and paying off debt (i.e. our mortgage).

Mr. FAF, however, has been talking about having $5 million when he’s 50.

Mr. FAF has dreams many of which ended up dissipating after a couple of months. Some of them became a reality.

I just nodded my head in approval when I heard about his dream. He didn’t tell me any specific plan, and I didn’t bother to ask. In my mind, it’s just one of those dreams that he has to keep him motivated about his work.

Aspirations don’t have to always be realistic as long as they have a positive influence on your behavior. I think Mr. FAF picked number 5 since it’s between 0 and 10. It’s just a totally random number.

Mr. FAF’s retirement plan

I have long heard about the power of maxing our the 401(k). Up until one month ago, neither of us contributed anything to our retirement accounts.

I just have an employer-sponsored account where my employer contributes an X% of my annual salary. We just tried to stay under budget and put as much disposable income towards our mortgage as possible.

Many fellow bloggers and readers have pointed out that we should slow down our mortgage payment and invest in our retirement as well. I heed the great advice and have decided to ramp up our 401(k) contribution.

After his second day at work, Mr. FAF brought home a package of Vanguard paperwork to fill out. He needed my help with the process since he didn’t know much about retirement and investment.

I think we were almost on the same page. But I was a bit further ahead thanks to all the wonderful FIRE blogs that I follow. When Mr. FAF was filling out his health insurance and retirement contribution form, we got into a heated debate.

I insisted that Mr. FAF should max out his 401(k) contribution with $1,500/month or $18,000/year. At first, Mr. FAF thought it was too much. After being a poor student for 6 years, I think he wanted to have more take-home income to support his family than seeing it lowered by $1,000/mo due to the seemingly far-fetched retirement dream.

I made the mistake of not showing him a chart where a maxed out contribution could take him in 10-20 years. And it’s because I didn’t know the answer.

I hadn’t plugged in the numbers in any calculator. I just knew it was a good idea since many personal finance gurus said so. Mr. FAF reluctantly agreed to max out his 401(k) contribution at my suggestion.

My retirement plan

At first, I thought we should maximize Mr. FAF’s 401(k) and use my income to pay off our mortgage. Once we own our house free and clean, I would then start contributing to my retirement.

For some reason, I think my age of 30 is too old to be in debt but still too young to worry about retirement. Boy, was I wrong.

Whenever I come across a post about 401(k), I would feel really uneasy about not contributing to my retirement at all. Am I making a mistake? Should a paid-off house be our utmost priority?

Those questions bothered me so much that I had to log into my Vanguard account and poke around. The final trigger that changed my mind was J. Money’s post “$20 Does The Trick!“.

We can start investing even $20 into our future instead of worrying about the big $500 or $1,000. We can start small and win big one day.

With that in mind, I decided to contribute $500/month to my 403(b) (I work for a nonprofit). The next question was whether I should pick the traditional 403(b) or Roth accounts or both? I felt so lost. I’ve read multiple arguments for one or the other, and there’s no best answer to the question.

The turning point for me was when I found the Pretax v. Roth calculator in my Vanguard online account. It was and still is one of the biggest discoveries about retirement I’ve made in my entire life. It would change our plan and our lives forever.

I am currently 30 years old. I plug in different combination of numbers to see where I will end up at the age of 60 (the age when I can start withdrawing from my 403(b) without a penalty. And the numbers just blew my mind.

Ms. FAF

Mr. FAF

If I max out my 403(b), I will be a millionaire at the age of 55 with $1,034,453. At the age of 60, I will have $1,572,591. If Mr. FAF maxes out his 401(k), he will be a millionaire at the age of 60, five years after me, with $1,077,131.

Mr. FAF starts contributing to his 401(k) five years later than me (35 v. 30 years old) with $90,000 less. But at the age of 55, I will have $495,460 more than he does ($1,034,453 v. $681,197). I will be a millionaire and can retire 5 years sooner than Mr. FAF.

That shows the power of maxing out our retirement accounts early!

Decision

It’s decision time. After seeing the power of compound interest and investing early, I was convinced and decided to max out my 403(b) account. Mr. FAF started contributing to his retirement in September, and I did in October.

2017 is coming to an end, so throwing $36,000 in pre-tax money to our retirement accounts is impossible. Mr. FAF’s monthly contribution is $1,500 while mine is $2,000 for 2017.

But starting next year (2018), we will each contribute $18,500/year each or $37,000 in our pre-tax money in order to build our wealth. We will “forget” about that money and put the rest of our disposable income towards our mortgage while keeping a healthy emergency fund for 3 months and avoiding consumer debt at all costs.

Conclusion

The key question you might want to ask is: Would I have done it differently had I known these numbers earlier? I might have. But I think the answer is still No. When Mr. FAF was still in school, both of us didn’t even know if he’d be able to get a job. Sometimes I still think it’s a miracle that he did.

I wanted to make sure that if I lost my job, we wouldn’t lose our house, and we still had savings to weather a financial storm. Having a place to live and avoiding a foreclosure was our priority.

After we became a two-income household, however, we have more financial stability and wiggle room in our budget. We can now think about building wealth without constantly fearing a foreclosure. Being homeless was and still is one of my biggest fears in life.

That said, I am glad I came across the Pretax v. Roth calculator. It’s simple, straightforward, and visual. It opens my eyes to the power of compound interests and investing early. And this is the path Mr. FAF and I will follow from now on.

Related:

Our Pledge For The Million Dollar Club

Rental Property After Our House Is Paid Off

How We Handle Our Finances As A Couple

Interview With Mr. FAF – Husband Of A Personal Finance Blogger

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29 thoughts on “How Hubby & I Discovered We Will Be Millionaires By Doing One Thing”

  • Good luck with the max-outs next year… sounds like you have an awesome plan! Employer plans definitely make investing and potentially maxing out easier… I never see the money in my paycheck so I can just “forget” about it and work with what does end up in my paycheck after the retirement money is already taken out.

    • Thank you, Mrs. Adventure Rich! I also like that we can save without even noticing that we’re saving hehe. Money out of sight is money out of mind. But the nice thing is it’s still there and growing with compound interest! <3

  • Great job starting to max out your retirement accounts! $37,000 is a lot of money to invest each year. As your income grows, you can add another $11,000 in the form of Roth IRAs, bringing your total to $48,000. And at some point, you’ll probably start investing in a taxable account as well.

    Looks like you found the FV function in Excel. Also play with PMT (if I want $X in Y years, how much do I contribute monthly) and NPER (if I contribute $X monthly with a goal of reaching $Y in total, how long will it take?)

    • Thank you, David! The hubby is still sore from maxing out his 401(k). I think I’ll give him some time to recover to bring up IRAs. 😀 I like a lower tax bracket and growing money too! Thank you for the Excel tips! ^.^

  • There is another benefit that you didn’t mention. Contributing thousands to a 401k will reduce your income for your taxes. Lower income will cause lower taxes. Might have to wait until March 2018, for the numbers, but it will be interesting to see how total income tax paid is affected.

    • Ahh yes! I totally forgot about that hehe. I’ll mention that to the hubby to make him a bit happier:D I’m also curious what our taxes will look like in 2018 too!

    • Thank you, Joe! You always give me great advice! (Ahh what have I done to deserve this? ^.^)

      I was also afraid of lifestyle inflation after Mr. FAF started working. We’re simple people, but sometimes Mr. FAF would mention some of his dream gadgets, and I’m just like @_@ >_< -_- Our money should go to 401(k). We're slowing down with the mortgage payoff too. We're debating how much more to put towards it every month. We might take a break for a while. Will keep you posted! ^^

  • Two income households definitely offer a whole lot of flexibility and some freedom as well; even if it’s part-time. We’re working on maxing out our retirement accounts and hope to get there in a couple of years. Lower income and tax breaks are just the icing on the cake then! Best of luck with your plan 🙂

    • Thank you so much! Having 2 incomes definitely helps a lot. When I was the breadwinner, maxing 401(k) would be impossible for us. Best of luck with your retirement plans! 🙂

  • Congrats on maxing out your 401ks! You’ll get addicted to watching that money grow, no doubt. I don’t have a mortgage, but I can understand wanting to focus on getting rid of that debt. Here in NYC, my mortgage would probably be about 500-600k, which frankly, scares the hell out of me.

  • We throw everything I can into retirement accounts. We say bye bye to $60,000 every year just like that into only retirement alone.

    It’s not because I’m sadistic but its tax advantaged. That’s melody to my ears!! The government is horrible at managing money. If you elect a bunch of PFers and the frugalwoods, our country would be in a better position 🙂 Not that I’m bias or anything…?

  • Retirement is one of the topics that I know is important but I don’t really understand. I guess I should be reading more pf blogs 🙂 anyway the dilemma in situation is that my husband and I want a house but of course we will need a down payment. Especially because housing is do expensive here in Hawaii, the longer we wait the more expensive it will be and we will never catch up…

  • Sounds like a great plan! I’m hoping to max out mine for the first time too next year! It’s a big chunk of change to lose each month but sooo worth it in the long run.

  • For people that just starting out to allocate money to their investment accounts, regardless if it’s tax advantaged or not, the key is long term discipline. Once you have done that for years, you’ll hardly noticed that you need the money.

    As for the mortgage, once you hit a net worth number of about $.25M, you will have less stress about the balance of your mortgage. If the worst case scenario happened and both of you are unemployed at the same time, you can always refinance or borrow from the equity in your home.

    The key thing about protecting your finance is to always build access to money before you need them.

  • They say the first step is to make a plan! Amassing between $1 million and $5 million is an admirable goal and one we strive for, as well. I am with Mr. FAF on setting the goal higher than settling for less. You should make this your goal, as well! Several years ago, we refinanced our house to a 15-year loan to take advantage of a great interest rate and to pay our house off faster. This makes a huge difference when you look at your balance every month and see the principal noticeably being paid down. What we had not considered, at the time, was that this reduced the income we are able to invest while also reducing the total mortgage interest we will be able to claim on our taxes. If you do not pay as much on your mortgage and instead put this in a pre-tax 401(k) and 403(b), you reduce your taxable income even more while simultaneously paving the way for future wealth. If you have the opportunity to max out your retirement accounts, my advice would be to do that. Next, would be to max out your Roth IRA accounts annually with the $5,500 each. Lastly, would be to pay more on your mortgage. The benefit is that you will be maxing out your savings for the future to take advantage of the time value of money while maximizing the reduction on your taxable income. The best part of this plan is that if you need any money in the future any contributions you make to your Roth IRA can be withdrawn anytime, tax- and penalty-free. Meanwhile, you gain the benefit of compound interest with your deposits. Keep up the great work!

  • Congrats on maxing out your retirement accounts. I’m already maxing out my IRA account and the both of us are close to maxing our 401K accounts. I don’t know if you guys are contributing to an IRA account(Trad. or Roth) but if not then I highly recommend opening one as well to even build your wealth even more.

  • I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself, you made the best decision for you and your family at that time .

    My parents had the opportunity to purchase a rental property 10 years ago, which has now appreciated x4 (still rising) it’s original value. However, my Dad didn’t want to overextend, and decided not to. My Mum still comments about the £300k+ lost opportunity, but it was the best decision at the time. Hindsight is 20/20, and would more money matter when they’re already FI?

    继续努力工作姐姐!

  • 你们两个应该都没问题60岁一下赚到100万在退休金里。
    你们两个都年轻,两个都努力,也有高学历。你们的目标应该是早期在退休金以外赚超过100万。有好机会的时候要抓紧。最好机会就是开自己的生意或找工作有产权。你的丈夫是高科技的专业,找份有产权的工作应该不难。
    这是我的建议。我退休金只有30万因为我早起退休了,可是我的财产超过退休金几十倍。

  • Yay for maxing out retirement accounts! Especially in this low rate environment it’s good to invest. Also good that you are maxing out your accounts in addition to his (rather than using yours for mortgage pay down), better to do things a bit more equally, so you both can retire early! 🙂

  • Do you get any employer match at work? That is also a big benefit of a retirement account. Unfortunately you didn’t start contributing in your 20’s. The earlier you start the greater the benefit of compound interest. Luckily people at work encouraged me to contribute to a 401k when I started out of college. The 4% match helps to supercharge my nest egg.

    • My employer does contribute an X% of my annual pay no matter how much I contribute. Glad you’re already making the contribution 🙂

  • I’m so happy for you that you figured this out now! We are in the same boat of not knowing a gosh-darn thing about investing. I’m so thankful to past me that I at least put like 3% of salary into work-sponsored plans in previous years, so I’m a teensy bit higher than 0 starting out. But we are looking into all our accounts now, and at 30, want to put the pedal to the metal for savings! See ya in the millionaire club some day 😉

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