I have a confession.  I might be slightly jealous of all the people who know exactly when they will be able to retire.  Nothing personal.

I know dozens of people who have their retirement planned out to the exact day.  I even know a guy who has a retirement app that counts down to his retirement to the second.  What the hell!  I can’t imagine how exciting it would be to know exactly when we’ll retire.  I wish I had it all planned out like that, but there are several factors that make that kind of planning impossible for us.  Let me explain.

Where We Are Now

Both Greg and I turned 35-years-old this year and our kids will turn 4 and 6 in just a few months.  Our only debts are mortgages on our primary residence and two rental homes.  Since both of our rental properties pull in a monthly profit, I don’t really count them.  So in my eyes, our only debt is our primary mortgage.  We do pay a little extra each month, but it’s currently scheduled to be paid off in 11-12 years.  Other than those debts, we owe nothing to anyone – not even a car payment.  We also keep our expenses low so we can save as much as we can.

As of right now, we’re saving around 50% of our gross income and spreading it around as much as we can.  For example, we have SEP IRAs and Roth IRAs that we’re able to max out most of the time.  We also invest in mutual funds and College 529 Savings Plans.  And until this year, we also saved in a Health Savings Account (HSA).  When it comes to savings, we’re doing really awesome.  Obviously it helps when the stock market goes gangbusters for a year or so…but still.  As long as we keep stashing money away and maxing out our accounts, we should have plenty of money long before we are 50.  But there’s a problem.

Here’s Why I Have No Idea When We’ll Be Able to Retire

Although it looks like we have all our ducks in a row, I still have no idea when we’ll be able to retire.  Here’s why:

  • Our kids are almost 4 and 6.  The fact that my kids are so young makes it hard for me to plan ahead.  For example, we want to help pay for their college education, but where will they go?  A state school?  Harvard?  Beauty college?  No matter how many times I ask my 5-year-old what she wants to do when she grows up, she won’t tell me!
  • Our income fluctuates.  Self-employment means having unlimited earning potential, but it also means you could lose it all.  I’ve more than tripled my income since I worked in a 9-5 job, but will it last?  If it does, I’m gonna be uber-prepared for early retirement.  But if it doesn’t?  It will simply take me longer to save enough money to retire.
  • We’re conservative about money.  Maybe it’s just the way I was raised, but I like to plan for the absolute worst case scenario.  I would rather have more money than we need than end up eating cat food in retirement.
  • Taxes.  The more we earn as a family, the more I start to feel like we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.  For example, health insurance in our state is cost-prohibitive because we make too much to earn a subsidy.  Meanwhile, we continue to lose out on certain tax credits as our income climbs.  Sometimes I think we would be better off saving and investing as much as we can right now – then living on as little as possible.  Hell, maybe we’ll even retire early and get on the dole!  The option looks better every day!  {Kiddingkind’ve.}

Here’s Why I Keep Saving

I don’t know when we’ll be able to retire, but I still keep on saving.  I still use a zero-sum budget and stash money in retirement as quickly as I can.  I still study grocery store ads, make meal plans, and tell my kids “no” about 75% of the time.

We may not know exactly when we’ll retire, but with every move we make, we’re getting closer.  And that’s why I keep saving – because one day we’ll get there.

And until that day comes, I’ll keep on saving.

Do you know when you’ll be able to retire?  What steps are you taking to make your retirement dreams come true?

Additional reading: