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These days, our financial situation is fairly simple. Beyond the complexities of self-employment and paying quarterly income taxes, our monthly expenses are downright boring.
At the beginning of each month, I sit down and create a zero-sum budget that outlines each expense we need to pay. For the most part, those expenses include things like our ever-decreasing home mortgage, utility bills, insurance payments, groceries, cell phone bills, and stuff for the kids. In total, our monthly living expenses are usually around $3,000 – that is, unless we have a trip planned that month.
Why We Max Out Our Retirement Accounts
Still, looming in the corner is another monthly expense I pay – the $3,000 I send to our Vanguard retirement accounts at the beginning of the month. Since I pay this out of our business account and rarely think twice about it, it’s easy to forget just how monstrous it is. This expense is especially big when you consider it’s equal to the amount we spend on housing, utilities, transportation, food, and miscellaneous combined every month!
Plus, this is just the beginning of what we can save in tax-advantaged accounts. With Vanguard, we each have a Solo 401(k). That means we’re able to save $18,000 each year (hence the $3,000 per month). Plus, our business can contribute up to 25 percent of our salaries as a profit sharing contribution – although we make that decision at the end of the year. (Side note: In 2017, the maximum limit on ALL contributions is $54,000.)
Regardless, I try not to think about it… mostly because it hurts. Let’s face it; there are around a million ways I would rather burn through $3,000 per month!
With $3,000 per month, I could:
- book two round-trip economy flights to Italy every month for $2,000, then use $1,000 for a nicer AirBNB.
- pay principal and interest on a $600,000 home mortgage at 4 percent APR. In other words, I could buy my dream home!
- buy Greg a new Aston Martin or some other sports car.
Do I want to do anything of those things? Not really. Still, you get the point.
Regardless, I still fork over these funds – month after month and year after year.
#1: We are desperate for tax savings.
Earning more money over time has been a dream come true for us, mostly because it has given us the liberty to create the life of our dreams. One notable downside, however, is the fact we pay a lot more in taxes! This truth becomes especially evident when I tearfully write a check for quarterly taxes every three months, then wonder why the heck I pay so much!
Saving as much as we can in tax-advantaged retirement accounts has obviously helped us reduce our tax load – at least for now. The more we save, the less taxable income we have. It’s as simple as that.
#2: Compound interest is magic.
One of the best ways to invest money is by doing it early and often. Compound interest is magic, which is why I’m sad I didn’t care about saving for retirement in my early 20’s. I never had a lot of money when I was young anyway, buy I could have saved something before the age of 25! Unfortunately, I was too busy being young and dumb and thinking I was invincible.
The good news is, we got serious about retirement savings in our late 20’s and have continued ramping up our efforts ever since. The longer we save, the more time our money has to grow… and grow… and compound on itself. While we’re saving a lot, I know we’ll need every penny we can get.
#3: We want to retire early.
One of the biggest motivators for saving so much is the fact we want to retire (or semi-retire) while we can still enjoy it. I’m not sure we’ll ever quit working altogether, but I do envision a future where I’m not sitting at this computer for 40 hours every week.
It’s not really that far away when you think about it. Our oldest child is eight and our youngest will be six soon. That means we’re only 10-12 years away from having kids in college and earning the ability to retire and slow travel however we want.
Will we actually retire? I have no idea, but I do know we want to have as many options as we can.
#4: We don’t want to be a burden on our children.
Saving for retirement isn’t just for us – it’s for our kids. While that probably sounds especially snooze-worthy, my feelings on this are real. Greg and I are lucky to have parents who have their financial lives together, but not everyone is that lucky. Truth be told, I could probably name at least ten people I know who are helping their parents in retirement. While I’m not against helping my parents and would definitely do so, it’s nice to know they are doing well on their own.
The bottom line: I refuse to put myself in the position of having to ask my adult kids for money. The only exception I would make is if one of them winds up filthy rich, in which case, I would gladly let them support me. (Kidding!)
#5: We love our future selves… a lot!
While saving for retirement has some short-term perks (like tax savings), the real benefit is taking care of someone you don’t really know yet – your future self. No matter how young and healthy I feel now, I know that one day I’ll be old and tired of working. How would my future self feel if I ignored retirement savings and YOLO’d my way through my 30’s and 40’s?
You can bet your bottom dollar my future self – the grouchy old lady I will surely become – would be pissed! Since I’m scared of her already, I’ll keep on saving.
We Blow $3,000 Per Month… and We’re Okay With It
Doing the adult thing really sucks sometimes. The truth is, it would be a lot easier to spend our retirement savings on something fun, or to upgrade our lifestyle in some pretty crazy ways. Part of me can absolutely picture myself in a huge house with a pool in the back yard, or with a newer car that isn’t embarrassing to drive. And we all know I could easily plan a $3,000 vacation every single month and enjoy it.
Fortunately, we are well aware of what’s at stake here. We also know that, one day, we’ll be glad we did the right thing.
How do you stay committed to your retirement goals? Do you ever wish you could blow that money instead?