Reader Case Study: Operation Financial and Location Independence!

Tara and Squash live on the West Coast and are about five years away from reaching financial independence. They would like our help crafting a contingency plan in case one (or both) of them loses their job in light of the pandemic and recession.

What’s a Reader Case Study?

Case Studies address financial and life dilemmas that readers of Frugalwoods send to me requesting advice. Then, we (that’d be me and YOU, dear reader) read through their situation and provide advice, encouragement, insight, and feedback in the comments section. For an example, check out last month’s case study. Case Studies are updated by participants (at the end of the post) several months after the Case is featured. Visit this page for links to all updated Case Studies.

I probably don’t need to say the following because you folks are the kindest, most polite commenters on the internet, but please note that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone where we endeavor to help one another, not condemn.

And a disclaimer that I am not a trained financial professional and I encourage people not to make serious financial decisions based solely on what one person on the internet advises. I encourage everyone to do their own research to determine the best course of action for their finances. I am not a financial advisor and I am not your financial advisor.

With that I’ll let Tara, this month’s Case Study subject, take it from here!

Tara’s Story

Tara & Squash’s wedding day

Greetings Frugalwoods! I’m Tara, age 39 and my husband, Squash, is 35. We live on the outermost periphery of a major metropolitan area on the West Coast. I’m a second generation American while Squash traces at least three generations back to Kentucky. Our wedding brought together friends and family from five continents, and I credit our community’s multiculturalism for the life we forge together.

Right now, our primary goal is to reach financial independence and early retirement in order to pursue a nomadic lifestyle of long-term, slow travel. Our target date is December 31, 2025.

Tara’s Education and Work

My parents generously funded all of my undergraduate education and, after college, I started my career in New York City in September 2001. On the second day of reporting to my internship, I emerged from the subway station to witness a plane fly into the second World Trade Center tower. It took me 6 hours to walk from Battery Park City to my apartment in Morningside Heights.

A month prior, I’d taken on nearly $46k in student loans to pursue my master’s degree (I paid this debt down over five years). My third alma mater awarded me a fellowship that fully funded my doctoral studies and I received my PhD. For the past 8 years, I’ve worked in higher education administration. Prior to that I worked with, or on behalf of, domestic violence survivors.

Squash’s Education and Work

Squash at work

Squash earned his first wages at age 11, cutting blooming onions at a race track on weekends while his dad raced stock cars. His manager paid him in cash once he realized he was breaking employment law!

Squash paid his own way through the last half of college and completed an MBA through a combination of employer tuition reimbursement and personal savings. He has worked jobs in landscaping, retail, fast food, IT support, manufacturing supply chain management, and software development. He currently works as a programmer analyst at a research institute.

Interests and Hobbies

I credit our first vacation together (to Akumal, Mexico) as our motivation for pursuing financial independence and early retirement. On the Monday after our return, my commute blessed me with a dreary view of a correctional facility. Automatic thought: “This is what every Monday will look like for the rest of my life until I die …”  I googled “early retirement” as soon as I got to my desk. After an induction period facilitated by generous FIRE bloggers, Squash and I hatched a plan for: OperFLI (Operation Financial/Location Independence).

Squash planned a weekend camping trip in a 1979 Volkswagen bus to celebrate Tara’s birthday

Since launching our OperFLI goal, personal finance has been my primary interest. Other hobbies pale and have shrunk due to neglect. I am a voracious reader and The Atlantic Monthly is my favorite subscription; their columnists feed me a steady supply of subjects for further reading, informing weekly requests for loans from the county library. On uncharacteristically ambitious days, I imagine building a virtual coaching business that helps people build healthy relationships and financial capability — their ability and opportunity to pursue happiness however it morphs over time.

Generally, I read like Squash hobbies.

Squash is a tinkerer at heart. He loves understanding how things work. He bounces between the desktop in his office, the garage, and his laptop at the kitchen table throughout the day, most days, even with a pre-pandemic 3-hour commute. His hobbies and interests compound upon one another. Here’s a recent sampling: electronics, motorcycles, cars, DIY, upcycling, 3d printing, gardening, and their intersections. Squash enjoys finding objects inexpensively (or for free), repairing or improving them, and then using or selling them. He strives to develop self-sustainable capabilities that enable him to fix things in a way that’s cheaper than paying someone to fix it.

How We Money

Sunset in Syros, Greece

Prior to our wedding, we decided to preserve our individual accounts and open a single joint account by depositing all of our wedding gifts. Before our first anniversary, as tribute to our future financial independence, Squash sold his house, I sold my car, and both of us swept the proceeds into our respective brokerage accounts. I had hoped we could function as a one-car family, but Squash’s hobbies consistently procure a spare.

On the first of every month, each of us deposits the same amount, a sum amounting to roughly half of our shared household expenses, including mortgage and escrow, utilities, insurance, and groceries into the joint account. On the same date since October 2016, we jointly update an Excel worksheet that tracks our incomes, accounts, expenses, and savings and calculates our time to OperFLI based on a 6.61% real rate of return and 3.25% withdrawal rate. On the 11th of every month, we celebrate the anniversary of our relationship by sweeping post-tax savings into VTSAX. Credit to the Mad Fientist for providing the Excel file as a template, Big ERN for the baseline assumptions, and JL Collins for his book, “The Simple Path to Wealth.” (side note from Mrs. Frugalwoods: Tara has done her homework and I also recommend these three resources!)

The Best

The best part of our current post-pandemic life is spending all day, every day together! We enjoy how working from home brings more space and flexibility to our daily routines. We also eat, sleep, and socialize more intentionally. Since my parents live nearby, they share our bubble. We’ve talked about reducing our dependence on restaurant meals for years, and the stay at home order has facilitated taking greater responsibility for feeding ourselves. Practice hasn’t made perfect, but we are more willing to risk a bad meal.

The Worst

Practicing OperFLI @ our Airbnb in Athens, Greece

The worst part of our current lifestyle for me is my professional discontent/boredom. I value my job for the compensation and benefits. Ten years ago, if a fortune teller had told me I would hold this job title, I would have laughed and dismissed it as overreach. Now that I’m here, I expect the gig marks the end of my career trajectory. Emotionally, I feel ready to opt out.

Most of my personal discretionary spending lands in the travel and restaurant categories. Travel offers an escape from routine and a peek into post-OperFLI life, or so I fantasize. On a much smaller level, restaurant meals serve a similar purpose. While I rarely impulse shop, I readily purchase food as diversion. Pre-pandemic, going out to eat was entertainment and also one of my main avenues to see friends.  Now, I’ve transferred that emotional energy to grocery shopping, meal planning, and reconsidering what’s for dinner.

Squash also has reservations about his current employment. However, he views OperFLI as a means to even more free time for tinkering and traveling, which makes him happy.  He also likes to eat well, although more of his discretionary spending supports his hobbies.

Where Tara Wants To Be In 10 Years:

Sunset @ Mykonos, Greece

1)  Finances: Financially independent/retire(d) early, preferably in 5 years. Net worth sufficient to support a 3.25 to 3.5% safe withdrawal rate.

2)  Lifestyle: Nomadic lifestyle of long-term, slow travel with the option to live near family for longer periods as desired or needed. This may entail bringing elderly parents to live where we are.

3) Career: Financially independent/retire(d) early. I am not interested in working part-time to hedge my bets. Squash is more pragmatic. He is willing to work part time as long as it aligns with his interests. He envisions potentially earning a very small amount of income from projects using skills he has sharpened during the path to financial independence. Should we realize our goal of long-term slow travel, I would like to blog about OperFLI

Tara’s Finances

Income

Item Amount Notes
Tara’s Net Income $9,411 Deductions include health, dental, and supplemental disability insurance, FSA, and taxes; excludes 401(a) and 403(b) contributions.
Squash’s Net Income $5,836 Deductions include health, dental, and supplemental disability insurance, FSA, and taxes; excludes 401(a) and 403(b) contributions.
Monthly subtotal: $15,246
Annual total: $182,952

Mortgage Details

Item Outstanding loan balance Interest Rate and Terms Equity (amount you’ve paid off) Purchase price and year
Mortgage on primary residence  $289,006 3.625%; 30-year fixed-rate mortgage  $245,955 $424k; purchased in 2013

Debts

Item Outstanding loan balance Interest Rate Loan Period/Payoff Terms/Your monthly required payment
Car Loan  $16,912.93 2% $454 required minimum payment every month

Assets

Item Amount Notes Interest/type of securities held Name of bank/brokerage
Tara’s Individual Brokerage Account $514,046 Deposit on the 11th of every month. VTSAX, various ETFs Vanguard
Squash’s Individual Brokerage Account $376,860 Deposit on the 11th of every month. VTSAX, various ETFs Vanguard
Tara’s Current 403(b) $115,775 $19,500 (max allowed) deposited pre-tax annually. VITLX Vanguard
Tara’s Current 401(a) $100,881 Employer contributes 5% salary and matches up to another 5% for 10% total. Contributions suspended for 2021. VITLX Vanguard
Squash’s Current 403(b) $86,228 $19,500 deposited pre-tax annually. VTRLX Vanguard
Tara’s Rollover IRA $69,683 403(b) accounts rolled over from previous employers VBTLX, VTSAX Vanguard
Tara’s Previous 401(a) $65,937 First 401(a) opened with current employer VITLX Fidelity
Squash’s Current 401(a) $37,120 Employer contributes 5% salary and matches up to another 5% for 10% total. Contributions suspended for 2021. VTRLX Vanguard
Tara’s Previous 403(b) $35,089 First 403(b) opened with current employer VITLX Fidelity
Squash’s Previous 401(k) $21,916 401(k) from a previous employer. VTRLX Vanguard
Tara’s Money Market Account $10,190 This account along with the joint checking account functions as our joint emergency fund. 0.40% n/a
Joint Checking Account $7,539 All joint household expenses are paid from this account. Checking n/a
Tara’s Roth IRA Account $7,369 VBTLX Vanguard
Squash’s Roth IRA $6,811 VTSAX Vanguard
Tara’s Individual Checking Account $5,996 Employment paychecks are deposited here. Tara’s credit card balances are paid from here. 0.05% n/a
Squash’s Individual Checking Account $1,909 Employment paychecks are deposited here. Squash’s credit card balances are paid from here. Checking n/a
Total: $1,463,350 (Total Reflects Account Balances on July 1, 2020)

Vehicles

Vehicle make, model, year Valued at Mileage Paid off?
BMW i3 2015 $15,902 35,000 No, the amount we owe is listed under debts
Harley Davidson Road King Classic 2011 $11,000 14,000 Yes
Mercedes-Benz 300D 1987 $5,000 114,000 Yes
Suzuki GS750 1981 $2,500 11,000 Yes
Total: $34,402

Monthly Expenses

Item Amount Notes
Mortgage $1,545 Joint household expense.
Federal & state income tax payment $992 One time annual expense = $5,951 in April 2020. Joint household expense.
Automotive $605 Joint household expense. Includes monthly car loan payment of $460 plus registration and maintenance
Property Tax $542 Paid via escrow. Joint household expense.
Groceries and household supplies $493 Joint household expense. Organic products whenever possible from Costco, Sprouts, Trader Joes. Includes household supplies.
Tara’s Restaurant Purchases $185 Perhaps the most intractable of Tara’s categories.
Charitable giving $167 Individual expense.
Tara’s Medical Expenses $129 Includes co-pays, supplements, supplies. We sought care from a functional medicine doctor at the year’s start so this number is considerably higher than usual. Usually = $0
Tara’s Gift Purchases $128
Squash’s Vehicle Maintenance $128 Oil changes, repairs, accessories, etc…
Squash’s Restaurant Purchases $121
Squash’s Hobby Purchases $119
HOA Fees $116 Joint household expense.
Travel $112 Significantly lower than usual because we paid for 2020 Q1 travel in 2019 and have cancelled all other travel since March 2020. That said, we don’t expect to travel abroad again this year and are willing to titrate based on circumstances.
Water, trash $110 Joint household expense.
Squash’s MobilePhone + Data Plan $99 We cancelled our home Internet service and rely on Squash’s mobile wireless subscription to work from home.
Auto Insurance $89 Joint household expense.
Tara’s Miscellaneous $89 Includes credit card annual fee, subscriptions.
Squash’s Tools $84 New tools acquired for Squash’s projects
Electricity $74 Joint household expense. Powers our electric vehicle. Closer to $100, pre-pandemic.
Squash’s Home Maintenance $74 Service, parts, or supplies needed for home repairs. Also includes household supplies like new cookware or coffee maker.
Squash’s Personal Care $74 Preferred personal care products, mostly.
Housekeeping Service $67 In-sourced effective March 2020. Now = $0
Home Security Service $66 Joint household expense.
Squash’s Clothes $64
Tara’s Entertainment Purchases $55 Includes Netflix, tickets, parking.
Homeowner’s Insurance $52 Paid via escrow. Joint household expense.
Home Gas $43 Joint household expense.
Squash’s Automobile/Motorcycle Fuel $41 Gas/diesel pump or charging an electric vehicle.
Landscaping Service $40 In-sourced effective June 2020. Now = $0
Tara’s Work Lunch $29 Currently = $0
Squash’s Gift Purchases $29 Includes treating family and friends or birthday presents.
Squash’s Work Lunch $23 Currently = $0
Squash’s Motorcycle Membership $19 Membership cancelled due to reduced use. Currently = $0
Squash’s Gym Membership $19
Tara’s Personal Care $14
Squash’s Parking $10 When we have to pay to park somewhere.
Squash’s Netflix $9
Tara’s Shopping $5 Includes clothes and tangible items.
Squash’s Entertainment $0 Usually greater than $0 pre-pandemic.
Monthly subtotal: $6,663 Reflects expenses between January and June 2020.
Annual total: $79,956.00

Credit Card Strategy

We both use the Chase Sapphire Preferred travel rewards card (affiliate link).

Tara’s Questions For You:

Marriage proposal at Jalama Beach in Santa Barbara, CA

1) Our goal is to pursue a nomadic lifestyle of slow travel abroad once we reach our OperFLI target at the end of 2025, nearly 11 years after setting the intention. We’re about half-way there, but the pandemic and corresponding recession has us nervous. Both of us are concerned about the risk of being laid off from our jobs and being unable to get new jobs at equivalent levels of compensation. If one or both of us becomes unemployed, should we pull the plug and leverage geo-arbitrage, e.g. Southeast Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, other places?

  • If yes, how would you recommend we reduce expenses (including relocation) in order to maximize quality of life?
  • If I am unemployed, should I take a job that pays me 50% less or retire now while Squash keeps working? (If I go back to work at a nonprofit, I can expect a significant reduction in pay).
  • Should we stay in our house, sell it, or propose my parents move in and take over the mortgage while we travel?
    • I bought this house reluctantly as a singleton, and my parents encouraged me to buy it assuring me they would take it when they were ready to downsize. As a second-generation immigrant family, the option to live as an intergenerational household stands so this may be an intermediate arrangement.

2) We are open to having a child, but haven’t conceived over the past two years of trying/not trying. While Squash is happy with our life as is, I am ambivalent. Part of me wonders if my desire for a child is a combination of life stage and FOMO.

  • As I am nearing 40, should we foreclose this option?
  • We also recognize that having a child now could mean caretaking until we reach a more traditional retirement age, especially if world schooling isn’t a feasible option due to the child’s specific needs.

Mrs. Frugalwoods’ Recommendations

Where OperFLI was born… a day trip to Chichen Itza while visiting Akumal, Mexico

This Case Study is a superb example of what you can accomplish when you: 1) have high salaries; 2) pay off your debt early and fast; 3) create a focused, intentional goal; 4) spend and save your money carefully and with intention. I commend Tara and Squash for their judicious management of their finances!

Tara and Squash have mapped out their life goals and tailored their finances to enable them to meet those goals. I very much like this approach: set the goal for the type of life you want, then figure out how to manage your money to make it happen. Money is a tool you can deploy, not an end goal in and of itself. Much of what they’ve done is a straightforward, well-researched path to financial independence and the sources Tara cited are the ones I recommend to anyone serious about pursuing FIRE. Congrats to Tara and Squash!

The really basic, oversimplified methodology for reaching financial independence is as follows:

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

  1. Set a specific, achievable goal and make sure your partner (if applicable) is 100% on board. Research safe withdrawal rates and determine your FI number. Don’t forget about heath care costs! Be realistic about the amount of time it’ll take you to get there. In Tara and Squash’s case, it’s 11 years. Sounds long at the outset, but ends up being a pretty small fraction of a lifetime.
  2. Pay off all high-interest debt and don’t take on any new debt (with the possible exception of fixed low-interest rate mortgages, either for a primary residence or rentals).
  3. Focus on your earning potential: advance in your career(s) in order to increase your income(s). The more you earn, the more you can save.
  4. Create a lifestyle that enables you to live well below your means (and like it!). Choose housing, transportation, entertainment, food, etc that enables you to spend far less than you earn. It’s not about deprivation, it’s about values-based spending. Allocate your resources of money, time and energy to the highest and best purposes, as defined by you.
  5. Invest, invest, then invest some more. Also, invest. In order to grow your wealth, research indicates you need to invest–and remain invested–in the stock market for decades. This includes both tax-advantaged retirement investments (401ks, IRAs, etc) as well as taxable investments (for example: low-fee, total market index funds).
  6. Understand and utilize tax-advantaged strategies.
    • Resources: the MadFientist does a great job outlining tax-advantaged approaches in his blog
  7. Consider adding passive/semi-passive additional income streams, such as: rental properties, side hustles, consulting, freelance work, etc.
  8. Rinse and repeat items 1-7 for as long as it takes to reach your FI number (which, by the way, is likely to change and shift over the years).

Yes it takes research, time, money, and sacrifice, but I’d argue that most goals worth pursuing do. Ok, let’s turn to Tara’s specific questions!

Question #1: If one or both of us becomes unemployed, should we pull the plug and leverage geo-arbitrage?

There’s a lot to unpack in this question and I’ll start with the obvious: what is the FI number Tara and Squash are targeting? I’m curious about this because I’m wondering how much they anticipate needing to live on. It appears they’re targeting a pretty high number and it seems they might be able to do it sooner. I join them in being pretty conservative in my estimates, but at first glance, they’re a lot closer to FI than they’re calculating. There are, however, a few major wild cards to consider:

1) Their House:

Tara and Squash in springtime

They have a lot of equity in their home and, if they’re serious about traveling full-time, it seems to me that the most straightforward thing to do would be to sell the house. Sell the house, the cars, all their possessions, take the proceeds and funnel them into their investments. Selling all of this would significantly beef up their bottom line and permanently eliminate a lot of their fixed costs. However, what I can’t answer for Tara is the question of her parents living in her house.

From an outsider’s perspective, that could create a hairy interconnection between her and her parents–who is paying the mortgage, who gets the equity, who is responsible for replacing the water heater? But I’m not in Tara’s position and I don’t know the understanding she has with her parents. If the expectation is that Tara will provide her parents with a place to live, it might actually be less fraught for her to just give them the house, rather than trying to charge them rent.

The other lingering question I have is whether or not Tara’s parents expect to live with Tara and Squash as they age. If so, how does the world travel plan synchronize with that expectation?

I don’t think I can answer this adequately for Tara and it’s something she’ll need to discuss with her parents. From a PURELY financial perspective–ignoring all familial love and filial expectations–it would probably make the most sense for Tara and Squash to sell the house and invest the proceeds.

2) Tara also asked, “how would you recommend we reduce expenses (including relocation) in order to maximize quality of life?”

I think their expenses would naturally reduce if they no longer owned anything. They’d have no HOA fees, no mortgage, no car insurance, no utilities. If they’re traveling full-time, their fixed expenses would be low, particularly depending on their mode of travel and how interested they are in credit card utilization. If they haven’t already, I recommend they take the free Travel Miles 101 course on how to leverage credit cards for maximum travel point advantage.

If Tara and Squash delete all of their fixed-in-place costs (everything from property taxes to gym memberships), their monthly spending free falls from $6,663 to $2,765 a month (see spreadsheet below). In other words, they’d save $3,898 a month just by virtue of not owning their house and cars.

Item Amount Notes
Federal & state income tax payment $992 One time annual expense = $5,951 in April 2020. Joint household expense.
Groceries and household supplies $493 Joint household expense. Organic products whenever possible from Costco, Sprouts, Trader Joes. Includes household supplies.
Tara’s Restaurant Purchases $185 Perhaps the most intractable of Tara’s categories.
Charitable giving $167 Individual expense.
Tara’s Medical Expenses $129 Includes co-pays, supplements, supplies. We sought care from a functional medicine doctor at the year’s start so this number is considerably higher than usual. Usually = $0
Tara’s Gift Purchases $128
Squash’s Restaurant Purchases $121
Travel $112 Significantly lower than usual because we paid for 2020 Q1 travel in 2019 and have cancelled all other travel since March 2020. That said, we don’t expect to travel abroad again this year and are willing to titrate based on circumstances.
Squash’s MobilePhone + Data Plan $99 We cancelled our home Internet service and rely on Squash’s mobile wireless subscription to work from home.
Tara’s Miscellaneous $89 Includes credit card annual fee, subscriptions.
Squash’s Personal Care $74 Preferred personal care products, mostly.
Squash’s Clothes $64
Tara’s Entertainment Purchases $55 Includes Netflix, tickets, parking.
Squash’s Gift Purchases $29 Includes treating family and friends or birthday presents.
Tara’s Personal Care $14
Squash’s Netflix $9
Tara’s Shopping $5 Includes clothes and tangible items.
Monthly subtotal: $2,765
Annual total: $33,180

This doesn’t account for:

  • Where they’re going to live. They’ve got to live somewhere once they sell their house, but I imagine they can live much more cheaply than $3,898 a month.
  • Health care (depending on their health and what type of plan they choose, this could easily double their monthly spending).
  • Travel expenses.
  • The potential absence of income tax (I left it in above).

This is an illustration–imperfect though it is–of just how many of their expenses are tied to their location and their ownership of a house and cars. These lowered expenses, combined with the infusion of their previously illiquid assets (house and cars) into their investment accounts could dramatically tip the balance of their FI number (in my opinion). Tara’s smart and can do the math here, but the salient point is how many of their costs are tied up in their house.

3) Tara asked, “If I am unemployed, should I take a job that pays me 50% less or retire now while Squash keeps working?”

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

This is fairly contingent upon what they decide regarding their house and the rough calculation I did above on their fixed-in-place costs. The other obvious factor at play right now is the global pandemic. In light of the pandemic, it doesn’t seem feasible (or wise) for Tara and Squash to being traveling now. For starters, I’m not even sure which countries are allowing Americans in. Given that, I think the commencement of travel is necessarily a post-pandemic consideration.

Due to the pandemic, I think it probably makes the most sense for both Tara and Squash to continue working. If she’s laid off, I think she can easily find another job. I sense there’s some imposter syndrome at play here and I want Tara to be more confident in her abilities and expertise. Tara stated, “Ten years ago, if a fortune teller had told me I would hold this job title, I would have laughed and dismissed it as overreach.” But clearly it’s NOT overreach. She has this job for a reason and she’s probably very good at it!

I would also note that there there are very few 100% unique jobs in the world. I know she feels like this is the one and only for her, but if she got laid off, she might be able to find an even better position–who knows? She might not find something right away, but thankfully, her finances don’t necessitate she do so. With a PhD and lots of work experience, she could launch a nationwide/worldwide job search and investigate a lot of options. Plus, since most white-collar positions are exclusively work-from-home due to the pandemic, this might open up positions that weren’t perviously available due to geography. If I were Tara, I wouldn’t assume that her career is over if she loses this job. Ditto all of the above for Squash.

Slow Travel Trial Period?

Something I’m wondering is if Tara and Squash have ever done a trial period of long, slow travel? If not, I wonder if they’ve considered doing a trial period–lasting at least several months–before committing to the lifestyle? I know they’ve traveled extensively, but I’m specifically curious if they’ve spent months at a time on the road.

Sunrise on Christmas Day @ Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Once things are back to a semblance of normal (in terms of the pandemic), I recommend taking a sabbatical to travel for several months straight. That would provide Tara and Squash with data on the experience without committing them to a longer term of travel. Sometimes the reality of a situation doesn’t meet with the expectation or fantasy. Conversely, it might turn out even better than Tara and Squash anticipated and they might decide to depart sooner! Either way, I see no downside in doing a several months long exploratory trip (jobs and pandemic permitting, of course).

One aspect of their lives that appears potentially incompatible with travel are Squash’s hobbies. Tara noted that he enjoys tinkering, working on cars, gardening, and more. These are all hobbies that require a home base and lots of space. Just something for them to consider since a lifetime of travel might put these hobbies on hold.

Tara’s Question #2: We are open to having a child, but haven’t conceived over the past two years of trying/not trying. While Squash is happy with our life as is, I am ambivalent. Part of me wonders if my desire for a child is a combination of life stage and FOMO.

This is one of the most personal of personal questions and it’s something only Tara and Squash can answer. Since we can’t answer this for them, my suggestion is that they commit to a specific action item around this question (I’ve outlined possible action items in my summary at the end). Here are my thoughts–from an outsider’s perspective–in case they’re useful to Tara and Squash in their discernment process:

Celebrating our second anniversary on the sand @ Pacific Beach, San Diego

From a fertility perspective, if Tara and Squash want to pursue having a biological child, it’s probably advisable for them to meet ASAP with a fertility specialist (assuming they haven’t already) to discuss recommended/potential routes to conception (medication, IUI, etc).

If Tara and Squash aren’t wedded to the idea of a biological child, perhaps they turn off the ticking clock and pursue adoption when the time feels right for them. Perhaps they decide to travel the world for awhile and then settle down and adopt.

Medical considerations aside, I think the lifestyle question is one we can brainstorm about a bit more. Everyone experiences parenthood differently, but it’s undeniably a life-altering event. Tara’s spot on when she notes that having a child might mean they delay their travel plans–but it also might not. Plenty of families travel with their child(ren) full-time and, if she and Squash are up for home/world-schooling, then their plans might remain on track. The world contains unknown multitudes and who’s to say if having a kid would ruin their travel plans? A child certainly adds another dimension and is another variable that can present complications, but it’s not necessarily a variable that’ll prevent travel. For all we know, we’ll just have global pandemic after global pandemic and no one will ever travel again. KIDDING!! But my point is that no one knows the future and, if you really want kids? Go for it. If you really don’t want kids? Don’t go for it.

If I read into Tara’s phrasing, and appoint myself as an armchair psychologist, it doesn’t sound like she and Squash really want to have a child. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have kids and there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to have kids. Tara noted they’re pretty happy with how their life is now and, if neither of them feels a strong pull to have a kid, why bother? Kids are expensive and a ton of work. I love my children and I wanted them desperately. I wanted children in a visceral, instinctual way. And if Tara and Squash aren’t feeling that? Then I think the best thing anyone can do is listen to what their gut is telling them.

Our first Valentine’s Day, 2015. Squash commemorates the holiday with the same fettuccine alfredo recipe every year

Just because other people have kids, just because society portrays “ideal” families as having 2.5 kids, just because your parents want to be grandparents, just because you’re worried maybe no one will care for you in old age–none of those are good reasons to have a child. The only reason to have a child is because you want to have a child. If not? Let it go and be at peace with the fact that you’ve made the right choice for you.

Side note: If Tara and Squash want to have the experience of taking a kid to the zoo or out to get ice cream sometimes, I am CERTAIN they have friends/family who will HAPPILY lend them their child(ren) for an afternoon.

If Tara and Squash feel conflicted over this question, I encourage them to seek out a couples’ counselor to help guide them through the conversation–thankfully, there are tons of online options right now! The money and time spent on therapy will PALE in comparison to the anxiety and stress of not feeling in alignment with your spouse and not coming to a resolution on this question.

Finances

Pt. Dume, Malibu, California

I have very little to say to Tara and Squash about their actual finances because they’re doing such a fabulous job! The one note I have is for them to consider consolidating some of their old retirement accounts.

That being said, if the fund options are fine for all of their old retirement accounts, then there’s no real reason to consolidate other than ease of administration. If they have all of their accounts through the same bank/brokerage and can see them all in one place, then there’s even less of a reason to pursue rolling over. I just felt I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this!

Summary:

  1. Discuss the expectations around long-term care–and the house question–with Tara’s parents. Ensure there’s clarity and clear communication.
  2. Crunch the numbers on what they could expect to net if they sell the house, the cars, their stuff and move to full-time travel. Are they actually closer to this goal than five years?
  3. Once the pandemic allows, consider taking a lengthy sabbatical to do slow travel for at least several months. Before quitting their jobs and selling everything they own, I think it’d be great for Tara and Squash to have first-hand knowledge of what the experience is really like.
  4. Decide on an action item regarding the “having kids” question.
    • Possible action items:
      • 1) resolve that they’re happy to remain kid-free and be at peace with their decision;
      • 2) resolve that having biological children isn’t imperative and table the decision until later in life, at which time adoption could be pursued;
      • 3) resolve that they do want to have biological children and make an appointment with a fertility specialist ASAP;
      • 4) resolve that they’re undecided and want professional guidance for the conversation. Book an appointment with a couples’ therapist ASAP.
    • My hope is that by pursuing one of these four action items, Tara and Squash will feel confident that they’re moving in the right direction.

Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Tara? We’ll both reply to comments, so please feel free to ask any clarifying questions!

Would you like your own case study to appear here on Frugalwoods? Email me (mrs@frugalwoods.com) your brief story and we’ll talk.

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208 Responses

  1. Allison says:

    This is totally a personal choice…but their fancy cars stick out to me. If they want them and they’re worth the extra months they need to work before becoming FI, then keep them. If they want time off more or to spend their money on traveling, sell them and replace them with more middle of the road options. It’s okay to want nice things. You just have to weigh them against all of the other things you can and want to do with your money.
    I’d say get a replacement job, even if it pays less, if Tara is let go during the pandemic. Part time is even an option. I can’t speak for all and I’m not a psychologist, but no work or volunteering or established hobbies during a pandemic when you can’t go anywhere or do much of anything seems like it would be bad for most people mental health wise. People need purpose and when we’re socially cut off from finding purpose in our relationships, it seems like having productive goals seems like one of only a few safety nets available right now.

    • Marcia says:

      The cars are actually kind of old, for the most part. I think they maybe have too many of them, but that’s just me.

      • Tara Red says:

        Yes, Marcia, they are old. One is very old (33 years!) and mainly a hobby car Squash uses to learn how to wrench. The newer (shared) one is also nearly 5 years old. We bought it used when it was 3 years old and significantly reduced in price because a better model had been released. Our original intention was to purchase a shared vehicle with cash but couldn’t agree on a make/model. Squash leaned toward older and bigger, and I leaned toward tiny or none at all.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hello Allison! Thank you for your feedback. I agree that having productive goals are important. Since preparing this post for Mrs. Frugalwoods, I have been writing nearly every day. I’m hoping that I can accelerate my goal to blog and become more entrenched in the FIRE realm during OperFLI rather than waiting to start after reaching a magic number. I credit Squash for our fancy cars. Before I met him, I drove the same Toyota Corolla for 11 years — 11 seems to be my lucky number. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Beatriz Cervantes says:

      Well said. I had the same reaction.

  2. Ginzu says:

    Income is ~2.3 times expenses, excellent efforts to get there. Develop passive income streams, if only to avoid the inevitable draw down stage of SWR. The emotional uplift from income still coming in offsets a withdrawal only rut. Even with a 3.25% SWR, a passive income stream allows for frugal spending above and beyond essentials. Slow travel has a way of allowing spending creep (expansion).
    Plan out probable increase in the family expenses with a child to develop a course of action impacting the planned SWR.
    Potential passive income ideas include interest income as an accredited investor (>$1million net) in real estate syndication and a dividend portfolio that reinvests until a withdrawal stage is reached.
    A strong base to grow is shown, this couple has options! Choice is a powerful position to be in.

    • Tara Red says:

      Thanks for your encouragement, Ginzu! Financial capability is about cultivating both the ability and opportunity to pursue happiness however it morphs over time. Thank you for emphasizing the power of options.

  3. Carol B. says:

    I think Alison is spot on about the replacement job.
    I also think the advice to figure out whether they really want to be parents or not is excellent.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi Carol! One consequence of staying at home has been a lot of extra time to think! Part of the challenge with figuring out if we want to be parents is deciding when to stop. For me, knowing when to stop has been harder than deciding to start. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  4. DLB says:

    After retiring, I found I missed having a purpose. After three years of retirement, I’m back at work albeit part-time, but not with a job I’m truly passionate about. Is this something that you Tara, may perhaps feel with few outside hobbies? Perhaps a planned year of travel, where you can go back to your job (if desired) might be a good option. Question: Tara, what would you do with your new-found freedom in retirement?

    • Georgia says:

      I really feel this! I was getting overly focused on having the maximum amount of time off from work so that I could enjoy my life, then got a new job and realized that I’d just been a little bored with my old job. I’m really loving work right now and the idea of not having a job is … fine, but not as fun. Weird! I also think being financially stable (to a certain degree) and not necessarily having to have a job makes having a job much easier. Psycholgically and all.

      • Tara Red says:

        Georgia, I’m glad your new job feels more challenging and enjoyable! Often, my pursuit of FIRE seems motivated by a desire to alleviate worry about what will happen if I lose my job. If I didn’t worry about the financial implications, I imagine it would feel like a different game.

    • Tara Red says:

      What great questions! No joke — since preparing the reader portion of this case study for Mrs. Frugalwoods, I have been contemplating developing a virtual business either pre- or post-FIRE to offer online coaching for people dealing with problems at the intersection of healthy relationship and financial capability. I appreciate the suggestion to take a year to focus on travel and then plan avenues for contribution. Thank you for raising these questions, DLB.

  5. Georgia says:

    Just a random personal story about fertility–my husband and I did the ‘trying not trying’ thing for two years with no buns appearing in any ovens, and then just when we decided to go ahead and live without kids and spend all our time traveling and eating pizza, we found out we were having a baby. So you never know, and sometimes it takes a while!

    Best of luck to you, looks like you’re super well set-up to achieve your goals. Enjoy the travel for me!

    • Tara Red says:

      Georgia! Thanks for stopping by! You aren’t the first to suggest that something could happen after we give up on the idea. The same thing happened to me before I met Squash. I could not go on one more date and had resolved to be single indefinitely. Since then, my friends have joked that I should have given up sooner! 😉 Thank you for your encouragement…

    • Aphra says:

      Just to add the other side…… We were both in our early 30s and tried for 9 months. 3 failed IUI and one round of IVF and no kids. No fertility issues either….2nd (and likely last) round of IVF in a few months. IVF is brutal, both emotionally and physically. It has worn me and my husband out. Adoption is not an easy route either, there is a reason those kids are up for adoption. This is not the child’s fault at all but it will have affected them. Sorry I don’t mean to put you off I just feel people throw out these options of fertility treatment and adoption like it’s an easy fix. None of it is remotely easy.

      • K says:

        Your comment about adoption is horribly offensive. There are tons of reasons for children to be up for adoption. And to say that it has “affected them” is ignorant and simpleminded.

        • Tara Red says:

          Hello K, I read Aphra’s comment differently than you did. I agree with you that there are multiple reasons why parents adopt and children may be adopted. At the same time, children, birth/foster/adoptive parents, siblings, and whole families (usually two if not more) are impacted by choices and decisions that lead to and follow adoption. This is how I interpreted her words.

          • Amanda says:

            You can interpret her words however you want, but the phrase “theres a reason these kids are up for adoption” is objectively ignorant and hurtful.

            It sounds like they were not the kind of people who could do adoption. That’s fine! But leave the kids out of it.

        • Victoria says:

          I didn’t read it that way, and I work with adoption teams. It is not the child’s fault, but the many reasons why they end up needing adoption have impacted their development. They have emotional, mental and physical needs from that experience.
          Any adoption or fostering agency if they are any good will be clear up front that these routes are not for the faint hearted, and they require more from an adoptive or foster parent than the average biological child would. The child is, through no fault of its own, higher need.
          I know, for example, that my medical issues rule out adoption or fostering for me as I wouldn’t meet agency criteria.

      • Tara Red says:

        You’re more courageous than I am, Aphra. I’m sorry that your experience with fertility treatments has been so painful. I have watched friends and relatives become overwhelmed by these procedures. In some families, they gave birth to healthy babies. In others, they were surprised when they later learned their infants and toddlers had special needs. In yet others, they remained childless after multiple cycles. I also notice that many of my well-wishers will speak of adoption immediately after recommending fertility treatments to increase the likelihood of a biological pregnancy. I try to be sensitive to this when speaking to my own friends. While all paths to parenthood are equivalent, they are different, especially when there might be a great deal of emotion invested in a particular path. Thank you for your comment.

        • Katie says:

          Fertility treatments do not increase the chance you will have a special needs child. That’s just bad information you were given.

          I have an IVF baby and while it wasn’t easy, I wouldn’t trade if for the world. I knew for me (and only for me) it would be a less grueling path than adoption. Obviously there are no guarantees.

      • Shiny says:

        Aphra, I am truly sorry that you’ve had such a difficult time. I don’t think, however, – whatever your specific experience with adoption may have been – that it warrants your offensive and sweeping comments about children placed for adoption. Perhaps it would not be a good idea for you, but adopting a child has been a wonderful experience for many parents.

      • Sarah says:

        Hi, adoptive mom here. I actually agree with Aphra’s comment. There are serious social/emotional impacts to my adopted child. White parents should prepare to talk about race with their transracially adopted child every day, identify ways to honor and integrate their birth culture, and spend a chunk of change in therapy. Meeting your child’s unique needs is just good parenting for any child but you are much more likely to struggle with and be challenged by parenting adoptive parenting. Do not take the option lightly.

        • Tara Red says:

          Sarah, I believe one reason I am not yet a parent is because I do not take any option to parent lightly! My personal and professional experiences align with your comment about the experiences of adoptive families. I’ve heard, “Oh, but you can always adopt” and “Why don’t you think about adopting a child?” uttered too flippantly, too often. Thank you for sharing your feedback.

  6. C says:

    Since you are doing so well financially, I wonder if you’d consider still paying your former housekeeper, who you noted that you laid off In March. Not everyone has had your level of privilege, and cutting off someone else’s income in a pandemic when you could easily afford not to seems a bit harsh!

    I am in the same position in terms of kids, so I very much feel you on that one! It’s such an intense, personal decision. Good luck with all the decisions you have ahead of you!

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi, C! Thank you for your concern about our former housekeeper. In early March, she contacted me to share that she didn’t feel comfortable continuing her business and intended to suspend it until she felt safe. I’m glad that she felt capable to make the choice that was best for her and her family.

      Also glad to hear from someone in a similar boat re kids! Most of my friends are partnered with children or single and unwilling to parent solo. Squash and I are the in-between case. Thank you for your well wishes.

  7. Cindy says:

    Although they are both healthy now, it’s best to plan for all contingencies . I imagine that being fully covered for a nomad existence would be expensive. My husband and I chose coverage (Medicare, supplement and drug plan) which would almost fully cover us anywhere and we pay $9,500.00/year. Most insurance rates are based on where you live.

    • Good point, Cindy; however, Medicare, even with a supplemental and Part D policy, will not provide coverage outside the U.S. So for global travel, even if you’re traditional retirement age, a travel or global policy would be necessary.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi, Cindy! I have been keeping my eyes peeled for news about insurance options for those seeking a nomadic lifestyle. Both Kristy and Bryce at Millennial Revolution and Purple (anonymous blogger) at A Purple Life have shared how they seek to meet this need. Like your comment suggests, rates explode if travelers intend to live in the US for longer than a couple of months. This will be a priority as we continue to plan for the future. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  8. G says:

    They are doing excellent! Congrats! I only have 1 comment. If they both work at a university, do they have access to a 457b? If so, I suggest they start to contribute to that as much as possible since the only requirement to withdraw from it before retirement is leaving the employer. So there is no early 10% penalty! For those that want to retire early, this is an excellent pre-tax account (if the fees are reasonable)!

    • Tara Red says:

      Great suggestion, G! Unfortunately, my employer restricts access to a 457b to those who earn considerably more than either Squash or I do. Otherwise, I would have been all over it! Thank you for thinking of it. Maybe others who have access to one could investigate it as an option.

  9. Julie says:

    Please continue to pay your house cleaner. You have the means.

    • caryatis says:

      Disagree. If you want to give to charity, give to an effective charity that targets the most needy. Don’t throw money at a random person just because of your past business relationship–for all you know, that housekeeper may be on unemployment making a lot more than before COVID.

      • Shannon says:

        Anyone who finds that $600 a week is more than they were making while working full time, was underpaid.

      • Morgan says:

        Wow. What a crass and dismissive comment. As a business owner ( the house keeper) is not likely able to access unemployment funds. Regardless, service based industries have been hit very hard in this time.

    • Marcia says:

      I agree with you, Julie. We have continued to pay our house cleaner, who is not cleaning our house. We have also continued to pay our gym membership (the YMCA), which is not open but still provides a lot of services to our town.

      If people like us, who have high incomes and decent net worth don’t care enough to continue to pay people a salary when we can afford to do so (during a national pandemic!) what does that say about us? Our cleaning service has been with us for 13 years. They want to work for a living. It’s not their fault.

      • Silver says:

        Hi, I wholeheartedly agree with Marcia–her sentiments about kindness and the willingness to open your heart and help in whatever way you’re able, and also the fact that this pandemic nightmare is why people are “making the decision” to stay safe. For the most part, it’s not because they’re taking a sabbatical to find themselves, or taking a fun vacation, or going back to college to plan a lucrative new career. And even if a lot of people were uncomfortably unwilling to give up their livelihoods because they desperately need the income, the decision was taken out of their hands when customers stopped paying for the services and businesses were forced to shut down for who knows how long.

        I’m sure the housecleaner would be very appreciative and touched if a former client surprised her with a pretty card containing a bonus or a gift card for groceries or a favorite treat. A gesture like that would put a smile on her face, make her feel like she was appreciated, and it would mean a lot to her to know she’s not forgotten, that somebody cares. I’ve discovered it really doesn’t take much to make us happy, to feel loved. Recently, I sent a card to my friends in the office mailroom with some money and a note to treat themselves to coffee and donuts, and that we’ll swap stories when we’re together again. I’m also working on some cards for the workers at the coffee shop (for when they re-open) and for the sweet gentleman who runs the newstand/candy shop I frequented.

        I’ve even been happily surprised myself! I’m a secretary, and it really made my day when I received a package of books from my dear friend/co-worker. It felt great to know I was valued and loved. I’m always going to treasure those books and remember my dear friend’s kindness and generous spirit.

        We’re in this together. We have to be strong and stand for each other and with each other. Frugalwoods is a great place for us to do that. 🙂 Thank you, Liz and friends! As Jerry Springer used to say,. “Take care of yourselves, and each other.”

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi Julie, thanks for your concern about her. The housekeeping business she operates is a professional service. Likewise, my relationship with her is professional. In early March, she contacted me to share that she didn’t feel comfortable continuing her business and intended to suspend it until she felt safe. I’m glad that she felt capable to make the choice that was best for her and her family.

  10. Marilyn Delson says:

    Can’t get past the scary, dopey face masks. What gives? Creepy.

    • Tara Red says:

      Aw, sorry to hear they put you off, Marilyn. I preferred an alternative to the usual yellow happy faces folks use to conceal their identities in an anonymous post. The pink flower sold me.

      • Joan says:

        When I saw the first picture in the post, the wedding picture, I thought you wore masks at your wedding. I thought it was very odd!😂

        • Tara Red says:

          Joan, I would have been disappointed by the photos had that been the case! A close friend of mine married last month. Ironically, she, her groom, and their 8 guests all wore masks! Not the type anyone expected, but a joyous wedding nonetheless.

    • Mille says:

      They want to remain anonymous. I don’t blame them. Nothing wrong with that.

  11. Susan says:

    Hello Tara and Squash,
    Just some food for thought on whether or not to have a kid….I will tell you the same thing I told my 40ish newly married friend when she was feeling ambivalent about building a family and worried she would regret not having one…“Unless you have a burning, absolute desire to have a family, I don’t think you’ll regret not having a child”. This was based partially on my own experience of being newly married and 40ish. My partner and I were committed to building a family, no matter what that meant-IVF/adoption, etc. I am also an educator and have many years of experience working with children. They are awesome but also a literal life changer. Your control of your life will be drastically altered, forever. We have a son that we love to bits and would never change that, but don’t let anyone tell you that you need a child to be happy.
    And an echo of the “try it out” advice from Mrs. Frugalwoods about travel. We LOVE to travel and thought we would enjoy extended slow travel in our vintage camper. Turns out, after a few trial runs, it was not what we had expected and we sold the camper and chose a new travel method. 😉
    Finally, big props! You are doing an incredible job with your FI journey. Best to you both!

    • Tara Red says:

      Thanks for your encouragement, Susan! I wondered what to make of the absence of a burning, absolute desire to procreate. For example, after being single during my early 30s, many of my friends, including me, have grappled with the idea that it might not happen for us, especially if we are unwilling to pursue single motherhood by choice. Sometimes I wonder if delaying marriage (by choice or circumstance) dissipates that burning, absolute desire others experience when they are happily coupled during their early adulthood. Of course, there are always exceptions. At the point we are now (nearing 40), some of these friends are seriously contemplating solo parenting via IUI/IVF or adoption when they hadn’t before.

      • Tina says:

        In my late 20’s I experienced the burning desire… to get a dog. I volunteered with a rescue, moved to a dog friendly neighborhood and apartment and did all sorts of things to get ready before I actually got the dog. I’ve never felt that way about having a child, so I figure motherhood is not for me.

    • Jisel Perilla says:

      Just to comment on the other side of this, my daughter was a bit of surprise, as I never thought I would have children and was happy with my life as is. I never experienced a burning desire to have a child, but it happened, and it is now impossible to imagine my life without my child, even though it is absolutely more complicated than before. I will be thinking about and worried about this little person for the rest of my life. This just to say that not everyone knows with absolute certainty what they want, and sometimes things happen that change your life if ways you don’t expect. I believe we would also have been happy childless, but having a kid does open up a different realm.

      Another thing to think about is that all kids are different. While some kids might be just fine traveling around, other kids need more stability and have a very hard time with change and stimulation. If you did decide to pursue children, that’s something to think about, because you may need to upend your plans depending on your child’s temperament and needs.

      • Tara Red says:

        I absolutely agree with you, Jisel! Humans usually aren’t the best at predicting what will or won’t make us happy. Also a child will have unpredictable needs that will demand a high degree of adaptability. Thank you for your feedback!

        • Jane says:

          I was fairly ambivalent about having a kid – was happy without kids but could also imagine having one (not two). But it was really important to my boyfriend to be a dad so I decided I was willing to try and see what happened and our son is just one of the most wonderful (and challenging) parts of my life. No regrets at all.
          I’d also note that it has changed my relationship With my partner quite a bit and the last three years have been a roller coaster for both of us. We’ve learned a lot but it’s been rough. Still no regrets though and not all couples have such a rocky entry into parenthood, we’d also had a rough time at a previous major transition.

  12. Cara says:

    There is very little thought here about what to do if one or both of you develops a serious illness.. It’s great that your usual medical expense is $0, but relying on that is not sustainable. Even with really good health insurance (that you’d better make sure is portable) (Cigna and Bupa, I think have international options), there are lifestyle consequences to consider- like having to stay in one place, for years, for treatment. For example, a quick look for reputable statistics on the internet tells me that a man’s lifetime cancer risk is 1 in 2, a woman’s is 1 in 3, and that just about half of all first cancers occur before age 65 (20% of all between 35 and 55.). The good news is that, increasingly, cancer is something you can live with. Have a plan.

    • Alexa Kvande says:

      I want to add to this possibility: what happens if one of your parents becomes ill and the other parent needs your help and support? What happens if you have a child who has special needs? As you develop your plans, consider a few scenarios that would redirect your energy and focus–and make you grateful for the flexibility you have to adjust your goals.

      • Tara Red says:

        Hello Alexa! Thanks for giving voice to at least two fears which play on my mind… Squash and I have discussed our willingness to support our parents should they become ill. Imagining a future of parenting a child with special needs feels more overwhelming than considering a parent’s illness. We are very grateful for the flexibility our FIRE strategy has cultivated for us. Ironically, our options also feed our ambivalence about pursuing more aggressive measures to grow our family.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hello Cara! Thank you for the reminder about our lifetime cancer risk. I tend to worry more about chronic illnesses like diabetes and depression. As Mrs. Frugalwoods has observed, Squash and I imagine that some of the expenses we log by living in one place would be reallocated to expenses we currently don’t see as visibly now, e.g. health insurance or other health-related costs. When engaging in worst-case scenario planning, I imagine that if one of us became seriously ill, we’d park in a country with high quality of care and relatively low cost, e.g. Thailand, until our condition stabilized. I think more immediately about what we’d do if one of our parents became seriously ill. Would they be willing to join us abroad, or would we need to return to the US to provide in-home care they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford/navigate? Thank you for the fair warning.

  13. Would you please define financial independence. I define it as not needing to work and having adequate passive income to sustain one for the rest of their life, and that of a partner, if applicable

    • Tara Red says:

      Richard, the definition you offer here is our goal. We’d like to have enough invested to forego the need to earn wages indefinitely. Btw, I thought I recognized your name. Thank you for your contributions to the Humble Dollar! I enjoy your posts.

  14. CVC says:

    Re: Tara and Squash’s parenting decision: I highly recommend the self-guided program outlined in “Motherhood: Is It For Me?” by Ann Davidman and Denise Carlini. (I believe there’s also a version for men.) It really helps understand and work through ambivalence about whether to have a child or not, and presents either outcome as totally valid. (And the program can serve as a precursor to professional counseling if that’s needed.) Gaining some clarity on the topic and working through any issues that might be lying under the surface is so freeing! And having a better handle on the decision one way or the other will free up mental energy so Tara and Squash can keep going after those FI goals!

    • Tara Red says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, CVC! I l appreciate that most resources are targeted to women, but it would be helpful if there were more that addressed a couple’s decision-making process.

  15. betta from daVille says:

    If you decide to stay in the house, definitely look into refinancing! Rates are super low right now and I’m guessing you could save a good amount of money in interest.

    • Tara Red says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, betta! Again, ambivalence! Since we can’t figure out if we want to keep the house, hand it off, or sell it, I have been postponing investigating further. Squash and I attended a refinancing workshop (online) made available through our credit union, and the speaker implied rates could reduce further in 2021. Maybe my procrastination will register a win? 😉

  16. Erin says:

    Deciding to have a child is such a big decision. As such, I agree with Mrs. Frugalwoods, and I’d encourage Tara and Squash to seek out an online therapist together to figure out their answer to this question to come to a conclusion that brings them both peace and certainty. As someone who has battled infertility for years and pursued IVF to have a child, I have a lot of thoughts on this topic. I agree with Mrs. F- decide if you want a child and go for it ASAP or decide you don’t and close the door. Either option is completely okay, but follow your heart.

    • Tara Red says:

      Erin, thanks for the clarity of your recommendation. Squash and I previously decided that we will not pursue aggressive fertility treatment. Rather, we are “open” to whatever happens. However, this openness has become wearisome for me over the past two years, as it feels like I am waiting for something to happen that never does. Honestly, it’s starting to remind me of how it felt when I was waiting to meet Mr. Right. Does it count as giving up if we give up and then hope for a surprise? (Kidding. My vote would say no.)

      • Erin says:

        I truly feel for you about the weariness from waiting for something to happen and then it doesn’t. Every month. That in-between-waiting time is so grueling and emotionally exhausting. I understand that personally. I think that’s why it’s important to really decide if you want to pursue having a child or not and maybe stop waiting for a surprise. There are a lot of non-aggressive fertility options that don’t include IVF. You may consider meeting with a reproductive endocrinologist (fertility dr) just to have some labs run and get their opinion. Sometimes a small adjustment, a medication, or monitoring by a physician is what’s needed to become pregnant. Also, if you decide you don’t want to have a child, bravo to you for working through the emotions and coming to a clear decision together. All the best to you and Squash!

      • CNM says:

        Tara- we came to a similar decision about having a 2nd child. My spouse and I both wanted a 2nd, but we did not want to go through the process of adoption, IVF, or anything like that. I did get pregnant and we have a lovely 2nd kid. I would not say that deciding to see what happens or doing “whatever it takes”, for lack of a better term, is giving up or is somehow a latent indication that we didn’t really want a kid.
        Anyway, deciding to have a kid or kids is a personal choice. That being said, for us, having kids has been much much more fun than I ever could have expected and my only regret was waiting until I was older (I had my first at 35 and I’m the one who was pregnant) to start having them.

  17. Rebecca says:

    On the children question – I found the book Motherhood: Is it for Me by Denise Carlini and Ann Davidman so helpful. It might be worth a try. It helps you figure out what your desire is, and separates that from what parents expect / your partner wants / your peers are doing etc. I’ve been so confused by this question for a long time and this helped me gain clarity. My husband is also working through it and once he’s clearer we plan to talk about it and decide from there.

    on your question about whether you should take a 50% pay cut… it’s difficult to answer because given you are in such a strong financial position I think it’s down to what you want, and what matters to you – high pay, more free time, a different kind of job? I would say it’s best decided based on what feels right once you’ve actually lost your job, which hasnt happened yet. But I agree with the commenter above that fully retiring during a pandemic might be hard.

    • Tara Red says:

      Rebecca, your endorsement of Carlini and Davidman’s book is the second today! Unfortunately, my county library doesn’t have it. My next step is to message the librarian as sometimes the book exists but doesn’t show up in the catalog. I’m glad that both you and your husband have decided to engage with it.

      Thanks for your encouragement regarding next steps should unemployment occur. If Squash continues working, I imagine that I will take a break to explore developing a virtual coaching business before initiating a local job search. My fear is that if I become unemployed, it may be difficult to find comparable (or any) work in the short- or long-term. However, this may be another example of a catastrophic thought. I have lots of practice with those. 😉

  18. J says:

    As every couple figures out what is right for them , the individual vs.joint accounts issues is a very personal decision. I understand separate accounts and having your own money to spend as you wish. They have chosen to both contribute the same amount to the household expenses.
    However, of the monthly net income Tara makes 62% and Squash makes 38%. We have a similar % gap in in our household and we go by percentage rather than 50/50 to avoid having the higher income person with a higher percentage of disposal income and financial power.

    • Red Tara says:

      Hello J! Thanks for raising this point. Ironically, Squash and I arrived at the opposite conclusion after what might have been a similar consideration! Our lifestyle could be supported (with considerably less savings per month) with either person’s full-time earnings. Beyond our shared household expenses, our (pre-pandemic) discretionary spending also is about equal per month. Our understanding is that any surplus becomes invested in a brokerage account. Because of this pattern, greater earnings don’t feed greater discretionary spending or power in decision-making. That said, I agree with you — every couple must figure out what’s right for them.

  19. Marcia says:

    Jalama! I live in Santa Barbara. I only have a few comments, take them for what they are worth – from someone a decade older than you (or a bit more).

    1. What should I do if I get laid off? First, cross that bridge when you come to it. Lots of brain power used with what ifs. It’s good to have a PLAN, but I wouldn’t stress over it. Your plan could be as simple as “take a month off, spend 3 months looking for an equivalent job. If no equivalent job after 3 months, look for a lower paying job.” If you are unemployed for 6 months looking and you like it…then maybe retire.

    2. Kids/ no kids. I love my kids. They change your world. They are not for everyone. I was very much ambivalent about kids. I got talked into the first one, and then the second one came when I was 42. (Kind of an oops, after we’d given up.) Yeah, I’m not retiring anytime soon, but that’s more because I like my life right now. Our NW was probably equivalent to yours 10 years ago and it’s double that now. We could retire right now if we moved somewhere cheaper. I have many friends and family members who are blissfully happy without children. They are aged 40 to 70. They love being aunties and uncles. This is a choice that only you two can make.

    3. The house. Again, cross that bridge when you come to it. If you had any intention of moving back into it, then consider keeping it. Otherwise, sell it. Where we live (SB), it’s hard to get into the market. If I left town I’d want to make REALLY sure that I don’t want to come back.

    • Rebekah says:

      Agree totally on housing! It’s so hard (or impossible) to get back into the market in CA, and much of the west Coast…we’d rent ours out for a couple of years to make absolutely sure we weren’t planning to return.

    • Tara Red says:

      You busted me, Marcia. I spend a lot of brain power on what-ifs and justify it as scenario planning. Your suggestion for any future lay-off sounds about right. Pause, then look for a job. If no one hires me, prolonged unemployment = retirement!

      As for kids, this might be the rub. No one who has kids claims they regret them. Rather, the opposite abounds, which leaves me listening to others who regret childlessness. It’s reassuring though to read about your friends who are blissfully happy without them.

      Not too long ago, a close friend also confronted me about the house. She pointed out that my idea to give my house to my parents might be a way to have my cake and eat it too. In other words, keep a home base without having to bear the cost of a mortgage or become landlords. Overall, your advice is very well received. I would benefit from more of a deal-with-it-when-it-comes attitude. Thank you for taking the time to offer feedback!

  20. AJ says:

    I have a different perspective on the kid debate. I never had a burning desire to start a family. I was, like Tara, ambivalent. Did I really need to have kids, or was that just what was expected of me? My husband was all in on kids though. I went through a few years of fertility issues and I always considered the option of just quitting and being child-free. Eventually we had a kid. It completely flipped a switch in me. I went from ambivalence about kids to wanting 4 children. (We have 3). Having a kid was the greatest decision I ever made. The only regret I have is that I did not do it sooner.

    Coming from that perspective, I would ask myself these questions: What will you regret more? Not having kids or having them? Fast forward 20 years and imagine your dinner table after a holiday meal when you are 60. What/who do you want to see there?

    There is no right or wrong answer to these questions of course. Good luck with your decision!

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi AJ! Thanks for sharing your experience. I imagine that the same thing would happen for me, in terms of the ambivalence switching off. With no personal experience to back up this hunch, I believe pregnancy and/or motherhood changes women from the inside out, and who you are pre-kid isn’t the same person afterward. (Some of my friends who are mothers vehemently disagree with his conceptualization, so I accept this is my imagination) I also accept that I am very bad at predicting the future or what makes future me happy. I can imagine the holiday meal, but I also can imagine a young adult barely departing adolescence and all the challenges that entails. Thank you for this suggestion. I’ll keep imagining. 🙂

      • Sarah says:

        Here’s yet another perspective: My husband and I were both ambivalent and let nature take its course. We have a 6 month old who had a series of medical needs right away and has lifelong special needs. His life will never be easy, and he won’t live independently. I like him most of the time but I regret having a kid, and I wish that I had listened to the small voice that told me it was ok to be child free instead of the louder outside voices saying I’d be sorry if I didn’t.
        I understand this is an unpopular opinion and I understand why. My kid will never know that I feel this way, and I’ll probably find my feelings fade with time, but you and Squash should discuss broadly if you would be okay with the way a special needs kid shifts your future trajectory.

        • Liz says:

          Sarah, I hope that you have a community of support around you and your family always, a village.

        • Tara Red says:

          Sarah, thank you for honoring us with your story. I shared your comment with Squash immediately upon reading it. We will follow through on your advice to discuss this possible future very intentionally.

        • Irma says:

          As the mother of an 8 year old special needs child, I want to provide encouragement that it will get easier. It is devastating to learn that your child will never lead a normal life and definitely changes your life overnight. The first year was really rough, but you will adjust and find a new rhythm.
          Although my 8 year old can’t walk or talk and needs assistance with routine activities, he has a smile that lights up the room which makes it all worthwhile. I’d encourage you to accept help whenever it is offered and don’t forget to make time for yourself as well.

        • Victoria says:

          Sarah that was very brave of you to share, especially as the comments are not the normal FW standard this time round!

          AJ, I respect your decision. I don’t feel that the choice to have children is one that can just be done on what a person might regret more though because the stakes are much higher with the child who may enter a family that is not ready/suited.

          Tara, I’m a similar age to you and going on family history would still be fertile (my mum was older than I am now when she had me). I’ve been ambivalent, especially when a divorce closely followed a miscarriage a few years ago. It’s a very hard and personal decision, and I feel like you in that keeping the door open to ‘maybe’ can leave you in limbo emotionally and practically. I am 95% happy with the recent decision to finally put aside motherhood as an option in my mind.
          You may feel differently but there a lot of comments on this post and the world in general about how motherhood embraces you once it happens, so I wanted you to know a different opinion.
          I’m also really impressed with how gracious you are being with some of the comments, which aren’t meeting the usual Frugalwoods supportive standards in my opinion. I think this has much more to do with how mixed up people are feeling with the global situation and not totally about your decisions and thoughts.

          • Tara Red says:

            Victoria, I’m glad to read about your contentment with the recent decision to foreclose the option. I agree that our current global situation has made optimistic people doubtful and those who identify as pragmatic (me) potentially cynical if they don’t guard against its encroachment. A couple of friends recently called me to share news of their pregnancies and it was hard to hear them express uncertainty about their choice to bring a child into a world so punishing. I imagine that when the limbo becomes more uncomfortable than an alternative, I will make a choice to take action or let go. Thank you for your compassionate reply not only to me but also Sarah and AJ.

        • Kate says:

          Sarah, your comment broke my heart. Thank you so much for sharing your story – I hope that it inspires others to listen to themselves about what’s best for their family, and I hope your situation gets easier and you find joy.

  21. KNinChicago says:

    I have a son and he is 8 months old and just an absolute delight and I adore him in a way I’ve loved nothing before. But I don’t think this couple is meant to have a child. I think it is extremely, extremely hard to do the global nomad thing with a child full time without a home base or health insurance. Man you guys are in a mindwarpingly good financial place. Congrats and savor it.

    • Tara Red says:

      KN, congratulations on the birth of your baby boy! We very well may not be meant to have a child. Where my family is from, they say three things are written before one’s arrival on this plane. Birth, whom you marry, and death. All else is TBD. Thanks for your feedback!

  22. JD says:

    Tara and Squash are in an enviable financial position, really, but if they want to fast forward on attaining FI, they might want to look at some of those line items. Gifts, personal care, miscellaneous, clothing, and entertainment, which doesn’t even include dining out (another large budget item when you combine their dining out totals) add up to some serious cash. There is no need to deprive themselves, clearly, but could these numbers be cut back and the savings added on to mortgage payments or investments?

    Otherwise, I agree with Mrs. FW about the rest of it.

    • Tara Red says:

      JD, they absolutely can be reallocated to additional investments! My personal goal is to reduce food expenses, particularly dining out. Thank you for your comment.

  23. Rebekah says:

    I was also ambivalent about having a child until I was 37, when I managed to talk my reluctant husband into trying for one. Fast forward 2 months later I said “don’t touch me! Never mind!” And went back on birth control. I think it was a nearing-forty panic that if it didn’t happen now, it would be too late. Now that the decision has been made against having a child, I feel great about it and enjoy our quiet house and opportunity to sleep late whenever I want 🤗
    My now-husband and I did a long travel for 8 months through south and Central America, and we had international travel insurance. I think it was $275/3 months for both of us, or something like that. I’d have to read the fine print these days-after a breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year (at age 38!!) , and the ongoing expensive treatment, I will have to assure coverage for the rest of my life in case of recurrence. Whether that means part time job, paying out of pocket, or living somewhere with affordable medical care. I hope this does not happen to either of you but it was so far off my radar it was a shock.
    If you get laid off and Squash does not, I’d work a job that paid less. No point in retiring if squash is still stuck working, unless you can use geoarbitrage while he works remotely. Still, at this point in world affairs, I’d probably get a job at a plant nursery or REI or something that had nothing to do with nursing if I was that close to FI and was waiting on my husband to finish working (I need structure). I can’t speak to your housing dilemma, we live far away from our parents and would probably sell if we had that much equity. Good luck! Y’all are doing great.

    • Tara Red says:

      Rebekah, thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m so glad that you felt at ease once you and your husband finally made a decision about having a child. Ambivalence is wearisome. Squash and I have never traveled for more than a couple of weeks together, but I have studied and volunteered abroad for 4-5 months at a time 20 and 10 years ago, respectively. I agree with you and Mrs. Frugalwoods that we ought to pursue a trial run for a nomadic lifestyle. If I become unemployed, it would be ideal if Squash could land a remote role. Preferably later rather than sooner… Thanks for your feedback and encouragement!

  24. Lots of great advice here! My favorite suggestion is planning a sabbatical or trial-period for slow travel “retirement.” From experience, living in a place is much different than a vacation. Vacations are typically an escape from the day-to-day. When you relocate, that new location is now your day-to-day. You’ll need to set up a rental or other lodging, pay utilities, pay taxes, go grocery shopping, cook meals, do laundry… Your days likely won’t be packed with touristy sight-seeing. And this can be great! But experiencing it to make sure it’s what you envision for financial independence is wise. It’ll give you the opportunity to develop hobbies that are in-line with a slow travel lifestyle. Or reconsider and adjust your FI vision if needed.

    Then, who knows, you may fall in love with the lifestyle during your sabbatical and discover you can retire on less than you originally thought. Good luck to you both!!

    • Tara Red says:

      Thanks for reinforcing the recommendation to pursue a sabbatical or trial run! Squash and I were discussing this suggestion at lunch today. While he thinks he might be able to negotiate some type of administrative leave, my employer is unlikely to approve it, especially under the organization’s current fiscal circumstances. If we pull the plug, it probably will be on my current job, at the very least. The last time I left the US for a lengthy period of volunteer/work abroad, I sold all my belongings. I was a renter at the time and left my car parked on my parents’ driveway. There’s more to liquidate nearly 10 years later! Something to keep in mind as our launch date approaches. Thank you for your comment.

      • Completely understood, this is a tough time for corporations and getting extended time off in this climate may not be the best move. Hopefully things lighten up in the future and you can both take a sabbatical and enjoy a mini FI retirement. You are both well on your way to slow-travel FI life. I’m excited for both of you and hope to see your blog in the future 🙂

        • Tara Red says:

          Thank you for your well wishes and encouragement! You can find me online by clicking on my name (hyperlinked) above this comment. I hope our paths cross again!

  25. Faith says:

    I would spend more time defining the problem of what about your current life feels off and what it is that you want your life to feel like when slowly traveling. A year ago I lived in a metro area and constantly wanted to leave and travel in order to decompress and slow down. I realized that I wasn’t going to ever feel okay where we were and we made the decision to move to a beautiful rural area and slow way down. It was the best decision we made. I stopped being restless and yearning for someday when I would be happy. Realize that you have the savings in place to write your own permission slips and do what you want!

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi, Faith! Thank you for raising this question. I really want to travel and see the world. It’s something I had hoped to do by working abroad, but attempts to pursue such opportunities were unfruitful. Our life now, especially having subtracted a 3-hour round trip commute, has few aspects that feel off except we have been in the same place for the past 7 years. A nomadic lifestyle of long-term, slow travel is an end in itself. At least how I imagine it. 😉

      I’m glad to read that you are happier where you are now. I’ll hold on to the image of writing our own permission slips! Thanks for your feedback.

  26. Katharine Lea says:

    Hi, Tara, and way to go with all the saving to give yourself the freedom to make decisions! We’re working on FIRE too…. Anyway, I’m going to speak to the kids thing, as an older mother. I had my first at 40 and my second at 43, but I *really* wanted kids. We even talked a lot about adoption if it didn’t work out. That said, the kids certainly put a crimp in our FIRE plans… we had to make sure we got their potential colleges funded (by choice- both of our parents put us through undergrad, so we wanted to make sure we could do that for ours). But that put FIRE on hold, and let me just tell you how much more complicated travel is with kids! When they were super young (lap sitters) we still did some big trips, but 4 tickets is a lot more than 2. That said, we were planning our first Europe trip since they were born for this May…. which of course didn’t happen. So our pandemic response has been to go into super-saving mode (hey, when you can’t bop around here and there for fun weekends or eat out, why not?) and see if we can FIRE earlier than planned…. To me, my kids are tons of fun, and I’m glad I waited til older (when I wasn’t as stressed about career, etc.) to do it, but having kids is not the end-all, and you certainly make sacrifices too. (You also get wonderful experiences with showing them things, so for us it balances out). That said, I would personally NOT have a kid if I was older than 43. That pregnancy had some health impacts on me, and just thinking that I’ll be 60 when he’s graduating from high school is daunting. Maybe set yourself a deadline “if it doesn’t happen by 40 we’re done” or something, and let it go? I wish you the best of luck! It sounds like you’ll land on your feet no matter what life throws at you!

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi Katherine! Thanks for the advice to set an end date. I had imagined 40 as the line, probably since that also has been my mother’s advice, but as the line approaches, I want to renegotiate! A few of my friends have warned me about health impacts starting in their late 30s, and it appears there’s certainly major trade-offs, not only financially but also in terms of (irretrievable) quality of life. Thank you for your comment.

  27. Kathryn says:

    I had my first daughter at 31, not early but not late in my option. I felt a lot of ambivalence towards my job and life. I was not ready before 30 to have a child, but after 30, I was. Now having an almost 2 year old, it is awesome. So is so much fun to get to know and guide her through this life. She has challenged my husband and I to move thought life more purposefully and live more authentically. We always wanted two children and bringing a sibling into our family is proving more difficult then anticipated and makes me so thankful to have her. I say all this only because before having my daughter and even now, I am not a kid person, I am not like mom or bust type person. But having her is such a joy (and job man o man). But if you have any lingering or wanting about having a kid, you should give it a go one way or another. Keep living your life while trying biologically or via adoption, but living life thought their eyes is more awesome then I imagined. Signed a mom and wife who never dreamed of being a mom or wife.

    • Tara Red says:

      Kathryn, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad you’re having so much fun with your almost 2-year old. More evidence that happiness, or at least what it looks like, changes over time!

  28. Chris@TTL says:

    Wow! Seems like they’ve done a great job working towards their goal consistently. Awesome.

    From my POV, I think the having children question is a pretty big lingering item over their heads. That’s a tough, personal thing to work out with lots of implications so far as work timelines, FIRE goals, and personal finance effects.

    Similarly, ironing out the parental living expectations is pretty personal and could have a big impact.

    It’s a tough spot to be in, but they’ve built the financial situation they need to make a reasoned, rationale decision about both rather than worrying solely about the financial costs. That’s good!

    • Tara Red says:

      Thanks for your encouragement, Chris. For some of us, anyway, considerations about having children and taking care of aging parents reach a crescendo at the same time.

  29. CKW says:

    You two are doing amazingly well with your intentional living. Once you decide on the kid thing, you’ll clearly follow through with either path just as well! A few quick thoughts: 1) if either or both of you lost a job now or within your FIRE timeline, unless you are DONE working, get another job for the meanwhile, to be productively engaged and for continued health insurance. Since $ to live isn’t that much of a factor, interesting work (with your quals and without a need to get another job at the same pay, cool work shouldn’t be too hard to get) is a great asset in an of itself, but if are ready for long term travel, go for it! 2) West coast housing is generally hard to get back into, as others have mentioned, so if you plan to come back, basically ever, an arrangement with your parents to keep the property in the family sounds ideal. 3) I didn’t know if I wanted to have kids until I was married for few years and we were both pretty ambivalent when we pulled the trigger based on my FOMO. Turns out I desperately love having children and would have had many more, but my husband…doesn’t. We’re happy with our two, though we’ve had some difficulty reconciling these HUGE differences in revealed preferences, but it was quite a surprise that my very slight maybe wanting kids and his very slight maybe not wanting kids (we were both REALLY close to a 50/50 split beforehand) manifest in such extreme reactions post hoc. 4) We just got back from a year abroad in SE asia and it was challenging and magnificent, both from a global arbitrage point of view and having kids in another country. SE Asia is SO kid friendly, and if you aren’t working or are only working part time, it is wonderful to be able to hang out with your kids without serious career concerns over your head. So if you decide to have kids, slow global travel can still be in the cards, especially if one of you maintains remote or at least otherwise part-time work to keep some income coming in and maintain health insurance. I enjoyed working just a bit to maintain contacts, keep my adult brain alive, and to have some $ (very small quantity by US standards, but enough to defer significant expenses of where we were living) coming in. Note that rates for insurance weren’t high enough (we just kept our US coverage and otherwise self-insured) to be a deterrent for local coverage if we had decided to stay longer. 5) So your idea of an online coaching business or some other kind of remote work would be ideal for a post-FIRE slow-travel lifestyle. There are so many facebook and other groups devoted to various expat issues and I encourage you to hang out there and see what others are doing. One interesting thing shown through the pandemic is the difficulty in getting visas abroad for Americans. It was never an issue before but now we are banned almost everywhere and it is a topic of much concern for all Americans abroad. Lots of food for thought for future long-term travel. Good luck!!

    • Tara Red says:

      CKW, you just described my dream life! Thank you for feedback and sharing your experience. Squash and I had a similar process. When we first got together, I would have said we were both straddling the fence regarding children. Over time, I turned to face yes while he turned to face no. If we get our trial run, I’d favor SE Asia too. We look forward to returning to Thailand and Cambodia. I agree that long-term travel can’t be initiated so easily now. Hopefully, when the opportunity arises, conditions will have improved. Thanks for your well wishes.

  30. Jessica says:

    A note on kids, from the mother of a six-month-old son who took a really long time to decide to have kids and never experienced the primal, biological urge lots of people describe to have children: not all women will feel this way, especially if you are hard-wired a certain way. For me, making the decision to have kids was more of a pragmatic summing up of the pros and cons and I could’ve been happy either way. BUT: the negatives of parenting (less sleep, money, time etc) are really obvious when you aren’t a parent. But the positives are much harder to grasp until you actually have a kid, which is what makes it difficult. The joy my son injects into every day as we watch him grow and learn new things and the pure love we have for him is so lovely. Your life will be great either way but for so long I thought I didn’t want kids because I didn’t feel that ‘urge’ that so many women talk about. But I am not wired to feel that strongly about much to be honest and I already had a very fulfilling life with my job, travel, hobbies, friends and my husband. But when I thought deeply about what I wanted my life to look like in the long term, I realised I did want a child. I just wanted to provide a perspective from someone who didn’t feel that ‘urge’ but had kids anyway!

    • Tara Red says:

      Jessica, thanks for validating the absence of the primal urge many women describe! I would say that I and my sibling/cousins represent the first generation in our family where having children is a choice not only biologically but also socially. I appreciate you sharing your perspective as someone who didn’t feel compelled but has enjoyed motherhood more than she anticipated.

  31. Karen says:

    Maybe I am on the wrong website, although I really love Frugal woods. But these people making huge amounts of money I think I am in the WRONG league !!! We are retired & extremely frugal living on $2600 a month!
    Mrs Frugalwoods can you have someone on earning around $40000 to $50000 a year ? Please don’t laugh but there are some of us out there earning way less than these people who are asking to live on less ?
    Thanks

    • Tara Red says:

      Hello Karen, I love Frugalwoods too! No, you’re not on the wrong website. I am only Mrs. Frugalwoods’ guest. Since this blog is about financial independence and simple living, I am grateful that she welcomes stories from diverse people who strive toward both.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hi, Karen: the goal of the Reader Case Study series is to feature people from all walks of life who have different income levels, goals, and dreams. Please reference the past fours years of Case Studies to view this wide range of folks. Please also feel free to submit your own interest in a Case Study and please note that this is a space to offer advice, hope, and support. It’s not a space to condemn or judge.

      • Karen says:

        I’m not condemning anyone, just voicing my opinion that I am not in some of these people’s league ! Sorry that it offends the more privileged people …

        • CJR says:

          You’re being disingenuous and passive aggressive – and you’re not sorry. You don’t connect with this particular reader case because you feel like they make too much money and now you’re sulking because you were called out on your behavior – and rather gently too, in my opinion. The back button exists for a reason. May I kindly suggest that you use it rather than try to tell other people what to put in their digital space?

          • Karen says:

            Honestly, you seem to be judging me! All I asked was Mrs FW to use a case study with a lower income earner. ( A Suggestion) You don’t have to be so snippy in your tone. No one is better than anyone else whether they be rich or poor. How about you use the back button and let someone who is not a snob use that digital space !

        • Mrs. Gardener says:

          Karen,

          Like you, I expressed discontent with Reader Case Studies that frequently feature rich Millenials who want to quit their jobs and travel the world.

          My comment on a previous case study about “Nana Pinches Her Pennies” who is a senior citizen living on $1,300 a year and who needs teeth was edited out.

          There was a great column called “One Family’s Money” in Money Magazine, but Money stopped the column and went virtual.
          That did feature people of all income levels, ages, and backgrounds.

          Though Mrs. Frugalwoods says that there is a wide range of folks, this is a place for rich millenials. Why should you be sorry for saying people who bring home $15,000 a month are rich? They are! It’s not saying they don’t work hard. It’s just saying that plenty of people who do work hard don’t make that money. I’m unsubscribing from this column.

          Goodbye Riche Riches!

          • Tara Red says:

            Mrs. Gardener, you may not see this, but I wanted to reply because your comment gave me pause. I agree that the pursuit of financial independence distorts how we think and discuss money. On one hand, a small recurring purchase takes an outsize importance when we multiply its frequency per month, again by 12, again by 31 to arrive at the total level of savings/investment required to support it indefinitely. On the other hand, even $100k is dwarfed by a FIRE number that is 10 to 30 times its amount. One remedy may be to cultivate a community that includes diverse people representing various backgrounds and experiences. At the same time, transparency sometimes leads to rejection. I appreciate how bloggers Julien and Kiersten share their insights about this among other topics at their site called rich & REGULAR.

        • Sarah says:

          I think FW has a good track record of doing case studies on diverse individuals. I was glad to see her feature some people with more means and feel like the comments on this one are judgy-er than most. Bummer, this crowd is usually very kind.

          • Tara Red says:

            Thanks for calling this out, Sarah. I admit that the tone of some readers’ comments has surprised me! I hope prospective participants in the reader case series are not discouraged by my experience.

          • BJN says:

            I noticed that too Sarah. The tone is more unkind and quick to judge. I thought maybe it was just me, but then, times have been hard lately for a lot of people. I thought maybe my lens was just skewed.

      • Brenda says:

        I was the reader case study two months ago, and I fully support Mrs Frugalwoods when she says she does feature a variety of income levels. It is easy to judge or make assumptions about people’s lives and earnings based on a short case study, when the bigger picture might tell a different story. In our case, we rely mostly on my husband’s income. His job for many years, until just recently, was in the $40,000 to $50,000 mentioned by Karen above. He took on a second job to increase our income, and he regularly works over 70-80 hours/week of shift work. It is easy, at a glimpse, to see that we now earn closer to $90,000 and consider us higher earners, without seeing the sacrifice behind that figure. With two young children, we have different expenses than a retired couple. As a family living in the South, our living expenses are perhaps lower than a similar family elsewhere, but having family abroad incurs other expenses. Each case study is unique, because each person/family is different, and Mrs Frugalwoods regularly encourages people from all walks of life to submit themselves as a case study. I second Mrs Frugalwoods, let’s keep this as a platform for everyone to share, learn, encourage and support, not to compare or judge.

        • Brenda says:

          Tara, good luck on your future plans and decisions. We have traveled quite extensively with young children, and although it has its own challenges, it also brings joys and builds character. I think the two of you have worked hard to put yourself into a position where you really can choose the future you want, and that is a wonderful position to be in!

        • Tara Red says:

          Brenda, good to hear your perspective as a former reader case series participant! Your comment clarifies how case studies are necessarily snapshots of a single point in time. Unless it’s elaborated in the story, there’s no window on how a person, couple, or family arrives at the present. Numbers appear objective, yet they are highly skewed based on country and region. Thank you for reminding us of both points and for your encouragement below!

  32. Sonja G. says:

    Tara, you have a truly beautiful way with words. The way you respond to people is so humble, thoughtful and articulate. I think people would absolutely love to learn from you. Best of luck!

    • Tara Red says:

      You are kind, Sonja. This summer has motivated me to explore blogging and coaching as ways to make a different kind of contribution than I have attempted to date. Thank you for your encouragement!

  33. Beth says:

    I have really enjoyed reading your case study. It sounds like by your comments that you are closer than you may realize to the answers you asked about with the kids and the house. Part of me is wondering how much of familial expectations are playing into these questions. I think it is great that you have a goal and are still on track even after a pandemic. I appreciate your perspective on marrying later and the kids issue since these are questions I am looking at as well. For me, just getting quiet time to think has helped clarify some things. Good luck with whatever you decide.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi Beth! I don’t know if this happens to you, but often I notice that I want to arrive at the most logical choice before I decide to do what I want anyway. Ha! For example, I appreciate that Mrs. Frugalwoods identified a logical choice for the house should we pursue OperFLI in the way we imagine. As she and others have pointed out, we might choose an alternative because other considerations weigh more heavily when the moment to decide arrives. Thank you for taking the time to read the case study and offering your feedback.

  34. Kelly says:

    Hi Tara!
    Congrats on doing so well in your career and savings goals! Slow travel is our dream too, though with not yet 2 year old it’s more relaxing to not go anywhere and not haul the gear:) I had my child at 34 closer to 35 and she is best thing, but I would have been equally happy without kid.

    I will check out the websites and readings you recommend too, thanks for suggestions! If you don’t mind me asking, which general area do you guys live in where you make so much and have such an inexpensive house? I should move there from SF:D

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi Kelly! We went back and forth on this for some time but ultimately decided to forego disclosing our location to protect our anonymity. However, we live outside the city where we are employed. Our daily commute when we reported to an office was almost 3 hours round-trip. I also bought the house in 2013 while the market was still recovering in this area. In summary, trade-offs and timing. About 10 years ago, I tried really hard to land a job in Oakland. I was so bummed when I came in as the runner-up. Missed my window! Feel free to let me know what you think about the web sites and readings. I am grateful for their authors’ generosity in sharing their knowledge and expertise.

  35. Tamar says:

    Hi Tara,

    I got a different vibe from you than Mrs. Frugalwoods regarding the kid question. I might be completely wrong but from what I read between the lines is that you do want kids but are scared, so you are trying to rationalize the issue. Maybe you are scared because your husband isn’t so keen on the kid issue, maybe because it hasn’t happened yet and it’s easier to say you didn’t want them so much anyway than to face the possibility that you do want but it’s not happening. Maybe you are scared because you feel your life is already perfect and a child is kind of a gamble. Maybe you are scared because of the risks of IVF / having a child when you are older.
    I just wanted to say that in case you do want kids deep down inside it’s okay to be scared, it doesn’t mean you don’t want them.
    I think Mrs. FW’s advice was spot on. Understand what you really want and then decide on the course that will get you there.

    Another thing, I got the feeling that you might be a little bored. Do you feel you are fulfilling your calling? Some people do that through their jobs, but many others do it through hobbies / volunteering / other ways. What do you feel passionate about and do you pursue it in any way in your current life (besides the FI goal)?

    • cd says:

      I got the same vibes from the case study. I think deciding whether or not to have children needs to be done ASAP and with the help of a professional counselor, as Mrs. FW suggested. I think the counselor would be helpful in forcing both partners to be truly honest with themselves because I also sensed the potential fear and rationalizing that might be going on. I also just wondered more about the “why” of the nomadic lifestyle when I was reading. There just seemed to be some disconnects in terms of wanting aspects of rootedness vs being completely untethered. It seems like you really value being close to family, are open to a multi-generational household, potentially want kids, Squash’s hobbies that are linked to rootedness, socializing regularly with friends, etc. …. This isn’t a criticism at all, but I just wondered if the tradeoffs of nomadic living would be worth it for you. It seems like there some professional/career discontent that is making you want you want to “escape”, but selling everything you own and hitting the road might not be the answer either. The counselor may help with working through some of these issues too before you all make any major changes. And maybe the nomadic lifestyle would be an awesome fit, I’m just mentioning some impressions I got from the story as a complete outsider. Congratulations on your financial achievements!! You & Squash really have the opportunity to make whatever decisions you want, so that is an amazing position to be in. Good luck!!

      • Tara Red says:

        Hi, cd! I wrote a paragraph in response to Tamar’s comment about deciding about a child, so I’ll jump to your point about the why of a nomadic lifestyle. In my mind, it’s more of a phase of life thing. Growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of dodge! I aspired to working abroad. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way I had planned so I settled for the next best thing, which was to set up house close to my family (in dodge). Our proximity to family is ideal if we were to have a child. At the same time, if we are no longer tied to this place by our employment, we figure it’s an opportunity to satisfy our wanderlust. One of the reasons why we determined 2025 as our target FIRE date is so we could save and invest enough to reestablish a home base, should our desire for perpetual travel wane.

        Thank you for sharing your observations! It’s helpful to articulate responses to them.

    • Tara Red says:

      You feel me, Tamar. I have waited to become pregnant every month for the past 2+ years. At the same time, I do not want to consult a fertility specialist because I am afraid that I will enter a rabbit hole of procedures that will invite pain and disruption not only to me but also my marriage. Because of my fear of these consequences, I have decided to forego fertility treatments. Because I have ruled out fertility treatments, some believe that I don’t want to have a child “badly enough” as if choosing to undergo them is a qualifier. My question about whether we ought to forego the option arises out of this context. If I am not becoming pregnant and I refuse to pursue fertility treatment, the only other choice that remains is to stop wanting a child. To me, it’s similar to ending desire for any path frustrated or otherwise abandoned, e.g. an occupation or a relationship with an ex-partner. I mentioned earlier that sometimes it’s harder to decide when to stop than start. When is the right choice accepting what isn’t mine to have?

      Tamar, I am often bored, placed squarely among the over-educated and underemployed. I used to smirk when I read things like boredom is good because it tells you when something is no longer working for you. However, since June, my boredom has fed motivation to launch a blog to help people solve problems at the intersection of healthy relationships and financial capability. I have been struck by the enthusiastic response of my friends. Apparently, these are the two topics we discuss all the time anyway! Writing the reader portion of this case study helped me overcome my hesitation. I remain grateful to Mrs. Frugalwoods for the opportunity.

      Thank you for your insightful comment.

      • Katie says:

        I don’t know if you’re still following these comments, but it sounds to me like you’re scared of wanting something too much and like you’re deliberately trying to keep your feelings in check because it will hurt too much if you want something and don’t get it. But that’s not doable long-term. It’ll come crashing down eventually.

        I would encourage you to think again about fertility treatments. I’d also encourage you to speak with a counselor who specializes in infertility. You don’t need to get drawn into anything you don’t want to do. Yes, there can be pain and disruption – but you’re already experiencing pain and disruption. That’s been happening for two years now. And there’s a different kind of pain when you feel like you’re being proactive than when you’re not.

        Maybe talk to a doctor. Think about donor eggs or donor embryos or IUI or clomid and timed intercourse or IVF and think about what might make sense for your situation. But don’t discard something that might make you happy because of fear – you can make a conscious choice to stop at each point. You won’t get stuck in a rabbit hole; you can make that choice.

        • Tara Red says:

          Hello Katie! It’s certainly possible that I may be scared of wanting something too much because I will be hurt if it doesn’t happen for me. On the other hand, what I’m conscious of is being scared of wanting too much of the wrong thing. Other readers have pointed out that what-if questions are generally unhelpful, but since they seem to be my strong suit, I indulge. One example that circles in my mind is what if I pursue lengths and the outcome is unfortunate, for me, our marriage, or the child? I’m feeling more confident that the pause this pandemic has enforced will help me arrive at greater resolution. I watch my friends struggling with trying to negotiate full time work and full time parenting with no support from schools, extended family, or hired helpers due to lack of affordability, availability, or safety. Parenting without adequate support appears worse than any of us imagined. Thank you for your feedback and encouragement to take action.

  36. WT says:

    I don’t know if you should have a kid or not, but they do come with some serious costs that can’t always be mitigated. A few examples: fertility assistance can be very expensive, medical needs are impossible to plan for (nicu stay, broken arm surgery, glasses, speech therapy are some of the ones our family has experienced, and that’s not even any big diagnoses), plane tickets, car seats, well-fitting shoes, life vests, childcare.

    Then there’s the question of “if we can afford it, why are we not doing it?” What I mean is that for me it starts to feel selfish to dampen their interests during their short childhood “just” to save money when we already have a hefty cushion. Examples- tennis lessons, a big backyard, swim team, math workbooks, field trips, birthday parties, raspberries. None of them are necessary, of course, but you might not be the parent who can keep to the absolutely necessary.

    Finally, if you have a kid, your relationship with your parents might change a lot. They may want a lot more time with you which would change the traveling plans in some way even if it’s just more flights back.

    Good luck with your decisions! Whatever you do your life until now has given you lots of options, so that’s a good place to be.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi WT! Fair warning about unmitigable costs. Your comment made me reflect on how our parents managed this tension. For example, I had the backyard, math workbooks, field trips, birthday parties, and raspberries. Lots of fruit. But no tennis or swim. My parents were generous regarding nutrition and education, less so on extra-curriculars they personally didn’t value. On the other hand, Squash’s parents prioritized religious education and sport. His family was more meat and potatoes. My guess is there’s a lot more mental energy invested in discernment. That said, I concede your point. My parents didn’t say no to my first choice liberal arts college over the less expensive public university. When I came to understand FIRE (and how they had implemented many of the savings strategies themselves) I was incredulous at their permissiveness. With most everything, they put their money where their mouth is, and throughout childhood, nearly every conversation with my dad on the way to school began with, “Education is the key”. I owe them a lot. Thank you for your feedback!

  37. Jane says:

    I would encourage you to check in with a fertility doctor. Going to see one doesn’t commit you to anything, but it might give you some necessary information. You might find out that some easier options (a month of pills for you or your partner) could make all the difference. Or you might find out that you would need IVF to have biological children.
    (Personally, I would recommend doing this at the same time as the soul searching about having kids- if you decide you do want children, there is no time to waste; if you decide against kids, you have some information about your body/your partner has some information about his body, which might or might not be helpful in the future.)
    Take that with a grain of salt- I am a doctor, but I am not your doctor (and I’m not a fertility specialist!)

    • Tara Red says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, Jane. I have hesitated to follow this advice (also my mother’s) because I worry about the rabbit hole it may guide me toward. Part of my motivation to pursue consultation with a functional medicine doctor earlier this year was to check us out more holistically. However, she left us with the same recommendation to consult a fertility specialist. My reluctance is running out of alternatives! Sigh. Thank you for reinforcing her advice and including the grain of salt. 🙂

  38. Rachel says:

    Yes, I also agree. Tara you are so eloquent with your responses. I would love to read your blog if you ever start one. Your rocking it!

  39. Anne says:

    One thing that surprised me when reading your case study is that it wasn’t clear what you really mean by “slow travel.” How do you envision that? One month, three months, or a year in each place? A home base in a new region for a few years and then trips to explore around it? “Backpacking” around the world where you go from place to place with few belongings and don’t backtrack? Spending part of the year at your current home and 3-6 months doing extended travel in new places? That last one, by the way, would be very doable with a kid.

    While the way that you travel can and will change, really diving into what both of you mean when you imagine a “slow travel” life is so important. It gets to the idea of what you want your life to look like, and not just where you want to go. And the way you choose to structure a “slow travel” lifestyle makes a huge difference in terms of legality and logistics (visas, rentals, remote work options) and the emotional substance of your life (ability to make friends and connections where you are living, being able to continue hobbies that take space).

    By the way, I live overseas and know tons of people that are doing some form of location-independent life. All of them who are over the age of 35-40 have some sort of home base (yearly or at least monthly rental) from which they can explore further afield. I think you will find that a semi-permanent (or permanent) home base feels more important 5 years from now than it did 10 years ago when you were previously doing extended travel abroad.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hello Anne! Thanks for raising these questions. We imagine 1-3 months in a given place depending on visa restrictions. Ideally, we’d focus on a particular region for any given quarter year or more. As perpetual travel becomes wearisome, we’d park in a favorite spot until we were ready to move again. We also intend to stay 2 months out of every year near family in the US for as long as our parents are here. Backpacking doesn’t appeal. I’m reluctant to shoulder the cost of maintaining a home base while we don’t live there. Asking my parents to take over the house seemed a reasonable possible compromise. I agree with you that over time, or maybe when we are ready to launch, some sort of home base would feel better than none. I’d like to give us some time to assess and decide where that home base is best located, in case it isn’t here! Thank you for your comment.

  40. Alexandra says:

    I have really enjoyed reading this case study and comments as always but I particularly enjoyed Tara’s comments. Tara if you are thinking of being a blogger or starting a side hustle I’d say go for it. You seem really good at interacting online and have thoughtful professional responses. I enjoyed reading what you had to say! I think others would agree with me.
    If you want to connect with someone to do your first case study I’d be thrilled to work with you. We are followers of Frugalwoods for at least 10 years but could use a helping hand On our own journey . Reach out to me if you want to talk more.
    Regardless, Congratulations on your hard work and openness to feedback. You guys are doing a great job!

  41. BG says:

    I was always ambivalent, at best, about motherhood. I come from a loving family and had wonderful parents, but as I got older I never experienced that ‘burning desire’ that many of my friends had. I decided in my late 20s to set a deadline of age 35 to decide. (Related to precipitous decline in fertility at that age, as much as anything else.) I told myself that if I wanted children by then, I would proceed, but if not, I would not longer worry about it.

    As it was, in my early 30s I met my now-husband. In one of our very first conversations, he said that he didn’t particularly care about children. And at that point, it was clear to me that without a very committed partner who wanted to be a father, I really wasn’t interested.

    We made that decision within a few months of meeting, married a few months later, and have never looked back. As I get older, there is very little that I miss about the experience. And you should remind yourself that in order to choose to be a parent, you must agree to accept what comes of that — a child may be disabled, or disruptive, or not at all your vision of what that child should have been. Whether by natural birth or adoption, parenting is not a controllable experience in many ways. We tend to forget that less-than-rosy aspect of parenting.

    I believe people who really want to have children usually find a way; ambivalence was, to me, a sign that it just wasn’t a need I had.

    • Tara Red says:

      BG, I admire your clarity of thought. You are absolutely correct that choosing parenthood demands a willingness to accept all of its potential consequences. If I don’t want a child badly enough to choose a child who will defy my expectations, I should forego motherhood. I hold that thought in my mind some days. On others, I imagine the holiday table. Overlapping those images may be the key to resolving ambivalence. Another example of how knowing what to do falls short of solving a problem. 😉 Thank you for sharing your experience. The line in the sand (for you, age 35) feels more appealing than waiting out the clock.

      • mary says:

        I don’t know if you are still reading responses at this late date but I really resonated with your comments. I never felt a burning desire to have children and I married a divorced man with grown children (thus I really didn’t have the “stepmother” role of raising them or living with them). I was 37 when I married. My husband was fine with having more children if that is what I desired. The years went by and I never pursued it. Now that window is shut. For the most part I am fine with it but sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake. Your juxtaposed images of a “child who defies expectations” and “the holiday table” describe some of both my fears and yearnings around children and a family. I do feel a bit of sadness around holidays but I strive to make them meaningful despite not having a large brood of
        around. I wish you well in this decision and I thank you for sharing your story with us.

        • Tara Red says:

          Hello Mary! Thank you for expressing your resonance with my feelings about this question. Today, my thought is that I must accept that there will be some wondering about any path not taken, and this doubt, however uncomfortable, can’t be avoided. I have devoted much time and energy to avoid regret, but the expectation itself may be misguided! Thank you for sharing part of your story and well wishes.

  42. Betsy says:

    Tara and Squash…..fun to read your story and your neat responses to people’s ideas. Best wishes for your next chapter.

  43. Julie says:

    K….I find it very offensive and intolerant that you have called Aphra “ignorant and simpleminded.”

    • Tara Red says:

      Julie, your comment reminded me of a teacher who told me that criticizing an idea is fair game but as soon as I direct my criticism to a person, the debate is lost. What I still grapple with is trying to figure out whether using adjectives to describe behavior is about an idea or the actor. Isn’t it amazing how words can build and sustain a conversation or tear it down?

  44. T says:

    Sorry, but …

    https://www.cmmonline.com/news/addressing-racism-in-the-cleaning-industry

    as others may have hinted, I really think this is one case where there is room to grow with regard to sensitivity…

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

    • Tara Red says:

      Thank you for recommending these resources, T. I am familiar with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writing in The Atlantic magazine and have read the article you recommended. I had not come across the first piece. Thanks for sharing the links here so they are easily accessible.

    • Victoria says:

      I would like to note that Frugalwoods repeatedly recommends considering insourcing of activities.
      I’ve personally made some decisions about things I used to pay for that won’t be the same going forward and I’m sure this is the same for many people whether it is cleaning, eating out or anything else. The fact that Tara and Squash would be considered rich by many people does not make them more responsible for the people in their lives in my opinion. It sounds like they were paying professional wages for a professional service, not handing out $10 under the table to people who couldn’t afford not to take it.

  45. Katherine says:

    Hi Tara – I’m so happy for you that you are on your way to FI. I was able to retire at 55 & I love it.

    I haven’t read through all the comments so maybe this already came up. Since Squash is so handy, there are some great opportunities to make money on eBay. I follow “Flea Market Flipper” on Youtube. He specializes in large items that need some repair & cleaning & makes a really nice profit. Check it out when you have a few moments!

    • Tara Red says:

      Katherine, congratulations on your early retirement! Thank you for the recommendation. Squash has been keeping up with the comments in between runs to the garage, but I will mention yours to him so he can check it out!

  46. Brittney says:

    Wow. Tara, you managed to respond to every single person not just politely, but in a way that was positive and welcoming. Major kudos to you; I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that done before. You’ve got some insane natural talent or else some mad skills that you’ve spent years developing (probably both). No need to comment on this, I’m just so impressed I couldn’t help myself 🙂 Good luck with everything!

    • Tara Red says:

      Thanks for the kudos, Brittney! I am a longtime fan of Frugalwoods and appreciate Mrs. Frugalwoods’ invitation to participate in her reader case series. Replying to comments is my way of thanking fellow readers for their generosity in considering my story. Thank you for your well wishes.

  47. CJR says:

    Hi, Tara!

    You’ve gotten a LOT of good advice regarding your fertility options and really figuring out what you want. I won’t reiterate it too much except to share that I swung between the two – my husband and I were committed to not having children for many years because we thought that bringing a new person into the world should be done by two people who were excited by the idea, even if they were also afraid and nervous. I am currently 22 weeks pregnant – and as we started to become more financially comfortable and settled in a single city (we’re also on the West Coast), we started to feel like we had room for excitement at the idea of raising a child. Fair warning, though, the nerves and fear have not gone away and I don’t think they ever will.

    The only other thing I wanted to comment on was what to do with the house. This is ENTIRELY my own perspective talking, but as someone who is trying to get INTO West Coast real estate, I wouldn’t sell it if there’s even a remote chance you’ll want to come back. Your prospective FIRE date and the beginning of slow travel is 2025 – that gives you plenty of time to continue saving up and building a cushion, while also figuring out what your lives will look like if you do decide to become parents. Your feelings on the matter might change and, frankly, if they haven’t, there’s no reason you couldn’t sell the house in 2025 versus now.

    I wish you the best of luck and I have little doubt that you and Squash will find your way, no matter what you decide.

    • Tara Red says:

      CJR, congratulations on your good news! I’m glad that you and your husband had enough time to change your minds and feel good about the decision to pursue parenthood now. I hear you about abandoning West Coast real estate. Honestly, at one point, I didn’t think breaking in would be a real option. Most of my friends laugh at the concept of a starter home out here. Once we’ve gotten in, we tend to stay put. I hope employment will sustain us until 2025. Building a cushion would be ideal. If our employer has other ideas, we’ll have to reconsider lots of things not least our housing and timeline. Thank you for sharing your experience, perspective, and encouragement!

  48. Haylee says:

    Ooh I remember high-fiving my husband in Colombia in 2017 when we’d decided to definitely not have kids. We were travelling around South America in a car we bought in Chile. We sold everything and left Australia not intending to come home. I’d never been interested in having kids and was 100% sure I didn’t want to have them until we were taking a break from our trip and were back home working for winter in 2018, and re-visited the ‘kids’ question. We were both pretty sure we would be happy without kids, but thought the only thing we’d regret is not trying to have one. We’ve now got an absolute delight of daughter – 1.5 years old and I have to say it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I couldn’t have known how much I would love being a mother – my experience is that it has kind of made me level-up – like I’m the same person, but with these awesome new mothering skills that I never knew I had. I disagree with Mrs Frugalwoods that if you don’t feel a burning desire to have them they are not for you – some people know they want them, but for other people, you just can’t imagine how you’ll feel about them until you have one. And TBH, you’d set your life up for the experience to be as positive as possible.

    We fully intend to head back out travelling once we pay our house off in 6 years with our daughter – we met heaps of travellers with kids on the road and realise it’s totally doable. Also, have to second Mrs Frugalwoods advice to try it out – we found that long term travel is definitely very very different to short trips. We loved it, but there were also good things about coming home again – it can be very stressful and lonely sometimes on the road.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi Haylee! Squash and I arrived at a similar conclusion a couple of years ago. I would regret most not having been open to motherhood at all. I am excited that you and your husband intend to pursue international travel with your daughter in the future. Thanks for reinforcing the need for a trial run, or maybe multiple, before making up our minds. Even with my limited experience, I remember feeling stressed and lonely at times albeit Squash hadn’t arrived on the scene then. I imagine traveling as a couple will be more pleasant than living abroad solo. Best of luck!

  49. Debbie says:

    I’d like to address your slow travel scenario. I have lived in the EU for 30:years, and before that in South America and the Middle East. How you described your idea of slow travel, I cannot imagine doing that with a child. Kids need friends and regularity when it comes to school. The constant moving every few months will not make for a happy child, IMO. Would suggest you join Facebook groups in the areas that interest you and just read the questions and comments that are posted. It might be a great eye opener for what you might be up against. Search for “Americans in ______”, (Americans in Vietnam, Americans in Portugal, etc.). Sign up and see what you learn over a few months. You may be surprised at how Americans compare their lives overseas to what they left, especially when it comes to schools and healthcare. And if you are resident for certain lengths of time in some countries you may have to file taxes there. Work visas are not easy to obtain if you are just passing through. Anyway, good luck.

    • Tara Red says:

      Debbie, the slow travel scenario I described previously was all else being equal, i.e. without a child. I imagine it would demand reconsideration to be responsive to a child’s needs. I appreciate your suggestion to read first hand about Americans’ experiences living abroad. If the virtual coaching business becomes a reality, I would need to investigate the tax/visa implications. My only source of information about these topics to date has been Jeremy at Go Curry Cracker. Thanks for your advice!

  50. Amy says:

    Just want to say, this advice may be helpful in deciding whether to have children nor not:

    https://therumpus.net/2011/04/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-71-the-ghost-ship-that-didnt-carry-us/

    • Tara Red says:

      Amy, are you a Cheryl Strayed fan? I was trying to remember where I had read this before and catching Cheryl’s name, I looked up her book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life by Dear Sugar. She is one of my heroes. Thank you for bringing me back to this.

  51. Susan says:

    I don’t see any real financial questions or issues here; I see issues to work through with a marriage and family therapist. At the risk of being censured, I will also say that I found this post insensitive given the current national and global situation. It certainly has rubbed me the wrong way, but I am an older faculty member making less than half of what you do with 1/3 of the net worth and who does not have the luxury of being dissatisfied with my job and contemplating slow travel . . . so maybe I’m just jealous. Best of luck to you.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi Susan, this is the real financial question in my mind: if Squash or I (or both of us) lose our jobs over the course of this pandemic/recession, have we invested/saved enough to launch our dream to travel the world? Or is this still a pipe dream… where we need to keep plugging away for another 5-10+ years provided our next jobs and the stock market are favorable? Considering that a child would alter all of these variables, I see this issue as both a financial and emotional question. You’re welcome to disagree. However, I am sorry that my reader case rubbed you the wrong way. Please don’t hold it against Mrs. Frugalwoods. She’s too kind to invite a guest to a party only to block her at the front door.

  52. Vera says:

    Hi Tara! Well done on the financial work! You and Squash are in an enviable position, and I agree with Mrs Frugalwoods: I think you can retire even sooner than in five years. I have to note that I haven’t done the calculations; perhaps you can do them for yourself. I like to make a ‘min-med-max’ plan: so how much do I need for a minimum lifestyle (or lean fire) and also for medium and a sumptuous scenario. Perhaps this will surprise you 🙂
    Another point I would like to make – and it is a long-winded point – is that I recognise a lot of your thoughts and struggles, I also tend to over-analyse and I really want to make sure everything will turn out all right before I even start. However, in my thirty-something years of experience, Life has been laughing in my face. Stuff just happens. Some commenters have said it above: worrying is a waste of energy. I’m not talking about the question of having kids or not, you have received plenty of good advice on that topic. I’m talking about the “when should I quit” and “should I take a 50% payout”. You could just quit today, no problem. If you don’t like how it turns out, find a job again. You are a very intelligent woman with loads of experience, and more importantly, you come across as someone who knows how to work hard.
    You Will Be Fine.
    Really.
    And don’t forget, you don’t have to earn 9k a month for a good life; so many people get by on much less. You could live on Squash’s salary. Sure, you wouldn’t be able to save as much as you do now, but you’ll be able to live.
    To balance things out a bit since you shared your story, I’ll tell you how I learned these insights. I am a self-professed control freak married to a much more easy-going partner and over the years it turned out he was right in 90-95% of the time. I know from experience that worrying is pointless (I still do it though, can’t seem to stop). And now we have moved to another country, just before pandemic lock-down in March. Partner has a job he loves, and it does me so much good to see him happy after a day’s work! So my advice is to do what you love, even if it does pay half of what you’re used to. Working a job you enjoy is a job you’ll be able to do for a long time, and then you don’t need to retire that soon so you don’t need to save as much. I haven’t been able to find a job in this country and that stressed me out a bit, even though our calculations showed that we wouldn’t NEED a second income. I have been sitting at home for almost half a year and I don’t like it. I want a job for the structure in my day, to give my brain something to do and for the social interaction. Don’t underestimate the benefits of having a job, it is about so much more than money.
    You also mentioned you like to eat out with friends, and as someone who is living quite a distance from friends right now, I miss them terribly. A video call is a really meagre substitute. I’m definitely commending the trial-run that is mentioned above; and what I read between the lines from your story I think it would be a good idea for you guys to have a cheap and cheerful place to live, and travel far and often from this home base. Perhaps do an international house-swap, rent it out, so many options.
    Oh and congratulations on starting your blog!

    • Tara Red says:

      Vera, nothing has occurred according to plan for me since completing school. However, like you, reality hasn’t discouraged me from enthusiastically engaging in all sorts of contingency planning. Most of the time, this activity occurs alone, so I had hoped this reader case could stand in for a (virtual) brain trust for financial independence and simple living! Your advice to calculate a FIRE number at min-med-max levels is spot on. I have a min based on our joint overhead and pin our med at current spending. The max is harder to wrap my mind around since so much remains uncertain, and at the end of the day, FIRE is an experiment with risk.

      Thank you for sharing a bit of your story! I’m so glad that you and your husband have each other while you build a life in a new place together. Ironically, despite living in country, some of my closest friends are scattered far from me. One of my best friends lives in South Africa while others are on the opposite coast and midwest. We are lucky to see each other once per decade for the former and once yearly for the latter two. Despite our dependence on it for work, I’m not a great fan of videoconferencing. Whatsapp and Google Hangouts are the lifelines of our friendships.

      I appreciate your reminder about myriad options. I look forward to experimenting with them in real time rather than in my imagination! Thank you for sharing these reflections. Best of luck as you settle in to your new home!

  53. Liz says:

    Looks like Tara and Squash have about $500,000 (give or take a few thousand) in combined retirement accounts.

    If they just let that grow for the next 25 years, untouched, without adding another penny, it would total $3,424,247.00 at 8%. (I used this compound interest calculator: https://www.investor.gov/financial-tools-calculators/calculators/compound-interest-calculator recommended by Mrs. Frugalwoods.) If Tara and Squash can use their brokerage accounts (also around $500,000+) to live on for the next couple of decades as a bridge fund until they can withdraw from the retirement accounts, then they do not need to earn more through wages/salary. I really have no doubt that they are set! Way to go, Tara and Squash! I say go out there and start living your dreams.

    I have to agree with Susan (above) that it looks like they have already achieved FI, and there really aren’t any financial questions here. I love Mrs. Frugalwoods’ story, writing, book, and this blog. And I love the recent focus on gardening!! I do understand, however, (and I can’t quite put my finger on it exactly) why Susan feels that this case study is a bit insensitive to post at this current moment when so many households are collapsing financially and in other ways.

    Perhaps this is because the Frugalwoods achieved FI with AVERAGE professional salaries (not high professional salaries like Tara’s and Squash’s), so the Frugalwoods community is trying to get to FI with lower salaries and lots of frugality. (Lots and lots of frugality, especially now!) Perhaps that’s why some commenters here feel alienated, can’t relate, or lose hope through reading this case study right now, which shows high salaries. One thing I love about the Frugalwoods’ story is that it has given me hope that I can achieve something similar as a parent with an average professional salary and getting creative with frugality, and now I’m only 5 years away or so from a lean FI.

    Bottom line, I get the sense that this community loves to hear about how people with average salaries get SUPER creative and frugal in order to achieve FI. It’s the combination of these two (pretty good income + extra creative frugality/life hacks) that creates a lot of interest for me, at least.

  54. Quincy says:

    Hi Tara and Squash! First off, WOW! This is an incredible case study! Nice work! Really commendable work. Secondly–I am another person who has a hard time making decisions, so I feel ya on struggling with that. Your case study shows me that having lots of money maybe isn’t the only way to achieve satisfaction and security. Or rather that it isn’t guaranteed to get you there. I imagine that if I were in a similar situation to yours I would be totally content and not worried and be happy with where I am at…but maybe not! It is just so interesting how our monkey brains work, huh? I also would recommend the trial period for y’all. My husband and I are in our late twenties and met traveling in Mexico. We both have traveled extensively, for long periods of time. In January we were traveling through his home country of Argentina and I have to say, it felt different this time around. Like…what were we doing? It felt harder. More stressful. Not as enjoyable. Then we came back to the US and lost our jobs because of the pandemic and spent several months not working. We are both young, super active, and live in an outdoor recreation paradise yet without work we both felt very lost. It was a time when we “should” have been enjoying all of the free time and doing what we love but it was very hard to do without work. And that was with a fair amount of savings. It is incredible how much your identity becomes tied up in your work without even realizing it. Just seeing some of the similarities in how we think, it makes me wonder if you might actually have a difficult time with that transition as well. Or I could just be projecting on to you! I am obviously no expert and have only read your case study but there are definitely some parallels and it makes me want to encourage the trial period for you. Many others have already done so, but I wanted to echo that. Your case study encouraged me to ask my husband yesterday–WHY do we want money? What goals can it help us achieve? Thank you for fostering some good conversations! Lastly–we are not having kids and throughout this pandemic it has made me feel VERY SURE that I am happy and content with that decisions! Which is one thing I am not ambivalent about and it feels awesome! I call it the DINK lifestyle–Double Income No Kids. Haha! I love it. 🙂 From a fellow ambivalent monkey brain–best of luck!

    • Tara Red says:

      Hello fellow monkey mind! Having worked in precariously funded jobs since the start, I admit a larger cushion alleviates anxiety but hasn’t eliminated it. There are always so many things that can go wrong! 😉 Almost a version of a hedonic treadmill, more capability leads to bigger goals, so the finish line gets pushed back. The idea of enough inflates. Even with relationships… when I was single, all I wanted was a loving, intimate partner relationship. Then I wanted marriage. After marriage, my mind turned to a baby! For many of us, this pandemic will continue to offer opportunities to reevaluate. My hypothesis has been that money is only one ingredient for satisfaction or security. The other is healthy relationships. I’m glad our story fostered some meaningful conversations with your husband. Thank you for your feedback and reinforcing the advice for a trial run!

  55. Tara Red says:

    Hi Liz! Thank you for breaking down your reactions to our story and comments so clearly. We haven’t considered examining our resources in two chapters the way you’ve described, and frankly, the thought has never occurred to me that we may already be financially independent. You’ve given me a basis to crunch our numbers in a different way!

    This probably didn’t come across in my portion of the reader case as clearly as it could have, so I’ll clarify in this reply. My nearly 20 years of FT work life has been in nonprofit arenas, the first half in social services and the second half in higher education. For the first half, I earned lower than average professional salaries. After the first decade, I decided to take a break and signed up to teach as a part-time adjunct. Right place, right time, shortly thereafter, I came across a new need at the school that I could fill and pitched myself as a potential solution. My earnings over the past 3 years represent my career’s peak and also make me vulnerable to rightsizing in a context of declining revenue. In other words, I’m betting it won’t last.

    My hope is that as FIRE adherents focus on both reducing expenses and increasing income, lucky tailwinds arrive, at least for a time. Thank you for sharing your feedback!

    • Liz says:

      I personally love the bridge fund + retirement accounts untouched until age 65 as a FI plan. Yes! 😀

      Yep, I agree that both offense and defense (good salary and good frugal habits) are needed too. I absolutely focus on both, and my salary has doubled in the past few years because of this. My husband and I both work at universities. I made a pivot from full-time instructor to a technology/faculty support role (after two years in an online grad cert program paid 90% by work to do this), which greatly increased my salary: now $61,500 (from $37,500 as a full-time, 9-month instructor – ugh). I’m also nearing my peak in earnings, and I get that you are at your peak. I just think for many readers of this blog, their peak isn’t going to be close to what yours is (which is fantastic, BTW, many kudos!) at $112,932 AFTER deductions. I hope that this isn’t taken as criticism for you, since you are doing superbly; it’s just that many readers here will not be making that as a peak ever, more like MAYBE $80,000 or $90,000 before deductions as a more realistic peak for many here in the non-profit/education arena. Does that make sense?

      Just guessing about the sense of alienation in some of the comments is all! I’m sure you have made many sacrifices too; it’s probably just hard for readers to infer that since there isn’t much focus on the frugal hacks you had to make (doesn’t mean you didn’t have them). I really wish you and Squash all the best, and I think if past performance predicts future performance, you two will thrive, whatever path you take 😀

      • Tara Red says:

        Thanks for the reply, Liz. I appreciate your comment. After years of following Frugalwoods, I felt comfortable here. I regret some have received my story as a personal affront. Clearly I’m a newbie in a digital space!

      • Victoria says:

        Liz I wanted to say thanks for the sensitive way you’ve approached giving your views.

  56. Julia says:

    My only recommendation is to look into “coast FI” on The Fioneers website. I haven’t run your numbers but I’m pretty sure if you only earn enough to live on (save little or none), and leave your investments in the stock market, you will be more than set financially.
    You have lots of options! Many times there is no right or wrong answer, you can only decide with the information you have at the time, and move forward.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi Julia! I use Personal Capital’s free Retirement Planner to map out various scenarios, and you’re right, Coast FIRE (for my age 65) is feasible. At the same time, 25 to 30 years of being dependent on someone hiring us for wages feels like a gamble. That said, I appreciate your point that we are unlikely to arrive at a most correct answer. Eventually, we either will decide to change course or the decision will be made for us. Thank you for the recommendation to check out The Fioneers as well as your encouragement! I will take a closer look.

  57. Haylie says:

    Hi Tara,

    By taking a look at your financial snapshot- I think you guys are already where you need to be. Keep working your high paying job, but if they let you go, then it’s time to start enjoying your life. I would sell off the cars- just keep 1 that is paid off and cheap to insure. Sell your house. Unless there is an expectation for you to help fund your parent’s living situation or you conceive a child. If you think you want a biological child, roll the dice and go straight to IVF? Do you have coverage for this? If you don’t, that’s ok- you can afford to try it and if it doesn’t work, it may help you feel more settled about the issue.
    We have a net worth a bit more than double yours with roughly half tied up in our paid off house. We are 36 and 39. I sat in the infertility chair for 5 years while we kept working – waiting for something to happen. I felt much like you describe about having kids. Anyway, we went though IVF just to see. It worked and now I have a 9 month old, and realized just yesterday that I’m pregnant again. Being an early retired parent is awesome. It’s not the same as long travel, but I suspect those plans won’t satiate your search for the most satisfying ways to live out your time. It will be great for a while, but you may tire of the inconveniences and transient nature of it all. I don’t mean to offend your plans in anyway and you are clearly a very organized, articulate person. This is my personal opinion only on the options in front of you.

    • Tara Red says:

      Haylie, your comment is a breath of fresh air. I will consider how a lay-off might be a sign to pivot to a life focused on its enjoyment. I appreciate your recommendations to sell the house and limit to one vehicle, all else being equal. My ideal lifestyle would be one that could combine my longstanding interests in building healthy relationships and financial capability for all as a nomadic couple/family. I may get tired of it at some point, but the idea that I may have traveled so much as to tire of it seems incredible. Congratulations on embarking on early retirement as a new parent! I wish you health and heaps of energy. 🙂

  58. Jillian says:

    Tara & Mrs. Frugalwoods – this thread is a bit off kilter this time around. Hang in there! Tara, your kindness and thoughtfulness in each response is great to see. Mrs. Frugalwoods, you have built a wonderful community that’s made a difference in the lives of many (including mine!). No advice, just wanted to thank you both 🙂

  59. Ms Blaise says:

    Hi Tara,
    You guys sound like you are having a lot of fun….Well done on the saving rate. I agree that you are already easily at FI, according to MMM and others. I pose the question to you how much is enough? So what if you lose your job in the pandemic – you guys have more than enough to survive and ride out the downturn.

    My advice is from a New Zealand context with crazy housing costs and a very hard market to buy into, and as a mum of two children that we had at 42 and 45 (!) We did no fertility treatment for the same reasons as you – just went off contraception at 40 and left it to the universe as we were happy with ourselves either way.
    1-pay off your house with your cash assets and keep it. I would do this because it means you will always have housing which is a huge luxury in our world and is only going to get more precarious. You can also let family or others live in it for free or for income. It gives you options and another income stream/living option. why give the bank more money?
    2 -build some assets that are not in the stock market. Perhaps build a massive cash buffer, or buy another property, or a business, or a …. something. But your ( financial) assets lack diversity to me.
    3-the advice on seeing a counsellor or therapist seems very odd to me. But that could be a cultural thing. Humans have had babies ( or not) without needing therapy around the decision. Maybe just keep trying but don’t stress – it doesn’t determine your value or happiness. The research is pretty clear that the quality of your friendships is more important.
    4- I’m trying really hard not to sound too judgey on this point but have you considered getting permanent residency in a country with a functioning health system? Available to everyone irrespective of income, residency status or location? Just being a bit crazy here…..but on my (top bracket)33% tax rate I can pretty much go to a hospital and have any treatment I need with no charge at all. I do pay $50 each time I go to the local GP, but that is as a fully employed adult who is means tested, My kids have free care at the GP and also the hospital. And no one sees my X-ray or surgery or week in a hospital bed as some sort of offence….its just a right to heath care….like schooling……and clean drinking water
    5 and finally – trialling slow travel is a great idea. My partner and I have travelled much of the world over the nearly 30 years we have been adults and also do a lot of camping, hiking here in NZ. To be honest, our interests have changed as we have reached our late 40’s. There are still some places we would like to see but we are much more about catching up with our far flung families and friends. There is joy in staying home, hiking, gardening, putting down deep roots into our local community and giving our time and energy to various commitments and activities here. It’s your dream and that’s good – but be open to the dream changing as you do.

    • Tara Red says:

      Ms. Blaise, your story of motherhood above age 40 is delightful! I would love to follow your example and suspend any thought about whether to have children with the confidence that our lives would be happy either way. Because I believe you are right. Thank you for your recommendation to pay off the house and hold on to it. A massive cash buffer seems the most likely alternative to diversify our assets since I have no desire to become landlords or a small business owner (other than a virtual business that follows me). I agree with your observation about the advice to consult a therapist or counselor. To me, the choice to have a child is more philosophical or spiritual than one related to mental or behavioral health although I accept that infertility may intersect with a person’s experience with depression, anxiety, or trauma. Maybe it isn’t so much that I foreclose the option as I release the desire to control the outcome. Very Zen but much aligned with my intention. Thank you for describing it in words that allowed me to make the connection.

      Ironically, I have considered establishing permanent residency in another country with lots of functioning systems, specifically New Zealand! I stopped my preliminary research when I couldn’t map how we would travel, maintain connections to our US-based family and friends, and fulfill residency requirements for a third country. In one of my fantasy scenarios, Squash and I would tire of travel many years hence and apply for residency in NZ (or elsewhere) to build our next home. Thank you for your encouragement! I will remember your advice to anticipate how we define happiness will morph over time.

  60. Tamar says:

    Just wanted to recommend the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler.
    I learned a lot from this book about my body and moods. (And it helped a few babies get conceived).

    Good luck!

  61. Bonnie says:

    Just another perspective on having a child – I thought I wanted a kid, but in a somewhat ambivalent way. After a year of not preventing, I got pregnant, and had a baby. She is a completely healthy, normal, delightful child. My husband is very supportive, and fully involved in her care. We are financially secure, and have support. We both spent the first year trying to figure out what we had done to ourselves, as our life drastically shifted. I hated being a mother to a small child, which is not something most people will admit to. She just turned 4, and life is better now. I’m finding my way back to the things I enjoyed before becoming a mother. I love my daughter dearly. I would protect her with my life. There are parts of my life she has made so much better. There are parts of my life that I loved and have now lost. If I could turn back the clock, and choose not to have her, there is a 50/50 chance I would choose to be child free. So, no, everyone doesn’t end up loving being a mom once they have started, and there are people with children who regret it. I don’t imagine that helps with decision making, but I think it is a perspective that most people who have it don’t want to admit to.

    • Tara Red says:

      Bonnie, I’m glad that you are finding your way back to the things you loved before you became a mother. One of my best friends admitted that she didn’t really like being a mom until her kids reached about age 4 either. On the other hand, my cousin disclosed that her thrill started to subside as her babies grew into toddlers. I feel lucky that at least a few real women have trusted me to share their authentic experiences despite social norms that tamp down their expression. Thank you for sharing yours!

  62. Brianna says:

    I really enjoyed this case study! I’m looking forward to learning more from Tara on her blog especially as I have many of the same goals regarding slow travel … And many of the same logistical questions about how to slow travel.

    • Tara Red says:

      Brianna, our goals for slow travel align! Unfortunately, we cancelled all of our plans for the rest of the year and are hesitant to make any for 2021. When the rest of the world is willing to accept us within their borders, perhaps we can trade tips! I look forward to connecting with you again. Please feel free to find me online by clicking on my name (hyperlinked) above this reply. Thank you for reading the case study and leaving a comment!

  63. B says:

    Could you meet with a fertility specialist and see what they have to say/offer? Then meet with a fertility counsellor? I am wondering if after you meet with the fertility specialist whether that will shine some light on whether you want one or not. Beautiful post. Great work on achieving your goals!

    • Tara Red says:

      Thank you for the suggestion, B! I didn’t realize that a fertility specialist and counselor were two separate consultations. I should scope it out a bit more carefully. Thank you for your encouragement to do so.

  64. Jen says:

    I initially read this case study when it was first posted, and I, like others here, felt a bit put-off by it. It keeps popping into my head over the last few days, wondering why, and I think it finally occurred to me – there’s nothing you really want help with. We all spend a lot of time reading these case studies when they come out, and I think we are generally a pretty positive and helpful community. And so we all give you a bunch of our time, and then the only questions are whether you should geoarbitrage if one of you should lose a job, and whether you should have a kid. You are obviously in a fine position to do either if you should choose to, and there’s nothing you need from us to get to that point. Because of that, I felt that reading this was a poor use of my time, and didn’t meet the expectations I have for a case study. I am sure it’s good practice for you to write if your goal is to be a blogger, but I wonder if maybe being a guest blogger for a day might have been a better fit than doing a case study? As I said, we really are a good group of people, and when these case studies come out, I imagine us collectively putting on our thinking caps to dig in and help with a problem. I can tell that you’re a perfectly lovely person who has achieved a lot, and in my opinion, this might just the wrong place/format for your story? I wish you all the best, whatever path you end up choosing.

    • BJN says:

      Hi Jen! I really appreciate your comment. Earlier as I scrolled through I sensed a lot of judging and I couldn’t put my finger on what was going on. But after reading your comment I thought maybe you are onto something. Not that anything justifies a mean or nasty comment (not that yours is or was at all!), but maybe that’s why some of the community was put off. Also there are a lot of folks right now under a lot of burden, financial and otherwise, and maybe this came off like bragging or blog marketing more than it felt like a case study with an authentic request for help.

      • Tara Red says:

        Hello BJN, while we are grateful for our ability and opportunity to pursue financial independence as a goal, Squash and I are aware of others who are much more financially capable than we are. We also are aware of members of our own family who struggle not only right now but as their status quo. One of the benefits of forums like these is the opportunity to raise questions to people who have no dog in our fight. These aren’t questions we would raise in anyone’s living room (although others sometimes do on our behalf)! Second, this reader case study preceded my intention to blog now rather than in the distant future. Mrs. Frugalwoods’ has maintained a longstanding practice not to promote blogs through this series. Finally, thank you for validating the judgement that has infused some comments. I am heartened that many fellow readers received my request for feedback as it was intended.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hello Jen, since following Mrs. Frugalwoods over nearly 6 years, I was eager to solicit her feedback as an expert on financial independence as well as a parent. I regret that you find my questions inauthentic; however, they are meaningful questions for Squash and me not only in terms of their affordability but also their prudence. I agree that this community is pretty positive and helpful, and most responses have been insightful and encouraging. I look forward to giving back by offering my own feedback to future case studies.

      I also want to acknowledge Mrs. Frugalwoods for how her invitation to participate in this reader case series encouraged me to continue writing! If I hadn’t prepared my materials for her, blogging would have remained a fantasy for the distant future. Thank you for drafting a detailed comment in spite of your feeling that my case study was a poor use of your time.

  65. Angie says:

    Being in similar shoes at Tara, earlier in my life is that I got even more bored with ‘not working’. My cure was writing and creating new businesses. Early retirement can get very boring.

    • Tara Red says:

      Angie, I hope to follow your example! I would love the opportunity to write and create a new business without the pressure of needing either to generate a livelihood. Please wish me luck!

  66. Clancy says:

    I’m a long time Frugalwoods reader and am interested in seeing ALL forms of FI, as well as the concerns/anxieties that come along with the decisions to reach individual FI goals. Unless the case study person has a trust fund, I fully support whomever Mrs. FW chooses to profile. It is very interesting to read about people with different incomes, backgrounds, spending habits, family situations, geographic locations, etc. etc. etc.

    I also think that Tara sounds like a super genuine person and has a knack for eloquently responding to each of these comments. I believe this is the first Reader Case Study I’ve seen where the person studied responded to EVERY SINGLE COMMENT. Clearly Tara values everyone’s feedback and is a committed member of this community. It is very brave to put yourself out there to be scrutinized by the digital masses. I applaud Tara and her husband with the cool name (Squash)!! 😉

  67. Robin says:

    By my read of the math they are FI already, especially if they sell they house and move to a cheaper area. 3.25% yield on $1.7 million is $55k, expenses of $33k plus housing ($1k/month?). That doesn’t mean pull the plug right now, they can plan out when and how, given current world conditions, but it’s worth thinking about.

    The one other thing to maybe consider is how much they already have in tax deferred accounts, which won’t be accessible until 59 1/2. They might consider reducing contributions to those accounts to only what gets them the full match, and put the rest into after-tax accounts (or consider other strategies to access the money earlier).

    • Tara Red says:

      I like your math, Robin! Selling our house would make a big difference as would geoarbitrage. We are definitely considering about both options as they would result in lower overhead. I’ll redo the math for our next monthly progress report, but the majority of our investments may be in our brokerage accounts (60%) rather than tax-deferred (38%). I’m curious about how setting up a Roth IRA ladder might be helpful to us but haven’t yet mapped it out. Thank you for your suggestions!

  68. mary w says:

    Not sure if anyone has said this yet…Check out Go Curry Cracker blog. Start at the beginning and read forward. After FIRE they did a lot of slow international travel with no US home base. After having a child they continued to travel so that kid has been to many more countries than I have. Eventually they settled for the moment in Taiwan (Winnie has dual citizenship IIRC) so GCC Jr could go to pre-school. They just had a second child.

    You’ll see posts that might help you see what needs to be done to do slow international travel.

    • Tara Red says:

      Hi Mary! I binge read all of Go Curry Cracker’s posts when I first discovered the blog and continue to subscribe. His early posts fueled our fantasy of a nomadic lifestyle. It’s been interesting to observe how they more or less have abandoned it as their family has grown.

  69. dot says:

    Move from the west coast and save immediately 13.4% of your income!!

  70. Dicey says:

    I’m late to the party, but it doesn’t seem like LTC insurance has been discussed. I am 100% not a fan, and here are some reasons why. Neither of my parents needed it, nor did they have it. Their excellent health insurance and savings (far, far less than Tara has) were enough to pay for the care they needed during the last few years of their lives.

    OTOH, my inlaws had LTC Insurance, purchased many years ago and fully paid for. FIL fell, broke his hip and died in a matter of weeks, so no payout there. MIL has Alzheimer’s. She lived with us for almost seven years to conserve her resources, because she was otherwise in good health. We finally moved her to a nearby Board and Care late last year. After the mandatory 90 day waiting period, we filed a claim. Two months later, Allstate denied the claim. Then they denied the appeal. Oh, her policy covers Alzheimer’s all right, but the terminology used to designate types of care facilities has changed since the policy was written. Allstate is adamant that they will only pay if she goes to a facility that provides 24 hour nursing care, which she does not need. Besides the cost, moving her there anyway takes resources away from someone who does need that level of care. In addition, the cost differential for that type of facility negates the amount that the insurance policy will pay.

    We have recently found a Board & Care that is owned and run by a registered nurse, who lives on the property. Should satisfy the requirements, right? Well, this time, we applied first, which is not easy to do. Still no answer form Allstate. Even if they do, transferring MIL will be disruptive, and the 90 day clock will start all over again. It’s a nightmare. Thank goodness she has deep pockets.

    The only reason we’re pursuing it is because forty years ago, a middle aged couple walked into a Sears store and bought Long Term Care Insurance, which they paid for faithfully for thirty years. Now, when one of them needs it, the policy is riddled with loopholes. 100% shameful. The companies that market these policies try to scare people into buying them, then they provide little return for the huge sums of money invested. Note: We are aware that there are other avenues of appeal and will pursue them if this next option is rejected. My point is that if CAVEAT EMPTOR ever applied to anything, surely it’s Long Term Care Insurance. Be careful and do massive due diligence before you even consider buying it . Treat everything they promise you with a healthy dose of skepticism.

    Tara, in your position, I’d invest that money into VTSAX or equivalent in a Vanguard account and never look back.

    One more thing: You’re not going to believe what’s going to happen when you consolidate your retirement accounts. To begin with, it simplifies things. Next, if you chose the right funds, your investment expenses are going to go down, which means your returns will improve. Finally, you will get a huge psychological lift when you see a bigger balance on one screen. It will inspire you to make further economies to boost your savings. You will be thrilled every time you check your balances and doing so will take a fraction of the time it does now. It is essentially a free boost at a time when your planning for the future is kind of on autopilot. It isn’t much of a hassle, really and so, so worth the effort.

    Best wishes to you!

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