Reader Case: Not Your Typical FIRE Couple

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It’s Friday again and guess what that means? Reader Case time! This one really caught my eye because it’s from a reader who’s not your typical FIRE enthusiast:


Hi,

Really dug your book and online resources and I was encouraged to do this since my fiancé (45) and I (39) are at a crossroads of burnout and don’t fit the typical profile of people we see on the site.  A reader had mentioned wanting to see more non-typical FIRE examples.

We are two of your favorite professions in burnout–a plumber (awesome POT) and an acupuncturist/musician (horrible POT- luckily I had full scholarships to music school at least.  Acupuncture not so much).  

My fiancé was earning $60-70k/yr as a plumber and quit his job right before the pandemic- whoops?  He got through the year without having to dip into savings by working as a delivery driver.  He went back to work as a plumber but soon found himself again in unsafe situations, and not being paid in full, and left. 

He is open to working again but wants to change career and needs time to figure this out.  His ideal situation would be to not work again at all but have time to travel and camp (he owns an 18’ tow camper) and do some sort of volunteering.  He also wants to buy a new $40k tow vehicle (may eventually replace his daily driver, which is 17 years old) since he plans to be camping for many years- his current tow is unreliable, keeps breaking down.  

Last year he earned $22k between being a delivery driver (~$17k) and working 2 months at initial job + 3 weeks vacation he had to cash in ($5k).  This year he has again worked for ~1 month, earned ~$4000.

His net worth:

  • Taxable: $289,950 + $10k in cash settlement
  • 401k: $15,840 
  • Roth: $4400
  • Checking/savings $14k (includes 10k emergency fund)
  • Residence:  $20,600 principal remaining at 3.125%.  Taxes are $4500 a year.  Value is $130k and he’s open to selling at some point and living in the camper only for a time, but does want to have a physical residence for when we are old.
  • Vehicles: camper- conservative estimate $15k value, 2004 Toyota hatchback

His Expenses:

  • Mortgage payment $592
  • Taxes (PIF yearly/12) $375
  • Electric/gas/water/internet $130 (might be able to lower internet, found a new deal)
  • Cell phone $25
  • Car insurances (car/SUV tow for camper/camper) $130
  • Gas $40 (maybe less now, isn’t driving much)
  • Food/household stuff like toilet paper, cleaner $400 (he is unsure this #, he said he’s been buying much less food since I buy and make most of dinners.  This is what he budgets for)
  • Health/dental insurance $60 (Marketplace)
  • Super basic monthly COL: $1752

I am a self-employed acupuncturist and musician, with other side hustles.  I also have one W2 job, started in Oct 2020, the pay is compensation-based, and I got very burnt out by working through the whole pandemic (we never shut down/I was the only worker for a while). My music is dependent on gigs.  I switched careers a few years ago from performing music and teaching lessons full time. 

I currently have $204k of student debt from my acupuncture degree (no debt from my music degrees at least).  I am on PAYE plan and with putting most of my income in pretax retirement accounts, my monthly payment is $0.  It’s expected I will have to pay about $50k in taxes when it is forgiven in 2035.

I also have an EIDL loan of $14800, it’s a 30 year fixed at 3.75%.  I have this in high interest savings accounts (4-6% interest) – took it because of confusion about grant (sure I’ll take $10k for free?  Though only $1000 was a grant since 1 employee).  Also it took forever to get unemployment and I barely made any income from mid March to August 2020.  I’ve tried to not touch the EIDL for now.  I was targeted for the 2nd round supplemental targeted EIDL advance and it says I qualify for another $5k grant (unclear if they just forgive $5k of what they gave me or they give me another $5k), I haven’t heard back yet though.

My Earnings:

  • W2 job: $18k
  • Self employed acupuncture: $25k?  Hard to tell- it’s growing and I just picked up another day, and soon will pick up another.  It definitely could be more.
  • Music: $5k or so as a musician.  Unsure about this year but it will be more than last year where I made $900.
  • Side hustles: ~$8000/year (bank bonus sign ups: $4k/year, selling tradelines: $2500/year, delibery: $1500/year)
  • Total: ~56,000/year


My net worth:

  • Solo401k: $35970
  • SEP IRA: $8649
  • Roth: $1914
  • Trad IRA: $13770
  • HSA: $6354
  • Taxable brokerage: $4418
  • Crypto: $2440
  • Checking/savings $17k (including EIDL)
  • Car: 2014 Mitsubishi mirage worth ~$4500

My expenses:

  • Rent: $360 (my portion of rent/utilities/household stuff
  • Cell phone $25
  • Health/dental insurance $35 (needs to be adjusted down, since my AGI went down due to PUA not being taxed in 2020)
  • Food $250 (mostly organic/non processed)
  • EIDL loan payment $73
  • Suggested savings in brokerage for tax bomb from loan consultant $400 (I think this is high but happy to save?  Need to have $50k in brokerage by 2035))
  • Car insurance: $61
  • Gas $40
  • Tolls (have to work in the city, public transit not an option here) $120 (ugh)
  • Amazon prime $6 (we share this account, locked into old price)
  • Therapy/acupuncture/yoga/etc $200 (New recent expense as of last couple months since my job has been so stressful, I alternate between these.  If I was working less wouldn’t need as much)
  • My basic monthly COL $1570

My finance and I keep finances separate at this point (though share deets with each other) and plan to going into the marriage. We have $13k saved in a separate account towards our upcoming wedding. This should easily cover the wedding, rings, and even honeymoon (which we are taking this summer before the wedding since we are so stressed) with a couple thousand left over.  We are doing heavy DIY for it.

In terms of our future, we are both interested in working in national or other parks as a seasonal job, though it’s not something we want to rely on at this point.  We are also both ok with individually “retiring” on our own schedule, since our finances are so different.  We do NOT want kids so don’t have to plan for that.

Questions:

  1. How much does buying the $40k tow vehicle now (out of brokerage/savings) slow things down for my fiance?
  2. How close is he to FIRE?
  3. How close am I to baristaFIRE, making conservative estimate of $12k a year (easy to do with combo of bank bonuses, music gigs, and occasional acupuncture/etc work).  I plan to work in that manner indefinitely since I like it.  Biggest reason for me not to work a “job” is schedule flexibility.

Thank you so much for your resources!

None-Typical-FIRE

A plumber and an acupuncturist/musician! There you go, readers, as non-typical a FIRE couple as you can get. Nice. First of all, congrats on NTF’s fiance’s excellent POT score. As we like to say in Quit Like a Millionaire, “don’t follow your passion (yet). Follow the POT.” and it looks like it’s paid off for him.

Before we jump into NTF’s questions, there are several alarming things that jump out at me.

Acupuncture Student Loan

They charged you HOW MUCH for your acupuncture certification? $204K is insane—I know dentists with lower student loans!

I don’t even know where to begin, but this just represents everything that’s wrong with the “for profit” college system. If that college actually had some skin the game (like Wanderer suggested) and was responsible for you actually finding a well-paying job or having to forgive the loan, you bet your ass they wouldn’t have been blindly making up numbers like that.

I feel for you, I really do. Because at this point, there is no way you’ll be able to pay back that loan with your salary. Using PAYE to reduce your payments down to $0 and having the loan forgiven is the only way.

EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan)

For those of you who don’t know what the EIDL is, it’s a government loan program that helps people survive natural disasters—covid-19, in this case—and sole proprietors like NTF can apply. For loans received in 2021, payments are deferred for 18 months.

Now, I know this FEELs like free money, but it’s a LOAN, not a grant. So NTF still has to pay it back with interest. NTF says she has a high interest savings account paying 4-6%, which is very surprising, since banks like Ally are paying 0.5% right now. Or maybe the 4-5% interest in the HISA is a limited time offer, at which point, it’ll drop, and she’ll be losing money from the loan interest of 3.75%.

So this loan is a debt in her net worth calculation, not “checkings/savings”.

Upcoming Wedding costs

NTF mentions setting aside $13,000 for wedding costs. Good for them for saving this big chunk of money, but here’s the thing. Your fiancé is planning to switch careers. I get that it’s not safe and he wants to switch based on that, but with any career change, not only will you lose earning potential when you’re training for the new career, you’ll also be starting at the bottom of a new career ladder and earn far less money for a while. Not only that, but a new career may also not be safe. I thought being an engineer was super safe—until I saw my co-worker collapse and almost die at his desk from the stress of working 14 hour days for 3 years straight. Every career has its pros and cons.

I’m not saying he shouldn’t switch careers, but it’s not something to be done on a whim, and if you’re going to do that, you need to set money aside.

Also, with the pandemic shutting big venues down, this is the perfect opportunity to have a low-key wedding and put that money towards your portfolio or training for a new career (assuming you calculated the POT score and it makes sense).

If you’re stressed, think about ways to do “staycations” for your honeymoon instead with a small splurge for the weekend at a cabin.  

Okay, now on to their net worth summary:

Summary:

Mr. NTF

Gross Income:$70,000 (previously), $22,000 (now)
Expenses:$1752/month or $21,024/year
Debt:0
Investible Assets:$299,950 (taxable brokerage) + $15,840 (401K) + $4400 (Roth) + $14,000 (checking/savings) = $334,190
Property:$130,000 (0.95 re-estate agent fee) – $20,600 (remaining mortgage) = $102,900

Mrs. NTF:

Gross Income:~$56,000
Expenses:$1570/month or $18,840/year, $1497 (without EIDL loan) or $17,964/year
Debt:$204,000 (student loan) + $14,800 (EIDL) = $218,800
Investible Assets:$35,970 (Solo401k) + $8,649 (SEP IRA) + $1914 (Roth) + $13,770 (Trad IRA) + $6354 (HSA) + $4418 (taxable brokerage) + $2440 (Crypto)  + ($17,000-14,800) (checking/savings – EIDL)= $75,715

 

How Close is He to FIRE?

Based on his current yearly expense of $21,024/year, he’ll need a portfolio size of $525,600 to generate that passive income.

Currently, he has investible assets of $334,190. At his old salary of $70,000/year, since they live in the state of Pennsylvania, his net salary would be an estimated $51,287, this means his savings rate would be $30,263/year or 59%.

This means, to get to FI, it would take:

YearStartingContributionsROI (6%)Total
1334,19030,26321867.18386320.18
2386320.1830,26324994.9908441578.171
3441578.17130,26328310.4702500151.641
4500151.64130,26331824.8785562239.52

Slightly less than 4 years, assuming his salary keeps up with inflation.

BUT, that was at the old salary. With the new salary, the number changes significantly.

With the $22,000/year salary, he won’t be able to put any money into the portfolio so at this new salary he can’t afford to retire.

So, what if he bought a $40K tow and sold his property to live in it, Nomadland style ? How would that change the numbers?

Buying and Living in the Camper

Buying the camper would immediately eat up $40,000 of his portfolio, but if he sells his house, that can free up $967/month that no longer has to go towards mortgage and taxes. AND on top of that, he can free up $102,900 of equity that’s locked up in the house.

This would bring his cost of living from $1752/month or $21,024/year down to $785/month or $9,420/year. And his portfolio would go up from $334,190 to $334,190 + $102,900 – $40,000 = $397,090. He would only need a portfolio size of $9420 *25 = $235,500.

Which means he would be FI right now!

That would be super helpful in giving him the ability switch careers by having the portfolio cover his expenses while he lives in the van and saves money on mortgage and taxes.

That being said, he also mentioned he doesn’t want to live in a camper van forever, so he would need to continue working, at least seasonal jobs, to earn enough money to buy a house again in the future.

Okay, so that’s him. What about her?

How Close is She to BaristaFIRE?

Given that she needs $1497/month (after subtracting the monthly EIDL loan payment) or $17,964/year to live on, that means she will need a portfolio size of $17,964 *25 = $449,100.

With an estimated after-tax salary of $42,417, that means her saving rate is around $24,453/year or 58%. That’ll likely vary since her side gigs and self-employed income fluctuates so she will need to update this calculation yearly.

With a starting portfolio size of $75,715 (assuming she uses PAYE for her $204K student loan and pays back the EIDL), it would take her:

YearStartingContributionsROI (6%)Total
175,71524,4536010.08106178.08
2106178.0824,4537837.8648138468.945
3138468.94524,4539775.31669172697.261
4172697.26124,45311829.0157208979.277
5208979.27724,45314005.9366247438.214
6247438.21424,45316313.4728288204.687
7288204.68724,45318759.4612331417.148
8331417.14824,45321352.2089377222.357
9377222.35724,45324100.5214425775.878
10425775.87824,45327013.7327477242.611

Less than 10 years (assuming her salary grows yearly to offset inflation).

But, since she has that giant student loan hanging over her head (and who knows what will happen to student loans in the next 30 years), and she’s willing to continue working side hustles or seasonal jobs, earning an estimated $12K/year indefinitely, it’s better to look at BaristaFIRE (the idea of continuing to work “Barista”-like jobs instead of fulling retiring) to have some extra cushioning.

With a yearly earnings of $12K/year, her take home pay would be $10,243, which would cover 54% of her living expenses.

That means she would need the portfolio to cover the remaining $17,964 – $10,243 = $7721/year which would require a portfolio size of $193,025.

Which means she would be “BaristaFIRE in”:

YearStartingContributionsROI (6%)Total
175,71524,4536010.08106178.08
2106178.0824,4537837.8648138468.945
3138468.94524,4539775.31669172697.261
4172697.26124,45311829.0157208979.277

Less than 4 years!

So there you have it, NTF. If your fiance went back to his plumber job and continues earning $60-70K a year, he would be FI in 4 years at his current spending level. If he buys a camper and actually LIVES in it (not just for fun) and sells the house, he would be FI right the hell now! But, he would eventually need to go back to work if he wants to buy a house again in the future. Do he want to stop working or own a house? Pick one, not both.

And you would become BaristaFIRE in 4 years if you can continue to earn at least $42,400/year after taxes, and if your salary increases with inflation and you keep your expenses the same.

Be careful about your spending though, because when I hear things like “$13K for a wedding” and “$40K for a camper” (that you may not actually live in) and “$204K of debt”, I get pretty skeptical about whether you can continue to maintain your current standard of living. Don’t just give in to impulse decisions like quitting a job or buying a camper (unless you actually plan to live in it and sell the house) without MATHING THAT SHIT UP first!

What do you guys think? Should Mr. NTF buy the camper and sell the house? Should Mrs.NTF work towards BaristaFIRE? What would you do?


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20 thoughts on “Reader Case: Not Your Typical FIRE Couple”

  1. “My fiancé was earning $60-70k/yr as a plumber and quit his job right before the pandemic- whoops? He got through the year without having to dip into savings by working as a delivery driver. He went back to work as a plumber but soon found himself again in unsafe situations, and not being paid in full, and left…Last year he earned $22k…”

    Dude. This plumber needs to go back to work *as a plumber* and stop quitting jobs on a whim. That is your clear path to financial success.

    1. Right. He should find a reputable company to work for, one that values employee safety and pays on time. He’s 45 so he should try to suck it up for another 5 years and shoot for retiring at 50.
      Now he has some glorious math courtesy of Firecracker & Wanderer to guide him in future decisions.

    2. No one should have to die for a paycheck, and everyone who works should be paid in full for the work as promised by the employer.

      I will admit that it’s better to have a job, even a poor one, than no job from the point of view of your financial situation but at the same time, staying there is telling your employer that what they’re doing to you is absolutely A-OK. This will hurt not only you but any employees who come after you.

  2. OP here- BTW couple small things since my original post was quite wordy:

    -We live in NJ not PA (I work in PA though)

    -My acupuncture school debt was $160k at graduation (2015) but has since grown to $204k as of now (2021). This included living expenses and tuition for 12 semesters of study (I finished slightly early), as well as board exam expenses. It was a mid-priced, definitely not high-end school. Still it’s a lot of money. I thought I was doing the right thing after the last recession, going from music into medicine.

    The school told us expect 6 figures, and most of my colleagues are not making that. Some get close but that’s gross and net take home is more like $40-60k. Others are making 6 figs, but live in a much higher COL city than I do. Few rare ones hit the jackpot to be sure (combo of luck/hard work). 2All in all I am doing pretty ok comparatively as long as I keep my AGI down. There aren’t a lot of full-time jobs in this field so most acupuncturists are considered self-employed (either work for themselves or 1099 contractor), usually working for a couple different places. It is definitely changing for the better, however.

    -When I calculate amount I should save for student loans based on the 6% interest rate you use above, it looks like saving $150/month is adequate to have $50k by 2036 (when the taxes would be due), I’m not clear why the loan advisor said to save $400 a month. That would cut my monthly expenses by $250.

    -We are planning to have about $7k left over after all of our wedding spending (wedding/rings- which we are making ourselves with a blacksmith, very stoked on this/honeymoon AKA burnout recovery. There is no way we are not travelling this summer, travel/being outdoors is SO important to us. We will visit family and friends too on that trip).

    -We have a lot of these ~5% savings accounts, usually you can put $1000 in each of them. Some I’ve used in bank bonuses too. It’s still unclear what you can use EIDL money for or not so I’ve erred on the side of caution.

    -I think people often overlook the amount of physical intensity in some of the trades. When I talk to my fiance’s friends/family in those professions, they are all suffering from a lot of health issues. I notice this too in my patients in these fields, many of whom start having these issues in their 20s. I really was grateful that I spent my 20s as a broke but mostly happy musician (though I wish I wasn’t SO ignorant of retirement concepts, literally thought retirement meant simiply “not working”. I never heard of a 401k, IRAs etc before couple years ago). And then spent some time after medical school in my 30s travelling (I did medical volunteering, working on a cruise ship, and some long distance hikes).

    Working on the cruise ship was really sad, I would meet all these people who had saved up their whole lives for these trips and then be in pain/poor health, going on a tour for a few hours would wipe them out. I’ve family members in the same situation who prioritized work over health. I think there’s a balance between living life now and saving to have more freedom. So I really understand where my fiance is coming from, not wanting to mess up his back more than it already is.

    -Mental health is real, y’all. If you blow that it’s going to be hard to work at all.

    -Lastly wanted to say that going full Nomadland isn’t so crazy for us. I’ve done a few thru hikes and lived for 2.5 years in a van during med school. My fiance has camped enough that he is ok with it too. I’ve suggested renting the house if we did that (I’ve experience running an airbnb) which opens up more income possibilities. But we aren’t there yet.

    1. Since Mr. NTF is willing to adjust his lifestyle to make up for the difference in income, I think he can make the choice whether to switch careers or not. Some jobs like plumbing do take a toll on the body and health, kudos to him for keeping at it for so long.

      I wonder if the loan officer suggested $400/month instead of $150/month because loan amortization uses different math? There’s may be some online calculators or a second opinion that can help calculate the projected value of the loan when it’s forgiven. At any rate, if you save $400/month in a brokerage account, and have some left over, so much the better–that will still factor in to your net worth 😉 Make sure those student loans get forgiven, I’ve heard stories of people getting stiffed from some loan forgiveness programs, and that’s the last thing anyone needs. Good luck on your FIRE journeys!

  3. Great article. I have another few thoughts on Mr. NTF situation:
    Mortgage – pay off remaining mortgage balance that costs $592/month. This translates to a reduction of expenses from $1,752 to monthly expenses of $1,160. At this monthly expenses he would need $13,920 a year or using the 25x rule = $348,000. He’s at 334,490 and would need another $12k to be FI. This way he keeps his house for the future. He could also finance the 40k truck and rent out his house while he travels at $800/month or more which would potential cover his new truck and all his monthly expenses without touching other investments. He could continue to invest the surplus and other earnings back into his investments, then after he’s done traveling move back into the home and be FI.

    1. Zach is this exactly what I was thinking when reading this. On top of your points, property often has a great return, but buying and selling it is expensive and should be avoided if possible, (unless there is a reason that the property will underperform Index funds). For me personally property has been a fantastic investment and outperformed my index funds even after properly considering all property related expenses that many miss.

  4. How much weight the 18ft towable camper? Not sure why you would need a 40K truck to tow it. It probably can easily be towed by a Jeep Cherokee V6 at 4500 pounds or a half ton pickup truck, both being around 15 to 20K slightly used, maybe even less in the USA… Also, I think the analysis of selling the house and living in the camper forgot the cost of maintaining said camper and the truck, camping fees, dump stations, extra fuel, propane, etc.

  5. To begin with, acupuncture school is not medical school. Medical school produces a real Medical Doctor who can save lives with surgical and emergency skills. Acupuncture does not fall into that skill set.

    Another thing that really caught my eye here is the plumber who quit his job. He needs to be working and if he stays out of the work force much longer he will find it much harder to find work. He’s in his 40s and those are the prime earning years. Get a job with a reputable company who will pay him.

    No one should impulsively quit a job because it’s “unsafe”. Look for another one first.

    All my older relatives have pain/health issues. None of them worked physically or mentally taxing jobs. I know vegans who eat organic and exercise regularly who have wound up with cancer. Unfortunately, a lot can happen with natural aging. There are no guarantees no matter what kind of job or lifestyle you have.

    $13,000 for a wedding is ridiculous.

    Firecracker has some excellent advice and I hope it is seriously considered.

    1. I agree, see below. There is a lot to do to keep oneself safe, and yes, there are many unsafe careers. Like the military, mining, first line responders…it goes with the territory sometimes. My spouse’s line of work is often not safe (welders next to epoxy and poor ventilation, fiberglass – nasty). We have exit strategies – and yes, we have agreed for him to quit a job suddenly, when there was an egregious safety incident (wet slate roof and summer help with no harness falls, husband saves him from a 3 story drop to a stone patio…). But he is back at work – elsewhere – in less than a month. I respect him immensely for this.

      Make your money and set yourself up so that you and your new wife are not just safe, but SECURE.

  6. I am sorry. I am probably in the teensy weensy minority here: i feel these two need Dave Ramsey. Desperately. This may sound harsh, and please know it is said with love (my spouse and I are about your age, he works construction and has a “time limit” on the physical aspect plus safety issues…and we both have followed atypical career and lifestyle paths).

    Look. You have to face reality. I’m actually impressed with the math in some respects, but…here goes.

    He’s been great with his money and (sounds like) he has this smart, fun new fiancé and wants to start enjoying. I get it! Hence, the $40K tralala off into a camper idea. Dude. I get it. You’re due for a change. Do it responsibly.

    She’s got a student loan that is growing like a mushroom, rationalizations and reasons for “why” the post-degree income doesn’t match what is needed to pay off and is counting on loan forgiveness, among other things like grasping at the disaster loan option. (Face palm. Never trust them!!)

    1. I would work 16 million jobs and pay off the loan. BUT – here is the kicker – after you’re married, YOU DON’T HAVE TO (work the jobs). My take is: You signed for it. You owe it. You’re almost 40. Big girl pants go on. And I am not banking MY future on loan forgiveness- it is growing too fast, and I do not trust politicians to fix my life. Very very very few have had their loans forgiven. Your loan amount has to be making you sick – I would feel nauseous and want to get myself out from under that yoke ASAP. It can be done between the two of you.

    2. For example, $200 for yoga? Please let’s find a free option. Walk in the park, online class, this is $2400/year after tax dollars. You owe over $200K. The solution to stress is to get some traction in achieving freedom in your lives.

    3. You’re so fortunate to be able to think outside of the box – living in a camper. So. I *might* consider the following:
    – get married on the cheap. Staycation honeymoon – you’re broke!!!
    – do not under any circumstances cash in retirement.
    – in the meantime, you are working like crazy people and living on nothing – pay off the loans.
    – crypto (ugh) and non retirement moneys and leftover from the now uber-frugal wedding/honeymoon fund get thrown at the debt. Poof. No more debt ($110K from house+crypto+her non-retirement+say $10K from wedding fund+about $90K from his taxable and her taxable – you have plenty – suck it up and use your resources, pay the capital gains…).
    – then buy cheaper camper or diy one since he’s in the trades – barter maybe…PAY cash for it.
    – live in the camper – sell house, pay off the rest of the loan with the house.
    proceeds.
    – start married life free and clear, no expenses hardly and no need to work like dogs for idiots in crummy conditions.
    – each year, max out your Roth’s (assuming you have enough earned income, and you’d better! 😉 from the taxable account. There is no downside, imho. You also could max out HSAs if you’re eligible. Invest all that money into index funds at low expense ratio, low turnover funds and allow it to grow.

    At your ages (our ages +/- 1 year) I would treat retirement accounts as a little herd of sacred cows. Do. Not. Touch, let them grow, or else you are risking a horribly, limited retirement. You do not have kids to fall back on!!

    Continue to work as you choose, save a little more, and set it aside for a future house or fund to pay rent with. Explore, enjoy your new marriage together, and see where life takes you. You won’t owe a soul.

    1. The problem with Dave Ramsey is he is too debt adverse. He would rather you burn yourself out to pay it off and then “oh wait” next start saving for retirement. For some student debts this isn’t a big deal, but if you are talking six figure debt this is an unachievable goal with her salary. PAYE is the way. Some folks, such as myself, didn’t give much thought to their student debt until YEARS into their career. At that point, the thought of working MORE in a field you need time away from for your mental health is not a helpful solution. Focusing on building your portfolio enough so it covers that student loan payment/tax bomb in the future.

      1. I don’t agree. My spouse and I are “debt averse” – okay, we hate it with a passion, it’s never helped us for sure. We see it hurt Many Many people.

        I’ll just say, too, in the Ramsey camp, consider their debt free screams as examples over the years, and it’s clear that loads of people pay off similar debt with similar income. Combined his and hers prior income makes it reasonable. Easy? No. But it’s a little difficult to hear “I want my schedule flexibility” with that level of debt.

        Paying it off is empowering. Plus, this discussion is beyond ridiculous because: ****They CAN pay it off with assets they have, combined.***
        So. Why is PAYE the way to go? The debt is growing! If loan forgiveness falls through for Any reason, now they have even bigger problems.

        And discussing loan forgiveness with that level of assets, and considering a $40,000 truck upgrade? Um, priorities people.

        1. You have valid points. Their priorities seem a tad maligned, but hey this is their money and life. FIREcracker has mathed their shit up and it seems they can make it without the ole Ramsey way. You are not taking into account that they are already approaching burn out, so she has said. When you are burned out and have that amount of student loans you don’t take your growing assets with penalties and taxes owed to pay off a sum that will be forgiven. Sure we can debate about not trusting politicians to have loan forgiveness but that is just more risk aversion than probability. Student loan forgiveness will probably occur in 20 years, taxes on that forgiven amount may/may not happen. You have to decide how quickly (realistically) could that amount be paid off and is it worth the time value that money invested could be earning interest/dividends. I say as an almost 40 year old she’s already behind on retirement assets so depleting that would be unwise. If the stars align and her job starts producing more income or she is no longer burned out then maybe it makes sense to plow away the debt. Some people are ok with a student loan debt that only grows as long as they pay a minimum. Ask a veterinarian with 300k or 500k student loan debt 😉

          1. Oh, thank you for the discussion!!

            I hear you! My equine vet was “stuck doing small animals” – lol – to pay down her loans. She’s a hoot. It’s a different beast when you spend about a decade in school…

            Truth 😇: you start from where you are. Everybody runs their own race.

            NFT’s letter really resonates with me, because in our household, we have similar dynamics in some ways
            – one potentially high earner and one person in the trades (days on that type of job are numbered)
            – potentially higher earner is alternative- minded and not a fan of the daily 7-4:30 + take work home grind
            – one who spent extra years in school and so missed out on years of retirement…and then hits the workforce to face mental burnout in <10 years
            – the other started with no retirement…and we met later in life
            – no kids aka cheaper now, no Plan B to move in with kid when I’m 95.

            The only reason we are where we are (secure, retirement is done, no debts – not FIREed but we can do what within reason) is that we banded together when we got married.

            Truth: It was stress, burn after the burnout…with short breaks (yay!), and it was totally worth it. We had a mission, and it feels fabulous to be on the other side.

            I think the NFTs can do *some* aspects of their plan…such as recover if they throw assets at the debt and boost retirement afterwards, but not this AND quit jobs to be pseudo nomads.

            Mainly, I – personal choice – would face down burnout to avoid banking on loan forgiveness. Running in terror. There are too many what if’s to list and there is no viable recovery if it does happen as they plan. They would die with it, and that would scare the bejesus out of me.

            Their ideas – to me – are too risky at 40. Granted, I am conservative. I think about actual retirement and senior living, not only FIRE…very conscious of Not Eating Catfood or being on Medicaid in a Medicaid facility in my old age – I’ve seen it…and that is much too old a topic for this blog! 🙊.

            These two need time to recoup and let the investments grow. No need for boring careers, I do think they can work on their own terms (like we do)…but we would get ourselves situated for that, first. They’re mature enough in life to think about contingency plans – possibly a strength of Mr. NFT in this duo, as he already mentioned a house post-RV extravaganza.

  7. OK..as soon as I saw $200K+ in student loans, I had to reread multiple times to find the part I missed about the million dollar trust fund/inheritance.. and nope, I never found it.
    …..Sometimes a doctor needs to tell a terminal patient that they have no hope…this person is a terminal FIRE patient…there’s no way it’s ever gonna happen.

    My initial though was that they should do the right thing and let the fiancé go. This poor fellow doesn’t deserve to have his life ruined as a slave to someone else’s student debt…..but, his apparent willy-nilly work history, as a plumber no less, I’m kinda thinking there’s more to the story. My guess is that he’s totally disillusioned and also see’s no hope. He’s at a decision point in his life. The camping/traveling with a trailer is probably his escape plan. His plan is to hit the open road and ditch her (and her debt) so he can figure things out and ultimately live his own life.

    Alternatively, should my cynicism prove me wrong(which never happens), the only real shot at FIRE (as a couple), and it’s a long shot, is if the fiancé can pull it together and parlay his plumbing skills into a deep $ix-figure income (totally doable)…but, he’s got to want it.

    …’bottom line,, the fiancé is on track to FIRE should he choose, but if they stay together, this poor guy’s not retiring until he’s in his 70’s !

  8. LOL. Crypto -$2440. You know that story about when to recognize an investment bubble? It’s when your cab driver starts talking about it. Or in this case you know crypto is a massive bubble when a person massively indebted owns it. If anyone still has crypto, I would suggest selling when the markets next open

    1. Yes!! I heard it was advice from your shoe shine boy (ok, that was The Great Depression).

      We’ve had this discussion in my house. Our plumber last week said he put $100 in Doge (did I spell that right? 😂). He’s been doing a Roth IRA for years, he’ll be fine. He couldn’t resist – I understand! The only thing I could offer him was: if it runs up and he gets some massive gain, sell it back down to his original amount – like opening the tap…to limit his risk.

      Exciting times! Right now, we are all investing geniuses! 😎

  9. This whole post gives me massive anxiety for these people. I just feel like they need to be realistic about their situation. Unfortunately they have made decisions that have not/will not work in their favor. The plumber… look for a new company and see if you can stick with it. Continue to save and invest. The musician/acupuncturist… I don’t know what to say about your situation. On the whole, don’t waste a whole $13k on a wedding. That’s foolish. It should be about the marriage and celebrating your love for one another, not about having a flashy shindig, especially considering your situation. It’s time for you both to live frugally otherwise I feel like you can kiss retirement goodbye all together. Thankfully I feel like your decision to not have children will cut back on those expenses. Best of luck but please take the time to have a heart to heart with the reality of your situation.

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