We saved an unbelievable $85,000 last year! That is the most we've ever increased our savings in a single year. In May we it a big financial milestone: we had saved our way to a $200,000 nest egg. Then six months later we hit another amazing milestone. Thanks to our decent savings rate and strong stock market gains, our savings grew another $50,000, bringing our total savings to $250,000 by the end of the year.
(Update: As of January 24, 2018, we have increased our savings a full $100,000 compared to this time last year!!! Our current savings balance is $265,000.)
Until recently, I had never given much thought to what it would feel like to have six figures in the bank. In part that was because I never realized that that was a goal that I should have. Sure, I wanted to be well off and to retire to a life of leisure eventually, but it wasn’t until my late 20s that I internalized that saving was a verb and that it required actual action on my part.
GO FOR THE SMALL WINS
I first started saving in September 2011, setting aside the bare minimum required to get the company match. I did it mostly because I knew that not doing it would be giving up free money. Even with my economics background and my ability to calculate the future value of money on an actual, physical calculator, I did have a plan beyond getting that match. I was a single mom again and just felt lucky to be able to put away those few hundred dollars a month.
But little by little the contributions added up. Within a year I had saved my first $10,000, the most I’d ever managed to save in my entire life.
MAKE SAVINGS AUTOMATIC
I took an entirely hands-off approach to saving for retirement. The money was automatically withdrawn from my paycheck so I didn’t really feel it. Once it got to my retirement account it was split into a pre-defined mix of assets based on my projected retirement date.
Once a year when I received my annual raise, I would up the percentage of my income that went into savings. It was a painless way to increase my savings over time. Though I will admit that after a few years I did sometimes get frustrated that I still wasn’t quite able to afford some of the things that I wanted to include in my budget.
Automatically saving a certain percentage of our paychecks and pay raises was a core money philosophy for both Joseph and me, which made it a lot easier to keep it up once we moved in together.
PRIORITIZE SAVINGS OVER PAYING DOWN DEBT
This is a controversial stance, I know, but this is truly the thing that took us from $0 to over $250k in six years. No matter what else was going on with our finances (and we both came to the relationship with lots of debt), we always made sure to save first.
We had this lofty goal of being millionaires in our early 40s. If we structured our lives properly, we knew that we likely would be able to quit our jobs and nurture our passion projects for the rest of our lives. Once the pressure to make enough money to save for retirement and college for the kids was out of the way, we could focus on just making enough to support our early retirement lifestyle. Meanwhile, our nest egg would continue to grow thanks to the power of compound interest.
We weren’t willing to compromise our savings to get out of debt so we had to find other ways to increase our cashflow. We chose a combination of making more money and being more frugal to help us tackle our other financial goals.
HUSTLE TO MAKE MORE MONEY
You can’t save what you don’t earn. Saving money has gotten easier as we have increased our income over the years. Joseph and I have both doubled our income from our day jobs in the seven years we have been out of law school. Now we make six figures each doing work that we both love.
We dabbled in real estate for a bit as landlords but decided to sell the house after dealing with a nightmare tenant. Still, we made an extra $4,000 that year just in rental income alone.
Last year we delved into the side-hustle world when we started our Youtube channel and made $5,000 in its first year.
We didn’t start out trying to create another income stream. I was using it as a creative outlet to take my mind off of how much I hated my day job at the time. But it turned out that we loved making videos and, yes, also loved having the extra money during this financially demanding time of our lives. Saving for college, paying for daycare, caring for an over the hill house, and saving for retirement all at the same time is not cheap. Every little extra we bring in makes it that much easier.
KEEP SAVING NO MATTER WHAT
Staying committed to saving a little bit every single month without fail is a huge reason why we have been able to hit this financial milestone. Investing and saving for retirement is a long game. The market will rise and fall. We will face financial challenges in the years between now and retirement. We do our best to try to plan and prepare for potential financial disasters, but we always make saving a priority.