Rockies 2015

I think it’s important before we get too far into how we are retiring early, that people understand my husband and I are derived from completely average backgrounds. I’m a normal 34 year old (soon to be 35!) who has no special circumstances that would allow me to retire early. My husband is 35 doesn’t have any magic income either. If  he and I can make this retirement plan happen, then  you can too. Below is proof that I am just as average and normal as any other person!


I Grew Up in a Small Town That Didn’t have much in terms of Opportunity

I grew up in a town of 13,000 people in Northeast Wisconsin. Milwaukee was the closest city with over 1 million people and that was 90 minutes away. Milwaukee was the only city in the state that had skyscrapers. The tallest building where I grew up was a factory that was about 6 stories tall. There wasn’t a mall in my hometown, not even a Walmart, and the nearest moderately sized airport was 45 miles away in Green Bay. (I am being very liberal with “moderately sized”.)

I’ll be honest that I absolutely 100% did not like living in the town where I grew up. It was small and there wasn’t much in terms of opportunity for careers. Everyone looked the same, worked the same jobs, drove the same cars. I knew at a young age I wanted to travel more than I wanted to work.  I didn’t want to be like everyone else. But, I knew no one in my hometown that wanted those same things, let alone did them. (If there are early retirees in my hometown, please feel free to let me know. I never heard of any and with how small that town is, I think I would have heard.) So when I was 19, I moved away for college and never looked back.

Bustling streets in my hometown! Even the Pizza Hut is gone now.

My Parents Were Not Rich

My parents both worked in local factories performing labor intensive jobs. They still do. Factory wages allowed my parents to live comfortably but they are far from rich. My parents are on par to retire just a few years before my husband and I do. They’ll be in their mid 60s when they retire, which is pretty normal. Factory jobs were the most common jobs in the town where I grew up.

Most people in my hometown didn’t have college degrees and nearly everyone’s parents worked factory jobs. My parents woke up early every morning to punch the clock by 6am. It was not the norm to be in management in my town. There was, and still is, a clear divide between factory workers and office workers. Of the two options, even as a small child, I wanted to be an office worker. Wearing fancy clothes and being in charge of the work being done sounded much more appealing. Ideally, I wanted to be my own boss and control my own schedule.

My Mom and I in Colorado

I Was the First Person in my Family to Graduate College

This is something I’m extremely proud about in terms of accomplishments. I was the very first person on my mom’s side to graduate college. I was third in-line on my dad’s side after my two slightly older cousins. Since I was the first person to attend and graduate college on my mom’s side, I went into college not knowing what to expect or how to take advantage of certain things like internships. I certainly didn’t understand anything related to college debt or what I’d have to pay off after I graduated. My parents did help me with college, but I ended up falling in love with a man who was over $100,000 in debt from college, so he had enough debt for us both 🙂

I left college like most people do, with some debt and very little idea on how to budget or live like an adult. When I got my first real job out of college all I could think about was how much money I’d have to spend. Turns out the real world is much more expense than I thought. FYI, my husband worked as musician and then as a help-desk technician, so we were not rolling in the dough.

I did not like paying bills, still don’t. Using money for travel and fun was not possible when I was in my mid-twenties. Yep, it was a bummer. I remember talking with my husband about how we’d ever have enough money to do the things we wanted to do in life. We were in our mid-twenties and hadn’t even thought about retirement at that point. But we came up with a plan to make our money work for us. He shared my dream of traveling around and being in control of our time and finances.


I Started as a Bedside RN and Paved my own way into the Corporate World

Nursing is a rewarding profession a lot of the time, but it’s not glamorous and nurses certainly don’t get rich working bedside. I worked at the bedside for several years when I worked in a hospital’s pediatric oncology unit and later in the pediatric emergency room. For five years, I missed Christmas with my family. I missed New Years Eve out with my husband. I missed many weekend activities. After a while, it got old. I didn’t want my life to be controlled by someone else’s schedule. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

I thought, hey, the front office people work normal hours and get all holiday and weekends off. Plus they make more money. So I decided that’s what I wanted to do. No one said to me, hey want to go work in administration? I asked to do it and talked to my managers,  joined committees, and networked like hell. And when I found an opportunity to move into healthcare compliance and have a normal 9 to 5 job, I took it. I had absolutely zero qualifications. However, I learned I was actually pretty decent at figuring out what people were doing wrong. (Also, the flexible 40 hour work week is amazing and I make way more money now than I did!)

Hard at work as a nurse!

I Never Received an Inheritance or Other Lump Sum

I have heard people say that my husband or I must have inherited money in order to retire early. The short answer here is that we have never received a giant lump sum of money. We’ve both lost family members during our 13 years together, which has been awful. But we’ve never profited from a loss or received a penny from an inheritance. I’d rather keep people alive than get money anyway! Within the past few years, we lost my grandma pictured below. I wear her ring everyday and would never sell it and I’d actually give money to have her back.

The money we have in our accounts is from our own hard work. It’s from paying off debt, buying properties, and investing in stocks and ETFs. How did I learn about investing? Books from the library, which we rented for free.

Grandma Barb and I on my wedding day in 2013

My Family did not Own Rental Properties

My husband and I didn’t have families that did any of the things that we currently do. Neither of our parents owned rental properties growing up. My parents own one house. It’s the one where I grew up and the one where they still live today. My husband and I certainly did not receive an instruction manual on how to make money or have people pay our bills through buying real estate. In fact, a lot of people, including friends, thought we were crazy. You only hear horror stories about being a landlord. Thankfully, we don’t listen well to others when we want to do something. That’s the great thing about making life your own adventure.

No one taught us any of the things we know today. We learned them all through trial and error. However, I would love to help guide others down this path. It’s very much worth the hard work to have control of your life. We are well on our way to being our own bosses and it’s pretty awesome! So join me, on being an ordinary early retiree like me and my husband!

One of the many things I learned to love as an adult! Yep, our parents didn’t do this either.
Tags : early retirementmake it happennormal and retiringretire earlyyou can do it too

The author Jodine

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