Escaping The American Trap

Escaping The American Trap

When Ms. Blue Ribbon and I were married we quickly fell into the American Dream Trap. We got our mortgage, new (financed) car, and extra loan (because we could). Everything was just as it was supposed to be. We were even starting to spend more a month than we were taking in.

Having a Why

That’s when it happened, our turning point. Ms. Blue Ribbon and I had a baby, Mini Donut.

This was our catalyst.

I kept trying to make our current spending habits work. The stress and anxiety just built up and up. Not sure where to start I began talking to a really good friend about money.

Slowly we opened up to each other about our debt. He had a decent chunk of student loan debt and a car loan. He was attacking his student loan debt with all of his extra income. We would talk off and on every month discussing more and more until one day he sent me a link to Mr. Money Mustache. He was even kind enough to add the note, “Check out this crazy guy. I doubt this is really possible though.”

That is when it all changed. My friend was right, that guy was crazy…crazy awesome. This is what we needed to work and was exactly what I wanted!

From there it was Dave Ramsey, Budgets are Sexy, Afford Anything… the list just gets a lot longer. I formulated a plan for how to attack these bad habits and get rid of our debt. Once the debt was gone we would be off to the path to financial independence (FI).

While we are much better off now and have so much more knowledge about finances the important part is that we started the journey. It wasn’t until recently that I was thinking back to when we started all of this trying to figure out why.

Sometimes in life why you do something can be quickly forgotten. Especially when you get caught up in the journey.

Making The How

We were starting to lose our path to FI by letting our retirement contributions slip. When I realized we were slipping I course corrected and made a plan we could stick to. The plan was even a conservative estimate with us being able to quit by the time we were in our mid-40s.

I had to remind myself that my son set us on this journey. By remembering why we started it helps us stay focused on this path.

The other side is knowing what you are running to and why exactly I want to retire early.

My immediate reaction when others ask this is that I see other older software developers in the market that haven’t become managers or moved into the business side and they are either awesome or they just seem sick of it all. I’d rather not be pushing myself to learn new technologies and practices for another 36.5 years.

I have the how (meticulously planned contribution strategy) and the why (worried I won’t be able to keep up with trends) but I was still lacking the “what am I running to?”

To What?

By the time we are financially independent and able to retire early my kids will be much older. I won’t be able to just stay home with them, they’ll be in high school. If memory serves, no one wants to hang out with their parents then!

I realized what I wanted to run to the other day.

There is a major construction project happening on the highway near my work. I can go to a set of windows and see the massive trucks driving around. For some reason I found myself drawn to the windows regularly.

“Wouldn’t it be interesting to drive a dump truck?” (dumper truck if you ask my son)

That’s when it hit me. What I really want and I’ve always loved about life is trying new things.

Wouldn’t it be cool to work at a coffee shop for a while or a bagel shop? I could spend my retirement working odd jobs. (Think sort of like the show Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe).

Now armed with my how, why and for what I am even more motivated than before. I am so excited for Early Retirement!


What was your moment to strive to be debt free or financially independent? What are you running to if you do retire early?

24 thoughts on “Escaping The American Trap

  1. My husband is one of those developers who doesn’t care to move into management or business. He doesn’t have the personality for it and has no interest in it. That’s one reason why we save so much now, he has a good salary now but will he in 10 years when Cloud cools or competition gets harder as they pump out more grads?

    Finding FI and PF is probably the best thing that has happened because it gives us more control over the future.

    1. I definitely don’t like the idea of being a manager. The only other option is to become an architect and that sounds like too much stress and responsibilities. I’d be happy just coding and mentoring until FIRE.

  2. We had a little over a month off of work when we moved from MN to CO in 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We were able to get back into old hobbies, hit the gym regularly, and still have enough time to spend at home together. This was our “aha!” moment; we made a commitment to become debt free and financially independent so we could spend our lives as we wanted instead of being trapped in the rat race forever. Great post!

  3. Engineers definitely need to go for FIRE as a second option. Our shelf life is getting shorter all the time. Most of my friends from college are out of engineering now (20 years.) Management or tech marketing are good alternatives if you can handle it. I’m glad I went for FI, though. Life is awesome. 🙂

    1. I talked to a younger co-worker for an hour about FIRE the other day. He told me he was ok working until 65. I said that may be true now but what about later? What about the fact that you may need the option to get out later?
      Then he opened a Vanguard Roth and maxed it out.
      I can’t wait for FI ?

  4. I don’t think I thought much about FIRE until the past couple of years. I first started reading Get Rich Slowly to learn about finances but I honestly just enjoyed playing the stock market. So I was single focused on investments for a long time so it wasn’t until recently that I really started to branch out and learn a lot more 🙂

  5. My reason for FIRE is to make sure work is optional when my parents and in laws turn 80 (that’s when things start to deteriorate I find for elderly). Being part of the sandwich generation while working full-time for me would be quite difficult. Congrats on the paternity leave- I am on maternity leave as of, now, it’s great!

  6. Lifestyle inflation got us too! The turning point for us was when we paused to consider we were making a few hundred thousand per year but spending most of it living in a million dollar home, boating, and extravagant vacations (among other things). We decided to sell the waterfront place, boat, etc. and pay cash for a small place. It was such a freeing move! As much as I loved living on the water, we have zero regrets.

    1. I told Ms Blue Ribbon the only thing left for us would be to sell the house and move to a duplex, renting out one side. She said we can just wait for the kids to get out of daycare before we go full bore. ?

  7. Retired life as Mike Rowe doesn’t sound half bad. A new job is always scary for a short time, then interesting and exciting for a while, than gets boring. But Mike Rowe gets to do all the interesting stuff right away and then move on!

  8. This sounds very interesting! Just try out new things, and if you don’t like it anymore.. switch things up a bit. I’ve noticed I like trying out new things as well. Not having a ‘set’ plan doesn’t sounds to bad in this perspective!

  9. My turning point was my 30th birthday and another 30 years of working on the horizon. It was terrifying.

    Then I stumbled across Millennial Revolution and Mr Money Mustache. And sure enough my outlook changed overnight.

    We are on track to retire in less than 10 years. I would love to travel for a number of years and then own a Christmas tree farm. Nuts, I know!

    1. Oh god. Never thought about 30 more years. When I read that number I want FIRE more!
      Glad you are so close and like I told a friend who is a year from being debt free, “bet you will get there faster ?”

  10. I’m with you! I keep thinking “what if I just coached high school sports” or “worked part time at x, y, or z”? If you haven’t checked it out, it kind of aligns with the “Fully Funded Lifestyle Change” that the folks over at Slowly Sipping Coffee have written about 🙂

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