The Educator on FIOR (financial independence optional retirement) series is about sharing stories of all the ways educators are pursuing financial freedom. No matter the plan, timeline, or approach, I love showing what’s possible.
If you’re interested in sharing your story, just email me. I make it painless, I promise!
Today, I share the story of a special education teacher who is building wealth and family! Enjoy Crystal’s story.
Tell us about you.
My name is Crystal. I’m almost 30 and teach special education in a small city in Northern California. My partner teaches middle school in the same city. She made me promise I wouldn’t say her name so I will awkwardly refer to her as my partner. Her fault.
We met during our teacher program and moved here together then got married. We found the FIRE movement about two years ago. I don’t blog or anything but I’ve read so much I’m excited to write something.
What do/did you like most about working in education?
Almost everything. Learning has always been a passion of mine. I can’t believe I get paid to help others do it. The connections with the kids and other teachers gives me energy. My favorite part is watching a kid start to do something they couldn’t do before and get so excited about it. Unlocking that learning is everything. I’m lucky that I get to work with kids who have an extra hard time so that jump is even bigger.
What do/did you like least?
The systemic discrimination. Racism, ableism, classism. School is set up to send certain kids certain directions. I believe my district when they say they are working hard against it. So much of it happens even within the rules though. I work with kids on individualized education plans. Instead of supporting them everything is working against them. They get separated from other kids. Some teachers and paras don’t think they should be in classrooms or are only my responsibility. Latino kids in my school get identified more. It’s just obvious but it keeps happening. I get so frustrated but it also keeps me going.
What is your Why of Financial Independence? (Why are you learning about or seeking FI?)
Who doesn’t want to be financially independent? This is a weird question if you think about it but I guess not everyone does.
We want to be in control of our choices and having money gives you that.
- FI Curious – Just learning and becoming interested in financial independence
- Future FI – On the path, but still learning. Destined for financial independence!
- FI Success – Financially independent!
Future FI. We’ve got a long way to go but have learned so much in the past two years.
Share any financial numbers you are comfortable sharing:
We are both teachers and both have our Master’s in Education. Together we bring home $150,000 a year. We both get district stipends for extra duty but don’t side hustle or anything. I get extra paperwork pay and my partner coaches. Our money is all from being teachers.
We have about $60,000 in student loan debt but are going for public service loan forgiveness so just make the required payments. Fingers crossed it works and we’ll have it cancelled in four years.
We have no other debt. We paid off a car loan last year and paid down credit card debt two years ago. We rent. Health insurance is part of the job.
Our net worth is almost $200,000.
Tell us about your path to FI.
We only learned what FI was two years ago when my partner discovered Our Next Life. Maybe almost three years ago now. Turned out we had already been living a pretty good financial life before but had no clue how much more there was to think about. From there we both started reading and listening to podcasts.
What are your successes/wins?
We had several accidental successes. Our district actually did a good job of talking to new teachers about 403B plan. We opened those accounts in our first years. It wasn’t much but I’ll take the win. I’ve learned how rare that is.
Since then we’ve increased the amount and contributed to our 457b and Roth IRA. Our goal this year is $70,000 total which will be almost a 50% savings rate.
That’s possible because we love where we live. I’m so glad we chose to move here. It fits us and works financially. As much as California can that is. Where we live isn’t as expensive as the bay area or LA.
What are your challenges?
This question gives me stress! I know it’s supposed to feel challenging but it honestly hasn’t. The way we live just fits us. Maybe we should be doing more?
Our next challenge is figuring out how a child fits into our plan. We just decided to have a kid together. There is a lot that goes into it for a lesbian couple. We’re just starting. It is terrifying and exciting at the same time.
What is your long-term goal? Do you have a FI target?
We expect to have a pension someday but that is a long way off. Our goal is to have a net worth of $2 million. At $70,000 per year with increases as we get raises we’ll make it. Having a baby might slow our progress but we aren’t in a hurry.
If you become financially independent will you:
- Retire early?
- Continue to work in education? (How/why?)
- Do something different?
Speaking of not being in a hurry. Who knows? I like the title of this interview because we are not in a hurry to retire. Both of us love our jobs. For now.
I read the post about embracing FIOR (financial independence optional retirement) and nodded the whole time. Right now my answer is continue to work in education. It might be different when I’m 40 or I might keep teaching and just give a bunch of money to our foundation. Choices.
Tell us about a short-term goal you’re working towards.
I’m not sure how short term the goal is but honestly all of our time is going to figuring out our family plan.
Who/what inspires you?
My partner inspires me every day. I wish I could use her name but she is very private.
She cares so much. She gives so much. She’s the strongest person I know and I can’t believe how much my world has changed since we met. She inspires me to change the world too.
What’s something you want to say to other educators about financial independence?
Figure out your money so it doesn’t make you bitter. Our kids need us and deserve our best. Financial independence will help you give that.
Maybe that’s my why.
Is there anything you’d like to get feedback on from the community?
When we have our baby we think one of us will stay home. I’d love to know how other couples have decided that if both like their jobs? We make about the same amount so income doesn’t help. We still have a lot to figure out but I’m open for ideas or things to read.
Where Can Readers Find You?
For a lot of reasons we are going to stay anonymous. Thank you for letting me write this and thank you to anyone who actually read it. I’ll read all your comments.
Thank you Crystal for sharing your story! Best of luck on your family plan – how exciting!
Readers, help Crystal out if you’ve had to decide between parents staying home. I’d love to hear how you did it, too!
You can find all the Educator on FIOR interviews here.