The Educator on FIOR (Financial Independence Optional Retirement) series features educators who are taking charge of their financial lives. You can do the work you love and still build wealth!
Today’s interview features Christy, an elementary teacher with a clear financial plan. After you read her great interview, don’t forget to check out her blog: Financially Fit Teacher.
Tell us about you.
I teach multiage 1st and 2nd grade in a public school in Montana. I absolutely love my job and couldn’t be happier to be teaching for my 19th year. I love living in Montana, and my husband and I make the most of the outdoors with lots of backpacking, trail running, and hiking.
What do/did you like most about working in education?
I couldn’t imagine spending my days with anyone other than 6 and 7 year-olds. They are quick to forgive, they love big, they learn so much every day, and they get excited about pretty much everything.
What do/did you like least?
Probably the hardest part for me has been working under administrators and systems that make it hard for students to get the support that they need.
What is your Why of Financial Independence?
First and foremost, we want financial security. We are both planners and wanted to create a future that we could be excited about. We also love adventuring, and wanted to have the time and money to be able to travel before we were 90. A big catalyst for us was that we had $110,000 in student loan debt after we finished our Master’s degrees. When we paid it off it really changed our perspective. We realized that we are really good at making a plan and sticking to it and working as a team. That opened the floodgates for us to see what else we could accomplish.
- 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 for sure!
Share any financial numbers you are comfortable sharing:
One big boost to my income was getting National Board Certification. I earn an extra $3,000 a year. Once I considered how much that would be worth if I invested it, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
I think the biggest asset for us has been the fact that I’ll be eligible for my pension benefits when I’m 49. At that point, I can also keep our health insurance (although we’ll pay the full premium). The fact that I started teaching at 22, stayed in the same state, and that my state has a pretty solid pension plan is making early retirement an option for us. We plan on continuing to work seasonally and in different locations if we retire early, but will both be able to leave our full-time jobs if everything goes as planned.
Tell us about your path to FI.
What are your successes/wins?
We are currently maxing out my husband’s Individual 401K, both of our IRAs, my 457, my HSA, and paying down our mortgage early. Living below our means has made a HUGE difference in our lives and allowed us to save big. Things like a food budget, a clothing budget, and buying a small house have literally bought us years of retirement.
What are your challenges?
We are really on the right track at this point, and the biggest challenge is balancing what we want later with what we want now. We’re currently trying to think of a side hustle that could pay for us to go to the tropics every 6 months. So far we haven’t come up with the right one, but we’ll keep you posted!
What is your long-term goal? Do you have a FI target?
We are using the 4% rule (or 25x annual expenses) as a loose approximation of what we will need. Of course with the unknowns of the market and our tendency to play it safe, we’ll probably wait to pull the trigger until we’re safely past that number. As the time draws closer, we’ll run some real-life numbers to make sure we’re making the right decision.
If you become financially independent will you:
- Retire early?
- Continue to work in education? (How/why?)
- Do something different?
We will likely retire early from our current jobs, but we will definitely continue to work. There’s also a big chance I’ll teach abroad for a couple of years right when I’m done here. We’re really interested in teaching in Sweden, for example. There are also lots of places we want to see and experience over a period of months, and working seasonally would make them more financially affordable. We’d love to do stuff like be campground hosts, work for backcountry lodges in beautiful places, and work in some National Parks. And as mentioned before, head to the tropics as much as possible. Since we’ll both be relatively young, we’re planning on still earning income, but earning it by doing a variety of things in a variety of places that we can’t access in our current careers.
Tell us about a short-term goal you’re working towards.
We are close to paying off our mortgage! Once that happens, it will free cash each month that we can use to build a camper. My husband is pretty obsessed with building campers, and we’re thinking we’ll likely build the perfect expedition vehicle to take us on adventures both before and after we retire.
Who/what inspires you?
Being outside every day, working out hard with good friends, backpacking with my husband, and hanging out with sweet kiddos. Beyond that, the ChooseFI Podcast never disappoints and I always learn something new when I listen!
What’s something you want to say to other educators about financial independence?
Holy cow I know SO many teachers who don’t know their options! I lost so much time because I didn’t know mine. I started my blog, a class, and one-on-one mentoring to help other educators learn what they need to know to make the most of their money. There are SO many things we can do to shore up our futures but our jobs are so all-consuming and since many of us don’t come to the table with a background in investing and saving, we miss out on huge opportunities. I say please make the time to learn just the tiniest bit–it will make a huge difference in your future. Read The Simple Path to Wealth, listen to the ChooseFI podcast, read this blog or another one that speaks to you. It’s really easy to get started!
Is there anything you’d like to get feedback on from the community?
I’d love to know what else they’d like to read on my blog. What info and topics are you looking for?
Where can readers reach you if they want to connect?
Blog: Financially Fit Teacher
Facebook Group: Financially Fit Teachers
There is a lot in this one. First – it’s great that she gets access to her pension at 49! That’s a big benefit to any teacher looking to retire a bit earlier than usual. Many don’t have access until 55 or later. I love that she increased her income using National Board Certification. And congratulations on being so close to paying off the mortgage!
Finally, you know I agree with Christy’s observation that so many teachers don’t have the awareness and information they need to be financially secure. I certainly didn’t. That’s why I’m thrilled to connect and share stories from other educators pursuing financial independence. If you’d like to participate in the interview series, just email me.