How to Retire Early with 13 Kids

How to Retire Early with 13 Kids

A reader named Rob recently left a comment on the FI Laboratory post saying that according to the FI Tracker, he’ll be able to retire in 13 years.

While achieving financial independence in 13 years is great on its own, what makes this number extremely impressive is that he’s doing it on a single income and he has 13 kids!

I asked Rob if he’d be interested in writing a guest post to tell his story and thankfully, he said yes.

Take it away, Rob!

You have how many kids? 13.
Seriously? I wouldn’t joke about something like that, cry maybe, but joke? Never.
Don’t you know what causes that? Well, yeah we do know what causes it, we like it.
Catholic or Mormon? Catholic.
Are they all yours? Yup.
Same parents? Yup again.
Any twins? Nope.

Those are some of the more common questions one gets when one has 13 kids. My wife and I get all kind of questions and comments, some nice and some not so nice. It is amazing what total strangers will ask you when you are out in public as a family.

Thirteen Kids

Hi! My name is Rob, and my wife and I have a rather large family. We are a single-income family, and we make it all work, and we are thriving in all ways. Below is a bit of how we do it from a financial perspective.

My wife and I have been married for 25 years. I am 49 and she is 46. We have 13 kids ages 2-24. The first 12 are our natural born children. The 13th is a 2-year-old that we have legal custody of. He started out as a foster baby at the age of 12 weeks. Eventually we hope to adopt him but that is another story.

My wife is from a large family and has always wanted one herself. I knew this when I proposed to her. As a matter of fact when I asked her to marry me, I told her “who else will give you 10 kids, a house with a white-picket fence and a dog?” Her response was “kill the dog and make it 11 kids and you got a deal” (no actual dogs were killed in the making of this family, but many rabbits died).

Our oldest is 24 and married. She finished grad school just after her 21st birthday and is enjoying her career. The next four kids are in college, two will graduate this spring. Two are in high school, two are in middle school, two are in elementary school and two are pre-school aged. All of the kids are homeschooled by my wife until college. For the high school kids we use tutors two days a week to supplement what they learn at home, this costs about $2500 per kid per year. All the kids finish their high school one or two years early. More on that and college below.

My wife and I have both always been frugal. Which turned out to be a darn good thing indeed. Other than a mortgage we’ve never had debt of any kind. No credit card balance carried, no car loans, no student loans, no nothing.

Rob and His Wife

In addition to having kids (lots of kids) right away, we also never made much money, especially early in our marriage. We were married in 1989 and had child #1 in ’90. From 1990-2000 we owned a bookstore and worked it together. It was our main source of income, other than side-gigs here and there. Grass cutting, odd jobs, etc… During the 90’s our income topped out at $36k per year. Needless to say there wasn’t a lot of money put away for retirement savings. In the summer of 2000 we closed down the bookstore (thanks Amazon and others). I should have gotten on the internet bandwagon early on. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

After we closed down the bookstore I went into the computer software field at the urging of a friend. It has worked out well for us. Not a lot of money early on, but a steady rise from $40k a year to my current $104K. I also have a company that provides great benefits: health, dental and vision insurance, vacation, 401k among other benefits. Adding in the income we get from side-jobs (more on that below) we probably make around $110,000 per year. Which is a nice amount but is tempered by the fact that we have 11 kids still at home (one is married and one lives at college) and live in the suburbs of D.C., which is not exactly a low-cost area of the country. We do get some nice breaks come tax time. And starting around 2005 we finally had enough wiggle room in the budget so I could start adding to our retirement accounts. Before that point in time our retirement accounts were so thin that they made super models look fat.

Current Finances

Here is a financial snapshot that is current as of early 2014:

Yearly Salary: $104,400
Debt: ZERO

Monthly Savings

401k: $867 ($346.80 is employer match)
My IRA: $300
Wife’s IRA: $300
HSA: $500 ($200 is from my employer)
Taxable Index Funds: $210
Regular Savings Acct: $300
Total Automatic Savings: $2,477

Most months there are some extra dollars, anywhere from $50-$500, that we are able to come up with and save. So our annual savings rate is around 35% give or take a few percentage points.


A few budget highlights/lowlights from 2013:

Food: $15,120 ($1,260 monthly) that works out to 99 cents per meal per person. Better deal than McDonalds.
Utilities: $465 per month (big old drafty house)
Medical: $225 per month. Paid out of pocket so HSA can grow. I learned that great trick from the Mad Fientist.
Gasoline: $150 per month. I work from home, which is an awesome money and time saver.
Kid’s activates/sports/trips/fun: $200 per month
Plus a bunch of other things :)
Our retirement/investment/savings currently total $180,000. Plus we own our house out right (more on that below). Plus we currently have $6,000 in an emergency fund.

Each summer I make about $3500 from a side-gig (grass mowing) and that goes into our IRAs to max them out. Plus any extra money we get through the year goes into one of the various savings accounts. My wife does some small babysitting and tutoring jobs, about $1500-$2000 per year. We also sell stuff on eBay when the opportunity arises, anywhere from $500-$2,000 per year. But that will probably slow down a lot or stop. I’ve sold everything around here that we don’t need. The only thing of value left is the kids but I’m sure eBay has rules against that.

We should end up with $35-$40k saved for the year. Towards the end of the year if we have any extra $$$ I’ll bump up my 401k contributions, but I don’t see that happening. I did just drop an extra $1000 into my IRA. I turn 50 later this year so I get that extra catch-up amount. I am trying to get to the point where I front-load more of my 401k and IRAs but it’s tough with our budget. A little at a time, and hopefully in a few years I’ll be able to front-load a lot more.


Our current home was a foreclosure we bought in the spring of 2000 for little money compared to the market ($150k purchase price, $50k down, $100k mortgage). We fixed it up and added on to it over the years. It is now an 8-bedroom and 3-bath rambling old house that works great for us. The mortgage was paid off in 2012. Paying off a mortgage early doesn’t always make sense from a numbers standpoint but for our mental make-up, it was the correct choice. We hate debt! And have none at all! The house is currently worth around $375-$400k. And someday in the future we may downsize and harvest some of that equity. Before the mortgage was paid off we were probably saving about 12-15% each year.

In the past 2 years we have used the former money dedicate to the mortgage to bump up our savings rate dramatically. This is an important point. We made a conscious decision to take every penny we had been paying on the mortgage and save it. Just because we were debt free now, it didn’t mean we were going to start spending money on new cars, fancy clothes, designer food or expensive trips. So all the principal, extra principal and interest, about $1600 a month, now goes into IRAs, increased 401k savings, and our HSA account.


Food is now our biggest monthly expense. The little buggers want to eat 3 times a day…at least. Last year we spent under $1300 a month to feed them all. That includes eating out once in a while. And my kids love to eat. And it’s not just the boys (8 of them); the girls (5 of them) and my wife eat like they are going to the chair.

We shop mainly at Aldi, I highly recommend it, and at Amazon. We don’t do Sam’s or Costco or the like, they don’t work for us (too easy to overspend) and we get better deals elsewhere. We buy simple foods: chicken, ground beef, pork roast, rice, taters, fruits and veggies. We aren’t eating one of the new fancy hipster diets, and we aren’t eating the normal processed-crappy-make-you-obese-American diet either. We are in between the two extremes. We make most of our meals. We never waste food! We make extra at most meals and use it for lunches the next day. Breakfast is cereal, bagels, hash browns, eggs, oatmeal etc. We don’t buy expensive cuts of meat, organic produce or prepared foods. Not that we wouldn’t like to, it’s just not feasible with the number of mouths we feed on a daily basis. But all the kids are healthy, at their proper weights and in good shape. The kids do drink a lot of milk, enough that I wish we had a cow or three, and we drink a lot of water (tap, not bottled).

Spending Money

My kids all start working and saving at a young age. By age 12 or so they are babysitting, cutting grass, shoveling snow and doing odd-jobs for people. So far they have all been good savers. Which is a good thing because they pay for their own iPods, phones, cars, gas, car insurance, and college.

The kids buy reliable (we hope) used cars and pay for all the maintenance, gas, insurance etc. We try to find cars that old people no longer need. They are usually well maintained and have low miles. All five of the older kids have cars. Plus my wife and I have three between us. It looks a lot like a used car lot in our driveway. I’m sure our neighbors love us.


The kids finish up high school when they are 16 or 17. There is only so much we can teach them at home (you try and teach trigonometry and chemistry 30 years removed from high school) and homeschooling allows plenty of time to work ahead and finish school a year or two early.

My kids are responsible for their own college funding, if they choose to go. One is done with her schooling and four are currently attending college (Two seniors, one junior, and one freshman). My wife and I encourage them to go for at least two years and then decide if they want to continue on. So far they all have. We have a great community college so they all go there for two years, usually for free, then they transfer to a 4-year state university. State tuition in our area is around $8-10k per year. Some of my kids have been able to get enough scholarship and grant money to pay for all of it and some have paid up to $5,000 per year. None of them uses student loans. They are all finishing their undergrad work debt free.

Some years when doing our taxes we qualify for the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. It’s something all parents with dependents in college should look into.

My oldest kid managed to get her Masters (in one year accelerated program) and graduate debt free. She had a major (social work) that the state would pay for the Master’s degree if you agreed to work for the state for two years. She wanted to work for them anyway so she jumped at that deal. She has now worked for them for almost three years and it’s going great.


So while I won’t retire early like many of you out there. I do expect to be able to pull the plug on work in 13 years, at least according to the new FI Laboratory, so I sure hope the Mad Fientist is right. Which considering our situation, 13 years ain’t bad at all.

I should add this disclaimer. None of the above is written to make it look like its easy having a large family. It’s not. At times it can be very demanding, stressful and expensive. There are the late nights with sick kids, all the expenses that seem to come out of nowhere, the diapers (man there are a lot of diapers), and the never ending laundry. It truly is never ending. It’s currently 30-35 loads per week.

I’ll admit that when half a dozen kids all have the stomach bug at one time and we seem to be drowning in puke, I wonder why I didn’t become a monk and move to the Gobi desert. But in spite of all the hard work it’s all worth it to my wife and me.

I should also add that we have lived in the same town all our lives. We have a great community and a great network of friends. We all help each other out. Whether it’s watching each other’s kids, passing around hand-me-downs, crying on each other’s shoulders or just hanging out together, we all help one another.

We manage to live pleasant, if simple lives. We aren’t deprived (depraved maybe). We have a nice house. We have hobbies we enjoy. My wife hits the gym for an hour each morning and I run every day. The kids all enjoy lots of activities. We go on vacation to the beach for a week each summer. My wife and I are going away for 5 days ALONE (score) next month to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

Thanks for reading. My wife and I both have blogs so you can read more here and here.

Thank you for sharing your story, Rob!

Maintaining a 35% savings rate on a single income with 13 children is an incredible achievement so hopefully this article has inspired others to bump up their savings a bit.

I don’t have any kids but there seemed to be many nuggets of parenting wisdom scattered throughout the post as well (specifically about college) so hopefully the FI-seeking parents and parents-to-be out there got a lot out of it.

Please join me in thanking Rob by leaving a comment below and be sure to head over to the blogs mentioned above to say hi!

Related Post

FI Laboratory
Chart Your Progress to Financial Independence!

Calculate your FI date and graph your progress to FIRE for free in the Mad Fientist's FI Laboratory!

98 comments for “How to Retire Early with 13 Kids

  1. Thegoblinchief
    March 20, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for sharing your story! Do you tend to get a lot of flack for having that many kids?

    Just curious!

    • Rob
      March 20, 2014 at 10:52 am

      We used to get a lot of flack. Once we got to a certain number of kids, probably around 7 or 8, people gave us up as “hopeless” and leave us alone. Actually people kinda think its cool now, in a weird sorta way

      • thegoblinchief
        March 21, 2014 at 9:57 am

        My brother has 7. I think people “gave up on them” at about 5 :)

      • Tina
        August 16, 2016 at 2:33 pm

        Hi Rob. I wanna learn more about it. I am a single mom of two and having problems on saving specially I am in Philippines. Please advice

      • Chartese Richardson
        February 17, 2018 at 1:16 am

        I’m inspired. My family and I live in Bowie too. We also homeschool. We are returning to one income as I am closing my daycare to focus more on our homeschooling adventure. Thank you for taking the time to share. I needed to read every word that was written. I can’t wait to share this story in the morning with my husband. The timing is so perfect as we make plans to save for our new season. God bless you and your family!

  2. Justin @ RootofGood
    March 20, 2014 at 9:36 am

    That’s awesome and amazing, Rob! I have 3 kids (between 2 and 9) and I’m 10 years younger than you. They wear me out! Do you sap the kids’ energy and feast on it when you’re feeling lethargic? :)

    I think you’re doing a great job and have an amazing budget given the constraints (13 of you living in 1 house!). We shop for groceries just like you do, and also shop at Aldi for most things. And it works out to about $100/person like your budget. Like you, we eat a wide variety of foods, but mostly from scratch. I must have seen you guys in Aldi recently buying multiple carts full of produce, pasta, and milk… I thought it was for a homeless shelter or a restaurant.

    • Rob
      March 20, 2014 at 10:54 am

      Some days I feel 10 years older than I am. My wife is the one with a bottomless source of energy.

      Aldi’s Rules! And it does feel like a restaurant around here at dinner time.

      • Justin @ Root of Good
        March 20, 2014 at 10:57 am

        That makes sense. My wife started out with a goal to have 6 kids (she comes from a large family). Three kids in, and I’m pretty sure we’re done. Although at some point, the older kids start helping out with the younger kids. Did you find that true with yours?

        • Sam (AKA-the wife)
          March 20, 2014 at 1:27 pm

          From the wife here…YES! the big kids totally help out. It is survival and they each have a buddy. The big kids, especially the college kids, have friends over just to show off the babies! I think my little guys are filmed on instagram and FB daily by the big kids with their silly antics and funny comments!

          • Justin @ Root of Good
            March 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm

            Awesome, guess that’s the only way it would work. I’ll show my 7 and 9 year old how lucky they are to only have to take care of 1 little brother and not 12 little siblings. :) Although they would probably love to have a dozen siblings.

          • The Mad Fientist
            March 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm

            Hey Sam, thanks for stopping by and thanks for letting me share your family’s story!

            I told Rob that the next time I’m in the DC area, lunch is on me (I may need to reduce my offer to just ice cream though since I didn’t take all the kids into consideration :) )

  3. Insourcelife
    March 20, 2014 at 9:39 am

    What a great story! I love your attitude – no complaints, good advice, positive all around. If you can do it with 13 kids on one (albeit substantial) income in the suburbs of DC then it’s silly to hear other people complain about their financial problems. This would be a perfect piece to share with MMM and his huge audience.

    • Rob
      March 20, 2014 at 11:01 am

      I do my complaining in private in the dark of night :)
      I’ve gotten lots of great ideas from the MMM site and forum. Some are hard to apply to a large family but in general the principles work.

    • sam (AKA-the wife)
      March 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      @Mad Fientist:
      First of all we would love a night out without the kids. Secondly, you could always babysit for us and we could go alone! ;)

      • The Mad Fientist
        March 20, 2014 at 8:55 pm

        Haha, now that would result in a really interesting blog post!

  4. Baughman
    March 20, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Incredible story. I have 5 myself and it feels like 13. I don’t know how you do it.

    Congrats on working out the finances. Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out.

    • Rob
      March 20, 2014 at 11:03 am

      That’s awesome! My wife and I always say going from 2 to 3 kids was the hardest, the little darlings had us outnumbered at that point.

      Still trying to figure it all out. Figuring a lot of it out on the fly as we go along the journey.

      • Margaret V
        March 31, 2014 at 9:51 pm

        Hubby and I had planned on 5 kids, but the transition from 2 to 3 was so…brutal, for lack of a better word…that I’m fairly certain we are done. Our eldest is a special needs 5 yo and our youngest is 2 1/2. Income is a huge part of it as well. Did I mention sanity? Kudos to your family!

        • Lindsay
          April 24, 2014 at 10:40 am

          I have some friends who just had #4 and their oldest is 6 and has Downs Syndrome. They’d always wanted to have a large family, and though his extra challenges certainly threw them a curveball, they’ve discovered he really loves being an older brother and dotes on the babies like crazy!

          It’s beautiful to me to see families who keep having kids after having one with special needs. Seems like it scares a lot of would-be parents of more kids, but I’ve never met a family that didn’t grow in love because of the decision!

  5. Retire Before Dad
    March 20, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Captivating read. I have 2 young kids and we had our first all night barfing session a few weeks ago. I can’t imagine 13 kids. But its awesome that you make it work. Not funding college is obviously a must, and your kids learning to pay for it on their own is very impressive. Congratulations on your family and good luck reaching FI.

    • Rob
      March 20, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Thanks RBD.
      every other winter it seems like we have almost everyone barfing at once. That is when 3 bathrooms in a house is really not enough.

  6. Dave
    March 20, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Rob: there’s a couple of items I assume are in the budget that you don’t mention in the post, and I imagine would be critical in your situation:
    homeowners insurance, life insurance, disability insurance. How much do you pay for those?

    • Rob
      March 20, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Yeah I didn’t list everything in the budget so as not to bore everyone.
      Homeowners is $1400 a year. Also property taxes are $4600. I put $500 a month into my own personal escrow account I setup at an online bank. So that is covered when the bills roll in.

      Life Insurance. My company provides a 1/4 million dollars worth for free. And I have a larger term policy I bought that costs around $450 a year.
      My wife’s policy costs $300 a year.
      My company also pays for my short and long term disability.

  7. save. spend. splurge.
    March 20, 2014 at 10:54 am

    This is brilliant. I am definitely going to link to it, but I did also have questions about insurance.

    13 children is incredible and it’s even more incredible that you plan on retiring early, and I am glad to see that you aren’t trying to fund their college educations because I am going down the same path and going to teach my children to do it on their own.

    • Rob
      March 20, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Thanks! Commented above regarding insurance.

      I should also mention that my company pays almost all of our Medical, Dental and Vision insurance. My monthly cost on that is $105 per month. And as I mentioned in the post, they contribute $200 a month to my HSA.

      My wife paid for her own college and always went to class and studied. My parents paid for mine and I majored in partying.
      Not that we could afford to pay for the kids college even if we wanted to.

  8. Justin @ Root of Good
    March 20, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Another question for you: Why stop at 13? Or are you done?

    Is it because 2 adults + 13 kids will fit in a 15 passenger van? And do you own one of those?

    • Jordan Read
      March 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      ^+1. Just curious. :-)

    • Sam (AKA-the wife)
      March 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Yes we own a 15 passenger van…and we would love more babies, but my body must be slowing down :( yes we are crazy! The kids ask all the time why can’t have anymore babies? Who knows…maybe someone will put one on our doorstep!

      • Bill Dwight
        March 27, 2014 at 1:25 am

        Don’t worry, grand kids will be on the doorstep soon. Epic story/family – kudos!

  9. J. Money
    March 20, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Holy $hitballs! This is awesome!!!

    “The only thing of value left is the kids but I’m sure eBay has rules against that.” – haha…. almost spit out my coffee on that one ;)

    • Rob
      March 20, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      myself and MadFIentist disavow any responsibility for damaged keyboards from people spitting out their coffee :)

  10. Dave @ The New York Budget
    March 20, 2014 at 11:22 am

    I dated a girl in high school who was one of 10 kids and I was always struck by how everyone in the family pitched in for everything. Of course, as you mentioned they had their frustrations, but the support from all family members was amazing to me.

    Congratulations to you for being able to manage your finances so well while having such a large family. I love this perspective because I think spending is all about priorities. You have prioritized a big family and figured out a way to make it work for you!

  11. Free Money Minute
    March 20, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Congratulations Rob, great job! You guys truly do have an inspirational story. I agree, going from 2 to 3 was hard….that is where we are now. Glad to hear that is the hardest adjustment. We are hoping to have 2-3 more before we are done. Best wishes as you go from here to retirement. You will have blessings for the rest of your lives. Enjoy!

  12. Matt
    March 20, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Wow, awesome post! Regarding your intro, it’s truly unbelievable how rude some people can be to people with big families – I’ve heard a lot of stories. Kudos to you two for selflessly serving your family! Everyone I’ve known who has grown up in a big family has been a pretty awesome person.

    My wife and I are also Catholic and hoping to have a larger than average family (we’re thinking 4-6, though if we feel like we can handle it, maybe more!) on just my income as a software engineer. We just had our first last month, so we’re still getting started. Thanks so much for your post, and I think I have a couple new blogs to follow!

  13. Liz
    March 20, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Just. Wow. I only want a maximum of 2 kids, and even then a maybe. But you guys have made it work. Plus I don’t think kids should be expected to be funded through college/uni either. In the UK you’re expected to get a massive loan and then spend the next 10 years paying it off. Mine can do that if they like, but I’ll be encouraging them to work from a young age just like you did. Congratulations on your beautiful family.

    PS dinner time must be a military operation right? I mean, two sittings at least?

    • Sam (AKA-the wife)
      March 20, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Liz-We have an awesome dinner table and use a bench on one side for the little guys…the funny thing is we usually have a guest or two. The kids know that extra people are always welcome!

  14. Smith
    March 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Absolutely awesome, Rob. Mind-blowing. You teach us how the “impossible” is really quite possible, if we want it to be. Bravo.

  15. Jessica
    March 20, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    This is fantastic! DH and I are hoping to raise 4-6 kids on one teacher’s salary (#3 is due next month!), so this is really inspirational. It can be done – great job!

  16. Jordan Read
    March 20, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Holy FSM, Batman!!! I must say that I almost started to ask what the logic behind having 13 kids is, but that usually gets into non-productive conversation, related to religion, personal choices that are none of my business, and other stuff (also none of my business).
    Mad props to you, for proving the point that it’s all about the savings rate. Also, when kids are that important to you (or your SO), go for it!! Personally, I much prefer to practice the art, just in case ;-).

    Hate to be that guy, but I think you’d be an awesome guest on the Frugal FIRE show, just to provide some perspective to those who think it’s not possible because they have 2 (slackers!!!) kids. Thank you for your inspiring story.

  17. EscapeVelocity2020
    March 20, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Not to be too contrarian, but I’m not sure how this related to FIRE. Going from where you currently are to FI in 13 years is not necessarily blog-worthy (other than the fact you are doing it while having such a high fixed expense, wheat-ever the cause of that expense may be).

    I understand that you are doing an outstanding job of managing the expense, but this simply points out that FIRE is more easily achieved by having less children, and that raising children on less is very possible.

    Thanks for sharing your amazing story in such good and open detail.

    • Rob
      March 20, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      That is very true. We could probably retire in 5 years if we had only had a few kids. Trust me, that thought crosses my mind once in awhile ;)

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 20, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      This is exactly what FIRE is all about – You figure out what is truly important to you, spend money on the things that matter and stop spending on things that don’t, invest what’s left over, and hopefully achieve FI as quickly as possible.

      Most people never achieve true financial independence and yet Rob and Sam are going to do it while living exactly the type of life they want to live. I think their story is incredibly inspiring for anyone on this path.

      • EscapeVelocity2020
        March 20, 2014 at 10:56 pm

        Thanks for the replies, I have an older sister married to the son of a Polish Catholic minister (ba-dum-pah). I know there are awesome things to be gained by having large family. My favorite, their family reunions are like small village gatherings (literally over 100 people that know each other intimately), I have so much fun on the periphery, however I just don’t think ER is high on the list of priorities :)

  18. CuriousCat
    March 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I’m so impressed how you’ve set yourselves up. Your writing style, by the way, is delightful. I agree with J. Money on cracking up about the eBay comment … laughed out loud in the office (think high-density cubicles) at that one.

    I have a question about your expectations of the ones getting out of college. Obviously the oldest is already on her own. Do you have an implicit or explicit expectation set with the kids about what happens after college? Can they come back and live at home until they get a job? And do they look to turning around and helping you out after college, perhaps being prepared to help a sibling with college? I wonder what the older kids think about this.

    • Rob
      March 21, 2014 at 10:21 am

      Good morning Curious Cat,
      we don’t have any set rules. Our oldest got married and bought a house 3 months after finishing Grad school. I would say 1 year after finishing college would be plenty of time for them to get settled in a job and move out.
      We don’t expect them to help the younger ones with college.

  19. RMF325
    March 20, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Rob, your family is gorgeous! What beautiful children! Congratulations on your incredible financial and family management skills; so impressive. I am one of five children (also Catholic), and people made rude comments about how we were a “huge” family, so I shudder to imagine what has been shot your way.

    I am also an Aldi’s fan, and it would be great to know what recipes you are using to make these .99 meals. Any chance of a family cookbook being published on or the like?

    Your foster child is so fortunate; best of luck with the adoption!

    • Rob
      March 21, 2014 at 10:26 am

      My bride makes a lot different chicken recipes using that $1.59lb chicken that she gets from Aldi. I think she finds the recipes on Pinterest.
      I’ll get her to chime in

  20. RMF325
    March 20, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    Rob, here’s a tip to help cut back on those expensive tutorial costs: check out Khan It is a free online academy with great classes in a variety of subjects, heavy on math and science. Goes all the way from the early grades through college. It is being used the world over to provide children from all backgrounds with a solid education at no cost to them. Hope it helps your family!

    • Rob
      March 21, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Thanks for the tip!

    • sam (AKA-the wife)
      March 23, 2014 at 12:12 am

      Thanks I actually have heard of Khan. Our kids are ready by 14 to get out of the house two days a week. We have a great tutor academy that provides many great opportunities for our highschoolers!

      • Justin @ Root of Good
        March 23, 2014 at 12:23 am

        The spending on tutoring got me thinking about frugal kid costs. What’s the rationale behind homeschooling for high school (and paying for tutoring) instead of sending the kids to “free” public school?

        We feel like we’re getting quite a steal with public school. Our oldest 2 get a great education (in elementary right now) and out of our $1400 annual property tax bill, only $800 or so goes toward funding the local schools.

        I’ve considered homeschooling, and I think I would be outclassed somewhere around the high school level. I could probably teach trigonometry (“SohCahToa” is still a valid rule, right ;) ), but many of the advanced AP level courses in comp sci, chemistry, English, foreign languages, psychology, etc are a little outside my comfort level. But luckily there’s a handful of high schools that offer these courses for free and they translate to free college credits at the State U.

        • Sam (AKA-the wife)
          March 23, 2014 at 8:50 am

          On a frugal side it doesn’t make sense. We have other “gifts” besides being a frugal family. First of all our county has the most home schooled families in our state due to the poor quality of our school system. Secondly, it is all part of our master plan…having our kids “away” from home on Tues/Thurs gives them great time management skills. This has been proven with our five oldest as a huge college prep tactic. Our kids are given assignments from their tutors for m/w/f and have to figure out how to get their work done and study on their days off. Another huge reason is they make lots of money on part time gigs…babysitting, dog walking, working at our local gym, and yard work. (Since most kids their age our stuck in school they are a hot commodity in our town. Many times they have to say no to get their work done but the demand is still great!) This teaches them “money” management too. What better life skills than time and money management? I could do a long blog post on other pro’s…like saving money on “back to school” clothes, hidden and unnecessary school expenses,sport equipment, class trips, graduation announcements, and prom. (Getting a limo for you teenager…Really?) Not to mention all the negative influences. Many of our friends with high school age kids are gone from 7am to at least 4pm, then they have hours of homework. That is not “large” family friendly.

          • Justin @ Root of Good
            March 23, 2014 at 4:16 pm

            I guess that makes sense given the poor quality of the local schools. I saw “DC Area” in Rob’s post and (wrongly) assumed high property taxes and good schools.

            And thinking about getting 169 kid-years of free education was enticing to my value-oriented mind (were I in your shoes). :)

            As for “saving money on “back to school” clothes, hidden and unnecessary school expenses, sport equipment, class trips, graduation announcements, and prom”, those are all optional in my frugal parenting book. Of those expenses, we spent nothing other than to opt for field trips and have averaged $12 per kid this year. Plus $5 for 12 hours of after school engineering camp.

            Once the kids are in HS and have things like prom, that’s where their yard work money comes in. Hey, if they want to drop $500 on a limo, go for it!

          • Sam (AKA-the wife)
            March 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm

            Great for you Justin! So glad you aren’t one of those parents who over indulge their children! Sounds like you parent the way my parents did…you want it then work for it!

          • Rob
            March 24, 2014 at 7:51 pm

            I saw “DC Area” in Rob’s post and (wrongly) assumed high property taxes and good schools.

            Half that equation is correct. The property taxes are plenty high for my tastes. $4500 per year on a house worth close to $400k. I’m sure lots of others have it worse. We just don’t seem to get much for our $$$

  21. Dydra
    March 20, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    What a wonderful story!! And very inspirational from a father who has a great sense of humor while raising 13 children. Loved the story. I bet you can teach loads of frugality tips.

  22. FloridaStache
    March 21, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Loved this story- thanks so much for sharing! My wife and I (and our two kids) fled the DC area for Florida 4 years ago, partially due to the “impossibility” of raising our family in that high-cost area. Andplusalso the no snow thing.

    Still, I got a good laugh at myself after reading that you are doing it with 13 kids! You are an inspiration to us all!

    • Rob
      March 21, 2014 at 10:28 am

      I keep telling my wife we need to more to Florida. She just gives me “The Look” :)

      • Rob
        March 21, 2014 at 11:45 am

        that should be “move” to Florida, not “more”

  23. Survive The Valley
    March 21, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Awesome post! How inspiring… makes me feel bad… but in a good way.

    Rob is sardonic indeed, got me to laughing out loud a few times. I’ll be clicking over to checking out for sure.

  24. Lori
    March 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Great story and great attitude! Thanks for sharing!

  25. Susan
    March 23, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    Hey Rob! We have 13 children, also! 10 girls and 3 boys! My oldest is 27, and the youngest is 6. I wish we were as organized as you. I have the kids split right now concerning education. Of those left in school, 3 are at a Catholic School and 5 are home schooled. I think I will take the plunge next year and keep them all home. So much easier. But I need you to talk my husband into budgeting! God bless you all!

    • Rob
      March 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      10 girls! That’s a lot of potential weddings to pay for ;)
      5 of ours are girls. 1 is married, 4 left to pay for. I’m trying to talk the remaining 4 into eloping or joining a Conant.
      My oldest is married. Had a smallish wedding, 80 or so people. We spent $5,000 total on it and it was a nice wedding. When they got home from their honeymoon we had a big party at our church’s hall. We had about 300 people at that. Had a blast. We had a DJ, face painter and we did the food ourselves. That party cost about $1,000 but was well worth it.
      I love budgeting and using spreadsheets. Some people hate it.

      • Susan
        March 24, 2014 at 10:04 pm

        I am praying for vocations. I would love to see some of my girls enter a convent. But they are all very marriage/children oriented.
        My second born, a daughter, is married with 3 boys. We did her wedding ourselves. We rented a hall and had the food catered by a local restaurant. I made all the desserts myself, and sll of the dresses, including my daughter’s. We hired high school girls to serve. We bought all of the table covers and dishes and silverware, figuring we have plenty of weddings ahead of us! We did it all for about $5,000. Next time I hire someone to run the show so I can sit down to rest or dance a little!

  26. Free To Pursue
    March 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Wow! Commendable. I feel I can take no credit for my situation, given it is so void of challenges compared to this story!

    You certainly live a life of “Plenitude” by being able to depend on each other and your community (reciprocally of course) for support. Being “downshifters” with 13 children is almost a miracle.

    We can learn a lot from your story. Thank you for sharing.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 24, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      “Plenitude”, “downshifters”…it sounds like someone has been reading a few Juliet Schor books :) I’ve read The Overworked American, The Overspent American, and Plentitude and I enjoyed every one of them!

      • Free To Pursue
        March 24, 2014 at 8:36 pm

        Nice! The only one I haven’t read of hers is The Overspent American because the library does not have it available. Born to Buy is pretty good too and it’s from 2004, so it’s not as old as some of her other books. 1991 for The Overworked American is getting up there, even though it’s still thought provoking.

        I just love the term “downshifters”. I think it suits us well ;).

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 25, 2014 at 1:16 pm

          I haven’t read Born to Buy yet so I’ll have to check it out.

          I agree that ‘downshifter’ is a great term but I’m slightly more partial to ‘fientist’, for obvious reasons ;)

  27. Done by Forty
    March 24, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    I am seriously impressed. I have to share this with my wife as I constantly bug her about how we won’t be able to reach FI if we have two children instead of one. Seems this is just another excuse I am making for myself…

    • Rob
      March 24, 2014 at 7:31 pm

      HaHa sounds like you might have #2 on the way soon if you show this to your wife ;)

  28. No Nonsense Landlord
    March 24, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Holy crap! 13 kids is a lot. I knew a family with 10 kids, they all helped with the chores. The older kids kept the younger ones in line.

  29. Brent
    March 25, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Wow… 13 kids!!! I’m amazed that you were able to manage the kids and the finances. Great job!

  30. Ginger's Finance
    March 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    What a great story! I don’t think I’m anywhere near your savings rate, and it’s just me and my wife!

    What kind of stuff do you sell on eBay? Just stuff from around the house, or do you actively seek out stuff to sell?

    • Rob
      March 26, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      We sell anything that looks like it will sell. Kids clothes that are premium brand sell well and so do shoes. We don’t really look for stuff. We just end up with a lot of stuff and like to get rid of some of it on ebay.
      We also give away a lot of stuff. We have a network of large families that share stuff.

  31. Becky
    March 25, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    I love that you mentioned that your kids graduate college without student loans! So many people these days think it is impossible, but I am on my way to doing it (going part-time while working full-time and my employer will pay for some/most of it). It is so sad to see so many kids graduating and looking for jobs only to be saddled with thousands of dollars in credit card debt. If a family with thirteen kids can send their kids to school without debt, it’s worth a shot for everyone.

    • Rob
      March 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

      Hi Becky, in some ways having 13 kids helps the kids go to college debt free. They tend to get more need-based aid from the Feds, State and schools they attend then a student from a smaller family does. With all our deductions our tax return looks really lousy which helps them.

  32. Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog
    March 27, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for giving an insight into your finances with 13 kids!

    My wife and I have 2 and we are adopting 2. After that, we may have even more. We are both fairly young.

    I don’t ever plan to “retire”. I just plan to always do something that I love and never call it work.

    Thanks for sharing, Rob!

    • Sam (AKA-the wife)
      March 27, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      Great for you Kalen!!! I am adopted and I think it is great!!! Come visit when you are in the DC area!

      • Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog
        March 27, 2014 at 9:55 pm

        That’s awesome. I have friends and family in DC. :)

  33. Shannon
    March 27, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    This was a very interesting read! Large families are intriguing to me, particularly in the food department. I too paid for my own college, so did my sisters. We all took slightly different routes: me taking out the least student loans I could and supplementing it with a nearly 40 hour a week job (with full time classes). Other took out the max and bought cars, etc. I am debt free now with a Master’s in Engineering. I felt (in my view) I appreciated my education more than the kids who didn’t work, or only worked to cover their cell phone bill, or worked for a month so they could go to Cancun.

  34. Sam (AKA-the wife)
    March 27, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Thank you everyone for the wonderful comments and support! My friend mentioned to me that my hubby forgot one big chunk of our spending. That being, our 10% tithing that goes to our church and other ministries. Some of our favorites are Christian Foundation for Children and aging where we sponsor a child, Gabriel Network, The A21 Campaign, The Servants of the Lord, St.Ann’s, The House of Ruth, and others. Even at times when money was tough we still found ways to tithe and God always blessed us tenfold!!!

  35. Ray
    March 28, 2014 at 1:12 am

    Amazing and inspiring family and story. A family with lots of love and blessings. Thanks for sharing your story.

  36. theFIREstarter
    April 4, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Amazing. Absolutely amazing!

    Well done Rob on being able to retire full stop let alone slightly earlier than the norm. Thanks for sharing, it was a humorous and inspiring read.

  37. Daniel
    November 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    This is inspiring.

  38. Janet
    June 22, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    I LOVE this! We are almost exactly 10 years behind you. My husband just turned 40 this year and we have 11 kids, and hope to have a couple more (the youngest isn’t a year yet). We are a single family income and I homeschool the kids with our oldest planning to start college in another year at 16. We are building passive income through SFR’s (with some added sweat equity) and Roth IRA’s since we are currently at a negative tax rate with child tax credits. :) Thanks for sharing!

  39. David
    January 21, 2016 at 5:54 am

    Congratulations to a wonderful family, and to a successful family. If wanting more, then keep em’ coming.

  40. Juan
    July 1, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Amazing story! My uttermost hats off to Rob and his Wife.
    Very inspiring stuff. My dad had 11 siblings (most of them still alive), so I am somewhat aware of all the fun and challenges that come with such a big family.

  41. Jennifer Sowden
    August 12, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Bravo! Great info here. We have four children, one income and zero debt. I like your ideas and I don’t like debt! I’m saving this article and sharing it.Thank you!

  42. Katarina
    August 17, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    I loved reading this. I have 5 kids. Silly question, but how do you handle birthdays (for your kids and your children’s friends)? There is always someone having a birthday and it can get quite expensive.

  43. Erith
    August 17, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Several years after this was posted, I would just like to make a couple of comments
    – Respect – I gave up after 2 children. I can’t conceive of how I could have managed to afford more than 2 or 3 let alone 13, look after them, have the patience to stay sane, week after week. Then add in home-schooling where you are educating the older ones, while looking after the toddlers! And as mentioned, introduce a tummy bug….
    – congratulations – you have got several kids in college with a bit of extra funding, and hopefully they come out with minimal debt, (as encouraged by their excellent parental example!)
    – bluntly put, come your retirement, you’ll (optimistically) get some next generation family support. With 1 child emigrated to the other side of the world, the other living at the other end of the country, that is a luxury I can only dream of!
    And good luck. Please post your progress in 10 years.

  44. Sam aka the MOM
    August 17, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Katarina, I love, love this question! Birthdays are a challenge. First of all I spend all year picking up odds and ends on sale like markers, small toys, lunch boxes, craft supplies, and books. I try to find things that work for boys/girls. I put them away and when one of my children are invited to a birthday party they pick something out of the gift basket. For my own kids we do simple. Gas cards and gift cards for the older ones and the younger ones need absolutely nothing! (because they use all the big kids toys!) We just celebrated my 9 year old sons. I happen to have a friend with an only child that sells me his very gently used (usually still in a box) toys to me for a steal! Than I save those for my little boys for birthdays and Christmas. We have a great thrift store that I go to about twice a year and stock up on goodies and things they need or want. I also give my college girls $50 shopping spree there for their gift. They come home with a boat load of dress clothes that they now use for work. When my kids want something special like a lego set or new soccer ball than that’s what they ask for from their grandparents. For parties we do first party at age 5 and they stop at age 10. At five they get five guests, six, six guests, etc…I go to the dollar store and get one dollar party favor per kid. We always do parties at home, a park, the pool, or the beach…depending on the season. Simple, simple, simple…we love themes, so if it is pirates than we pull out the dress ups and put our pirate toys on the cake…the little guys think I am the coolest when the cake has cool “guys” on it. Big kid parties like sweet 16, usually consist of kids coming over for a movie or marshmallow roast outside…super cheap and they are under my roof! Of course when you have a big family just family over for dinner is a huge crowd!!! Keep up the great work and enjoy your wonderful frugal family!

    • Katarina
      August 18, 2016 at 7:16 am

      Thank you so much for replying :)

  45. Sara Marcelli
    August 25, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    First of all love, love, love your post. As I was reading it, I thought WOW this is exactly how my husband and I are. We have been truly blessed with 11 children. I love reading about other big families. We too are debt free, shop at Aldi’s and Amazon. Anyways I do have one quick question for you. You mentioned your children went to a community college for the first two years free. How was that possible? I would love to know more about this. We are just starting to check out colleges for our oldest, who will go off to college in fall of 2017. Like yourselves we explained to our children they will have to pay for their own college tuition. Again loved reading your story.

    • Sam aka the MOM
      August 25, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      Way to go Sara! Our kids got scholarships, financial aide from fasfa! Not all of them went free. Only two really got great deals, others just got help. Make sure you fill out your FASFA before Valentine’s Day and ask your senator and delegate for any funds they offer. Our kids get small scholarships from them. Keep up the great work! +JMJ+

  46. Silva
    December 14, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Hey, Rob

    Thanks so much for sharing your life story! I am truly inspired!
    Do you have any advice for us? We are not planning to have 12 kids, but 4.. we only have one so far!
    DH is working full time while I am working part time. My mo is watching my lo while I am at work.
    There’s no way that my DH will make 100k in the future, ever..
    I am wondering if we can manage 50k income- without any benefits or 401k from work and be able to afford 4 kids!
    and at the same time, prepare for our retirement!
    is that possible???

    • WhateverMeansNecessary
      March 22, 2017 at 9:22 pm

      Hey Silva!

      Just wanted to reply with some encouragement. If you and your husband both get on the same page, you can totally make that work! And still save and invest along the way.

      I would advise that you try to cut your minimum necessary expenses to as low as possible, and start trying to invest as much as you can while you only have one kiddo. Even if that means downsizing in housing or renting–don’t lock in to large monthly expenses! Find good recipes for low-cost meals, and shop at lower-cost grocery stores. Then work at lowering (or eliminating) unecessary spending. Young kids have so few needs that you really don’t have to spend much on them if you decide to opt out of our country’s norm.

      My sister doesn’t work and has three kids under 5yo, her husband makes less than 50k a year. They live great lives while still saving and investing. They just paid off their house, and can now put more to investing. They still plan on having more kids.

      Right now we have 2 kids with number 3 due in June. We plan on having more kids if we can. I don’t work, and my husband makes much less than 50k. This year, we are keeping expenses down in order to save half of his income. If he stays in the same career, he will be doing great if he reaches 50k. Anyway, feel free to click on my “name” to go to my blog for more info.

      But this site, JLCollinsNH, and MrMoneyMustache are great places for info on how to keep costs low and how to invest the extra money you save. So read up on those three “experts'” blog posts.

      You can do it if you adjust your spending to match your stated priorities (kids and investing)!

  47. Lily | The Frugal Gene
    December 23, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    I read this entire thing out loud to my husband and he couldn’t stop laughing! We both had the norovirus / stomach bug once and that was bad but I can imagine 6 little ones puking is even more difficult!

    I love this interview so much! It is so cute! In a lot of ways Rob and his wife reminds me of hubby and I. We have no children yet but have been looking into fostering down the road when we’re FI. Thank you for sharing Rob. This is a breath of fresh air and wishing you continuous support and success!!

  48. Random Guy
    April 15, 2021 at 8:07 am

    LOL. My wife sent me this old post.. we have 5 kids (oldest is 6) and i actually feel like a slacker here. We started late and the biological clock won’t let us get to 13 (barring an Abraham situation) but it’s neat to see this. I’d love to hear more about teaching finances to the littles. Did you do allowance? At what age did the kids have freedom with their money? Mandated chores each day? How do you keep the house clean? What are your “non-negotiables” in terms of rules everyone in the house must follow?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *