Over seven years ago, a Mad Fientist reader reached out with an amazing story…
He and his wife planned to achieve financial independence with a family but the incredible part was that they had a VERY BIG family…13 kids to be precise!
Not only that, they were planning to do it on a single salary (which at the time, was around $104,000 per year).
For the full story, check out the original guest post here.
Well, seven years on and they reached their goal…six years ahead of schedule!
Rob kindly agreed to provide an update on how they did it…
A lot of things in the first article are still the same, but there have been some significant changes in the past seven years. A few of the major highlights: we now have 14 kids, we have eight grandkids, and I plan on reaching FIRE at the end of this year, instead of 2027 which was mentioned in the original article.
The other big news is we wrote a book A Catholic Guide to Spending Less and Living More: Advice from a Debt-Free Family of 16, being released on Amazon and Ave Maria Press websites on April 23rd. More on these and other things below.
FIRE with an Even Bigger Family
During the summer of 2016 we took in a newborn as a foster baby. He is almost five now and looks to be a permanent addition to the clan.
Our four oldest kids are married (only one was when the original article was written) and between them we have eight grandkids.
The eight oldest kids are out of the house. The six youngest, ages 4-17, are still living at home. I am trying to talk them into moving out (without success).
Spending on Grandkids
I may actually have to keep working because my wife loves shopping for things for the grandkids. Things she would never ever buy for our own kids have suddenly become “necessities” for the grandkids. Yard sale, hand-me-down and thrift store clothes were good enough for our kids but apparently the grandkids need new clothes.
Reaching FI Earlier than Expected
We haven’t hit the lottery or taken up robbing banks, I am too afraid of jail to do that. So, what has changed to allow us to predict an earlier FIRE date?
My income has only gone up a small amount since 2014. Around 2% per year.
Two years ago, my wife, Sam, started working part time at our church. She averages 10 hours a week. It’s not a large sum, but it gets saved, not spent.
Our budget hasn’t changed too much, our food costs are down a moderate amount due to kids moving out.
We have managed to up our savings rate. We are both over 50 so the max we can contribute to our 401k and IRAs has gone up. We max out the 401K, ROTH IRAs and HSA every year and we don’t touch the HSA money (which I learned not to do years ago from the Mad Fientist).
Add in the 401k match from my employer and we are saving around $53,000 each year specifically for retirement. We also put money into an emergency fund each month. We have been building up the emergency fund so that we will have a minimum of a year’s worth of savings. I will feel more comfortable with that level of cash. Our savings rate is around 50% of our gross income.
We are still debt free; our house was paid off in 2012 and we haven’t had any credit card, car or other debt since the late 80’s. We do have an unused home equity line of credit we could tap if everything goes sideways.
When I retire our gross income will go down, but our net income will be about the same since we will no longer be maxing out various accounts. We will still put money into our Roths since at the least my wife will have income. And we will keep putting money each month into our emergency fund.
We should definitely have the FI (financially independent) part down by year end. What the RE (retire early) part looks like remains to be seen. I am planning to leave my full-time job (shh don’t tell my boss) and the regular paycheck and benefits that go along with that around December 31st. But I will do “something”. Side hustle, sell more on eBay, maybe work part-time. But it will be on my terms. And my wife will still be working at the church.
Family Health Insurance After Retirement
We are excited and nervous for this to happen. The biggest worries are having six kids at home to provide for, including finding new health insurance.
I have created an account on our state’s health marketplace. It looks like we can get a silver level plan at a reasonable rate.
I also looked into health sharing ministries, but we have a few kids with some pre-existing health conditions, which makes these plans not optimal for us.
Last February (2020 – right before everything went into the toilet) we were approached by Ave Maria Press to write a book on finances from the perspective of a large Catholic family who was debt free. We fit that definition, although we are not writers and have never written a book before. We went back and forth with ideas and potential themes and chapters for a few weeks. We came to an agreement with the publisher and started the book in March, and then you-know-what hit…this actually helped the writing of the book.
With all the kid’s activities, along with everything else, cancelled, we found ourselves with a lot of free time. We spent April and May working on the book in the evenings and the weekends. Our older kids all wrote tips and suggestions that were woven into the text of the book. We ended up writing more than the publisher wanted and had to hack 10,000 words out of the first draft. We turned in that first draft in early June. The summer was spent going over corrections and suggestions from the publisher and by September the final version was set in, if not stone, at least wood.
We are currently learning the ropes of marketing and promoting a book. Doing interviews, podcasts and you know, writing articles like this.
Retiring Early with 14 Kids
I have had a paying job since the fall of 1980 when I was 15 and pumping gas after school at the local gas station. And a fulltime job since 1986. I will be 57 and my wife 53 at the end of the year, it is time. We are looking forward to this new chapter of our lives.
It’s the Mad Fientist again. Huge thanks to Rob for this update and if you want to learn more about their impressive path to FIRE, click here to check out their book!