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!
Holly cow, congratulations!
I feel like going from 1 kid to 2 was a lot, but 14 is a whole different universe :)
They keep getting easier!!!
I loved this article! You are such an inspirational family. I am curious how you are educating your kids about personal finance. What do they think about your FI journey? We have two small kids (6 and 3), so I am always trying to learn from others on this path.
Teaching them at a young age the difference between wants and needs. Not buying them everything they want. Learning to “make do” with what they already have and having self control to wait till their birthday or Christmas to get that special pair of shoes or device. Buy our book: A Catholic Guide to Spending Less and Living More for More advice. Also, we have free downloads on our website, Fatzfam.com on feeding kids, weddings, and college.
Beautiful family! So many young people are convinced that they can’t afford to have kids and it’s really not the truth. My wife and I have four children and I was able to reach FI at 38.
It takes amazing self-control to accomplish what you have done. And of course, both have to be on the same page!
But what about college funding for 14 kids? How does that work?
See prior post. Homeschool, kids go to community college for 2 years and then in-state college. They pay for college themselves. Very doable at those levels and with a good work ethic.
Go to our website Fatzfam.com for free download on how we do college! We are “mean” parents ans make the kids pay for it all themselves!
Anyone with this many ‘responsibilities’ is special in my book. Congratulations on your success!
Thanks so much!!!
Well done. Can you imagine if these principles were put into practice by the majority of Americans? Congress?
I love this story! I am Catholic and actually send my 4 kids to Catholic grade and high schools, which has slowed down our FI journey, but is a priority for us. It’s inspiring to hear how people make FIRE work, with varying circumstances. I will read your book!
WOW I am speechless. Helps me to complain less about raising 2 kids :)
Rob – all I can say is WOW! 14 kids! I find looking after 2 kids a handful.
We became Financially Free when my wife was 39 years old. But if we’d had 14 kids, I’m not sure how long it would have taken. We’d need a much bigger house…
Well done for having a clear goal and going for it. As some of your kids are getting older, are you considering having more?
Congratulations! I read your original post in (I think) 2015, a year after we had <$500 in our bank account (I did have retirement accounts) and a month to go until my next paycheck as a teacher coming out of summer vacation. Since then my wife and I have tightened the belt and are well our way to FIRE with our 3 children. Thank you for your help and inspiration! Do you talk more in your book about being Catholic and the decisions you made in terms of home schooling vs. Catholic vs public? If not, I would appreciate it if you could here. Again, congratulations and thank you!
Do you have any tips on how to sell on eBay?
What a great story! What a great family! When people come up with these huge costs per child I always think that’s overblown. We only had three children but honestly I don’t think they cost much at all, and whatever it was the return on investment has made us feel richer than Warren Buffett.
The financial challenge is nowhere as tough as regularly engaging with 14 kids and molding through their impressionable years.
Granted, not all kids will be of same age and raising the youngest ones will be made a lot easier by the older siblings, still… How do they manage their workday ?
Colored me impressed! I enjoyed both posts and congratulations!
This is a truly amazing story! I have totally forgotten or maybe even didn’t notice the links to your blogs on the original post. I reread it again and I recall that I enjoyed reading your story years ago because of the writing style.
Now, will you write chapters or share any info that the professional editors cut out from your draft? 192 print pages don’t make a long read IMO, so there must be lots of info omitted. However, if the writing style in the book is similar to these two blog posts, I’ll be interested in buying your book.
Oh, I loved the notes about lifestyle inflation with regards to Sam’s spending (or would it be ‘wasting’?) money on NEW things for grandchildren. This is a mystery that keeps revolving for generations…grandparents spoiling their grandkids. I wouldn’t say it’s very mainstream and I’ve heard from a lot of FRUGAL people who upped their spending just because of their grandkids (those little buggers just win the hearts of old people for whatever reason).
I also wish the family disclosed their FI numbers (or at least if they have say 25 or 30x their expenses) or their current expenses as they did in the first article, but despite that I thank you for the update. I should take a closer look at my numbers after this inspirational read and perhaps ditch my job earlier than later.
Congratulations. Amazing things happen when you live debt-free and have a high savings rate.
For the healthcare portion of your plan, have you looked into a direct primary care physician? I have recently started my research and if available in your area you pay a monthly fee per person to receive care. It doesn’t cover everything such as emergencies or specialty doctors but it’s a way to balance your cost without introducing too much risk.
Good stuff. I’m especially impressed that they were able to write a book and get it through the editing process in less than a year. It’s great that they’re sharing that knowledge with other families to help them reach financial independence as well.
I read your 2014 post and this one and was laughing the while time. Your story is inspiring and you tell it in such a funny way!
Loved the original post and was so happy to read this update. Awesome y’all. Y’all are wildly inspirational! Preordered your book :)
I thought I did well to raise 4 boys on my own on a teacher’s salary and retire at 57.
14 kids is literally half a classroom full of kids – but All The Time!
Even now, with some of them gone, there must be a lot of noise and movement at your place. :)
Thanks to everyone for their kind comments. And thanks Brandon for posting this.
We have 9 children and my husband and I are eying early retirement for him. He is 50 and the breadwinner of the family tho I have started self publishing books and earning a surprising amount from that. We aren’t as frugal as you, especially where food is concerned, but we definitely say no to many extras. I love the bond between our children. It is truly a blessing. Our 2 eldest are launched and doing well. Thanks for your inspiring story and congratulations on being close to retiring! (Our big mistake was marrying late- I was 27 and didn’t have our first child until I was 30. If we had started earlier maybe we would have hit double digits like you did! )
Please do your research on “health sharing ministries” as they are NOT insurance companies. They can be seen as a scam by many. There have been so many investigative journalism exposes on these ‘for profit” companies lurking as religions non profits. If you don’t have much income (or shield it well) you should be able to get Medicaid (Obama did away with net worth requirement and now they look at your annual income.