Our careers are very rewarding, but it came at a price. Literally, the years of dedicated study cost us a total of $151,000 in student debt between the two of us.
My wife finished her Master’s Degree two years before I finished my Doctorate. By the time I graduated, she had completely paid off her $36,000 student loan debt.
After a year into my career, my initial plan to pursue public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) had backfired. This led me to accumulate an additional $8,000 in student loan interest.
Feeling sickened by my growing debt, I developed a plan to aggressively pay off my 6-figure student loan balance
During this journey, I learned a great deal about student loans and utilized many strategies on paying off those students loans quickly.
Within two years into my career, I paid off $115,000 in federal student loans with a 75-90% savings rate coupled with personal loans from family.
Now, I feel comfortable paying back one remaining personal loan while my wife and I work towards the goal of financial independence (FI) by age 40.
This will make it possible for us to retire decades ahead of traditional retirement age. When I say retire, I really mean retiring from the rat race.
I anticipate we will continue treating patients to some capacity even if we no longer need to work for money. We worked hard to be good at what we do and we enjoy helping people get back on their feet, literally.
Our Pre-FI Fog
We both had a rough start to our careers. In 2014, a few unfortunate events made us realize how easy it is to lose sight of the really important things in life – your relationships with those you care about and your health.
Despite this realization, the reality was that we needed to devote most of our time and energy to our work in order to pay the bills.
We frequently left early during rare gatherings with friends and family because we needed to be well rested to deliver patient care the next day.
It became a pattern for us to missed holidays with family due to mandatory work. Ultimately, we felt like we were just living for the weekends.
When people asked when we were planning to have kids, our answers were:
- “It’s too soon, we feel the need to be more financially stable”, or
- “Not until we find a better hospital to work for”, or
- “We need to create a better work/life balance”.
The truth was that our unhappiness in our careers bled into our lives. We questioned the career paths that had cost us over $150,000 and questioned what we really wanted out of life.
Not knowing what to do, we continued to pay down debt. Our goal was to save for a house, a new car, and eventually have a baby. We understood this was the “normal” thing to do and just hoped we would eventually be happy with it.
Deep down, it did not excite us because we knew we would be working to pay for the house that we would barely be able to enjoy, working to pay for the car primarily used for work and working to pay for children who we would barely be able to see.
It was not a life we wanted to live. No matter how many times we switched jobs, any changes we made within our careers did not make a difference in how we felt. We felt lost in a thick fog.
Then We Found FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early)
The FIRE lifted the fog and we were able to see clearer. It reinvigorated us to pursue something more valuable than our career goals and more valuable than a bigger home.
It was the goal of being financially independent and having the option to become free from the 9-5 grind. The thought of having more time to spend with loved ones while pursuing other passions sparked a new curiosity.
Learning more about financial independence lead us to become more financially literate. We began learning about various investment vehicles and utilizing tax-advantaged accounts.
We learned that there is a community of like-minded individuals who have achieved financial independence or are on the pursuit. Subsequently, we began to develop a financial plan that changed the trajectory of our lives.
We not only took control of our finances but began living each day with a purpose. We began to read and listen to podcasts regularly. I began writing in my journal more often and enjoyed writing so much that I started this blog. Best of all, my wife began exercising with me more frequently.
By becoming consumers of knowledge and practicing habits that better align with our values, we are happier, healthier and smarter. We are cultivating the relationships that matter most to us and caring less about the things that don’t.
We are now working to build the life we want and plan to have it fully funded before we hit 40. All the while, we are enjoying our journey along the way.
Art is the founder of Flexcents, a blog created in 2018 to help others reach their fitness and financial goals through sharing insights as a physical therapist, personal finance nerd, and self-directed investor.