The online personal finance community, and especially the financial independence subset, seems to be filled with people who make some seriously above average incomes. While I will begrudge no one for earning that high salary, it can be more than a bit discouraging when you realize the timelines many of them talk about could never work for your life because the income needed to do so is significantly more than you make.
Combined, my husband and I make what could be considered a “decent” salary for many individual tech or engineering jobs, but we come at that number with two incomes. Like I’ve gone into depth about in the past, neither of us make the median salary for our area alone, but we do together when you calculate for our family of three. For so many people, we have a really solid income that can be used to reach a heck of a lot of great goals, and we do make enough to be reaching for what will hopefully be a fifty percent savings rate this year.
My biggest money mistakes are really small ones, and we’ve done a heck of a lot right. The only thing we’ve done really “wrong” financially is to not chase the really big salaries. I’ve even cut my hours (and pay) to 80% time, which obviously means we’re going backward when it comes to wealth building. To top it off, we live in what’s become one of the most expensive areas of the county, but we are still doing a heck of a lot better than most.
We lucked out and bought our home at just twenty three thanks to a lucky combination of the bottom of the real estate market, historically low interest rates, and our access to a VA loan that meant we didn’t need a large downpayment to boot. My husband didn’t need to take out any student loans thanks to that same military service plus a significant chunk of money saved by his parents. I was able to minimize mine by graduating in three years and then singlemindedly focusing to have the $24,000 (at an 8.5% interest rate) paid off in three and a half years.
We live in a high cost of living area, but that area also means we are close to both sides of our family, and they watch our son three days a week, saving us significant amounts of money on reduced childcare expenses, along with the non-financial benefits of a close relationship with them. Plus, we never have to pay a babysitter for date night.
And yet. When I compare myself to so many bloggers online, it feels like we make pennies. There’s no way we could “turn things around” and retire in a handful of years. We have no big house to downsize from, no fancy car to trade in, no fancy furniture and toys to turn around for cash. While we’ve always lived within our means, our salaries would have capped what was open to us in the first place.
So when I read about a seventy, eighty, ninety percent savings rate, about maxing out all retirement accounts and still having more space for investing in taxable accounts, all while making room in their budget for a few splurges, I can get a bit frustrated. Because of the way we’ve chosen to live our lives, that avenue isn’t open to us.
And when a few of those bloggers and big names make it sound like anything short of those big incomes and big savings rates aren’t reasonable for an expectation of financial independence? When an “average” family in a high income area should expect to spend six figures even when considering themselves frugal? It makes me realize that there is real value in those of us who are pursuing financial independence even with the handicap of incomes that are lower than average for the online community.
While I absolutely get value from bloggers with high incomes (some of my favorite bloggers have or have previously held highly compensated positions), there is something missing when those are the voices we hear most of the time. I realize that “Family Reaches Financial Independence And Retires Early In Fifteen (or Twenty) Years” isn’t a very exciting clickbait title, but for many of us, the short timeline just isn’t possible, no matter how much we cut our budgets to the bone.
Even so, twenty years puts financial independence and the option to retire significantly earlier than the average expectation. But that age is forties or fifties, not twenties or thirties.
The Money Middletons
When I first heard about the Money Middletons concept, I knew that it was exactly the piece our community has been missing; a place to bring together those of us living and breathing personal finance and the pursuit of financial freedom while also dealing with the struggles that come from getting there on a more moderate income.
The Middletons launches today, a curation site for “the very best personal finance content for mild to moderate incomes.” The site will feature one to three pieces of content Monday through Thursday, along with a themed Friday roundup of an additional three to five pieces of content. In a community where we see posts extolling the six figure middle class budget and arguments about how high an income can be and still be considered middle class, I hope The Middletons will be real, relatable place for those of us who fall in a different category. And for those who do land solidly in the mid to high income, I hope you’ll also follow along and broaden your perspectives about what is possible on that smaller salary.
Financial independence – and any level of financial freedom – is absolutely doable on a Middleton salary. It just takes longer and has perhaps different sacrifices. And for our family at least, we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I am not affiliated with The Middletons in any way, but I am very excited to follow along with what they are attempting to do. When I found out they were launching today, I wanted to share a bit about what being a Middleton means to me, and why I think this site will be a great edition to the curation sites already in existence.
The Middleton Community – Beyond The Site
If The Middletons concept sounds intriguing and like something you’d love to be a part of, they have also started a Middletons Facebook group and are also active on Twitter and are on Instagram as well. I’ll be following along, and I hope you will too!
Do you consider yourself to be a Money Middleton? What’s the hardest part?