How I got here

So, starting with the amount I listed in my last post hardly makes my goal sound impressive, does it? I can already imagine a typical response: “If I had $350k to start with, I could figure out how to retire early too.  Typical privileged trust fund idiot.”

Let’s rewind a little.  I grew up in a large family of European immigrants.  Both my parents came to Canada as children after WW2. Did I have a privileged background?  Well, yes, I think so, but probably not in the way the a lot of people would think.  My parents grew up incredibly poor, but my father got a job right out of high school that let them live solidly middle-class lives.  We didn’t go out to eat or take fancy vacations, but never went without either. My mother was the sort who would pick up a penny from the ground and put it in her purse; if we looked embarrassed, she would always say the same thing: “If you don’t appreciate the little things, you don’t deserve the big things.”

However, my father lost his job, and never got another one as good.  Money was really tight throughout my teen years.  I started babysitting when I turned 12, and was responsible for buying my own clothes and anything else I wanted from that point on.  It was expected that we would all work any job that came our way.  As soon as we graduated high school, we all knew the rule: go to college (on scholarships or your own dime) or pay rent to Mom and Dad.

So yeah, no trust fund.  I went to a local community college, and then worked in customer service for a decade.  I saved every penny I could, and had the down payment for my first condo in my mid-20s.  I met my now-husband, and when we bought a slightly bigger townhouse we decided to rent out the old one instead of selling it, and did the same thing when we moved a few years later.  We put all our extra money onto the mortgages, which meant the first one was paid off after about 10 years.  We both went back to school while working full time, and as a result were able to get better jobs. When we made more money, we put most of that extra income onto the mortgages again.

And here we are.

Why don’t I see this as a pure success story? Because we still did stupid things.  I’m embarrassed to say that we’ve never come anywhere close to maxing out RRSP contributions, since I never really understood the tax break.  Any cash we had on hand was sitting in accounts with essentially no interest.  When I look at what we’ve made in the last 15 years and what we have saved, I see a variance that goes beyond living expenses.  If we kept going the way we have been, we would probably have a comfortable retirement, but it wouldn’t start in 10 years.

The tldr version is basically that we’ve done ok, and maybe even better than a lot of people in our position, but we can do so much better.

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