Note: This is Part One in a series about how we managed to retire in our early 30s. You can follow me on Instagram to see what we are up to now!
When I quit teaching about eight years ago, it was with the intention of eventually going back to it. I was about to have my first child and intended to stay home with him for awhile at least, but I loved teaching and was pretty damn good at it. Sure, I was having some qualms about how well the traditional classroom served kids, particularly those of lower socioeconomic status or from troubled homes, but what other options were there? I was fully invested in public education being the ticket out of poverty for anyone who could grasp the hand held out to them.
Fast forward a couple years. I’d started to get my feet under me as a parent, though things were not going as smoothly as I would have liked. My son was growing, but so were his tantrums. I stumbled upon gentle parenting and found that the techniques I learned really worked. We made great strides– so much so that we started trying for a new baby– but I realized that not only did I not feel comfortable leaving my son to go back to teaching, but I also simply didn’t want to.
Well that’s all well and good, but in order to have the financial freedom I had planned on we couldn’t remain a single income family indefinitely. Around this time we started looking for a new house. When we initially built our first home we chose a new development of an established neighborhood near our parents and my school. As it happened, that ten minute drive to my job that made so much sense when I had to be at work around 6:30am was a little silly once Adam was the only one working… a minimum drive of 40 minutes one way. That drive easily compounded to over an hour when there was traffic. Unfortunately, we came to this realization close to the lowest point in the recession in 2010, so we were upside down on our mortgage. However, when we bought our first house we did so cautiously, so we had not overextended ourselves financially to do it. That meant that– even though we no longer had my income– we had the flexibility in our finances to buy another house without selling the one we were in, provided we rented out our original house.
That in mind, I started our search. I essentially drew a circle around Adam’s office and looked at homes within a 15 minute drive. I knew next to nothing about those areas of Charlotte, but very quickly some neighborhoods were eliminated because we simply could not afford them. That left some areas that I perceived as being unsafe or less desirable, but I kept looking. Because we were in a recession, and because I wanted to keep our first house, I asked the real estate agent to find houses for under $100k. What would have been a laughable goal a few years before was now attainable because of the slump in home prices. Every home she sent I plugged into the local police crime map. I found that the areas I thought of as being unsafe were in fact safer than the area where we were currently living! We found a house in a quiet neighborhood about 12 minutes from Adam’s office for well under our goal.
Friends and family were flabbergasted at our decision to move from a relatively well-to-do area to a lower income one. In doing so, however, we went from paying $1100 per month for one house to paying about $500 per month for two once rent was subtracted. The area we had been living in was still desirable, so we were able to rent the house immediately. Our new home was smaller, but we thought at the time it would just be a temporary move (though that plan later changed).
Freeing up that extra monthly income by downsizing and renting was absolutely the best thing we ever did for ourselves financially. It officially started us on the path to retiring young, and it gave me a taste for being a landlord (despite some early hiccups). Obviously we were strong financially before we started on this path and thus had the luxury of obtaining a second mortgage during a financial crisis, but by being flexible and taking advantage of the opportunity of low housing prices that was presented to us we created the perfect environment for explosive growth. If we had balked at moving into the smaller house in the “bad” neighborhood– which is in what is now one of the most popular areas of Charlotte– we would both still be working, missing our kids, and utterly miserable. Because of that early decision we are free to travel whenever and wherever our little hearts desire, and we are able to raise our children as adaptable, adventuring, global citizens.