My Secret To Retiring Early With Only A $4 Million Net Worth And Two Kids

The following is a guest post from a long-time Financial Samurai reader named Joona. He shares his secret to retiring at age 41 with a $4 million net worth, a wife, and two kids ages three and six.

I really love hearing about early retirement case studies and how my writing has helped people reach their financial goals. After all, I've been writing about my own case study of achieving financial independence since 2009. It's been a fun journey full of twists and turns.

Previously, I had written about how retiring early with $5 million is extremely difficult for families in expensive coastal cities. Therefore, reading this case study on retiring early with $1 million less is particularly insightful. Take it away Joona!

Retiring Young With $4 Million And Two Kids

There's an old saying, “Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.” When I first heard the saying, I was offended. I had just finished going to law school for three years and had $100,000 in student debt.

But after five years of working as an associate, I recognized the truth in the saying. The hours were long, but I wanted to make partner by my 35th birthday. I didn't. I also wanted to have my first child at age 35, but that didn't happen either.

After 11 years of grinding it out as an associate, I finally made partner at age 37 in 2019. I also had my first boy a year earlier. I thought my life would be much better with more pay, less grunt work, and more schmoozing.

But being a dad changed my perspective.

Instead of looking forward to going out for expensive steak dinners with the finest bottles of wine until 10 pm, I felt guilty leaving my wife alone to take care of our son. Instead of spending five hours on the golf course with prospective clients, I longed to see my son's first milestones.

The pressure to be both a present father and a great lawyer was making me miserable. Something hand to change.

How Much Money I Made As A Lawyer

For those curious, here's how much I made as a lawyer. I didn't work for a big law firm like Cravath, Wachtell, or Sullivan & Cromwell. Instead, I worked at a boutique law firm that had more humane hours but paid less. It was the tradeoff I was willing to make.

Year 1 after law school at age 26 – $100,000

Year 2 – $110,000

Year 3 – $130,000

Year 4 – $145,000

Year 5 – $160,000

Year 6 – $170,000

Year 7 – $170,000

Year 8 – $180,000

Year 9 – $190,000

Year 10 – $200,000

Year 11 – $250,000

Year 12 – $300,000

Year 13 – $340,000

Year 14 – $430,000

Total earnings after 14 years: $2,875,000

The amounts may sound like a lot, however, I went to law school for three years and took on debt. Further, today's starting salary for 1st year Big Law associates is around $200,000 plus a $25,000 stub bonus.

Maybe I could have made a million dollars a year after 20 years. But I wasn't going to stick around that long to find out.

My saving rate averaged about 55% for my entire career. During the last two years of work, I saved 75% of my after-tax income. When you have a goal to escape, saving money because extremely easy.

Net Worth Progression As A Lawyer

Here's my rough net worth progression as a lawyer. By the end of year four, I had paid off my law school debt. I also didn't have any undergraduate school debt because my parents paid for it.

70% of my savings went towards three Vanguard index ETFs. The other 30% of my savings went toward buying a multifamily property for rental income.

Year 1 after law school at age 26: -$10,000

Year 2: +$20,000

Year 3: +$50,000

Year 4: +$120,000 (paid off law school debt)

Year 5: $200,000

Year 6: $300,000

Year 7: $550,000

Year 8: $850,000

Year 9: $1,030,000

Year 10: $1,350,000 (bought multifamily property)

Year 11: $1,620,000

Year 12: $1,900,000

Year 13: $2,200,000

Year 14: $2,500,000 (today)

With an estimated $2,500,000 net worth, I decided to call it quits. Being a partner at my law firm for three years was enough for me to leave with no regrets. I reached the pinnacle of my profession and the only thing I would leave behind would be money. Therefore, I Fat FIREd.

The Goalpost Is Always Moving In Terms Of How Much You Think You Need

Many of my fellow partners are striving for a $10 million net worth or higher before retiring. They believe somehow, they will be happier with 10 figures instead of seven. But I know more money doesn't make me happier. I've been at the same level of happiness for over five years now.

What I'd gain would be more free time with our now two children. They are ages eight and six. The one thing about having kids is that it makes time go by faster because they are changing so quickly. Before I know it, they'll be heading off the college.

Due to inflation, a $2,500,000 net worth isn't what it once was. Sam has written that to be a real millionaire, you need at least a $3,000,000 net worth. But for me, it was good enough to say goodbye, so I did.

The Secret To Retiring On Only $4 Million With Kids

Here's the thing. I didn't just retire early with a $2.5 million net worth. After all, there have been two income earners over the past 14 years. My wife, whom I met in law school, is also a lawyer and has no plans of retiring any time soon.

Ever since we first met at the campus cafeteria, we've been on the same page about our careers and financial goals. It's one of the reasons why we get along so well.

She was two years behind me in school and still has the same fire for being a lawyer as when I first met her as a third-year student. In comparison, I was starting to burn out after my 11th year. She's up for partner this year and plans to work until she's 60.

My Independent Wife

Since we first met, my wife has always been an independent woman who has sought to build her own wealth. She's also been extremely into finance since high school. Neither of her parents had job stability, which often made her worry. Partly as a result, we've always had separate banking accounts.

Here's another life hack. We also aren't technically married, which saves us between $15,000 – $25,000 a year in marriage penalty tax. We realized we didn't need a certificate to prove our love for each other. As a result, we've saved over $250,000 in marriage penalty taxes during our relationship.

My wife wanted to see how much wealth she could accumulate on her own. And like me, she didn't understand why one plus one doesn't equal two in the government's eyes. As a high-income earning woman, she feels the government is wrong to penalize women for wanting well-paying careers.

Over the past 12 years of her career, she has been able to accumulate a net worth of about $1.5 million. In other words, our combined net worth is about $4.0 million.

Related: The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Married Couple

Is A $4 Million Net Worth Enough To Retire Early?

We have about $2.8 million in investable assets generating anywhere between $60,000 – $120,000 a year in passive investment income. The income range depends on capital distributions from various private real estate funds we own.

On the low end, can I live off $60,000 a year in gross investment income or about $50,000 a year in net investment income? I can. But I don't.

We reinvest 100% of our investment income and capital distributions every year in order to generate even more passive investment income.

Given I'm only 41, I want to keep building our investment income so that by the time my wife retires in 20 years, we'll really be set.

So how do I survive and take care of the kids?

Well, that's easy. My wife makes about $350,000 a year as a lawyer. If she makes partner, she will likely make $500,000 or more in the next several years. Even if she doesn't get promoted, she will likely continue to make $350,000 – $400,000 for the foreseeable future.

With a $350,000 gross income, after taxes, she brings in about $270,000. Given our budget is only about $160,000 a year, we're left with about $110,000 to invest in stocks, real estate, bonds, private funds, and to save for our children's education.

But aren't you just a stay at home dad and not retired?

Absolutely. I'm a stay at home dad who happens to have worked for 14 years and amassed a $2.5 million net worth on my own.

I no longer work because I don't need to. Instead, I want to decompress and spend more time with my children before they leave the house.

$160,000 Spending Budget Breakdown

Here's a rough estimate of our $160,000 a year budget. We've been spending about $160,000 for the past two years so we feel confident that we'll be able to maintain this budget for four people going forward.

I tried to be as concise as possible. In the past, when I would do our budget, I discovered we actually spent way more than we thought. With this budget, I think we could easily cut $20,000 a year if we need to.

How to retire early on a $4 million net worth and $160,000 a year annual budget

Based on the figures we live a pretty normal middle-class lifestyle.

We send both our children to public school and live in a comfortable three bedroom, two bathroom home with a backyard and an office. Our house is about 2,200 square feet. We're also saving $20,000 a year for college in a 529 savings plan.

After sixteen years, our youngest will be done with college and our expenses will likely drop. However, we're still budgeting in some expenses to help our kids after college just in case they have a difficult time launching on their own.

Spending $160,000 a year requires earning a gross W-2 income of about $213,000 based on a 25% effective tax rate. Therefore, our target passive income target by the time my wife retires in 20 years is about $220,000, inflation adjusted.

Early Retirement Is Easier With A Working Spouse

I'm very proud of my wife's career aspirations. Unlike me, who is completely burned out from the corporate world, she's still highly motivated. But given she is two years younger than me, maybe she'll feel differently after a couple of years as a partner.

Saving and investing aggressively for 14 years probably makes up for 70% of the reason why I was able to retire at 41. 30% of the reason is due to my wife. I could happily live off $2.5 million as a bachelor if it was just me and one child.

The balance in our household is good as I take our kids to and from school. Further, I pay all the bills, order or prepare most of our meals, and keep up the house in order. I'm also the one who arranges all the repairs and maintains our rental property.

The Rise Of The Female Breadwinner

For many households, the situation is the opposite. Men are often the ones who need to be the breadwinners while their wives stay at home to take care of the children and household.

Thankfully, in our increasingly equal society, more mothers are becoming breadwinners. They should be as the majority of college-educated adults are women.

Spending as many years possible working after spending so many years in college and graduate school is the rational thing to do. For me, 14 years of work after law school was enough.

The rise of breadwinning mothers has increased over time

I hope our daughter can one day find a career she loves and make a great living as well. I'm proud my wife is setting a great example for her. If her husband decides to stay at home and raise the kids, I might just help out too!

At the end of the day, my wife trusts nobody with the kids more than me. It gives her a lot of peace of mind that I'm the one taking care of them while she is working. When she was growing up, her parents were always working.

The Confidence To Retire Early With A Working Spouse

I will admit I wouldn't have felt comfortable retiring early if my wife also wanted to retire early with me. $60,000 to occasionally $120,000 in gross passive income is not enough to fund our $160,000 a year ideal budget. We'd also have to pay over $2,000 a month for health insurance if we didn't have subsidized healthcare.

If my wife wanted to join me in early retirement, I think we'd need closer to a $7 million net worth. With around $6 million in investments, we should be able to generate over $200,000 a year in gross passive income to fund our lifestyles.

If my wife works for another six-to-eight years and if our investments cooperate, we have a great chance of getting there. And by then, my wife will still be in her 40s to enjoy the early retirement life with me if she so chooses.

It's true what Sam says. Your financial independence number is not really real if you don't change your lifestyle. In my case, having a working wife has given me tremendous courage to leave my law career behind.

Consistent Encouragement Is Needed

I'm only eight months into my early retirement lifestyle so take my perspective for what it is. But so far, I'm enjoying the much slower pace of life. One surprise I discovered is my chronic interior elbow pain finally went away after two years. If I knew my anxiety and chronic pain would have gone away, I would have retired a year earlier.

Sending my kids to school and picking them up to go to soccer practice and other events gives me purpose from Monday through Friday. So does making sure all our household items are in order.

I go for bike rides and hikes every day, which have improved my mood and overall happiness. I'm also spending more time looking for investment opportunities.

So far, my wife likes the balance. Me not working has reduced her mental load so she can spend more time focusing on work while at work. When she comes home, she loves being able to unwind, which was harder while I was working.

I've done my best to follow the tips of other men who also retired early and have working spouses. For example, I'm always encouraging before she starts her workday. I'm also always there whenever she needs to vent about work issues. And if she needs me to run an errand, I'll do it no problem.

The more I can anticipate her needs before they come up, the better.

Surprisingly, I don't miss the money. The freedom I've gained from early retirement has more than made up for the lost income. Given I saved and invested most of my money anyway, earning more money no longer improves our lifestyle.

Manage Your Happiness In Retirement

Finally, if you plan to follow my lead, I recommend being careful about showing too much outward joy as an early retiree, especially on your spouse's bad days. Instead, try to mirror your partner's mood so any resentment about your new lifestyle never grows.

At the end of the day, you want both partners to continue living their desired lifestyles. Over time, views about work and retirement will change though. So stay flexible.

During the tougher days, we remind ourselves that we're doing what's best for our children and ourselves. In addition, if we ever need to earn more money, I can always do some part-time consulting or go back to work.

But for now, both of us trying to make the most money possible doesn't make sense. I'm not ready to go into decumulation mode just yet. But I am happy to step away from the grind.

When the time comes for my wife to retire, I'll be there waiting to show her around.

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Readers, what do you think about retiring with a family on $4 million? Do you think you could do it? Are you noticing more men retire early while their wives work? Is the secret to retiring early having a financially responsible spouse who loves their job?

For those of you who found this story un-relatable, here's a story about how one woman overcame money trauma and retired with only $600,000.

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About The Author

157 thoughts on “My Secret To Retiring Early With Only A $4 Million Net Worth And Two Kids”

  1. I think Joona’s article was courageous, inspiring, and a model for a strong and supportive modern man and marriage.

    Speaking from the perspective of a high-dual-income family with three young kids living in coastal California, I can attest that even with a spouse making $350K/yr, this is not an easy choice. First of all, Joona had a real opportunity cost, he could be making $500K+/yr (those who chimed in about their wives retiring probably didn’t have spouses with such high opportunity cost). Second, sitting in another country, or even another US state, this sounds like a lot of money but it’s really not in coastal California. Whatever you think our cost of living is in your mind, quadruple it, especially with todays high inflation. Example, In my neighborhood: cost of tomatoes, $5/lb, cost of milk: $8.99/gallon, cost of a food truck burrito: $14, cost of cappuccino: $5.5, cost of Disneyland tix $350/pp, cost of 1 week of camp per kid = $350-$500/pp.

    Joona: One thing you should consider is that your expenses will increase with growing children. They will want to take extra-curricular lessons, swimming/soccer/piano/tennis, whatever,… and just for that, my money-councious family ends up spending $1000-1500/month between our three kids.

    1. How do i survive?? He asks, “my wife still makes 350k” a year. This guy is surely a cynic. Lets see how it goes when the high earning wife gets tired of this BS

  2. This article is bit misleading… The reality is that anyone can retire if the other spouse is earning $350k per year… That is basically what my wife did 5 years ago. She doesn’t work anymore.

    1. It’s the most ridiculous anything I have read about finances, ever. Hey I retired and my wife makes $350k m. I mean sorry we aren’t married. We have Millions. I also made a lot each year. Look at us. This isn’t advice. It’s nonsense.

      1. Have to agree with this. This fire movement is for people that live in bubbles. What bothers me the most is the bragging tone of it all.

  3. Paper Tiger

    I will offer one more take on the retired or not retired debate. I would simply ask the author one question to determine which one it is. Are you financially “independent”? In other words, if your partner were to leave you would you be forced to go back to work because you can no longer support the financial demands on you by yourself for the rest of your life?

    If the answer is no, I would not have to go back to work then I would say you have been and are retired. If the answer is that you would have to go back to work then you are not financially independent and have simply left the workforce for a period of time and now have to go back in order to provide for yourself.

    One of the big keys to retirement is having financial independence assured for a lifetime without relying on having to work for more money.

  4. This situation is set up for trouble. The clock is ticking on the marriage. Women are by nature hypergamous (looking for the better deal) and can not at heart respect a man who is not chasing excellence. Her desire/attraction levels will collapse.

    Remember, men are success objects to women, and women are beauty objects to men. Fundamental laws of attraction since time immemorial. Men and women are not equal.

    To retire is to expire for a man. You are running a huge risk. You are surplus to requirements from her and evolutions perspective at this point.

    Do not let it happen, chase excellence.

    Divorce law is brutal.

    1. Women are people, too

      You really have no clue about women. I sincerely hope you learn to let go of your bitterness (and, from the sounds of it, move on from your recent messy divorce).

  5. OK, read all the comments and enjoyed them. I can’t speak to those who are earning middle-class incomes with middle class lives (the 125K single earner, for example). But, I do think Fin Sam describes the choices being faced by people in stressful and high-earning jobs and the choices they want to make.

    FinSam started with the willingness to walk away from money in order to optimize life differently, and what you can do with the other choices you have when you walk away. He also included how you spend your time, the impact of children, the wealth you need, the risks you take, the earnings you had and the spending you want. I’ve been reading for a while, and, his advice fits the questions I have been asking myself (and my spouse).

    I am older than the the OT, and Fin Sam, my kids are older (youngest leaves the nest this year). I have used the perspective here to guide some of my choices (the no more than 10% on a second home, as an example). Others don’t work for my family (rental income, side hustles) and haven’t been necessary. How one spends time is important (especially as life circumstances change). And, we do need the perspective of both spouses.

    Maybe Joona’s wife could write a post (or Joona could interview her?)

  6. Very interesting read. I think the author has a great setup with plenty of passive income to fund an early retirement.

    First off, why do you need to get married? Your current arrangement is working perfectly fine. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Getting married will put additional strain on your relationship. You don’t need to get the state involved with your family. Be a great dad and love your partner. My advice is don’t get married under any circumstances. There are no benefits for any man.

    Secondly, $4 million dollars won’t be worth as much in the future due to hyperinflation. You might want to consider investing in cryptocurrency aside from traditional assets. Bitcoin is my top holding and has outperformed all other asset classes by a wide margin. It seems like you may have to return to the workforce in the next 10 years if something goes wrong in your household or you want to increase your lifestyle. Once your kids grow up you may want to live an extravagant lifestyle and check off all items on your bucket list. You’ll need capital to do this however inflation will eat up a lot of purchasing power in the future.

    Congrats on your success. I’m 35 and have 2 kids just like you. You are an inspiration! Hope I’m doing as well as you in the next 6 years God willing. Take care.

  7. Long time reader, follower too, invested in Fundrise, Driftwood capital, and others.. But this is inaccurate post IMO. Its not retiring on $4M when your spouse works as very high income earner and doesn’t plan to leave for 20 years.. Lets hear from a family of 4 that both wage earners leave the workplace at 40-something for good with no plans for ordinary income again..

    1. I agree completely. The “retiring early” part is misleading. You aren’t truly retired if you have a spouse who works full time with an extremely lucrative career. I thought this story would be about him quitting his job and retiring with two kids and a stay-at-home wife.

      1. Charles Dart

        No, the commenter is correct. The marriage is a ticking time bomb. Joona’s wife is surrounded by sexy alpha male colleagues and clients. She will be going to those expensive dinners and schmoozing while Joona stays home playing Mr Mom — not sexy. Women need to look up to their man. Only a matter of time before she becomes dissatisfied with Joona (but she won’t know why) and steps out with a sexy colleague whilst “working late.”

        And yeah kinda clickbait. I almost spit out my coffee when I realized his wife will be supporting him with $500k/yr income while he’s “retired.”

    2. I could have written this article and wouldn’t have called it “retiring”. I stopped working at 40, with a family worth of 2.8 million and a high earning spouse (higher than described in this article) with two children, 9 and 7. We had bigger expenses (because we could). Spouse has worked for 12 more years (still working, but differently), our network has grown to over 10 million, excluding our residence and we are comfortable.

      But, I’m a woman. I’d not have called it “retiring”. I don’t regret the years at all. For me, spending the time with my kids when they were becoming they people they are now was entirely worth it. Women do this all the time and, what our “retiree” should be thinking about is what his life looks like when the children are grown.

      1. Thanks for sharing! I want women to be able to say and do what they want. As a father to a daughter, this is very important to me.

        Since you’ve gone through it, what did you guys do after your children left the house? Or to clarify, how old are you and your children now?

        I imagine just doing a lot of traveling and decumulating of our wealth, while popping in frequently to see our adult children, wherever they are :)

        1. Oh yes, I am just now embarking on the “what do you do when your children leave” question. My youngest starts college this year. So, I have not yet figured it out. And, my friends who made similar choices are also just starting to figure it out (some starting in the middle of the pandemic where choices were limited).

          I was in an occupation that is entirely unresponsive to returning workers, especially ones near retirement, so returning to work is not an option. Some of my friends have. I amuse myself with significant hobbies (in my case photography, in friends cases renovation). Some have taken that renovation into a business (flipping, renting houses, . . . ). Others serve on school, not-for-profit boards. Some of the lawyers are doing significant pro-bono work (two I know just helped two refugees get green cards). Others are playing and planning lives of travel and fun, though delayed by the pandemic.

          Traveling is a big part of what I am seeing people do — a retired couple I know in their 70s are now going to spend two months in Italy. Traveling does cost money, though, increasing the cost of retirement. Most of the folks I know are pretty high net worth (10-50 million, the few with more than have taken on major philanthropic roles that occupy their time significantly).

          1. Two months in Italy sounds great! We play to do 2 months in a new city every summer once both our kids are over 5, so they can remember their travels.

            Or, you might want to write the next great American novel! I just finished mine and it’s come out on June 28, 2022. I hope you preorder a copy! :)

  8. That is great that you’re both doing what you want. I think 4 million is a very reasonable number to be honest. 10 million seems to be thrown around a lot these days but if your lifestyle doesn’t require that I like the idea of retiring earlier.

  9. What an interesting story, at first I was judging at the “only $4 million”, which is a huge number, and was impressed that your spouse is still working. Didn’t even know the marriage penalty tax was such as thing. Mirroring your spouses mood sure seems like a great way to buffer the working/non working!

  10. Vistahermosa

    This is interesting article and a good read. It looks like the author is assuming there is a 0% chance of divorce when in fact, it’s likely they will get divorced based simply on statistics. (They have a common law marriage.) Being married to an independent woman who makes millions, and knowing many more highly successful women, none that I know would put up with a stay home dad for 5 minutes. I would seriously suggest the author consider getting his job back before it’s too late. When his wife makes partner and starts bring home the $$$, she isn’t going to find the stay routine attractive in any sense.

    1. Curious if you are speaking from experience with regards to not putting up with your husband as a SAHD? If so or if not, why do you think women won’t “put up with a stay at home dad for 5 minutes” when men do so all the time with stay at home moms? That doesn’t seem like equality to me.

      BTW, they can’t get divorced because they aren’t married. They were able to save hundreds of thousands in marriage penalty taxes as a result.

      1. I can only go by my friends. Most couples both work, even though they could live with only 1 person working. In those where both don’t work and the woman stays at home, 90% of the time, the man is not happy that the woman decided to “retire” early and quit her job to look after kids. Often there is no joint decision – the man comes home one day from work and the woman says “oh I retired today” to take care of the kids. The men in these situations are easily able to take care of the family on their income, but they resent the fact that the wife quit, which basically means they have another mouth to feed. And they also eventually come to see the spouse as indolent, opportunistic and boring bc all they know/talk about is kid stuff. I’m not talking about a spouse that takes a year or two off for kids- I’m talking about the lifer. Interestingly, the few married men I know who are happy their wives don’t work are the most “old fashioned”, least progressive men I know – they expect cooking, cleaning, dinner, etc. it’s like they are from the 1950’s.

        I’m not a divorce lawyer, but I’m pretty sure if these two split, eg,
        Next month, the assets would be divided 50-50 and there would be a child support obligation and it would be calculated as if he was employed. They have a marriage at common law.

        1. Fascinating stuff! I think every household’s situation is different.

          Personally, I am really glad my wife left work in 2015 and joined me on this post work journey. There’s nobody I trust more than my wife to be a caretaker of our children, so it makes me happy that she wants to stay home and care. At the same time, she also does A LOT of the backend work wrt Financial Samurai e.g. filing taxes, bookkeeping. Further, she helped edit my upcoming book, Buy This, Not That, six times.

          And yes, I have joked about having my wife go back to work before. And that is because I didn’t fully appreciate how much work she does at home. It is also b/c I took her taking care of the kids for granted.

          Relationships are a work in progress, which is one of the key messages of this post. It’s interesting, but several prominent personal finance bloggers have divorced after gaining financial independence. Coincidence or not, all I know is that I don’t want to divorce while the kids are still living with us so I will constantly work on our relationship.

          I hope others do the same!

          1. Vistahermosa

            If you get divorce after gaining financial independence, that usually (not always) means you are no longer financially independent. If you have $4 million and 2 elementary school kids and get divorced — and most states are no fault divorce, so can’t legally stop someone from divorcing you if that’s what they want — then you end up with a spousal support payment, a child support payment until they turn 18, 529 plans to contribute to for a decade and $2 million some portion of which in a house. Not good in a high cost city.

        2. I think times are changing. Where I think we see this is the cliche that the woman is working / hard working the man is a “dead beat.”

          I won’t disagree that it goes against “traditional” laws of attraction. I think it requires understanding from both parties and communication, but if that’s there, this can be successful.

          Now this will be controversial but in some cases, ESTABLISHED women also might have an easier path to higher earnings. There is a push to get women to top levels. If the woman is good at what she does, she may have the easier path to the top whereas the man still has to beat out in the politics. From what I’ve seen in my field

          1. I agree with this to an extent. I am a partner in an engineering firm with 16 partners. 15 are older white guys. We are actively working to add diversity of color and gender to “the room.” Not only because of our own desires but some of our Clients and some regulations are demanding it. I won’t say we are lowering the bar to partnership to achieve this, but lets say we are more actively looking inside and outside our organization for great folks who will add diversity.

        3. Paper Tiger

          First, common-law marriages are only recognized in 8 states so depending on where they live, this may not be a big issue. Either way, because they chose to keep most of their assets under their individual names, those assets would remain with each of them if they broke up and only assets titled in both of their names would be subject to an equitable division in most states.

          Second, I retired early 7 years ago and my wife continues to work in a hard-charging, high-paying job and plans to do so for another 5 years before joining me in retirement. As we were both in the same industry and career path, life was very stressful and also a lot of compromises had to be made to accommodate each of our career progressions and the timing was never perfect. When I retired, it opened things up for my wife and allowed her to really focus and pour into her career so she is incredibly grateful that I can pick up most of the other responsibilities while she chases her career aspirations. No two situations are the same and just because other couples can’t seem to manage relationships and career goals unless they are both working, doesn’t mean it can’t work for others. It has certainly worked out very well for us and I think this couple has a great handle on it as well.

      2. Yes, every household is different. High earning spouse doesn’t resent me at all and likes my work demands not constraining our lives (which they did when I was working). My earnings weren’t significant enough to sustain our spending level so my working was less relevant (when I “retired” my income was only 20% of his, officially). But, being the sole earner sustaining a pretty high-flying lifestyle did create stress for him, which couldn’t be entirely mitigated by the promise that we could always live a simpler life if he did not want to work, either.

  11. This article is completely misleading – the author cannot be considered “retired” by any stretch of imagination with a wife that is still working full time.

    Very underwhelming article – completely missing the point in my humble opinion. Whether it is $4M or $10+M Networth this article is pointless as many others have similarly commented.

    To be honest, I am a bit disappointed. Normally, Financial Samurai does a great job moderating and posting articles that are useful.

  12. Completely unrelatable. I’m actually surprised that the net worth isn’t significantly higher with 2 people earning so much money. This isn’t a story.

  13. Ok this should be retitled – how to become a stay at home dad with $4M. What he did was impressive but his wife still works. If a women did the exact same thing, no one would let her say she was retired, she would be permanently branded as a stay at home mom.

    1. I would let her say she is retired if that is what she believed. I’ll also happily let her say she is a stay at home mother if roles were reversed. Give women a chance to be what they want to be.

      Just a note, I’m two years ahead of her in my career.

  14. I agree!… this is not a typical senario where you have two income earners making that much money. It would maybe be a story if the wife wasn’t working making $300k+ a year and they both retired. If my wife made that much I could probably retire with much less than 4 Million in the bank. I just can’t relate to this story at all.

  15. Maybe you should get legally married now so you can save on taxes since you’re no longer working. The marriage penalty is actually a marriage tax bonus if you have one non-working spouse.

  16. Craig Tester

    Bob an Mary were walking down the street.

    Mary was carrying a 20 lb bag of rocks.

    When they got home, Bob wrote a story about how to carry a 20 lb bag of rocks without breaking a sweat.

    1. That’s the beauty of things. Even though I worked for 14 years and amassed a $2.5 million net worth, it was nothing like you allude to.

      Your story is one of the reasons why we’ve got such a great country. If I didn’t carry any bags in the relationship and was able to retire early with $2.5 million, that must means a lot of Americans don’t have to work hard to retire early with a healthy net work too.

      And I also assume you’ve worked harder than me and was able to accumulate even more wealth and that’s wonderful.

      1. Craig tester

        Actually, Bob and Mary’s story will only make sense to those who understood how America used to be a great country.

        In my generation, men didn’t brag about such things.

        More power to ya…. but you better get married so you can keep the gravy rolling in….

        1. Why are you intending to be condescending with “In my generation, men didn’t brag about such things.” What does that mean? That men didn’t brag about they and their wives being partners because they enjoyed having servants / “less than” spouses? At least that’s what I’ve witnessed.

          Take a step back. It’s pretty nice to be able to work with a partner to maximize happiness between the two of you, and figure out what works best for the relationship, rather than live by some societal norm established by generations eons ago

          1. Craig Tester

            No matter how much we pretend, we can’t fight mother nature… If we get rich enough as a society, we can coast for a while…, no matter what we do…, but in the end nature always wins…

            My strong advice to the young author of this article is to continue to play his “natural” role of provider to his bride….

            They can rationalize all they want, but at some point down the road, she simply won’t respect him if she is playing his role….And he in turn, will resent her….

            But what do I know… I’m just some guy on the internet who’s only “advantage” on such topics is I’ve been around long enough to see that Mother Nature always wins…

            1. This is brutal stuff. How could she not respect him? He has amassed 2.5 mill before he checked out. Now he is taking care of the kids so she can enjoy personal prestige and $100 lunches and $300 dinners with Clients. Not at all like he “needs” her to make alot of money while he is just loafing. In fact he doesn’t need her at all from that perspective. IF she leaves he can survive just fine on 2.5 million until he finds work again. Taking care of the kids can be very tough. Rightfully, he is closer to her hero than anything else.

              IT is just a poorly worded title of the article. There is not “secret” other than the tongue in cheek of wink wink – marry well.

        2. You can live in the past or you can enjoy living in the present.

          I enjoy technology and the leverage it has given us to enable us to expedite access to information and to create more wealth.

          What’s the saying? Those who are stuck in the past are doomed to repeat it?

          1. Craig Tester

            Think about it this way.

            I have been your age, but you haven’t been mine.

            And I only now realize how much I didn’t know when I was yours.

            Mother Nature always wins. It might be a brutal truth, but it doesn’t make it any less correct.

            Now, enough philosophizing…If your real (e.g. subconscious) motivation for writing this article was to help identify your blind spots, here it is:

            $2.5M is apparently not enough to take care of your family… So now that you’ve had a nice sabbatical, its time to get back to work….

            You’ll thank me when your my age if you listen…

            Good luck.

            1. Ever hear the quote “I do not believe an old man’s pessimism is necessarily truer than a young man’s optimism simply because it comes after?”

              You’ve had a certain set of experiences. Great to share. It doesn’t mean how your life played out and what you’ve seen applies to everyone. Things change. People change with the times. Otherwise we’d be living in an eighteenth century America

              1. Craig Tester

                I remember genuinely (e.g. obnoxiously) believing I knew better than those that came before me also….

                I didn’t.

                Look to Mother Nature…She doesn’t understand pessimism or optimism….Her rules were the same in the 18th century as they are today….

                But I understand your need to wish to prove its different this time….

                Good luck…

                1. You misunderstood the quote. The quote doesn’t mean the storyteller is right and you’re wrong because they are younger. It means just because you are older does not make you right.

                  If you don’t think anything has changed since the 18th century I’m not really sure what to tell you

          2. I’ll note that the OT’s spouse is the one who gets to decide whether she resents him. Mine doesn’t and there’s no reason to presume she does or that she buys into the stereotyped roles for men and women. As someone who also has been his age (actually, just realized I was 45 when I stopped working, not 40) I’ll say what I do no now. 1) the earning spouse could burn out, or be stressed, or want to change their life, and the family should be planning for that if it happens, say at 10 years, instead of 20. Saving a lot and planning for future expenses are good steps. 2) The non-earning spouse needs to think about how they spend their time when the children are grown, especially if the spouse keeps working.

            BTW, the women lawyers who returned as partners who I know are doing pro bono work, serving on boards, and filling their time. But, some do regret having felt they *had* to leave the paid workforce (I think part of the regret depends on whether they felt they had no choice or not).

  17. Thanks for sharing your story. Giving up partnership at a law firm to be with the kids is likely rare, especially for a man. It’s clear that money isn’t the primary driver in your decision making. Since you knew your wife’s ambition to be in law as a long term career, did consider being a stay at home dad when your kids were much younger? If so, what made you stick it out to partner likely knowing that you would be financially successful as a couple either way?

    1. No, because I wanted to make partner and see what it was like first. When you work 10+ years to see if you can get to the summit, you got to keep on going.

      6-8 years ago, there was no certainty in building the net worth we have today.

      1. Thanks for sharing. I’m in a similar circumstance, but several years behind. We are 30 years old and just had a baby. My wife is very career driven and is about 4 years out from partner at a top consulting firm. There is a degree of uncertainty that she will make it to partner, but she loves her job, her firm, and sees herself working until 60. If I leave work now to take care of the kid(s) I will certainly help my wife achieve her career goals more efficiently because she won’t have to worry about childcare and household tasks when she’s grinding for a promotion. However, maybe I will regret not seeing out my (much lower paying) career which I have sacrificed a lot for up until now.

          1. Based on what I’ve heard secondhand about my wife’s firm, between $800k – 5M+ depending on partner level, firm performance model, and practice. The first 6 years at the partner level averages around 1.2M. Senior partner is significantly higher.

            I left a job in financial services early on to pursue something I was more passionate about, winemaking. We got married at young 23 without anything to our name. Marrying my wife was amazing as she has continually been loving, supportive, and made the most of the opportunities that life gave her.

          2. Steve Has fairly inflated numbers. Im in consulting. A brand new partner barely makes anything above what a manager does for the first 3-5 years. This is so because when someone is made a partner, they need to buy into the firm. They are given shares that are accompanied by a loan that they need to pay off. After that, comp is dependent upon the market, the firm’s performance, how efficiently you run your projects, and how good of a sales person you are. Iffy partners make $150-300k. Average partners make $300-500. Senior partners and people bill 80+ hours a week and are amazing sales people make $500+. Becoming a partner is incredibly hard though. You need to have significant buy in from many people, an active book of business, participation in other firm roles, enough billable hours that they’re afraid to lose you, and a personal life the rest of the partners agree with.

              1. It’s sometimes worth it, but there’s a saying that only the mediocre make partner. Everyone else finds more money elsewhere before partner. Being a partner is very stressful though – you need to gain the favor of all of your clients plus your staff. Staff is the tricky part – they work for you, but they’ll probably leave the firm and if they don’t like you, they’re not going to become a client and you’ve closed a door.

                That being said, it doesn’t take long to become a senior partner. Most people make partner between 35 and 45 and most consulting firms start showing you the door in your 50s ahead of the mandatory 60ish retirement.

      1. Steve (NWOutlier)

        I don’t include it; it may be real; but I can’t spend a piece of my house to fill my gas or my fridge… house is an expense… but when I die, it is definitely part of the picture

          1. Lots of available equity is most cases…, and as some articles have highlighted it’s (used to be until recently) cheap money that’s not taxed as income. If I remember correctly the life policy will pay off your loan after death and the balance paid to the surviving spouse so potentially a nice lever to consider down the stretch…

  18. Manuel Campbell

    “With a $350,000 gross income, after taxes, she brings in about $270,000. Given our budget is only about $160,000 a year, we’re left with about $110,000 to invest in stocks, real estate, bonds, private funds, and to save for our children’s education.”

    Another thing you are lucky with, is the small amount of taxes you pay. I just checked with my tax calculator, and your wife would be paying 156 000$ in taxes on 350 000$ in my wonderful province of Quebec ! (sarcastic!) :-)

    You would only have 190 000$ after taxes left for expenses and savings. So, you can consider yourself lucky on that aspect as well. Not even mentioning the wealth you already accumulated would have been much harder to obtain with those higher tax rates.

    In all due respect, and not lessening your incredible accomplishments, I think you would gain from being more efficient in your budget, and maybe that could help feel really rich, as you already are.

    You can easily cut 60 000$ per year in your budget. That means your expenses would fall to 100 000$ per year and leave 170 000$ per year for investing, instead of “only” 110 000$. Here is how I would do :

    1) Pay off the mortgage (save 38 400$ per year)
    With a 4M$ net worth, I really don’t know why you still keep your mortgage !? You could pay it off right now (most simple option).

    Another option would be to set aside a “sinking funds” were you put investments that will pay off the mortgage, more likely a bond portfolio, with maturities that matches the mortgage payments. The advantage of this method is that you may currently get better returns on bonds than the rate you have on your mortgage.

    Finally, a third option – if you have investment properties – would be to refinance investment properties to pay off the personal mortgage. You can also do it with stocks and bonds, but the terms will probably won’t be as good as on a mortgage. My point is, at this point, you shouldn’t have any personal debt. Any debt you have should be tied to generating more income, which doesn’t seems to be the case right now…

    2) 529 Contributions (save 20 160$)
    I know education is important – and very expensive in the US ! But there should come a time were you don’t need to put that much aside. Or maybe there is a way to “front load” this fund – I am not familiar with the rules of the 529 plan ?

    One way you could do this – same as for the mortgage – is by creating a “sinking funds” for this purpose. The investments in this funds could be more like “Vanguard Index ETF” you already use. But this money would be set aside for your children, and not counted in your net worth. Because, in the end, this money would be transfered to their name inside the 529 plan, and it will not be yours anymore…

    So, pick your number. How much is needed for education ? 200K$ ? 300K$ ? 400K? Remove that for your net worth. Everything you save from now on is for yourself, you wife, and any other enjoyments for the family.

    Here you go ! I already saved you almost 60K$ per year. This means your wife can work a couple of years. But after a certain point, she will really wonder why she is working so hard if she doesn’t need more money.

    My final tip : don’t move to Quebec, at least, not before she’s also retired …

    1. I agree… I have seen similar line items in other articles on this site that go through real or sample budgets for families that are financially independent. It doesn’t make sense to me why you would still need to contribute to 529s or have a mortgage if you have millions in net worth. As you suggest, just allocate “sinking funds” for education and pay off the mortgage (or allocate another sinking fund if you want to try and arbitrage the interest rates). I suppose the advantage of a budget like the one in this article is that it is more conservative (essentially your real withdrawal rate would effectively be lower).

      1. The benefits of a 529 and mortgage are GREATER when you have more net worth and income given the higher marginal rate you’re protecting.

        Mortgage leverage is an excellent tool to accelerate net worth if the rate is low enough. Also why not have a 529 if you have kids intending to go to school? Why say no to tax free growth?

        1. Great point Jake. The higher your income and net worth, the higher your tax brackets and the greater chance you have of paying a 40% estate tax upon death.

          The 529 is one of the best generational wealth transfer tools. Instead of giving your kids or grandkids or whoever money. You give them the gift of education and lower your estate’s value.

          Thanks for bringing up this point!

          1. Manuel Campbell

            Hi Sam, Jake,

            I agree with you guys. I’m not advocating for not having a mortgage and / or 529.

            I was just saying they should not be in the “personal expense budget”. They almost become “business” expenses and / or debts, when you have them in order to generate more income. Then, it becomes important to look at them from a financial standpoint, than just a personal expense perspective.

            For the 529, I think it is always better to have one, for the tax matters you’ve pointed out. But I would consider all “future 529 contributions” out of the “personal net worth” calculation, since it is money for the children’s education, and not available for other family expenses.

            The mortgage will be dependant on what you can invest in. There is no point on taking a tax deduction if the revenue you generate from investments are lower than the expense. And if the investment returns are higher than the mortgage rate, then the taxation will also be higher. A higher marginal tax rate is, in this situation, a disadvantage, and not an advantage.

            Just giving you some food for thoughts… Hope everyone makes the most out of their financial situation !

            1. Sure 529 as expense vs. negative to net worth. It is an ongoing expense for a while though, especially if you have kids in private school too and can use 529 towards that

              Interest on the first 750k of mortgage is tax deductible, so you do benefit there by being in higher marginal tax rate. Cap gates is still 20-23%

  19. Anyone can “retire early” if their spouse is working and making enough income to support their family. Women “retire early” to have kids all the time and their spouse still working! This article is very misleading.

    1. Exactly. He did not retire. He stopped working to raise a family. Why is it when a man does this he is retiring, but if it is the wife, she is leaving the work force to raise her kids?

    2. Agree. So turn the question around.

      Why can’t women say they retired early to be mothers as well? Especially if they’ve been able to accumulate a couple million to be able to quit work and be a parent?

      I say more power to the multimillionaire woman who decided to give up her career for family.

  20. I think your decision to leave Corporate America to be a stay at home father is very commendable. Of course it is easier to do so from a financial perspective because your wife is a high income earner, but that is besides the point.

    What many might not understand is that it is psychologically HARD to leave a high paying job that took years of advanced education to obtain in the first place.

    Society and one’s self will put a lot of pressure on you to continue to work, regardless of your wife’s salary. I think it takes a lot of strength to be able to walk away from society’s expectations and be the primary caregiver of your children.

    I am in a similar situation as you are. My “wife” (non-married partner) both have careers in medicine, but I recently stepped away (for the most part, just working about 20 hours per week) so I could be at home with the kids more while she continues to work full time.

    I am able to do so, in part, because my wife is a high income earner, but I have enough passive income from owning rental properties, that I can cover a lot of the monthly expense without having to work at all. Our former colleagues are likely scratching their heads that we could walk away from a prestigious job and high salaries, but we will not regret it.

    The point of life should not be to maximize net worth but to have enough to live comfortably. Time is the most precious commodity, especially when you have children. Continue to enjoy your children and daily bike rides!

    1. “psychologically HARD to leave a high paying job that took years of advanced education to obtain in the first place.”

      Absolutely. It was hard, but the pandemic gave me two good years to think about it. I concluded that since there wasn’t anything left above partner, that I wanted to try something new.

      I don’t think we’ll ever regret spending more time with our children. More money won’t improve our lives.

  21. You know, I too considered myself “retired” when I left my job at age 48. A job that gave me a near 6-figure pension that includes a 3% annual cost of living raise. But what I described as retirement was really me taking my retirement package and going into another less stressful occupation with half the work hours. In my mind I was retired, but in actuality I really wasn’t. What was the term you used, Sam? I’m really some type of Barista (I think that’s the term you used in one of your articles).
    The same goes for this story. In my opinion, this isn’t true retirement. If you’re married and one of you is at home and the other is working 40-60 hours a week, how is that considered retirement?? Shouldn’t retirement for a married couple be a mutual thing?
    A married couple driving down the highway in an RV on a Tuesday afternoon; now THAT, in my humble opinion, is TRUE retirement.

    1. I look at things individually and as a team. Individually, I’m retired. As a team, I’m part of a greater whole to take care of our children and my wife in the best way possible.

  22. Great article! It’s crazy how quickly you can spend $160k on a very middle class lifestyle. This seems like a lifestyle that’s comfortable and sustainable for you which is great, but you might be able to go a little lower on that number. The budget includes contributing $20k in a 401k plan which you’d no longer need to contribute to if both you and your wife were retired. However, those contribution savings might be offset by more expensive healthcare costs anyways so it might be a wash

    1. Yes, once my wife is retired, she will no longer need to save for retirement. I think some people forget that when planning for retirement.

      1. Yes, and no. In looking at whether you have enough to retire, I find it easiest to track my spending (food, gas, travel, household, etc). I don’t include current 401k contributions in my spending, since when I retire I don’t now have that money to put to other spending categories.

    2. Yeah in the modelling I’ve done for my own retirement, I assume an annual healthcare cost of about 30k which, as you suggest, more than eats up any budget savings from no longer contributing to a 401k.

  23. I’ll say it again: $4million outside the USA goes an incredible long way. It’s borderline dynasty money

    1. My wife’s job is here and it’s hard to pick up and just leave with two kids in school.

      At the end of the day, lifestyle is more important than money.

  24. I have to thank you for bringing the married tax penalty to my attention about 10 years ago or I would have married my ex. So happy I did not:)

  25. This is all really cool and a neat story, but his domestic partner is still working and the funds they accumulated aren’t sufficient to pay a dividen or provide enough mailbox money to be retired. I wish you would focus more on reporting on the truly young retired folks living on mailbox money with minimal side hustles. These are stories to think readers want and you have done more than enough to promote buying rentals, but that’s like watching paint dry imo.

    1. Thank you. Who are the “truly young retired folks” you speak of? What age and how did they make their money and what are they doing now?

      I have a friend who made $5 million on Bitcoin at 29. Maybe I can ask him to share this story if Sam wants?

      What’s your story?

  26. A lot of people envy your high income and high earning wife. But the feeling I got while reading your journey is – damn it is hard to be rich today. I used to think power couples lawyer/doctors are rolling in dough and can afford extravagant lifestyle. Seems like cost of living is so high these days, even a two lawyer family has to really budget. Granted one of you is retired.

    Appreciate you sharing your perspective. Part of being happy is self acceptance. Accept that you are a hard worker, but not a working machine. You’ve earned your share, but leaving some on the table is OK.

  27. Please do not call your partner a wife. That term is reserved for women who make a legal commitment to their spouse. As a lawyer you should know the difference.

    1. But wife is what my partner insists on me calling her. What do you recommend I do?

      We’re not big on names at all. To us, our relationship is what matters the most.

      1. You say you guys are not big on names but your partner insists on you calling her your wife. Huh?

        I simply believe the title of wife should be reserved for the women who make a legal commitment and a commitment in front of god, if you believe, with all the perks and disadvantages that entail.

        It’s the same reason the gay and lesbian circles fought so hard for the right to marry. Marriage is precious and the titles that go with that commitment are precious as well.

        1. Well, my wife is precious and I like to call her my wife. I hope that’s OK with you and won’t ruin your day too badly.

          I believe we should live in a world where we are able to call our loved ones whatever we want. Heck, we can even call people we dislike whatever we want too! But will have to suffer the consequences.

          Cheer up Bill!

    2. Canadian Reader

      Agree with Bill. If it’s such a caveman agreement, then surely the labels that go with it are passé for the truly evolved?
      It’s kind of ridiculous to have a high net worth and a desire to use marital terms, but be so worried about money that you avoid the legal and emotional commitment. Your partner wants to be called wife because it’s embarrassing to tell people you actually aren’t married, and there is a reason for this.

      1. Ok, ok. You guys win. I’ll call her “my love.”

        Hope that works for everyone!

        What is your situation Canadian Reader?

  28. $4 million net worth, AND with a working spouse making extremely high income.

    It seems obvious that you can retirement early in the Cayman Islands pretty easily. No?

    What an embarrassment of riches !!!

    1. I’ve never been to the Cayman Islands. That’s more for the really rich and for tax purposes.

  29. Thanks for sharing your story Joona. Sounds like you’re in quite a happy situation. Hopefully it will continue to work out well for you and your family. To each his own. When I became a parent someone told me very early on, “every family is different.” And it’s so true for everything from personalities, spending habits, parenting styles, sleep/wake times, culture, finances, debt, work hours, career goals, schooling, retirement plans, etc.

    1. Thank you Jamie! Yes, every household is different indeed.

      This is the arrangement that works best for us. And working 14 years after grad school is not that easy.

      Sometimes, we need a break. I saved and invested to get this break. Not sure why some people don’t like it.

  30. All the claims that “This is not retirement!” is reason #2984356 the term needs to be re-defined, or perhaps it just needs to be re-categorized. Pretty sure Sam has covered this before.

    I would say Joona is at #3 as an individual and as a household.

    0. Decreasing Net Worth
    1. Working income, saving
    2. Working/active/passive income combo
    3. Working less/better, active/passive income combo
    4. Active/Passive income Retirement
    5. Passive Income/Savings Decumulation Retirement

    P.S. I am currently at #1 (currently not taking gains from investments), and I never plan to move past #3 if I have the choice.

    1. I’m digging your rankings. I think I’m at 4, bc I’m not working for money. I’m focused on caring for my children.

      1. Probably a 3.5, because while you don’t get a paycheck as a SAH Dad, you are saving yourself the expense of daycare/afterschool care.

        On another topic, while you were still employed, what would’ve been the problem with getting married and filing taxes as Married Filing Separately?

  31. I am missing the secret here. I think there is a significant disconnect on the writers part here to act like they have accomplished something special. They both have(had) very high salaries but live like you have one high salary. Maybe you feel you are sacrificing compared to some of the partners a the firm but you live as well as any professional in the US based on your budget.

    1. I don’t feel special. I feel lucky and excited for my new chapter.

      The secret is having a great partner who is on board with your financial and life goals.

      What are your goals between your partner and you?

      1. I guess a am just frustrated I fell for a click bait title. I was expecting to learn something about managing money. Instead I read a long article that boils down to marrying well. I don’t wish you any I’ll will but there is nothing to learn here.

        1. Christine Minasian

          I totally disagree Aaron. Their story was so helpful and a breath of fresh air in this “more money more money” environment we live in here in the US! My husband and I are in our mid/late 50’s- we’ve seen SO many people die early not enjoying their lives. Kids grow up SOOO fast- like a blink of an eye fast.

          I LOVE that Joona is making this decision. I will say though- that my husband sold his business at 55 and made enough money to retire but with the market not doing well and our HCOL area, he is working part-time- he really missed the challenge and social part of it.

          You may find that part-time is perfect Joona. I love that couples are deciding to parent their kids and not leaving it up to nannies/babysitters or whatever. You only get one shot!

  32. Christine Kwasny

    I appreciate the different perspectives, and the most valuable information here is sharing how two people have managed their finances and life goals. The title is completely misleading though. My husband and I have a net worth similar to the author and I was truly curious to see how the author is “retired” with these assets at such a young age. Not useful at all with high earned income on the other half of the relationship. As already pointed out, this is a stay at home parent situation, not retirement. The author could easily return to the work force in a few years when the kids grow, if needed or desired. Hopefully more couples will aspire to manage their financial and family lives intentionally and fully as demonstrated here.

    1. I think that is part of the point that we did learn. He and his partner can’t retire with 4 million in assets and a budget of 160k per year. I too was curious to see how he managed it. Based on Sam’s safe withdrawal rate of about 2%, that would be 80k. Maybe 20k in dividends? That would leave 60k gap…rental income? Of course some taxes on dividends and rental income. so they could retire but they would have to make serious lifestyle changes and maybe move.

      I think we have learned that on this blog. Sam is retired early, but really. HE is just choosing to make money in more non-traditional ways through blogging and managing rental properties. Not like he is RV’ing across the country.

      1. I am not retired. These posts don’t write and edit themselves! But I am having fun for the most part.

        At 2.9% on the 10Y, the recommended SWR now is about 2.32%. Not bad!

        1. lol..and hard to swallow raising my SWR when my investments losing 100k a week in this nasty market.

  33. Can we exchange wives? You hit the lottery with her. Many wives/female partners would resent their husband not working like they are.

    Many commenters state you are not retired, you are a stay at home dad. It’s all semantics to me. You can call yourself whatever you like. Lucky Bum!

    1. I asked my wife and she said “no.” But she did say she can provide some times for your wife to work harder and smarter if you wish!

      I feel totally lucky. I highly recommend everyone get a great partner.

  34. The writer might want to check out the “retireby40” blog; I think that blogger (Joe?) has a very similar situation.

    1. Yes, and this guy named Brandon from Mad Fientist, Michael from Financially Alert, and so many more. Nobody gives them grief about having wives who work.

      It’s a man movement!

      1. Actually, I have noticed that (atleast in the past) Sam has made subtle snipes/sarcastic comments at people (including Joe) who are in that siutation. Sometimes generally in blog posts and sometimes in the comments. Glad that he atleast appears to be promoting your decision here without any negative commentary.

        1. Not only am I the President of the Early Retirement Man Movement, I’m also a customer! Let’s go!

          Hopefully, there will be more love and acceptance of stay at home men and male early retirees who have working spouses. But based on the comments so far, we still have a lot of work to do.

          Changing the status quo takes time. But our organization is determined!

  35. yes, you are “retired”. You also have a working wife with a pretty substantial income. Makes it a lot easier

    1. Yes. I hope I made it clear in the post. It’s been a great 6 months so far! Very happy to not work any more.

  36. First off let me state I am a huge fan of the site. Second let me say, this article should be entitled “have your wife work so you be a stay at home dad”. My wife and I are in the same position financially as the writer (and his wife) but we are choosing to both work longer together so we can both “retire” like actually retire together. Being a stay at home dad is not “retirement” its being a stay at home parent. If your wife left her job she would say that she is “staying at home to raise the kids” not “retiring”. I usually do not nitpick these things, however it is misleading people in what retirement vs stay at home parenting really is.

    1. Don’t think I mislead anyone when I literally wrote my wife works and I stay at home with the kids.

      And yes, I don’t want my wife to stop working yet bc we need more investment income. Besides, she wants to see what life is like as a partner first.

      Give early retirement ago. I think you’ll like it!

      1. joanna, i love you article and thank you for writing. i think it took a lot of courage and positive will power to work most of your whole life to reach a career pinnacle and then let it go. i also hope to dear god you call your wife whatever she wants to be called.

        i think what threw some of us off was simply the article title..”the secret”. the secret in this case wasn’t some money investment/management insight that i think a lot of us hoped for. the secret was partnering with a rich person who is cool with you working but making no income.

        1. I’m not sure about that.

          When we partnered, we were both students, in debt, and technically broke.

          So maybe my article will encourage more people to spend more time finding the right partner, rather just just focus mainly on saving, investing, working?

          Instead of just thinking individualistically, think in terms of building a solid team.

          Life is much easier with an A+ team member. Team > individual heroism

          1. If the point is finding the right partner v. saving/investing/working then this is 100% an article about how to become a stay at home dad! Literally what a stay at home parent is. Many women wait until their families are financially stable to stay home and no one is calling them retired. You wrote a great article about how going to post-grad school doesnt mean you need to work forever and accumulating solid wealth is smart before becoming a stay at home parent but in no way should this be called retiring. Kudos to you for realizing your priorities and deciding to become a stay at home dad!

            1. The point of having the right partner is not about how to become a stay-at-home dad. The point is about two people being able to achieve financial independence as a couple such that if one person wants to retire and the other person wants to keep working, they have accumulated enough assets together that allow that to be the case.

              The “secret” is finding a like-minded partner that carries the same values and objectives around careers, earnings, savings, and investment philosophy and a willingness to stick to it for a really long time. Achieving a high net worth is much easier on two incomes, two 401Ks, two benefits plans, double the savings, etc., and having a compatible vision for how you want to achieve life goals and financial goals.

    2. Actually, I am a mother in my late 40’s who, after a 20+ year career, including the last 5 years in an executive-level role, considers herself “retired” because I have chosen to step off the career path and focus on family and other personal endeavors. While I may be the stay-at-home parent (my husband continues to work full time), I find that this title alone disregards the longstanding career I established over the past few decades. I am proud of my career accomplishments, almost as proud as I am of my parenting, and identifying myself as someone who has retired from her career allows me to recognize those accomplishments.

      1. Paper Tiger

        Perfectly stated! The author worked for 14 years, achieved his career goals, and then retired. He happens to have a partner that isn’t retired. If she leaves him, he has enough net worth in his own name to remain retired if he chooses.

        I’m not sure why there is so much controversy over this.

  37. Dude, you aren’t retiring, at least not until the kids are out of the house. My wife chose to be a stay at home spouse at the age of 32. But she in no way retired. She just swapped a career with a paycheck for one without a check. You are trading a law career for a career as your kids’ primary care giver, as the home manager, the family logistician, bill payer, shopper, meal planner, etc. It’s probably just as difficult as your job was, maybe more so. But it does have more autonomy and time flexibility. But it’s still a career.

    1. Paper Tiger

      He didn’t die! He just retired and continued to assume the other responsibilities in his life that no longer involve his career.

  38. Now that one of you is working and the other isn’t, you might want to revisit the marriage thing so that your wife can take advantage of spreading some of her earnings across your lower tax bracket.

    That’s great that you two have found a way to make it work with her being the primary earner and you managing the kids/household. So long as both parties are happy and nobody is harboring any resentment, I think that’s a fantastic example of gender equality working for everyone. :)

    1. Thank you! Yes, resentment can be tricky, which is why I’ve got to be supportive and mirror her mood as best I can.

      Got to read the room!

      We will. And also to ensure Social Security benefits get passed over to the surviving spouse.

  39. Looks like you’ve got an error in the $160K budget chart, as annual property insurance is listed as $2,100 (sounds fine) but monthly for property insurance is $1,400? $1,400 * 12 != $2,100. Doesn’t look like $140/mo is correct either as $2,100/12 = $175/mo. What’s the real property insurance budget? $1,400 per month seems absurd!

  40. This isn’t retiring early, this is becoming a stay at home dad after building up some savings. I am sure this article is meant to highlight this and cause noise in the comments.

  41. I’m all for more men retiring early thanks to a high-income-earning wife! It’s a great byproduct of more equality in the workplace. Women (and men) fought hard for women’s rights starting in the 1970s. And women are still fighting hard for equal pay today.

    The more women who go to college and work, the more men can stop shouldering so much of the financial burden of raising a family.

    Everybody wins!

  42. I’m a big fan of the site for many years, and honestly mean no offence to the guest writer but “My Secret To Retiring Early With Only A $4 Million” – The word ‘only’, plus the fact they have a ~ $430k income/year (350k + ~80k passive income) – I had to check this was not an April 1st article.

    I think it is fair to say over 99% of the world would happily retire on this situation. I understand living on the coasts in the US is expensive but this is another articles which seems to be very directed for/about the top 1% of richest people in the US, and top 0.01% of the world (Sources below).

    Again, I love 90% of your content, and don’t expect to love everything – but articles like this make me, and I imagine your average person (not multimillionaire) eyes roll. Then again, maybe I’m – living on well under 50k / year in the UK – not the average/target reader.

    That said congrats to Joona for getting to this stage, and the fact his life is in a great place.

    1. No worries! I don’t expect anybody to always love what I write or share with others.

      What I do want to do is continuously share different perspectives and different ways of doing things in order to show what’s possible.

      And frankly, life is much easier with a partner who is highly educated and has a great income. So perhaps, one objective people should have is to find such a partner.

    2. Roy David Farhi

      I agree, there is NO challenge when one spouse makes this much cheese, and the other is a stay-at-home dad. Or that they are “barely” making it on 4 million net worth. (Heck, if you made 5% on that net worth you can’t live on 200K a year in lavish style?)
      Tell me about the couple who both make 15.00 an hour and make do to accumulate the little bit it drives. Guaranteed that platform looks a lot different than the 160K budget of this couple and all the overage they have to invest to get even further ahead.

    3. I feel like this site which I’ve been reading for many years is just not geared towards me anymore. I consider myself middle class living in NYC tristate area. Not the cheapest place to live. My wife is home raising our kids and not working and I make about $125k a year and I’m almost 50.

      I feel like this site is more and more geared to the ultra wealthy… maybe it was from the start and I just don’t realize it, but I finding it harder to relate anymore to these articles.

      1. Hi Jim,

        I definitely can see how it may be difficult to relate to a husband and wife with two children in an expensive city, one of who wants to retire after 14 years of work.

        To me, I always welcome and enjoy reading about new perspectives that are outside the norm. It shows me what may be possible and how some people are doing things differently.

        Because you know there are some really burned out men out there who want to take things down a notch after the pandemic. There is tremendous talk about exhaustion, giving up career, and finding more meaning in life.

        I don’t know why, but seeing how other people live never bothers me. Their stories always gives me ideas on how to improve my life.

        If you would like to share your story, like Joona has, I welcome it!


        1. I can relate to living in an expensive area. Living on Long Island in NY, the property tax on my 500K house is close to 12k a year. Some of the higest property taxes in the country. I don’t mind hearing other senarios… but I feel not just with this post but others in the past, it seems to be catering to a different target market (the rich). If you were to cast a wider net, it may be more relateable to more viewers. Its not a strech in this case to be able to retire with have $300k of income still coming in. Just my 2 cents, thanks

          1. Will do.

            And again, I welcome your story if you want to share it and broaden the net!

            It’s always great to be the change that you want to see by taking action. Otherwise, nothing changes.



            1. I think what may be interesting if you take for instance 3 user submitted senarios and ask the viewers which one do they think would stand a better chance of being able to retire based on all the information presented and by when. Maybe with a high, middle and low income earner to cover the masses. Just thinking outloud

      2. What’s interesting is the comparison… Making $125k is pretty good money, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. In some circles you are probably the “rich one”. What is it you do to make that money? Is it fair to compare your compensation to two lawyers, one previous partner and one likely partner-pending. Also noting, in the OP story, he didn’t even work for a “high power law firm”, had he swapped firms he could have had 3-10X the FU money he made. So, perhaps you have two options as a 50 year old… 1. Maybe your loyalty to your current company/job/skill has held you back, that is if you think money is the only measure. You might want to consider job shopping or maybe even career field changes. They are basically giving out $300k salaries to 3 year experienced programmers in CA. Maybe take some programming classes and 3x your income? Likely remote work too… 2. Maybe you are just comparing apples and oranges, as your career field has a different cap value. Do you know many teachers making $500k/year?

        In the end… I think if you are finding the site unrelatable its because you are not seeing the true meaning of the messages. This site and stories are about being better than average. The FS way is doing more and finding ways to learn from others who have done more. There is always someone with a bigger bank, but don’t let that blind you from learning tips on how to make yours larger…

        1. Hi Irish247… just to follow up on some of your points. Making $125k a year is a good salary, but my wife isn’t working, so its a combined for a family of 3. Living in NYC area makes the $125k worth less.

          I would agree that loyalty to my current job has maybe held me back. Job hoppers on average make more money than people that stay at their current jobs long term. However, there is also security and I get quite a few PTO days for my tenure. Unfortunately, my brain isn’t wired for programming otherwise i’d give it a go.

          As far as the site is concerned, when its discussing the 1-5% of the population then you miss addressing most people. Hence my feeling of the site targeting the rich and this article being even more unrelatable. Like I said before maybe that’s Sam’s target audience, idk.

          1. Paper Tiger

            My take on this site is that it has catered to those who are in the Top 5%, and how they got there, but also is for those who aren’t there yet but are striving to get there and want to read success stories on how to do it.

          2. Steve (NWOutlier)

            you could maybe lead / project manage a tech environment. but yes – 125 is good, where it is good

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