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How to recover early with children (14 of them!)

How to recover early with children (14 of them!)

More than seven years ago, a Mad Fientist reader came with an amazing story…

He and his wife planned to achieve financial independence with a family, but the amazing thing was that they had a very large family… 13 children to be precise!

Not only that, they were planning to do so with a single wage (which at that time was about $104,000 per year).

For the full story, take a look at original guest entry here.

Well, seven years later, and they reached their target… Six years ahead of schedule!

Rob kindly agreed to provide an update on how they did it…


Lots of things in the first article remain the same, but there have been some significant changes in the last seven years. Some of the main aspects: we now have 14 children, we have eight grandchildren, and I plan to reach FIRE at the end of this year, instead of 2027 mentioned in the original article.

The other big news is that we write a book A Catholic guide to spend less and live more: advice from a debt-free family of 16, being released on Amazon and Ave Maria Press websites on April 23. More about these and other things down.

FIRE with an even bigger family

During the summer of 2016 we took a newborn as an adoptive baby. Now he’s almost five years old and seems to be a permanent addition to the clan.

Our four older children are married (only one was when the Original article and among them we have eight grandchildren.

How to Retire Early With 14 Kids

The eight older kids are out of the house. The six youngest, 4 to 17 years old, still live at home. I’m trying to convince them to come out (unsuccessful).

Expenditure on grandchildren

I may have to keep working because my wife loves to buy stuff for grandchildren. The things I would never buy for our own children have suddenly become “needs” for grandchildren. Yard’s sale, hand clothes and second-hand store were good enough for our kids, but apparently grandchildren need new clothes.

Getting to the FI before the expected

We haven’t hit the lottery or taken banks stealing, I’m too afraid of jail to do that. So what has changed to allow us to predict an earlier date of FIRE?

My income has only increased a small amount since 2014. About 2% a year.

Two years ago, my wife, Sam, started working part-time in our church. Average 10 hours a week. It’s not a big sum, but it’s saved, it’s not spent.

Our budget has not changed too much, our food costs are below a moderate amount because children move.

We have managed to increase our savings rate. We are more than 50 so the maximum we can contribute to our 401k and IRAs has gone up. We max out the 401K, ROTH IRAs and HSA each year and we Don’t touch the HSA money (I learned not to do years ago by the Crazy Feminist).

Add in my employer’s 401k match and we are saving around $53,000 each year specifically for retirement. We also put money in an emergency fund every month. We’ve been building the emergency fund so we have a minimum of a year’s savings. I’ll feel more comfortable with that cash level. Our savings rate is about 50% of our gross income.

We are still free of debt; our house was paid in 2012 and we have not had any credit card, car or other debt since the late 80s. We have a line of credit without the use of domestic equity that we could use if everything goes sideways.

Post-retirement income

When jubile our gross revenues will fall, but our net income will be the same, as we will no longer be at the maximum of several accounts. We’ll still put money on our Roths since at least my wife will have income. And we’ll keep putting money every month in our emergency fund.

We should definitely have the part of the FI (financially independent) dropped at the end of the year. What the RE part (returns early) seems to be left to see. I’m planning to leave my work full-time (because I don’t tell my boss) and the regular payment and benefits that go along with that around December 31. But I’ll do something. Hustle side, sell more on eBay, maybe work part-time. But it will be in my terms. And my wife will keep working at the church.

Family health insurance after retirement

We’re excited and nervous about this happening. The biggest concerns are having six children at home to provide, including finding new health insurance.

I’ve created an account in the health market of our state. Looks like we can get a silver level plan at a reasonable rate.

I also looked at shared health ministries, but we have some children with some pre-existing health conditions, which makes these plans not optimal for us.

The book

Last February (2020 – just before everything went into the bathroom) Ave Maria Press approaches us to write a book on finance from the perspective of a large Catholic family free of debt. We fit that definition, although we are not writers and have never written a book before. We return and go out with potential ideas and themes and chapters for a few weeks. We came to an agreement with the editor and started the book in March, and then you-know-what hit… this really helped write the book.

With all the activities of the child, together with everything else, canceled, we find a lot of free time. We spent April and May working on the book in the afternoons and weekends. Our older children wrote tips and suggestions that were knitted in the text of the book. We ended up writing more than the editor wanted and we had to hack 10,000 words from the first draft. We returned to that first draft in early June. The summer was passed by reviewing corrections and suggestions from the editor and by September the final version was established, if not stone, at least wood.

We are currently learning marketing strings and promoting a book. Doing interviews, podcasts and you know, writing articles like this.

Retiring early with 14 children

I’ve had a paid job since the fall of 1980 when I was 15 and gas pumping after school at the local gas station. And a full-time job since 1986. I’ll be 57 and my wife 53 at the end of the year, it’s time. We look forward to this new chapter of our lives.


He’s the Crazy Feminist again. Thank you very much to Rob for this update and if you want to learn more about his impressive path to FIRE, click here to see your book!

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