Monday, December 28, 2015

It Seems So Trivial

As I introduced in my most recent post, I intended to carry on a discussion (with myself, yes) regarding the Importance of Work.  This would carry forward for 6 weeks explaining how I justify this shift from a traditional work life without neglecting these important areas.  I've been working on round one of that series, "Work, an Income" for something like three weeks now.  It's near completion, and yet it all seems so trivial now.  I took all this time to analyze current budgets and anticipated future budgets, looking back over years of spending history for accurate reporting.  I make $100 a year sound like a bit of a big deal.  Discussing the topic, at least in the way I have laid it out, feels very self-involved.  The whole thing can be summed up in a sentence: I'll need some money to live so I'll need to work (some).  

The whole thing feels even more trivial considering the life changing events that are happening in my own life and those nearest to me.  As Mama pointed out, Baby A (Baby Girl) was brought into this world.  It feels silly to write a blog post mentioning how much it might cost me to use a laundry facility while RV living without first sharing this news.  Certainly the new child is far more important and impactful in my life than how many quarters I'll need for the laund-o-mat.  But by focusing on the "Work Series," I'm putting my time and mental energy* into writing about this completely unrelated topic.  Odd isn't it?  One of the most amazing things that will happen in my life has just unfolded with the birth of my third child, my only little girl, and I'm writing about a budget, not her.  

Additionally, my parents just days ago experienced the complete loss of their home and belongings after an EF3 tornado tore through their town.  It makes the fact that I'll save a few dollars a month on reduced internet costs seem... well, trivial.  How can I sit and write about such petty things in my own life when others so close to me are experiencing the complete loss of their material possessions? 

[Three of their four dogs have been found safe, one amidst the rubble, as of this writing.  We pray for little Bruno's safe return in what would be an extraordinarily wonderful thing for all four dogs to return home safely after such an event.]



UPDATE:  Shortly after writing this Bruno was located and appears safe.  All dogs recovered!

These two events were too significant for me to just ignore.  I couldn't move forward with any other sort of blogging without first acknowledging that these two events are the most important in my life right now.  I didn't want my trivial blog to make it seem otherwise.  

I didn't give too glowing of a preview of the upcoming "Work, an Income" post.  And I certainly don't make any promises as to the quality or captivating nature of it.  But I do still feel it is important to flesh out, at least for me personally.  After all, I'm going from what I consider an outrageously comfortable income and lifestyle to intentionally having no full time income (from myself or my wife), with three young kids to boot.  The income side of this equation is critical to consider, to include such trivial things as laundry mats and internet costs.  I'll publish it eventually, but really just haven't felt enough passion about writing it these last few weeks considering the major events we were anticipating, experiencing and witnessing.  And please don't confuse my lack of detailed blogging regarding these events as a reflection of how they impact me.  I suppose the more meaningful or heavier subjects are just a little harder to write, and sometimes a bit uncomfortable for me when being made available for anyone to read.

*Though not always evident in my writing, this does require a significant portion of my brain power.  Maybe that speaks to the limited supply available for use, or just the challenge of pulling jumbled thoughts out of my head and transferring them to coherent sentences.  Either way, my brain is cramping right now.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Big Things...

Mama here. It's been a while since I've posted, so I figured it was time.  There are a lot of big changes going on around here.  While this time of year is generally full of family, parties, and sometimes stress, we, here at the Whitehurst household, are laying low.  It is a bit of a nice change for us.  Dad finished his official shift work on Dec 9th and has been all hands on deck at home since.  (couldn't resist the Navy pun)

For a while there everything in our lives seemed to be in a holding pattern.  I was due with baby #3 on Dec 7th...or 12th, depending on who you ask, but she decided to take her time (like all of our babies tend to do) and greet us on December 18th.  I was actually scheduled for an induction on the 18th at 7am, but she outsmarted them and came at 6:34am.  And yes I said she.  We had a beautiful healthy baby girl.  Baby A, we will call her.  And her two big brothers couldn't be prouder.  They love giving her kisses, greeting her every morning, and seeing how high they can swing her in her swing.  (A practice we don't condone and have had many conversations about in the past week)

Christmas morning was a hit with the boys getting everything on their wish lists to include Cowboy Boots, rain boots, headphones for our lengthy car rides, a variety of movies, a travel soccer goal and soccer balls for each of them.  You would think this would keep them from fighting over balls, but it doesn't.  The goal has been taken down twice for too many disagreements ending in dinosaurs and arms being caught in the netting.

Our big undertaking Christmas evening was moving the boys in with each other.  We have a lot of furniture we are trying to sell so we thought it would be best to consolidate both the furniture and the kids into rooms in our house.  The boys now own the bigger of the two rooms and our furniture sits in the other, ready for craigslist buyers to come and grab.  This move came with a bunch of organizing and downsizing of clothing and some toys.  You'd think this wouldn't be too big of a challenge, but how do you simplify clothing for a toddler who seems to be perpetually in between sizes and a preschooler who is constantly growing?  How do I organize a billion clothing items for LJ to grow into in the next month and AJ to grow out of but that are just a tad too big for LJ?  Oy!  I'll just minimmize what each of them have in each size and they can wear clothing that might be slightly too big for them on laundry days.  Problem solved.  Marie Kondo doesn't talk about this in her organization book.  I look at about 15 different dinosaur shirts and can't decide which give the boys joy and which don't - they'd tatoo dinosaurs on their chests if I let them at this age.  So I'll keep a few for each of them.  And blame their cousin due in Feb for stealing all their dinosaur shirts ;)

AJ's bed was disassembled and placed in the garage for storage to make room for LJ's crib.  So, temporarily AJ is camping out behind a curtain on his cot.  Don't feel too bad for the kid, he has a lush down topper on his cot along with his Olaf blanket to keep him cozy.  He woke us at about 3am the first night saying he missed his big bed, which blows my mind since he's been napping on a bean bag chair in a tent, by choice, for the last month.  But hopefully he will get used to it and see the benefits of sharing the room with his brother.  Afterall, the crib puts them both at the perfect height for an unfair advantage at the basketball hoop hanging from the closet door.

This is just the first of many rooms that need to be weeded through, organized and sorted.  We have a plan, we will just see how well we can execute it.  T-40 days until we are planning on driving away in our trailer.  Now if we could only sell 2 vehicles and a house in the next month....

The boys' room

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Importance of Work, Intro

"You know, there are a lot of people in this country that don't have a job and live in a trailer.  And you can usually find them outside of their trailer drinking light beer."

Some perceptive words from my little brother during Thanksgiving conversation, and I'm sure a not uncommon thought when I mention my plan to a colleague or friend.  The conversation seems to goes something like this:

"So where is the Navy moving you to next?"

Me: "No, that's it for me.  I didn't promote, so we're moving on to civilian life, and heading south to warmer weather."

"Sorry to hear that.  What career are you considering?  Already have a job lined up?"

Me: "Actually I'm not looking for a new career right now.  I'm going to stay home with the three little ones with my wife so we can both take on the challenge of three kids three and under together, and to be able to spend as much time as possible with them while they are young.  I'll still be doing my one weekend a month for the Reserves, and that should be enough to support us budget-wise, especially since we are going to be moving into our RV full time which will cut down on costs hopefully. 

 "Wait, you aren't going to work and you are going to live in a trailer?" [Inner voice: Uh, this guy is what is wrong with America.  Probably going to be living off freebies from my taxes.. paid for by me working.]  "Oh, uh, sounds interesting.  Good luck with that.”

Granted, there are a number of individuals that seem to express sincere admiration for our "bravery" in what we are undertaking.  But whether true or only perceived on my part, the sense that some people scoff at the idea of my family choosing to live "jobless in a trailer" does get me thinking.  I think the biggest *gasp* factor in the plan is the lack of full-time employment, by either my wife or myself, and how that is perceived (especially since we don't have enough money to "retire").  

Of course, there are a lot of people that don't enjoy their specific job, but most sensible adults understand work is a good thing.  First and foremost, it provides a source of income.  Not only that, but if provides a sense of worth, value and achievement to the individual working.  It sets an example to one's children on how to responsibly work to support a family.  It allows for disposable income not only to enjoy, but to give in order to help those in need.  And work offers a societal benefit to be shared by all.  The importance of work as a benefit to our country's economy is evident as the unemployment rate is often used as a measure of economic strength.  Finally, we are created in God's image, and included in this is the design to be working, productive people.  Clearly, work matters.

So how do I justify not working?  I hope to make the case over my next few blog posts, but it starts with this key distinction:  Work and employment are not synonymous.  So I will certainly be working, I just won't be employed full-time.  Once I grasped this idea, the justification was far easier.  So if you aren’t interested in following this bit of rambling about work, just check back in when more trailer action starts happening in January.  I’m analyzing and writing this short series more for myself than for anyone else (as is the case for the entire blog), but I’m happy to converse with anyone that has comments, questions, or perhaps some encouraging words.  

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Buying My Time

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It is often said that time is our most precious resource.  After all, we each only get 24 hours a day to spend of our choosing.  I'm "choosing" to write this at 2:20am, for example*.  But what if we had the option to buy more time?  How much would that be worth?  What would an extra hour a day be worth to you? 

[Side noteIf your daily commute is over 60 minutes round trip, eliminating that is an easy way to “create” an extra hour in your day to spend with family or do the things you love.  Your commute may be costing you more than you think!

Why this mention of time vs. money?  Well, the full-time RV / two full-time parents scenario means no full-time job.  No full-time job = no full-time income... and no "full-time" budget.  Things will inevitably be trimmed back.  Education savings - zip.  Retirement savings - also knocked back to zero.  And it's these two big line items where I give myself pause.  Staying home with the kids sounds wonderful, but I don't want that to be at the expense of Mama and my future, or the kid's future.  

Join me on an adventure through a hypothetical life.   Shortly after graduating from college your income was just about $40k/yr, steadily increasing over the next 7 years to ultimately double ($80k).  Let's say you were ever the disciplined investor, maxing out the employer matched portion of your 401K (3% in this case) and your Roth IRA from age 23 to age 29.   Luckily you snagged not only a good-lookin’, but also money smart wife who does the same.  Between you and your spouse, your retirement contributions would look something like this:



Investment Value

(Roth limits went from $5,000 to $5,500 in 2013)

Invested into an S&P500 index fund (from the beginning of 2009 until now), you have amassed a total sum just north of $200,000**.  This provides an average annual return of about 9%, about on par with historical returns.  Going forward, we’ll assume a 3% inflation rate, or 6% investment growth on our  stash.

                **Based on actual S&P500 returns from 01 Jan 2008 to estimated year end, 2015.  Best year, 2013 (32.43%).  Worst year, 2015 (estimated 1.1%).

The typical plan (and it is a good one) is to continue working and saving, maxing out that Roth IRA contribution and at least the 401K match, but really just pumping up your savings rate as much as possible.  

You are now pushing age 30, with several small children added to the mix, and your perspectives shift.  Time is precious.  How can one maximize it?  What if, instead of continuing with your career, you took some time off to spend with your kids, full-time?  To make this work, you’d need to make some cut backs in the budget.  Among those are your retirement contributions.  So you dial back your YNAB^ budget to $0 for retirement savings. 

Wait, that’s crazy stupid! 

In only 7 years we can already see the awesome power of compounding interest.  We earned an extra $70 grand over that 7 year period.  Imagine if we were to continue this for the next 30 years (only with half the 401K contribution since Mama gets to stay home with the kids full-time now)… Well, no need to imagine.  Let’s quickly crunch the numbers!

Wait?!!! Wha, Wha, Whaaat?!  Almost $2.5 million dollars ($4 million before inflation)!  That can’t be right… Let me re-crunch the numbers.
[Pressing “Calculate” button once more]
Wow, it didn’t change!  That’s a staggering amount of money, which, by the way, was made possible by saving less than 20% of your family’s income every year – a very achievable amount!

Hold on, hold on.  We don’t need $2.5 million dollars.  We’re not Lindsay Lohan after all, and don’t plan on tearing through millions of dollars on cars and what not.  It’s difficult to even fathom setting a goal of $2.5 million for retirement.  I prefer a different method of planning for the future.  First, how much will it cost to live each year?  Considering in our retirement years we’ll surely be debt free (your debt situation is an emergency, after all); and since we’ll be living lean as a couple of aging empty nesters, $36,000 a year seems pretty luxurious.  Assuming we can draw down 4% a year on investments without ever reducing the principal amount (see the “4% rule”), we would need to save $900,000 in investments in order to have $36,000 a year on which to live.  And we would be able to live in this manner for eternity – or in perpetuity in financial speak.  Using our savings plan from above, it would take just over of 22 years to reach our golden nest egg of $900,000.  We’ve already been trucking along for 7 years, so that’s only 15 years to go.  It’ll go by in a flash!  You’ll be retired by age 45!  By then the oldest child would only be 18 and… and… and moving off to college.  Your sweet little boy has grown up.  And no amount of money can buy back those years lost when the kids were are at such a precious young age. 

I don’t like that plan, for you or for me.  So let’s reconsider this idea becoming a stay-at-home dad.  To make it happen, we live on the cheap including putting retirement savings on hold, just for a little while.  What kind of damage will this cause to our long term financial picture?  If we choose to stay home for 3 long wonderful years, we’d probably end up delaying retirement what, an additional 6 years to make it up down the road?  Let’s take a look…

Wrong!  And in the best way possible.  Taking off three years from retirement savings now would require only 2 years of delayed retirement in the future.  So instead of a total timeline of 22 years to the $900k stash, it becomes about 24 years.  Retirement at age 46 – not bad!  Even better, we get to stay home for three of those years enjoying more diaper changes than you thought was ever possible as a traditional career man. 

That’s counter-intuitive, isn’t it?  We’re trading 3 years off now for 2 years more work later, yet still achieving the same financial goals.  What happens if we stretch this stay-at-home timeline out even further.  We stay home a full 6 years, so the youngest is well entrenched in school before deciding to get back to the daily grind ourselves…. The result?  We would only have to delay retirement an additional 18 months to stay home for another 3 year stretch.  So now $900k comes at 25 ½ years (still 47 years old!), and we stayed home full-time with the kids for 6 great years (or ages 3 to 9 for the oldest in this scenario).

That’s a remarkable discovery.  It’s as if we are creating time out of thin air.  If I offered you a trade that you’d have to work and additional 3 ½ years a couple of decades from now in order to take 6 years off now, would you take it?  That’s the power of compounding interest.  That $200k stash that was built up in your 20’s continues to grow, even while you are playing whiffle ball in the backyard with the kiddos and not contributing a dime towards retirement. 

That’s the true power of money.  When it can set you free to do this things you really love in life, as opposed to simply being used to buy the things you’ll only enjoy for a short while, simultaneously crippling your financial freedom. 

This number crunching exercise was, of course, more for my own discovery than for yours.  After investing in my first mutual fund at age 16, and maxing out my Roth IRA every year since my junior year in college, the idea of suddenly halting retirement contributions is a terrifying one.  It goes against every bone in my body.  But the realization that I’m not throwing away my retirement by putting things on hold for years on end is very encouraging.  Even while taking a break from work, compounding interest continues "saving" for retirement for me!  

The numbers don’t lie, but they can be misleading.  This plan won’t work for everyone.  You have to first have saved up a sizable amount of money.  This compound interest benefit is amplified with every additional ten dollars saved.    In this situation we assumed we have saved $200k by the time we hit age 29.  I’m some bit older than 29 now, and I don’t yet have $200k in retirement investments, so this was just for illustrative purposes.  But while my numbers don't match exactly, I've saved enough that the theory holds true.  I can defer IRA contributions for many years now, only to delay retirement by a fraction of those years in the future.  This is only possible because of the savings my wife and I have accumulated up until this point.  If I were just starting out on the path of retirement savings, putting it on hold for any period of time would be out of the question. 

...This post only relates to delaying retirement savings, but doesn’t address the idea of how in the world a family with two stay-at-home parents can support themselves in the present.  What about food, rent, medical costs, and everything else that life throws at you?  That’s another discussion for another day.  Stay tuned.

  *It’s now 4am, and no I’m not insane.  I’m on a 12 hour night shift at work, and compared to many nights this was an incredibly useful and productive way to spend my time.  Never fear, your nation’s nuclear deterrent force remains fully engaged and at the ready. 

^The link to YNAB ("You Need a Budget") above is a referral link, which discounts the software purchase if you are interested, and YNAB pays me the equivalent discount amount via PayPal.  Whether or not you use the referral discount, check YNAB out.  It's amazing.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Caution: Man at Work


Ownership of an RV is sure to do one of two things: either make me a far better handy-man, or force us to go broke due to continuously paying for maintenance and repairs.  Ever the frugal fellow, and eager to get my hands dirty with our new home, we've spent a few afternoons at the trailer to get it ready for the winter (sub-freezing temps are already upon us).  Our last trip to our tin can (ok, fiberglass can) home taught me an important lesson in RV maintenance.  Danger is everywhere, usually when you least expect it.

We are in a bit of a hurry since the lot closes at 6 and more often than not the owner is waiting at the gate for us to leave so he can lock up for the night.  We are determined not to keep him waiting again.  I just finish greasing up the hitch so we can drag the trailer to the nearby CAT scale for state registration purposes.  Everything is all set for hooking up to the trailer.  And right after I wipe this grease off my hands with a paper towel I'll do just that.  I spot the dumpster for the towel about 20 yards over and start making my way with a little bit of giddy-up in my step.  I'm wiping my hands as I go, looking down to make sure I get the pink goo completely removed before getting into the truck.  BAM!  I'm on my back looking up at a slowly swirling sky.  At first I'm unclear what happened.  Instantly my face feels like it's been walloped with a frying pan.  Why am I laying here in the dirt?  Then the next logical thought comes to mind - did anyone see that?  I may be in terrible pain but I'd hate to be in pain and embarrassed!  I quickly glance around and see that my fall went unnoticed.  Now on my feet I meet the cause of my disaster.  A 5th wheel trailer, with the cab over portion coming down to just slightly above chin level, looms before me.    The 14,000lb wall didn't give a bit when my little face came plowing into it.  Clearly my body kept moving forward with the same hustle and pace of my walk, because the disturbed dirt in the outline of a human form, a chalk line if you will, extended completely forward under the trailer.  I came down flat on my back, lucky to not slam backwards headfirst into the ground.

I head over to my always sympathetic and loving wife, whom is unaware of what happened, for some assurance that I'm not disfigured.  The details of the conversation are a bit shaky, as I just experienced what is hopefully the most intense face-first, blunt object trauma of my life.

 "I'm hurt," I say matter-of-factly.  The words stumble out of my now swollen lips.

She is confused and asks for clarification.

"I hit my face on the trailer," I state while trying to enunciate without moving my mouth too much, the taste of blood now evident.

She busts up laughing uncontrollably.  With a hand over her mouth to try and disguise her enjoyment of the situation she asks, "Do you need to go to the hospital?"

"No, I don't think so.  I just really hurt.  How does it look?  I think I chipped a tooth."

Continued laughter.  "You have a small scrape on your forehead and you are bleeding out of your mouth.  Is your nose broken or does it always look like that?"

Hmm, that’s encouraging on so many levels.  The forehead wound makes sense, as the pain feels like I hit that first and proceeded to roll my face into the trailer wall.  The last stop was my chin before I was dropped to the ground.

"I think my nose is ok.  It's not bleeding, it just hurts some."

Once my watering eyes subside I proceed to help AJ into his car seat so we can get this thing weighed and back to its spot in the storage lot.  He pauses and gives me a close look, unaware of what transpired moments before.

"What happened, Dada?"

"I got a little hurt."

"You hurt your face?  Ouchie!"

He gave me a sweet kiss at that point, healing all pain for the moment.  Proof that his empathy far exceeds that of his mother, even at age 3.

Let's hope I learned a lesson from this painful circumstance.  One would think as a military aviator I would do a better job of keeping my head on a swivel, but I've been moonlighting as an Air Force Officer in a desk chair for years now and my military training is less and less evident with time.  I share this story of misfortune as Mama will now be able to read and laugh about her (fortunately) hard-headed husband year after year.  And perhaps I'll laugh too one day.  Though I don't need a blog post to remind me of  what happened.  The slight chip in my front tooth is reminder enough.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Success Defined

Society certainly tends to categorize success in a certain manner.  By looking at someone, we can judge whether or not they are successful.  What kind of car are they driving?  How big is their house?  How nice is their hair/clothes/shoes?  What toys do they have for weekend recreation?  The man with a big house, cool sports car, a motorcycle and powerboat – well he’s obviously successful.  And the mom that seems to have it all together, who despite having several kids looks like she spends each morning with a personal trainer.  Her nails are done, not an ounce of tired can be seen on her face, and she's cruising in the Escalade to shop on the nice end of town for back-to-school clothing.  We can all agree she’s successful too.  The same goes for the career mom or dad that just seems to have it all.  But that’s rarely the full story.  The outward appearance of one’s life isn’t necessarily a reflection on what’s going on behind the scenes.  I don’t mean everyone who seemingly has it all is outright lying to you.  But success based on such superficiality or collection of expensive items is often a thin guise for a debt laden life full of stress and unhappiness.

Despite the dictionary's attempt to define "success", it remains a fairly subjective concept.  How success is defined is dependent upon the person, circumstances, time of life, etc.  Additionally, most would agree that success can typically be divided between two areas: financial and other.  While the definition of financial success may vary from person to person, it is at least measurable in net worth or some other form.  "Other" success is often wrapped up in career or academic achievement, or any number of ways one might consider themselves successful.  These two types of success, and more so, goals in which we seek to achieve success, drive how we spend most of our time in life (or at least it should!). 

Recently, I've discovered my goals have shifted based on how I have come to define success in my life.    I now consider some of my previous definitions of success to be fairly immature.  After getting it down in print, it becomes almost comical.  Here is how things have changed for me over the last few decades...

·         Grade School:  Success = Academic achievement, and that's about it.  There wasn't any consideration for financial success at this time.

                I remember how proud I was to get 100's on my weekly spelling test in 1st grade, and how sick my stomach would feel if I missed one.  I might have been a weird kid now that I think about it.     

·         High School:  Success = Getting straight A's and winning in varsity sports. 

                At this point I began to learn about a successful "adult" life too.  A plan was set in motion for my future.  Get good grades, go to a prestigious college, get a good career, save and invest money, then retire at age 65 as a millionaire.  Seemed like a pretty good plan.  Most people tend to agree.  At some point in their adult life they find themselves somewhere on this path seeking to accumulate as much wealth as possible to be enjoyed in their retired years.  That is, in the most basic form, the "American Dream."  Owning a home with brand new vehicles and perhaps a wife and children are all details within that same "dream".      

·         College: Success = Money = Fancy Car = Girls

                If I have money, I'll have a nice car.  And cars and money are pretty much all it takes to have my pick of the ladies.  This makes me laugh, because at the time I actually believed this magical formula for success and happiness.  I suppose this was a fairly shallow phase in my life.  Oh, and it's worth mentioning that the reason we seek out success is to be happy in the end.  That's key to everything we buy or do, isn't it? 

During this time I still held on to the idea of having a long career and investing wisely to one day be a millionaire.  This was now tied to the idea of pursuing a military career (minimum of 20 years for it to be considered a "career") and subsequent military retirement/pension. 

·         Early 20's:   My definition of success broadens.  Not only do I have the millionaire dream, but along with that is the (very novice) attempt at being a faithful servant of God.  I’d work to fulfill His plan for me, whatever that might be, while working to be rich.  And of course money isn’t everything, as I’d want to enjoy this money with a wonderful wife and children of my own.

·         As a family man: Raise up some God-fearing, respectable children.  Build up a strong marriage.  Seek to grown in my faith.  Financially, save enough money for kids’ college, have a paid off house, and continue on the path for military retirement.  Even the order in which I naturally formed these ideas of success help me see that money is taking a sidestep to things that may be more important in life.  But money is still right up there, as well as achieving millionaire status.  Which, by the way, is no bad thing.  In fact, even early in our marriage Mama and I had loose plans to pay cash for a sports car  at some point down the road (we had in mind the one pictured above).  I had forgotten about this silly idea until now.  Ironically, this would have been about the time we would have purchased it had our ideas of success not changed with time.

And here is where things start to get a little unusual.  Up until this point, everything seems pretty typical.
  • Early 30's: Success as a husband, father and servant remain well established as they were in the previous bullet point.  However, I discover the concept of Financial Independence / Early Retirement through "Mr. Money Mustache".  This drastically shifted my perspective on financial success, as well as how such success could enable me to be successful in other areas of life as well, namely spending more time with my family.  My goal soon became to achieve financial independence by age 41 (in other words, needing no job to support my family since I'll have enough money invested on which to live).  I would be successful financially if I met that goal.  

Over the past year things took another turn.  I'm not quite sure how it happened, but gradually the idea of working intensely while saving intensely for the next decade, so that I could then enjoy spending more time with my wife and kids became less and less appealing.  Especially when I considered the alternative - why not do it now?  Why not take this idea of early retirement and just do it now, instead of waiting a decade*.  It sure would be great to be home with my 3 year old, 1 year old, and upcoming newborn now, instead of trying to force my way into their lives "full-time" as they enter their teenage years.  If I really want to spend both quality and quantity time with my kids, now is my best opportunity.  Even better, I'll be able to be side by side with my wife in raising the children.  Instead of her managing the kids, diapers, tantrums, night wakings, feedings, doctor's appointments, food shopping, cooking, cleaning, pet stuff, laundry, my rotating shift sleep needs, and everything else that comes along with running a home on her own, we'll tackle each day as a team.  In theory, the more I am able to be home to handle all of these tasks with my wife, the more quality and quantity time we'll have together as well. 

In short, the best way I can achieve success at this point in my life is to spend as much time with my wife and children as possible.  I hope to make lasting impacts solidifying our relationships with each other as well and firmly laying the strongest foundation for my children that I can provide.  I hope to be successful in this, and there is no better time than now to make it happen.

*I'm not actually retiring - I don't have enough money!  Becoming a stay-at-home Dad is predicated upon having a well paying part time job (working a total 38 days per year), or burning through savings in a few short years before being forced back into full time employment.