Iím not sure if this is the right place to post this topic, but here goes. (Sorry in advance for its length!)
Five years ago I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I was hoping to bounce around some ideas about saving for early retirement and finding a balance between spending money and living in the present and preparing for an unpredictable future.
My husband and I are interested in ER. We had a bit of a rocky start in our twenties when we graduated from college (trouble finding jobs, a few bad financial decisions, etcÖ). But after we married in 2006, we started to get on our feet and in 2007, we began to save in earnest. Then came the MS diagnosis.
Still, in 6 years we saved more than $100K and are still saving (our total net worth is $176K).
I was super excited when we reached our first milestone when I turned 30 (net worth of 100K).
Fast-forward to today (I am 32; DH is 31). While I am doing well physically, I had a relapse earlier this year that really scared me. I had a difficult time walking, could barely use my hands, and had severe vertigo/dizzy spells that were debilitating. The acute portion of the relapse lasted 6 weeks, and I was out of work for 2+ months. Thankfully I am doing much better and looking at me today you would never know that the relapse even occurred.
With that being said, this relapse really shook up me and my husband. I am absolutely determined to save as much as possible as quickly as possible; however, given the unpredictable (and degenerative) nature of this disease, I also want to live my life now and not put off doing important things (such as adventurous travel) while I still can.
We still have some outstanding student loans that we are aggressively paying off and our car will be fully paid off in 20 months. After that the only debt will be our mortgage and we already make extra payments. If we continue to pay off our student loans at the current rate, they will be completely paid off in 2-3 years.
Currently, DH contributes 10% to his 401K (no match) and I am a contractor (with the possibility of full-time) so no company 401K. When I did have a 401K at my previous job, I contributed anywhere between 15-20%. I also have a Roth that I max out every year. We have some Index Funds as well that we were contributing to (500 per month) until a few months ago when we decided to stop those contributions and put that money towards paying off the loans more quickly.
I made a bad financial move a few years ago and bought two whole life insurance policies, which we recently cancelled and have since replaced with term policies. DH has a 1 million dollar term policy and I could only get 350,000 with my diagnosis. (Grateful to even get any to be honest!) Unfortunately, my MS was diagnosed while I was shopping around for disability insurance (at the ripe old age of 27) so I was immediately disqualified. No one expects carpel tunnel symptoms to = MS.
MS is an extremely expensive disease. My medication alone is 60K per year so I am grateful for our health insurance. My medical costs are a huge, huge concern. The Affordable Care Act helps in that I wonít have to worry anymore about being denied for my preexisting condition, but I still have to plan to spend a decent amount for my health care expenses in the future.
With all of this, I still want to travel now rather than later, but am having trouble finding a balance. Part of me wants to take the adventurous trips all around the world because travel is important to me and there are no guarantees, but another part of me cringes at the money that we would spend.
My goal is to work as long as it takes to save 500-600K and then ďretireĒ from corporate so I can pursue my dream of writing fiction and creative non-fiction full time. (I hope my MS does not cut that goal short!) DH loves his job, and is fine with me retiring well before him, but I also want to plan our finances so that he can retire early should he choose to. (I do all of the financial planing and investing -- while he is extremely frugal he has zero interest in investing.)
Is there anyone else who can relate to actively pursuing FI while chronically ill? If so, how do you find a balance? Would you stop contributing to the Roth and 401K to pay off the loans sooner? Or would you keep everything as is? Would you take those dream vacations or take a chance and wait?
I feel very fortunate in that I have such a wonderful, supportive husband and both he and I make a decent income (150K combined gross). Itís difficult enough finding anyone to talk to about ER and FI, let alone with people in the MS community. Many fellow MSers that Iíve met are struggling financially. I in no way feel comfortable bringing up finances knowing how difficult it is for some and yet, worry about my unpredictable future (in more ways than one).
Are we doing okay financially given that my working years may be cut short? Should I try to save more before leaving corporate given that cognitive difficulties could prevent me from pursuing my childhood dream of writing full time? (I currently write part time and am working on rewrites of my first novel and my first book of poetry). How do you find a balance between saving and spending given future uncertainties? Would you do anything differently?
Thanks for reading.