Your Cut and Dry Guide to Retirement

 Photo by  Aaron Burden  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in a household where financial conversations were common around the dinner table. I vividly remember discussing mortgages, living within your means, and the value of a dollar. One of the most valuable lessons I was taught was to spend less money than you make. This seems simple enough. If you make $40k a year and spend $45k, you have a negative net worth #math.

It probably didn’t mean much to me at 14 when I was bringing in a few dollars a week by unloading the dishwasher and attempting to vacuum, but definitely started to hit home once I began earning a real income and accumulating very real expenses.

At 18 it meant drawing up a budget for a new car purchase. How many hours did I have to work in a pay period to afford the Nissan with the sunroof? At 21 it meant finding an apartment and a roommate to split rent with. How many nights could I still afford to go out? Could I afford to travel at all? At 25 it means consciously calculating a purchase and being aware of my spending habits. When will I be able to buy a home or retire?

The severity of the consequences increases with age, but so does the reward. My 18-year-old self didn’t have any other expenses other than the car payment, at 21 I could have moved back in with my parents, but at 25 you should start getting your shit together.

The simplest way to do this is to spend less money than you make. I’m a firm believer in paying your savings accounts and investment accounts before you spend a dime of your paycheck. You earned the money, you should pay yourself before you get to treat yo self with any of that money.

I recently explained how I got my ass handed to me because of compounding interest, but you can use its powers for good as well. In my Target situation, I was drowning in fees and fines and late interest. I was the borrower. As the lender, you get to reap the benefits.

Early Retirement Grid.PNG

The most simple way to set yourself up for success is to spend less than what you bring and be smart about how you invest and save the extra.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have landed the job I did straight out of college. It was one of those gigs where you learn more than you ever think you will, and not just work-related topics. The office mainly hired entry level positions and we were all hired on at the same dollar amount. It was reasonable and fair, but it was less than 40k. This job not only taught me the ins and outs of the professional world, but I also learned how to thrive on a budget.

I’m a very firm believer in that this set me up for success for the rest of my life. I started out being conscious of my spending and saving up to do the things I enjoyed. I learned the happy medium between spending and saving and how to do so on a pretty low salary. Fast forward three years and I’m still accustomed to the lifestyle of someone making less than 40k, but making much more. Since I haven’t allowed my expense to fluctuate along with my increase in salary, that extra chunk of cash gets thrown into assorted investments.

Unfortunately for my graying hair and drastically deteriorating eyesight, my retirement is still at least 40 years away. However, this gives my money plenty of years to multiply and grow. I learned my lesson early on about compounding interest and found a way for it to benefit me.

Learn from me, save a healthy amount early on. Give your money time to grow instead of rushing to fund your retirement later in life.


Zack Mathis is the adult we all need. Thanks for the punctuation, fam.