How Getting Married At 21 Prepared Us For FIRE

The dream of FIRE for our family didn’t come about when the Hubs and I first got together. It wasn’t actually until after our daughter was born that we really felt like we were heading down a path we didn’t want to be, with debt and 401k based retirement.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to us that we didn’t want to live and retire as everyone else plans to. We started out our relationship/marriage/family in a more atypical way, so it’s just following that same pattern to plan our future that way.

Let me ask: have you ever done something that everyone else thinks is utterly crazy? Not like cutting your hair off… like life-changing crazy?

Any of you FIRE people are probably nodding your heads right now. The path you have chosen is one that gets some crazy looks, much less when you get to your goal and quit your job. I can only imagine what reaction that gets!

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Well, when you get married at 21, that apparently hits that level of crazy. What’s funny is that only those on the outside thought it was crazy. Neither of us ever did. We dated for a year and a half when Hubs proposed ( I was crazy in love and would have married him within the first year… big family trait). We actually planned to get married the Fall after he proposed, but the in-laws didn’t think that was a great plan, so we waited til after the school year ended.

During the engagement, we heard the same questions, over and over. But the one that stuck out in my mind was asked by an older co-worker, that (to my knowledge) never got married after having her son,  and the question was this:

Why get married now? Why not just wait? You can go anywhere, see all the places you want to see, do whatever you want to do…. then settle down.

I think anyone who is FIRE planning, you have gotten similar level of crazy questions.

Why do you want to retire early?
Won’t you be bored?
Just go see things on vacations.
How is it even possible? No one can do that.
Why not just wait a little longer?

Well, here at An Intentional Lifestyle, we make it a point to put lots of thought and prayer into our decisions in life. We want to live intentionally (thus the name, folks) in every aspect of our life. Even as a 20 year old/college junior/Applebee’s employee, I wanted to be intentional with my life. I didn’t have to hesitate to answer her question. I knew immediately what to say. But from the outside though, there were so many things against us that made it seem insane to do what we did.

We were broke.

Like, extremely, utterly broke. We made $16k. That’s what we went to school with, paid rent, bought food… we were broke, y’all.  That first year we got our taxes done together, we had somehow spent MORE than the $16k we had made. Our tax guy took pity and gifted us taxes that year as a late wedding present (he was a longtime family friend). That’s how crazy broke we were.

But what’s funny is that we don’t remember it as horrible or hard. I worked around 30 hours a week typically and went to school full-time. Hubs was in grad school after we got married and was a graduate assistant to help make money, too.  He would get excited when I dumped all my tips out after work, and he’d arrange and count our money. That was basically how we lived. We survived off of what we had in cash, and that’s it.

Here are some ways we’ve learned to be frugal:
5 Ways To Be Frugal When You Love Eating Out
Why You Should Be Shopping At Aldi

It was one of the best years we will remember as a married couple.

We had so much fun, had no cares (all before kids, y’all), and loved life.

Here’s the thing, being broke doesn’t mean you can’t do what you want or what you know you’re supposed to. You shouldn’t mope around, wishing for life to be different. We had no doubt we were supposed to be together and we survived, despite our dismal financial situation. Living that first year as we did taught us so much about how to depend on each other, how to live off nothing, and how to work together for whatever the goal we set (even if it’s to make $100 on a Friday night so we can eat for awhile).

Without that time, I’m not sure Hubs would have been willing to step out on his faith and work towards FI. That time made us trust God in ways we haven’t had to since. I hope for your sake, you have experienced a time that taught you the same thing.

We had people telling us not to do it.

Not just people, family. My FIL actually told Hubs not to propose to me. Not because he didn’t like me, he did, I hope so at least. But because he really thought we needed to wait alot longer (my in-laws were 30 before they married, 36 before they had Hubs). My family thought we waited too long, but that’s a whole other bucket of crazy we won’t into today.

When someone that close tells you to wait, it’s tough to not listen. But I’ve learned that (after praying) if the world is telling me one thing and my gut tells me another, the gut is the right answer. If you’re right in your relationship with God, then He’s your gut telling you what to do. And spoiler alert! He’s always right.

FIRE is something that the world thinks is crazy. Doing anything that is out of the norm like that, it is seen as not the right decision. But most times, it turns out to be exactly the right decision…. at least for us. So don’t listen to the world, listen to your gut.

The already deep ravine between us and our friends widened.

That probably seems weird. But when you are a serious dating couple, from freshman/sophomore year on, friends get bummed out by you. Or jealous? I mean, isn’t the point of all those nights out at a party or bar to get a girl/guy? Well, whether we turned boring or bummed them out, the ravine was there while we dated. But to be the married couple in college? It took it to a whole new level.(We actually attempted to build our own couple from each of our friends, but that never turned out great.)

We’ve learned it’s the same with FIRE. Friends are excited to go spend money, and we’re excited to pay down our house even faster. They’re excited to plan big trips (I do love travel, don’t get me wrong there), but we’re more excited to build a business that can keep Hubs home full-time. So when you realize how differently you think about the fundamentals of life, the bridge of friendship is hard to build over that ravine. There are things you have in common that can bond you, like our friends we’ve made through church. But they don’t understand the financial side of our minds, and at times it seems to cause distance between us.

When you find your tribe, whether online or IRL, it’s awesome to feel like those around you understand a bit more. Finding fellow early retirees or joining our homeschool group so I feel less weird…. embracing that we are who we are supposed to be. That’s when we get comfortable and can respond to the world around us confidently.

So, what was my answer to that question about waiting?

There is absolutely nowhere I can go, nothing I can do, and nothing I can see that wouldn’t be better with Hubs with me.


Look at us! Hubs is still my baby-faced love! Young enough to be called crazy, right?


Y’all, people will call you crazy. If you’re living the way you are called to live, and not just going with the flow as the world around us does, you will be called crazy. Whether it’s early marriage or early retirement, go with your gut. God knows the best plan, and we can trust that He won’t care if we look like a crazy person. Heck, Jesus sure didn’t look like a normal person. He’s part of the crazy tribe that does what His gut (aka God) tells us to do. It’s not the easiest thing, but the day you get to quit your job or walk down the aisle and see the smile on that guy’s face (looking at you, Hubs)…. that’s when you know it was all worth it.

What about you? Are you waiting? Or do you have a gut answer ready? What would you say when someone asks why you are doing whatever crazy thing you have decided to do?


  1. mrspickypincher

    August 14, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Yeeeees!!! I got married at 23 and people were saying it was such a young age to get married (Mr. Picky Pincher was 28 at the time so we also contended with an age gap). But sometimes you just *know* it’s the right person and the right time. Honestly, I wouldn’t be as far along my FIRE path if I weren’t married.

    I do agree with y’all on the ravine between you and friends. Especially when you get married so young, it’s hard to share life experiences. Or I think they also forget that you’re the same fun person, just with an extra piece of jewelry on your hand. Sigh.

    1. Ember

      August 14, 2017 at 8:32 am

      Yay! Fellow crazy, I mean young marrieds! 🙂 You definitely know when it’s the right person! FIRE wouldn’t be in my mind at all, if not for Hubs and marriage. It’s crazy how things change when you are with that right person.

      Yes, still fun, just a pretty ring to go with it. The hard part is also finding couple friends after you get married. When we get out college, people aren’t looking for friends like they were in college. Things were and are so difficult in the friend department.

      Don’t worry, I think you are still fun! Although I’ve only known you as Mrs. Picky Pincher, not the before. We can be the fun marrieds together! 🙂

  2. Joe

    August 14, 2017 at 10:25 am

    You guys are crazy. 🙂
    But sometime, you just have to go your own way. Nice job.

    1. Ember

      August 14, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Hey the key is accepting what your crazy is and using it to your advantage! 😄
      We are definitely paving our own way! Thanks Joe!

  3. Bethany @ CuteCapsuleLife

    August 16, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    The people around us see the risks while we often just see the opportunity. I appreciate that you had people who cared enough about you to speak to the risks, but also that you knew your goals well enough to take the risk anyway…gets harder the older you get!

    1. Ember

      August 16, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      So true! Having those kinds of friends in our lives is so important. Even if we don’t appreciate it at the time. I’m realizing that people don’t think age has any real impact on our decisions. We’re older now (if anyone considers 28 older), and are still regularly questioned about our sanity! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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