How Financial Planning with My Spouse Made Me a Millionaire – Millionaire Interview 25 (Sophia from Colorado)

September 3, 2020

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Financial planning with your spouse can feel like a boring snooze-fest to some. And to others, it can mean millionaire success in your 30's and a happy and healthy relationship.

That is the case for my new friend Sophia from Colorado from Family.Fitness.Money. She partnered with her husband and she hit millionaire status by at 37!

Check out her story below and see how financial planning with your spouse can make a huge difference in your financial independence journey.

Become a Millionaire in Your 30’s: The Details

How old are you? If you have a family, tell us about them and their ages.

I am 37, my husband is 36 and our kids are 3 and almost 1. Our kids are amazing, exhausting and adorable. 

What part of the country do you live in? Do you own your home or rent?

We live in Denver, Colorado and currently own our townhome which we bought for $229k 5 years ago. It's worth about $320k now.

We just closed on a new home as we finally broke down during quarantine and realized we needed a bigger house and a yard for the kids (and so my husband’s office isn’t also the bathroom!). It's a relatively affordable home for the Denver market at $555k.

Tenants are already lined up for the townhome so we will begin our foray into real estate investing

When did you start tracking your net worth?

My monthly records go back to May 2016, three months after we got married, when we had $487,000 as our combined net worth. This month it was $1,076,000. Doubled in four years!

I did recently find some screenshots of my investment accounts from back in 2012 when my individual net worth was about $150k.  

What is your current net worth? What are your assets and what are your liabilities?

We topped $1 million in February and then again in June 2020. This year has been a roller coaster!

This includes:

  • Tax-advantaged accounts: $400,000
  • Taxable accounts: $270,000
  • Equity in our home: ~$155,000 in our townhome and $110,000 in our new home
  • A rental timeshare in the mountains: $69,000
  • Bitcoin: $20,000
  • Cash: $15,000 

Our liabilities are our home as we still owe $72,000 on the townhome mortgage and our new home which carries a $440k mortgage.  

Become a Millionaire in your 30's: The Process

hike colorado

What are your current sources of income?

I work as an educator in the schools though I also work in the Air Force Reserves still and as an on call nurse. My husband is a software engineer.

We also garner dividends on our investments, rental income on the timeshare (~$5k a year), and soon will make some income on our rental townhome. And I have a small monthly VA disability payment.

In total, we make about $120k combined a year though this year may be less due to my decreased income during the quarantine. 

What has been the single best thing you’ve done to increase your income up until this point?

I actually made a much higher income in my late 20’s than I do now. I opted to switch to a lower-paying but more enjoyable career field when I left Active Duty in 2011. While I do think I will switch gears in a few years to try to improve my income, I am enjoying lower stress and more flexible job during my kid’s younger years.

My husband switched from marketing to software engineering many years ago and is making double what he made back then. 

What ways do you invest your money?

We have brokerage accounts at Vanguard and Schwab as well as our workplace accounts (Fidelity and TSP).

We are invested mainly in index funds though have some individual stocks which are for fun. Bitcoin is also for fun. We hope it rises as it did in 2017 when we made almost $50k on that dramatic increase!

But make sure you are using your ‘fun investment’ money if you speculate in these alternative investment options. 

Did you receive an inheritance or windfall of some kind during your life so far?

My husband received $125,000 from his late Grandma in November 2016. It was much appreciated!

We paid off his student loans from his grad program, put some extra to the house and he invested the rest, some of it into Bitcoin which again, rose dramatically in 2017 and we made money off of that too.

This was at the beginning of our financial journey together and it did help catapult us into making smarter financial choices. He also received a gold bar last year which we sold to use as part of the down payment on the house. It was worth about $56k and we used some of our Emergency Fund for the rest of the down payment. 

I had frugal parents who encouraged me to do an ROTC scholarship which enabled me to actually make money going to college so I graduated debt-free with a guaranteed well-paying job. I’d consider a privileged upbringing a windfall in some sense as it certainly set me up for success in many ways.

You mentioned your mortgage as a debt earlier. Do you have any other debts?

We have less than $300 left on my husband’s car loan. When we bought it, he got the most basic new car and he paid half in cash and half on a 0% loan. I paid for mine in cash.

In hindsight, it is beneficial to get some on a 0% loan because you will make more in the stock market than that. Saying that I really like not having a car payment and can not wait for his loan to be gone! 

How do you track your net worth?

We have Personal Capital but we also have an Excel we started in 2016 that we add to on the 5th of every month. It is helpful to see progress over the years!

I also track every paycheck so we can track how close we are to maxing out workplace retirement accounts as well as our taxable income. 

Do you live on a budget?

We track spending every week at our weekly money parties. We talk about big upcoming expenses.

Though I am naturally more frugal, my husband is more inclined to spend here and there, mainly for things for the kids. He does not care for a budget at all.

I have realized that if we can get the big things right, it’s not worth little arguments over a few dollars here or there. I am the queen of shopping on Facebook Marketplace for used items (especially kid's toys, etc.) and still ‘clip’ coupons in our Safeway app before heading to the grocery store. 

Editor's Note: I love Sophia's “weekly money parties” for financial planning with your spouse. Check out our “Budget Parties” and then come up with a solution that works best for you and your spouse.

What are your annual expenses?

We spend about $30,000 a year on discretionary expenses (food, household items, kids stuff, hobbies, travel, etc.) and about $60,000 on home, daycare, bills, etc.

I track Bills separately so I can ensure I am always getting the lowest rate we can. It will be really nice when daycare is not so expensive in a few years!

This is our first year with two kids so it would have been about $25,000 for the year but with COVID, it will end up being less, most likely around $14k. This leaves us between $30-40k to invest every year.

Last year, we saved $65k (including mortgage principal, HSA, 529s, Roth IRAs and workplace retirement contributions)

What is your favorite fintech tool that helps you grow your wealth?

We do use Personal Capital. Just for fun, I also scan receipts in Fetch and Ibotta and do paid jobs in Field Agent

Become a Millionaire in your 30's: Young Millionaire Journey

Colorado hike

Why is it important for you to build up your wealth?

I like the freedom and options it affords us. I know we have not reached FI but it was so nice to know that we were in a good financial place when COVID hit and I lost some hours. That peace of mind is incredibly worth it.

We also want to travel off and on when the kids are a bit older. We plan to live in Germany in 3 years for at least a year (my husband grew up there and speaks German to our kids).

I want us to stockpile as much as we can in our investment accounts now so in a sense, we can make less later (just enough to at least cover expenses) and know we will still reach a comfortable retirement when and if we want to stop working. Coast FIRE sounds much better to me so we can also enjoy our time as a family while on this journey.

What is one financial mistake you’ve made during your young millionaire journey?

I started in the Air Force at age 22 with no debt and I could have been saving a fair amount in my Thrift Savings Plan but it was not automatic enrollment. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the time to figure it out. At age 25, I was deployed and stationed overseas at 26-28 (2009-2011).

This is a huge regret because I didn’t start saving into a workplace account until I was 29 and even then, it was only the match. If I had been saving the max amount in 2009-2011, I can only imagine how much more our net worth would be now. But the past is the past and we can only make smarter choices moving forward. My Dad also did set me up with a Roth IRA and some taxable accounts so that is one good thing!

Another mistake is opting for whole life insurance in 2018. This was the very beginning of our very focused financial journey. We now only have term life insurance and consider that wasted $7,000 the stupid tax we needed in order to really get our finances in shape!

What book has been most influential to you?

I read a ton of finance books like I Will Teach You to Be Rich and Simple Path to Wealth but I also really like podcasts like Marriage, Kids and Money, How to Money and Afford Anything because I can listen while on the go with two littles. 

What is one financial hack that has helped you that you think most people don’t know about?

Go open an Excel spreadsheet and start creating your own net worth, spending and FI goal trackers. If you’re even remotely a Excel nerd, you can make some cool trackers that are then FUN to fill out!

Set a weekly reminder to have a budget talk (we meet for our Sunday Soiree where we update all our trackers and talk about our finances). 

Where do you find the most joy in your life?

Family, friends, travel, social justice endeavors, public health and trying to make the world a better place!

For the 20-something with a $0 net worth, what advice would you give them to become a millionaire in their 30’s?

Start TODAY!

Listen to podcasts, read the books, talk to a trusted friend. Do not go get whole life insurance like we did a few years ago and waste $7,000.

You can do this and you can get to a good financial place before you know it. We have doubled our net worth in less than 5 years. You can do this too! 

Track your net worth monthly and then you can look back and see how far you have come. Set goals and make sure you and your partner are on the same page. 

What do you think about financial planning with your spouse? Is this something you already do? Is it something you want to do more of?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Andy Hill

Andy Hill, AFC® is the award-winning family finance coach behind Marriage Kids and Money - a platform dedicated to helping families build wealth and happiness. With millions of podcast downloads and video views, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the world. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys being a Soccer Dad, singing karaoke with his wife and relaxing on his hammock.


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