By Josh October 23, 2018
Yesterday, an awesome new curation site went live called The Money Middletons. You may be asking yourself, “WTF is a Middleton” and you would be right!
Depending on your household size and the area in which you live, you might identify as Middle Class or the highlighted term “Middleton.” Generally speaking, I think it means folks within 80% to 200% of the area median income, although a younger Josh would have said 80%-140% because those were the terms required by the grant application that I was successful in achieving in 2014 for my underwater mortgage.
Frankly, I identify as a Middleton as a single, mid-30s male working a professional job in local government. I grew up the oldest of two kids in a solidly Middle-Class family (dad worked 6 days a week in a factory, and mom worked in the office of a construction company). Middle Class is all I’ve ever known, even if I aspire to one day rise into the Upper Middle Class or opt out of the class system entirely by becoming an Early Retiree.
I was the first in my family to go to college, and I graduated in 2005. I was fortunate to “only” have $15,000 in student loans due to a combination of local scholarships I was awarded from my rural hometown community, working summers through college and an on-campus part-time job all 4 years, and I lived on campus for 4 years (which allowed me to lock in year 2 and year 4 room & board rates at year 1 and year 3 prices, respectively).
After college, I struck out on my own, leaving the comforts of the only area I had ever lived, East Central Indiana, for the warm, sunny climate (and better job prospects!) of Southwest Florida. When I was a kid, my family would vacation here almost every year since I was in 5th grade, and I did an internship between my Junior and Senior years of college down here, as well. I knew this was a great place for me to get started in my career (city planning) and make something of myself that wasn’t possible in my little hometown of 5,000 people.
I bought a house at the ripe old age of 23, and you can read about that whole ordeal here.
While the house may have been a huge mistake for me the past decade, it is also what has allowed me to make huge strides in my net worth and financial security. Think about it – I effectively locked in 2006 living expenses for 30 years. The number one reason my savings rate is north of 50% as a single person is because my living expenses are literally half of what my next-door neighbor is paying in rent (these are identical townhouses). The delta between my mortgage payments and their rent payments is almost enough to max out a 401k every year, and they are paying Post-Tax dollars for rent, while I am contributing Pre-Tax dollars to my 457, so that allows me to get even further ahead of where I’d be as a renter in this market.
I still don’t make a ton of money, and that is expected when you work in local government. I made $15.68/hour when I bought this townhouse in 2006. I got up to $20 an hour in the last month of 2011 when I started with a local Town government. By 2014 I started working in State government and made $22/hour for the first couple years, and $27/hour by the time I left in May 2018. With all of my knowledge and experience, I was able to negotiate my highest salary to date ($31/hour) when I started 5 months ago. While it feels great to be earning nearly twice as much as I did 12.5 years ago, I know I cannot allow lifestyle inflation to eat up a large chunk of the increase, or I will never get ahead.
When I got the raise from $22 to $27 last year, that was the point where I made myself max out my 457 plan for the first time, in addition to my Traditional IRA contributions. 90% of my raise went straight into Future Josh’s wallet in the form of this deferred compensation plan. When I started this new job a few months ago, the Payroll office made me sign and initial multiple times that I was “absolutely sure” I wanted that much taken out of my bi-weekly paychecks, but I needed it to be high so that I could hit the maximum of $18,500 for 2018. Apparently, I’m a money unicorn when it comes to that step with my employer?
I still have money struggles, most recently when I needed 4 new tires (hello new commute) and my water heater went kaput the same weekend. Due to being a natural saver, I had money squirreled away in different places, and I didn’t have to take on any debt to pay for those abrupt expenses (although you can bet your sweet bippy that I put them on credit cards to earn travel miles/points!) 😊
Deanna from Ms. Fiology has a thought-provoking post about whether single people should plan for their future Financial Independence as a single person or if we should include a future spouse and potential children. While I do love kids, and would someday loved to be married, I’m currently putting those thoughts in the realm of improbable, but not impossible. I definitely consider myself a single Middleton for the foreseeable future. And I think that’s a great place to be!
I love the personal finance and FIRE community! I know I would not be where I am financially today without the excellent content and some of the advanced techniques and strategies that are covered by prominent bloggers and podcasters in this community. But I also see that there is a gap in financial content for those who are just starting out, or who may even be afraid to start out, based on current stock market prices, turbulent politics, and debts incurred trying to make ends meet. It is my sincere hope that The Money Middletons is able to curate the best in financial content that can help to fill a void in financial and debt payoff coverage to help a new set of Middletons achieve a little more financial peace in their lives. That’s what this community has done for me, and I hope I can be some small part in showing the way for the next batch, even if it’s just to point out some of the really stupid things I have done, so they can avoid those mistakes themselves.