The Shift, part 3

When Kyle and I were first married, we were broke. We were often hungry because the choice was between feeding our newborn or feeding ourselves. We lived in such a rundown trailer that there was a hole in the bathroom floor that you could see straight through to the dirt underneath. It was all we could afford. Kyle was working, I was going to school, but something had to give.

Our old trailer. Photo by Mat Pierce, my fellow Sawyerwood survivor.

Kyle joined the Marines and that got us out of the trailer and on the path to something better for our family. We moved to Pensacola, Florida for a while as Kyle finished his training, and then we were assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina. We lived in a comfortable, safe house on base, but still struggled to get on our feet with money. Our enlisted military doesn’t make a lot of money, y’know. With our second child on the way, and childcare being so expensive, it only made financial sense for me to stay home with them rather than go out to bring more money into the house.

Thus began my career as a stay at home mom.

In time, the financial situation turned around. Kyle earned a few promotions that came with raises, and I held steady with keeping our spending well within our budget. In more time, we made the decision to jump from military life back to civilian life, as Kyle’s job transferred well. We had a small window of time and we chose to jump and hope for the best.

Many moons have passed since then and it was easily the best (and scariest) choice we have ever made for our family. We were blessed with financial security in his new job and it put us in a place we’d never experienced before. For the first time, we were safe.

For as blessed as we are now in finances, I never forgot what it was like living in the trailer, being hungry and taking care of a baby. I never forgot how that felt, to be one small mistake away from being completely destitute. With that always in the back of our minds, we made sure we never went crazy with our spending. We could have bought a big house, and fancy cars, or sent the girls to private schools, but we didn’t.

And now, as we’re all getting older, the view of our family life is continuing to shift. The girls are both in their late teens and beginning to move on to their own lives. Kyle is less than 10 years from retirement, which is so strange to think about. We’ll both still be in our 40s when he’s eligible. He loves his job, though, and has more he wants to accomplish in his career, so there’s a good possibility he won’t retire that early.

Yet, there’s still the possibility he will. Because we were in such a bind in the first few years of our marriage, there’s not much of a retirement or a nest egg to pull from. We just weren’t able to make retirement a priority when we were in a place to truly reap the benefits of interest, so retirement will mean a considerable drop in lifestyle than we’re used to. And with that thought, I’m again standing in the bathroom of that god forsaken trailer, staring through the hole in the floor to the dirt underneath, and remembering that rock bottom is a real and very familiar place.

What I have now that I didn’t have then is life experience. The world looks a whole lot different at 20 than it does at 40, and where ignorance was my downfall then, it won’t be a factor in my future. Retirement could be a long way off, or it could be here in a blink, but either way I’m going to be ready for it.

You see, I have a plan.

To be continued…

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