In the LearnVest Personal Stories series, everyday people share the details of their money lives, discussing the individual choices they’ve made and how it’s impacted their financial journey.
People like Danny Kofke, a 38-year-old special education teacher in Georgia who says that anyone can squirrel away a $1 million nest egg for retirement—regardless of income. So we asked Kofke to divulge how he’s managed to sock away $60,000 thus far while supporting a family of four on a $41,000 annual salary.
Want to know my money secret? It’s simple: Trick yourself. Put money aside by pretending that you don’t have it in the first place.
That’s what my wife, Tracy, and I do while raising our daughters Ava, 9, and Ella, 6. And even though we live on my moderate teacher’s salary of $41,000, we’ve managed to save $250 per month since 2002, allowing us to amass about $60,000 for retirement. We’re well on our way to cashing out as millionaires by 65.
Investing in Ourselves
We’re not like those couples for whom money remains a taboo topic. We’re very open and honest about our finances. We discuss our hopes and our dreams—and then go for it.
I met Tracy, who is four years older, in 1999, when I was working as a student teacher and she was teaching first grade. Our courtship was fast: We started dating in August. We got engaged in December … and we got married in June.
We spent our first two years as newlyweds working as teachers at an international school in Poland. Any other couple might have gone into debt living abroad, but not us. Despite the fact that we were living on a combined $45,000 income, we consistently set aside $800 each month, which we used to kick-start our retirement savings, save for a down payment for a house and give my grandmother back the $10,000 we borrowed to pay for our wedding.
We’re planners. We like to set a goal and then work to accomplish it. Take our plan to live off just my teaching salary, so Tracey could be a stay-at-home mom.