My #InstantFamily & Its Affect on Financial Independence

The last six months have brought dramatic change to our household, some of which has been a long time coming, while other changes we could have never predicted. Here’s a short list:

  • Grieved for the loss of my sister
  • Taken on the role of parents, following an extensive (and expensive) custody battle
  • Mr. DINK graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and was promoted to Director
  • blew up like never before!
  • Started a side hustle
  • Refinanced a second home into a rental property
  • Refinanced my student loans

With all these changes occurring simultaneously, life has been quite a blur as you can imagine. Actually, drafting this article has been therapeutic in a way, on a more personal level than my typical finance post. Within this piece, which is my longest word count to date, I reflect on each of these changes individually, and then discuss the long-term impact they are having on my FI journey as a result.  

The Loss of a Loved One & Gaining a New Family Member

In March my sister who shared the same father as me and was 15 years my elder, passed away suddenly. She experienced a prolonged heart arrest that left her in a persistent vegetative state for weeks until her passing. She was a kind soul who was survived by a 13-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son.  She had some health issues in her past, and over the years it had become evident to Mrs. DINK and I that should something ever happen to my sister, we would be the logical choices to overtake caring for her children. So when everything occurred we were as prepared as anyone could be under the circumstances to take on an #InstantFamily.

Family is important, but rarely is dealing with family easy under difficult circumstances, and this was no exception. This situation combined divorced grieving parents, differing of opinions within the family on many key health care decisions, and the children’s father who I will not discuss in this article.

In the end, the family could not agree on the best custodian for the children, so we enlisted an attorney and took the matter to court. I’ll spare you the details, but in the end after a 3-month court battle and $30,000 in legal fees we were awarded primary physical custody of the children and shared legal custody with their father. The father is not allowed to see the children for now, but that may change in the future. Many people have praised our willingness to take on this responsibility, but honestly, we never really felt like this was a choice because if we didn’t fight for these kids, I would have never been able to forgive myself.

My niece moved into our home in May with her dog and cat, joining our two dogs. For those keeping track, that’s three humans, three dogs, and a cat in our two-bedroom condo, which sounds terrible, I realize this, but in practice it’s working out well so far. My nephew on the other hand is entering his senior year of high school so he’s remaining in his hometown, under the supervision of a local family who we trust.

Our new #InstantFamily has dramatically reshaped our lives. Rather than doing basically whatever we want outside of being workaholics, Mrs. DINK and I are now spending a considerable amount of time schools, doctors, dentists, child support, summer camp, sports, and much more. As you can tell from the name of this blog, we never thought we’d be supporting a child, but we’re proud to assist, love and support our family in their time need.

Becoming an Attorney & Being Promoted  

Becoming an attorney has been a long journey. I started down this path because many of my lobbyist colleagues whom I respect are lawyers, so that’s what I chose to peruse. It all started in the fall of 2013 when I took the LSAT exam and applied for schools shortly thereafter. I attended law school at night while working full time from 2014-2018. The competition was stiff – evening law students were a small minority competing in the same classes against full-time students whose lives revolved around school. Despite this, I worked diligently and graduated with Honors in December 2018. I took the bar exam in February and passed on the first try and was recently admitted to the Bar. This accomplishment didn’t truly hit me until the Bar admission Judge told me I can now hold myself out as a licensed attorney, which instilled into me the gravity of this change.

While studying for the bar exam, I was also promoted to a Director level position at work. I initially lost out on this job, but the competing candidate fell through (long story), and I was selected in his place. Pride be damned, I’ll take being second choice any day of the week. As a result of this change my bare-pay increased to $170,000, up from $139,000, which was up from $89,000 one year before that. This rapid growth in income isn’t going to our heads though, we’re living the exact same lifestyle as before, with maybe an extra vacation or two to preserve our sanity.

I Was Featured in Rockstar Finance and Business Insider!

Another highlight of the last six months was being interviewed by Rockstar Finance, which was ultimately picked up by Business Insider! In this interview I shared my philosophy on work, like, and my “why” for financial independence. I will say, I remember reading similar profiles nearly a decade ago about bloggers on the cusp of FI and I thought it seemed so far away. I can’t believe how far our family has come. Just three years ago my career was still in its infancy, my income & net worth were less than half of what they are today.

The Creation of the Side Hustle

I also recently started a side hustle of buying and selling collectible trading cards. I’ve invested a lot of money buying inventory for this business, but of course I also need to sell products too! For 2019 my goal is to recoup my initial startup costs, while having inventory left over that will be my profit. But more importantly I plan to learn more about running a small business, to which I am a neophyte. I posted some initial information about this business here, but at some point I plan to do a more extensive update outlining my goals and vision for this side-hustle. 

The Death of our Second Home

In June I refinanced my Minnesota home into an investment loan and started renting the property on July 1, 2019 for $1,500/month. This is my second rental property, pretty exciting! We didn’t have to refinance to accomplish this, but it felt like good timing because we had a lot of equity trapped in the property from 10 years of ownership, and we needed liquid cash to pay for our child custody court fees, an unexpected $10,000 tax bill from 2018. We ended up getting 3.625% interest rate on a 15-year loan despite it being an investment property by paying several thousands of dollars to buy down the rate. Mathematically this should be worth, so long as we keep the property for 5 years.

Student Loan Refinance

As if everything above wasn’t enough, I also casually refinanced my student loans that total about $52,000.  This easy step reduced my rate from an average of 5.8% to 4.25% on a seven-year loan, which lines up closely to my anticipated FI date. This works out to a $720/month payment, which was in increase of $100/month in payments due, but we’re saving $67/month in interest.  We ended up using Citizens One as our vendor, because they had a special for $500 Amazon gift card for refinancing anything beyond $40,000 and their rates were very competitive. I would use their service again.

I haven’t decided whether Operation Crush Student Debt will survive this change. I’m still debating this… but for now I’m better able to sleep at night knowing that these loans will be costing us much less each month and even if we do nothing else, they should be close to paid off upon reaching FI.

My Priorities Going Forward

As you can tell, our lives and priorities have changed dramatically, but we’re still extremely dedicated to becoming financially independent! Fortunately, my recent promotion to Director at my work increased my wages just in time to help pay for the new expenses we’ll incur to support our #InstantFamily.  

My plan is still to reach Lean FIRE at a minimum financial independence by age 40, on January 1, 2026, but along the way I plan to accomplish the following personal, financial, and professional priorities:

  • Remain a loving and caring husband to Mrs. DINK – we are approaching our 10-year wedding anniversary and I’m not willing to let myself take our partnership for granted
  • Provide a loving and supporting environment to my niece  
  • Obtain $1,000,000 in investments – and achieve a net worth of $2,000,000 after accounting for real estate
  • Develop a thriving side-hustle – I don’t care so much about the potential profits here – I’m interested in developing new skills and sense of accomplishment that comes with this one’s own business
  • Fund my wife’s doctorate degree (in progress) along with a significant portion of my niece’s undergraduate education (four years away)
  • Pay-off my student loans and primary residence
  • Purchasing additional real estate investment properties, once the market cools down and our finances stabilize (2+ years out, minimum)

In my next post, I will detail the math behind reaching FI by age 40 in 2026, while simultaneously accomplishing these goals.

What Will I Do in Early Retirement?

My brother, who is an entrepreneur and my weekly mastermind partner, asks me regularly what I would like to do if I’m successful in reaching FI by 40 years old. This is an excellent question and something I only vaguely explored during my early years of seeking FI. At the beginning of my journey I only wanted to be FI so I had FU money.  

Entering financial independence without a “why” can be devastating, according to many bloggers who have been through the journey. So after much contemplation, here is a non-exhaustive list of things I’d potentially like to pursue after becoming FI:

  • Develop a Law Practice: I am an attorney after all! Why not earn some cold hard cash while helping others with their problems! During law school I spend time helping pro se clients (those without an attorney) with their family law legal troubles and found it very rewarding. My recent encounter with the legal system has made me even more interested in helping others struggling with family law issues. It also instilled me with the importance of planning ahead, so helping clients with trust and estate matters will be in my future as well.
  • Side Hustle Turned Full-Time Gig: I’ve been slinging pieces of cardboard as a side hustle, but at some point, it would be fun to do this as a full-time endeavor. I couldn’t make enough money at this to support my current lifestyle, but once I’m FI, I’m confident that I could form a profitable venue doing something I love. As a bonus, this would provide me with the opportunity to travel the world attending events, buying and selling cards, which is rare hustle and exciting.
  • Political Career? I’ve also considered running for political office someday, but the more I think about it, the less interested I am. Who knows how I’ll feel in the future, but it’s something that is always on my radar.
  • Travel: Of course, but I’m sure you can’t do this forever…


I do not presume to know what the future holds, but I’m confident that I can setup myself for success through strategic planning and execution, while being nimble when roadblocks come up. I will hard to create my own luck, to be exceptional, and to create a better future for myself, my family, and community.

One comment

  1. Wow, that’s a lot of change! Way to hang in there …remember it’s a marathon and not sprint with family especially.

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