This is the Moment Where All That Saving Pays Off

this is the moment where all that saving pays off

Finding my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start
Wake Me Up, Avicii and Aloe Blacc

On November 15, 2013 I lost my job.

It was a sad day, but not a surprising one. I’d been working for a start-up software company for the past 6+ years and the simple fact we had to face was that we needed to move on. It hadn’t worked, at least not in the way we dreamed it would. Sometimes that’s just the reality of a start-up.

But this isn’t a story about losing my job. This is a story about what came next.

This is a story about the opportunities you’re presented when you plan for the worst but dream of the best.

This is a story about all those years of saving finally paying off.

What might have been

Let’s face it. Losing a job is scary.

On top of not knowing what I would do next, I had a wife and 20-month-old son to consider. Not to mention another son who was due to be born in just over a month.

This was not the ideal time to lose a job. But then again, is there ever an ideal time?

In an alternate universe I might have been sent into a panic. My immediate focus would have been generating income. As much as possible and as soon as possible.

I would have shotgunned resumes out in all directions and probably grabbed the first job that paid even a decent salary. I probably would have stayed in the healthcare IT field (like my previous job) because that would have been the easiest way to quickly get a job that paid well.

After all, I’ve got a family to feed and bills to pay, right?

But that’s only if there were jobs immediately available. What if there weren’t? More stress. Lots of it. Questions about where the money’s going to come from. Maybe some debt starts to pile up.

You get the picture. It’s not a happy one.

Here’s what actually happened

My wife and I knew this day was coming. It was stressful simply because it presented us with the unknown. But we didn’t feel panic.

Instead, we felt opportunity.

Because here’s the thing: we had savings. Lots of it.

We’d been saving for years and this was the point where it was really paying off. Our emergency fund alone could support us for about 10 months. Add in some of our other savings (not counting any retirement money) and we could last over 14 months with NO additional income coming in. If we were willing to make some significant lifestyle changes, we could live for over 2 years just off our savings.

Because of our savings, we knew our family would be okay for a while no matter what. Which meant that rather than being forced to make a quick decision, we had the opportunity to really weigh our options and choose our path forward.

Through a combination of chance (losing my job) and planning (our emergency fund), life was presenting us this huge opportunity to create the life we truly wanted.

Now we just had to take it.

What is it that we want?

I’ve written before about what financial freedom means to me and my wife, and it essentially comes down to this: having the ability to do what we want with our time.

Kind of vague, but that’s actually purposeful. We’re not specifically looking to retire early or travel the world or anything like that, though those things may end being part of it. We simply want to create a life in which our time is spent on things we actually enjoy.

So with that in mind we had three main options in terms of the professional path I could pursue, each with some pros and cons:

Option #1: Find a job in healthcare IT

Pros: I could have not only found a job quickly but it probably would have paid me pretty well. And this is a rapidly growing market, meaning if I played things right I could potentially be making a LOT of money in the near future. If my wife and I wanted to primarily focus on achieving financial independence as soon as possible, this would probably be the route to go.

Cons: While I enjoyed aspects of this industry, it simply wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term. This would have kind of felt like the opposite of taking advantage of our opportunity.

Option #2: Find a job in financial planning

For a few years now I’ve known that my long-term career ambitions involved financial planning. I love the technical side of finances and I love helping people make good decisions. It’s the perfect marriage of interests. So this was definitely an appealing route.

Pros: While I’d be taking a pay cut from my previous job, I’d be able to make a decent, steady income while working in my desired industry. I could gain experience, make connections and actually start building the career I really want.

Cons: There was only one down side here, and it was the fact that I knew that one day I would want to start my own company. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about for years, and while this route certainly could make that option easier down the road, it was still delaying it.

Option #3: Starting my own company

Which of course, brought us to option #3: making the leap as an entrepreneur.

Pros: In a lot of ways, this was the most appealing route. I’d get to start creating my dream business now instead of waiting. I could work with the types of clients I really want to work with (new parents like me). I could build my business to support the freedom my wife and I want for ourselves rather than fitting our lives around the demands of an employer.

Cons: But this was also by far the scariest route. From a pure financial standpoint, it meant not only delaying income but spending additional money to start the business. That would cut down the amount of time our savings would last. I’d also never started a business before, and while I had plenty of ideas there was no assurance that any of them would work. Now that I actually had this opportunity I’d been dreaming about right in front of me for the taking, the prospect of failure loomed large and fear started to take hold.

Weighing our options

Option #1 was taken off the table pretty much immediately. I still had it in my back pocket if things got bad, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do and we didn’t need the immediate money, so we quickly decided to table it.

Between finding a job in financial planning and starting my own company though, it was a really tough call. But because of the runway our savings gave us, we didn’t feel any rush. So we took some time to gather information and weigh our options.

I contacted some people I already knew in the financial planning industry to get their opinions. I also contacted some people I didn’t already know to get theirs (big thanks to Dave, Sophia and Alan!).

I made a list of potential employers. I also made a list of potential sources for getting my own clients.

I did some real research into what it would be like to be an employee at a financial planning firm. I thought hard about the kind of company I would want to work for, the responsibilities I would have, and the career track I would want.

I did some real research into what it would actually take to start a business. I thought hard about what my ideal business would look like. I made some spreadsheets, ran some projections, crunched some numbers.

Throughout all of this I was constantly talking with my wife about what I was learning and what it might mean for our choice. She had plenty of input and ideas, which would help me focus the next part of my search. It was a team effort.

Finally, making the decision

Eventually, all the planning and evaluating needed to end and we had to start taking action.

I have to admit that for a while I was leaning towards finding a job in financial planning. I liked the comfort of a steady paycheck. I liked the opportunity to learn more about the industry. I liked the idea of making a few more connections before venturing out on my own.

But my wife is pretty awesome, and while she knew that was a good option she also knew it wasn’t what I really wanted. It wasn’t what our family really wanted.

It wasn’t our dream.

So she (gently) pushed me to take a chance. After all, isn’t this what all our savings was for? If we couldn’t use it to chase our dream then what was the point? And if we wouldn’t chase it now, when would we?

And she was right. So I leapt.

I stand before you today, the proud founder of Mom and Dad Money, LLC, a financial planning practice dedicated to helping new parents build happy families by making money simple.

This was years in the making

None of this would have been possible without our savings. And our savings didn’t just appear overnight.

It was a little over 6 years ago that I first learned about the idea of an emergency fund. So I took some money from my tax refund and put it into a dedicated account. I started living below my means and sending a little bit more money into this account every month. Eventually I expanded my savings into “saving to spend” accounts so that I could pay for things like travel and car repairs with money separate from my emergency fund. Small windfalls, things like birthday money, generally went into savings instead of being spent. Raises served largely to increase my automatic monthly contributions.

When my wife and I joined finances it was more of the same. She was a saver too so the transition was pretty smooth. But still, there were sacrifices made. We decided to rent instead of buy because it saved us money and gave us more flexibility. We continued to live below our means, saving around 35% of our single paycheck while my wife stayed home with our son. We still spent on things we valued, but the entire time our savings were growing.

And it wasn’t always easy. There were plenty of times where it was hard to sacrifice a little bit of today for an uncertain tomorrow.

But the lesson we learned is that tomorrow does actually come. And it doesn’t just come in the form of car repairs, medical bills, or any of the other bad stuff that people typically talk about an emergency fund being there for.

Sometimes tomorrow brings big opportunity. And when that happens, you can either be in a position to take it or not.

I hope you know I’m not telling you this story to brag, though I am proud of what we’re doing. I’m telling you because I want to inspire you to enjoy today but to plan for tomorrow. You shouldn’t be saving simply because “you’re supposed to”. You should be saving because it gives you the chance to do what you really want to do.

It’s scary to make the leap we’re making. It might fail. I might not be good enough.

But then again, it might work. It might let us build the life we truly want for our family. It’s an opportunity.

And we can take it because we saved.

What are you saving for?

Start building a better financial future with the resource I wish I had when I was starting my family. It’s free!

54 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • MyMoneyDesign February 24, 2014

    Congratulations Matt! Wow, you’ve really taken a bad circumstance and turned it into something more than positive. I’ve always thought to myself that if I were to ever unfortunately lose my job that entrepreneurship would probably be my next course of action. I think you made the right choice! I can’t wait to hear more about your plans to develop this further.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 24, 2014

      Thanks a lot! The way I see it I have a ton to gain and very little to lose. With a long runway, I can try it out and if it isn’t working I can get back into the job hunt before things get really bad. But it definitely took the kick in the butt of losing a job to make me see things that way!

  • moneystepper February 24, 2014

    Brilliant! Congratulations on the new company and I wish you all the best!!

    Its a path that I intend to follow in the future myself. Therefore, I will be extremely interested to hear about your successes and learning points over the next few months.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 24, 2014

      Thanks a lot! I’ll definitely keep people updated along the way. I’m sure there will be plenty of failures to learn from!

  • DC @ Young Adult Money February 24, 2014

    I also am saving money with the hope that I will have the savings and financial situation to work for myself full-time. For now I definitely do not mind my 9-5, though, and the pay and benefits are something that would be hard to give up, even if I was able to create a “second” full-time income.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 24, 2014

      Nice! I’ll definitely agree that the steady pay of a 9-5 is hard to give up. It’s much easier to jump when you don’t have the stable ground already underneath you.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer February 24, 2014

    Wow, Matt – what an awesome story! It reminds me of your friends who think you’re “unstable” for not owning a house. Renting has allowed you guys to keep your savings account plush and pursue the career of your dreams – way to go!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 24, 2014

      Great connection Laurie! The outward appearance of “stability” is nowhere near as important as actually having the resources to deal with situations like this. It’s definitely a good feeling to get to use all those years of saving for something worthwhile!

  • Pauline @RFIndependence February 24, 2014

    Congrats on taking the leap Matt! I hope it pays off over the long term. As a side, can’t a career in financial planning land you your first clients? Beginner lawyers do that, they have to work say 30 hours a week for a firm and in exchange they can use the names and contacts the rest of the week, as well as meeting rooms and secretaries, to grow their own practice.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 24, 2014

      Oh absolutely! Depending on the company I worked for the connections I made that could eventually turn into future clients would be one of the main perks of seeking employment. That was really a very attractive route and it’s still one I may end up pursuing, either by choice or by force. It was more that I wanted to give this a real shot rather than passing it over out of self-doubt or fear. This is what we really, truly want, so why not try it?

  • Michael Solari February 24, 2014

    Congrats Matt! There are a lot of highs and lows but as Joe Dirt says, “keep on keepin’ on!”

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 24, 2014

      Haha, love the Joe Dirt reference! That’s one of those movies I remember being embarrassed to enjoy.

      In all seriousness though, thanks for the encouragement along the way. Hopefully I can follow your lead!

  • Holly Johnson February 24, 2014

    Congrats! That’s awesome! I think you’ll do great!

  • Stefanie @ brokeandbeau February 24, 2014

    Congratulations! I have a very similar dream of having my own business. I just want to be on Broadway at the same time 🙂

  • John S @ Frugal Rules February 24, 2014

    Big congrats Matt – I think you’re going to do great! I can relate to a lot of this as I felt very similar on a number of levels. Our cash buffer wasn’t quite as big, but it gave us confidence that we could take the leap and have a net there for us. It may not be “fun” to save so much in the present, but you’re really paying your future self in my opinion and putting your focus on the long term as opposed to the now.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 24, 2014

      Agreed. And stories like yours definitely helped inspired me to make the leap. It’s scary in a lot of ways, but I’m excited about the possibilities.

  • Andrew February 24, 2014

    Wow what an amazing story Matt. Congratulations on starting your own business! I knew that you were thinking about starting something like this, but didn’t know that you had lost your job in November. I thought you were going to do it on the side. It must have been a stressful time. Always good to have that emergency fund. I highly admire your courage in taking this step in starting your own business. I mean it. I’m the type of person is too risk adverse, and that steady paycheck is alluring, especially with a family. Good luck on your journey and I look forward to hearing more about it.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 24, 2014

      Thanks a lot Andrew! I’m pretty risk averse too, so this was a difficult decision for me. But losing my job definitely made it easier since I didn’t have that existing stability to fall back on. My wife was pretty influential as well, basically helping me realize that this was really what our savings was for and that the worst case scenario was eventually having to find a job. Not all that bad when she put it that way!

  • Shannon February 24, 2014

    Congrats Matt! Your story is exactly why saving and a healthy emergency fund are critical to financial health and happiness. When I help clients build theirs, I always say that we have no idea what it might be used for, but I do know that it will give them the most flexibility to make choices in life and having choices is critical to happiness in life. Good luck with your biz!

  • Shannon Ryan February 24, 2014

    Congratulations, Matt! I am sorry to hear that you lost your job but it’s fantastic that you’re taking the leap into starting your business. I have no doubt that you’ll make Mom and Dad Money a huge success!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 24, 2014

      Thanks Shannon! It’s never fun to lose a job but it’s definitely exciting to think about the opportunities it opens up. Now I just need to make it happen!

  • Done by Forty February 24, 2014

    Fantastic story, Matt. And congratulations on the launch! I love that you used this job transition as a real opportunity, and not as a crisis nudging you towards a sub-optimal (but typical) decision.

    When people talk about how having a cash emergency fund has opportunity costs, these sort of real opportunities never really enter the equation, do they? That cash allowed you to take advantage of a priceless opportunity. Hard to figure the value of that, or the opportunity costs of not having a cash emergency fund in that situation.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 24, 2014

      Thanks a lot! And I totally agree. Most people focus on an emergency fund just for the ability to handle the bad things like car repairs. And I’ll admit that I’ve definitely been guilty of the same kind of thinking. But I hope this story helps to illustrate that saving money also gives you real opportunities to take chances in life and pursue things that excite you. It doesn’t have to just be a burden.

  • Kali @ Common Sense Millennial February 24, 2014

    Awesome, Matt! Congrats on your LLC and best of luck moving forward! I know you are going to be crazy successful 🙂

  • AvgJoeMoney February 24, 2014

    Fantastic! That’s an exciting step. I love to read about someone who had the guts to go grab their #1 goal and forget the compromises.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 25, 2014

      Thanks Joe! A lot of my guts came from having limited options and a wife with more guts than I’ll ever have.

  • E.M. February 24, 2014

    Congratulations! This is really exciting news. I think it’s awesome you used your emergency fund for its intended purpose and didn’t feel rushed into anything. Honestly, while my emergency fund could probably last a while, I have to admit I would still feel a bit panicked with a job loss, so I really admire how you went about this. I can’t wait to hear more about how everything goes. Good luck!!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 25, 2014

      Thanks! It was really nice to be able to take the time to weigh our options and really make the choice we wanted to make. That’s definitely a big part of what all that saving is for.

  • Mrs PoP @ PlantingOurPennies February 24, 2014

    Congratulations on making that leap – and so awesome that you were prepared mentally and financially to do what you wanted to do!

    Wishing you all the best luck developing your business!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 25, 2014

      Thanks a lot! I definitely owe a lot of the mental preparation to my wife. She’s braver than I am in these situations.

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets February 24, 2014


  • Blake @ BeanCounterByDay February 24, 2014

    Absolutely awesome story! I’m so impressed that you had more than a year’s worth of savings! That is a goal of mine and this story will definitely provide some motivation. It is amazing the types of opportunities you can find when you’re a financially stable couple. Best of luck with the new venture!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 25, 2014

      I’m glad to hear it was inspiring! That was really my goal. Saving money doesn’t have to be all about sacrifice. Sometimes it can actually give you more options to do what you want to do. Good luck!

  • Tonya February 24, 2014

    Wow that’s awesome Matt! I didn’t even know you lost your job at all!! I’m really proud and impressed you are taking the leap. Keep us posted how it’s going. I’m considering going back to full time…but full time in what are more questions I need to answer…

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 25, 2014

      Well, there were some reasons I had to keep it on the DL for a while, which is why nobody’s hearing about it till now.

      As for your situation, those decisions are always tough. There are definitely benefits to being an employee when you can find a good situation. And that’s honestly a route I still may go back to myself down the road. Good luck with the decision and definitely let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

  • Emily @ evolvingPF February 24, 2014

    What an exciting story! Congratulations! You have a great safety net so why not go for it all.

  • Kim February 24, 2014

    I think that is the best thing that money can buy: choices. Without adequate savings people have to do whatever they must to get by and dreams don’t really matter. Congratulations!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 25, 2014

      I totally agree. The ability to choose what you want to do with your life is really the best thing money can give you.

  • Brian @ Luke1428 February 26, 2014

    Your diligence and preparation over many years put you in a position to take on this risk. It’s an awesome example of how to do things the right way. Congrats and best of luck!

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup February 26, 2014

    This is a big step my friend. I wish you the best of luck. If you have any graphics/logos for the business, I would love to support your new business and send visitors your way. Just send me an email and I will do what I can.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 26, 2014

      Thanks for the offer! I’m sure I’ll be taking you up on that. Much appreciated!

  • FeelingFinancial February 26, 2014

    Hey – congrats! Sounds like you made the right choice. FYI the last time I lost a J-O-B (it’s been a while, and it was a layoff for the record) it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Until I met my wife, which became the new best thing… It is scary and stressful and expensive as it’s happening, but it can lead to new places.

    Good luck with wherever this takes you

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney February 26, 2014

      I’m glad to hear it worked out for you! Facing the unknown is definitely scary, but it is exciting to imagine the possibilities if we can make it work. And it’s certainly helpful to know that people like you have had similar experiences and come out of it for the best.

  • Gerald Dsouza June 15, 2015

    This is an awesome story. I have been contemplating with my wife for some time now to start a business. But with the mortgage I would still need a steady income,so either of us would need to have a steady job. But I am hoping sometime time soon either of us would take that leap of hope and start a Business if our own. Your story has inspired me to come closer to taking that decisions. Thank you for sharing your story. All the best with your new venture.

    • Matt Becker June 16, 2015

      Thanks Gerald! I’m really glad you’ve found some inspiration here. If you’d ever like to talk through your business ideas and what it might take to get going, just let me know. Those are conversations I love having so I’m happy to do it.

      You might also find this post helpful: 6 First Steps to Starting a Business You Love.

      Best of luck!

  • Jeff September 21, 2015

    Congrats on the leap to being an entrepreneur. Looks like everything is going well for you. You’ve got a really informative blog here and you have a way of explaining investing that makes it simple. I believe good teachers have a way of making things simple instead of over-complicating ideas to make themselves sound smart. Very cool Matt and very helpful.

    • Matt Becker September 22, 2015

      Thanks Jeff! I really appreciate the kind words and support.

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