BiggerPockets Money Podcast 203: 14 Kids, One Income, and STILL Retiring 10 Years Early

BiggerPockets Money Podcast 203: 14 Kids, One Income, and STILL Retiring 10 Years Early

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What’s your excuse for not hitting financial freedom? Maybe you work at a low paying job, maybe you only have one income for your household, or maybe you’re caring for a few kids, limiting the income you can save and invest. Prepare to have your excuses obliterated, because today we’re talking to Rob and Sam, who raised their 14 children on one income alone. And we aren’t talking about a $500k per year income, we’re talking about a median income!

Rob and Sam always wanted a big family, and luckily, they were raised in frugal households, allowing them to save every penny, shop the deals, and have a budget. While Sam was at home raising the children, Rob was out working and slowly paying off their house early, without Sam’s knowledge. One day, Rob told Sam that the house was paid off, which came as a huge surprise to her!

He had also been maxing out their Roth IRAs, his 401(k), and their HSAs. Rob was doing all this while comfortably raising 14 children. How is that even possible? Well, you can learn all about their tips, tricks, and budgeting tactics by buying their new book: A Catholic Guide to Spending Less and Living More: Advice from a Debt-Free Family of 16

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Mindy:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast Show Number 203, where we interview Rob and Sam Fatzinger, a couple who probably have more kids than you do.

Sam:
I’ve always wanted to have lots of kids. I’ve always wanted to be a mom since I was in second grade. And so I said yes, I said, “Forget the dog, and make it 11 kids.”

Rob:
And that was her deal.

Sam:
A year later we got married, and got pregnant on our honeymoon.

Rob:
And she’s got three extra kids on top of the 11 I promised her.

Sam:
Yes, [inaudible 00:00:32].

Mindy:
Hello, hello, hello. My name is Mindy Jensen, and with me as always is my agreeable cohost Scott Trench.

Scott:
Agreeable? Huh, I concur Mindy. That’s a great adjective.

Mindy:
Scott and I are here to make financial independence less scary, less just for somebody else, to introduce you to every money story because we truly believe financial freedom is attainable for everyone no matter when or where or how many kids you have when you’re starting.

Scott:
That’s right. Whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big time investments in assets like real estate, start you own business, or achieve FI with a family of 16, we’ll help you reach your financial goals and get money out of the way so you can launch yourself towards your dreams.

Mindy:
Scott, we have interviewed multiple DINKs on this show, Dual Income No Kid. Today’s guests are a complete 180 from that. Let’s call them SIMKs, Single Income Many Kids. How many? The most that we’ve ever had on the show. Basically, every excuse that we have ever heard for why someone can’t pursue financial independence is blown out of the water by today’s guests.

Scott:
Yeah, I mean this is just an incredible story. And we asked them at the end what their biggest financial mistake was, and spoiler alert, and this is a famous poll question, but they couldn’t think of one. They were talking about it, and it took them 20 years or something to pay off the first mortgage. And then they really achieved FI from that position with a paid off house over the last 10 years or so, and the how of it is just really a tremendous amount of discipline, a clear dedication to their values, and what seems like a wonderful life and thriving large family here.

Scott:
And so, just really awesome show today. I think you’re going to learn a lot and be really inspired. A couple of the spoilers there we just gave away. I don’t think they’ll change what you’ll take away from this show. Should we bring them in?

Mindy:
They shouldn’t. Rob and Sam, welcome to BiggerPockets Money Podcast. I can not wait to hear your story, but first let’s introduce your family.

Sam:
So we have 14 children.

Mindy:
Okay. Well, you can’t reach financial independence with 14 kids, so thank you so much for your time today and we’ll talk to you later. Bye.

Rob:
Nice talking to you, thanks.

Mindy:
Thanks for joining us.

Sam:
Oh, we have to tell you.

Mindy:
Okay, so I am going to knock down every one of the protests that I hear people say all the time in one fell swoop with your story. So let’s look at your family. How old is your oldest, how young is your youngest?

Sam:
Our oldest is 31, and our youngest is four.

Rob:
And we have eight grandchildren.

Mindy:
How old’s your oldest grandchild?

Sam:
Six.

Mindy:
I love it, so your oldest grandchild is older than your youngest child?

Sam:
Yes.

Mindy:
That’s happened in my family too, my mom’s family.

Sam:
Yeah.

Rob:
Math is hard sometimes

Mindy:
Sometimes it is.

Sam:
My granddaughter asked her mom, “Mommy, why does Grammy have kids?” “That’s a really good question Scarlet.”

Mindy:
Okay, so you have lots of kids, clearly you live in low cost of living area.

Rob:
Yeah, it costs nothing to live in the DC area. Oh, did I mention we live in DC suburbs? Yeah.

Mindy:
Okay, 14 kids in a high cost of living area. You must both work full-time jobs making $500,000 a year.

Rob:
Each, yeah.

Sam:
I’m a stay at home mom living my dream.

Rob:
And I work in IT, make a little bit over $100,000 a year.

Mindy:
Okay. 14 kids, high cost of living area, $100,000-ish a year. You must have no savings right?

Rob:
Yeah, it’s not too high. It’s about 50%.

Mindy:
Did you just say it’s not too high it’s about 50%?

Rob:
Sorry, my sarcasm came out there.

Mindy:
I love it, I love it. Okay. If you’re listening and you think that I knew the answers to these questions ahead of time, of course I did. Rob and Sam are what we have coined the term SIMKs, Single Income Many Kids.

Rob:
T-shirts coming.

Scott:
That’s right, that’s a side hustle.

Mindy:
Are you on the path to financial independence, or are you there already?

Rob:
We are what I’d call 99% there. I mean I could stop working this afternoon, and if my boss sees that maybe he’ll fire me, make room for somebody else. The plan is officially the end of the year to retire. Probably do some stuff part-time for side businesses, something to bring in a little extra money here and there.

Sam:
And he just turned 56.

Scott:
All right.

Mindy:
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. So you are financially independent, living in a high cost of living area, with a lot of kids, on one income, saving 50% anyway, and you’re not 65.

Rob:
I’m not. Do I look it? I’m afraid to ask.

Mindy:
No, you don’t look it. But how can you get to retirement with all these things stacked up against you? Let’s go talk about your story, where does it start?

Rob:
When we got engaged, or … Well, it starts earlier for her. Go ahead.

Sam:
Just that my parents, I’m the youngest of nine, and because I was the youngest my mom and dad actually grew up during the depression. So, we just always grew up very minimally. All of our needs were always met. We always had-

Rob:
Yeah, minimalist before it was cool.

Sam:
Yes. Beautiful dinner on the table every night, all the courses. Always had shoes, always had clothes. But, the mindset of need versus want and make do with what you have and recycle and all those things that are so in right now. So I just kind of grew up never expecting a lot, and never going above and beyond what was necessary.

Sam:
And then when Rob and I were dating when I was in high school, and then we later got engaged, and I think a little shocked that he actually asked me. And it was around 1988, and I looked shocked, and he looked at me-

Rob:
It seemed like a good idea at the time. It’ll be 32 years in a couple days. We’ll have our 32nd anniversary’s coming up in two days.

Sam:
Yeah.

Scott:
Congratulations.

Sam:
Thank you. So what did you say?

Rob:
I said, “Well you have to say yes because who else will give you 10 kids, a white picket fence, and a dog?” And I also might’ve mentioned something about being thrown off the mountain we were on, a picnic, if she didn’t say yes.

Sam:
And I pondered for a second and thought, “You know what? There aren’t a lot of guys right now who would like to have a big family, and-”

Rob:
So she settled for me.

Sam:
And I’ve always wanted to have lots of kids, I’ve always wanted to be a mom since I was in second grade. And so I said, “Yes. Forget the dog, and make it 11 kids.”

Rob:
And that was her deal.

Sam:
A year later, we got married and got pregnant on our honeymoon.

Rob:
And she’s got three extra kids on top of the 11 I promised her.

Sam:
Yes, [inaudible 00:08:03]. I gave birth to 12, and we have a nine year old now who we adopted when he was five, but we got him when he was 12 weeks old. We were just going to help out a mom in a hard time, so we had him from when he was 12 weeks old. And by the time he was five, we finally persuaded her to let us adopt him.

Sam:
And then we have a bonus baby who we got out of the hospital four and a half years ago, and he will be five in August. We’ve had him constantly, and again are hoping that his parents will let us adopt him. So who knows what God has in store, but because we’re financially independent being able to be open to these other children, we were able to do that.

Sam:
And the funniest thing too was 15 years ago, our daughter who was our 10th child, we were making half as much then. So we just kept living simply and never … As my husband was making more money, we just kept living like we had all those years.

Rob:
Yeah. We started out when we were engaged and then first married, Sam was working part-time, but we always lived on my income and we just saved whatever she was making at the time. And then the first year of marriage when she had the baby, then she just stopped working. But we just always were used to living on one income.

Scott:
Well, let’s dive into it and kind of go through the financial journey here with all this. So 32 years ago, 31 years ago and 363 days ago, is where the journey begins. And what’s your financial position at that point? What’s the income and savings and wealth at that point?

Rob:
Well, that’d be May of ’89-ish. I was working at a bank, probably making, 17, 18,000 a year. That was a raise, when I got out of college I was making $13,000 a year at a bank. Sam was working part-time so we saved all that. After about a year, we opened a bookstore in 1990, summer of 1990, and we had our own bookstore and I quit work at the bank after a year and ran that full-time. Sam and the first baby were actually running it during the day most of the time.

Rob:
We had that for 10 years, and then this weird little known business called Amazon kind of helped make it not be as viable. During the ’90s, we probably made $30,000 and $40,000 a year, give or take depending on how the year was business wise.

Scott:
And how did you manage your spending during this point? How are you building wealth and managing your spending? Is it intentional in these first five, 10 years of marriage?

Rob:
Yeah, it was intentional, not as much as it has been the last 15 or so. Our first house, our mortgage was 10% in 1989, which was actually low-

Mindy:
10% interest?

Rob:
10% interest, which is actually low because when I started work at the bank, we were doing, 14, 15%. I was happy to get 10%, which I know 3% people are now looking at me like you’re crazy. So I always paid a little bit extra from day one from my first mortgage to my last mortgage on that little townhouse we bought. Also started setting aside money. We were saving her part-time paycheck.

Sam:
From a daycare center.

Rob:
From a daycare center she was working at, probably making $4 an hour.

Sam:
Minimum wage back in the old days.

Rob:
Yeah. So we always had some savings, like a cushion, to fall back on when the radiator went in the car or whatever happened. And also, we had some money saved so we could use it to open up the bookstore. And we started saving a little bit for retirement early on in a traditional IRA back then. I didn’t have any retirement plan being self-employed.

Rob:
Once we closed down the bookstore in 2000, I got what I call a real job with benefits, and started contributing to 401k-

Sam:
Vacations.

Scott:
How would peg your net worth around that time in 2000? It sounds like that’s a little bit of a turning point for you with closing down the bookstore and starting a new career.

Rob:
Yeah, net worth it wasn’t too bad only because we had just sold our house and made some money on it and bought a foreclosure. We bought a very beat up foreclosure in a nice neighborhood. So net worth wise, we were probably around $75,000, but most of that was home equity I would say, maybe $25,000 in savings and retirement 20 years ago. And then started contributing to 401k more, and then eventually added health savings account which I love those, contribute to those and I don’t spend the money, I let that grow.

Sam:
And we were pregnant with number eight at that time.

Rob:
When we moved into this house. We just had number eight, yeah.

Sam:
No, number seven.

Rob:
Or number seven, pregnant with number eight.

Sam:
Yeah.

Rob:
I forget their names, but number seven and eight, whatever their names are.

Sam:
Rick and Dominic.

Rob:
Okay, she knows the names. I know the numbers.

Scott:
It sounds like during this 10 year period, there wasn’t a lot of intentional wealth-building going on. It was pay the mortgage and keeping a savings account. It doesn’t sound like there was a lot of stress because you had a savings account, but you weren’t really investing for retirement or building net worth.

Rob:
No, we did not have much set aside for retirement those first 10 years at all, just a tiny bit. And yeah, we had a cushion, like you mentioned, in savings and it was mainly focused on paying the mortgage, the utilities, and feeding the growing family.

Rob:
But we weren’t deprived. I mean we went on vacation each year. I mean we didn’t feel-

Mindy:
You went on vacation when you had eight kids?

Rob:
Like we were poor. Yeah, yeah, God bless the people who we rented from. I don’t think we destroyed any houses.

Sam:
And that’s where our simple living comes in. So we would go the beach. But when we go to the beach, we go to beach. We don’t go to the beach to go on rides or to go out for ice cream or to go miniature golfing or to go to the movies. We go to the beach and we just pack lunches, bring food, and stay on the beach all day. And that’s a kid’s dream.

Sam:
Again, those things are fun and those are special treats, and it’s nice that every once in a while when we do go, and I’ll go take a couple to miniature golf and they just think it’s the best. They don’t expect it, it’s a treat, and so that’s kind of where we draw the line between being frugal and like living and special treats and having them appreciate things instead of expect things.

Scott:
Mechanically, how did you transport the 10 of you to the beach?

Rob:
Well, we used to have a station wagon, then we graduated to a Suburban. And probably for the last 15, 20 years, we’ve had a big 15 passenger van. Yeah, nice.

Sam:
Which now filling up with gas is ridiculous.

Rob:
I mean it gets 12 miles a gallon, that’s not bad these days right?

Mindy:
Yeah-

Scott:
That’s very efficient for 15 people.

Rob:
It was bad last week when the pipeline was shutdown and it was hard to find gas, but we …

Scott:
That’s awesome.

Rob:
And we go off season. We would go like the first or second week of September to the beach when it’s still nice here but it’s after Labor Day. Instead of $3,000 a week, you could rent a house for $700 a week.

Sam:
So we home school, so that also allows for that. And that’s one of the secrets to home schooling. Some people just home school so they can go to the beach in September or October for half the price. That’s a secret.

Scott:
So it’s 2001, and you just changed careers here. How much are you making, and how does your wealth begin to change trajectory from that point over the next couple of years?

Rob:
Yeah, I’m in IT, a software tester, and I started doing that about 20 years ago. Started out in the low 40s as my salary, and then it crept up over the years, 5, 10% here and there, and then I would say 10 years ago, maybe eight years ago, I finally hit the $100,000 a year mark.

Sam:
Also, when we tell people about buying this foreclosure, again my mom had always taught me to buy the worst house in the nicest neighborhood. And we both live in the town we grew up in, and it’s my dream come true, not my husband’s dream come true, but it’s my dream come true to live here. And the houses in the neighborhood we lived in were the ones that when I was growing up, you always wanted to live in this particular neighborhood.

Sam:
So we got this amazing foreclosure on a port with a huge background. So when you have eight kids, it was just a gold mine. It had a big room addition in the back. But what you have to understand is it was so beaten up, instead of taking out a loan to fix it up, we just made it livable. So, lots of white paint, the basic appliances, the basic whatever we could buy. Even though a lot of people can take advantage and build the house of their dreams, we knew that would put us in debt. So we just did the basics, made it livable.

Rob:
Yeah. I mean we took out a mortgage on the house obviously, but we’d made some money at our other house. Just for numbers’ sake, this house we bought in May of 2000, it cost $150,000. We put $50,000 because we’d gotten money from our previous house had gone up in value, and took out $100,000 mortgage.

Rob:
That one was only six and a quarter percent, so we were down from the 10% loan, so I was paying a little bit extra on that each month. So basically a 15 year mortgage that we paid off in 12 years and three months, so the mortgage was gone in 2012, summer/fall of 2012-

Sam:
Which was a shock to me, I had no idea.

Rob:
And at the same time, we were starting to save a little bit in our 401k and had started an IRA. And then in 2012, it kind of went into overdrive because we didn’t have the mortgage anymore.

Sam:
And we’d just got baby number 13.

Rob:
Yeah, and then our savings rate jumped up a lot.

Scott:
So in 2000, you buy this property and you have $100,000 mortgage. You’re contributing a little bit for the next 10, 12 years to your 401k and those kinds of things. But really, the primary driver of wealth it sounds like is the 15 year mortgage being paid off in 12 and a half years. Is that accurate?

Rob:
That would be correct at that time, yeah.

Scott:
Okay, and that’s remarkable in and of itself because you’re on one income. You now have a bunch of teenagers. I know how much of a vacuum I was for food. And then that-

Sam:
And they always bring people home, which we love. Bring them all over, the more the merrier.

Scott:
Yep. So still for this period, you’re still not really driving towards FI for this 10, 12 year period. You’re not doing anything where you’re accumulating debt, you’re living well within your means, but it’s not an intentional wealth-building approach is what I’m hearing for this-

Mindy:
Well I was going to point that out Scott. They’re also not aggressively consuming debt and acquiring debt. And I hear people who don’t have 14 kids and don’t live in a high cost of living area and have two incomes rapidly acquiring debt on a lot of these stories. And that right there I think is your superpower is just we don’t want any debt, so we’re not going to get debt. I mean nobody wants debt, nobody’s like, “Woo-hoo, let me take out all this money and loans and have a hard time sleeping at night.” But just because they don’t want it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t come into their life.

Sam:
And throw in four weddings and a big trip and two big hospital stays for two of our sons.

Rob:
To the debt question, we haven’t had credit card debt … I had a little bit, in 1988 I paid off my credit card. That’s the last time I carried a balance. I also had a small car loan. When I got out of college, I bought a car for like $3,000 and had a small loan for that. So other than a mortgage, we haven’t had any debt since ’88, or ’89 when we took out the first mortgage for our first house.

Scott:
So it sounds like the intentional journey to get to FI begins in 2012 at that point-

Rob:
Yes.

Scott:
That’s a big turning point for us. What’s your situation in 2012 when this hits? I want to know everything. How old are the kids? What’s kind of your financial situation? What triggers the change in course or acceleration?

Rob:
Yeah. 2012 we had 12 kids and we had just gotten our foster baby. Our house is paid off, so we have the equity there but I’m not really counting that as-

Sam:
Oldest daughter just got married.

Rob:
Oldest daughter had just gotten married. I’m starting to ramp up. I probably had like $50,000 in my 401k and IRAs combined, putting maybe-

Mindy:
Nine years ago you had $50,000 in your 401k, and now you are 99% of the way there?

Rob:
Yes, God bless the bull market. Well, we probably went from about 10% savings to close to 50% savings rate, and my income was going up at the same time too. And we’re just-

Sam:
And our three college sons moved out.

Rob:
That saved on food, yeah, three college-age boys moved out. Yeah, that helps.

Scott:
What’s the mechanics of that though? Is it the mortgage payment going away at the same time as the income increasing? Are you just getting more intentional with the budget? How do you mechanically increase the savings rate there?

Rob:
Yeah, it’s kind of all of that. We made our last mortgage payment. I’m like, “Well, we got this money freed up. I don’t want to just have it evaporate and go to who knows where, to stuff.” I was paying extra, so we were paying about $2,000 a month on our mortgage even though it wasn’t that much. And then, I still have about $600 a month I have to set aside for property taxes and homeowners.

Rob:
So I just said, “Well okay, I don’t want to just blow this $1,400 extra that is suddenly in my checking account.”

Sam:
And I didn’t know he was paying off the house that soon, so it was really no big change for me because I didn’t realize he’d been doing this. When he handed me this piece of paper in the front yard I was like, “What’s this?” And he’s like, “Read it, read it.” “I have no idea what this means.” He’s like, “I paid off the house.” And I was like, “What?”

Sam:
I mean I grew up in a time where you would kill to find a calf and have all the neighbors come over when you paid off your house. And I grew up with right next to the telephone, my parents having a sign, “God Bless our Mortgaged Home.” And the whole concept was so shocking to me and I was just in awe. So to me, the day before and the day after, it was no different because he had been doing this without us ever realizing it. We never felt like we were missing out on anything, so the goal was to just keep on trucking along and keep living simply. And buy paper towels every once in a while.

Rob:
Yeah, so we started cramming all that money into … Opened up a Roth for both of us. Then each year, I would increase our rate. Like if I got a bonus, if I got a 2 or 3% raise, I would increase … it all went to savings, so we’re maxing out his and her IRAs. Which I’m 56 now, so once I hit 50, and then she’s 53 so when she hit 50, you could contribute even more.

Rob:
Then I hit 50 with the 401k and you have the catch-up contribution. And then probably three or four years ago, our medical plan switched to a … it was a high deductible plan, so I had the HSA, so I think that’s $8,000 a year now I can contribute to that. And we pay any medical expenses out of pocket instead of touching that. So we’re currently maxing out … I maxed out my 401k, I maxed out both our IRAs, and I maxed out the HSA.

Sam:
And I have no idea anything he just said. I can tell you what a good price on toilet paper or chicken or ground beef, but I have no idea. Actually, reading our book we got to the part where he talks about this, I just skip that whole chapter. I’m like, “I don’t even understand any of this.”

Rob:
Thanks.

Sam:
I mean it was so enlightening and informing.

Rob:
It was well-written I’m sure.

Scott:
Well there’s two sides to it. There’s often some defense. And it sounds like Sam, you’ve been playing really good defense for 30 years here with the money and making every dollar stretch and being frugal with those types of things. That’s what I’m picking up, is that at all correct?

Sam:
Yes. And the funny thing was I was in shock when he told me he was paying off this house and I was, “Oh my gosh.” And then all the sudden I was like, “Wait a minute. All these years I’ve been using cloth diapers and spending a half an hour in front of the meat department trying to figure out if we can afford this meat this week?”

Rob:
Yeah, it’s teamwork.

Sam:
Teamwork, but I don’t regret a minute of it. And our kids will tell you that that’s one of the people’s favorite part about this book is our kids talking about this. And actually, our kids are the ones who should be being interviewed because they are amazing. And they grew up with this mindset that they had to do it. If they wanted it, they had to work their tails off. And they did, and they have, and hopefully the last seven will too.

Scott:
Well you’re halfway there.

Rob:
Yeah, seven of them are out of college. Eight of them are out of the house, so that’s good. It helps the food bill, yeah, and the water bill.

Mindy:
Yeah, let’s talk about food bills because I know what my … I actually don’t know what my food bill is, I haven’t tracked my food spending in a while. But I know that when I go to the grocery store, it’s a lot all the time. So you-

Rob:
Yeah, we used to spend about $1,500 a month on groceries. It’s down closer to about $1,000 now.

Sam:
Yeah, and-

Mindy:
$1,000 for eight kids, or eight people?

Sam:
Eight people.

Rob:
Eight people.

Sam:
Yes.

Mindy:
$1,000 a month?

Sam:
Yes.

Mindy:
Do you like grow all of your own vegetables?

Rob:
No, our thumbs aren’t green.

Sam:
We can’t even grow aloe. I’m the only person in the world who kills my aloe plant. Actually, right now it’s alive, but just give me a couple months.

Rob:
We can grow dandelions, that’s about it, but we haven’t tried to eat them.

Sam:
We just grow babies.

Rob:
You do.

Sam:
Our kids, it’s just amazing. I can’t say enough about our kids. And they’re normal. Like someone interviewed us and said, “What, do your kids just like eat lentils all the time?” No, we eat all the junk. We don’t grow our food. We just have taught them like when they’re out … It’s so funny. My daughter, who’s about to be 18, she went out to eat with a bunch of her buddies. And she’s like, “Mom, Gabby got water. It was $2 for a water bottle. I just went up to the counter and said, ‘Could I have some tap water with ice and a cup.’ And she was like, ‘What? You can actually do that?'” She just thought she knew the best kept secret in town.

Sam:
So it’s little things like that, and my kids work concessions. They see people waste food so much. Whenever they’re out with friends people go, “Oh, does anybody want this? I’m going to throw it away.” “Of course I want that. You just paid $5.99 for those fries. Of course I want them.” So it’s just kind of not that they don’t get things, it’s just that they appreciate them or they work hard for them but they don’t expect them.

Mindy:
Setting up expectations.

Scott:
What does a week of food or groceries look like in your household?

Rob:
Size-wise? A couple carts.

Sam:
We’re very blessed. We have Aldi and Lidl right close by. And then, we have a bigger grocery store that marks down their meat at a certain time during the day. So I think I mentioned this before. My mom always said, “Become friends with the butcher.” And so, I always check with the butchers in the grocery stores near us, “What time do you put the meat down?”

Sam:
I have very often gone to this bigger grocery store, and they’ll have meat that’s going to expire the next day, so it’s not even expired yet, it’s going to expire the next day. And so, it’s 50% off. So sometimes I hit a bonus, and I get like a cart full of ground beef or sausage-

Rob:
Chicken breasts.

Sam:
-And chicken breasts and chicken thighs.

Rob:
We have a large freezer and we have two refrigerators.

Sam:
Definitely large freezer, and we do have two very big refrigerators in our kitchen. So in our kitchen we have two refrigerators, two dishwashers, two ovens. So what I’ll do is I’ll get all this meat. It’s so funny, I’ll go push the cart and everyone’s like, “Oh, you having a cookout today?” And then one of the people who works in the store is like, “Oh no, those are the Fatzingers. They have 14 kids. They buy it and they freeze it.”

Sam:
It’s just an easy way to get meals ready so that whenever we’re meal planning, we don’t plan our meals by making a menu and then shop. We plan our meals by opening our freezer and saying, “Okay, we’ve got ground beef. We’ve got sausage. We’ve got pork. We’ve got chicken. We’ve got lots of chicken. We’ve got frozen pizza.” And so then I make a meal from what we’ve gotten on sale. And if there’s some super sale on tomato sauce or pasta, because we have a huge pantry I’ll buy 10 of them, or I’ll buy whatever the max is.

Sam:
So we eat from the pantry, which is really a big thing now. It’s called pantry shopping and pantry cooking. And that’s how we really save. And again, buying in bulk, I’m not running out to go down the street to go pick up a box of pasta, and then while I’m there I’ll grab some of this and grab some of that.

Sam:
We also have a really amazing community. At least twice a week, someone in our neighborhood’s like, “Who’s got cream of mushroom soup?” Or, “Who’s got frozen broccoli?” Or, “Who’s got a bag of flour?” So we all kind of team up together. And also those wonderful friends are the same ones who say, “Hey, I’m going to Aldi, does anybody need anything?” So we’re kind of all on the same team to try to help each other out, which is huge.

Scott:
I’m gathering that you have a substantial skillset in this, like you know how to do all this stuff. You’ve honed it, you’ve optimized your … I imagine you have specific equipment, like more so than what I would have in my kitchen, to cook for a large number of people-

Sam:
Yeah, but we also cook simply. Fancy meals are nice, but they can kill a budget. So things like pasta, roasted chicken, tacos. Lots of rice, lots of potatoes, lots of butter noodles. All the easy things. We love a special meal and holidays are great, but we don’t go above and beyond these fancy recipes. Like we’ll look at a recipe and we’ll know right away, “Well we don’t have this. We can’t afford that.”

Sam:
So we do cook very simply, but with a bunch of little kids as most moms and dads know, they like simple. They don’t want their food touching. Their favorite meal is spaghetti and meatballs. I’m like, “You can have anything you want for your birthday.” We do a lot of hamburgers, lots of food on the grill.

Scott:
What I’m gathering though is that it sounds a lot of thought and intention goes into this, and it may be second nature to you at this point. But this is not how I go to shopping with this kind of stuff, with this level of sophistication.

Sam:
The thought is simple live simply, just try to …

Rob:
Yeah, shop the outside of the store, the outside aisles. Buy single ingredients, generic.

Sam:
I feel sorry for people who don’t have an Aldi or a Lidl-

Rob:
Seasonal fruits and vegetables, they’re not outrageous.

Sam:
I think we talked about that in the book too is like my kids will be like, “Oh mom, can you get me a mango?” And I go to the grocery store and mangoes are 99 cents for one, and I come home with three bags of clementines because they were $2.79 a bag. But then the next week, I go and the mangoes are five for $1, so I get tons, so everybody gets their own mango. So they learn that it’s not that we can’t have mangoes, we can’t have blueberries, it’s just we have them when they’re on sale.

Sam:
And even when they’re at the store with me, they’ll be like, “Oh, can I buy that?” I’m like, “No, it’s not on sale.” And then we go down a couple more aisles, and their favorite cereal or something else is buy one get one free, and I’m like, “No, but this is on sale. We can get this.” So I don’t think any of our kids feel like they’re missing out, especially the ones who are married now who are like, “Wow mom.” They actually appreciate us so much more when they start having kids.

Scott:
But for the first 20 years here, we’re kind of staying above water, not assuming any debt, and building wealth through some automatic vehicles.

Rob:
Right.

Scott:
And then in the last nine years, we get really intentional and multiple things happen at once where your housing expense becomes effectively zero besides the taxes and insurance, that $600 a month you mentioned with that. It sounds like you have a paid off van that transports the clan in a pretty efficient manner. You’re saying it’s not good gas mileage. It’s extraordinary gas mileage for transporting 15 people.

Rob:
Yeah, per person it’s very good gas mileage. We’ve always paid cash for used vehicles. This current van, we’ve had 10 or 12 years, and it was a couple years old so it wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t expensive. And we paid cash for it, so that helps.

Sam:
And it’s great. We’re helping the environment because we carpool everywhere. So if I have an extra seat in my car, I’m going to pick up one of my neighborhood kids and we’re going to bring them all to the park or to the pool or to youth group or wherever it is, to the beach for the day. We always are really good about … Again, I think community is huge.

Sam:
We’ll laugh because we’ll get in our neighborhood we have a bunch of big families, and when we all get to the cross country or swimming and all of our cars pull up we’re like, “No, no, no, this is ridiculous. Tomorrow, I’ll take, you pick up.” So we maximize that so we aren’t driving a lot.

Rob:
Yeah. But like you said, like nine years ago was kind of like a perfect storm of the mortgage was paid off, my salary was increasing. I got more interested, the FIRE movement was just kind of … or I just started hearing about it, I’m not sure …

Scott:
Yeah, can you walk us through that? What was your turning point mentally with this? What triggered that with the FIRE-

Rob:
Well I always wanted to pay off the mortgage, and that was kind of financial because it was a little bit over 6% mortgage. But it was actually kind of more of a peace of mind type thing for me to have it paid off. And then I’m like now I got this money. I’m mid 40s or so at the time, I didn’t want to, “Man, I’m going to have to work until I’m 70.” I’m looking at how much I have saved and this and that. I’m like, “Well if I start cramming all this money and then upping it each year.”

Rob:
You get online and you start seeing all these buying things, different people, websites and stuff, regarding FIRE. I’m like, “Well, I can’t do it as fast as people with dual incomes and no kids, but we can still retire before I’m 70.” So I just-

Sam:
And the mad scientist was really-

Rob:
-Kind of made it a game I guess almost, like how much can I save, and just kept upping the savings rate each year until I was maxing everything out and-

Sam:
And what, 15 or 16 years ago, he sacrificed buying a motorcycle and letting me fix up our kitchen. That was a big deal.

Scott:
Let’s ask about that. So it’s 2012, you’re beginning to make these changes, everything’s hitting at once. And Sam, you were surprised I think when the house was paid off, right?

Sam:
No idea.

Scott:
Did you guys get on the same page in the journey towards FI, or did that journey kind of continue in a lot your hands Rob?

Rob:
Yeah, it was probably more me.

Sam:
All Rob.

Rob:
And I think she just said she didn’t understand all the terms and stuff, but she knew that we weren’t going to be … Just because we have this extra money with the mortgage, we’re not going to start going to Ruth Chris every night for dinner and buying a Jaguar, but we’re going to save and we’re going to work towards securing our future and our retirement whenever that would be.

Rob:
At first I was thinking it would take maybe 20 years, I’d get to my early to mid 60s, and then the rate of savings just increased. And then the bull market and just stuff … God bless compound interest or compounding or however you want to phrase it. And yeah, it made it more doable and you could see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Sam:
Rob usually says-

Scott:
A big advantage … Oh, go ahead.

Sam:
He just says he’s good with money and I’m good at not spending money.

Scott:
Yeah. It sounds like one of the biggest things is the last 10 years has not seen much in the way of inflation in a large sense except for in housing, and for you guys that’s been a non-issue because your mortgage has been paid off for this journey. So that’s a big piece of the puzzle that you were able to pay off with the 12 years prior.

Rob:
Yeah, the timing is great. Our older kids, a couple of them have bought houses and I’m not sure going forward it’s going to be tougher.

Sam:
Yeah our oldest, who just turned 31, just bought her fourth house, and she has three children.

Rob:
She rents out the other three. They bought fixer uppers and foreclosures, and-

Mindy:
Wow.

Scott:
That’s fantastic.

Sam:
They live down the road from us, so they have three houses in our town and one about 10 minutes away that they all rent out and then-

Scott:
These teachers are just getting a whole career full of kids from your guys’ family with that.

Rob:
Yeah. Not having the inflation’s been nice. And I mean I guess the house, prices are up, at least the mortgage rates are so low. I haven’t checked lately, 3% give or take for a 30 year fixed.

Sam:
The houses are going like crazy around here.

Rob:
They probably are in Colorado too and other places. Yeah, it’s amazing what these houses sell for. I’d sell mine if I didn’t have people … I could live in a tent down by the river.

Mindy:
With six other people?

Rob:
Yeah.

Sam:
No.

Rob:
No, just by myself. I don’t know what they would …

Scott:
Well let me ask you this. So the approach is very simple strategically from an investing standpoint. It sounds HSA, Roth, 401k, and you just max them in that order basically. Is that correct?

Rob:
Yeah. My order is 401k to the match to get my match. That’s what I did first. Then I started maxing out our IRAs after that because-

Scott:
The Roth IRA?

Rob:
The Roth IRAs, yeah. We both have Roth because they had better investment options. And then, the HSA I didn’t have 10 years ago when we started. But now, probably like three or four years ago I started maxing that out, so that actually became my second most important thing because I like the tax benefits of that and it has a brokerage option too. So 401k for the match, HSA, then we max out our Roth IRAs, and then I went back and started upping the contribution rate to the 401k until I reached the max on that too. That was my order of preference.

Scott:
And this is another language to you?

Rob:
If she would read the book of the chapters I wrote.

Scott:
I love it. And then, how did you determine your investment allocation from an asset class perspective?

Rob:
Just researching. I like doing it, and I also have relatives that have been in investment and banking and bounced ideas off them. I don’t have it quite on auto pilot. I have some FIRE people just pick two or three index funds and set it and leave it. I get a little more involved. I have index funds, but I also have some individual stocks because I enjoy researching and doing that too. It’s a mix of investments.

Mindy:
I want to underline that, “I have individual stocks because I enjoy researching them.” If you do not enjoy researching individual stocks, you should not be investing in them. My husband loves Tesla, has been involved with Tesla for nine or 10 years. Anybody listens to this show has heard me talk about Tesla all the time. He talks about Tesla all the time. I don’t care. I don’t want to do the research. If it was up to me, we would not be investing in Tesla because I don’t want to do the research on it. But he loves it, and it has paid off.

Mindy:
He’s had a couple of stocks that were stinkers, so I should say that too. I think he invested in the Sands in Las Vegas or something, like you have to do your research. He didn’t do any research when he invested in the Sands, he just threw money at it. And it didn’t work out.

Rob:
And I mention that in the book. I’m like, “If you don’t like doing this, just pick a couple index funds or talk to somebody and just leave it alone.” And I’m not financial planner certified or anything. I mean I worked at a bank, but that was not an investment area. So I understand the numbers and stuff, but it’s more self-taught and it’s kind of a hobby. I enjoy it. I tell my older kids, “Just pick a couple index funds, and look back in 10 years and see how you’re doing.”

Scott:
You have eight kids currently that you still-

Mindy:
At home.

Scott:
At home.

Rob:
Six at home.

Scott:
Six at home, okay.

Rob:
Eight out of the house.

Scott:
But you are saying, “Hey, I go through. I max out, I take the match on the 401k, then the HSA, then the Roth, then finish out the 401k with this.” Is there any money leftover after that, and do you have a strategy for that? Or is that-

Rob:
There is a little bit leftover. I do have a regular brokerage account that has money in it that I invest in.

Scott:
Okay.

Rob:
Anything excess goes into that.

Scott:
That’s remarkable.

Rob:
There’s not always a lot excess in there.

Mindy:
I think that’s okay that there’s not always a lot of excess to go into that when you’re doing all these other things. I mean I’m listening to people talk about they make $100,000 as a single person or as dual income no kid, and they can’t find any money to put into their 401k. And I’m like, “I bet you could if we looked.” I mean I’m sure there’s extenuating circumstances that people couldn’t, like really chronic illness with really expensive … I know MS is really expensive.

Mindy:
But, I think that the majority of people who aren’t on the path to financial independence or say, “Oh, I could never do that,” just don’t feel like making the sacrifices. And do you consider any of this as sacrifice?

Rob:
It doesn’t feel like we’re sacrificing. And I know … Well I’ve worked from home for 12 years, but when I used to be in an office, some of the single guys who I knew made more than me, once in a while they would complain about not having any money saved or something. Then they would look over at me and kind of get quiet, and I just rolled my eyes at them. And as I’m pulling up to work in a 10 year old Honda and they have a two year old BMW, and for the long weekend they flew down to the Bahamas with some friends for three days. I’m like, “Well …”

Rob:
We live a different lifestyle. That’s your choice. That’s fine, but yeah.

Sam:
One of the funniest stories is Rob’s younger brother, he always teased us about having all these kids and, “You can only bring three at my house at a time.” But every year, we would give him-

Rob:
He was mostly joking.

Sam:
He was mostly joking. We would give him a picture of all the kids. And so one Christmas, I guess it was about nine or 10 of the kids in the Christmas picture. And a bunch of his buddies walked into his office complaining about not having money in this and, “You got to give me more time. I’m having all these financial troubles and got to go to the daycare center to pick up a kid, and this costs so much money.”

Sam:
And he just turned the picture around. He’s like, “This is my brother. He’s got 10 kids, and he makes half of what I make, so don’t even start.” So even though it wasn’t the lifestyle he chose, he still could kind of laugh it off and was inspired that you can do it, it’s just a matter of adjusting things.

Sam:
And as we say, we spend less in some areas so that we can live more in other areas. We want to go on this vacation, or we wanted to make this big trip for my son’s wedding in Arizona, so we just cut back a little bit here so that we can spend more in other places. But again, it never seems to be any huge suffering.

Rob:
Yeah.

Scott:
What’s the understanding with your kids around college?

Mindy:
Oh, good question.

Sam:
Good question. That’s actually how we went viral is the Washington Post wrote an article about how our kids graduate debt-free, and that went viral about five years ago.

Rob:
Yeah. Well as we mentioned, they’re home schooled so they’re usually done by the time they’re 16 or so with the home schooling part of high school. You can only teach them so much chemistry and algebra, calculus, stuff like that. We have a really good community college about 20 minutes down the road, so they go there for two years, the first two years, and take all their basics. They usually have an idea of what major they’re going to do, so they know that the classes they’re taking will transfer. Then they go to a state school, and-

Scott:
And you guys are paying for the community college?

Rob:
No, no.

Sam:
We’re mean.

Rob:
We’re mean parents. They pay for their own school. A lot of them, especially the older ones, would get financial aid because we weren’t making as much and we had more dependents. But yeah, so they all work. They all have jobs. They work-

Sam:
Two or three jobs in the summer to pay for it.

Rob:
-And save their money, and then they pay for the community college. And they live at home to save money. So they do that for two years, and they transfer to a four year school for their last two years. We’re in Maryland, so University of Maryland or Towson or-

Sam:
[inaudible 00:48:53].

Rob:
-One of the schools here, and they go there for two years. Some of them have lived at home and commuted, some have lived on campus or off campus. The first four or five, they all finished up without debt. Three of them have advanced degrees. Some of the ones, like kids six, seven, eight, they’ve taken out student loans for their last semester or two to pay for part of it to make ends meet, and then they work towards paying off the loans.

Sam:
And then number eight and nine have had to do college during the pandemic, and their normal full-time and part-time jobs haven’t been happening, so who knows what’s going to happen to them. But actually it even goes back a little farther. I mean we make them pay for their own phones, their own service, their own car, their own insurance. I mean we’re horrible, we’re so mean. And most of our kids have bought their own car before they’re 16 because they’ve saved up money for babysitting or dog walking or plant watering or newspaper routes when those used to be a thing.

Rob:
Once they hit-

Sam:
Lots of babysitting, lots and lots of babysitting and mommy helpers. Shoveling snow, mowing grass. I get lots of phone calls like, “Hey, is anybody at your house able to babysit Saturday night?” A lot of the kids will kind of fight over who’s going to get the job. “It’s my turn. I love that house.”

Scott:
How many bedrooms does your house have?

Rob:
We have seven bedrooms, can you … I lost my visual.

Scott:
So there’s a lot of sharing going on with those bedrooms?

Rob:
Yeah, yeah. Currently, there’s six kids here and they all have their own bedroom right now. That’s a first. They’re all very excited.

Scott:
That’s a luxury.

Rob:
Yeah. Yep. It was a five bedroom foreclosure we bought, and during the first year we added a two bedroom addition kind of on the top. We have a large walk in attic that we bumped out and added windows. So it’s now seven bedrooms, so they …

Rob:
So for the college, yeah they’ve all … not all graduated completely debt free, but most have. And two got their masters degree with the help of the state, a program where the state, if you agree to work for the state for two years they would pay for their masters, and it was an accelerated masters degree program where it was 12 months straight instead of two year program.

Scott:
Where in Maryland are you located? I’m just curious because I grew up in Maryland as well.

Rob:
Yeah, we’re in Bowie, which is near Annapolis. It’s between Annapolis and DC.

Scott:
Nice. Yeah, I grew up in Howard County, Maryland, so not too far away.

Rob:
Okay, like Columbia area or?

Scott:
Yep.

Rob:
Okay. Yeah, we’re probably 30 minutes down the highway from Columbia. That’s where my last office when I used to commute before I started … plug in the phone [inaudible 00:52:04].

Scott:
Wow. Okay, so we’ve got … What else should we be asking you that we can’t even picture because of the world of raising so many kids?

Rob:
Maybe weddings. We have four of the kids are married, two of the girls and two of the boys are married, so we’ve had to pay for two weddings. And we’ve also, my one son, we love the girl he married, don’t get me wrong, but he married somebody who lived 3,000 miles away. So we flew the entire family to Arizona about four years ago I think, about four years ago for his wedding. At first I was very excited that he got engaged because I was like, “Oh good, he’s a son. I don’t have to pay for this wedding.” And then I’m a little slow so it took me a few days for it to click in that, “Wait, I have to get like 15 people to Arizona somehow and house them and feed them.”

Sam:
She was calling us-

Rob:
Yeah, so we wound up flying instead of driving. Yeah, all the flights-

Sam:
It was a fantastic trip.

Rob:
Rented two large vehicles, rented a house for a week in a nice neighborhood.

Scott:
that got you A list for the next two years on one round trip.

Rob:
Yeah, we had a blast. It was nice because we were able to do this because we were financially stable.

Sam:
And it was a great huge trip. Got to go to the Grand Canyon. The kids got to go on an airplane for the first time, got to do all the things. We laugh because my mother-in-law who’s also very frugal, she and I, our first trip we took all the kids was to Goodwill, and we went and we bought everybody Arizona T-shirts, Grand Canyon hats, the snow globes of the Grand Canyon and like key chains and ornaments, all the things. So instead of buying full price at the Grand Canyon, we were getting them for a quarter and 50 cents.

Scott:
That’s awesome. How do you work the weddings? What’s the strategy there?

Sam:
Again, just mean.

Rob:
Well for the girls, we set a budget, and they’re actually frugal and they’re not super fancy or needy. They’re not high maintenance. I don’t know if that’s the right word-

Sam:
That’s another pro tip. Our kids make amazing spouses because they’re not like, “I want this fancy car. I want to go on a fancy vacation or I want a fancy ring or a fancy whatever.” The in-laws who are married to our kids are so grateful that our children are … I mean that’s a huge gap now, and we never thought about that. When we were first having all these kids and living so simply, it was survival, living from paycheck to paycheck. Our goal was to keep the tiny humans alive.

Sam:
And now, they turn out to be these amazing adults and responsible and not spoiled, and we give our daughters about $5,000 and like, “Here, do whatever you want with it. You can have a simple wedding and pocket the change, or you can have a fancy wedding and add your own money.”

Rob:
And they did everything themselves-

Sam:
They do a great job.

Rob:
-Do all the wedding planning and friends.

Sam:
Yeah. And so we have on our website, which is fatzfam.com, we have three extra chapters that wouldn’t fit in our book. And one’s how we do wedding, one’s how we feed a family, and one’s how we do college. And those actually are our favorite chapters. You download them for free, you don’t have to buy our book or anything.

Scott:
Nice. Well we will definitely link to that on the show notes. Can you spell out that URL real quick?

Rob:
It’s F as in Frank, A-T-Z as in Zebra, F-A-M, Fatzfam.com.

Scott:
All right. So you can go check that out, or we’ll link to that in the show notes at BiggerPockets.com/moneyshow203.

Sam:
Yeah. It’s a very simple website. We’re working on that when Rob retires. Everyone’s like, “Oh, you should pay $3,000 for someone to do your website.” We’re like that goes against everything that we stand for. We don’t have $3,000.

Scott:
I think you should tell one of your kids to take a course at the community college in web design, and there you go.

Sam:
Right. We actually have some teenagers who are like, “I can help you on that.” But right now, this all happened so fast. I mean we just were asked last year to write this book two months before the pandemic hit. Who would’ve thought that the world was going to need a book on finances. So we’re kind of starry-eyed right now that it’s already gone through its first printing. We’re getting all these great reviews on Amazon. We’re like, “This is beyond our friends and our neighborhood buying this book,” so it’s really been exciting. And wonderful podcasts and blogs like you guys, and really helping us out.

Rob:
Hopefully our friends are being frugal and buying one copy and passing it around.

Mindy:
I just love your story because it literally knocks down every single argument that I have ever heard about why somebody could not possibly get to financial independence. And what it boils down to is you choose not to make any changes to your life to make massive changes down the road. You can live fairly frugally and still spend on stuff. I’m excited that you guys go on vacation, that’s awesome. I know big families that never go on vacation-

Sam:
We have to.

Mindy:
Yeah, well exactly. But I have a big family that don’t go.

Sam:
I mean it’s really about a mindset change. People need to stop thinking that a vacation has to be a cruise to Disney World or something. When we were growing up, a vacation was you all got in the station wagon with your mom packed brown bag lunches, and you drove to a relative’s house and you visited and you spent time with your family.

Sam:
It’s nice that we can do these special trips. It’s nice that you can do all these other things. But I was just thinking we have a daughter-in-law having a baby. And she kind of laughs. We’re like, “Give us a list of the things I need.” And she’s like, “I don’t actually need anything,” because my older daughter’s like, “I have an extra crib.” The other daughter’s like, “I have a stroller.” She’s getting a new car seat, but she doesn’t need any clothes or anything. I have bags and bags of stuff from the older grandchildren.

Sam:
So it’s just changing your mindset. Like you don’t need all these fancy things.

Scott:
So are the children-in-law called like four and a half, is that how you refer to them?

Sam:
They’re called my daughter-in-love and my son-in-love, especially now that they’re giving us grandbabies.

Mindy:
Yes, you need more babies now.

Sam:
Yes.

Rob:
I might have to keep working. She likes to spend money on the grandbabies. She would never buy our kids new clothes, and she’s buying the grandbabies new clothes.

Sam:
I found a really nice thrift store I can get all these things for like 25 cents. I’m like, “Oh, but I have [inaudible 00:59:18].”

Scott:
So what’s next for you. Like you said you’re 99% finished. What does finished look like in FI journey, and what’s next on the horizon?

Rob:
That’s what we’ve actually been talking about that. I’d like to do something part-time. I know I can keep busy because I have plenty of hobbies and kids and grandkids around. So yeah, trying to figure out. I don’t think I want a job job, but figure out some streams of income to subsidize what we have saved, and also to keep saving. I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to go, cold turkey’s not the right word, but go from shoving money in all the time every month, and then just taking it back out. So I like to keep up-

Sam:
And we’re going to practice this summer our budget-

Rob:
Yeah, I made a retirement budget, so we’re going to try that out … I track our spending anyways, but we’re going to try it this summer and see if it changes our lifestyle and how it works out, just a little retirement foreshadowing.

Sam:
And he’s an ultra runner, so he’ll just run 100 miles for fun, so he’ll have plenty to do.

Rob:
Yeah. I’d keep myself busy running if nothing else.

Scott:
And you also have a book coming out, which will be potentially an income source as well, right?

Sam:
Yep. It just came out on Amazon, already through the first printing.

Scott:
Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Sam:
Sure. So it’s a Catholic guide to spending less and living more, and it’s just our story about how our family has found ways to spend less in areas so that we can live more in other ways. So living more to us was me getting to stay home, or living more to us was having another baby or adopting a child or fostering another one. And then because of my husband now and our state in life, because he’s so good with spending and saving money and so wise about what we do spend money on, we’re able to support ministries that we really feel called towards that we weren’t able to do before, and sponsor a child in a different country and things like that.

Sam:
So helps our kids realize even though we’re saving money, and like the kids say to us now we’re selling this book, “Why do we have to have this for dinner tonight? You just sold a book, can’t we get something fancier?” Again, it’s not living any differently and it’s teaching them so that they’ll stay out of debt. And what’s wonderful is our family is the older kids are such a huge example for the younger kids, so they know that this particular sister bought a nice car with money that she had saved. She didn’t have to go into debt to get a nice car. Or the other sister has a house. Or they can help out with other things because they’re so wise with what they’re spending.

Rob:
Yeah. The older kids wrote a section for the book. It was going to be an appendix. We gave them topics and they wrote. But instead of an appendix, it wound up getting interwoven, so some of the kids’ quotes and thoughts and how they handle money, the older eight, are woven into the story.

Sam:
And that seems to be everybody’s favorite part. I also have an account in Instagram, so it’s [inaudible 01:02:52], and there’s a video of them all reading their part, which a lot of people just thought was great to kind of see the kids reading what they had to say. And then, Rob’s on Twitter, I’m on Facebook under Sam Fatzinger. So if anyone has any questions for us or you can send us messages on our blog or our website.

Scott:
Well we do have four questions for you. These are the same four questions, we call them the Famous Four questions that we ask every guest. How was that for a seg Mindy, by the way?

Mindy:
Way better than yesterday’s not so smooth segue.

Scott:
Yeah, Mindy do you want to take the first one?

Mindy:
Yes. Rob and Sam, what is your favorite finance book? And you can each have your own finance book, that’s fine.

Rob:
Do you have one?

Sam:
Yeah, probably Tightwad Gazette because as a mom, you’re always looking for cheaper ways to …

Mindy:
Do everything.

Sam:
-To fix things in the house or to budget meals. I was reading that when I was a new mom, so like learning what a good price is for meat and for detergent, and making a lot of our things. And making do with what we already have. I mean Rob has fixed more things by watching YouTube videos instead of calling 1-800 Fix It Guy to fix something, and sometimes we still have to call those people but at least he gave it a good shot.

Rob:
So my favorite book, probably a common one, is Millionaire Next Door. You probably get that a lot.

Scott:
Love that one, yeah. That’s one of my favorites as well.

Sam:
Well now your new favorite’s going to be this one.

Rob:
I should’ve said my own book, I’m sorry.

Scott:
That’s right.

Rob:
I haven’t read it.

Scott:
Yeah. The rule is you can’t plug your own books, but yeah.

Sam:
He made fun of me because as soon as it came in, I just devoured it. He’s like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “I never read it from cover to cover.” When you’re writing a book, you just kind of get piecemeal and then you have to read the final print on a computer. And I’m like, “No.” So I was highlighting and I’m like, “Wow, these people really know what they’re talking about. This is great.”

Scott:
That’s awesome. What was your guys’ biggest money mistake?

Mindy:
Is there a money mistake?

Rob:
We would arrogant if we said we didn’t make any because we always make money mistakes. I’m trying to think of what a big one would be.

Sam:
Maybe a car purchase.

Rob:
We may have bought a car that was a lemon. Buying used cars is kind of a roll the dice sometimes anyway.

Sam:
And we got great deals on our two houses. We bought the townhouse like-

Rob:
Yeah, the townhouse, the first house we bought in ’89, I don’t know if it’s a mistake. I mean the market was flat, and I think we sold it for $500 less than we paid for it.

Sam:
We probably didn’t need to start off in a townhouse, although it was great and we ended up staying there until we were pregnant with our fourth baby. But being the youngest of nine, a lot of my brothers and sisters started off renting an apartment or living in a dump, but I mean I loved that neighborhood and I loved that house, but it was probably fancier than maybe we even needed, and fancy in no sense to what people get nowadays when they buy these mega mansions.

Mindy:
Rob, you said it might be arrogant to say that we didn’t make a biggest money mistake. I don’t hear a big money mistake in your story. I hear very intentional, “Hey, I don’t like debt, so in 1989 I’m not going to have any more debt except the mortgage,” which Scott and I don’t feel is actual debt, it’s like forgivable debt.

Rob:
Yeah, especially nowadays, the 3%, I mean it’s almost like free money.

Mindy:
Yeah, it kind of is.

Rob:
Yeah, back then at 10% it didn’t feel that way with our first mortgage. But yeah, nowadays … The older kids will ask me, and some of their friends in their late 20s, early 30s, “Should I pay off my mortgage first or retirement?” I’m like, “It’s almost free money. I mean whatever you’re comfortable with.” Back then, I was paying down my mortgage more, and nowadays it makes more sense to save for retirement.

Sam:
I would say the only times I make bad money decisions or financial decisions is when I’m unorganized. I know it sounds funny, but I’m not really that organized and I love stuff and I’m kind of messy. But when I’m not organized, and it might be just a $5 or $10 purchase, but if I can’t find that book that I’m looking for or the glue gun that I know is in here somewhere but because of the kids dumped out the arts and crafts, is really when I’m not organized and when I’m not tidy that’s when I have to go out and spend money on something I know we have in the house.

Rob:
Yeah, we can’t find it. I probably have eight hammers I own, but the kids keep … I’ll find them in the woods. The kids are building tree houses. I can’t find my hammer, I buy another one.

Sam:
And I think that’s just kind of nice about our older kids is they’re living this whole new minimalist, which is I’ve never even heard of that when I was first married. But it’s kind of a nice way to live because they’re living very simply. They don’t have lots of stuff. I love that, and I think that’s very financially frugal and financially wise.

Sam:
So again, I know it sounds funny, but if the pantry’s not clean I can’t tell that I have pasta or-

Rob:
I mean you don’t have to make a financial mistake to get in trouble. You can make-

Sam:
Lots of little.

Rob:
Death by 1,000 paper cuts. I mean if you make a whole bunch of little ones, they add up, so try to minimize those.

Mindy:
I own about 47 utility knives because I can never find them and I need one right away so I got to go get it. And yeah, the organization is key. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting up?

Sam:
So I kind of tell people to remember my name, and it’s Sam. So S is for just simplify. Live simply, buy sales. A is for asking for help. Again, building that community. I don’t know about where your listeners are from, but around here we have Freecycle and [inaudible 01:09:36] and all these other things on Facebook Marketplace. So don’t go out and buy those roller blades for your kids that they’re not going to wear next week. Don’t go out and buy … My kids are like the hobby of the week and, “I want to be a professional golfer. Can you buy me golf clubs?” Or, “I want to be a professional lacrosse player.” My kids are like that all the time.

Sam:
And so we just get this network. Like I’ll call the neighbors down the street, “Can I borrow your skateboard or do have any roller blades?” They’re like, “Oh yes. Please just take them out of my garage. I’ve been trying to get rid of these for years.” So working a network, I like that, whether it’s Freecycle or whatever. A lot of times I just put something on my Facebook page like, “Hey, my kid needs a new bike,” and I get five people saying, “Take this one, take that.” So just building that network, so that’s why I say by ask for help, ask around.

Sam:
And then M is that minimalizing, making do. Make a plan. Make a meal plan. Whatever it is, make a plan what that goal is. If it’s a fancy vacation, if it’s a new car, if it’s a new house or whatever it is that you want, make a plan towards that and start chipping away at your debt so that you can afford that.

Rob:
Mine would be save something each month, even if you’re in debt with credit cards. Just put something away, even if it’s a little bit. We got our first house in spring of ’89, and from the very first payment, I paid extra because it was 10% loan. Some months it was only $10 that I could pay extra, and I was also putting a little bit in savings. It might be $5 a paycheck, it might be $10 back then, and automated if you can. If nothing else, it gets you in the habit of saving something.

Rob:
I know people say, “Pay yourself first.” Just automate it and put something away, either pay down debt if you have it too but just having an emergency fund or some type of cushion will give you peace of mind and you won’t have to go put something on the credit card when the timing belt goes in your car.

Sam:
[inaudible 01:11:48] happens to us monthly.

Rob:
Yeah.

Scott:
I love it. I mean that’s effectively been your strategy for the last 20 years with this is just pay off the house and then put it all towards … and not inflate the lifestyle, and then automate the wealth building.

Rob:
Yeah. I mean it’s worked for us, so yeah it can work.

Sam:
That automated stuff out of your checking account, out of your-

Rob:
Do I have a checking account?

Sam:
No.

Rob:
Yes we do.

Sam:
Yes we do.

Rob:
Okay. I was going to quiz her on what bank we bank with, but I don’t know-

Sam:
[inaudible 01:12:22].

Rob:
It’s a good thing she’s trusting.

Scott:
This is the last and most difficult question. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Sam:
Guess how many kids we have? Or name the Fatzingers from the oldest to the youngest. Bonus, you get a bonus.

Scott:
Yeah, maybe we could put … We’ll add an additional one after the joke of can we get all the names?

Sam:
Yep.

Rob:
The kids’ names?

Scott:
Yeah.

Sam:
Our oldest is Alexandria, and then she’s married to Pascal and they have Scarlet and Luca and Andres. And then we have Joshua is our son, he’s married to Katie, and they have Ellie and JJ and Fulton. And then Caleb is married to Sara, and they’re expecting a baby in August. And then we have Lizzy, and she’s married to Paul, and they have Adelaide.

Sam:
And then there is Barbara, she’s the fifth and she’s single.

Mindy:
And apparently a good catch.

Sam:
Yes, really good catch. And then Joseph, he’s also single. And then there’s Robert, and he’s taken. And Dominic and Mary and Cecilia and Eric and Colby and Ray is nine, and Bradley is going to be five in August.

Scott:
That’s awesome.

Rob:
That’s all of them.

Mindy:
That didn’t sound like 14.

Sam:
You say it really fast at night when you’re saying your prayers.

Scott:
Well that was all the grandkids too, and the love-in-laws.

Rob:
Hopefully we didn’t miss any kids.

Scott:
Yeah.

Sam:
I don’t think we missed anybody.

Mindy:
They’re going to listen and they’re going to be like, “Mom, I can’t believe you forgot me.”

Rob:
Yeah, but it’s only 13 [inaudible 01:14:07].

Sam:
Alex, Josh, Caleb, Elizabeth, Barbara, Joseph, Robert, Dominic, Mary, Cecilia, Eric …

Rob:
Colby.

Sam:
Colby, Ray, and Bradley. Did we forget Colby? Colby. I think we forgot Colby.

Scott:
Whoopsies, whoopsies.

Mindy:
Well we just named him now.

Sam:
The quiet ones get forgotten. I think we did forget Colby. He is 11. Did I forget him? He’s my sweetie. He’s the last one I delivered, so he’s number 12. He’s our dozen.

Scott:
Wow. Thank you guys so much for coming on the show today and joining us and telling your story with this. And if you’re listening and interested in learning more, check out A Catholic Guide to Spending Less and Living More from them. And we’ll also link to all of the social media profiles and all of the social media profiles of the 20-odd some folks that you mentioned just now. Just kidding on that part. We’ll link to all of those different profiles and your website on the show notes at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow203.

Rob:
Thank you.

Sam:
Thank you so much.

Mindy:
Okay Scott, that was Rob and Sam Fatzinger. They have 14 more kids than you do. What did you think of their story?

Scott:
Like I said in the intro here, I thought it was really inspiring, really powerful, and shows that the fundamentals work, even in situations like theirs where they’ve got a tremendous amount of kids. It’s just a fundamentals-based approach. They had a really good strategy that they developed and worked on over 20 years to lower housing, transportation, and food expenses.

Scott:
And then once 2012 hit, they became intentional about building wealth, they were able then to just leverage and parlay those fundamentals into an effective investing strategy that generates … it sounds like they’re either millionaires or close to it at this point, and finishing out their journey.

Mindy:
So I hear from people all the time, “I couldn’t possibly be financially independent because I have kids.” Here’s a story that proves that you can. “I can’t because I’m a stay at home mom.” So is Sam. “I can’t because I live in a high cost of living area.” So do they. “I can’t because I don’t make a huge salary.” Neither do they. Every single argument is just blown away, and it boils down to living simply. If you don’t have-

Scott:
Let’s point out though that they didn’t achieve FI in five years, right. I would argue they really achieved FI in about 20 years once they put the house on the 15 year mortgage and began paying it down in 12, that’s when they really began journeying towards it.

Scott:
So there is some truth, like with 14 kids you’re not going to get to FI in one income, that’s a median income with that. Now it’s more, but around a median income, you’re not achieve FI in three years. But you can do it in 10 with this it seems like, even with a lot of these challenges that they had.

Mindy:
Yeah. And I mean we should acknowledge that we did have a bull market and we absolutely took advantage of that. They absolutely took advantage of that. But it does not change the fact that they have way more mouths to feed, way more bodies to clothe, way more everything to do, and they’re still pursuing financial independence. And I just love everything that they are sharing. And like I said, it boils down to living simply. When your expenses are low, you can do a lot more with the money that’s coming in. The money that’s coming in doesn’t have to be so vast. I just really love their story, and I hope that you listeners love it too.

Mindy:
Should we get out of here Scott?

Scott:
Let’s do it.

Mindy:
From Episode 203 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, he is Scott Trench, and I am Mindy Jensen saying have fun storming the castle.

Mindy:
(silence)

 

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In This Episode We Cover

  • Setting up budgeting, expense tracking, and being deliberate with your spending
  • Maxing out your 401(k) match, your Roth IRA, and your HSA
  • Being frugal so you have more money to spend on the important things
  • Fixing up a foreclosed house to save money when shopping for a home
  • Getting out of debt so you can tackle bigger (good) debts
  • Becoming intentional with your spending, saving, and investing
  • Raising a family of 16 with a single income
  • And So Much More!

Links from the Show

Book Mentioned in the Show

Connect with Rob and Sam: