Millionaire Next Door

The Millionaire Next Door - Retiring Early with a Family

This week we talk with Justin McCurry of the Root of Good blog and a real life millionaire next door. Justin has been in the FIRE space, encouraging others with his story for many years.  In this interview, we explored the aspects of Justin’s story that were more specific to our House of FI family. He did such a great job inspiring us both to take action for our families.  

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Money is The Root of Good


Justin, founder of Root of Good, is a husband and the father of 3 kids, ranging in ages from 6 to 13. Born and raised in North Carolina, he now lives in a modest home with his wife and kids. Justin became financially independent by the age of 33 years old, and immediately retired from his full time work.  


On our previous episode, we we spoke to Jackie Cummings Koski, who has also reached FI, but mentioned suffering from “One More Year syndrome”, where she finds herself hesitating on taking the FIRE Leap. This week Justin helped us to learn more about taking that LEAP and what to expect afterwards. Justin has been retired for over 5 years, making his current age 38 years old.  


Justin’s Money Story


Like some of us, Justin can’t recall a time when he wasn’t saving his money, and wasn’t frugal.  He knew from his first job that the responsible thing to do was to spend less than what he made, and save the difference. His parents were the same.

Justin met his now wife while they were in college.  She came to the U.S. to pursue a degree in finance, and also had humble beginnings.  When Justin graduated from college, his first job paid him a salary of $48,000! Since he lived in a low cost of living (LCOL area), he was able to bank anywhere from 1000-1500 a month. He began saving up cash, investing for retirement, and also investing in a brokerage account.  And all of this was before he learned about FIRE!


A Defining Moment


At some point, Justin, dating a finance major and majoring in engineering, was playing with some spreadsheets.  He realized that he paid thousands of dollars in investment fees – he was actually paying more in fees than what he saved in two months combined!

He begin searching for an alternative, and decided he needed to switch to a DIY approach.

During the transition he learned about early retirement, and also about the ways to remove retirement money well before retirement.  In the episode we discuss the 72T rule and the Roth Conversion ladder. We also talk about his reasoning for using a 3.5% withdrawal rate for his portfolio and about his family’s decision to pay off their mortgage early.


Family Time as a Limited Resource



Justin and his wife are now both retired, which allows them to have time together during the day, and allows them to be involved in their kids’ school lives. So, obviously we wanted to know what Justin’s kids think about the benefit of having two parents at home full-time?  And also, how awesome is it that they get to slow travel every summer?  


For some of us, having a million dollars would be the catalyst needed to spend quality time at home with our children (totally Wendy).  For others, having a million dollars would lead to exploring more options outside the house (totally me). Justin’s perspective on this privilege was insightful, no matter what we will choose to do when we reach financial independence!   


How Does Justin Teach His Kids About Money


Justin and his wife use a method for teaching their children about money that is very unique.  They support the method of letting the kids have some autonomy on how they spend their money, which he says gives them a chance to make early mistakes on smaller sums.  

Listen to find out what happened when his some purchased and then lost a smart phone merely months after buying it!  


Listen to the episode to hear more about:


  • Health Care Options in Early Retirement
  • Completing a Cost benefit Analysis before pulling the retirement trigger  How to assess your spending when it comes to houses and cars
  • How to find free resources so that you can learn what you need to know to DIY your finances


Justin on the final questions:

Lesson:  Focusing on investment costs was a big one i had to learn the hard way.  Getting rid of him and going and doing it myself saved me thousands of dollars.

Credit card travel hacking – it’s like beating the casino and we love to travel.

Most of the reading is general leisure reading.  Right now he is reading Cruise Confidential, a non-fiction book about a waiter’s daily experiences while working in the belly of the cruise ship. How exciting! 🙂

And, why not include part 2!  Once I read the juicy title, I knew it needed a spot in our show notes! haha…


Bonus Resources From Justin:

Zero to Millionaire in Ten Years:
How we paid almost zero taxes on a six figure income:
What we do for health insurance / Affordable Care Act Subsidies:
Our $40,000 per year Early Retirement Budget (for a family of 5!):
Roth IRA Conversion Ladder (how we access our 401k/IRA decades before age 59.5 without paying any early withdrawal penalties):

Listen to Last Week’s Episode: Health Savings Accounts

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