My father-in-law retired at 63 thanks to 3 simple money rules

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  • My father-in-law retired comfortably at 63 after raising four boys, and I’ve learned a lot from him about saving money.
  • He lives by a save 10%, give 10% rule — always budgeting in those items and allowing himself to spend flexibly in other categories without depriving himself.
  • He also pays cash whenever possible — like for used cars — and keeps his living costs down by DIYing projects and residing in a low-cost-of-living area.
  • Use Blooom to analyze your 401(k) today and see how you can grow your retirement savings »

In a world where being busy, keeping up with the Joneses, and early retirement stories are always praised, it’s important to realize that personal finance will often be a marathon for most and not a sprint. My father-in-law’s retirement and savings habits are simple and basic, but his journey reminds me that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. 

Spending less than you earn and getting clear on your values never goes out of style. Here are a few valuable money lessons I’ve learned from my father-in-law, Fred, who retired at 63.

Save 10%, give 10%

My father-in-law’s money philosophy has been pretty straightforward throughout the years: save at least 10% of his income and give 10% to the church. He actually saves even more now that he’s retired and has no mortgage. To this day, he doesn’t budget strictly or penny-pinch on things he values. 

If he wants to order meals from a restaurant or take a trip, he does it. Still, this doesn’t mean he’s a frivolous spender. Most of the time when my husband and I visit, he always has a homemade meal on the stove ready to offer us. 

When we go out as a family or my in-laws stop by our house and they notice I haven’t cooked yet (we’re late eaters), Fred is often the first one to volunteer to treat us to dinner out on the town. It’s clear to me that deprivation is not the goal, and no one is spending hours each day crunching numbers and cutting out coupons. 

We don’t see each other all the time, so there’s value in sitting down together at a restaurant (or saving me from cooking that night and getting takeout) to enjoy a meal and good conversation and catching up.

His strategy reminds me of the 50/30/20 budget

My father-in-law’s money philosophy reminds me of the 50/30/20 budget, which is a flexible way to manage your spending without assigning strict limits for each expense. 

Essentially, the budget works like this:

  • 50% of your income goes toward needs and fixed expenses
  • 30% goes toward wants and flexible expenses
  • 20% goes toward debt payoff and savings

It’s easy to just take a percentage of my income and save it each month then budget what’s leftover. That way, I’m preparing for the future but also enjoying life now. If necessary, I can always opt to increase my savings percentage or even scale back each year. The 50/30/20 budget is pretty flexible, and you can even change it to 40/20/40 or whatever you want.

Pay with cash or make a big down payment 

This is another one of my father-in-law’s key money rules that has always helped him keep non-essential costs low. 

We live in a society that often expects you to take out loans or swipe a credit card for what you need. Whether the debt is technically “‘good debt” or “bad debt” doesn’t really matter if it’s eating up monthly cash flow. 

I’m in my late 20s and am getting more serious about saving for retirement. I realize that it’s going to be hard to increase my savings rate and invest more when there’s a ton of debt draining my bank account as well. 

My father-in-law often steers clear of things he can’t buy in cash. If he absolutely can’t pay cash, he’ll make a sizable down payment. My in-laws always buy used cars in cash. They’ve saved hundreds per month by not having any car loans, and that’s over the past 20+ years. 

They’re also big on buying a lot of things used, including clothes. My father-in-law often says you buy clothes to wear them. Whether they’re new or used, you have to wash them anyway, so there’s really no difference after that point. But the money you save by shopping used can make a huge difference in freeing up more money to save.

More kids doesn’t mean you can’t retire when you’re ready if you keep your living costs down

My in-laws have four boys, and I know firsthand that kids can be expensive. I’ve always wanted to adopt and have more kids someday — I currently have one son — but there’s also the looming estimated price tag of spending $284,570 to raise a child through age 18.

Still, I believe parents can find ways to save and…

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