How This Couple Saved For College and Still Retired at 33

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Kristen Kuchar

By Kristen Kuchar

November 18, 2019

Justin and Kaisorn McCurry retired at 33-years-old and are still managing to save for college for their three kids. 

How did they retire at 33? 

There was no inheritance and they both weren’t bringing in six-figures. Their highest combined salary was $150,000 annually. As described on their blog, Root of Good, with careful spending habits, they were able to save aggressively and now live off their investments. 

They were able to save a large portion of their income for investing. They were able to cut spending and increase savings by:

  • Keeping housing costs low and keeping the same cars from college until they retired, when they downsized to one car

  • Taking full advantage of 401(k) plans and other retirement accounts 

  • Investing any lump sums of money, such as a sale on their condo and raises at work

  • Living in an area with a good school district, saving money on sending their children to a private school

  • Cooking at home for most meals and using discount grocery stores, such as Aldi and Super Walmart 

  • Traveling during the off-season and using credit card rewards 

How are they able to save for college, too? 

If you want to retire early, make a plan on how to cover college costs for your children in addition to living expenses. McCurry funded his retirement first and then put the extra money towards saving for college. (Experts recommend maximizing the employer match on contributions to your retirement fund and building an emergency fund first, then saving toward one-third of future college costs before saving the rest toward retirement.)

The couple set up 529 college savings plans for each of their three children and took advantage of the tax breaks. “Why not have the government help you save for college,” McCurry says. He’ll also encourage his kids to go to one of the nearby in-state public colleges in his home of North Carolina to save money. 

The plan isn’t to pay for everything for college. His goal is to pay for tuition and fees and possibly books. That means his kids will need to pay for room and board, living expenses, transportation and personal expenses, but they’ll have the option to live at home to cut college costs

Paying for some of college on their own will instill crucial money management skills, he says. He also points out there are several other funding sources for college – grants, scholarships, work study programs, being a resident advisor, on-campus jobs, working summer jobs, ROTC and internships. 

His children can also take a lesson from their dad, who took AP classes in high school and took summer courses at a community college right after graduating high school, as well as a heavier course load in college. He was also able to win scholarships and worked throughout college, allowing him to graduate in three years with two degrees with money in the bank. 

Advice for Saving for College and Retiring 

“Don’t neglect your own retirement savings,” McCurry says. He says to make saving a habit and focus on reaching a savings goal.

McCurry says there are misconceptions about people who retire early – mainly that they have a high salary or that they are incredibly frugal. 

“A lot of people that are saving to retire early are making less than $100,000 and still making great progress,” he says. 

He says not everyone that is retiring early is frugal. They are just smart about their money choices. “I think they are smart with how they spend their money,” he adds. 

Regardless of your age or income, McCurry says it’s never too late to start trying to save for retirement or too late to save for college. For kids in high school, anything will help cut the upcoming costs. 

For people in their 30s, it’s still possible to try to hit retirement in your 40s or 50s. But McCurry says that even if you can’t quite retire when you would love to, any steps in the right direction is a victory. 

A good place to start:

See the best 529 plans, personalized for you