How Learning To Invest Completely Changed One Couple’s Life

Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
According to a recent study we conducted in partnership with Twine, a saving and investing app by John Hancock, only a quarter of 1,000 women in long-term relationships said they are investing with their partner, with many chalking it up to not feeling like they had the time or funds to invest. The reality is, though, choosing to save with a long-term partner doesn’t have to be a stress-induced decision. That’s why we teamed up with Twine to tell the story of a real couple who made the choice to invest, together, and how it changed their lives forever.
The day our HR manager handed me a bulging booklet filled with 401(k) plan options, I had no idea which box to check. I had barely started adulting, and a family — let alone retirement — was years off in the future. The one thing I did know was that I wanted whatever money I invested to be safe. So, not fully understanding how retirement accounts worked, and too embarrassed to admit that I needed more time to do some research, I simply checked one of the plans that said it was “diversified” and “low risk” and headed back to work.

We didn’t have a clear idea of what we’d need our money for in the future, so inevitably, we spent it in the present.

Over the next few years, savings and retirement rarely came to mind: My money and I were busy doing other things, namely, paying rent, eating out with friends, and traveling. And when my now-husband Jeff and his money joined our relationship, our money teamed up for things like rent on a new, shared place, furniture, and more traveling. We didn’t have a clear idea of what we’d need our money for in the future, so inevitably, we spent it in the present.
We lived together for a few years before getting married, which is when the need to start saving and investing snuck up on us, seemingly out of nowhere. We’d moved back to the States shortly after getting married and started looking for a home, but the bank quickly denied our mortgage. During that same period, we also found out that we were expecting our son Hugo, and my mother also announced she would be working into her retirement because her government job was eliminated just a few months short of her vesting period, taking her pension with it.
Jeff and I immediately cut our spending and began putting all our remaining money into a savings account, but we still had no plan as to how to invest it. We both did some online research and came up with totally different ideas: I wanted to invest in a safe mutual fund, where someone else is paid to take on the headache of thinking about which stocks to pick. Jeff wanted control of his portfolio and was willing to take on both the extra research and risk associated with picking his own stocks.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
After some back and forth, we set up two traditional IRAs so that we could contribute up to $5,500 in tax-deferred earned income and still have a high level of flexibility in controlling how those funds were invested. I rolled my existing retirement funds into that account, and Jeff took on his new job as the family stock-picker. We also set up an education fund for Hugo, and I did my best to set aside $200 a month for it.
At the time, Jeff and I were both doing well professionally, and we tried to max out our retirement accounts and put money in Hugo’s college fund.
Then, one day, my boss invited me for a cup of coffee. I immediately thought this would be a great time to tell him that we were expecting another baby. But before I even finished the first sip, he told me I was getting laid off.
That massive blow served as a huge wake-up call: one in which we finally learned about liquid investments and the importance of saving and investing your money in a place that you can access it. We had been so busy investing in retirement and college funds that we never stopped to crunch the numbers to see how much we should put in an emergency fund or how much we needed to set aside.
With only three months of unemployment checks coming my way, we immediately cut out all unnecessary expenses and were lucky enough to be able to borrow some uninvested money from our parents and our son’s savings account. I also looked into taking money out of our retirement accounts, but the penalties were so steep that I opted to take a gamble and put some bigger purchases on interest-free credit cards instead.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Fortunately, that gamble paid off and we were able to catch ourselves in this financial free fall. With new income coming in, we sat down and made a plan of what we wanted to accomplish in the next 10 years, and we created a number of buckets to put our money in. First, we broke down our debts into monthly payments to my parents, my son (I gave him an IOU for the money I took from his account), and our credit cards, which came to around $2,500 a month.
Determined never to borrow money again, we also decided to pull an extra $250 a month from our budgets for an emergency fund that we kept in a regular investment account. That would allow us both access and the ability to grow. Originally, we couldn’t find the money for it, but once we invested that money before paying any other bills, we were amazed at how many “necessities” revealed themselves to be just “niceties” in disguise. When preparing to buy bigger things, we’d also set aside that money in a separate savings account, which Jeff would borrow from to invest when he saw a promising stock.
By the time Baby Evelyn arrived, we were financially stable and beginning to enjoy watching our savings grow. The larger they got, the more we could visualize the things we were saving for. To help us keep on track, we invited my mother-in-law to come stay with us and help out with the baby, which saved us more than $8,000, not to mention a ton of stress, the first year.

I realize that investing isn't strictly about retirement — it's about striking a balance between investing in the future and investing in, and living, the life you want to live.

Looking back now, I realize that investing isn't strictly about retirement — it's about striking a balance between investing in the future and investing in, and living, the life you want to live. Before I started my family, I’d always assumed that I would magically figure out how to invest and plan for the future when the time came. If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing, it would be to start saving and investing in the future you want before you actually get there.
It’s now been two years since I lost that job, and we are in better financial shape than ever before. Not only do I know how much money I have and owe, but I also have a plan for the money that comes in every month.
In the past, Jeff and I just spent our money, rather than crafting a vision for our future. That’s all changed. With our current buckets on their way to becoming full, we're now talking about our next goal: a rental property we can live in, or live off, after we retire. We know it’s going to take some time to achieve this goal, but we have proof that starting now is the fastest way to get there.
*Disclosure: The couple featured in this story are not Twine investors.

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