It’s been seven years since I first met the Squirrel family, who live in San Francisco, have three children, aspirations of the best education for those children and a strong desire to be homeowners. With all of these goals, they seem to make the improbable possible.

A family needs to make more than $250,000 per year to make it in the Bay Area. There are exceptions of course, but this is the average. The Squirrels make around this much but as the housing market continued to rise, they were getting priced out of anything better than their current rent-controlled apartment in a great neighborhood.

So, they continued to maximize retirement and save for a house down payment. Their retirement accounts are impressive, and their net worth has grown an average of 19% per year and 171% since we started working together. As a percentage of income, they are saving over 20% of their gross income each year.

In the last couple of years, they lost a parent and their youngest finally started public school (no more preschool bills). Their children are getting bigger and taking up more space. There is a palpable need for a second bathroom. Now they have a big down payment but given the incessant increase of prices in the Bay Area, they don’t know if this will get them something better than they already have.

The Squirrels have reached a crossroads. They need to figure out whether they can find a house to buy that is better than their current place. If not, they can use the house down payment to more than fully fund their goals of early retirement and college education. Without needing to save for these goals on an annual basis, they could upgrade their lifestyle and not have to squirrel away as much.

Like most families with young children, time flies by without much space for reflection and mindful decision-making. The Squirrels have allotted the next six months to come to a decision. By then they need to make decisions on schools, so the timeline is pretty fixed. This decision is seven years in the making. It’s a big one, life changing. I have full faith in the Squirrels to trust their gut and figure out is right for their family.