Earlier this month at the EconoMe Conference, I gave a speech where I revealed I was planning on retiring at 35 years old.
I practiced the speech many times, mostly in the sacred privacy of my shower. To be honest, I wasn’t happy with it! When I tried to talk about how and why I was going for such an early retirement age, I faltered, rambled, and went on weird tangents that had too many 1990s anime references (or not enough, depending on your perspective).
My youthful days as a theatre kid had imbued me with an unshakable certainty that there was no point in worrying about it. The show would go on. I would get up on the stage and say something, and people would clap politely when I was done. Because they always do that, even when you suck! Ah, the beauty of social contracts!
Surprisingly, the words flowed easiest when I was standing on a stage in front of a few hundred people. I could kinda see the faces of my audience through the haze of the UFO tractor beam lighting. I had the world’s best business partner on stage next to me; the front row was packed with wise and supportive personal finance industry mentors; and past them, a sea of faces belonging to people who intimately understood what I was there to say about financial freedom. Before the most welcoming and encouraging audience imaginable, my words came out effortlessly.
“Work sucks, and I hate it, so I’m not gonna do it anymore.”
I should’ve just said that and trusted this audience to fill my remaining 28 minutes with a standing ovation. Maybe wrap with some local jokes? “Thanks for attending my TedTalk. Go Cincinnati, um, Owlbears? No, no, that’s definitely a D&D monster, hold on… [checks notes] Bearcats! Go Bearcats!”
It’s true. If all goes as planned, I’m retiring at 35 years old this coming spring.
Here’s my story.
My story isn’t your story
What I’m writing today isn’t a blueprint or a guide you can follow to financial independence. It’s not some some rah-rah horseshit clickbait article about how “if I can do it, anyone can with these seven easy hacks!” (Can you hear me making a languorous jerking-off motion when I say that? Because I am, and it feels like important context.) I cannot promise my successes to anyone else. I will never package them up and sell them as such.
But we’re all born drowning in a rancid stew of pro-work propaganda. Humans are spontaneous, clever, beautiful animals—and every day, most of us wake up and press ourselves into the physically and emotionally distressing routine of financially enriching someone else.
And I don’t like that. Nope, not a fan!
In an effort to push back against it, I’m willing to share my experiences as openly and honestly as I can. If it sparks one person’s curiosity, and inspires them to walk a similar path of stability towards financial independence, that would be enough for me.
Adderall is great ‘n all, but helping people is a hell of a drug!
You’ve seen this genre of personal finance article many, many times:
- “How One Couple Paid off $80,000 of Debt in One Year!”
- “Budget Secrets This Millennial Used To Save $300,000 in Two Years!”
- “This 29 Year Old Is Planning to Retire Early With a Million Dollars—and You Won’t Believe How!”
I absolutely cannot stop myself from rolling my eyes when I see them. Because these headlines are basically spoilers.
“How One Couple Paid Off $80,000 of Debt in One Year!”
- SPOILER ALERT! Two high-earning DINKS realized they could apply the smallest modicum of financial self-control to get a one-year surplus of $80,000. They are now prepared to spend the rest of their lives patting themselves on the back for it on their YouTube channel.
“Budget Secrets This Millennial Used to Save $300,000 in Two Years!”
- SPOILER ALERT! I ran some numbers A Beautiful Mind style and determined that this guy makes at least $150,000 a year. Truly, a paragon of the frugal everyman! What a generous soul to share the closely guarded secret that making lots of money makes one financially stable!
“This 29 Year Old is Retiring Early With a Million Dollars—And You Won’t Believe How!”
- SPOILER ALERT! Mommy and daddy gave her seed money for a business, a multi-family property to “manage”, free housing, business connections, or some combination thereof. And she wants me to buy her $499 course where she explains that no, that’s totally not why, it was hard work and being a Boss Babe!
Obviously, I’m incredibly jaded about these kinds of stories.
When I was at my poorest, I felt like I had been swept out to sea by a storm I had no part in summoning. Every day was a fresh struggle to keep myself from slipping under the waves. Those stupid headlines felt like salt in my wounds. Ope! I’m mixing my metaphors here so… Salt water in my shark wounds? Yeah, that’s it!
The truth is, I’ve had a lot of advantages in life. Among them: being born white in America, to parents who highly valued educational attainment and were willing to partially subsidize its pursuit. (As many student loans as I took out, my dad took out more. Thanks, dad.) I lucked out finding a truly elite S-rank life partner. And I’m very grateful to be mostly able-bodied and kinda able-minded, if you squint.
But that’s about it?
I think I’m a pretty average representative of a lost generation. I’ve found success, though I’ve never inherited money, sold a business, gotten in early at a tech giant, married into wealth, graduated to a good job in a high-income industry, utilized family connections, or won the lottery. I don’t own rental properties, stock options, cryptocurrency, NFTs, or other fancy fake ways rich people make money.As of today, I have never been struck by a wealthy person’s car—though if anyone is interested in running an insurance scam with me, HMU, I’m open to pitches!
(And although I write a personal finance blog, please do not imagine for even one moment that it’s revenue-generating! BGR is a passion project that remains hilariously un-monetized by anyone other than our die-hardest stans on Patreon. Whom we love. Thank you.)
Nope. I’m a cog in the capitalist machine. I’ve made all of my money the old fashioned way: selling my time and bodily labor! And since that’s what most people are forced to do in this life, it’s my hope that my story of early retirement could have a few valuable insights for others.
So here it is: how I went from UM EXCUSE ME, HIGHLY BROKE to retiring at 35.
How I went from broke to retiring at 35
Ages 16-18: Fresh-faced and ready to be exploited for minimum wage
I started working when I was 16 years old. I was a summer camp counselor making $6.50/hour. To avoid paying us full-time wages, our shifts ran from 6 to 10 a.m. at one camp; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at a legally distinct second camp next door; then back to the first camp from 2 to 6 p.m. I was taught to punch out early to make sure my hours never, ever passed 40 per week.
At the time, I felt so proud of myself for getting this job all on my own and saving my little savings. As an adult, that pride is tarnished with regret that no one helped me see how exploitative this arrangement truly was.
High school was not a happy time. I moved out of my mother’s house when I was 17 and lived with my high school girlfriend and her unquestioningly welcoming mother, who offered me their spare room at no charge. I tried not to eat too much of their food… but I definitely ate a lot of their food.
Ages 18-22: Retail jobs, unpaid internships, and weird opportunities
I went away to an expensive private college a thousand miles away. Not the choice I would make today, but hey—we live and learn! Plus, that’s where I met Piggy, the aforementioned bestest and most prettiest business partner in the world! (Piggy note: The mark of a good editor is when their work is so seamless and subtle as to be invisible. I guess I’m just ok.)
In college, I worked a retail job at GameStop for $9.25/hour. Lemme tell ya: listening to the spacey tingling of the Wii menu floor display for six-hour shifts felt like a new and improved version of Dripping Water Torture.
Additionally, I had an unpaid internship promising me hands-on work experience at a small business. While walking around at a career fair hosted by my college, I met a wonderfully nice and eccentric older hippie lady who owned a wedding videography company. She insisted she felt an instant psychic connection to me and wanted me to come work with her. I accepted—for who am I to refuse the call of the astral plane?
- Savings: about $3,000
Ages 22-23: Hustling hard and hating every moment of it
I graduated from college in the spring of 2009 with $40,000 in student loans. It was the beginning of the Great Recession. With a 10% unemployment rate, my peers and I were competing with much more seasoned professionals for even entry level jobs. Frankly, ghosts felt more plausible and evidence—based than the mythical “good job” I’d been promised I’d find after graduation.
My first year out of school, I made about $12,000 a year. Almost all of it came from the wedding videography studio where I’d interned. They loved me, and paid me $1,000 a month to act as their studio manager. I was the only paid employee besides the owner.
With my help, the business grew. The owner increased my pay as much as she could, until I was making double: $24,000 a year. It was going okay.
But one day, I saw something that would drive me from the industry—and haunt me for the rest of my life.
I was filming a wedding in a fantastically luxurious location. The couple stood under a beautiful archway draped in delicate white vining orchids. “Ten thousand dollars worth of ‘em,” the wedding planner whispered to me as I dutifully took glamor shots of it. “Flown in specially from Thailand!” When the ceremony was over and the guests poured outside to their cocktail hour, I stayed behind to pack up, rub my sore feet, and discreetly stuff a granola bar into my mouth. I watched a man set up a ladder under the sculptural masterpiece—and start ripping flowers down by careless fistfuls. A girl with a shop vac trailed behind him, sucking the carcasses into the infinity of nothingness.
I told my boss I loved her, and had learned so much from her business—but I couldn’t bear to live in poverty surrounded by such lavish wastefulness.
She understood. As a parting gift, she sent an email to everyone in her professional organization, offering my services as a (non-wedding) videographer and graphic designer. I started working for $20/hour for anyone who wanted me.
- Savings: about $3,000
- Debts: about -$40,000
Ages 24-25: Illness, caregiving, and poverty during my darkest days
I was now a full-time freelancer. When I had enough clients, I upped my prices to $25/hour, then $30/hour. The pay was better, but it was stomach-churningly unreliable. I earned $8,000 in one month and $80 in another.
I filled in for a friend at the last minute to record an interview with a respected cancer researcher, and worked with a small agency to adapt the footage into a video for a fundraising event. They were delighted to find an affordable and reliable young professional to do local work, so they started to call me pretty often. I think they thought I was very in-demand. In reality, they were half my income.
Around this time, my mother got sick. I moved in with her temporarily to provide care. I kept what work I could, but lost about 30% of my clients. Since I was only making about $30,000 a year, it was a devastating blow to my finances. By the time I returned, I was hemorrhaging money. To make matters worse, I took on $12,000 more debt that my mother could no longer repay. My biggest fear was that my little brother (who was still a minor) and I might lose health insurance if our mother passed away.
There was still an 8% unemployment rate, but I realized I needed a salaried job with health benefits, like now. And I was willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get one.
I built a portfolio that exaggerated my accomplishments. I name-dropped big-name clients I’d only briefly or tangentially associated with. When asked to provide references, I enlisted my best friend (an actor) to pretend to be an ecstatically happy client. And I started sending out at least one job application every goddamn day.
- Savings: none
- Retirement savings: about $600
- Debts: about -$52,000
Ages 26-27: Turning a corner with my first salaried job
I accepted the first job that was offered to me: a design assistant at a shady commercial real estate firm for an income of $32,000 a year without benefits. I worked there for two months, and kept interviewing at other places. God forgive me, I covered for my frequent phone interviews by saying they were calls with my mother’s doctors. When a better offer came through, I left my keys and a Dear John note on my boss’s desk and never added it to my resume.
My new job—my first salaried position—paid $45,000 a year and included health benefits and a retirement plan.
Do you remember the end of Kill Bill Volume 2 where The Bride, having reclaimed her precious daughter and slain the last of her enemies, sobs in relief on the floor of a hotel bathroom? It was like that! For the first time in my life, I could afford all of my basic necessities. I didn’t have to lay awake at night, staring up at the bedroom ceiling, wondering where my next check would come from.
I worked days, and continued freelancing on nights and weekends. By age 27, I’d worked my way to a net worth of zero by paying off the last of my student loans. I celebrated by giving myself permission to do two very wonderful things: stop freelancing, and marry the man I loved. He was a poor man, but he had no debts, and I wanted us to start on equal footing. We wed in the parking lot behind our apartment complex.
Professionally, the shine came off the penny when a kindhearted coworker broke down and whispered a secret into my ear: the position where I made $45,000 originally had a budget of $90,000.
I thought this company had been magnanimous to take a chance on me; but in reality, they were thrilled to find such a polished and hardworking young person who asked for so little money. I wept tears of bitter shame for allowing myself to be so undersold. Then I dried my eyes and started looking for a new job.
- Savings: about $3,000
- Retirement savings: about $12,000
- Debts: none
Age 28: Making more money, but learning Biggie had it right
I found a job at a new start-up that looked really promising. They offered me $80,000 a year plus a ton of fantastic benefits. Please know that I felt like King Midas But Even Richer living on quadruple the income I was accustomed to.
But after pride cometh the fall. The company culture at my new start-up became poisonous almost immediately. It was racist, sexist, nepotistic, and just generally sucked shit. After six months, I walked away and lit HR on fire on my way out.
Remember the kindhearted coworker who clued me in to my underpayment? She’d moved on to a new company, and when she heard I was on the market again, she asked me to follow. It was safe, boring work making $90,000 a year. I accepted immediately. Two weeks after I started, the company was acquired by a technology giant with a household name. They offered me a retention bonus to stay, because mergers suck. For my partner and I, this got our savings to the point where we were ready to start shopping for a house.
And with most of my work projects on hold, I started a little side project called Bitches Get Riches with my pal Piggy. Maybe you’ve heard of us…?
- Savings: about $60,000
- Retirement savings: about $24,000
- Debts: none
Ages 29-30: House poor, living on a single income, but loving every second
My partner and I bought a house for $300,000. (For reference, that was 15% below the median price in my area. Modest, yet normal.) When the check cleared, we only had about $800 left in the bank, lmao.
I know home ownership isn’t thrilling to everyone. But GOD, it is for me! Because I’ve known instability, it feels wonderful to build an oasis for myself and others. Sometimes, I get a call about someone who needs rescuing, and it feels so liberating to say “sure, bring ’em to my house, throw ’em on the pile!” We’ve had a lot of different people and animals call this house “home.” It’s a happy place.
That said, it did put me back in debt. And in my rush to build a home down payment, I hadn’t exactly prioritized other forms of investment like… a retirement fund.
Complicating matters, my partner decided he wanted to radically change the direction of his career. I offered to support both of us while he took a year off to learn new skills. So my husband stopped working. Thankfully, my salary was enough to cover our living expenses, including putting an extra $400/month into the mortgage. Because minimum payments are the devil.
- Savings: about $800
- Retirement savings: about $60,000
- Debts: about -$240,000
- Real estate: about $300,000
Ages 31-33: My investments actually start growing, and I’m very Shocked Pikachu about it
BIG changes happened here.
First, my partner finished his year of reskilling and entered a new career. He tripled his income to $60,000—then bounced up to $160,000! You can read about that in a lot more detail here. I’ll sum it up by saying it was WERID. I felt like I’d married a Magikarp, and woke up one morning next to a Gyrados. It was the outcome we wanted, but not the outcome we expected. Life had trained us to anticipate more setbacks. But here we were, manifesting our vision boards or whatever! The fuck?! It really works like this?!
Second, the very modest but consistent investments I’d made in my retirement accounts finally started to get off their ass and generate passive income. Not much—but they weren’t flat-lining anymore! It had nothing to do with my stock picks or mutual fund, as I’m no genius in this department (to my investments, I may as well be a neglectful mother in a Tennessee Williams play). I’d just stuck around for long enough that compound interest finally noticed me and deigned to punch my dance card.
Third, we paid off our house. Yeah—that fast! Our interest rate wasn’t huge, so we probably could’ve made more money if we’d invested it in the open market instead. But fuck that! The emotional and financial security of being debt-free and owning my home outright was worth more to me than anything.
There are some who might view even a fully-paid-off home as a liability rather than a nest egg. And I get that! Houses still come with maintenance costs and taxes and such. But I started counting my house toward my early retirement number because it feels like an asset in more ways than one. We can rent out our extra bedrooms as a source of retirement income, for example. And in this market, houses are easier than ever to liquidate.
The housing shortage also squeezed the value of our home up by 50%. I don’t feel great about earning money off the desperation of others… but do I prefer it to my old problems? Yes.
- Savings: about $3,000
- Retirement savings: about $180,000
- Debts: none
- Real estate: about $450,000
Age 34: You are here!
… But by “you,” I mean “me!”
With no mortgage payments, investments accruing interest, two very healthy incomes, and favorable luck, our savings skyrocketed. We maxed out every tax-advantaged retirement account we could, and dumped the rest into a general brokerage account.
This spring, I’ll be 35. By then, I should have a net worth of one million dollars. At that point, all I need to do is cover my family’s living expenses for a few years and wait patiently for compound interest to double it.
Because I supported my partner through phases of low and no income, he’s enthusiastically offered to do the same for me. Which means I can stop working. (More on navigating that below.)
- Savings: about $3,000
- Retirement savings: about $450,000
- Debts: none
- Real estate: about $450,000
Life after retiring at 35
Retiring all the way
Two mil is, indeed, our ultimate FIRE number. I think? Don’t quote me on that!
When we reach that mark, we will both stop working. We’re confident that’s enough to live non-extravagant yet comfortable lives, with enough money to continue to extend stability to others as needed.
Because in our original plan, I was going to quit corporate work and become an early retiree when I got the house paid off! But so many unforeseen things happened… the ‘rona, obviously! Piggy lost her job. My partner lost his job. There was just so much chaos and instability at that time, across every scale from my family up to my nation and my world. Prudence seemed wise.
But here’s the thing about prudence: it’s like a bag of chips that taste great when first opened, but gets really nasty when stale. I’m chewing on my prudence right now, and I’m tasting my own fear, and it’s gross as shit.
So it’s time to do the thing, even if the thing scares me. I’m committed to retiring at 35.
It feels weird and uncomfortable to leave all the work to my partner, even temporarily. But he’s been my biggest supporter in crafting this plan. Mr. Kitty knows better than anyone how hard I had to fight for our first million. And what it’s cost me, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
If anything, this will continue our tradition of trying to remain as equal as possible. My partner wants me to remember how to do amazing things, without pushing them through the meat grinder of monetization. Like writing this blog! Because he loves me, I get to love all of you. Isn’t it neat how that works out?
My uncomfortable future
I don’t know exactly what’s ahead, but I do know that I need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m stepping off the marked trail! There are no Ramada Inns ahead!
My biggest fear about retiring before the average retirement age is finding that I’m still fundamentally unfulfilled. Work has always been my convenient excuse to be unhappy. Because it’s always taken the best eight hours out of me. Once I stop working, I won’t have anyone to blame but myself for all the feelings I’ll feel. (Yuck. I’m an ENTJ, I haaaaate those feelings thingies!)
But luck and life are both precarious. As often as Fortune has done me dirty, she’s blessed me beyond belief. I cannot waste this opportunity to live life on my own terms, as every member of mankind deserves.
I’m moving toward a new stage of life where I will have more autonomy and discretion than ever before. I will wake each morning when I want to, and consult only myself when deciding each day’s agenda. I’m sure I will still have struggles, worries, chores, conflicts, obligations, and bills to pay—but I won’t have to sell my time and bodily labor to solve those problems anymore. Because I’ve sold quite enough.
Getting help, giving help
What will I do in retirement? Don’t worry, I’m a planner. I have a list, which I’ll definitely share at some point. But I can say definitively that guiding others through this wilderness of bullshit is at the top of it.
Earlier, I mentioned that I didn’t have a lot of life’s obvious advantages. But there is one incredible advantage I’ve always had, at every step upwards. And that is help.
- In high school, my girlfriend’s mom gave me a place to live rent-free when I needed one.
- In college, my first boss connected me with all of her industry peers to help me establish myself.
- At my first salaried job, my coworker tipped me off that I was being enormously underpaid.
- In the writing of this blog, our community of Patreon supporters has made this incredibly fulfilling hobby into a self-sustaining project. And my co-Bitch Piggy has shared my creative vision and encouraged me to pursue it full-time.
- In the future, my spouse will support our family financially while I take a chance on myself-and, weirdly, on you.
It’s easy to see why I’ve come to believe that help is the single greatest advantage a person can receive in life. Saying the right words, at the right time, to the right person can transform their lives permanently for the better.
Who wouldn’t want to do that, all the time?
So that’s my plan. I ain’t going nowhere! If anything, I’ll be even more up in your shit. And yes, when the time comes to give notice this spring, I will totally live stream my resignation for Patreon viewers, using the Mad Libs resignation letter the EconoMe audience helped me write, because…
Do y’all want more? Or less?
Phew! I can’t lie, this is an extra deodorant day for me.I’m really sweating hitting “publish” on this one.
These more personal stories are always the trickiest to write. Plus, they tend to garner hot takes from people who aren’t familiar with BGR. Or, worst of all, didn’t even read past the title! I’ve made peace with the fact that some people will ignore the context of my story—and of the breadth of topics we’ve written about here at BGR.
If it’s your first time here and you actually made it this far, congratulations! Here are some of our most foundational content to get you started on a similar path.
For the rest of our loyal readers, tell me! How’s this hitting you? Are y’all interested in hearing more about my early retirement process and post-retirement life? Or is that aspirational shit too depressing? (No judgment, hahaha—obviously my past self feels that!) Don’t leave me hanging! Let me hear your reaction in the comments below.
If you want more detailed guides about the steps I took, start here:
- The Financial Order of Operations: 10 Great Money Choices for Every Stage of Life
- A Millennial’s Guide to Growing Your Salary
- Job Hopping vs. Career Loyalty by the Numbers
If you’re recovering from a bad start, start here:
- Leaving Home Before 18: A Practical Guide for Cast-Offs, Runaways, and Everybody in Between
- How To Start at Rock Bottom: Welfare Programs and the Social Safety Net
- Ask the Bitches: Is It Too Late to Get My Financial Shit Together?
If you’re intrigued by this whole early retirement thing, start here:
- How To Save for Retirement When You Make Less Than $30,000 a Year
- Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying: Finance Philosophy Explained by The Shawshank Redemption
- Antiwork Is the New American Dream
If you need de-programming from harmful ideas about “financial success,” start here:
- The Latte Factor, Poor Shaming, and Economic Compassion
- Why Are Poor People Poor and Rich People Rich?
- The Financial Advantages of Being White
56 thoughts to “Your Girl Is Officially Retiring at 35 Years Old”
More please. Personal, facts, dreams, memes, etc. Give it to us!
First off I am so happy for you!!! And I definitely want more I want you all up in my business I love the advice you two give. I also would love to hear more of the details of how you did all this. Like an actual guide on how to make retirement savings work. I have a 401k and I haven’t looked at it since I signed the forms, how do I maximize it? Also don’t you get penalized for taking money out before a certain age? These are all the things I’m wondering.
MORE, MORE, MORE
This article was! incredibly validating in the way that so much of your stuff is because it is the path that my partner and I are taking, and it’s so, so helpful to read narratives that are not the status quo. Y’alls vulnerability and authenticity are what make this blog so amazing and I would absolutely love to read along with your journey as you step out into that vast wildnerness outside traditional work.
Also, congrats, oh my god, I’m so happy for you. What a terrifying and beautiful thing.
I love reading personal stories from you – I’ve never really worked and am currently in a public university with my parents paying my bills so I love learning about what the real world is like for established adults which you and Piggy feel like to me – I’m super happy that you’re actually able to use your privilege to go live the anti-work early retirement dream to help people
I’m so happy for you! Definitely more! I’m just getting my head around what I need to do to take a year off from working. I’ve never not worked for 20 years. Biggest concern- health insurance. Second biggest concern- what if I’m still bored and anxious and can’t blame my job, lol. Definitely want to hear more of your story.
Congrats! That’s freaking awesome!
This is a great post that warms my cold, dead heart. I’ve been pretty burnt out on work lately, and this is an inspiring reminder of (one of) my end goals. You two are my role models in navigating privilege and finances with grace, and this no-bullshit summary of your past is another great example of that.
I’ll be thrilled to see what you’re able to discover in this new post-work paradigm once you hit it. It’s probably scary, but I’m sure you’ll tackle it with equal parts kindness, skill, and sass.
(this also reminded me to rearrange my investments for the first time in forever – if you’re a Tennessee Williams mother, I’m Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood)
Id love to hear more! I like personal stories :).
(Even if I won’t lie – it is slightly depressing. I can’t imagine retiring early where I live in and with what average salaries are here (I can’t barely imagine owning a house) but it is also inspiring even if I’m a bit envious here and there :)).
Kitty, I want to offer my deepest congratulations. You’ve worked for this and it feels like you’ve helped your readers at every turn.
It was a fun article to read but for me personally, a bit too little self-reflection on how, in the end, your financial story profited A LOT from the combined income of 250k you reached as a couple before turning 30.
All the best for your retirement! 🙂
I say this as a Patron, not a hater: I am 35, single, take an $88k/month medication that my employer insurance pays for, and made more money than you at every stage of my career. But I am single and sick so I can never quit my job and never afford a home near work. So I will pass on future installments, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write them. I tried a little bit to not sound bitter, but I’m also just having a bad day today. Still a fan tho.
Ugh sorry, it’s been a lot of pandemic lately
I totally get where you’re coming from. I’m a bit younger than you and also single, and the financial benefits of partnership are real. When I think about how much money I could save if someone split housing costs with me, it’s a total bummer. Being fully responsible for everything financially in the US with virtually no safety net is trying.
YESSSSSSSS I AM SO SO SO HAPPY FOR YOU!! As a long time reader and (as of tomorrow) 1 year patron, I could not be more thrilled by this news! You’re killing the game and standing stoically in the back at the funeral!
I would be happy for more content about this if you want to write it, but do what makes you happy!
This is wonderful! Congratulations! This is probably the most interesting and compelling early retirement story I’ve read- the details of the ups and downs are crucial. As you said, most have pretty rare circumstances like windfalls, crazy salaries from tech companies, or enormous help from parents. Nothing wrong with those but it’s so interesting to read a more realistic tale of the challenges of building wealth. I also graduated from college at the beginning of the 2008 recession and felt the general public just didn’t understand (and still doesn’t!) the unique roadblocks that our generation faced.
Thanks for sharing such an open and honest account of your story, it’s really helpful to see others’ experiences. Take care and good luck on these next few months!
Congrats!! I would love to hear more about the early retirement process and what you do post-retirement – I know I want to retire early but I keep getting stuck on what I’ll do with all my time once I’m finally there!
Loved this article! Would love to read more about your early retirement!
” It was the outcome we wanted, but not the outcome we expected. Life had trained us to anticipate more setbacks. ” this, so much.
I’m a couple of years older than y’all and this whole thing really resonated w/ me. Two years ago everything started going (financially) right after a decade of setbacks since the Great Recession. I still don’t have my equilibrium, and don’t quite trust our luck (we also have two littles which probably contributes to the “something could always go wrong” feeling).
Congrats and well done you for a big, brave step.
Congrats! So awesome! I’m a little jealous!
Congrats to you, and keep the stories coming!! <3 I am high-fiving you from afar.
I’ve decided to leave my full time job next year as well. I’ve been tired of it for years now, but stuck it out for the paycheck. My husband is going to support us (on a much lower salary than yours, however!) while I start my own business. I’ve been dreaming about it for nearly a decade, and it’s time to give it a shot. I can always go back to work for someone else, after all, if it doesn’t work out.
Yes girl!! Get it
Of course I want to hear more about this!! More Bitches = more love!! I am so incredibly excited for you, and thrilled that you have such a supportive partner.
Congratulations! Long time reader, first comment I think. Yes, I would like to hear more about what you’re doing next. I’m in a “low paid work” phase (I’m a freelance writer) due to kids and curious as to how you’ll spend your time.
MAWRRRRR MORE MORE content like this!! I am at similar net worth and age as you, tho I don’t consider it enough to retire yet. I actually find a lot of your previous content too basic (though the humor keeps me around, love you guys). So this article definitely speaks to me, and I am eagerly waiting for more like this!!
I’ve been a reader for a couple years and I am SO PROUD OF YOU. Seeing you succeed is like seeing a friend succeed (and I like my friends!), and selfishly I know I’ll be in a better place when I retire early because I can just read the blog and learn from what you had to deal with. H E L P, you’re full of it and spreading it all around. Thanks for that, and congratulations!
This was an AWESOME read. What a journey. This resonates quite a bit. Have always loved your writing style but the more personal it gets, the better it is. I would say enjoy getting to the finish line–but there’s a reason a graduation is called a commencement. It’s really just the beginning.
Congratulations!! I often wonder when I will be able to retire :). I really appreciated how transparent you were about all the various stages and your finances. I find it really hard to read FIRE articles and often find myself thinking I am doing something wrong but while I am privileged in so many ways living in an expensive urban area and being single means FIRE might take a bit longer. I wish more people would talk about the privileges of not living in a high cost area (buying a home for $300k would be a dream in my area) and the privilege of being a dual income household and not having children. Thank you for sharing and would love to see what you will do in retirement!
It will be interesting to see what you end up doing post-retirement. I don’t have anything to retire TO… for most people my job (professor) sounds a lot like what people do in retirement so I don’t think I should give it up at this point unless I know what I want to do instead (that isn’t reading novels and watching youtube videos because I suspect I can run out of the good ones) otherwise I’ll start getting myself into trouble.
Good thinking! I personally think it is paramount to retire to something, not from something. Have you read Tanja Hester’s book Work Optional? The first part of the book might be very helpful to you for answering this question. I can highly recommend it!
Congratulations and more more more! It’s so refreshing to hear an early retirement story from someone else in the Great Recession cohort who also struggled through those first few years, both for lack of jobs and direction. (Great Recession liberal arts majors unite!) I wish people would talk about these struggles because not everyone is a tech/business/sales bro who started saving for retirement at age 22 and then married well(thily) and bought a home with a ton of help from parents.
Things didn’t start falling into place for me until about five years ago, and my income has more than doubled since then after finding a field that works for me and my skills. I don’t know about 35 for me since I started saving so late and still don’t own but 50 is doable.
Congratulations, Kitty! This is such an awesome article and I’m so glad it isn’t one of those tacky “we did it, you can too!” ones – not that I would ever expect that shit from you two. I would love to hear more about your retirement journey. My husband and I plan to be financially independent around 40-45 (I’m 31 now) and I am starting to think and plan more of what I want to be doing when I’m not working all the time. A lot of folks seem to disappear off the blogosphere when they early retire so more content there would be awesome. Best of luck over the coming months and I can’t wait to see your resignation live streamed!!
Great to be a white woman who went to private university and have a $250,000 household income. Very inspirational! Thank you for sharing your story.
Congratulations, I’m so excited for you! I’d love to hear more, I’m interested in the concept of FIRE but most takes on it are not ones I want to read. I’d love to read more about your thoughts and journey!
Long time reader, patreon and fan here! Congratulations on this milestone. I’d definitely like more – especially articles that may require a lot more time investment on your side, namely non-US advice. As much as I love your masterposts, most countries do not have anything like the 401k etc and (esp in Europe) a vastly different (inaccessible) housing market. So the big two steps here and in the getting-your-shit-together plans are totally unavailable. In Germany, the 401k concept doesn’t exist because the state pension system was so robust for a long time. Young people nowadays cannot expect anything from that fund and are encouraged to invest in private pension schemes, but those are difficult waters with banks taking their share. High earners wages are not proportional with the cost of real estate and owning even an apartment is a luxury few can afford. I believe a specific “what to do if you have to build your own retirement account from scratch” and “building wealth without owning your home” guide would be a more universal approach.
while we as Europeans / Germans don’t have the tax advantages of a 401(k), we actually do have a few advantages when it comes to FIRE. The saving/investment part of it is a bit harder in my opinion but the being retired part is actually a lot easier/less risky, e.g. with health insurance.
Investing in the stock market through low cost index funds (ETFs) is the best option anywhere in the world.
Congratulations!!!! This is a huge announcement. Thank you for being so transparent about all the details that allow this day to come.
I’m taking an unusual path too but not as awesome as yours – instead of retiring early in 6-10 years, I’m planning to take one year off starting mid next year. This will delay my retirement by at least a year, but will also give me real insight into how financially ready I am to pull the plug. I don’t have a partner to support me so it’s all coming out of savings, but will still provide me with a lot of information. How much will I spend? What will I do with my time? I fully expect to be bored and uncomfortable sometimes, and that’s okay.
So I’m very interested to hear how you feel about having all the time in the world suddenly available to you! How will the money work out? Will you travel? Will you pick up new hobbies or dive deeper into existing ones? All quite interesting. I’d also love to hear Piggy’s take on this – is she jealous? Going to follow in your footsteps asap? Happy to keep working for quite a while longer?
Congratulations, this is a really important and meaningful decision! I would like to say the same to the whole world someday. In the meantime, I am reading such posts and am glad that at least someone succeeds in fulfilling their dream. Thank you for your frankness and openness in your posts, it’s always a pleasure to read.
Blog/podcast/FIRE fan here but I need some more details! The thing I’m always most interested in when reading about others’ finance journeys is expenses. I think that is a big missing piece here because I can’t figure out how you went from age 24-25, $30k income, $52k debt to age 26-27, $45k income, $0 debt other than basically having no expenses. Maybe it’s just how it is laid out in the article but when debt went from $52k to $0 I was like wait what?
Like a previous commenter, I’m also definitely not trying to be a “hater” as I’ve enjoyed your writing and transparency in the past. However, I do feel like there is this pull in our culture right now to say you’re “retired” or when, like, you’re just not working and your spouse earns enough to support you. I can think of another prominent FIRE blogger who described herself this way while her spouse earned (reportedly) something like 300K annually. And, hey, that situation is great! Lots of people don’t work while their spouse keeps working for lots of reasons at lots of different income levels. But…if I’m reading your post correctly, you are not going to be living off of your retirement savings (unless I miss something about how you are earning passive income from the general brokerage account — is that what you meant?) and most of your net worth is illiquid (unless again, when you say you have $180,000 in retirement savings, you mean a good chunk of that is in your general brokerage account). I don’t know why I feel sort of confused by your post. You totally don’t seem like the kind of person who wants to mislead readers at all (and, look, we all know of some other popular FIRE bloggers who have been called out for being misleading about their income or their spouse’s income in the past). Like, I read this and thought… Okay, I’m a similar-ish age and I have 200K in a general brokerage account and about 100K in a tax-deferred retirement account and no debt, but I can’t “retire” yet because my spouse only makes about 60K a year and if we want to stay on track for our financial goals, we need way more money than only his salary coming in. I mean, I feel like, hypothetically, you could just not work on the strength of your spouse’s income alone (any tax-deferred or general brokerage account holdings aside). Maybe this is too nit-picky of me. I feel weird putting this out there on the Internet and potentially causing a complete stranger to feel anxious. It’s just seems like this whole post could have been “Hey, y’all. I decided not to work anymore because my spouse makes enough money to support both of us now. We’re gonna keep on being frugal and invest the leftover money he earns.” And that would be okay! It just felt like there were a lot of other numbers and reasons in this post when it all boiled down to your spouse’s income. That’s probably not how you intended it to come across, but I’m struggling to interpret it differently. I’d love to check back sometime and see if other readers have insight to help me reframe this understanding.
Congratulations, Kitty! I’ve been a silent reader (aka lurker) of BRG since I discovered it this year. Thanks for writing this. This is what I exactly need to inspire me to take more chances in the coming years. And hats off to your partner as well. 🙂
– From a Bitchy Third Worlder cog in the machine in the Philippines
I’m definitely interested in whatever you do day to day. I literally don’t know what to do with myself… I don’t have enough hobbies so i get bored on staycations. Presumably holiday planning is different from “oh i guess this is my life now” but the nitty gritty of that is super interesting!!
Well, congratulations are in order. I wish I could have retired at 35.
Congratulations, Kitty! This was a great post, especially how you detailed your balance sheet at different ages, and how you acknowledged all the help that led you to this point.
Since you will be living, presumably, on your spouse’s income for the foreseeable future, I was wondering about a topic I haven’t seen much in the FIRE community. The issue of what happens when financial plans that are reliant on a spouse’s income get upended due to divorce or death. My husband and I are at our FIRE goal number, and plan to both retire in the next year, but a tiny part of my brain reminds me that people suddenly leave marriages all the time. We’re fine if one of us leaves because of death; the other will inherit everything. But if we split our assets down the middle because of divorce, we’d each be looking at a challengingly low income. Do people factor that in? Did you? Thanks for all you do! You and Piggy are the best!
Congrats! Just one thing. The entire personal finance community is one big echo chamber of privileged white people who only support each other. Sure, you’ll have a token black couple to mention here and there. I’m sure there is one. But other than that, there’s nothing else.
Hope you guys realize how tone deaf you guys are.
You’re right: there’s a ton of race, class, and gender privilege in the personal finance media community. That’s why we wrote these:
Thanks so much for the reminder to keep checking our privilege and acknowledging the bias and discrimination inherent in our economic systems, “Janet Reno.” 🙂
Actually, the thing I liked most about this article is the fact that Kitty acknowledged her privileges of being born white in America to parents who valued education, etc.
It’s a refreshing change from the privileged white people Janet talks about who try selling you their method/book/whatever by touting their success down to their own actions instead of questioning the roles luck and timing might have had. This to me feels like false advertising.
I think Kitty has shown self-awareness despite her skin colour. Let’s try not to lump all the white people together 🙂
throw me on the pile
This was far and away one of the most enjoyable and worthwhile online reads I’ve had in awhile.
First off, congratulations! It was a long road, I’m sure, but I hope you enjoy your retirement. Second, we definitely want to hear more. Give us the details about retired life – the good with the bad!
That’s awesome, congrats! What kind of career has a ‘safe, boring job’ at 90K and how did you get there?