MM note: Brian is a recent college graduate who just started his first job last fall. At only 22 he is starting his career with a simple strategy to reach financial independence in just 10 years. I was so stoked to hear his story that I asked him to share it. Starting early is Brian’s biggest advantage and he’s already saved $50,000.
Wake up, go to work, sleep, repeat
Every weekday morning I hit the alarm at 6, shower, sit in traffic, work in an uncomfortable chair next to a broken light, make small talk to some overweight co-workers that have probably been alive since the great depression, go to the gym, watch some tv, sleep, and repeat. Just a few months ago I was having the experience of a lifetime on the PCT, and less than 2 years ago I was getting paid to lead whitewater rafting trips! Think about how insane that is! I will say, for as bad as I make it sound, there are some amazing people who work there and I am learning a ton which I obviously enjoy. But the pros certainly come with their cons.
I’ve made it through 6 months of this so far. Do I think I could make it a couple more years there? Sure. Could I last a decade there? Eh, maybe, but probably not. Would I work there until I’m 65? Not a fucking chance.
As far as I’m concerned, right now I’m living like an indentured servant. I’m tied to the job because I rely on it as a steady source of income but it’s not necessarily what I’m passionate about and absolutely love doing every day. I miss the freedom that I felt on my trips. I miss the ability to go where I want and do what I please. I want to lead rafting trips again, read and write more, travel more, start a podcast, learn to play the guitar. None of these are outside the realm of possibility with my current job, but my options and time are severely limited.
It wasn’t until college that I truly found my passion. The summer after my freshman year, I drove across the country to work in Yellowstone National Park. It was kind of on a whim; I wanted to do something adventurous, and so I went for it. It ended up being the best summer of my life. Not only did I meet amazing people, I fell in love with the outdoors, traveling, and doing anything slightly off the beaten path. The following summer I studied abroad in South Africa and backpacked Europe, stopping in places like Johannesburg, London, Amsterdam, and Paris.
The summer of 2015, I landed a job as an adventure guide in northern Wisconsin, where I got paid to lead whitewater rafting, paintball, kayaking, and paddleboard trips. And just this past summer (2016) I took off for California a week after graduating college to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Due to some complications, I ended up completing just over 700 miles, then heading back home to look for a job. By the end of last summer, I became hooked on this lifestyle of adventure and freedom.
But I needed a job.
Discovering Early Retirement
As I was applying for my first job out of college I randomly stumbled on a podcast that mentioned the concept of early retirement. I initially gave it no thought, as I was 21, and the word “retirement” was the furthest thing from my mind. Randomly, I decided to check it out one day and was blown away by what I found. People were saving huge amounts of money in just a few years on average salaries. This made me a little more interested. A couple of weeks later, I went to a job interview and was made an offer. The salary compared to the people I had been reading about who was able to retire in 10 years or less. I was even more interested.
I started working in September 2016 as an engineer in the Philadelphia area. What an experience it has been. I told one of my buddies about the new job and he was legitimately shocked. He couldn’t understand how I could go from essentially being a vagabond on the PCT to working in an office cube from 9 to 5 every day. I couldn’t really believe it myself.
How to reach early retirement in 10 years
So the minute I began this new job I revisited the topics of early retirement and financial independence and committed myself to this journey.
I started tracking all my expenses using free tools like Personal Capital, running calculations on how much I might need annually, deciding how long I could do the whole working thing, and came up with a plan. Right now it looks like this; in 10 years or less, I plan to at least semi-retire (no longer need to work 9-5 as an engineer) with a minimum net worth of $500,000.
In order to develop all my ideas to get myself there I began blogging about them, which served as reinforcement for my goal and has allowed me to help other people on their own journey as well. I began cutting back on unnecessary expenses, invested any savings I had, and ran some more numbers (I am an engineer after all).
Only 6 months into working and less than a year from having graduated college, I have just eclipsed a net-worth of $50,000. 10% of my goal, done. Granted I did have a small head start and no student loans to worry about (what a blessing that is) but I wouldn’t have half of it if I hadn’t started down this road of personal finance.
Before I go, I feel as though I should mention a couple more things. First of all, having money isn’t everything. If you had all the money in the world it would be wasted if you spent it all on material objects like a mansion or your dream sports car. These things can’t buy happiness. For me, money is my vehicle to obtain freedom and independence. I don’t feel the need to be a multi-millionaire, I simply want to have enough. If you become insatiable and constantly want more, you’ll never be happy regardless of how much money you have.
The super simple early retirement strategy
Finally, getting rich, achieving financial independence, retiring early, all that is easy. In fact, there’s a two-step, a foolproof plan that will get you there every time.
Spend less than you earn. Invest the difference.
Once you have 25-30 times your annual expenses you’ve made it.
If anyone tells you differently, they’re either lying or trying to sell you something. So why isn’t there just one blog post that explains this all and that’s it? Well, there is, but the more you read and learn about the more options open up to you and the more sophisticated and successful you can become with your finances. But, if you just want the basics without any details, that’s it right there.
I am beyond excited to see where this job, my blog, and any other opportunities that develop take me in the next few years. I’m already planning some big trips to reward myself along the way and thinking about what I might want to do once I don’t need to worry about money. The possibilities are endless and I could not be more pumped to start my FI journey.