Jason Fieber is one hell of a guy. But, in the world of early retirement and financial independence, he’s a regular badass. From Sarasota Florida, Jason quit his full time job at a car dealership and now spends his time doing what truly makes him happy, writing. Jason was 32 when he called it quits.
Visit Jason Fieber’s investment and retirement web site over at dividendmantra.com.
Jason’s inspirational story of self improvement strikes at the heart of just how possible it is to quit the rat race and focus on your life’s true calling once and for all. Like so many others in this great country of ours, Jason’s childhood included struggle. Financial mistakes turned into learning opportunities, and sheer drive and determination transformed his life into pure bliss, unapologetic happiness and true success.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Jason and pick his brain about quitting his full time job and what it feels like to spend his days doing what he truly enjoys. Jason writes – his true calling – and believes anyone can duplicate his successes in life through frugal living, saving big and enjoying life.
1: What made you decide to officially quit your full time job? Was it something that happened, a sudden realization or was it planned in advance?
I quit my full-time job in the auto industry just days after my 32nd birthday, after more than eight years in the industry. It was something I had been thinking about for some time. I was burned out, as I was working more than 50 hours per week at a car dealership while also managing time for my true passion in writing.
I had been writing about investing and financial independence on my blog for more than three years at this point, and, due to the size of the blog and the time I was spending on it, I felt like I couldn’t go on with both anymore. So, it was either the blog or the job in the auto industry, and the blog easily won that battle.
2: How did you feel the day after you retired? Were you excited? Nervous? A little bit of both?
Well, I’m not really “retired” right now. I’m still saving and investing my way toward financial independence. I don’t consider someone financially independent until their passive income exceeds their expenses. I still have to “work” for a living, although I’m not really doing much work anymore. I write for a living now, which is incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. But I’m not really retired.
I will say, however, that I felt elated after handing in my two-week notice. And my last day of traditional full-time work felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I felt like I was finally freed from the shackles that were holding me down.
3: How does a typical family of 4 start down the path of frugal living? Start slow or dive in head first?
It’s tough for me to give an answer to that question. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer. I believe it depends on what you’re comfortable with, your income, and your current income situation. I can only say that I approached my life changes like the old bandage analogy: I just ripped it off.
I took advantage of every possible savings opportunity I could. I started with the easy stuff, like my mobile phone, food, and cable. I then moved on to the harder stuff, like selling my car and living car-free. Not long after that I moved to a cheaper apartment that was also located next to a bus stop (the bus that took me to work every day).
Each day that you are spending too much money is a missed opportunity and one less day of freedom, so I would go as fast as you possibly and reasonably can.
4: How did you make sense of the market before you started dividend investing? Books? Websites and forums? Which were most helpful?
I took advantage of everything I could. Books. Websites. Articles. I found a couple of books pretty helpful. “The Ultimate Dividend Playbook: Insight and Independence for Today’s Investor” by Josh Peters. In addition, I found “The Single Best Investment: Creating Wealth with Dividend Growth” by Lowell Miller very informative. The only thing I couldn’t find anywhere was a true guide in putting the dividend growth investing strategy to work for early retirement, showing how that would work and what it would look like. So I put my website together as a case study, using my own life like a scientific experiment. No hypothetical or examples, just real-life numbers and results.
5: Saving 50% can be tough; how did you get started? What challenges did you face during your journey?
Like I mentioned, I started aggressively. I found it most important to focus on what I call “The Big Three”. I’m not talking about the big three auto manufacturers out of Detroit. I’m talking about the three biggest drains on expenses: housing, transportation, and food.
I moved to a cheaper and smaller apartment, which not only saved on rent, but also utilities. In addition, less furniture is necessary to furnish a smaller space. I then sold my car. I used a combination of the public bus system and a 49cc scooter to get around town for years.
I also radically cut food expenses by eating like a college student for about a year. I wouldn’t recommend it as a permanent lifestyle change, but eating really cheaply for a year or two can allow you to put away some serious capital to get a nice snowball of wealth working for you.
One other important point is that I moved from Michigan to Florida back in 2009, just before my journey began. I did this for a number of reasons. Florida has no state income taxes, which meant I would be saving more money right out of the gate. Also, it’s a warmer climate, which would allow me to live without a car even easier. And there are plenty of free activities, like world-class beaches.
Lastly, the cost of living down here is really attractive. As an added bonus, I started making more money in the auto industry right out of the gate. So, my gap between income and expenses widened pretty sharply, allowing me plenty of capital with which to start buying stocks.
6: What is your advice for a 20-something person right out of college, who makes good money and wants to enjoy life?
Figure out what really makes you happy and go after that with all you’ve got. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Flexibility, freedom, autonomy, relationships, love, and health are all major aspects of happiness, not the size of your house or the type of car you drive. You’re young, but you won’t be forever. Time is all we have. It’s the most valuable commodity in the world, and it’s non-renewable. Once time passes, it can never be re-gained. There are no do-overs in life, and every moment is a gift. Don’t trade away your time cheaply. Pursue your passions.
7: Finally, what did you do last Monday?
I can’t remember specifically, but it was probably like most of my days now. I woke up without the blaring of an alarm clock and then spent most of the day writing. I not only write for my blog, but I also freelance quite a bit. So I generally spend what most people consider a “work day” doing research for articles, writing, responding to emails, and answering questions for readers. I’m truly blessed.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.