Want to retire in your 30s? Cool! Here’s how I did it

Published January 18, 2017   Posted in How to Think

At 35, I retired from full-time work. Now, I spend my days pursuing things that make me happy, not answering to bosses, filling out time cards or sitting on conference calls. Those days are behind me – long behind me.

I go to the gym in the morning to stay fit. I nap when I feel like I need one. If it’s a nice day outside, I spend more time soaking up all that beautiful vitamin D. Whatever I want to do, I do it.

And I’m thirty-freaking-five. Here’s how I did it.

How I retired at 35

It’s easy to sit here and type a bunch of shit into the computer about “making smarter decisions” or something like that, but that stuff doesn’t make it any easier for many to relate to. Yes, I made choices in my life that enabled this kind of insanely early retirement, but that’s not a good answer.

How about these?

I had a good upbringing

Some of us don’t have this luxury, but I do. I came from a loving family who supported me during my childhood and beyond. I didn’t feel deprived of things, and I definitely never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from. I also had exposure to sound financial principles from an early age. My parents made me keep a budget sheet in high school to track my expenses. Although I made plenty of mistakes, I had enough financial knowledge to recover from them later in life.

I was also taught to say please and thank you. I hold the door for people behind me. I feel like shit when I make a mistake that affects someone else. I was taught right from wrong; to never rely on other people to provide for me; to blame myself when things go badly, not others; to never expect a free lunch.

Some of us are setup in life better than others, but don’t use that as an excuse to give up. Here’s what I think of the whole privilege debate in early retirement.

I chose a high paying career field

The wife and I in a brewery

Though I argue that saving is more important than income, there’s no question that my level of income was a critical element in me retiring this early. But, one doesn’t need a high salary to retire early.

I graduated college with a degree in Information Technology, which turned out to be the perfect blend of hard-core technical mumbo-jumbo that you might get in a computer science program as well as the softer side of business management. My true passion was photography, but I chose a program with a higher earnings potential. I didn’t love IT, but I could stand it. An art degree was out of the question.

My career in Information Technology helped a lot.

I didn’t attend some prestigious or expensive college, either. I went to the University of Tennessee for a year, then transferred out to a small private school in Colorado – that most people have never heard of – to pursue a degree program in Information Technology (which UT did not offer). In case you’re wondering, it was Colorado Technical University.

My folks paid for my entire education, which means I had no debt as I joined the working world. I fixed that little “problem” soon after, however.

I enjoyed financial stupidity early in life

Right out of college, I blew a half year’s salary to buy a Corvette convertible. Naturally, I took out a loan to buy the car, which effectively introduced a debt that replaced what would have been my student loans. I proceeded to plunk another $25,000 into the car in upgrades. I also bought almost any piece of camera equipment that I wanted (to include several thousand dollar camera bodies).

I dined out a TON. When I moved in with a roommate a year after graduating from college, we went out to eat for lunch and dinner every day. Yes, every day.

As a recent college grad living on his own, I dropped thousands of dollars on stupid stuff. Luckily, that phase in my life is over, and I got it out of my system early. Early retirees don’t make these kinds of stupid financial mistakes any longer. Leave your childhood behind. Learn from your mistakes.

Don’t make the same mistakes over and over and blame society. We aren’t listening.

I quit buying stupid stuff

The wife and I at a family wedding

Eventually, I realized that every thing I bought added weeks and months onto my working life. Cars and motorcycles. Expensive food. Homes in the suburbs. You know, those things that I deserved because I was a relatively high-paid cog in the information technology wheel. Cogs deserve the best.

Landfill-bound stuff provides no value in our lives. We buy them to feel temporary happiness, then we move on to the next thing. In the good ol’ US of A, nothing is ever “enough”. We always want more. Magazines control fashion trends. Commercials influence our buying practices more than we care to admit. We believe stuff makes us look more successful.

The longer we believe the hype, the longer we’re stuck in an office.

I stopped caring what other people think

In 2010 I bought a Cadillac CTS because I liked the idea of driving around in a Cadillac. Clearly, at one point in the not-so-distant past, I cared a great deal about what other people thought of me. As a result, I spent whatever money I thought was necessary to build (concoct?) the perfect image of myself…an image that I wanted other people to see and draw instant ill-informed conclusions from. “Wow, that guy must be rich”.

Don’t let other people control your buying choices.

One day, I stopped giving a shit. I stopped caring what other people – people I’ve never met and will probably never see again – thought of me or my possessions. I realized that by focusing on what other people thought of me, I put myself at a disadvantage. I began to make better financial choices because I put myself first, not others. That sounds selfish to write (and probably to read as well), but it’s the truth. I spent far too little time reflecting and too much time giving a shit about how I look.

Words to live by: Nobody cares more about you than…you.

I ditched ESPN…and lived!

Once upon a time, I believed that I couldn’t live without ESPN. It provided an outlet to sports. I HAD to have it. I couldn’t possibly live or be nearly as happy without it.

Then one day we ditched cable – miraculously, I didn’t keel over. I lived through it all. In fact, I’m still alive today. Amazing what breathing can do.

For me, it was ESPN. For you, it might be something else. Or a collection of things. Things that you can’t possibly give up because you think they provide life-giving sustenance. The truth is unless that thing is a pace-maker, it probably isn’t keeping you alive. But, it may very well drain your pocket book.

How important are your “things”? Are they worth another month, year or decade working in corporate America? I loved watching ESPN, but sorry man, you’re out. I prefer freedom.

I wanted to retire more

  • I wanted to retire more than I wanted that BMW 750
  • I wanted to retire more than I wanted yearly cell phone upgrades
  • I wanted to retire more than I wanted cable or satellite television
  • I wanted to retire more than I wanted a new computer
  • I wanted to retire more than I wanted a huge house

I wanted to retire more than I wanted stuff.


We track our net worth using Personal Capital


111 responses to “Want to retire in your 30s? Cool! Here’s how I did it”

  1. Martin says:

    ‘Best’ ‘Decision’ ‘Ever’ Steve – Well said
    Long time reader – first time commenter

  2. Wonderful, i sold my TV one year ago and i do not miss it. Best decision ever!

  3. I’m currently in the “I want to retire more” phase of my life. It took me a little longer to figure it out than you, but I finally got on the right track. Unfortunately, I spent a few more years making stupid mistakes. Now, my ideal life (as I’m sure I mentioned before) isn’t far from an Airstream. I’d love to sell everything and live in a trailer with the family. The family is definitely on-board with early retirement. They just draw the line at the trailer. *sigh*

    I love that you talk about pursuing a degree that guaranteed a better income over your photography passion. I wrote about this very thing earlier this week. I, again, didn’t have that foresight until after I graduated. Fortunately, I had an area of concentration in a scientific field (basically a minor) that was I able to leverage into an entire career. At times I struggle with imposter syndrome, but hopefully I’ll only need to deal with that for a few more years. …until I hand in my own resignation!

    Congrats again on your early retirement! It is quite an accomplishment.

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment, Mrs MMM – and hey, much better to be late than to be never. Good on you for prioritizing your future self over your present. That’s one of the keys that you’ve already mastered!

  4. I’m with you, Steve!

    I want to retire more than I want fancy new work clothes and shoes.

    I want to retire more than I want a nice house near downtown.

    I want to retire more than I want a Tesla.

    • Steve says:

      Amen to that, Green Swan. Want it more than you want something else, and you’ll find a way to make it happen. Just…want it. It seems so simple, but in reality, it isn’t.

  5. I just wrote about the impact of ditching cable on my life. I loved watching ESPN, HGTV, MLB Network, and many others. But it got to the point where TV was controlling too much of our lives, so we cut the cord a few years ago.

    I love the end of your post. It sums up why I choose to forego the modern luxuries that so many of my friends spend money on. Because, simply, I want financial independence more than any of those things.

    Thanks for sharing, Steve!

    • Steve says:

      I hear ya, Go F Yourself. It’s amazing how well we humans adapt to things that we may not initially think are ideal. Ditching these costly entertainment venues has been a huge key in lowering our expenses enough to make this happen for us.

  6. Apathy Ends says:

    You aren’t missing to much on ESPN these days, 50% of the time it’s who tweeted what dumbass thing from the locker room or got arrested this week. I haven’t watched it in months (outside of Monday night football).

    Learning that the image of wealth is not actual wealth is one of the most critical lessons for people pursuing FI. If you can’t separate the two it will be a long – difficult road.

    • Steve says:

      Ha! Yeah, I catch some of that on the televisions at the gym. And I agree, if you can’t separate the “image” of wealth from true wealth, nobody’s retiring early. I certainly had no chance of retiring early after college when I started living like a typical consumer.

  7. Truer words have never been spoken : “no one cares more about you then… you”. I still have my early life corvette, but unlike when I was younger it’s about me now. I don’t take it to car shows or race it on the track like I did in the past. I also don’t modify it. These things looking back were the aspects of owning the car I did for perception and I realized with the exception of great driving skills hey weren’t bringing value to my life. I own it to drive on my own down a back road with the top off the car where no one else is around…. I like to sing in the car after all.

    • Steve says:

      Appreciate your comment, FTF. Good on you for not dropping more money into the car in mods. Stock Vettes are still plenty fun to drive and, for a sports car, get fairly good mileage depending on how you drive. The way I drove the Vette, though…yeah, it wasn’t getting 25MPG! 🙂

  8. ESI Money says:

    I hear you on the ESPN!

    We’ve been looking to cut cable for a few years now and I think this is finally the year. How can I make it without football? I guess I’ll survive somehow.

    Then again, I’m already retired and don’t have to give it up financially.

    Decisions, decisions…

    • Steve says:

      Hehe, yup – decisions, decisions. But since you’re already retired, you’ve made enough GOOD decisions that you probably already know the right answer to many of these questions. 🙂

  9. I love this! I think one of the most important things is to make mistakes, make them early, and learn from them early. That puts people pretty far ahead of the curve!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Penny! Yup, have your fun early in life, then learn from your mistakes and move on. It’s a beautiful thing when it happens that way. 😉

  10. Mrs. Groovy says:

    House payments and car payments are the enemy of early retirement. The sooner you ditch or avoid those, the more money you have to save and invest. It shouldn’t be a difficult choice – freedom or things? We’re with you. And happy to see you’re having a blast.

    • Steve says:

      That’s another great point, Mrs. Groovy – I also ditched the mortgage and property taxes by selling both homes and living in an Airstream. We definitely chose freedom over things, and we haven’t looked back!

  11. Early retirement is a GREAT thing. Far too many people *assume* they’ll have to work until their 60s before they retire. They need to change their mindset though. It’s a matter of priorities and a top priority for my wife and I was to enjoy “retirement” while we’re young – so we retired at 43 & 44. Everyone should at least consider this as a major goal for themselves. It’s awesome. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Brad – yeah, at the very least, financial independence should *always* be a goal. Even if you have no desire to retire early, financial independence gives us so many more options and allows us to withstand hardships and unfortunate circumstances much, much easier.

  12. Ahhh, you’re living the dream. 🙂 If all goes according to plan, I’m also set to retire from full-time work at 35. That’s another ten years down the road, but I’m pretty pumped about it!

    It’s always a prudent idea to choose a high-paying career. I would also say debt avoidance (*cough* student loans) is key.

    Our plan is to pay off debt (including car loan, student loans, and mortgage), and then pump our pretty healthy earnings into investments. We’ll continue living small and enjoy the simple life. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Yup, the student loan avoidance thing was nice in my case, but I also willingly went into debt with the Vette I bought. So in the end, I might not have been THAT much further ahead. But in any event, you guys have figured this out LONG before I ever did. I wouldn’t be surprised if you called it quits before turning 35 at this rate. 🙂

  13. Mrs. BITA says:

    The funny thing is that while you certainly feel the pinch when you make some sacrifices, it is fascinating to see the long list of things you can do without and not miss at all, and you will never know this to be true until you give yourself a chance and let some stuff go.

    You paid your dues and earned the life you are now living. Nicely done.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your comment, Mrs. BITA. It’s true that you feel the pinch initially, but that pinch slowly slips away. It doesn’t take long before it just becomes normal. I might have missed ESPN for a couple weeks (and only on Monday nights), but I stopped thinking about it too. It no longer felt like some hardship. First world problems and all that! 🙂

  14. Tawcan says:

    Love it! There are more reasons to retire than having all these materialistic things. We focus too much on things nowadays. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      We certainly do, Tawcan. We live in an incredibly consumerist society, unfortunately. The “American Dream” and all that nonsense. If the American Dream involves working until you’re 65, then I want none of it. 🙂

  15. Eric B says:

    I forget if you discussed it before, but did you ever consider downshifting in your high-powered career so that you could enjoy the “accumulation phase” of your journey more? Obviously, full-time travel and work (especially at corporations) don’t usually mix well, but I’m wondering if you could have pseudo-retired even earlier with that route.

    If nothing else, I think people with a longer “early retirement time horizon” should consider downshifting as a good middle ground of gaining some freedom NOW instead of in the distant future.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Eric – I had thought about it, yeah. And honestly, that could have worked. Working part-time instead of full-time would have been a reasonable solution, but like you said, full-time travel threw a wrench into that possibility. While it’s certainly possible to work while on the road, I also don’t want to be beholden to an Internet connection. In the end, this was just the better solution for us at the moment.

  16. Amen Steve! All about figuring out the things you care about and work towards that. I want to be able to do whatever I want, any day of the week. I can’t do that yet, but I do know that hustling now means I can enjoy it later down the line. It’s funny, growing up, I thought stuff was what made you rich. Now, whenever I see someone with a ton of nice stuff, I assume they’re probably broke. It’s an interesting mindset shift.

    • Steve says:

      It is an interesting mindset shift! And I think the same thing when I see someone, especially someone young, struttin’ around in an expensive luxury car or SUV. But, I also see myself in that picture as well, because I was just as guilty. It’s natural for people to want to LOOK successful, I suppose. Once we get more comfortable in our own skin, that worry slowly subsides.

      At least it did in my case!

  17. Still envious, but very excited for you!

    Looks like you’re loving it so far. Hope to join you in a few years and then maybe we can have a beer during the middle of everyone else’s workday together! 🙂

    — Jim

  18. My ex-husband and I definitely had our share of expensive toys in our 20’s…. his and hers sports bikes, new sports cars, every couple of years, and airplanes (yes, real ones, and yes, multiple).

    While I had a blast and don’t regret the experiences, I just don’t want the stuff anymore. For me, it is not even so much of a financial freedom, but an emotional freedom.

    Einstein was very much a minimalist because he felt that it interfered with his pondering, theorizing and creating. While I can’t compare my intelligence level to him, I do crave intellectual freedom.

    You might resonate with this post: https://primal-prosperity.com/2016/12/26/you-can-fear-the-fire-or-become-the-fire/

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Primal – definitely sounds like you guys had some baller days in your past! And like you, I don’t regret those days in my past, either. My 20s got that phase out of my system. I no longer want those things because I’ve already experienced it. Now, all I gotta do is focus on what truly makes me happy. 🙂

  19. Mr. SSC says:

    I’ve finally come around to Mrs. SSC’s side of thinking which is like yours, “Yes, we can afford it, but I don’t want to afford it.” Big difference in perception. Also not caring what others think about car, house, etc… Like I said when I got the Jetta, “Well, it won’t get me laid, but it works great for what I need it to do” lol. When i see really nice SUV’s or sports cars now I think, “Eeesshh….”.

    I also decided I wouldn’t pursue a Music degree because I wanted to NOT work in a restaurant once I graduated. I even got accepted into a bluegrass music school, and I’m confident I could have been successful at it (in some fashion or another), but it would be an extremely different lifestyle than I have now, on SO many levels.

    • Steve says:

      Ha! Love your comment about your Jetta. And yup, I think that a LOT of us have natural abilities in more of the artsy stuff, but a lot of the time, that simply doesn’t pay the bills. I’m working on another article about that very topic right now, in fact!

  20. TJ says:

    I was the same way with ESPN, Fox Sports ,etc. When I cut the cord, i told myself that I can watch them when I’m old, but I might not even do that.

    • Steve says:

      I bet you won’t. Once you get used to not having all that content at your finger tips, you tend to no longer miss it. And heck, that’s what YouTube is for anything. Most of what you’d want to see has been uploaded and is streamable. 🙂

  21. Kate says:

    The “I Want to Retire More” section says it all. Until it becomes the priority, people will give everything else more importance in their lives. It was the same way when I was aggressively paying off my debt — that was far more important than anything else my money could’ve been used for.

    A lot of my friends are jealous of my plans to retire early, but when I tell them they can do it too with a few lifestyle modifications, they decide it isn’t so important after all. That’s fine but they’re no longer allowed to complain about working!

    • Steve says:

      It’s easy to want it, but it’s not so easy to actually put in the work to achieve it. Early retirement is grand up until the point where most people cancel their cable TV service, or downgrade their phone, or move out of their 4,000 square foot house…early retirement isn’t just handed to us!

  22. All about choices and you’ve made some great ones. 🙂

    I recently introduced a group of people during a speaking event to the “FIRE” concept. Guess who I used as a great example, a 35 year old who now workouts, naps, and works on passion projects for a living. There were certainly some stunned looks in the room.

    I’m hoping they kick their ESPN habits too.

    • Steve says:

      Ha! Thanks Brian, glad that I could be used as a positive example! Once young people realize that it’s possible, options suddenly expand. “You mean I CAN do it?”

      Yup. 🙂

  23. I LOVE THIS! We got rid of cable and even Netflix over one year ago. Many people think we’re crazy. But, it’s just a waste of time and money. I know people who spend hundreds of dollars a month on TV even though they can’t afford it, and it just kills me!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Michelle! Yup, I do as well…movie channels, additional sports channels…the works. Ain’t worth it to us – we’d rather be retired. 🙂

  24. Great job, Steve!

    Being able to enjoy life without having to work and worry about money is the best!

    With that said, I wanted to retire more than I wanted to enjoy the materialistic possessions in life.

    • Steve says:

      “I wanted to retire more than I wanted to enjoy the materialistic possessions in life.” – Amen to that, Smart Provisions. With that kind of attitude, early retirement is a foregone conclusion! 🙂

  25. Good post Steve.

    Everybody’s story is a little different, but I think you hit on one of the key’s the tie those of us who’ve reached FIRE together — Saving is more important than income (or spending).

    Do this for long enough and it can solve the problems of student debt, or car debt, lack of income, or even just a low income.

    It certainly did for me.

  26. Dina Miller says:

    Wow, Steve! This post got me thinking about my retirement! I’m 32 and still in the workforce. I wanted to leave the employment status and retire early just like you. Now upon reading your post, I’m thinking of cutting some of my expenses that I don’t really need, such as cable. Luckily I don’t have debts to worry about. I might need to take a look into some insurance too, to secure my future healthcare needs. I’m sure you already considered that factor too. All in all, this post was very helpful! Thanks! Good luck!

    • Steve says:

      Hi Dina! Appreciate the comment – having no debt is an amazing feeling, and definitely not something that many of us can truly claim. Good on you for making smart financial decisions!

  27. This is inspiring Steve! I think a lot of people wants to retire early, but the problem is they don’t know how. Some of them feel they don’t have the capacity to do so; some don’t see the urgency of the need to plan for retirement. Hope this post will inspire them so much they try to redirect their lives towards better future! As for me, though I don’t see myself retiring that early as you, I can see myself on that status soon. I just have to secure some stuff for my future, because I might need to face various health care needs. Now I’m on the part of considering Medigap plans and checking out some long term care options.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Leandro! I agree that a lot of people want to retire, but I believe they *generally* know how – save a lot more than they spend. That takes discipline and a little direction sometimes, no doubt. Some, like you said, just don’t feel the urgency. You can always start saving money tomorrow, or next month, or next year…better late than never, but the sooner we start, the sooner we get to retire. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Leandro! I agree that a lot of people want to retire, but I believe they *generally* know how – save a lot more than they spend. That takes discipline and a little direction sometimes, no doubt. Some, like you said, just don’t feel the urgency. You can always start saving money tomorrow, or next month, or next year…better late than never, but the sooner we start, the sooner we get to retire. 🙂

  28. I have only just found your blog, which is weird as I am pretty sure I read an article about you ages ago. Maybe in Forbes? Why that didn’t prompt me to find your blog, I have no idea. I think I even follow you on Instagram. Anyhow, please forgive my tardiness in coming along to read!

    I love this post. So simple yet so brilliant. And that second last line, “I wanted to retire more than I wanted stuff.”

    Words to live by!

    • Steve says:

      Hehe, no worries, AwP! Glad you found the blog, and thanks for taking the time to comment. I was featured in Forbes in the past, so it’s possible that’s where you originally read my story.

      Appreciate your kind words, my friend!

  29. Miss Mazuma says:

    First off, congrats, again! Now that it is all sinking in the feeling has to be amazing!!

    The fact that you had a great upbringing is awesome – it set you up on a good path from the beginning (minus a corvette or caddy!). I love that your parents made you track your expenses! SO smart of them. I wish I could get my BF’s kids to wisen up but they are in a greedy stage of life and unfortunately neither parent wants to be the mean one. I have no problem saying no to them…but I am only a fraction of their disciplinary adult figures. I hope to lead by example and pray that one day they look up from their phones to notice! 😉

    What you said about work is key – “I didn’t love it but I could stand it.” Many people think if they don’t love their job they should move on to another. Bouncing around from job to job trying to get paid for your passions is a quick way to get no where. I actually DO love my job, but I worked many before it that left me les than fulfilled. From that I learned that I really can do anything if I had to. I kept with those jobs until something better came along but I never quit to go in search – having an income (any income) was more important than having my dream job.

    Lastly, realizing everything you buy adds days, weeks, and months to your working life is the easiest way to sum up the cost of consumption. I have cut waaaaayyy back on my spending (and I was always pretty frugal) of stupid shit just because I wanted it at that moment…um, I’m not talking cars – more like ice cream and other crappy foods. My reasons are two fold – the cost of impulse spending (I know prefer that delayed gratification) and the cost of eating shitty foods with no intention of working out. We are in full hibernation here in Chicago. A gallon of ice cream isn’t going to help anyone!! 😉 But, seriously, knowing every dollar you spend today adds more hours to your work life – no thank you. I don’t mind tightening down the hatches to be FI asap. I’ll have plenty of time to eat ice cream later…in warm weather with no work to return to!

    • Steve says:

      Epic comment, thanks Miss Mazuma! It definitely sounds like you and I have had our fair share of eating shitty food. I LOVE ice cream, but I also had a pretty serious restaurant addiction. I still do, actually, but I’ve done my best to keep it under control.

      “I’ll have plenty of time to eat ice cream later…in warm weather with no work to return to!” – Yes! Amen to that. 🙂

  30. 35 Still Blows Me Away, well done. Love the “I wanted to retire more….” list. Life’s about choices, whether folks realize it or not. Want to keep up with the Jones? Fine, but realize you’re making a choice.

    My choice? To pull into a campsite next to you in another 17 months and wake up to that dangerously blinding reflection from your awesome Airstream! We’ll see you “out there”, Steve, while all of The Jones’ keep piling up their debt!!

  31. LUCY says:

    Nice read, Do you have kids or are you planning on any?

    2, where does your money to pay monthly bills come from?

    • Steve says:

      Hi Lucy – nope, no kids and we definitely aren’t planning on having any. The money we’ll use to pay the bills will come from a combination of an Ally savings account, along with a taxable brokerage account and other retirement investments. Any side income we make will be icing on the cake. 🙂

  32. […] The full post is here: http://www.thinksaveretire.com/2017/01/18/how-to-retire-30s/ […]

  33. I miss my Cadillac 🙁 But not that much where I’d buy one again! Thanks for sharing Steve.

    • Steve says:

      You’re welcome, Fervent. We are selling the Caddy right before we set sail in a couple of months. It’s red. 2010. Super good deal if you’re interested! Kidding, of course. It’ll probably go to Carmax.

  34. Love this Steve, especially how you sum it all up with…”I wanted to retire more than I wanted stuff!” Regardless of where we start from, because everyone has a different story, that’s what it comes down to, wanting it more.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks MMM! It does all come down to what we want more. If we want early retirement MORE than the stuff we have, then we generally do the things necessary to make it happen. If we don’t, then…well, we won’t. Most people don’t, but more and more people are falling into the “do” category. Good to see!

  35. AMEN!!!! All of the things you mention DO make a difference – and although we can’t control every aspect of our lives we DO have control over how we make many of our choices. I think upbringing certainly makes a difference. I grew up dirt poor, but like you was raised in a loving family and taught respect, hard work and self responsibility. Although my and my husband’s money mistakes lasted a lot longer and were likely much bigger than yours compared to our income, how we were raised made the difference in that we felt responsible for the mess and have continue to work our way out of it – and toward wealth – even though many said it was “impossible” and that we should have just filed bankruptcy. Ditto for caring what others think and choosing financial freedom over “stuff”. We now make our money decisions after careful thought about what is best for our family given our goals and couldn’t care one bit less about having “stuff” or about popular opinion. When we do purchase “stuff” there is a valid and well-thought out reasoning behind the need or want, but the list of “stuff” purchases is pretty small. And better yet, we’re the first in our families to be so close to financial freedom and are inspiring others in our families to reach for the same. Thank you for sharing this wonderfully honest post, and congrats!

  36. You figured it out early, congratulations.
    Will you be posting more detail? What is your annual spending? How are you handling healthcare? Are you raising a family and planning college costs?
    Besides going to the gym, what are you doing to fill your day to add or create value?


    • Steve says:

      Hi Franklin – I do talk about those topics in other places on the blog, but quickly: Our annual spending is around $40,000 currently, but will be dropped to around $25,000 after retirement because we plan to boon dock a lot in our Airstream. Regarding healthcare, we will probably opt for a Health Share plan to keep costs down, and because we very rarely actually use our health benefits. We have two dogs but no kids (and no plans to have kids). No college costs. I do IT work on the side with interesting projects, and my photography/videography hobby, along with this blog, keeps me plenty busy. Other than that, we definitely plan to hike a lot, explore small towns and, yes, just sit and relax as we take in this beautiful country of ours. 🙂

  37. I’m 35 and think about retirement every day. Your hard work has really paid off and I salute you for such a monumental achievement! I too have overspent on fancy cars and tons of other stupid stuff, but seeing you reach your goal is inspiring. I will get there someday, but have only been working towards it for about two years now. I am not a high income earner, but I work my side hustles to make up for that. Good thing I am a military guy like your father, so at least I have those benefits to look forward to!

    • Steve says:

      Hey Justin – military benefits are definitely an awesome factor in early retirement. I appreciate your kind words on my journey, and congratulations for prioritizing your future self ahead of your present. While a high income is great if you have it, it’s SAVING that’s the most crucial.

      Thanks for your comment!

  38. Thanks for the inspiring post. I’ve been thinking a lot about FIRE and was curious if you and your wife have considered other types of flexible work at some point?

    I’ve set a target for financial independence by 45 (31 now) and originally I thought I would just completely stop working. Now, I think I really would love to teach at the high school or college level. Not full time but something to give me some focus. What do you think? Obviously running a blog is a lot of work.

  39. “I wanted to retire more than I wanted that BMW 750
    I wanted to retire more than I wanted yearly cell phone upgrades
    I wanted to retire more than I wanted cable or satellite television
    I wanted to retire more than I wanted a new computer
    I wanted to retire more than I wanted a huge house”

    This is great! and so true.

    To turn it around, I also believe that the MAJORITY of people would rather have all those things than retire, otherwise, they wouldn’t spend so much and work so little!

    It’ll be interesting to see how your views on retirement change over the years. They changed for me over a 5 year period where I COULDN’T stay away from getting involved in some interesting consulting opportunities.


    • Steve says:

      Yup, I totally expect to feel the same way about consulting projects. That is one of the reasons why I’m more than okay calling it quits now – while we won’t NEED additional income down the road, I know that opportunities will present themselves to earn additional cash. That’s the beauty of retirement – we have the TIME to explore some of these opportunities that we never would have considered before.

  40. I appreciate you being honest about the advantages you had that some other people might not have had, like parents paying for college and getting a high-paying job. I think that part is often not mentioned in early retirement blogs. I think it’s amazing what you have achieved. Right now one of my biggest challenges is learning how to live now and enjoy life, but also save a lot. The scales were almost tipping too far in the savings direction, and it was making me kind of miserable.

  41. Hunter says:


    I found your website via Rockstar Finance and very glad I did. You said 2 things that are brilliant yet simple.

    1. “Eventually, I realized that every thing I bought added weeks and months onto my working life.”
    2. “Words to live by: Nobody cares more about you than…you.”

    You and I think about these things very similarly, but I take a more morbid approach. I often picture myself at my funeral and think “what do I wish I did more of?” I probably won’t wish I drove nicer cars, or ate our more, or spent more time in the office.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Hunter! Yup, I think you hit the nail on the head. I don’t think *anyone* has ever wished that they spent more time at the office, or spent more money on shoes or cars. Usually, people wish that they DID more.

      We don’t want to have that wish when we’re…shall we say, above our prime. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!

  42. Mr. RIP says:

    Huge congrats Steve!
    “Retired at 35” sounds ridiculous to many, including myself. I was far from my first 100K at age 35… I wish I had a fraction of your consistency!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks, Mr. RIP! You’re dead on accurate that consistency is a big part of this. You gotta want it first. Then, you gotta be consistent with making choices in your life that support your future self and financial goals. That’s the tough one!

  43. Awesome post! So motivational! We are doing ok, but we still have quite a bit that ties us to one job still… We are working to prune things as we go along as well! We were able to move down to one income last year when my wife got a huge raise and I get to stay home with my 2 girls. I’m looking to pursue work from home opportunities, but posts like these make me want to get in and get back to work to make things move faster… At least I have the option!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment, Steven. Having options is wonderful, isn’t it? You can get involved in whatever you feel is right. Try new things. Volunteer. Whatever your heart desires. It’s nice having that freedom.

  44. Retiring from corporate America and not having to work for someone else is amazing. Being your own boss etc. I currently own my own companies, so I don’t really ever imagine “retiring” – I love the projects I work on, the people I employ, and most (but not all!) of my clients. I love getting paid to interact with people and being in control of building my own projects. It took me some time to realize personally that I simply enjoy building things and money has just been a nice by-product of pursuing projects I am passionate about. I can’t imagine giving that up, so effectively I guess my definition of retirement is very different than yours.

    I’m excited to continue to follow your journey to see what type of travels and projects you get into! It’s a beautiful thing to do whatever you want. You might just be surprised and miss IT, and find yourself getting back into it in someway….on your own terms.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Millennial Money! Working for yourself is definitely hard work – much harder than working for someone else, but also a lot more rewarding. And yup, I have no problem getting back into the business, so long as I’m working – as you said – under my terms. 🙂

  45. Ning says:

    Love this post! Yes, I want retirement more than any “Thing”. I also had that phase in life where I thought the status symbols were everything, but no more. Right now I much value my future freedom and my time. I also choose a relatively high-paying career, (higher than average but not in IT or anything). Hopefully it pays off1

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your comment, Ning! Your career will definitely pay off if you’re saving the majority of what you earn. Smart decisions almost always pay off. 🙂

  46. Lake Girl says:

    I have a good paying job and a few years ago switched from full time to per-diem. I have never been happier. As I keep my expenses under $18,000 I still earn enough to pay all my bills and take care of my IRA, HSA. Then I do side work that I actually do enjoy to make some extra money. Like you and your readers, I don’t miss the things I do without because I LOVE my freedom.

    • Steve says:

      Nice, Lake Girl! Good on you for prioritizing what truly makes you happy. And you’re *still* saving, which is awesome. You are definitely doing it right. 🙂

  47. Em says:

    Very inspiring! I wish I had been financially literate when I was younger and now I’m just starting to improve my finances and control my spending. I may not retire as early but I’m seriously planning to at least have a nice retirement in the future. 🙂
    Em recently posted…5 Things I’m Giving Up to Become Debt Free

  48. TPOHAPPINESS says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. Very cool to see that you are able to retire at the age of 35. That is 5 1/2 years away for me but I hope to be able to do something similar and have the privilege of choosing to work on the things I love.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Steve says:

      You’re welcome, and thanks much for the comment! And yeah, the ability to pick and choose what you do on a daily basis is just huge. The feeling is very, very satisfying.

  49. Huge congrats on your early retirement, Steve! I appreciate that you acknowledge the advantages you received, as well as the wise choices you made, like choosing a high-paying career field and spending less on stuff. And that you got your “stupidity” out of your system and recovered. No one does money perfectly but that doesn’t mean you have to keep make bad choices.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Kalie! True, we aren’t all perfect…mistakes will happen, that’s a part of life. But, the quicker that we learn from our mistakes, the quicker we can set and accomplish new and improved goals for our lives. Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with that, eh? 🙂

  50. Great post, Steve! I can relate to every single one of your points.

    I really like what you said about having a good upbringing and avoiding mistakes that impact other peoples lives. I was brought up to be well mannered too.

    And I definitely agree that saving is more important than income as well as paying off debt. I think saving is a habit.

    Also, I made a lot of stupid financial decisions when I was young. But I’m happy to say I’ve never made a major purchase like a new car or something extremely expensive. My major expense was put towards a mini-retirement instead.

    Life can be so much better when you stop caring about others opinions and just be yourself. I mean, we all care to an extent, but it’s so enlightening to be able to be your unapologetic self.

    Congrats again on your early retirement! Thanks for sharing the post 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Graham for your comment. I definitely agree with you that saving is a habit, and it gets easier and easier the more that we do it. The more we save, the more we HAVE, and the more we have, the more confident we become. It’s a snowball…but a good one! 😉

  51. weenie says:

    I bet you stayed in that brewery all day, not having to worry about going into work the next day! 🙂

  52. “Eventually, I realized that every thing I bought added weeks and months onto my working life.” That is so powerful! Passing this on to my 17 yo son. I’ve been having a lot of these conversations with him. It’s a wonderful feeling when he comes up to me and asks, “Mom is it really possible to retire when I’m thirty?” Great post..thanks!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your comment, Margaret! And that’s a GREAT question for a 17 year old to be asking. I wish I had an interest in early retirement back then…but I wasn’t working full-time then, so I guess I didn’t have quite the disgust for work that I do now! 😉

  53. David says:

    Hi! Just stumbled across your blog, but funny enough I have been subscribed to your youtube channel for a while now. Great job on both and congrats! Love the airstream.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for checking out the blog, David! And thanks for your comment about the Airstream. It’s working out great for us. So much fun, and it’s all we really need.

  54. This is such an inspiring read! I think everyone needs to go through that ‘stupid spending’ stage to really grasp the value of money and learn from their mistakes, until you realize there are way more important things in life like actual experiences.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks AJ! I think you are right about the stupid spending phase. It totally gets it out of your system, where you can now refocus on actually bettering your life without fighting those cravings to spend…because you’ve been there and done that. 🙂

  55. Angelica says:

    I hear you, and I don’t think you sound selfish at all! It’s good advice.

    I’m currently working on retooling my career towards STEM because I saw the writing on the wall. Sometimes I lament the fact that I waited so long to reevaluate, but struggling to find work in my 20s made me really appreciate the value of a dollar. Now that I stand to make a lot more money, I’ll be wiser about spending it than I would have been if I’d been raking in the cash right out of undergrad.

    I think a lot of the “things” people buy are just band-aids to deal with the unhappiness that comes with being trapped financially. If you can save enough to be SFL, however, you can focus on that which actually make you happy–no temporary fixes required.

    • Steve says:

      I think you’re right, Angelica – the things that many of us buy are band-aids. They cover up the areas of our lives that we’d rather not admit are there. But unfortunately, when we do that, we never really fix those things. They just sit there and…exist.

      Congrats on making positive changes in your life. And hey, better late than never!

  56. Team CF says:

    Nicely written Steve, life is not that hard. You just need to realize it first 🙂

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