Financial Gladiator is a semi-retiree who achieved his financial independence at the age of 34. After 13 years of working in a leading software corporation, working long hours and living out of a suitcase, he started questioning where his life was heading. He decided to take a break from the rat race and work towards his financial independence.
He retired from his prospering IT career and focused on growing his real estate portfolio by investing in properties in Poland. Safe to say, it paid off. His net worth hovers around 1.2million dollars, 85% of which is held in real estate. Thanks to that, he can now focus on what he loves the most – travelling and teaching scuba diving. Here’s how this journey looked for him:
1: Were you always good with money? If not, how did you manage to change your ways?
To be honest I only learnt about the financial independence movement after I pulled the trigger and left my corporate gig. I was browsing for ideas on what projects I could get involved in when I came across Mr. Money Moustache and the Mad Fientist and that’s how I learnt about what it was. I was never much of a conscious saver, quite the opposite in fact. During my early twenties and thirties, before semi-retiring on a passive income stream, I spend a ton of cash on living it up. I saved up a great amount simply because a few weeks’ worth of vacations a year didn’t provide enough time to spend all that I earned, and I mostly travelled for business throughout the year, so daily expenses were covered. In addition, I always possessed a strong sense for spending on what I valued most. Whilst I enjoy luxurious dinners, hotels, flights, and activities, they are by far not required for me to have an amazing time.
A few years earlier a very good friend of mine died at age 53 due to cancer. He was given six months by his doctors and passed in less than four. He had been financially independent (about $20m net worth) for a long time but kept working and saving, until for what now seems the very end. He mentioned his regrets with this choice to me before he passed and that he would have lived differently it if he had another life. This was so impactful, I had to take a few pages out of his book. I took a break from my career gracefully, with a decent severance package following a reorganisation. Overall it was still a bittersweet experience for me, but I had to go after my dreams or accept to might never fulfil them.
2: What motivated you to pursue financial freedom? Was it dissatisfaction with your job?
No, it was definitely not job dissatisfaction. I had truly enjoyed my corporate career, I got to experience many interesting roles and I’m the first to admit that I do miss it from time to time! Sure, there were moments where I would think to myself “what the hell am I doing here, spending my short and young life grinding away 9am - 5pm” (or 7am-10pm more accurately), but overall, I had quite a challenging, yet fulfilling career, with several impactful roles, and no regrets. I always learnt from my colleagues and customers and I had a good time because I prioritised being happy with my life and constantly worked towards higher security by growing my career and income. Having said that, in my opinion, learning, advancing your career and getting experience always outweigh the importance of the pay. Money does follow eventually.
What motivated me to pursue personal freedom was witnessing other people spending their life at peace and not being stressed about paying off debts and holding a single source of income (typically a job). My other reason for working towards financial freedom was to pursue my many and time-consuming passions and interests. I also wanted to spend more quality time with my loved ones.
3: Does retirement look just like you imagined it to be?
Actually, it looks better than I could have imagined. Overall semi-retirement has been amazing across all aspects: family, traveling, health, finance, and education. When it comes to setting expectations, I tend to plan conservatively and then try to outperform my set goals. But when I left my job and moved continents, I didn’t know if things would work out. From childhood through to adulthood, you are used to following other people and suddenly you plunge into the deep unknown with nobody guiding you anymore. I had to overcome resistance from friends and family who urged me not to take such drastic steps as quitting my job. I’m glad I listened to my heart as it all turned out just fine.
I learnt so much about real estate, travelling on a budget, the financial independence movement, minimalistic living and most importantly, I learnt what truly makes me happy. I achieved some of my dreams, I lost a lot of weight (about 20% of my “office body weight”), and I did well with my investments. Not only did these investments yield 30% more than I expected in the best-case scenario (from an income stream perspective), but they also continued to grow very well in value. The Property investments took off half a year after I bought my first three apartments back in 2016 and went nuts in 2018, especially in the city I invested in - Katowice. I would “work” on having my apartments fitted out, and rent them out step by step, and go away 2-4 weeks a month to travel Europe. Once I rented out my places and established an income stream I moved back to Asia, this time Indonesia. I trained for three months to become a Dive Instructor and then went to work in Spain gaining experience in the job.
Right now, it’s my third month of travelling through South America. My girlfriend and I spent a couple of weeks road tripping in Florida and Peru. We spent a month dining in numerous amazing restaurants in Lima and exploring such sights as the magnificent Colca Canyon, and Machu Picchu. We also spent a month in Bolivia, where we attended a Spanish language school for a few weeks to improve our Spanish. Currently, we are halfway through Chile. Our plan is to visit Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and move towards Central and North America next. We don’t have an end date determined yet. Last year I travelled 550,000km on the road visiting most of Europe, Asia and the Americas while working on two more rental apartments.
All in all, I truly love this options and opportunities that financial independence offers you. One of my favorite unexpected surprises from semi-retiring is mentoring young and eager people and engaging with the financial independence blogger community and their readers.
4. If you could do it again, would you give yourself a bit more time to prepare or would you leave your job at the same time?
It was perfect timing to try out early retirement. I can definitely survive very well by myself. On the other hand, I might go back for a few more years as I wouldn’t mind building a second leg or base in a country like Singapore or Australia. For that, I require more equity and I’m willing to go back to work for a few more years, especially if it significantly increases the security for my future family planning.
5. Early retirement can have its downsides. Many people who retire early can suffer from depression or fell alone and purposeless. Did you find yourself feeling down when you quit your job or did your transition from working to retirement go smoothly?
My adjustment from corporate to being my own boss came very easy to me. I made sure I had something to keep me busy once I pulled the plug on my employment. I have been hanging out with my granny and family, purchasing and fitting out 8 rental apartments (friends and family asked me for help) and travelling Europe and Asia. I probably met over a thousand people in the last two years and had more purpose in my life than I wished for. So far, I have achieved everything I envisioned and more. Whilst I was busy “working”, I was formulating my plans for diving, travelling, and my South America Adventure. I did a few spontaneous trips like learning the basics of Kite Surfing in Thailand and road tripping with a buddy from Portugal back to Poland for close to a month.
Being financially independent gave me an abundance of time and choice. I honestly had more boring days in a year at work than hours over the two years since I semi-retired. Occasionally I write on my blog and develop my skills online. Currently, I’m in the process of building a mini start-up for providing property owners cost transparency with the use of technology. But mostly I’m just having fun exploring and fitting in a few hours of work a week in between. There are no more deadlines, there is no financial pressure to pay bills, there is much less pressure in my life other than the one I decide to create for myself to self-develop.
6. Do you think everyone can and should retire early?
Absolutely not. Some people lack the creativity and curiosity to constantly occupy and stimulate themselves. Coming back to your question earlier, I guess this inability to occupy oneself might lead to serious depression and feeling purposeless. Others are not good spending time by themselves and need social interaction constantly, which can also make things hard. One thing you learn about retiring early from a 9-5 job is that most of your friends and colleagues are still there. They are typically time-poor and when you are suddenly time-rich. One needs to adapt and learn how to productively fill their days to enjoy life. Lastly, there are people who just don’t have any hobbies. Being time-rich without hobbies is a catastrophe in the making. I think you need to figure out what you will retire ‘to’ and not just ‘from’; many people focus so hard on retiring/becoming financially independent, that they forget to set up their life for retirement. That is when they hit a void.
7. What does your day-to-day life look like?
Mostly I’m traveling. Over 25 countries and 1,000,000km in the last two years. It’s one of my greatest passions. In addition, I’m trying to build my blog to share my thoughts and stories. Like I mentioned above when I have time (I realise the irony here), I do work as a scuba diving teacher two to three months a year, but that is also more aimed for physical fitness and to satisfy my love for teaching and diving. Scuba divers work for the lifestyle, which I adore: Eat, Dive, Sleep. The side project on my tiny start-up is an experiment which I will test on the Polish Market. Its main goal is to provide a service to improve people’s lives and to get less cheated in the future, optimising costs and minimising corruption. It does have the potential to become a side hustle, but again, that is not its primary goal of me working on it.
8. What's the best thing about retiring early?
There are so many things I can think of the top of my head. Let me share my top three with you:
- Sleep - Not having to set an alarm clock and taking afternoon naps whenever I feel like it!
- Commander in Chief - Being my own boss and setting the course of my life, while not having to share any profits generated with countless layers of upper management and shareholders.
- Travel - Not doing the morning and evening commute and travelling midweek Wednesday when flights are the cheapest. Traveling became 70% cheaper since I don’t have to adhere to a work schedule anymore.
9. Do you have a plan for the future? It’s been two years since my departure from the corporate world. I am seeing opportunity in several markets but am living off my cash flow these days. Whilst I am still saving a fair bit, I am thinking about going back to the corporate World for a short second stint (definitely not 13 years again) to boost my war chest and get in on the opportunity at hand.
Diversification of my portfolio is also top of mind, but since the investments in Poland are going so well, I am unwilling to touch these assets at the moment. So, to reduce my exposure to the Polish market, I need to generate some more income and purchase assets in other parts of the World. In 3-4 years, I would also like to open a small high-end traveller’s hotel in Bali, next to which I plan to raise my future family while watching over my assets. Whatever happens, I hope I can continue to impact people’s lives positively through my writing, mentoring, teaching, and development of scalable tech tools.
To see this article in Polish, click here
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