Meet Gwen – the most put together millennial there is. She’s 28 and she has it all figured out – Gwen knows what she wants to accomplish, and she knows it’s nothing you can find in a 9-5 job. She realises she can’t really focus on what she loves the most while working full-time - there’s just not enough time for both. So, she had to decide – she either focuses on her job, or on her passions and interests. The choice wasn’t even that hard.
Gwen is now on her way to achieving her financial independence and, if everything goes to plan, she will be able to quit her job in 2025, at the age of 35. To make sure she gets there she saves, invests and follows a strict financial plan. On top of working hard on savings, she maintains a busy lifestyle – she runs her own business, blogs about her financial journey and co-hosts a FIRE podcast to guide those who are only just finding out about financial independence. This is her story:
1. What motivates you to retire early?
Some of my earliest memories of money were my mom telling me we couldn't afford things. I didn't like being poor, so having a huge stockpile of money is one way I make sure I'll be comfortable in life. I want to get to the point where I don't have to work if I don't want to, or I can do things that interest me even if they don't pay a lot of money. I would like the ability to walk away from toxic situations and not get trapped into something because I can't afford to get out. It's less about not working and more about having financial stability in my life.
2. What do you imagine your life to look like when you finally quit your job?
I imagine it will be a split between travelling, volunteering, relaxing, and working on exploring various art mediums like pottery and stained glass.
3. Some people say, that once you retire you can feel you lose your sense of purpose? What are your thoughts on that?
I definitely agree. It can feel very isolating to not contribute to society in what they deem a meaningful way. The best advice I got was to retire to something, not retire from something. You should have something in your life that gives you a sense of purpose and lets you use your time in a meaningful way.
4. What steps are you taking to reach financial independence?
I do a lot of things, but there a few main steps I take. The big one is to watch the three main areas of spending: food, transportation, and housing. If you can control those 3 items in your budget, you'll be far better off than the average person. I live with roommates, drive an old car or bike when I can, and meal prep so I'm not tempted to go out all the time.
The other thing you can do for yourself is to save first and spend what's left over afterwards. Your spending will naturally rise to meet your level of income, so I find it helpful to artificially limit what comes into my checking out by putting money into my investments before I even see it. I can't spend what I can't see.
5. Do you find it hard to follow a financial regime? Does it impact your day-to-day life and if so, how?
I don't find it difficult to follow my financial plan because it's all automated. The fewer decisions I make with regards to my money on a day to day basis, the better off I am. If you're finding it difficult to follow your financial plan, you're being too strict and need to ease up. You should be happy with your life at all stages. There's no point in getting to Financial Independence if you're miserable, stressed out or unhappy.
Following my financial plan isn't hard because I have a big picture in my mind. I know why I am setting these goals and what I want to achieve. That makes it easier for me to say no because it's not in line with my long-term financial goals.
6. What do your friends and family think about your plan to retire early?
In the beginning, they thought I was kind of crazy. Now that I'm about 7 years into this life, they've begun to understand as they see the results of my actions. I am 28 years old and have a net worth over $200,000. The decision to go after financial independence is a radical one in today's world, but it's not crazy. Now, my friends and family come to me for financial advice!
If you'd like to learn more about Gwen and her FIRE journey, check out her blog or listen to her podcast FIRE Drill. You can also find her on Twitter at @FieryMillennial and Facebook @fierymillennials
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