How I Retired at 34

Financial independence always seemed like a long journey to me, but when you continuously cut budget and stash away the rest, things will start to snowball. We had been big savers for years but in 2010, we set a firm goal: by 2020 we would become financially independent. In the beginning of our marriage, we each had engineering jobs paying decent salaries. But in 6 years of working, we had only saved $200k, so giving ourselves 10 years to save $1-2 million more was a pretty damn aggressive goal. However, we like a challenge and were counting on that compounding interest to kick in at some point and help speed us up.


Rincon, Puerto Rico

The game of financial independence is much like sailing. Trimming your sails for optimal speed does not take much effort, but it makes a big difference in the time it takes you to arrive at your destination. By having a goal, it was amazing how many more ways we started to see that our sails were not being put to their best use. We continue to be surprised by the number of ways we still optimize on things like being more tax efficient, reducing vehicle expenses, traveling for less money, reducing home renovation costs, using less utilities, and eating healthier for cheaper. The best part is, as we trimmed our sails, we did not feel deprived – we have been living richer and more carefree lives than ever while cruising faster through our journey to financial independence.

By continuously optimizing our expenses, we were helping ourselves further along in two ways. We had two good salaries but in the financial independence game, it’s not about what you make, it’s what you keep. We had been living on one of our salaries or less, but by optimizing our spending, we ended up putting away 70% of our income. Our yearly budget shrank from ~$80,000 to ~$40,000 a year, significantly reducing the financial baggage we need to be able to carry in our retirement. This also meant that assuming 4% as a estimate of our investment returns, we could become financially independent with $1 million rather than $2 million.


New Haven, CT

As we progressed through our journey, I started to feel the dependence on our jobs fading away. Then one day Mr. Crazy Kicks was born – I stopped stressing as much at work and changed positions so I could work only on projects that I found exciting and enjoyable. I no longer cared about trying to climb any ladders and decided I was only going to wear sneakers and jeans to work. Not just black sneakers you can find in geriatric magazines that look like crappy dress shoes, but whatever Crazy Kicks I wanted.  I was able to arrange to work from home one day a week and started to enjoy my job more because I was doing what I wanted and not stressing the bullshit. When your way of life is not dependent on a job, your entire outlook changes.

My wife, however, was working a job that was becoming invasive. It was a high visibility and high stress position, but it also paid very well. She loves school and it was always her dream retirement job to teach at a community college. Then one day, she found a position at a local community college. The salary was about 1/3 of what she was making at that time, but it would still be plenty to cover our yearly budget, and came with good benefits. It may seem crazy to take a six figure pay cut, but neither of us thought twice about it. The change in our lives was remarkable. All of the aggravations and blackberry interruptions to our dinners and vacations disappeared. Mrs. Crazy Kicks was a changed person. We both loved what we were doing and still were able to keep stashing away my whole salary.

While I didn’t despise my job necessarily, having to give it 40 hours of my time every week was still getting old. The future is pretty clear when you are doing the same thing over and over and I needed a change. So we decided that I would leave my job as soon as we saved enough to be financially independent. Meaning, we could live indefinitely even with both of us not having jobs at all. Well, after years of saving, we hit that mark. Time flies when you are having fun and it came much faster than we could have imagined. So in May 2016, 4 years ahead of schedule, I cut loose the golden anchor and quit my job. On our journey to financial independence, we have learned a lot and have emerged happier and healthier than we have ever been. I don’t know what my future holds or what I’ll be doing, but I plan to enjoy every minute of making my own path from here on out.

33 thoughts on “How I Retired at 34

  1. Awesome story! It is crazy that you got there so faster than your original goal. Saving 70% of your income helps a lot though! It seems that when kids enter the picture, a lot of he things you used to do, like work, just take on such a different role. I really didn’t think much about FI until my daughter was born but now it is my main goal.

    • The market definitely helped us out. Once you have a goal things will fall in place. Good luck on your journey!

  2. This is so wonderful to read! It is always great to see the changes in our partner when they are doing the work they were made for. How long do you think your wife will keep teaching?

    • Thanks, Mrs Crazy Kicks has been loving her new position. She gets plenty of time off so we can travel and has great students so the work has been fulfilling for her. She will keep teaching as long as it brings her joy – in the meantime we will keep an eye out for our next calling.

    • Thanks Kalie, there were some close calls where we almost bought new cars. But we stuck to our guns and having a budget that fit when the time came made it a no brainier. Good thing because the switch was a catalyst in both our lives.

  3. Great story. Unfortunately Mrs. RR and I don’t make anywhere near 6 figures in our career paths so between simplicity and investments, we’re looking at age 55 or possibly sooner if we move into different career paths. You sound a lot like Mr. MMM between the maximizing income and practicing frugality/simplicity.

  4. That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing your freedom story with us.
    I like reading about people who left a good job they didn’t hate.

    Too often, early retirees talk about escaping work they describe using words associated with slavery, which seems a bit much.

    Like you, I have early retirement dreams. Not because I despise by job, but because I crave the lower stress and level of freedom I’ll have without it.


    • Thanks, FI is great but the journey there doesn’t have to be miserable if we don’t let it. Best of luck!

  5. As I commented on another post, it is going to be fun for the rest of us to live vicariously through your posts. It’s always nice to have more inspiration for those of us chasing FIRE. Congratulations on a tremendous achievement!

  6. That was really motivational. It adds up to the fact that financial independence is certainly achievable. All one needs is a mindset change, change in habits and lifestyle. Thanks for sharing.

  7. FI at 34 that’s fantastic. My wife and I have had similar talks about her moving into a professor/teacher type role with less pressure and stress of the corporate world.

    Along the way I realized I need to dive into these “crazy kicks” of yours;)

  8. Congrats! Im attempting early retirement after starting out about a year ago. Just find something to keep you busy after six months in. That’s when the newness started wearing off for me and I got a little bored

  9. Congratulations. I hope you will enjoy.
    I like what I do, although it is an occasional stress, I will keep on working and spending money. We have 6 figure salary but the 6 figure budget as well.

    It will be interesting to follow you during your retirement.

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