Personal Development

Retired at 31, This Couple Will Show You How to ‘Quit Like a Millionaire’

Expertise: Personal Finance, Personal Development, Real Estate Investing Basics, Landlording & Rental Properties
46 Articles Written

In the past two years, I have read a lot of books—118 to be exact. Almost all of them have been on the subjects of personal finance, real estate, business, and self-help.

Needless to say, I feel like I have earned my MBA in many of these subjects (personal finance, in particular). Despite having read so much, I am always thirsty to learn more and gain more wisdom.

If a book has one nugget in it, I think it’s worth every penny. However, after reading so many books, I find that it is getting harder and harder to learn things that I did not already know.

The Best Book I’ve Read in a Long Time

Quit Like a Millionaire: No Gimmicks, Luck, or Trust Fund Required by Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung from Millennial Revolution is different. This book was a groundbreaking read for me.

Before I get too far though, I should clarify that the content is NOT about real estate. It is about attaining financial independence by getting down to the nitty gritty—increasing your income, reducing your spending, and investing the difference in index funds.

Once the balance of your index funds reaches a certain level (say… $1 million), you can retire and live off the capital gains and interest from your investments.

The problems and questions everyone has are, “How do I retire in seven years? How do I sustain my portfolio after retirement? What about health insurance? What about kids?”

This book answers all of these questions and more. Not only is it super insightful, but it is also a super easy read. Kristy and Bryce are very relatable. By the end of the book, you will feel like they are your best friends.

Who Is This Book For?

Again, if you are looking for a book on real estate investing, this is not for you. However, are you interested in achieving financial independence in the next seven to 10 years (or fewer) and perpetually sustaining it? Then this book is for you.

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All About Author Kristy Shen

Although the book is written by both Kristy and Bryce, you will quickly realize that Kristy is the main voice. Why is this? Well, no offense, Bryce, but her story is much better than yours.

Living in China

Kristy grew up in mainland China in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Her family was poor.

In China, there aren’t any homeless shelters, so they lived in a dilapidated home. The winters were cold, the summers were hot, and the clothes they wore were poorly made by her mother. They simply did not have enough money to purchase clothes from the store.

As a family, they lived on the equivalent of $0.44 per day. Needless to say, it was a rough few years of Kristy’s life. But at the time, that’s all she knew.

Related: BiggerPockets Money Podcast 59—Playing with FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) with Scott Rieckens

Living in Canada

When Kristy was seven years old, her father was fortunate enough to get accepted into college at the University of Waterloo in Canada, studying to be an engineer. One year later, Kristy and her family were able to leave China and start a new, first-world country life in the Toronto area. Kristy went from being afraid of tapeworms and playing in trash heaps to living a semi-normal childhood.

The move was not easy though. She spoke hardly any English, so it took a few years for her to be able to make good friends. (You know how mean middle and high school-aged kids can be.)

Kristy followed in her father’s footsteps and attended the University of Waterloo, studying engineering, as well. This is where she met Bryce.

After four years of studying, they graduated with high marks and were able to get jobs as engineers. They worked hard and saved a ton over a seven-year span and retired with $1 million at the age of 31.

Living Everywhere and Nowhere

Now, they are retired, travel the world, write a blog, and pretty much just do whatever the heck they want. They have been doing so for three years.

In that time, their net worth has increased to $1.3 million. Not a bad deal.

So, how can you do what they did? This is exactly what the book is about and what I will touch on briefly in the next few sections.

What I Learned From Quit Like a Millionaire

Regardless of where you are in your education journey, Quit Like a Millionaire has a lot to teach—from choosing the right college to attend, to making more money and spending less, to investing the difference wisely.

This book has all of the tips. However, as a person who considered themselves very knowledgeable on this subject already, I want to share with you my key takeaways.

How to Access Retirement Accounts Early

The first groundbreaking thing that I learned was how to access your retirement accounts early through what is called the Roth conversion ladder. Popularized by the Mad Fientist, Kristy and Bryce explain this concept very clearly and concisely in this book.

The idea is that you are able to obtain funds from your retirement accounts penalty- and tax-free before you hit the ripe age of 65. How? I’ll give you the three to four sentence overview here, then you can read the book for further details.

In essence, you invest money into your 401(k), which is a pre-tax account. When you become financially independent and do not work for an entire year, your income is effectively $0. Since the standard deduction in the United States is $12,000, you are able to move $12,000 from your 401(k) (pre-tax account) to your Roth IRA (post-tax account).

The IRS does consider that $12,000 you move from the pre-tax to post-tax account as taxable. However, since the standard deduction is also $12,000, the IRS sees the taxable income as zero.

$12,000 income – $12,000 standard deduction = $0 taxable income

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Voila. There is now $12,000 in your Roth IRA that has not been penalized OR taxed. After five years, you are able to take that $12,000 out of your Roth penalty-free. Now you have $12,000 in your bank account that has neither been taxed nor penalized (although you will still be taxed on any capital gains from your Roth IRA).

“Whoa! Is this legal?”

That was my initial thought. The answer? As of 2019, it is 100 percent legal.

This is one of the differences between the rich and the middle-class or poor. The rich seek loopholes and ways around government regulations, whereas the middle-class and poor give in to them.

Related: How Two 30-Something Twins Achieved FIRE in 5 Years on Rental Income

The Concept of the Yield Shield

In 1998, a bunch of finance nerds (aka professors) at Trinity University performed a study where they determined how much one needs to save in order to live off the returns from their portfolio for the next 30 years—including the cost of inflation.

They determined that if an individual withdraws 4 percent of their entire portfolio each year, there is a 95 percent chance that the portfolio will last for the next 30 years.

The only problem here is that many of us are striving to retire in our 20s and 30s, so we need our portfolios to last much longer than that—perhaps even 50 to 60 years!

In order to get that 95 percent chance up to 100, Kristy and Bryce introduce a concept called “the yield shield.” The basic idea is that you allocate a certain percentage of your portfolio to higher-yielding assets, such as preferred shares, real estate investment trusts, corporate bonds, etc., so that your return is almost guaranteed.

How much of your portfolio do you allocate? That is up to you and your risk tolerance. However, if you determine you need $1 million to retire—or $40,000 per year—I would recommend putting the entire $1 million in these types of assets and anything in excess into higher-risk assets. That way, you can generate what is likely to be a high return on anything over what you need to live.

I think of it like a responsible person going to a casino. If you go to a casino with $1,000 and you make $1,000 in the first hour, I would keep $1,000 and only play with the winnings.

Once the winnings run out, I am done. Then there is no way I could possibly lose money; the worst-case scenario is that I got a fun and virtually free trip to the casino. Make sense?

Final Thoughts

The helpful concepts discussed in this book do not stop there. Kristy and Bryce are incredibly smart individuals and spend much of their lives researching and learning ways to save and invest wisely, using unique strategies and techniques. The book is littered with saving tips, as well as different ways to invest, that you can implement to expedite your timeframe to retirement—and increase your odds of remaining retired once you’re there.

It’s not every day you stumble across a book that is fun to read AND packed with good information. But Quit Like a Millionaire is just that. Enjoy the read!

Are you striving to achieve early retirement? What are you doing to get there? 

Share in a comment below!


Craig Curelop, aka thefiguy is an aggressive pursuer of financial independence. Starting with a net worth of negative $30K in 2016, he has aggressively saved and invested to become financially independent in 2019. From sleeping on the couch and renting out his car, he was able to invest in two house hacks in Denver and a BRRRR in Jacksonville. He plans to continue to investing in both Denver and Jacksonville for the years to come. Craig's story has caught the attention of several media outlets, including the Denver Post, BBC, and many other real estate/personal finance podcasts. He hopes to inspire the masses to grab hold of their finances and achieve financial independence. Follow his story on Instagram @thefiguy!

    Erik Whiting Real Estate Investor from Springfield, MO
    Replied about 1 month ago
    I have to take these kinds of posts with a few grains of salt. I am curious about some basic pieces of background information: . Do they have kids? . What were their incomes year over year since they began investing? How much were they pouring into retirement accounts and/or other investment? . How much of their rapidly created wealth comes from a once-in-a-lifetime buying opportunity out of the Great Recession and the following surge in values? . In short, I am skeptical if they are presenting a series of strategies that will work for a large number of people. Are their results typical of what one would expect, or are they a combination of an unusual lifestyle and lucking into some very atypical market conditions that caused an otherwise clever bag of tricks to achieve explosive growth that most people would never see? . To be clear: I’m not saying they have nothing to offer. I fully intend to follow up on that backdoor Roth from a 401K concept. That’s pretty slick! But overall, I don’t have a lot of confidence based on the short-time and abnormally successful results they had. As with a scientific experiment, reputability of a process or strategy is the key for a hypothesis to become a theory, and for a theory to ultimately become a law. We’ll see.
    Phil Murphy
    Replied about 1 month ago
    First, I commend the author on being such a diligent student on personal wealth and then trying to help others by writing about it. That’s where the compliments end. I sincerely hope there aren’t younger folks out there who think this is an easily repeatable feat. The husband and wife investing team were good savers, but, assuming their age and when they entered the market, were also extremely lucky and took advantage in possibly a once in a lifetime event. There is likely no other way possible to make this wealth with 401k’s, index funds, etc. without entering the market post 2008 and then timing it perfectly when the market pulled out of the recession. Look at the max contribution limits on 401k’s from 2009 to 2017 and then consider traditional and Roth IRA contributions. You can do your own research on the returns of the S&P 500 over that seven year time period. Can it be done? Probably with the help of and dividends. Is it repeatable? Highly unlikely. I chuckle when i read things like this article. The author apparently has never been involved in investing through a cyclical bear market (any probably wasn’t born during the last secular bear market). To think that this is easily repeatable is “fools gold”. What is really disturbing are some of the writing: “Now, they are retired, travel the world, write a blog, and pretty much just do whatever the heck they want. They have been doing so for three years.” (And hopefully this long in the tooth bull market lasts the rest of my life! And hopefully this couple is now invested in securities where their downside risk is minimal. I would hate to be “retired” at 31 and see that $1.3 million erode in half through consecutive year bear market returns) “The basic idea is that you allocate a certain percentage of your portfolio to higher-yielding assets, such as preferred shares, real estate investment trusts, corporate bonds, etc., so that your return is almost guaranteed” (I’ll let you research this one yourselves). “I would recommend putting the entire $1 million in these types of assets and anything in excess into higher-risk assets.” (Holy shit! This statement makes it obvious that this kid needs to read some more books, preferably anything prior to 2000. This kind of advice is what causes people to jump off buildings. Putting all of your eggs in one basket is ridiculous. Ask the people who has their life saving investing in their own companies – Enron and Worldcomm come to mind). “I think of it like a responsible person going to a casino. ” (Again, enough said in this statement) People, please, please, please take a reality check. Is what the couple who wrote this book possible? Of course it is. And it’s possible that I will win the Powerball next week….and the week after. This young couple was fortunate enough to “time” the market when their professional careers were taking off. They saved diligently and invested in a record bull market that hasn’t been seen in most people’s lifetimes…if ever! The takeaways? Get a job that makes enough money to live comfortably while saving like crazy. Invest wisely.
    Craig Curelop Rental Property Investor from Denver, CO
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Hi Erik! All valid points you make here. They do not have kids. They are very intentional in every decision that they made and decided that having kids was something they wanted after their ability to retire. I do not believe they should be faulted for that. They maxed out all of their retirement accounts and put anything left over in index funds. Rapid savers. Not real estate investors or anything like that. They started just at the peak before the recession hit. They took the largest possible hit initially, but stuck to the plan and were able to reap the benefits of the market recovery. The idea here is that with some intention almost anyone can save 50%+ of their income, invest it in index funds, and will likely be able to retire in one market cycle.
    Charles A. Rental Property Investor from Jacksonville, FL
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Whenever I read about someone retiring on $1m these days,I can’t help but noticing they’re all in their 20s or 30s. All I wanna tell them every time I read such nonsense is: 1/Talk to someone older. 2/ Talk to someone who had $1m 10 years ago 3/Please tell me it’s not $1m in “stocks” and “retirement account”! Today’s young people no doubt need their enthusiasm tempered with large doses of reality.
    Amanda Gant from Washington, District of Columbia
    Replied about 1 month ago
    I would agree, generally ,Charles. Question…. where would that $1M better be placed? I actually have a plan myself to retire once I hit 1M in net worth, and that would be through equity in property in DC. The rate of return is very good on properties I’ve found, and I would be earning $10,000/month in profit (after PITI, and $1000/month for repairs). So, I actually am thinking that’s all I’ll need. Looking for other data points of input. 🙂
    Brian Stratton from Stamford, Connecticut
    Replied about 1 month ago
    I wouldn’t put 100% of my money in anything. Stocks, real estate, bonds, commodities. I especially wouldn’t put 100% of my money in one real estate market. Lots of bad can happen. Local downturn, idiot politicians changing real estate laws or taxes… More importantly, although highly unlikely, if there is a once in a 100 year flood, meteor strike, earthquake, major terrorist attack, ie. Nuclear /biological etc. on your favorite investment city, it will not be covered by your standard insurance policy and you will be wiped out. I work in the insurance industry and can tell you, practically all standard insurance policies do not cover these events. Investment diversification is your best bet.
    Crystal Danielle Rental Property Investor from Des Moines, IA
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Amazing! I’m transitioning into house hacking and loving it so far.
    Mike Caffey from Webster, Texas
    Replied about 1 month ago
    They don’t need to live off 3.5% if they keep writing books. Probably are no longer living off this advise…
    Byron Law from Lebanon, Indiana
    Replied about 1 month ago
    “although you will still be taxed on any capital gains from your Roth IRA” Huh? Isn’t the whole point of a Roth IRA the ability to take earnings on your savings tax-free since they are post-tax dollars? There shouldn’t be any taxes.
    Rob Barry Rental Property Investor from Franklin Lakes, NJ
    Replied about 1 month ago
    I’ve got to say, I envy anyone who’s lifestyle is conservative enough to retire on $1m. Personally, I think shooting for anything under $5m will cause far too many forced choices a decade or two down the road, not the least of which is suddenly being old and busted and past your prime earning years that you could have put to use, but rather lived out some childhood fantasy of spending your days with sand between your toes… Not to be Mr. Crankypants here. I just think people need to be more realistic about what a good target is these days.
    Alexandra King Real Estate Agent from Santa Barbara, CA
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Here’s another position: What if you are a 67 year old woman who lost everything during the recession (and other disasters) and is starting over with nothing – including a 401K; how does this scenario play out? Most Blog posts/podcasts and books are written for people struggling in their younger years. I’m a realtor starting a business on a shoe string, trying to live on $1200/month, and, frankly, most people won’t give me a job – openly siting my age as the reason (I have a degree in Business and 45 years as a business woman), so, I’m not a dweeb. I look forward to hearing how would you retire a millionaire in my boots?
    Lee Liberman Investor from Baltimore, MD
    Replied about 1 month ago
    1m in 30 years will be worth half that. Can you live off 500k times 4% or 20k currently? If not you retired too early. Considering the market is at an all time high you should consider haircutting your nest egg to account for the future drop or lower than avg future earnings. I think its a great start but you will need to maintain an income going forward. Disagree with the yield comment (these investments will have high return of capital) and roths dont owe cap gain taxes.
    Ben G. from Boston, Massachusetts
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Did my comments get deleted?
    Don Taylor from Raleigh, NC
    Replied 15 days ago
    If only I knew what I know now, 10 years ago.
    Adam Daniels Rental Property Investor from Holland, MI
    Replied 11 days ago
    Pretty much everyone here is missing the point of this. Its not a childhood fantasy about laying on the beach for the next 60 years. Its about not needing to be employed by the highest paying employer doing a job you hate for 40 years like the previous generation. The independence allows you to do something you actually enjoy that may pay less. Ya'll need to check out Mr. Money Mustache. These are all old recycled arguments. The market has produced over 7% return ever since its existence, in the short run this may mean a few thousand less in capital gains but it utterly meaningless in the long run.
    Rich Lau from Long Island, New York
    Replied 10 days ago
    Did anyone else commenting here actually read the book? Thanks to this blog, I just finished the book and I also listened to the audio version so I can hear Kristy's (tone of) voice along side my reading. And I, for one, thought it was a great read and somewhat surprised at the criticism I'm reading (especially from those who haven't even read the book). As someone of Chinese descent and a computer engineer myself, I can definitely relate to her story. As Craig said, they're super savers (or as Kristy calls it "optimizers"). They don't own a home or a car and thus don't bear any costs associated with that such as insurance, utilities, maintenance, etc. They also don't have kids (and the one chapter they wrote about it didn't discuss saving for college at all). So when you don't have any of these expenses and still live a frugal lifestyle (limiting eating out and staying in cheap countries such as Thailand or Vietnam or Mexico), I can easily see how they achieved early retirement. Heck, if I sell my home and car and didn't have to worry about any child costs, I can be retired right now as well! But the fact is, we have different lifestyles. I want a house to call a home (call me old-fashioned), a car to take me from place to place, and much like my parents tried to do for me, I want to give my children better opportunities than I had (piano lessons, enrichment classes for math & reading, sports activites, etc.). So yes, all of these eat away at my expenses. So does that mean this book sucks because I don't live the same life they do? I hope not otherwise, 99% of the blogs here would suck too. They shared their story and what worked for them (again, much like the other blogs here on BP). It's up to each individual to see how it applies to you. Personally, I thought the section on the retirement savings portfolio was gold! Thank you Craig for introducing this book to us!