Personal Finance

How to Retire Early (From Someone Who Did at Age 27)

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary, Business Management, Flipping Houses, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Wholesaling, Personal Finance, Real Estate Marketing, AskBP, Real Estate Investing Basics
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Silhouette of a fisherman at sunset. Fishing on mountain lake

When you think of retirement, what comes to mind? Shuffleboard with Grandma? Chess with Uncle Chester? Watching reruns of that fishing show for the 18th time, hoping for a different outcome?

Well, let me paint you a slightly different picture.

What about traveling the world with your family, letting your curiosity guide you? Or sleeping in on a Thursday morning and going to the gym because you finally have the time to focus on your fitness? Or working 16-hour days occasionally—but not to make some jerk in a corner office richer. You’re working on something amazing, something that pulls you, something that inspires you—doing meaningful work with incredible people.

And what if you could do all of this—early retirement—decades sooner than most? Sounds far-fetched, huh?

Well, here’s the truth: I was able to “retire” when I was 27.

Now, before you roll your eyes, stop reading this, and start scrolling through your Instagram feed again, listen up. I’m going to show you how I did it through the power of real estate and how you could do the same.

Stick with me.

How to Retire Way Earlier Than Most People

OK, let’s define early retirement—also known as financial freedom or financial independence. Early retirement means you no longer HAVE to work anymore in order to pay your bills.

But I want to get a little deeper. You see, there are two types of financial independence.

The 2 Levels of Financial Independence

Level one means you can pay all your bills with passive (or mostly passive) income. This could be income from stock dividends, cash flow from rental properties, or regular profits from a business. If you've attained this type of financial freedom, you don't need to work full-time.

For me, I achieved that level at just 27 years old. BUT it’s possible to go even further.

Level two means you can pay all your bills—but you can also do all the extravagant things your little heart desires. Buy that Tesla. Sail around the coast of Africa. Buy a pet lion.

For the purpose of this post, I’m going to mostly focus on level one. However, I’ll leave you with the secret to achieving level two.

How Did I Achieve Financial Independence at 27?

For me, it was simple: At 21, I started buying cheap rental properties—not hundreds of properties but a duplex here, a single family house there. Usually I’d fix it up a little bit, rent it out, and make a few hundred bucks in profit after all the bills had been paid.

It wasn't a ton of money at first. But the cool thing about rentals: they grow.

Every rental unit I bought was like this little tiny oil well, pumping out oil from the ground—$100 from this one per month, $300 from this one, $200 from this one.

You see, every rental property I owned rented for a certain amount, and each month, there were expenses. When the income is greater than the expenses, that’s called cash flow.

Related: This App Will Help You Track Your Way to Financial Independence

Here’s an example.

Consider a property that has four units, and each unit rents for about $700 a month. That’s $2,800 total.

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I have to pay the mortgage payment, the taxes, the insurance, and the lawn care, and I have to fix stuff when it breaks. But I don't want to deal with tenant phone calls, so I hired a property manager. All in all, these expenses are $1,800 a month on average. That means, I'm keeping about $1,000 per month in extra money… in my pocket… each month.

So, when you buy awesome home run deals like this, it doesn’t take long to make more from rentals than from your job.

Man sit on the Bench looking out a sunset over grassy field

Back to my story. Before I knew it, I was making about $3,000 per month from the cash flow. And this leads me to point number two if you want to retire early: You gotta keep your expenses LOW.

Look, if you need $3,000 to pay all your bills or you need $30,000 to pay all your bills, which is easier?

Duh! $3,000.

But here’s what most people do. They get a job. They get a paycheck. They spend their entire paycheck every time they get it.

Then, they eventually get raises or get a new job that pays more. And guess what? They spend that, too.

In college, they could live on $28 and favors from friends. As a 30-year-old, many people can’t live on $10,000 a month.

Now, am I saying you need to live like a college kid to retire early? Not really—but it wouldn’t hurt. It’s the principle I’m trying to make clear.

If you want to retire early, you have to find ways to keep your expenses low. Don’t fall victim to what we call “The Income Creep,” where you just keep spending more and more, the more and more you make. That’s a game that is impossible to win.

When I was 27, all my bills came to $3,000 a month. And I had bought enough cash-flowing rental properties to pay me $3,000 per month.

If $3,000 just isn’t going to cut it, then just “X” out of this article and go back to the same crappy job you’ve been working—because all of this is impossible.

Just kidding, of course!

You can still cut all the unnecessary stuff from your life. Do what needs to be done if early retirement is really that important to you.

Sell that expensive car and get rid of that car payment. Stop eating out entirely and use the extra income to pay off credit card debt. Or consider house hacking, where you buy a duplex, triplex, or fourplex, live in one of the units, and use the rent from the other units to pay your bills.

Maybe $3,000 isn’t the exact number for you. But it shouldn’t be $10,000 or $15,000 for a seeker of level one financial freedom, either.

So, I retired at 27. I quit the job I hated, and I sat on the couch for a few months, bored out of my mind, and realized that retirement wasn’t about playing shuffleboard with Grandma. It was about freeing up your 9 to 5 hours to spend working on stuff that matters to you.

No one achieved early retirement and then stayed doing nothing. And I wasn’t satisfied with $3,000 a month—that was just a start, just the foundation.

And you can do that early. I recommend looking into real estate investing to get there, because I believe it’s the single greatest wealth-building tool on the planet. But only if you do it right!

There are a lot of ways to invest in real estate that will just make you more broke—less rich than when you started. So just like any hard thing, LEARN.

closeup of man in white shirt and blue jeans sitting and reading a paperback book

Resources to Learn About Achieving Financial Freedom

Get some books. Listen to some podcasts. Attend some webinars. I host one almost every week over at BiggerPockets.com/webinar.

But you can retire (very, very) early through real estate if you really want—and I bet you could do it in less time than you’d think.

In fact, if you want to see a really cool strategy for achieving level one financial freedom in just a few short years, search YouTube for “The Stack BiggerPockets”—or click here. It’ll walk you through a concept I call “The Stack,” and it’ll show you the power of exponential growth and real estate.

But maybe real estate isn’t the right approach. That’s fine. There’s business. There’s stocks. There’s other investments.

But they only work if you work.

Related: Retirement Accelerator: 7 Steps to Reach Financial Independence in 5-10 Years

OK, so, before I end this post on early retirement, let’s talk about the secret to financial freedom level two. Here it is.

Once you’ve achieved level one financial freedom, your days are freed up to reach for level two.

Here’s a tangible example. Once I “retired” at 27, I didn’t stay seated on the couch. I started spending MORE time on my real estate, and I also started doing some other passion projects, like writing books and starting the BiggerPockets Podcast (which has become one of the largest podcasts on the planet with more than 60 million downloads).

Now I get to work on work that is meaningful, exciting, helpful to others, and profitable. And I’ve increased my passive income through all those things to the point that I’ve achieved financial freedom level two. In other words, now I can travel around the world led by my curiosity, sleep in on a Thursday morning and then head to the gym, and sometimes work 16-hour days making videos, podcasting, buying real estate, and doing other work that I am passionate about.

I don’t say this to brag. I say this as a simple truth to show you that it can be as true for you as it was for me.

And the late, great Jim Rohn said it best: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”

For more on using real estate investing to achieve early retirement, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out some of the real estate books we've published over at BiggerPockets.com/store.

Do what ya gotta do to gain the knowledge needed to make your early retirement a reality!

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What questions can I answer for you about retiring early and real estate investing?

Ask me in the comment section below!

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He is a nationally recognized leader in the real estate education space and has tau...
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    Ana C.
    Replied about 1 year ago
    What an amazing article Jessa, really inspiring.. Real Estate has been my passion for a really long time, but I would find some excuse to not "get on it" and stuck on the learning phase! However I'm working towards buying my first rental soon!
    John C. Investor from New York, NY
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great job!
    Margie Kohlhaas Rental Property Investor from Algona, IA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great article! I'm not surprised to see that you're spending more time on real estate now that you retired. It's somewhat addictive once you know the secret formula to success.
    Chris Hodge Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied about 1 year ago
    That's cool and all, but how retired are you really? Have you taken a year off from profitable stuff yet? How long will your investments work without you working them? I'm wary of people who say they retired, but are still actively doing things. I'm also concerned with the notion of people continuing to be active with their work into old age -- my goal is absolute passivity. And it seems like almost nothing provides this. How do people build the real wealth that lasts forever?
    David Andrzejek
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Like the post but agree with Chris here. Seems like you are still working, just on BP and not as a police officer or whatever else you were doing prior. I agree real estate can be very passive with a property manager (at least mine is!), but if you did nothing with BP for the next 5 months (like I've done almost nothing for my real estate the past 5 months) what would happen? Seems more you've traded your prior job for base income from real estate and a different job, running BP. Now, BP gives you location independence and time flexibility, and you may love it so much that it doesn't *feel* like work, but calling your new job 'retired' feels like a stretch. :). Still, an awesome situation that many of us aspire to.
    Mat O'Grady Investor from North Stonington, CT
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I agree that Brandon is currently not retired with a passive income. I believe he was saying he WAS in passive retirement. He had enough income to just hang out, but he got bored and then got involved with BP. So now, he is making money from BP, but he doesn't need the money. He could probably stop working with BP and still have enough passive income to live on or he would at least be able to buy more properties to get the passive income he needs to be.
    Lionel Li Investor from Queens, NY
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Chris, what you're looking for can only be achieved if your net worth can hit a certain level where there's a huge difference between your "passive yield" from your assets vs your annual spending. Absolute passivity to me is fanciful hope or wealth deterioration and I'll tell you why. People who don't have the wealth to get to that point wouldn't be able to do it (that's fanciful hope). The people who can, don't want to sit back and do nothing to earn a meager 2% - 4% passive yield or entrusting others to invest in high returns but run the risk of losing the investment because they want to be passive (that's wealth deterioration). Passive or retirement to me doesn't mean zero involvement anymore, it means doing the things I find meaningful on my own terms. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Retirement is a state of mind. Never retire your mind.
    Chester Lee from Richmond, California
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Chris, There is always work involve. The question is.. do you want to work for others, or do you work for yourself, and choose what and when to do it. You can invest in RE syndications, and that would be 100% passive. You can invest in REITs and collect monthly/quarterly divys. That is 100% passive, and quite liquid. You can be a hard money lender, and basically be the bank by holding the deed of trust until the borrower pays off the loan. In all situations, there is a small bit of work initially and at the end. Initial work is reading the project summaries, doing due diligence, reading the PPM and funding the investment. The due diligence can take a while. I've read 100+ page PPMs and 100+ page 3rd party assessments. Once funded, wait for the quarterly distributions. REITs are the easiest, but you should read all the perspectuses and decide which REIT is appropriate for you (and have an understanding of interest rates and the stock market in general). For Hard money loans, you got to find the deals, vet the borrower, create the loan contract, and at times, chase down the borrower to get your monthly interest. And if he has a hard time paying the monthly interest on time, he likely would have time paying off the loan.
    Michael Oliver Rental Property Investor from Greenville, SC
    Replied about 1 year ago
    This article was amazing.Honestly glad that I created an account with bigger pockets.Early retirement/finical freedom here I come🙏🏾🏠
    Pieter Vandermark
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Chester, Great write up on passive income!....I own rental properties, invest in crowd funding platforms and do my own loans as either 1st TD's or 2nd TD's. By far the rental properties are a headache!...With that said, the appreciation and depreciation are added bonuses and so are the write offs. Real Estate is the only way to go. Good luck to all!
    Brian Wilkins
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Brandon, so how much debt are you carrying?
    Lindsey Gallardo from San Diego, California
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Although I'm sure he isn't going to give you a number, I'm sure it's also a number most people would gawk at... But why worry about the amount of debt you have when other people are paying it for you? Right now, I have about a million dollars in debt, but I pay $1500 to live in a home with a yard and parking and laundry in central San Diego. (If you don't know the area, I couldn't find a 2 bedroom apartment for that cheap.) If I had bought a single family home and had less debt, I'd be paying more every month and would be much further away from buying my 2nd rental property. Obviously you don't have a guarantee that none of the units will go vacant, but the more units you have, the more diversified you are and it doesn't make as much of a difference if your vacancy goes up a bit. Debt in real estate is how you make money. It's debt that other people are paying, which becomes your equity.
    Crawford Trimmer
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Brandon, keep in mind I am new here, but I feel like a crucial step of your story was glossed over. How were you able to afford rental properties at 21?
    Jaramie Smith
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Good article. I appreciate the bit about lowering the monthly expenses. It’s something I see as a major issue for many people today, living beyond their means.
    Brian Ploszay Investor from Chicago, ILLINOIS
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I find owning rental properties to be hard work. It is not financial independence, until they are paid off. And maybe not even then.
    Mark Peters
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Love the clear explanation of Level 1 and Level 2. This is a great framework. Achieving Level 2 is a real accelerant to wealth.
    Joe Palmer Rental Property Investor from Delmont, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thanks for the article! For me it is just inspiration to change my life. I’m an older investor just getting started and hate myself for not starting sooner. However, I do believe with a little hard work and perseverance I can set myself up for a better retirement and hopefully leave something for my children and their children!
    Chad Matthews Rental Property Investor from Philomath, OR
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Nothing is free. Read that one more time ... NOTHING IS FREE. However, I read many comments about the "work" involved with real estate. 2 thoughts; First, most people work far harder for far less in their 40 hour / week job. Second, "work" isn't a dirty word and is incredibly fulfilling in the correct context. The initial portion of the article discusses retiring from "work" (connotation there is the "bad" work that is laborious, unfulfilling, directionless). The second portion of the article discusses the road to "retirement" and other "work" (connotation with this work is that it is "good" because it is fulfilling, and full of passion). Too many folks think retirement means an old rocking chair, lemonade, a front porch, and a tired out dog. I believe the point of this article, and many others in our world of real estate investing, is that retirement means more freedom to pursue other callings. I say, "Great job Brandon" - you do what others won't to have what others can't. By the way - for those who really want "no work" income - do real estate well, liquidate your portfolio after 20 years, and dump the money into an annuity - then you can "retire" and sip lemonade in your rocking chair with the old dog. At the end of the day I would encourage each of you to get in the game. The 2nd best time to plant a tree is right now (The very best time to plant a tree was 10 years (or 20 or 30) ago. The best time to invest in real estate was years ago. The 2nd best time is now. Plant that tree ... water it ... fertilize it ... and it will create shade for your future!
    Cesar Gomez
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Let me pain this bluntly. You did not retire, you switch perhaps from working from 9 to 5 to working with freedom. You are still writing, most likely researching, marketing, selling, etc... That takes work. You did not retire.
    Olivia Radziszewski from Chicago, IL
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Love this!!!
    Susan Maneck Investor from Jackson, Mississippi
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Okay, as far as real estate investing goes but there is one question FIRE people aren't answering. What do you do about health insurance? Insurance ties most of us to jobs we don't like more than income.
    Bazool Bumba
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Excellent point about the health insurance, I'm currently paying $1,000 per month for health insurance for my wife and I and we're only 30 years old (self employed). I can only imagine how much it will be in 10 years, probably at least $2,500 a month as self employed. My 3 rental properties can't even cover my health insurance so let alone our basic expenses. How do all those "retired" people do when health insurance costs keep increasing? Maybe Brandon's expenses were $3,000 at 27 but 10 years later and without health insurance provided by a company, it's probably $1k-$2k more a month. Also, if you're only able to cover your expenses, how can you buy more properties?
    Glen E from Savannah, Georgia
    Replied about 1 year ago
    "The devil is in the details". Where did you find the "awesome, home run deals" like the quadplex with $2800 rent and $1800 *total* monthly expenses including mortgage, tax/ins, prop mgmt, maintenance, and vacancies? If you started buying these properties at age 21, you couldn't have had much cash for down payments and rehabs, or a great credit rating to get rental house loans. You must have also found well-maintained rentals, since something like a new roof soon after purchase would break the bank on your maintenance budget for a couple of years. I bought a few rentals back in 2008-9 during the housing crisis. Houses were (relatively) cheap then! Fortunately, I had enough cash available for down payments and rehab costs, and I had good credit to still get house loans. But I'm not sure how I would have bought these properties if I had been 21 years old with little money or credit. And now that property values have risen substantially after the housing crisis, I am not seeing the kind of deals that would achieve the cash flow as in your example. I would love to buy more rentals if I could get the "home run deals" like you have found.
    Kevin Moules Rental Property Investor from Turlock, CA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Glen, you do make some good points here. However, I encourage you to look up Brandons interview on the BP Business podcast and he goes through his story. If you read his books and listen to the podcast you learn how he was able to do it. It was not all his money. He has partnered with people, done live in flips, house hacked, and used other peoples money for loans to purchase the properties. You have to use creative finance to be able to do it. He has also flipped houses to fund his rentals. Using conventional loans for everything will slow down the process. At days end you still have to find the deal. That is the hardest part. Today you have to find off market deals to find home runs. In my area even a fixer upper home will not cash flow at it before rehab price so I have to look at other markets where the numbers make sense. Where there is a will, there is a way. I need a stronger will :)
    Dave Rav from Summerville, SC
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Yes, @Glen E I agree with some your points and some of @Kevin Moules. The power of one individual (financially) at age 21 is likely not akin to Warren Buffett! But yes, clearly these folks had some kid of help from a money partner, etc. And don't forget inheritances. I know a stock investor who was assisted in his investments at age 35 with about a $400k inheritance. I only imagine what I could do with a $400k windfall (turn it into $4M through RE!)
    Martin Robillard from North Liberty, Iowa
    Replied about 1 year ago
    😊 thanks!!!
    Dave Rav from Summerville, SC
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great job and nice story! I am on my way, following your example of *income replacement* through real estate. You're right, if your expenses are reasonable, you will get to FI quicker. My journey hasn't been as direct and succinct as yours, but I'm still well ahead of probably 80% of my peers. I pulled back to part-time work in 2016, and work even less now - averaging 18-24 hours per week. Being in my 30s, I feel this is awesome! It allows me to spend boku time with my family.
    John Santos
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Hi I wanted to know your thoughts on purchasing a triplex if it were a really old building (built in 1905). What type of things would you look for and what concerns would you have? Thank you