My First Month of Early Retirement: How I’m Spending My Newfound Freedom

by | BiggerPockets.com

Well, BiggerPockets, I did it.  Now what?

Making “the jump” was incredibly scary and empowering at the same time—the only way I can describe my first month of officially cutting the cord is exhilarating. I knew I had the numbers. For an entire year, I could have lived financially independent (FI) just fine. Early retirement was mine if I wanted it, but I wasn’t ready yet—I knew I had built up a nest egg to carry me through if ever needed it. What helped me was thinking that if something happened, I could always go back to work. And if I couldn’t go back to work, I could coast a year or so to figure out my next move.

How I Got Here

I’ve been fairly outspoken on discovering Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) who “retired” at 30. I say “retired” because he still works, but on his own terms! His real estate posts led me to BiggerPockets (which dominates any real estate-related search engine entry). I devoured any podcast or article I could find and found myself investing in real estate very soon after. in early 2015. Four properties by the summer of 2017 quickly became seven, which quickly became 10. Then I slowed down. Why? Because I reached FI and then some.

(Disclaimer: My portfolio isn’t 100 percent real estate, but without real estate, I may not have had the courage to make the jump. It’s hard to say.)

wealth-lesson

For Those of You Holding Back or Too Nervous…

I get it! It’s scary. What made my transition easier (and likely even mentally possible for me) was creating bank accounts for what I called my “FI alternate world.” I had all my investment money coming into a bank account outside my primary (primary being where my paychecks came in and bills went out). I only used money from the investment income to pay mortgage, bills, etc. After a year, I saw what was left (not much, but still more than I thought) and made the jump. What was left still more than covered the changes in lifestyle (health insurance mainly) that I would need to now pay for in full.

Related: The Surprisingly Simple “Secret” to Financial Freedom Most 9 to 5-ers Overlook

I did this for a year—a year of ups and downs, planned and unexpected expenses.

Reactions to Early Retirement

Others’ reactions were kind of surprising. For me, early retirement was about stopping the desperate need to push forward and plan out every detail of my life. Most people are very supportive, confused, and excited about it (to my face, anyway). The number one question I got right after I stopped working was, “What are you going to do now?” And if I’m reading between the lines from some of those people, it’s, “How are you going to contribute to society now?”

What I’m Doing with My Newfound Freedom

Currently, I’m loving it. My phone provider has this buy one/get one movie ticket deal on Tuesdays. I don’t go to movies much, but I caught a matinee a few weeks ago (Spiderman for those wondering) for $2.50 a person. I rode my bike to get some groceries and tried a new recipe. All those things that weren’t a priority while working full-time are suddenly things I have time to do. It’s still hard to get off my butt to do them sometimes, but most of the time it isn’t—because what else am I going to do?

There are random side effects to this vacation/new way of life/retirement. Leaving the house is sometimes a chore in itself if it isn’t for something you particularly want to do. I might think to myself, “I need to go all the way over there for an appointment?” But at the end of the day, I may also think, “I’ve been home all day. I am really looking forward to some beers tonight with friends.” I’m able to live more in the moment.

real-net-worth

Worst-Case Scenarios

I made the plunge this summer after running through worst-case scenarios (rents go down, markets crash, healthcare costs increase, etc.) and realizing that I would still come out positive. If things got worse than that, I would still have a big enough nest egg to cover me for a few years before I started worrying. I’d be OK taking a few years of early vacation and rebuilding that egg if I needed to.

Related: Life Hacking in Pursuit of Financial Freedom: How I Add $1,500+/Mo to My Income

Not only that, but the real estate portion of my portfolio is diversified (as much as residential real estate can be, I suppose). I can rest easy knowing that if something affects my properties in one state, the other states may not be impacted. It’s important to note that my real estate portfolio alone covers my mortgage and bills for the year, but my paper assets also contribute a good bit of income. This gives me peace of mind regarding exposure and risk.

Next Steps

Overall, living financially free for one month was pretty awesome—and seeing the fruits of my “FI alternate world” at the end of the year was even better. That’s ultimately what gave me the courage to make the jump.

Will I stay retired? Maybe not. Perhaps I’ll find a job that allows me to work remotely. I’m a hard worker and operate under the “achieve” schema. But for now, I’m going to spend some time on myself, develop my business, and soak in life without planning too far ahead. We’ll see where it takes me.

What would you do with a month of early retirement? If you’re in a similar position, what has your experience been?

Weigh in below!

About Author

Sarah P.

Sarah has achieved Financial Independence as a result of her real estate investing. She has a great time blogging about her personal experiences throughout the process. Currently she's enjoying the ride, but possibly looking for remote positions in the near future.

34 Comments

  1. Vania Castillo

    Congratulations Sarah!! Well done!

    I can relate to you so much as I did something similar making a radical change to my life style in early 2016 and I love it.

    I also was nervous about it as I had never been without a boss or an employer paying for my “benefits”. I took the plunge, and now I coverer my own expenses, and buy my own health insurance.

    I was considering to quit doing what I do, but after finding my FI, I regain a new perspective about what I do and realized that my skill set is very much in need and so many people can benefit from it. I can really make a difference so sometimes I still pick up some shifts. However, when I do a shift, I’m doing it because I want to, no because I have to. When the option to do something comes, my question now is not “Can I?” but “Do I want to?”. It is so different!!!

    Something I have noted with all the hasslers out there is that if you are so driven to retire early, you are not going to stay doing nothing for long. You will engage in other things, although with a different mindset.

    For me I have so many things to do during my days, that I now I wonder how I was able to do other things besides working! There are so many things that I do during the day and very often, the choices are multiple in the same day and sometimes even the same time.

    To FI, Sarah…..Enjoy it!!!!

  2. Congratulations sarah, I’ve been following your progress on, BP. I hope one day, you do a blog on what your financial number was when you decided to retire and how each property contributed to that number.
    Thanks

    • Sarah P.

      Yes, I’ve been building my business since 2015 but otherwise working toward FI since 2009. My FI number included a good bit of savings as well in order to roll much of the business’s income back into building it. I plan to continuously acquire more properties and do more deals.

  3. Kevin Koffman

    So… How did you do it?

    “found myself investing in real estate very soon after, in early 2015. Four properties by the summer of 2017 quickly became seven, which quickly became 10. Then I slowed down. Why? Because I reached FI and then some.”

    Did you have $2MM in stocks, took some of that money and moved it into cash flowing real estate? (old joke, how do you make a million, start with 2 million). Did you use the BRRR strategy? How much starting CASH did you need to become FI in 2 years?
    And how much are you cash flow do the properties throw off? Are you living in your car, a 1BR apt, or a nice sized Mansion. A point of reference would be cool. BTW, no matter how you’re living, if you are FI and you’re happy, good for you!!!

    • Sarah P.

      Hi, Kevin,

      I didn’t need much cash at all, actually. I utilized my HELOC at first and once I started cash flowing even more, I could pay off the HELOC while I worked my full time job and otherwise didn’t need the money. I have also bought/fixed up a few foreclosures, and sold properties to help pay off others. One property was proving to be a lot of work for not as much reward. Additionally, I started RE in 2015 but my FI journey started in 2009.

      I currently live in Denver which is HCOL. In response to other comments, I am married and the rental downpayments were done via HELOC and paid off by their own cash flow/capital gains. The rentals alone pay our annual bills but something to note- we are somewhat minimalist/mustachian are don’t spend much money outside of travel and meals out. (Meals out is anti-mustachian, but we have a system and it works for us.)

    • Sarah P.

      Health insurance is kinda crazy/insane…. but I’ll PM you the details. You can get some subsidies if you’re below 47K but otherwise it does kind of break the bank if you want a low deductible. Mine is high deductible.

  4. Chad W.

    The devil is in the details and would be really interested in the details.

    I am truly skeptical of “Lifestyle Bloggers” and was run off the MMM foums a few years ago for calling out one that failed to mention her hedge fund manager husband when bragging about her early retirement in Brooklyn. I’m not saying this is the case here, certainly, but you know, you’re probably at least sniffing financial independence already if you can plop down for four house in one sitting.

    • Sarah P.

      Hi there- I’m not 100% sure what that last comment meant, but the investments alone cover all annual bills and then some- I outline a bit more above if you’re curious. My husband isn’t a hedge fund manager or anything but he’s an independent contractor. No health insurance or anything through the job but he now has the power to choose when he works. As mentioned above, the alternate FI world simulated no additional income, and my husband hasn’t taken on any extra clients since we’ve FIREd. If we ever get in a tight spot, both of us can hopefully find work but for right now it’s awesome being home for a little while and finding our stride when we’re ready. Robert Kiyosaki said it was uncomfortable, but he took one year off before jumping back in the game. I don’t know how long it will be for us, but we aren’t worried about it right now, especially since we have enough left over to roll back into/grow the business.

  5. Michael Plante

    Huge congrats!

    I am fortunate to have made the leap 7 years ago and still feel amazingly blessed

    I believe we have a responsibility to help others as none of us accomplish things alone.

    I have done just that by mentoring others start their own busInesses and investments at no charge of course.

    To that end, IMO it would be very helpful to others if you gave specific nuts and bolts of what you did and how you did it.

    • Sarah P.

      I’m actually blogging about that (slowly but surely about each property). Seven years ago. That’s incredible. You should be writing about this, then! Can you tell me more about what else you’re doing? Travel, new hobbies, etc.?

  6. I’m happy for you but I think you will find a retirement of beer with friends and hanging around the house all day incredibly soul killing. Days of doing only what you want become boring and your internal need to do things of value suffers. I humbly suggest that you find things to do for others, rather than for yourself. You describe yourself as a hard worker. Devote that energy to those who need the skills and money that you possess.
    You’ll find, I think, yourself much more fulfilled at the end of the day.

    • Sarah P.

      Hi there- I outline more above if you’re curious. I have a husband who hasn’t accepted any new clients since we FIREd. Rental income alone covers our annual expenses and then some (enough to roll back into developing the business, doing more flips, etc.) We admittedly aren’t big spenders, making this goal extremely easy. Mortgage, bills, travel, meals out… otherwise we are simple. We don’t buy expensive clothing and never have, so we haven’t “cut back” or “sacrificed” our lifestyle in the name of frugality. If we have kids in the future our health insurance will go up, but contrary to popular belief, kids don’t need to be expensive. MMM has an awesome article I tend to agree with, although I haven’t had children myself yet. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/05/26/what-is-the-real-cost-of-raising-children/

      • Chris Ayers

        Thanks for the reply.

        Not a huge fan of MMM. Money could also be a tool we could use to make our lives easier. There are certain things in life I’m willing to pay for.

        For ex, there is no way I will ever use cloth diapers haha

        • Sarah P.

          Hahah I hear they are extremely laborious so we’ll see. And I understand- MMM seems to garner divisive reactions from readers (whether they’re fans or not).

  7. Rob Sawyer

    Congrats Sarah! Thanks for blogging about your experience and subsequent success! Although I’m not there yet, I’m working on it and look forward to learning more. Your story is inspirational so keep up the good work!

  8. Andrew Kougl

    Congratulations! That’s what we all strive for.

    I’m beginning with a HELOC approach myself and wondering if you started out just putting 20 percent down or did you buy those first properties outright/pay them off before you bought more?

    A lot of people seem to take the route of buying many doors at $100-$200 cash flow per door to achieve FI, but with the number of properties it sounds like you took a different approach.

  9. Anthony Gayden

    Honestly, I never liked the financial advice from those who said that I should make just enough money to cover my living expenses and then I would be “financially independent”.

    To me that sounds like a fancy term for BROKE. If working hard at my full-time job and hustling hard on my real estate means that I am “dependent”, so be it.

    If I decide to exit from my full-time job it will be only so that I can dedicate the 60-70 hours a week I currently spend working at my job to my business instead.

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