Just a handful of years ago, the concept of early retirement seemed relatively new. Blogs covering real people who were able to quit their 9-5 at the ripe old age of, say, 33 and travel, start passion projects, or just enjoy life started popping up.
Like many others, I was intrigued and followed their blogs with fascination and more than a twinge of jealousy.
FIRE: Financial Independence, Retire Early
These days, FIRE has become a phrase that you can’t get away from in the world of personal finance. It’s caught on with a crowd that wants autonomy over their lives.
Pro Tip: Deacon Hayes, founder of Well Kept Wallet, wrote a book about early retirement called You Can Retire Early: Everything You Need to Achieve Financial Independence When You Want It.
FIRE may sound like dream, but it can be done. What’s needed: the proper mindset, smart financial strategies for saving and spending, a lot of planning, and a healthy dose of ambition.
It takes a lot of planning and hard work to get to a place where you can retire early, but the rewards are super sweet. Ditching your full-time job so you can travel, spend more time with family and friends, and tick off things on your bucket list is a great way to live, wouldn’t you say?
The rockstar bloggers who write about early retirement started with just an idea. Over time, they gained a wealth of knowledge about budgeting, saving, and creating a lifestyle that brings them joy.
Here are some of the best early retirement blogs that show you how to get there. It’s never too late to make saving a priority, even if you aren’t exactly on track to retire early.
Pro Tip: Use Betterment to begin investing for your retirement, or track existing retirement funds.
1. 1500 Days
I first learned about Carl Richards’s blog, 1500 Days to Freedom, in 2013 when I interviewed him about his then-new sapling of a retirement blog. He said he wanted to track how long it would take him to have $1 million invested for retirement.
This sounded like quite the task, but he was determined to retire early (by the age of 43) and in 2017, he realized his goal.
Richards shares what it’s like now that he has no full-time job to tend to. “Once I left my job, I found myself with mental bandwidth that I had not had in years,” he told Well Kept Wallet. “I had time to think about my daily routine, priorities, and my relationships.”
He continues, “This led to some interesting discoveries. You find out who you really are. I think this is overwhelmingly positive, but don’t be surprised if you uncover some deep truths about yourself, too.”
When it comes to strategies for early retirement, Richards explains, “Focus on your 401k. By contributing to a 401k, you’re lowering your tax burden and you may also have the benefit of an employer match. If you don’t contribute enough to get the employer match, you’re leaving free money on the table.”
2. Mr. Money Mustache
I love Mr. Money Mustache and, like many of his followers, I enjoy reading his articles about early retirement and living a simple but happy existence.
Only in his 40s but already living the life he’d always dreamed of, blogger Peter Adeney got started on this path because he wanted to make early retirement a reality. He and his wife invested in rental homes and saved aggressively in Vanguard index funds.
The thing I like most about his site is his philosophy about money and spending — i.e., consumption. He’s a big believer in “living a larger life with a smaller footprint” and writes regularly about aligning his daily routine with this philosophy.
The MMM site has a lot of information, so if you’re unsure of where to start or are new to personal finance in general, begin with the “classics” or “MMM Recommends” sections. You won’t be sorry!
3. Think Save Retire
Think Save Retire chronicles the life of an ambitious young retiree who travels the country in an Airstream trailer with his wife. The site was created by Steve Adcock, now 35, who writes regularly about how to properly budget your income and invest wisely.
Think Save Retire focuses on the benefits of living a positive lifestyle without worrying about judgement from others. He shares his real-world insights about staying mentally positive.
The message is clear: gravitate to things that make you happy, and for Steve, it’s traveling the country in an Airstream. Why not?!
Some example blog topics include living the American dream and going against conventional wisdom.
The best thing about his blog is that it’s fun to see what kinds of adventures he’s up to. It’s a true testament to why people choose to retire early.
4. Afford Anything
I have complete and utter respect for Paula Pant, who is the founder of Afford Anything. Pant’s blog has evolved over the years from a real estate focus to being about living your life the way you want. She now has a podcast as well.
Although Afford Anything is not exactly about early retirement, she writes about traveling and having the freedom to live her life without the constraints of worrying about money or a 9-5 job.
Pant started her journey to financial independence by purchasing homes and flipping them. She showed “before” and “after” photos of the flips on the blog.
She would then let you know exactly how much she was earning from each of her flips by renting them out on platforms such as Airbnb. Pant also has an extensive travel section that shows you how to ditch your office job and go on far-off adventures.
Pant is a savvy investor and, thanks to passive streams of income, she now works whenever, wherever. Pretty cool.
5. Root of Good
Root of Good was created by Justin McCurry, who retired at such a young age — 33! Like the other bloggers on this list, McCurry retired thanks to wise investments and strategies.
He and his wife have three kids but somehow manage to live off of $40,000 a year.
Like many early retirement bloggers, McCurry explains the numbers behind how much he is able to save and invest. He also uses easy-to-understand language to explain exactly how he invests.
6. Retire by 40
Although this blog has a no-frills design and layout, Retire by 40 is a great resource to understand what investments you should be focusing on in order to maximize your money.
Retire by 40 was created by an engineer named Joe Udo, who left his career to blog and be a stay-at-home dad at 38. Like many before him, Udo was tired of the “corporate BS” that came with his job, despite enjoying the technical work.
His blog gives you tips to build wealth, including what it takes to be a rental property owner. He has three of them in Portland, Ore. and also uses RealtyShares, a crowdfunded real estate investment platform.
Udo also posts about his monthly financial goals. I like his article, Should You Focus on Making More or Spending Less?
7. Millennial Revolution
As the name suggests, Millennial Revolution is an early retirement blog. The site, which is Canadian, is geared to millennials who want to learn about FIRE without any BS.
The site covers everything from the housing market to saving for your kid’s college education.
The articles cover economic trends with an op-ed twist, making it an easy and fast read. What millennial can refuse that?
My favorite articles include:
Start with their Binge Read section.
8. Early Retirement Now
If you want advice from someone with the educational chops to back it up, read Early Retirement Now. The blog was created by Karsten Jaske, a German who settled in the U.S. after getting a masters and PhD in economics here. He writes regularly about how to save and maximize your retirement funds.
Jaske dishes out tips on how to budget and plan your finances strategically. But what I like most about the site is that he doesn’t shy away from providing his own financial views on various personal finance topics, including Robo-advisors and emergency funds.
Jaske doesn’t believe in robo-advisors because he thinks you can do the same yourself, for free. He also thinks emergency funds are overrated (what!) and is interested in alternative investments, such as option writing.
Given Jaske’s background in economics and research, his articles are packed with information. For example, he has a safe withdrawal rate case study about whole life insurance that details the complicated policies involved.
Besides the case study, I also enjoyed the following articles:
Bonus: Early Retirement Podcast Episode
Recently, Deacon interviewed Mr. Groovy from Freedom is Groovy about their decision to retire early.
I Assessed My Own Net Worth for Retirement
Personally, I’ve given retirement a lot of thought this year. It’s a reality that no one can escape. Everyone will get older, so preparing for it is so important. Plus, who doesn’t want financial independence?
After really assessing my net worth this year, I realized I needed to save a lot more aggressively. While I won’t be able to be in the retired-at-33 camp, my goal is to retire in my early 50s.
I’ve made a handful of changes to better manage my money. It started with saving more aggressively and spending less. I even moved to cut down on rent. Recently, I also met with a financial advisor to iron out (and hopefully improve) my investments.
What These Early Retirement Bloggers Did Right
Financial independence is a growing movement, and if you’re interested in going down the same path as these early retirees, you can start reading their stories and plan. While retiring early may seem like an impossible challenge, it’s not rocket science.
The basic rule is to keep your expenses low while strategically improving your income and savings. The real challenge lies in the behavior that it takes to get there.
There is definitely a set of basic steps each early-retiree blogger followed in order to achieve their goal. Most of the bloggers on this list did the following:
- Created a plan, with tangible goals to pay off debt
- Scaled back significantly on spending
- If they were married, they lived on one income
- Sold cars and homes, and stopped making large purchases
- Saved like crazy, and maxed out 401k and other retirement accounts
- Many had passive income streams such as property income or side hustles
Retirement Looms, No Matter What
Even if FIRE isn’t on your radar, getting your personal finances in order so you are able to eventually retire with enough in your nest egg is key. Max out your 401k, save more, spend less, and think about how you can live more intentionally.
I have so much respect for the bloggers who started with just an idea to live life the way they saw fit, and not conform to societal norms about the proper retirement age. They worked hard to save, invest, and make sure they were on track to meet their goals. They all had regular jobs they were unhappy with, and wanted more out of life.
Many of the bloggers did not come from wealth or make huge sums of money. They were just really intentional about what they did and refused to give up or follow what everyone else was doing. In the process, they learned a lot about money but also about themselves (not having a job gives you a lot of time!).
Having money and financial freedom isn’t about buying more stuff. It’s about living the life you want, spending time with the people you love, and in the process, getting to know yourself better.
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