When you think of retirement, you probably think of someone in their later years of life retiring after working 40+ years working at a typical job. Anita – travel lover, minimalist, money saver – was driven to break down those traditional norms of having to work a grueling 9-5 job for the rest of her adult life before retiring comfortably. She craved to retire young and travel the world and dedicated her time and resources to make her dream become a reality.
I got the wonderful opportunity to interview her to understand her techniques so that others can aspire to similar goals.
What was your main motivation to retire so young?
I hated waking up early. Every time the alarm clock would ring, I’d get really annoyed and determined. I wanted to sleep in and live my life on my own terms. I’m a night owl, so I prefer the 3 am to 11 am sleep routine. 🙂
How old were you when you officially retired?
I had just turned 33.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Your Money or Your Life’s author Joe Dominguez retired in his 30s and never accepted another penny from working. I find that incredibly awe-inspiring. I wish I could go that route! But I like the idea of donating billions to charity upon my demise. 🙂 In the year and a half since I’ve been retired though, I’ve only made a couple hundred dollars, so I’m still kind of taking that path.
How long did it take you to save the money to retire?
In six years, I went from having six figures of student loan debt to having enough money saved to retire.
What was your salary range at the beginning of your career and towards the end ?
My first job out of college was at an insurance company making $40,000 a year. Three years later I made $55,000 a year. Then I went to law school. My first lawyer job, I earned $160,000 the first year. The last year, I think I made about $330k?
Do you have any recommendations for people at an average income level but who still share your goal and motivation for early retirement?
It’s your savings rate that matters more than your income. Even if you can’t retire in 5 years, how about 15? Or 20? Anything is better than the normal working until you’re 65.
What are some important financial tips that helped you along the way to achieve your goal?
Track your total expenses. Put them on a chart somewhere you can see it every day. I had my chart on the back of my closet door so I saw it when I got dressed. The thrill of having a low-cost month feels incredible.
What investing advice can you give to someone just starting out on their own financially?
VTSAX. The total stock market index fund by Vanguard. It has the lowest fees and it’s basically every company in the United States. I’m betting on civilization.
Also, read stuff and understand your investment. Be able to explain it in plain English (or whatever your native language). Take ownership of your decisions.
Did you have any fears about retiring so early?
Nah. I’m hard-working and smartish. I’ve never had trouble finding a job. I’m still a lawyer. Worst case scenario, I can find a job at a grocery store or something. Life is too short to worry too much about the what-ifs. It’s impossible to plan for every scenario. Optimism and hard work go a long way.
How old were you when you started to travel?
I’ve gone to India several times when I was a kid to visit family. In my early 20s is when I really started. I was actually a flight attendant for a while before law school and after the insurance job.
Where is your favorite place you have ever traveled to and why?
Australia has a very special place in my heart because I lived there and I felt like it was home. Sydney is my favorite city in the world. Easily.
Where is the next place you are excited to travel to?
I’m hanging out in Denver for a while. I’ve been here about 3 weeks now and I plan to stay until it gets cold again. I’ve been traveling so much for the last year and a half, I’m actually excited about staying in one place for a bit!
Probably September, Octoberish, I’ll go to Colombia or Bolivia. I want to take Spanish lessons and really learn Spanish.
Do you usually travel alone or with others? Which is preferable to you?
Most of my travel is solo, but I’m always willing to meet a friend or family member somewhere if they suggest it. I much prefer having a buddy to travel with.
Any tips for other solo female travelers?
People are willing to help if you ask. There are a lot of us out there! The world is a pretty safe place. Also, pack lightly so you don’t have to rely on anyone’s help with your bag.
Was your family supportive of your decision to retire young?
Everyone was skeptical at first, but I’ve been talking about and planning for so long, they eventually started to realize I was serious about this and were fully supportive when I actually did it. I showed my chart tracking my expenses and my projected passive income to anyone who wanted to see it. They knew I had thought this through.
What advice would you give to people pursuing this goal without a supportive family?
You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. You can pick who you surround yourself with. Life is too short to spend it with people who don’t lift you up. You are the protagonist of your life.
I don’t know that I can give advice for this really. I’m super lucky with my family.
Any last pieces of advice for people inspired by your journey?
I’m not special or extraordinary. You can do this too if you want. The hardest part is making up your mind and wanting it enough.
To learn more about Anita follow her story at The Power of Thrift and on her Instagram@ evlpeace.