Mapping Out Our Journey to Early Retirement

Welcome to our humble cyberspace if you’ve just discovered us! We’re a multicultural couple living in Pennsylvania who began blogging on Valentine’s Day in 2015. More juicy information about us can be found by clicking here!

We write about things like a cat named Pushok who loves to annoy me, meaningful experiences that have an impact on our lives, and, most importantly, a life philosophy that brings us true happiness, and how achieving financial independence (FI) will help us reach early retirement and thrive along the way.

How we discovered FIRE

Around 2011, after some soul-searching and reading of finance books on my part, we came to the conclusion that if we had 25 times our annual expenses in income-producing assets, we could consider ourselves FI and no longer need to work to pay the bills. We could reduce the traditional 30-40 year retirement plan to a mere decade if we got to the FI point faster!

Doesn’t that sound exciting?

We sat down and calculated conservative projections, estimating that by eliminating unnecessary expenses, getting the most bang for our buck, and spending only on worthwhile experiences, we could be FI by 2020.

Spending cuts without deprivation

Since then, we’ve been gradually reducing our spending without sacrificing much. (Okay, so for a few years, we did live in a tiny apartment that wasn’t up to code. That was a lot of fun. It’s all uphill from there.)

Is there anything lacking in our home?

Not at all. We have everything we need. And we’re pleased to report that, without changing our initial FI number, we’re now on track to arrive in three years. What?! Yes, it’s incredible how quickly you can get there when you combine diligent saving and investing with compound interest.

And we believe you can retire earlier as well! Allow MMM, one of our favorite FI bloggers, to demonstrate the surprisingly simple math behind it.

We’ll be financially ready for early retirement once we reach FI.

Early retirement is living

Some people are taken aback when they learn about our plans for early retirement. They consider retirement to be a privilege reserved for the elderly.

“What do you mean you’re retiring? You’re still so young! What are you going to do with your time? Rock in a chair? How will you pay for health care? What about your kids’ college education? “What if you become ill?” The list is endless.

So, we considered all of these factors. I can assure you that we will be better prepared for any financial hardship than someone who lives paycheck to paycheck or lives a debt-fueled lifestyle.

Many of these people let their jobs define their lives, believing that the only way to live is to conform to societal norms. So if they don’t have a job to go to when they wake up in the morning, they’ll feel lost.

I’m fine with not waking up to a job; in fact, I’m overjoyed at the prospect.

Having a job and having work are not the same thing

There is a distinction to be made between having a job and having work. What we will do with our free time after retirement is the least of our concerns.

We have a lot of activities planned for after we retire early. We want to live a life similar to that of any other retiree: travel the world, spend more time with family and friends, and pursue hobbies.

The sweet part of this deal, however, is that we will have many more years of retirement. As a result, our bodies should be able to be more active than if we waited until we’re in our sixties.

We’ll also be able to contribute to society in more meaningful ways than we could in a full-time corporate job because we intend to work in some capacity. Doing meaningful work is essential for staying sharp throughout one’s life. The difference is that we can finally pursue our true passions. Tatiana, for example, can carry out her plan to save kittens and babies. 🙂

Retirement can be rejuvenating

Retiring can have a negative connotation. This is because most people retire when they are tired of working and believe they can no longer do so.

Retirement was not a popular term in the past because it was intended to get rid of people rather than help them.

To retire: to stop a job or career because you have reached the age when you are not allowed to work anymore or do not need or want to work anymore.

Merriam Webster Dictionary

Guess what this couple is going to do when we no longer need to work?

Oh, yes, we’re leaving corporate America!

That’s right, Internet Retirement Police!

We’ll be joining other awesome FI people, such as Jeremy and Winnie from Go Curry Cracker and Pete from Mr Money Mustache, who have achieved financial independence, pursued early retirement, and are still contributing members of society.

We’re living in a time where 35 is the new 65 when it comes to retirement. If you want to retire early, you should start your career in your early 20s and finish saving for retirement by your mid-30s.

We were unaware of the possibility of taking an extremely early retirement until later in our careers. Crunching the FI numbers and planning ahead of time are important steps in getting there.

We did not start planning as soon as we could have. We did, however, make significant progress by changing our spending and saving habits.

Early saving years with an FI mindset (2011-2012)

The following is how we plan to get to early retirement:

  • Prior to adopting a FI mindset, we were saving the bare minimum required in our 401(k)s in order to receive the employer match. We should have started maxing out contributions sooner, but we can’t go back in time! After we completed our FI calculations, our goal was to increase our contributions until we could max them out.
  • Tatiana, a debt-free, disciplined saver with a no-debt mindset, was able to begin saving much earlier in her career than I was.
  • Following eye-opening revelations about how we were spending our money, sticking to a budget became critical.
  • Tatiana’s main goal was to reduce spending on variable experiences, while mine was to pay off all of my debt, including student loans.

Accumulating stage (2013-2014)

  • After paying off all of my debt, I joined my wife’s debt-free journey.
  • Every year, we maxed out our 401(k) contributions and invested the rest in taxable investment accounts. Our investments began to gain traction. Anyone for compounding interest?!
  • We put any extra money from promotions, raises, and bonuses to good use. The key here was to keep adding to our investment portfolio rather than inflating our lifestyles.
  • Renting made more sense than buying a house while on this journey to FI because we may move abroad when we reach FIRE. 

Near early retirement (2015-2019)

We’re pleased to report that we’ve arrived at this point, almost at our final destination. 🙂

  • Our savings are running on autopilot. We’re still saving and have begun front-loading our 401(k)s this year.
  • We don’t need to keep an eye on our budget all the time because we’ve learned to be frugal with our money.
  • We’re looking into where we want to live and will save aggressively for our first home as a couple after covering 25 years of living expenses! We want to be able to enjoy nice weather and local fruits and vegetables all year. That house would be the starting point for our early retirement years.
  • We looked into loopholes that would allow us to access our retirement savings without incurring penalties. After we become early retirees through the Roth conversion ladder, we will transfer funds between investment accounts.
  • We intend to have at least one child for the time being, stay in the United States for another year after he or she is born, and then relocate. We want him/her to see the world and all that other cultures have to offer.
  • We’ll look into health insurance options once we know where we’ll be living. We did some preliminary research, and they’re not as bad as you might think.

Final thoughts

Retiring at such a young age is unusual, and we must therefore seek out unusual sources of valuable information in order to make informed decisions. Fortunately, we are not traveling alone. Other bloggers we follow provide very useful information on financial independence and early retirement.

We take turns picking each other’s brains. That is the beauty of the early retirement community: we are willing to share information to assist others in reaching their goals.

What are your thoughts on early retirement? What about the concept excites and/or concerns you? Let’s get it out there in the comments and deal with it together…

This article was featured on The Sunday Best by Physician On FIRE.


After dedicating 13 years of his career to Vanguard, José retired from the corporate world at the young age of 44. During his tenure at Vanguard, he expertly coordinated the production of both electronic and print educational materials for 401(k) participants. Now, he relishes in his early retirement, cherishing time spent with his family, indulging in his favorite hobbies, seeking out new experiences, and savoring meals in the comfort of his own backyard.

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7 years ago

Yes I agree people look at me with 3 heads when I tell them I want to retire too. I’m 38 so I am a bit late to the FI party. But in due time I will get there in my late 40s. Still better than 65. I have to do a bit more work with the wife to get her on board, she still doesnt have a full FI mindset. Well good luck reaching the big Goal.

7 years ago
Reply to  EL

Hi EL,
You’re not late at all and you’ll probably get there earlier than anticipated. I’m fortunate that wifey and I are both on the same page when it comes to FIRE. Keep selling her FIRE and the true happiness that comes with it and you’ll get her there eventually. Thanks for stopping by. I checked out your recent article about your mom passing away. Been there myself this year, I know the feeling. Again, sorry for your loss.

Justin @ RootofGood
8 years ago

So glad you guys are on the path to FI. I can feel your joie de vivre, the desire to be enchumbao in happiness.

Best of luck in reaching your goals – you’re so close that it’s inevitable at this point!

8 years ago

Hi Justin,
Yes, it’s pure joy and sometimes a little desperation since we’re so close to the finish line. But we keep our eyes on the ball and it’s great to have this venue to express ourselves. You learned something new today: how to use enchumbao in a sentence! Awesome!!!

I really enjoy your blog and will be adding it to the blog roll. You’re doing great work there. Thanks for dropping by!

8 years ago

I’m glad you highlighted the team effort to get there sooner. Me and the new wifey are on the same page and turbocharging our strategy to get to FI even faster.

One thing you might want to write about later is how HSAs and High Deductible Plans combined with Obamacare subsidies can help early retirees cover their healthcare needs very easily.

8 years ago
Reply to  LM

Of course, we couldn’t have gotten there as fast without the team effort. And it’s not only in the finance department, wifey and I team up on the rest of the responsibilities and feel comfort that we can rely on one another to get us to the finish line when needed. Congratulations on your wedding! That sure is an enchumbao moment! I’m sure you’re going to become a strong couple on this FI journey!

Great idea about the health care choices, we’ll definitely cover those topics. Keep the ideas coming and thanks for dropping by.

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