FIRE: How I stumbled onto early retirement

I’ve always been an independent person. I like to be in control. I very much prefer to drive when travelling by car. I question authority relentlessly. I want to do things my own way, not how someone tells me to do it. Thus, it’s not that surprising that early retirement resonated with me.

Like most kids, the structure of the typical school day drove me nuts. I didn’t like having to be in certain places at the same times every day. I wanted to set me own schedule in a more ad-hoc fashion. I did as little homework as possible to earn my desired grades. I generally found ways to “hack” the school system without being a troublemaker. I have always had an independent streak and been unafraid to do things my own way while succeeding within the system.

I also found a way to “hack” college. I worked out a plan that would allow me to graduate in only 3 years and tack on a Masters degree in the 4th year. I didn’t succumb to the notion that undergraduate college takes 4-5 years and Masters degrees are something you earn later in life.

I was on the fast track to a great job. When the stock market and economy crashed, the stars aligned in a lot of ways for me. Not finding a job until 6 months after graduation was the best thing that happened. Let me explain:

After truly being a full-time student for 4 years, I was burned out. While I would send out resumes and job applications every day for that 6 month period, I had a lot of unstructured time. My girlfriend (now wife) and I were able to do anything we wanted that summer. We had a blast. We slept late. We watched movies. We just lived life.

When I finally got a job offer, the salary was about half of what had been touted for graduates of my Masters program. Luckily, the job was my dream job.

Living on half of what I’d expected to make was the greatest blessing of my life. Not only did I have to practice frugality and keep a close eye on expenses, the low salary made me question if working long hours was worth it. I began to research ways to make money on the side. This lead me down the path to dividend growth investing…the gateway to early retirement.

As is wont to happen in the early stages of a career, my salary increased substantially over the years. But I kept my lifestyle relatively unchanged with each raise. I needed the extra money to invest in dividend stocks and increase passive income for early retirement!

I despise having my schedule set for me. I don’t mind an appointment or two, but a recurring/set schedule tears at my soul. So with a way to fund my dream lifestyle in dividend investing, and a fairly modest expense level, I was on the path to financial independence. I wanted to recreate that summer after college before I found a job. That magical time when my girlfriend (now wife) and I had unlimited time.

From there, with the plan in motion and the goals known it was a matter of passing time, keeping expenses down, and saving all excess income into dividend growth stocks. We’ll recap the details of the story in the future.

2 thoughts on “FIRE: How I stumbled onto early retirement”

  1. Hi RR,

    I am just like you. Despise being tied down to a cubicle/office setting for a set amount of hours to get paid every 2 weeks. Not a fun way to live in my eyes. I just started my own journey to financial independence through the exact methodology that you used; frugality and dividend investing. Looking forward to reading the details of your journey.

    All the best,

    1. MM,
      Being tied down for a paycheck is the worst! You’ll find that each addition to your passive income frees you just a bit. My first dividend check covered a Big Mac meal from McDonalds. A few years later, I could pay my cable bill with dividends. Then the house payment. And so on. Be sure to relish each milestone along the way and enjoy the small wins that pile up.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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