The average American gets just 10 days of paid vacation per year — but Jeremy Jacobson and Winnie Tseng have bumped up that number to 365.
“We love having 52 weeks of vacation,” says Jeremy. “We love the endless summer that comes with being full-time nomads.” Now, they share the steps they took to achieve financial independence in their mid-30s on their blog, Go Curry Cracker.
Although this dream might sound out of reach, Jeremy and Winnie prove it’s possible with smart financial planning. Here’s how they did it.
Jeremy first had to deal with his student loans
Before Jeremy could start saving for early retirement, he had to pay off his student debt. “I graduated in 1996 with about $40,000 in debt,” said Jeremy. He got a full-time job as an engineer and set to work paying off his student loans ASAP.
“To pay that off I basically lived like I was still in college, putting every penny towards student loans,” says Jeremy.
He made sacrifices to make extra payments, too. “I was fortunate that my employer at the time would let me cash out vacation time for extra cash, so I didn’t take any vacation for several years,” he adds.
He also got strategic about interest rates. “I took out some 0% interest credit card advances for interest rate arbitrage against the 8% loan rates I had,” says Jeremy. In other words, he used interest-free credit card advances to pay his student loans off faster. In effect, Jeremy got rid of the interest on his student loans for a few months by taking advantage of promotional credit card offers.
“I did everything I could to claw out of debt,” said Jeremy.
A great vacation set the wheels in motion
Once Jeremy got rid of his student loans, he had more income at his disposal. He was finally able to take a vacation, which became a turning point in his life. It was this trip that set him on the path to early retirement.
“About six years after graduating I had finally paid off my student loans and taken my first real vacation as an adult,” says Jeremy. “After a couple weeks of fresh seafood and tropical drinks, I didn’t want to go back to work.”
It’s a thought that nearly everyone has dreamed of, but Jeremy made it happen. “There were no early retirement blogs back then, so I started reading everything I could get my hands on and reaching out to people who blazed the trail,” says Jeremy.
He learned how to slash his spending and optimize his investments, but it took a few years before Jeremy — and later Winnie — could fully commit to their early retirement goal.
Jeremy and Winnie made big changes to cut spending
The couple wanted to reduce their spending and maximize their saving. But before they could do so, they had to deal with the debt they were already stuck with.
“We bought a house. We bought a car. We bought some vacations,” says Jeremy. “We realized later that these debt-fueled lifestyle choices were more hassle and expense than we wanted.”
To recoup their losses, Jeremy and Winnie shed these purchases. They sold their house and moved into a small apartment. They got rid of the cars and chose bicycles instead. They even spent their honeymoon hiking, instead of living it up at a fancy resort.
“In the end, rather than spend our incomes on stuff or experiences, we spent it on our freedom,” says Jeremy.
Over half their income went into investments
Once Jeremy and Winnie downsized their lifestyle and paid down debt, they set to work investing their money. In fact, they invested about half of their combined $135,000 income into index funds. Thanks to compound interest, their savings grew into a sizeable nest egg.
“It took five to six years to get out of debt, 10 years of saving like crazy, and another three years of being retired during a bull stock market to get there,” writes Jeremy on his blog. “Those last three years of post-college work (out of a total of 16), I was depositing my whole paycheck into the brokerage account.”
Over the years, their savings grew into a sustainable endowment. “We had a goal of invested assets (index funds) worth at least 25 times our target cost of living,” says Jeremy. “Then we went off and traveled the world for the past five years, spending less than our target, which has allowed our portfolio to continue to grow. Compound interest is an amazing thing when it works for you.”
Rather than raising their expenses, their lifestyle of full-time travel helped them save even more. Because they visited countries with a lower cost of living than the U.S., they spent less than they would have in their home city of Seattle. Now, Jeremy and Winnie have a multi-million dollar net worth.
Jeremy and Winnie enjoy 52 weeks of vacation per year
Jeremy and Winnie didn’t inherit millions of dollars or win the lottery. Though they earned a sizable combined income, they worked hard for over a decade to cut their cost of living and maximize their investments.
According to Jeremy, anyone can retire early if they commit to saving. “By saving 50 percent of your income, you can be financially independent in about 15 years,” he says.
Of course, the tradeoff is that you’ll have to cut costs and learn to live with less. But for Jeremy and Winnie, that compromise was worth it, especially since they can enjoy a high quality of life in less expensive places. Plus, their portfolio continues to grow as they travel with their son.
Retiring in your 30s to travel the world might sound like an impossible dream. But Jeremy and Winnie prove it’s within reach if you truly commit to saving more than you spend.
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