What It Takes to Actually Retire by 30

What It Takes to Actually Retire by 30

Every afternoon, Lauren and Steven Keys stroll along the beach near their Florida home with their fellow retirees.

They’re not octogenarians enjoying the fruit of decades of labor. They’re not even 65, just beginning their post-retirement life. Lauren is 32 and Steven is 31, and the couple retired at 29.

“Every day, I can’t believe that this is my life right now,” Lauren says.

After graduating from the University of Florida in 2012, the Keyses took a 45-day road trip to Alaska before beginning full-time jobs and grad school. The switch from the freedom of the road to the obligations of work and adulthood was jarring. They began to fear the vacation was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity before 40-plus years of work . When they discovered the concept of early retirement, it seemed like a path to the life they wanted.

Already frugal, they took an even harder look at their finances and started tracking their net worth . They lived off a small fraction of their combined teacher and marketing salaries, picked up side hustles, downsized to one used car, said no to Starbucks and eating out, and invested the majority of their income. Today, they’ve visited every national park, spent six months in Hawaii, and last year, joined TikTok to show others how to live like they do.

They’re part of a growing online community championing quitting work long before 65, with hashtags like#EarlyRetirement, #RetireBefore30, and #FinancialIndependence. Scrolling through this content can be overwhelming, and it’s difficult to discern who’s a real person with real tips, like the Keyses, who don’t charge for their advice, and who’s a scammer who just wants your cash (presumably to fund their retirement). But there’s no doubt many TikTokers are taken with the idea of leaving the daily grind well ahead of their twilight years.

Long before TikTok, proponents of what’s called FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) have pursued early retirement. But on the app, the movement built on aggressive saving, investment, and frugality has found a new audience — and come up with new strategies for piling up cash. The generally held advice is you need to reach a net worth 25 times your annual cost of living to theoretically live off your savings for the rest of your life. So, if you make $70,000 after taxes and live off half of it, you would need to reach a net worth around $875,000 to retire early. According to one of the many online FIRE calculators , that could take a little over 16 years to achieve. And that’s assuming you’ll always live off of $35,000 for the rest of your life. If you can bump up your savings and increase your income, you could get there even faster. The methods TikTokers recommend to do that are endless: crypto, affiliate links on Amazon, opening new credit cards, investing in index funds, downgrading your car and home, selling clothes online, monetizing your hobbies, renting out rooms in your house, the list goes on. The key is to not just to save, but continually grow your income and invest the majority of it.

One creator who goes by Dumpster Diving Freegan documents finding everything from coffee and wine to toilet paper and pregnancy tests for free, even though she works in banking. She’s saving for early retirement and reducing waste, she explains in a video.

Some “early retirement” proponents say they plan to keep working, but only in ways they want to, like Taylor Price , 21, a podcaster, financial influencer, and entrepreneur in Raleigh, North Carolina, with 1.2 million followers, who wants to retire by the time she’s 30, but not halt all her projects. “The term retirement to me means work is optional,” she says. “I have a passion to work.”

Cherry Tung , 26, a financial coach in Los Angeles, left a career in accounting and now, thanks to good financial planning, qualifies herself as “work optional.” She shares financial advice on TikTok and sells a course for others hoping to retire early. “I feel really uncomfortable doing nothing,” she says. “My purpose is in creating some impact and if it’s not in a corporate job, it has to be something else that I’m doing. ” Dumpster Diving Freegan documents finding everything from coffee and wine to toilet paper and pregnancy tests for free, even though she works in banking. Even the Keyses aren’t after a lifetime of local beach strolls. Sure, they’re planning to travel to other countries. Maybe they’ll have children . Or maybe they’ll open a […]

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