This blog is essentially a chronicle of my journey to an early semi-retirement and I wouldnt have embarked on this journey if not for some “mentors”. Therefore, I feel it’s necessary for me to introduce you to some of my role models in the international sphere.
There’s 5 of them below and all of them can be considered to be semi-retired at various points in time and I am a super big fan of their sites. I can’t recommend them highly enough. 🙂
1. Early Retirement Extreme (www.earlyretirementextreme.com)
Early Retirement Extreme is a blog started by Jacob Fisker in 2007. He retired after 5 years of work. And no, it’s not because he started an internet business and sold it away for millions. In fact, he worked as a physics research assistant earning about $40,000-$60,000 a year and accumulated more than $200,000 in those 5 years to achieve financial independence.
“Wait a second! To accumulate $200,000 on those salaries mean a savings rate of >75%?! And how can he reach FI with such a small sum of $200,000?!”
So yeah, that’s where the extreme part comes in. This guy went through a few years spending only $7,000 a year! That amount would only get the 15 HWW household through 2 months! Now, you can probably understand why when I say there’s plenty of fat to be trimmed in our monthly budget. =)
Jacob’s lifestyle/achievements is an ideal for me to strive for and even though some of his tactics (the warrior diet and freezing a week’s portion of food) seem to be beyond my current appetitie and ability, it’s really about embracing his spirit and original ideas. Same direction but just a difference in degree?
ERE is not just a blog. There’s also a wiki and a book*. The book is a personal favourite of mine and his analysis of our current consumer society and system hits the jackpot! This guy doesn’t provide a laundry list of money saving tips (since it can be easily googled?). Instead, he puts forward a coherent argument/strategy to persuade us to abandon the consumer mindset and lifestyle to achieve financial independence early.
2. Mr Money Mustache (www.mrmoneymustache.com)
Mr Money Mustache sings a similar but slightly less extreme tune compared to ERE. Which is quite understandable since Pete and his wife have a kid, and earned about twice as much as Jacob in his previous life as a programmer. The MMM household saved 65% of their income and retired after 8-9 years at the age of around 30?!
If Jacob was Bruce Lee, then MMM could be considered Jackie Chan as he has carried the early retirement torch left behind by ERE (after Jacob took up a job as a quant trader/researcher) and delivered the same message to a much bigger audience. As a testament to his popularity, he was even mentioned in our local papers by Jonathan Kwok in a Sunday Times article.
Instead of the technical/mathematical nature that is a trademark of Jacob’s writing, MMM’s posts are injected with a huge dose of more light-hearted humour, badassity and face punches. It also helps that an expenditure within $30k a year is also much more achievable and appealing to the masses. Living in a house (as compared to a RV) also signals a lifestyle that is closer to middle-class too.
His articles are comprehensive (>1,000 words most of the time?), well-written and an enjoyable read. I devoured the achives within a few weeks! I am also not ashamed to admit that I do try to model after his posts sometimes. Heck, afterall he was the one who gave me a push to start my own blog with this post.
3. Raptitute (www.raptitude.com)
Unlike the two bloggers above, David Cain’s main focus when he started his blog wasn’t about money, and it still isn’t. If my assessment and memory doesn’t fail me, David is a smart, shy guy with plenty of insecurities (at least in his younger days) and I can strongly identify with him as he explores some of his personal stories to try to gain insights on how to become better at being human.
And recently, he has befriended Mr Money Mustache and started writing more blog posts indicating his displeasure with work and also exploring the option of an early retirement from the daily drudgery of “work”. He finally did it in October and his time will now be spent to do what he loves: write.
And boy, can he write. Most of his articles deserve to be archived in my personal reading folder for future reference as he explores a wide range of topics from learning what humans are not good at to themes like moving away from conformity and convention and other human limitations. “Thought-provocating” is an understatement.
4. Brave New Life (www.bravenewlife.com)
BNL retired a few months ago at the ripe old age of 32 and although he might not be as popular as Jacob and MMM, I have enjoyed his writing thoroughly. He is one who writes more about the relationships and emotional aspects of early retirement, from his boss’s and colleagues’ reactions to the joy his wife and children are experiencing.
He has acknowledged both Jacob and MMM for being inspirations and this is something I definitely can identify with him. His retirement lifestyle has been nothing short of interesting as he wasn’t “connected” for more than 2 months. No FB, Twitter, emails and smartphones. Wow.
He isn’t exactly very prolific (less than 100 posts over 4 years) but it’s no exaggeration to say that I have enjoyed almost all of them and among the 5 here, I have followed his journey the most closely.
5. Dividend Mantra (www.dividendmantra.com)
One might argue that the four bloggers above could retire early because they were either smart, had a good start in life or were blessed with pretty well-to-do families. I have to admit there is some truth in that and all of them did enjoy their fair share of good fortune to be able to retire or semi-retired in their early thirties.
But Jason here is really different and I guess he could really be the ultimate inspiration for those who are either starting later or are bogged down by less desirable circumstances. At the age of 27 in 2009, Jason found out that he was worth less than when he was a baby. He had little to show for after almost a decade of work.
He decided to turn his financial life around and even on an annual income of ~$40,000, he managed to save more than 50% of his income for the past 5 years. A frugal lifestyle helped him to accumulate substantial savings that became the initial capital to start his dividend mantra philosophy.
Jason invests in companies with a history of increasing their dividends and helped by the recent US equities market boom, he is now sitting on a portfolio worth $170,000 that is churning out $5,500 of dividends a year. This has enabled him to quit his car salesman job, return to his home state to be closer to family and pursue writing as a career.