If you asked Francis about the best way to retire early, his answer would be simple: Don’t.
For many years, the 42-year-old man has worked hard to achieve FIRE, which stands for “financial independence, retire early”. But in reality, a lifetime of being without a job isn’t really what most people want, he said. That’s a lesson he himself discovered after retiring at the age of 37 in 2017.
“I think pursuing FIRE is probably the wrong idea,” Francis, who requested to have his last name withheld for privacy reasons, tells CNBC Make It. “I don’t think most people want to retire early. I think what most people want is a sabbatical of sorts. They’re disgruntled with their careers and they want to take a really, really long time off. Maybe a year or two.”
It was discontent that led him to leave his job as an electrical engineer, where he earned a base salary of $120,000 plus $30,000 to $60,000 in equity and bonuses. But Francis describes life without work as “too boring”. He decided to devote himself full time to his YouTube hobby and is currently making money creating videos for his 350,000 followers.
Ways to save money not everyone can do
Francis quit his job in 2017 with $1.2 million in savings and investments. He heard about FIRE for the first time in 2013 and decided to do his best in both work and daily life to achieve that goal. His early retirement strategy is rooted in one key element: spending as little money as possible.
The first step is to pay off the mortgage on the house, which costs $22,000 a year. In dealing with this, he also tries to cut his spending wherever he can.
“I jumped through a lot of hoops in order to save money and get my expenses as low as possible,” Francis says. His cost-cutting measures ranged from not paying for any streaming services to making sure he used every single item of food item in his refrigerator to even a short-lived stint without a cell phone.
Going phoneless “turned out to not work very well, but I think it’s important to push a little bit too hard, get a little bit too uncomfortable,” he says. Eventually, with his house paid off, Francis was able to cut his annual spending down to less than $15,000.
His knowledge of electrical engineering also helped him cut family expenses. He installed the water heater himself and fixed the garage door when the power went out. He also built a solar panel system in his backyard to provide a small but free amount of electricity.
“I never call a handyman because I am the handyman,” Francis says. “All my appliances are really, really old because they never break. If they break, I fix them and they’re good as new.”
Francis is also a master at accumulating credit card points. He uses a process known as churning, which involves switching between different credit cards to maximize points, and has more than 20 active credit cards at any given time. any.
“In order to churn these credit cards, you need to have a really high credit score,” he says, adding that his own score is 835. “A lot of people think it’s a hassle, but for me personally, it’s giving me a lot of value.”
Maybe early retirement will be very free but…boring
After two years of early retirement, Francis is off work and wants to travel. However, he felt extremely bored. This is the situation that Francis wants to warn young people who want to retire early like him. So what solution does he have to relieve boredom? Just get back to work.
In 2019, Francis started to focus on his Youtube channel and release videos regularly. Starting the channel in 2013, he initially posted videos ranging from how to make fake shark fin soup to strategies to win the popular game “2048”.
He revolves around financial topics, teaching viewers about credit scores and investing. As his views started to increase, so did his income. Francis’ workload fluctuates depending on his mood. There were weeks when he worked almost full-time while other weeks he worked as little as eight hours. Currently, this man has attracted more than 350,000 subscribers to his channel.
In his most successful months, he makes nearly $10,000 in revenue on YouTube. He kept his annual budget of $15,000 and used the income to pay for his living expenses. The rest was transferred by Francis to his investment account.
It is a job that brings him more joy than his old office job and he wants to stick with Youtube for many more years.
“Now I no longer call myself ‘retired’ because I am putting in my full-time effort into YouTube,” Francis says. “I’d like to put a lot more work into it and grow it … I think it’s a work in progress.”