Here’s How This Blogger is Retiring Before 30 (Plus Some of Her Tips)

Woman looking at scenery
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner takes a break after hiking Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona. Photo courtesy of Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

If you would have told me just a few years ago I could retire before age 29, I probably would have laughed at you.

I was struggling financially, living paycheck-to-paycheck.

However, in August 2011, I created my personal finance website, Making Sense of Cents, to help improve my own financial situation. I also hoped it would help others along the way by teaching readers ways to make extra money, manage a better budget and more.

When I began earning enough from my blog to turn it into full-time income, I left my day job as a financial analyst. That was in 2013.

Now, in 2018, I am traveling full-time with my husband and our two dogs. And I earned over $1 million through my blogging business in 2017 alone.

I don’t plan on quitting the blogging business anytime soon, but the possibility of retiring now just means I am prepared for whatever might happen in the future. This could be a change in the industry, a medical emergency or anything unforeseen.

Having the ability to retire early is all about freedom and flexibility.

It’s about choosing how you want to live the rest of your life, on your own terms.

Here’s how to retire early:

We Lived Frugally to Retire for Less

Couple posing
Michelle and husband Wesley Gardner after hiking Horseshoe Mountain in Colorado. Photo courtesy of Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.

I do realize we have a high income, but we’re still just as frugal as ever and save over 95% of what we earn.

Since we live in an RV, we have to be very mindful of what we buy, as we only have so much room and can only carry so much weight. We also don’t pay for TV (we canceled cable a few years ago), we enjoy the outdoors for nearly free for 99% of our entertainment and activities, and we don’t take part in lifestyle inflation.

Learning how to save money is incredibly important because it can help you pay off your debt a little faster, improve your financial habits, reach your retirement quicker and more.

If you are already living a frugal lifestyle, you will be used to living on less in the future, meaning your retirement savings doesn’t need to be as large and will be more attainable.

The bottom line is that by lowering your expenses and saving more of your money, you are likely to retire sooner.

We Paid Off Debt

People on boat
Schroeder-Gardner, Wesley and friend Liz on a sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands. Photo courtesy of Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.

Debt is dangerous because it’s easy to be overwhelmed by it, especially if it’s high-interest-rate debt from credit cards.

For us, we were able to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt, which allowed us to stop paying interest and having debt hanging over our head. We paid off debt by finding ways to make extra money (as discussed a little later).

This is why it’s important to tackle your debt: It can prevent you from reaching your financial goals. Paying off your debt will allow you to put money toward early retirement, an emergency fund and more.

There are many different ways to attack your debt and move toward early retirement, and I prefer a mixture of actions, such as these:

  • Be realistic with your income and spending. If you have debt, then you either have an income or spending problem. This means earning more and/or spending less.
  • Pay more than the minimum. By paying more than the minimum payment, you will lower the amount you are paying in interest.
  • Put small amounts toward your debt. To be really serious about paying off your debt, put any extra or left over funds towards your debt. $5, $50 or more𑁋 anything extra helps.

We Took on Side Gigs

Woman working from home
Schroeder-Gardner works on her website, Making Sense of Cents, in her motorhome. Photo courtesy of Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.

By increasing my earning, through side hustles and my blog, I was able to pay off $38,000 in student loans within seven months, and that put me on track to where I am today.

That won’t be easy for everyone, but even if you only have just a few extra hours a week, there are many options for side hustles. You could find a part-time job, babysit, walk dogs, pick up trash, freelance, take surveys, start your own business or become a sales agent. The list is endless.

Some of my side hustles included freelancing for others online, blogging on Making Sense of Cents, mystery shopping, selling items from around my home on eBay, taking paid surveys and more.

We Started Investing

Jeep in landscape
Schroeder-Gardner and husband snap a picture before hiking Mount Peale in Utah. Photo courtesy of Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.

We started investing through Vanguard funds, and it’s still where the majority of our investments are. It’s a very simple way to invest and it is my favorite.

The earlier you start investing money for retirement, the more natural it becomes and the better long-term investing habits you will learn.

Plus, time is on your side with compound interest, meaning the sooner you invest, the more you will save over time.

Here’s an example of how compound interest works: If you put $1,000 into an investment account with an annual 8% return, in 40 years you will have $21,724. If you added an extra $1,000 for the next 40 years, that would turn into $301,505. Starting with $10,000 and adding $10,000 a year for the next 40 years would grow into $3,015,055.

Investing is basically letting your money work for you.

And, because of cost of living increases, even if you put $100 today into a savings account, it will not be worth $100 in the future.

We Diversified Our Income

Girl at lake
Schroeder-Gardner gazes at Glacier National Park in Montana. Photo courtesy of Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.

Being diversified means you aren’t relying on one source of income, and it can include passive income streams (such as owning rental real estate or dividend stocks) and even side hustles (my favorite is blogging).

Diversifying your income streams will allow to grow your income faster, better prepare for emergency situations and reach retirement sooner.

Also, starting passive income streams now is a great way to continue earning money once you retire.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is the founder and writer of Making Sense of Cents, where she helps readers learn to make extra money, save money and reach their dream lives. She currently earns $100,000 a month through blogging and travels full-time in an RV with her husband and two dogs.

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