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13 'Stupidly Simple' Money Rules - Advice from a couple who retired before 35

Steve and his wife retired early at 35 and 33, respectively, after accumulating $870,000 working in information technology. With the help of the market, their net worth increased to $1 million shortly after.

Here’re 13 rules that they lived by to help them retire in their 30s.

1. I ignored the “follow your passion” advice.

Our passions, which tend to be more on the creative side, can’t always pay the bills — our strengths do.

There’s been a lot of talk in the finance space about following your passion. The problem with this is that our passions do not always pay the bills.

Build a career around what you’re good at, while pursuing your passion on the side. Once the income from your passion exceeds the income you get from your day job, that’s when you can decide to pursue your passion. Until then, keep working at it.

2. I learned from millionaires.

I’ll never forget Brian, who I worked with after college. He was a few years older than I was and drove a six-year-old Honda Accord. Even though he was a millionaire, he had a cheap Casio watch and didn’t wear designer clothes.

Model after role models. They don’t have to be millionaires. Model after their financial habits instead.

3. I cut losers from my life.

If you only hang out with people who like to drink at bars and spend money, you will most likely follow those same money-draining habits.

Upgrade your life by upgrading your friends.

This can be somewhat controversial. It’s not always easy to cut off a friendship just because of their poor financial habits.

Rather than do this, look to network with people who share the same goals.

4. I exploited my 9 to 5.

I invested in my employer-sponsored 401(k) and got the company match of 4%, which was free money that my employer contributed on my behalf.

Take advantage of the staff benefits that your employer offers. People working in a regular 9 to 5 job get to enjoy benefits that freelancers and entrepreneurs don’t.

Some benefits include employee stock options, and education and training.

Employee stock options help to grow your wealth, by allowing you to purchase shares of the company at a discounted price. Of course, this is provided the company you’re working at is doing well.

Education and training gives you the skills and knowledge that may help you land a better, higher paying job in the future.

5. I switched companies 5 times in 14 years.

I got a 15 to 20% raise each time I switched companies. This is far beyond the typical, 3% cost-of-living raises many employers offer their staff.

While switching companies every few years for better prospects may sound good, striking a balance is necessary. The hiring process is difficult and costly, and employers might not want to hire someone who changes jobs too frequently.

Staying in a role for at least a year or 2 might be beneficial. This gives you sufficient time to build up your competencies for a new challenge.

6. I automated everything.

I used automatic payroll deductions for my 401(k) and Roth IRAs. I also used automated bank transfers to contribute money to my brokerage account. I also enrolled in auto bill-pay for utilities like electric, water, and even some credit cards.

Automating everything frees up mental headspace for more important tasks.

There are 2 main things you can automate:

  • Your bills

  • Your investments

Automating bills help you avoid late interest charges (which inevitably happens when you forget to pay on time). You don’t have to try to remember things like “When is my credit card payment due?”

Staying emotionally disciplined can be hard to do in investing. Automating your investments remove emotions, and comes with the added benefit of profits in the long run.

7. I ignored the haters.

An unfortunate part of doing anything significant is that you’ll get hate. Sometimes, lots of it.

People dislike others who are different from them, or those who are more successful than them.

8. I ignored the Joneses.

Just because your neighbours bought a brand new car, boat or house doesn’t mean you need to.

Ignore what your family, friends and neighbours are doing and stay focused on your own goals.

Don’t buy things to please people you don’t like. You don’t know what goes on behind the scenes - they could be taking up huge debt to fund their spending.

9. I prioritised open communication.

Talking about our future goals every day kept my wife and I on the same page about what we wanted our future to look like, and what steps we’d take now to make it happen.

Have a common goal to work towards as a couple. If one party’s goal is to pursue FIRE but the other party’s goal is just to party all day, then there is a huge misalignment there.

10. I prioritised my health.

In 2007, I was out of shape and unhealthy. I decided to change my lifestyle by eating better and exercising regularly. Over the next two years, I lost 70 pounds and got into the best shape of my life.

There’s a reason for the saying “Health is wealth”. Without health, all the wealth in the world means nothing.

If you’re someone (like me) who needs motivation to exercise, here’re 2 apps that can give you that added accountability.

  • Classpass With Classpass, you can book the best fitness classes & more. You get 20 free credits when you sign up. Thereafter you can choose a plan that’s suitable for your fitness needs, or cancel if it’s not for you.

  • Lumihealth LumiHealth is a free programme designed by Singapore in partnership with Apple. You can get personalised challenges and tips for better mental wellbeing, fitness, nutrition, sleep, and more.

11. I avoided credit card debt.

I’ve never paid a single dollar in credit card interest, and I owe much of that to my dad.

Use credit cards responsibly. Credit cards are a double edged sword. When used wisely, they can serve as building blocks in your financial journey. Used wrongly, and you may be left with a big hole in your pocket.

To ensure that you don’t spend money that you don’t have, pay the balance in full every month. If you can’t afford to pay the balance in full each month, it’s a sign that you’re over-spending.

12. I always said “yes”.

Even if I didn’t know how to do a job being offered to me, I would always accept the challenge and figure it out as I went. The organization fired an entire management team above me, and they wanted me to be the director of technology information. My mind told me to say “Thanks, but no thanks,” but I accepted anyway.

Having said that, you don’t want to become a yes man (or woman). Say yes only to opportunities that will help you grow and develop. Don’t be afraid to take up new challenges, even if it might seem too difficult. The comfort zone is where you stagnate. Take on challenges that allow you to operate just outside your comfort zone, but not too far out.

13. I stopped going to the bar.

Early in my career, I often went to the bar with coworkers. Each trip, I would spend $70 to $100 for the privilege of drinking. Over a month, my bar habit drained my wallet of $350 to $400.

Drinking culture is getting more prevalent in the workplace. It is required more in some jobs than others. As with anything, do it in moderation, and don’t let it become a habit.

Drinking out can be costly. Explore cheaper alternatives. For example, buying drinks back home, instead of going to a bar.

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