5 People Who Reached Financial Independence in Their 30s and Exactly How They Did It

A majority of Americans have less than one year’s worth of expenses saved and know they need to make strides to improve their finances. The pandemic was a turning point for many. As a result, 1/3 of people report that they became more disciplined with their money, and they plan to keep it that way.

To help keep this positive personal finance momentum going, we’ve gathered insights, advice, and tips from those who’ve seemingly done the impossible – reached financial independence three decades before the average person. Here’s how five people saved and invested enough money that they’ve reached financial independence in their 30s.

1. Kyle: Financially Independent but Still Working Full-Time

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Kyle, 36, who lives in the midwest, hit a net worth of one million dollars at 36. Yet, even though he’s financially independent, he still works full-time and blogs about his financial journey at Inimitable Path.

How Did He Do It?

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Kyle credits the act of saving money for his financial success. His ability to keep a majority of his income fueled his investments, leading to a jump in wealth.

“Saving money formed not only my emergency fund for peace of mind, but it also provided the basis of my investments. I typically can save about 67% of my salary. I have invested since the age of 15 and have been fortunate through the years that my investment gains account for about 75% of my current assets,” he says.

What Roadblocks Did He Have?

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Like other people, Kyle struggled with staying the course over a long period.

“There have been a couple of times in my life where I have lost focus of my goals. I’ve had money lent out or just left it sitting in a bank while ignoring my investments,” he said. “Much of one’s success can be mental and remaining focused on your personal goals.”

What He Would Tell Others

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Put systems in place so that your hard-earned money is both working to grow your wealth and helping you celebrate important and special occasions in life.

“Put your money to work. Have an emergency fund, enjoy the moments and friends who are important to you. All other money should constantly be working to make you more,” Kyle says.  “Every dollar is another worker in your workforce, going away in an investment of your choice and recruiting more capital for you.”

2. Purple: A Nomad who Leveraged Geo-Arbitrage in the U.S. to Retire at 30

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Courtesy A Purple Life

An anonymous ad industry-alum who blogs under the name Purple recently retired at 30 with a current net worth of $708,460. By residing in America’s low cost of living areas, she’s able to live without sacrificing or decreasing her standard of living on an annual budget of $15,886.

How Did She Do It?

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Through a combination of increasing her income through job-hopping and decreasing her spending, she accelerated the wealth-building process.

“Investing, then earning, then saving were the biggest drivers for me, in that order. At this point, my investments have made more money than I could have in my career,” she said. “However, the fact that I job hopped almost every year at the beginning of my career and was able to get promotions and $20,000 jumps with most of those hops helped me save more and retire faster. “

What Roadblocks Did She Have?

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Just like 69% of Americans, Purple didn’t understand the concept of compounding interest and how her money would multiply to the point where she could retire this early.

Compounding math is difficult for our human brains to understand, and hearing something wild like that I could retire in my 30s sounded too good to be true,” she said. “I just didn’t believe it was possible. However, once I gave the idea a chance and ran the numbers myself, I realized it’s completely possible if your income is high enough (or will be relatively soon through job hops) and if you don’t need to spend a lot of money to be happy.”

What She Would Tell Others

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Be as intentional as you can with how you spend your money and your time.

“My top tip is, to be honest with yourself. I’d recommend thinking about what makes you happy and work towards it, no matter what that is. Also, don’t be afraid to be weird and do whatever you want. People will judge you regardless, so you might as well be happy,” she said.

3. James: Financially Independent; Working Only on Passion Projects

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Together with his wife, James reached his goal net worth of $1.1 million at age 36. His wife continues to work because she truly enjoys her role. At the end of 2020, becoming financially independent allowed him to leave the corporate world to pursue his passion of starting a company, Smartmov.

 How Did He Do It?

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Like others, he grew his wealth by living significantly below his means and investing about half of his total household income. “By maximizing what we could save and invest it, we were able to grow our wealth fast. We maxed out both of our 401ks, saving nearly all of my income while living mostly on my wife’s salary.  After saving in our 401k, we heavily invested in mutual funds and ETFs to mimic index funds while minimizing fees,” James said. 

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“After we paid off all our debts, we made sure that we had savings sinking funds created for housing, transportation, vacations, emergency, etc.  By having those accounts, we were no longer surprised by bills and able to take unexpected expenses in stride instead of having to rely on costly loans to cover costs.” 

What Roadblocks Did He Have?

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While being married enabled him to fuel his investments with a higher amount of income, there’s more than one person’s mental endurance that’s in play in the race.

“The mental side of personal finance and ensuring that both partners have the same goals was one of our biggest roadblocks. Knowing the money is there, but still trying to keep the mindset that we are “broke” to ensure that we don’t spend it just because we see other folks doing it has been challenging.”

It’s a roadblock that returns now and again, but focusing on their financial wins has helped keep lifestyle inflation at bay.

What Would You Tell Others?

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If people can find ways to cut spending, they can free up dollars that can then go to work to propel increases in wealth.

“Find ways to live below your means while still enjoying the good things in life. For example, I love locally roasted coffee and love to support them, but I still buy the beans to make my own coffee at home instead of visiting the restaurant to save money,” he said. “Similarly, learning to cook means that you can enjoy higher quality food regularly while still saving money. Plus, when you go out, you’ll really enjoy those meals prepared by the experts.”

4. Andrew: Built Wealth Through Real Estate Rental Properties

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Andrew, 36, lives in Dallas, Texas, with his real estate agent wife and two young children.  Currently, his net worth is just shy of $2 million, with half of it coming from real estate investments. About two years ago, their passive income began to cover their yearly expenses. Still, he continues to work a full-time job he enjoys for the health insurance, benefits, and additional funding of investments.

How Did He Do It?

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Between rental properties, a personal finance blog, and an online lead generation business, his side hustles bring in about $80,000 a year, which more than covers his family’s living expenses. As a result, they avoided lifestyle inflation and funneled that additional income into other investments while still working full-time inside of spending it. For them, it was a repeated combination of earning, saving, and investing that fueled their success, not a high-paying job with multiple six figures.

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“While I make a low-six-figure salary at my day job, the majority of our net worth was built through our real estate side hustles. About eight years ago, we began by buying a dilapidated duplex, fixing it up, and renting it out,” he said. “From there, we continued buying distressed properties that needed a lot of work for significant discounts. We built up a portfolio of about ten rental properties and did several flips and wholesale deals along the way.”

“As our kids are getting older, we have slowed down on active real estate investing. Instead, we took advantage of the huge run-up in the market during COVID to sell a few of our rental properties and moved that money into more passive commercial real estate syndications.”

What Roadblocks Did He Have?

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While he recognizes the tremendous financial footing they started on, they learned some very costly real estate investing lessons along the way. After losing close to $100,000, some might have given up, but they kept going and more than made up for their losses.

“We have been enormously blessed and recognize that we had a lot of opportunities that others didn’t. Both my wife and I graduated college with only a few thousand in debt. I had a stable job that paid the bills and gave us evenings and weekends to work on our side hustles,” Andrew said. 

We started investing in real estate in 2013 near the beginning of one of the greatest real estate bull markets in history, which greatly increased our real estate equity position,” he said. “We also did most of the hard work of building up our businesses and real estate investments before we had kids, so we could take our foot off the gas a little when our kids were born.”

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“But our story is not all sunshine and rainbows. Working full-time while running a real estate business, online business, and blog was not easy. We had to make sacrifices and trade-offs with our time. There were many, many times I wanted to give up,” he said. 

“Our very first real estate deal, we learned an expensive lesson when our contractor walked away with $15,000 of our money. Then, on another deal, we lost $30k, and another, we lost $50k. After each one, I questioned whether it was worth it to continue. But in the end, we learned from each mistake and offset our losses with even more gains.”

What Would You Tell Others?

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If people want to retire early, they have to live an unconventional lifestyle. It is hard to keep up with the Joneses and still reach financial independence. Don’t increase spending along with income increases. Invest the difference wisely.

“Everyone has different strengths, and your story may not look like our story. In our case, aggressively earning more money and investing it for passive income got us to this milestone. Take advantage of the skills you have,” he said.

“Lastly, as with everything in life, balance is also important. Yes, financial independence is an admirable goal, but if you forego everything you enjoy to get there, you will burn out and ultimately never reach your goal,” Andrew says.

5. John: From a $39,000 starting salary to $2.5M Net Worth

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John, 41, lives in the San Francisco Bay area and reached financial independence at 37 with a liquid net worth of $1.2 million, not including his home’s value. In the past four years, his net worth has doubled to $2.5 million.

How Did He Do It?

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By being open to moving around the country, he increased his earnings and invested the money, which grew significantly over time.

“I credit my early career decisions for the success in growing my income. For example, when I took my first $39,000 job in the U.S. at a consulting group based in the Northeast, it didn’t take me long to realize that many American-born employees didn’t want to travel to middle America,” he said.

“As an immigrant, I didn’t have family in the U.S. and little affinity for the Northeast. I showed my flexibility by taking the assignments in less desirable locations. I would often move to the area, which showed the client that I was invested in their success,” John said. “Clients loved it and provided positive feedback to my employer, which helped with annual raises and bonuses. It also set me up for a big move to Silicon Valley, where I would see a significant jump in salary.”

What Roadblocks Did He Have?

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Despite roadblock after roadblock, he took one of the few advantages he had, his flexibility, and turned it into his unfair advantage.

“Being an immigrant and not knowing anyone was a significant disadvantage for me. When I came to this country, I had no safety net. I had to devote myself first to the basics like finding a place to live, setting up a bank account, purchasing a cell phone, and figuring out how to get around,” he said. “Bear in mind; I had no credit score, which made all these routine tasks ten times harder. Also, no car or knowledge of driving which meant I had to rely on public transportation.”

“Although being an immigrant who came here by myself was hard, I turned it around by being flexible and figuring out how to provide value to my employer,” John said.

What Would You Tell Others?

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Growing knowledge and personal skills are a valuable investment too. For those feeling uncertain, spend time learning about personal finance, credit cards, and retirement accounts, as well as career-related marketable skills. 

“I am a firm believer in maximizing your Human Capital. So often, a lot of clickbait headlines focus on frugality and not drinking lattes. All these efforts pale in comparison to the money you can make by growing your career,” he said.  “The best way to improve your Human Capital is by investing in yourself. You can learn new skills, add value outside of your team at work, ask for that promotion, network with recruiters, apply and interview for jobs one level above your current title, and keep your bridges open.”

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