Grant Sabatier knew he wanted to retire early at 24. He managed to do it by 30. During that time, the “Financial Freedom” author and Millenial Money creator set ambitious savings and investing goals and was able to turn $2 into $1.25M. And he says you can do it too — even during a pandemic.
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This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity.
How should people who want to retire early adjust their financial plans to the pandemic & recession?
One thing that the pandemic has made clear is that there is an increasing level of uncertainty in the world. This means that having a large cash buffer for two to three years of living expenses is essential if you want to retire early. This buffer of cash is what you live on and then replenish it as needed. In the years the market is doing well you should replenish this buffer, not in the years the market is down — this insulates you from market fluctuations.
I also think where you live will become even more important given climate change projections. There will be large amounts of the U.S. that might be too hot to live in in 20 to 30 years. A lot of people who want to retire early are only thinking about their investment portfolios, but planning for the impact of climate change and its impact on both where you can live and living costs are essential. Other than that, the core principles of FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) still hold true — save as much of your income as you can, invest it for the long term, and optimize your expenses for happiness.
What’s your No. 1 tip for someone who wants to retire early?
Think about what kind of life you really want to live. A lot of people make the mistake of starting with the money, but you need to start with the life piece. I always say that money only matters if it helps you live a life you love. Make a list of the 10 things that make you happiest in life, then figure out how much it would cost to live a life where you can do those things more. We often spend a lot more money than we need to be happy and the things that tend to make most people happy are inexpensive or even free.
What’s the biggest mistake you see people make who try to retire early?
Stressing out about every single detail and trying to do everything perfectly. Money addition takes many forms and if you’re unhappy pursuing early retirement you likely need to recalibrate. When it comes to money, a few good decisions compounded over time are what get you there.
Compounding works in all areas of your life. Do a few things right — keep your housing and transportation expenses low, save as much as you can, invest in a total stock market index fund, and try to increase your income so you can invest more — and you’ll have more money saved than you could have ever imagined in a few years. Don’t get lost in your spreadsheet. You can only account for so many uncertainties.
How can a side hustle be particularly lucrative during this time?
You can use a side hustle to invest — take all of your money you make side hustling and invest it so it can continue to grow. In addition to making more money, use your side hustle as an opportunity to build new skills (skills are future currency). You can leverage and monetize your skills over your lifetime, not just while you’re learning them through your side hustle.
Become a connector of demand and supply to make the most money. For example, don’t want dogs? Start a dog walking company where you can hire other people to walk the dogs and spend your time selling. Connect dog walkers with people who need them and instead of trading your own time for money, you’re brokering someone else’s. This is how you make real money with your side hustle and also gives you the opportunity to scale your side hustle into a full-time job if that’s what you want.
What side hustles do you think would be lucrative during this time and why?
Anything you can do online because it has both opportunities to scale, you can actually be your own boss, set your own rates and hours, you can do it anywhere. Become a virtual assistant, become a proofreader, become a freelance writer, run digital marketing campaigns. You can also leverage these skills to build your own online brand if that’s something you're interested in.
What’s your No. 1 tip to someone who wants to start a side hustle?
Make a list of things that you enjoy doing and find a way to make money doing them. It’s always easier to make money doing something you enjoy than something you don’t. It’s both easier to stick with it and you’ll have more fun.
What’s the biggest mistake you see people make who try to start a side hustle?
They give up too soon and/or they spend too much money trying to launch their side hustle. It takes three to six months to get anything going and get some momentum. Also, most of the best stride hustles you can start with very little to no money.
Do you have any financial regrets?
Yes. I wish I would have invested in real estate sooner. I believe that real estate is the fastest path to early retirement. I also wish I would have enjoyed my journey to financial independence and been less stressed about money along the way.
What’s the best money you’ve ever spent?
My 1981 VW Camper that I drove on my 13,800-mile book tour. That thing gives me so much joy.
What’s the best money you’ve ever saved?
The 52% of my first paycheck when I was 24 and starting my financial independence journey. That’s probably 7x’d by this point!
What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?
“Money is freedom” - My Dad
What’s the worst financial advice you’ve ever received?
Save 5% to 10% of your income.
Image by: Nastia Kobzarenko