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There Is No Reason Why You Can’t Retire Early

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Today’s post from Benjamin Davis @ From Cents To Retirement. He is working toward financial independence primarily with rental real estate. Check out his story below. If he can strive for early retirement, there is no reason why you can’t.

No Reason Why you can't retire earlyIt has been one year since I launched From Cents To Retirement. In this period, I’ve learned a lot about blogging, money and investments. I was fortunate to connect with many of my readers. Most of them are trying to retire early, or are passionate about personal finances. Some of them told me they were inspired by my blog to start their own journey towards retiring early. And some of them told me they had started their journey towards retiring early, stopped, and then re-started all over again after coming across my blog and story. It is primarily about the latter I want to talk about today.

I have a very unique story. I was born in Portugal to an Italian and Canadian family. Due to my father’s job, we moved around quite a bit. I grew up mostly in Portugal and Italy. In 2012, a few years after I became independent, I moved to Germany to pursue a PhD. Due to various reasons, including the awful environment at the lab, a very demanding boss and the exposure to a new culture that I didn’t particularly like, I ended up developing CFS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. CFS doesn’t only mean that you’re (very) tired all the time. CFS sufferers like me also have to deal with symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, and digestive problems, to name a few. These problems can prevent CFS sufferers from having a normal life.

After I developed CFS, it became evident that I would not be able to work much longer. The common path to a successful financial life, i.e. climbing the ladder to the top, was clearly not an option for me. As there are no government disability benefits  for CFS sufferers, I had to create passive income streams to support myself. I remember the day I sat down and started to carefully assess my finances. I read over 100 books on personal finance and investing, and I started to follow blogs, like FI Fighter and Retire by 40. I knew that early retirement would be possible.

Today, I am on track to retire in my early 30s, mainly through Real Estate. I’ve got a Real Estate portfolio composed of 10 units (and I expect to own 100 units in the next 6-8 years). My stocks right now are limited to a handful of shares, as I expect a market correction soon. I’ve got other investments, including bonds and P2P loans. I’ve also set up other small businesses, such as a Real Estate company and a consultancy company. I am positive that my strategy will work out well. If you want to know more about my strategy, check out my book “My strategy to retire early”.

You may wonder how I do all this and run From Cents to Retirement at the same time, if I have CFS. Well, at the moment, I’d say that I am fine and well for half of the day. In the other half, I have some symptom that prevents me from working. It has been primarily dizziness lately. The real trick to keep going is, in my opinion, being passionate about what I do. I get I kick out of blogging about my journey and I love having people telling me I inspired them. On top of that, I have an immense drive inside of me. I believe that CFS triggered a survival instinct in my body, because I feared I could not work much longer and I needed a different way to support myself.

The main purpose of this post is to motivate you in your own journey. In the following, I’ll provide you a few reasons why you should relentlessly chase your dreams and never give up, even if you face the hardest obstacles:

#1 – If I can do it, you can do it too!

If you have been reading up until this point, you learned that I have CFS. Even if you don’t know exactly what obstacles this disease presents, I can tell you that every day of my life is a huge fight against this monster. I have learned to control some of the symptoms, with tools like a good diet and meditation, but I am still far from getting rid of all the symptoms for good.

A crucial part for my strategy to remain productive while fighting with CFS, is to adjust my tasks depending on how I feel. For example, if I am too tired, I sit down and I read (I have a goal to re-read a lot of books and provide reviews and summaries of them on my blog).

Now, coming back to my point. Just imagine yourself having to deal with dizziness on a daily basis. Or extreme tiredness. Or bad mood. I learned to mask my symptoms, fend them off and chase my dreams. If I can do what I do with the myriad of challenges that CFS poses to me, you can do it too!

#2 – The wealthiest place on earth is the graveyard

Do me a favor please. Write down all the projects you planned in the last 5 years. How many of those have you taken on? 1? Maybe 2? Or none?

Most people have awesome ideas. Most people have awesome plans for their lives. And the funny thing is that most people would be incredibly happy following those plans, but almost nobody ends up carrying out those plans. Most people don’t have the ability to change their lives because they are fearful to go against the crowd. And the crowd rarely works for their own dreams, instead being trapped into car and mortgage payments.

Very few people have the courage to really assess what makes them happy, write down a plan to maximize it and go for it.

Don’t be part of the vast majority, whose plans are never executed. Do not take your dreams to the graveyard with you!

#3 – Your passion is what makes you thrive

The two things that I love the most these days include writing awesome posts for my readers, taking care of my Real Estate, and growing my businesses. I love to create value, it makes me happy. I love to buy real estate that looks like this:

rental property

and I transform it into this:

rental property

and looks like this:

rental property

and I transform into this:

rental property

Doing what I love will enable me to retire early! You see, I am passionate about rehabbing properties, and setting myself free from the corporate world will maximize the time that I’ll have to do the things I love.

If I sound really passionate about Real Estate, it’s because I am! I am on track to retire by 33 through Real Estate. My portfolio is primarily exposed to Real Estate; if you have a look at my stock portfolio you’ll see it is actually very small right now (as I also expect a market correction and I want to take advantage of it). I am pretty hands-on as far as my real estate investments when my health allows me to. I often publish resources for Real Estate investing, including real estate books, pro forma explanations and landlording stuff. In the next 3 quarters of the year, I will be working on my health while trying to increase my net worth and diversify my sources of income.

#4 – Life is too short

Life is too short. Whether you realize it or not, when you become older, you’ll wish you had done things differently. But NOW is the time to do things differently!

If you spend 1 hour per day going to work and 1 hour coming back home, 5 times a week, that is 40h per month or 480h per year. In the course of 10 years, that sums up to 4800h, which means 200 days! Every 10 years, you’re almost losing 1 year of your life stuck in a car, going to work and back home.

If you were to take one year off, that would be “too much time”, right? That is how much time you’ll be inside a car over the course of one decade. A freaking car!

This is just an example. Being inside a car for 1 year every 10 years, attending meetings you don’t really like, having to deal with co-workers and/or bosses who are not really nice to you, you name it. All this and more are things that you can’t avoid if you have to work. Early retirement and financial freedom allows you to set yourself free from these things and enjoy your time. You don’t have much of it, sadly.

#5 – The best in life is outside of work

Work can be nice too, no question about it. I’ve enjoyed working my butt off to have a great PhD thesis. I’ve enjoyed receiving the best paper award at a major conference in my research field. I’ve enjoyed meeting co-workers who I became very good friends with. I even enjoyed working on my papers until late in the night!

However, the best in life is clearly outside of your job. I certainly loved writing my book. I loved being part of the renovations I showed you in #3. But I had the option to do it. And that is what early retirement is all about: giving you the choice to do what you do, whenever you want to do it. Just have a look at how some early retirees spend their time and how they enjoy it.

Although I am still a bit far from retiring early, I’ve found from personal experience, that I do things with more integrity and drive when I don’t have to do them. We are humans; we tend to cut corners on things that don’t interest us…

I want to end this section with a request: write down the 5 things you love the most. Ask yourself how much time (and what percentage of your life) do you spend doing those things. And imagine how your life would be if you could do them whenever you wanted.

Wrap up

There are no excuses to not retire early. I don’t want to sound rude and cocky – I mean to be inspirational and I hope you find this post inspiring. If I could achieve what I achieved so far, there is no reason for you not to achieve more than me, assuming you’re healthy. I’ve provided you with a number of reasons to set yourself free from money, and retire early. It is up to you to assess them and decide whether you want to do it or not. What I can tell you is that I am way more comfortable now than I was before starting my early retirement journey.

I won’t ask you to retire early, but I will ask you to take a few minutes and ask yourself whether that makes sense to you. If it does, go for it – there is nothing stopping you!

PS: Most of you are probably already on your journey to retire early. I hope this post also resonates with you and inspires you to keep hustling your way to the top. I hope you succeed!

All the best,

Benjamin Davis

Benjamin Davis is 28 years old and runs the show at From cents to Retirement. He recently became a self-publishing author as he published the book “My strategy to retire early“. He developed CFS during his early 20s while working on his PhD, which motivated him to retire as soon as possible. He looks at money pragmatically, saving aggressively, eliminating things that do not increase his happiness, and spending money on what he believes is right. His goal is to own 100 homes in the next 6 – 8 years and make From Cents To Retirement a reference blog for early retirement, inspiring others with his own story.

Image credit: Zach Suhar

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{ 36 comments… add one }
  • Michael @ Financially Alert April 13, 2017, 2:21 am

    Thanks for sharing your story, Benjamin! It’s certainly inspiring given the challenges you experience on a daily basis with CFS. I’m glad that you’ve used your situation to empower you and in turn share possibilities with others.

    At the moment, I’m more of a passive REI through the likes of RealtyShares. I do believe we’ll see some corrections in the relatively near future that will create additional opportunities to pick up more rental properties. What type of real estate are you invested in? Are you still actively finding deals?

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 4:02 am

      Hey Michael,

      Thanks!

      Yes, that is one advantage of the Portuguese RE market: it is way less volatile than many other markets, including the US. For instance, I don’t expect any correction in the near future, and I believe the market will at least appreciate for the next 10-15 years.

      I only invest in multi-units now, I think is it the most optimized kind of deal out there. However, multi-units in Portugal tend to be way undervalued, and I try to take advantage of that. I know it’s not like that in the US.

      I am actively finding deals and I set up a small consulting company for that matter 😉 I am not working with many Americans wishing to invest in Portugal. The advantage is that you can do that for as little as 40k.

      Best
      Ben

  • Ernie Zelinski April 13, 2017, 2:21 am

    Benjamin:

    Thanks for your truly inspirational article. This is one of the best that I have read lately.

    You remind me of my friend Gary McPherson who passed away in 2010. I happened to meet Gary when I was a guest speaker about creativity at a University of Alberta Business class. Gary left before I finished my speech and I thought he didn’t like it. Later, I was informed by a friend that Gary had to leave early and wanted to meet me because of my message about creativity and taking responsibility for one’s life. I met with Gary several times after that. Incidentally, Gary was a paraplegic. No, he was actually a quadriplegic and had 10 to 100 times the barriers that the average person has to encounter. Yet Gary accomplished more than 99 percent of people have accomplished in their lives.

    As this article in the “Globe and Mail” states, “He never spoke of his disabilities, only of his abilities. And he never complained about his limitations, preferring to revel in his opportunities.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/gary-mcpherson-a-stubborn-hero-who-saw-ability-not-disability/article1372173/

    I get really annoyed by people who keep saying that it is impossible to retire early or to retire at all. Here are some other words of wisdom for those who want to retire early:

    “Getting a job and trading your time for money may seem like a good idea. There’s only one problem with it. It’s stupid! It’s the stupidest way you can possibly generate income! This is truly income for dummies. Why is getting a job so dumb? Because you only get paid when you’re working.”
    — Steve Pavlina

    “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, question yourself about what you are doing and why. It is likely wrong.”
    — from “Look Ma, Life’s Easy”

    “One principle reason why men are so often useless is that they divide and shift their attention among a multiplicity of objects and pursuits.”
    — G. Emmons

    “Do the right things instead of trying to do everything right.”
    — Peter Drucker

    “The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you’re playing by somebody else’s rules, while quietly playing by your own.”
    — Michael Korda

    “The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure.
    — Henry David Thoreau

    “If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”
    — Anna Quindlan

    “Seek above all for a game worth playing. Such is the oracle to modern man. Having found the game, play it with intensity; play as if your life and sanity depend on it. (They do depend on it).”
    — D. S. Ropp

    “You are never given a wish without the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.”
    — Richard Bach

    “Any fool can run toward the light. It takes a Master with courage
    to turn and face the darkness and shine his own light there.”
    — Leslie Fiegler

    “The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”
    — Fred Wilson

    “Have you ever heard of a wage slave? Even worse . . . are you one? Wage slaves
    may live in big houses. They might drive Porsches. It doesn’t matter how “rich” you look, if you can’t walk away from your job — even for a second — because you
    would no longer be able to pay the bills, you’re a wage slave.
    — Sara Glakas

    “I will do today what others won’t, so I will have tomorrow what others don’t.”
    — John Addison

    “Enriching others is the only way to get rich, if that is what we desire. The more we serve,
    the more we deserve, getting what we give, no more and no less.”
    — Oliver Luke Delorie

    And as Greek Stoic philosopher advised, “Keep company with people who uplift you,
    whose presence calls forth your best.”

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Prosperity Life Coach
    Author of “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 325,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 300,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 4:19 am

      Dear Ernie,

      Thank you for your works, sharing Gary’s inspirational story and the amazing quotes (I read every single one of them and thought about them too).

      I love people like Gary, who, despite having the hardest obstacles, succeed and never mentioned the obstacles throughout. I do mention CFS a lot, but I use it to inspire others. I cringe whenever people tell me they can’t do it because of X and Y. It seems that they are blind.

      Early retirement is a true possibility and if I end up retiring in my early 30s, everyone can.

      All the best to you Ernie,

      Ben

  • Congrats, Ben! You didn’t just sit back – you’ve taken over your life rather than letting your circumstances take over you. I wish more people would do that! My favorite line was “Very few people have the courage to really assess what makes them happy, write down a plan to maximize it and go for it.” It’s so much easier to just blame and follow the masses. Going after retiring at an early age doing something you are passionate about is key! If it takes a few extra years, you’ll still be happy – because you made that a priority. Well done!

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 3:54 am

      Hi Vicki,

      Thank you!

      Indeed, I think that many people just blame life and “bad luck” and do not anything to improve their situation. Although CFS is a true monster I gotta deal with, it was also a wake-up call. And the bottomline is, if I can do it, everyone can. Mindset is all.

      Best
      Ben

  • @Guyon_FIRE April 13, 2017, 3:52 am

    Very inspirational. It’s great to see a fellow young guy chasing financial freedom through real estate. Keep up the great work; sounds like you are off to a strong start.

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance April 13, 2017, 5:14 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about your ordeal in the PhD program. I was once in a PhD program but eventually dropped out. The stress and pressure took a toll on my health (i.e. worsening IBS syndrome, insomnia). I’m glad to hear that you’re making a strong comeback.

    I like rental property too and will need to check out your blog to learn from your strategy and experience. All the best!

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 5:23 am

      Thank you Mr. FAF!

      Sure, feel free to ask questions too.

      Best
      Ben

  • The Tepid Tamale April 13, 2017, 5:48 am

    Ben,

    Thanks, what an inspiring article. Keep going, I know it cannot be easy!

    I am about half way through life, with a family, so points #4 and #5 really resonate with me. I wish I had done things differently (but I am glad I am doing them differently now!), and for me there is SO much more than work. Trading around half of my waking hours simply for money, not on something from passion or desire, seems so crazy to me now. I am glad I am working on ending it.

    Thanks again!
    – The Tepid Tamale

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 9:13 am

      Hi TTT,

      Don’t regret the past, look to the future. 😉

      Indeed, it also looks crazy to me now, to change time for money. I will have a part-time research position to pay for my bills, but it won’t last much because I will retire before the contract ends. 🙂 It is funny how we change our priorities so much, and actually regard as crazy what used to be normal.

      Thanks!
      Ben

  • Mike Drak April 13, 2017, 5:59 am

    Great article very inspirational and you serve as a great role model. Stress can really mess you up and I’m very concerned for what the future holds for our kids and grand kids. We need more articles like this to help show them the way.

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 10:04 am

      Mike,

      If you found it inspirational, then my mission is accomplished.

      Couldn’t agree more on the stress part.

      All the best
      Ben

  • The Magic Bean Counter April 13, 2017, 6:01 am

    You have a very inspirational story. Thanks for sharing and good luck with reaching all of your goals in the future!

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 10:05 am

      Hi MBC. As I said above, if you found the post inspirational, then my mission is accomplished. 🙂

      Thank you and all the best to you too!

      Ben

  • Dividend Growth Investor April 13, 2017, 6:21 am

    Hi Benjamin,

    Thank you so much for sharing your inspirational story with us. My advice to you is to focus on real estate, if you have a knack for it, rather than the stock market.

    I am going to check out your site, and will follow your journey.

    I wish you good luck in your FIRE journey!

    Dividend Growth Investor

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 10:07 am

      Hi DGI,

      Thanks.

      I will build a stock portfolio eventually, because being 100% exposed to REI ain’t that smart. I understand the stock market pretty well (I’ve made some successful investments there too).

      Thanks for following,
      Best
      Ben

  • Jax April 13, 2017, 6:51 am

    So many people think that the only path in life is college, work until you’re 65/70, then hopefully retire before you die. Most people don’t think to question whether there is a different path to happiness or fulfillment. It’s great that you realized that there is more than one way to live a happy, wealthy life-even though it came as a result of CFS.

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 10:14 am

      Well CFS brought me this too: I would never had started investing if I didn’t have CFS. There is always a good side.

      I don’t blame people for thinking that is the only solution because after all they were taught it was the only way. For a significant part of my life I thought that way too. What I “blame” people for is coming up with excuses not to do something. Shit, I am dizzy and tired for the most part, yet I will be able to retire by 33, so everyone can do it (whether they want it or not that is a different question, obviously).

      My goal is to inspire as many people as possible. I think my own story can do that.

  • Brian - Rental Mindset April 13, 2017, 7:44 am

    Thanks for sharing. I’m excited to check out your site.

    I’m also really into real estate as a way to build that passive income. My approach is very passive (no landlording or managing remodels), but I’m sure I can learn a ton from what you are doing. 10 to 100 units is a big goal!

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 10:16 am

      Maybe you can eventually move to a more active form of investing. It can be fun sometimes! 🙂

      I know it is a big goal, but keep in mind that because I am into multi-units, I will acquire 5 units each time I buy 🙂

      Thanks
      Ben

  • The Grounded Engineer April 13, 2017, 9:03 am

    Wow – great story! I look forward to watching your journey and I am interested to learn about your real estate experience. Real estate is something I’ve wanted to invest more into, but I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger.

    • Benjamin Davis April 13, 2017, 10:10 am

      I was too, and having decided to take the plunge was one of the best decisions of my life, to be honest. The only thing I regret is not having started it earlier. 🙂

      I provide a lot of info on REI, so you may want to have a look. 😉

      Best
      Ben

  • Al April 13, 2017, 9:34 am

    Much excellent. If you failed to plan, you plan to fail. Success is a plan event, not a random one.

    People equate happiness with passion and fulfillment. FI and early retiremment is neither. Follow the plan and forget the passion. Its never about how you feel or what you like, its about what has to be done and its never pleaseant or enjoyable. It takes sacrifice, purpose, and planning.

    People always try to sell the exception idea of that you love it and do it and therefore your are happy.

    Completely disagree with this notion. More often than not, over 50%, its the discipline of thought and behavior and many times like in this case the need to survived CFS or any other challenge.

    • Mr. All Things Money April 15, 2017, 9:09 am

      Sacrifice, purpose, and planning are important but without passion and drive most people would give up at the first sight of trouble. So I would not discount passion as it is the one ingredient that kept me going in my career of 20 years and then helped me become a successful investor and retire early. One has to like what they do, or they would be miserable and likely not good at what they do.

  • Go Finance Yourself April 13, 2017, 9:58 am

    Inspiring story. Thanks for sharing. Definitely inspires me to do more to attain my goals.

  • Tawcan April 13, 2017, 1:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing this inspiring story with us. Love how you’re taking control of your life instead having your life circumstances controlling you. Passion indeed is a very important thing in all of our lives.

  • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes April 14, 2017, 4:35 am

    Great guest post Joe. I love the positive message that Benjamin puts out despite his health challenges!

    The world needs a lot more positive attitudes like Benjamin’s!

  • FullTimeFinance April 14, 2017, 4:54 am

    I love the positive message and twist on the illness. Very inspirational. It just goes to show you can adjust to almost anything if you put your mind to it.

  • Jay April 14, 2017, 10:47 am

    Thanks for sharing your journey Benjamin. This was an inspiring post, with some awesome actionable ideas. I agree that focusing on your passions can really help you stick with your goals. Thanks again!

  • Mr. All Things Money April 15, 2017, 8:59 am

    Very inspiring story! Regarding dizziness, I’ve had an episode once due to an ear problem I was having at the time. Thankfully, the dizziness lasted for only a day or two, but it was super scary as I couldn’t drive or even go for a walk by myself. I can’t imagine living with it, especially other people don’t understand it unless they get to experience it themselves.

    Anyhow, I wish you all the best and will check out your blog. I also have a blog which I started last year after retiring early, mainly to share my story. I’m glad there are so many of us who have found a way out of the corporate world and now live a life of financial freedom.

  • Dividend Diplomats April 16, 2017, 5:54 pm

    Wow. thank you so much for sharing your inspirational story. I don’t know how you could leave this article without a fire in your stomach to do what you need to to reach FI. You did what so many are afraid to do and you took control of your life. You had many different road blocks thrown your way and obstacles to overcome, but instead of sitting back and waiting, you decided to create your own destiny. Now, look at all that you have been able to accomplish and how passionately you speak about your real estate. You found soemthing you love and are living it. Not too many people can say that (I certainly cant’ at this stage).

    Thanks again for the amazing read.

    Bert

  • FinancePatriot April 18, 2017, 7:16 am

    Great post Benjamin. I think you are exactly on the right track. I can see where doing your passion is going to make for a good living, and a very happy life, after FI.

    I am 40 and just looking to ER this year. I went through all the motions, but never really optimized early on. I am so glad though, that we are in the position we are in, due to many good financial decisions we made early on in our careers.

    I think passion is important. It’s the only thing that kept me going when my blog wasn’t making any money. Then one weekend I logged into some accounts, and I had made my first few dollars. That, in itself, motivated me twice as much to improve and promote my blog.

  • Your First Million April 18, 2017, 5:15 pm

    I can relate to your investment style. I too see a market correction on the horizon and have completely liquidated all of my paper assets. I am heavily invested in income producing multifamily real estate… I do also feel that we could see a correction in many real estate markets as well, however I only buy properties that have solid cash flow so that I will have no problem weathering any storm. I 100% agree that anyone can retire early… and that anyone can become a millionaire in a reasonable amount of time if they just have common sense, discipline and are willing to work hard. I actually put together a course called “The Guaranteed Millionaire Plan” based on how I achieved the $1 million mark in just 9 years. It is a simple to follow, step by step plan that anyone can follow, even starting out with no money, no experience and very little risk. The course can be found on our website under the “Products” page. Definitely worth checking out for anyone who, like Benjamin here, wants to achieve financial freedom and retire early… and for anyone who wants to make their first million!

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