I’m someone who was brought up by immigrant Asian parents, I’ve always been told to study, get good grades in school, and get a stable job.
Only then you would be set for life. It wasn’t until after I started working that I started to wonder - will I be doing this until the day I retire at 65? There has to be another way!
When I was young and naive at 22 years old, almost a decade ago. I was ecstatic at my first big kid job and thought the rest of my life was pretty much-taken care of.
Then, I realized a few years into my job, that I would need to work jobs for the next 40 to 50 years and then finally get freedom when I’m old, and I’m well past my peak in life.
Based on the “The Millionaire Fastlane” by MJ DeMarco, “Get Rich Slow”: Go to school, get good grades, get a good job, save 10%, invest in the stock market, max your retirement fund…then, someday, when you are, oh, 65 years old, you will be rich.
However, if you want to retire young with health and vibrancy, you’re going to need to ignore society’s default “Get Rich Slow” roadmap. There is another way. The Fastlane!
In this blog, I will be sharing how I plan to retire by 35. This is based on my own research over the years, reading books on self-development and wealth creation, talking to entrepreneurs who make multiple 6, 7, and 8 figures, as well as some of the things I learned while starting my own businesses this year.
| The only way to build wealth
A concept that struck me a few years ago was that there were only three main ways of creating wealth. And no, working a job was not one of them. The three ways are: through (1) stocks, (2) real estate, and (3) businesses. And the thing is - most, if not all, wealthy people have a combination of all three.
I know what you're thinking. Don’t you need money to even invest in stocks, buy real estate, or start a business? If I have no money, how can I even get started?
Each of the three ways of generating wealth requires varying amounts of capital, knowledge, and time to get started. If you don’t have much capital and knowledge, you will be dedicating a lot of your time in the beginning to acquiring them.
Eventually, when done right, these three ways become income-generating assets. Ultimately, they become the passive income streams that fund your lifestyle without working another day.
So, the big question is, HOW? We will be unpacking this in the rest of the article.
| The Math of Retiring Early
Let’s first take a step back and calculate how much money you would need to retire. Retirement can mean different things to people. Me, I want to buy back my time and be financially independent, so if I choose to, I don’t need to work another day in my life to pay for expenses.
It doesn’t necessarily mean I will never work again - in fact, I think I will work until I can’t anymore. But, it’s more about financial security and freedom to do whatever you want with your time and life.
So let’s do the math, how much do you actually need to retire? Say you can comfortably live off $50k per year, what does that look like in passive income streams?
This can mean having an:
(i) investment portfolio that pays a dividend and interest income
(ii) rental income, and/or
(iii) a business that generates a monthly net profit of $50k per year.
For the sake of simplicity, we will exclude taxes in the calculations, which would vary greatly depending on the type of income you receive.
For an investment portfolio, we can assume a dividend and/or interest rate of 5% per year. In this case, you would need capital of $1M to have a return of $50k per year.
For real estate in Vancouver, a 1-bedroom that is $650k would charge around $2k in rent or $24k per year. That is around a 3.7% return per year on rental income alone. If we extrapolate that, you would need a real estate portfolio of at least $1.35M, completely paid off, to generate $50k in rental income per year.
For a business, you would need to sell some sort of product or service that can generate $50k per year in net profit. Of course, a business is not passive from the start - it requires tremendous amounts of active labor in the beginning. I will be diving into how to make that transition from active to passive later in this article.
So let’s see how long it would take for you to save up for a $1M portfolio through your J.O.B.
Neglecting inflation and a salary increase, for the time being, let’s say you earn 6 figures of $100k per year on average. If your savings rate is a solid 20%, you are saving around $20k per year. By doing simple math of $1M divided by $20k, it would take you 50 years to save that $1M.
But how about compounding investments, you may ask? If we assume that you are able to consistently save $20k and make good investment decisions that give you at least a guaranteed 5% return every year - you may be able to reach your goals in 25 years. But I understand, this may be a stretch when it goes to saving goals or having the skills to know how to invest.
| Why you need to start a business
So let’s agree, it's going to take forever - 25 all the way up to 50 years working a job - to have at least $1 to invest in real estate and a stock portfolio for you to retire and live off passive income.
The solution is to earn large sums of money, fast.
And fast wealth is created exponentially, not linearly, such as through a business.
A business has the potential for exponential income, compared to a job that has a ceiling in terms of how much you can earn every year. For one, you can’t go to your boss and ask for a 100% raise, let alone match inflation.
And unlike having an investment portfolio that requires capital, you can start a business with no money.
If you have a high-income skill, you can start by selling your services and get paid for your time. The important thing is to work towards a viable business model so you can eventually scale and remove yourself from the equation. I will cover two main ways how you can do this later in this article. But first, we need to address the most important mindset to have when starting a business.
Being your own boss sounds like the dream, but it comes with its fair share of obstacles along the way. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. And most will give up partway before they even make it.
Of all the books and entrepreneurs I’ve talked to - they share two key characteristics: an unwavering focus on their mission and resilience when it comes to failure.
Despite what we see on social media of those who have “made it” overnight, entrepreneurship is a process.
According to MJ DeMarco in the Millionaire Fastlane, All self-made multimillionaires create their wealth through a carefully orchestrated process, a backstory of trial, risk, hard work, and sacrifice. If you try to skip the process, you’ll never experience events.
The process creates events that others see as luck.
And I realized that instead of viewing failure as a reflection of myself, I see it as a rite of passage when going through the process. I need to see it as feedback on how I can improve and make something better.
I also connected the dots and realized that successful people always had a few failed businesses or lost all their money at some point before getting back up. Through all of these, what was important was the conviction that your efforts are not in vain and you only need to hit one home run to be set for life.
Alex Hormozi, a successful entrepreneur who went through borderline bankruptcy before crossing $100M by the age of 32, said something that hit hard for me. If we are to use a metaphor and say you need to reach 100 flights of stairs before you “make it,” would you quit at the 99th step? No, you wouldn’t, you would go the extra step. In life though, we don’t know when the 100th step is going to be, but it would sure suck if you quit at step 99.
Create Systems that can automate
So, you’ve worked hard, developed the skills, hardened your mindset, and proven your business model - my next step would be to create a system to automate the business.
In the beginning, it’s normal to be spending a lot of your time in your business. You are still figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Over time, you would have developed certain ways of doing things and even optimized them.
At this point, instead of dealing with every problem manually, I would create a system and process for every step of the business. I would also heavily rely on IT to help automate as much as possible.
From how your services are delivered, to how to deal with customer inquiries, I would document what my best practices are so that I can outsource those tasks.
That way, you can take back your time, and focus on bigger issues that come up as your business grows.
Once you have a system in place, that is when you are ready to scale and grow the business.
I would then scale and grow the business by using the leverage of other people’s time and money.
After you have proven that your business model is viable as you’ve had sales and made a profit, you know you are on the right path. You would use the profits to then reinvest back into your business.
One of the key investments to make is hiring people.
Hiring people early on is a big commitment since they are going to be your highest expense. It’s hard to know exactly when is the best time to hire people, but I want to have automation as much as possible through IT and have a system in place so that you are able to delegate efficiently and maximize other people’s time to produce a positive ROI.
Creating systems can mean creating training manuals, having defined steps, and drafting answers to commonly asked questions from customers. That way, you can train others to take over your roles and have a consistent outcome.
You can also grow your business by using another kind of leverage - other people’s money. While taking on a debt too early or becoming overly leveraged can be dangerous, taking on debt to scale your business because you have proven demand is surely going to take your business to the next level.
By creating a system that automates and leverages other people's time and money, you can have a business that runs on autopilot while you remove yourself from the day-to-day grind.
Deploy capital to earn passive income forever
I know that creating a successful business will never happen overnight. But when your business finally takes off after many years of building the foundation, you would be able to grow your income exponentially.
With all this money, you will be very tempted to immediately buy nice things, such as that sports car or upgrading to the penthouse.
While making money is half the battle, the other half is about maintaining it.
Why do successful athletes like Mike Tyson, who was once worth $400M, declare bankruptcy in 2003? Or lotto winners who are worse off after only a few years of winning millions of dollars?
It’s a matter of knowing how to deploy your capital so that it works for you, not against you. I would invest the capital in the right dividend stocks and fixed-income equities for reliable monthly payout, and/or purchase rental properties that can pay you steady rental income. That way, my principal is preserved while I’m able to fund my lifestyle by living off of the passive income.
That way, I can truly live life on my own terms and spend my time on what I find meaningful.
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out my other blogs here.