Advice From People Who’ve Done It

  • Financial freedom means different things to different people.
  • For many, financial freedom means retiring early and not working unless you want to.
  • We compiled a list of our stories with expert advice for becoming financially free.

Financial freedom means different things to different people, but it’s typically defined as having the financial resources to live the life you want to live without worrying about money. 

For many, it means retiring early and not working unless you want to work. 

Insider spoke to individuals and couples who have saved enough money to be able to quit or scale back on their day jobs and design the lives they truly want to live. Insider verified all their claims about income and property ownership with documentation they provided.

We’ve compiled their stories below.

Property investor Todd Baldwin left his 9-to-5 to pursue real estate full-time and now earns over $1 million a year. He’s on track to hit a net worth of $20 million before age 35 and has ‘enough money that I could retire tomorrow and never have to work again a day in my life.’ 

Todd Baldwin

Seattle-based real estate investor Todd Baldwin.

Courtesy of Todd Baldwin

In 2021, Todd Baldwin earned more than $1.5 million from property sales, a wholesale deal, and rental income. 

He believes that real estate is the most tried-and-true way to build wealth, but he also invests in the stock market. 

If you want to achieve financial freedom and retire early, put in the hours, he advised. For the majority of his 20s, “I just hustled,” he said. “I didn’t party. I didn’t go on vacation. I didn’t even really see my friends. But by the time I was 25, I had a net worth of $1.2 million. … Now I’m 29, I’ve left my 9-to-5, and I have enough money that I could retire tomorrow and never have to work again a day in my life. Take a small chunk of years and blitz. That’s the way I did it.”

Brennan Schlagbaum paid off six-figures in debt, partly thanks to a finance coaching business he started on the side. Now he earns up to $28,000 a month from the business, enough to quit his CPA job and be a stay-at-home dad, and plans to be a millionaire by 31.  

Brennan and Erin Schlagbaum

Cincinnati-based couple Brennan and Erin Schlagbaum.

Courtesy of Brennan and Erin Schlagbaum

Brennan Schlagbaum’s finance coaching company Budgetdog, which started as an Instagram account that gave advice from a dog’s perspective, brought in enough side income to help him and his wife Erin pay off a $233,700 mortgage and $38,000 worth of student debt in just five years.

Eventually, his Budgetdog earnings surpassed what he was making as a full-time accountant — he makes up to $28,000 a month, according to income statements he provided Insider — and he quit his CPA job in August 2021 to focus on his company. Now that he’s his own boss, he can set his own schedule and stay at home with his and Erin’s four-month old daughter. 

Their net worth as of January 2021, which includes their cash, real estate equity, and investments, is about $780,000. They’re on track to hit $1 million by the end of 2022, when they’ll both be 31. 

Ali and Josh Lupo ‘house hacked’ to buy their first property on social worker salaries. They’re on track to fully retire by 40.

The FI Couple 3

Upstate New York-based couple Ali and Josh Lupo.

Courtesy of Ali and Josh Lupo

In late 2021, Ali Lupo was able to scale down from working as a full-time school social worker to working two days a week. Doing social work at an elementary school was “rewarding but challenging,” she said. “I did not anticipate leaving full-time work so soon but this past year with Covid was the most physically and emotionally taxing year of my career.”

She and her husband Josh, who are paying down six-figures in debt and planning to retire before 40, ran the numbers and realized that they would still be able to hit their lofty money goals if she went part-time. “It became a decision of my physical and mental health versus a paycheck,” said Ali, who found a part-time social worker job with full benefits and uses the other days of the week to work on building their brand, The FI Couple. “For us, everything we do is with the intention of bettering our lives.”

Josh has been self-employed since 2018 and does career counseling for workers with disabilities and diversity-and-inclusion training for companies. He’s also starting to scale back and works about 30 hours a week. 

They’ve been able to design the lives they want to live by focusing on both saving and earning. “A great team doesn’t just play offense or just play defense,” Josh said. “They play both, and they often know when to prioritize one over the other.”

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