Millennials on Track to Retire Early Share Their Investment Strategies

  • A group of young investors is hoping to shave decades off of their retirement age.
  • They’re part of the FIRE movement and focus on saving and investing the majority of their income.
  •  They invest in real estate, index funds, and more.  

The average person in a 2021 global survey said they planned to stop working at age 62, according to Natixis Investment Managers.

One cohort of investors is hoping to shave decades off of the average retirement age. They’re part of the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community and focus on saving and investing the majority of their income in their 20s and 30s so they can leave their day jobs in their 30s and 40s.

Insider spoke to a couple and three individuals who are well on their way to retiring early or have already saved enough money to quit or scale back their day jobs. Insider verified all their claims about income and property ownership with documentation they provided.

Here’s how they’re investing their money now to set themselves up for early retirement. 

Todd Baldwin focuses on real-estate investments but also has a seven-figure stock portfolio 

Todd Baldwin

The Seattle-based real-estate investor Todd Baldwin.

Courtesy of Todd Baldwin

Todd Baldwin invested in his first property when he was 23 and has been growing his real-estate portfolio ever since, using his rental income to invest in more homes around the Seattle area. By age 25, his net worth had crossed $1 million, mostly thanks to rental income, he said. At 28, he became a multimillionaire and felt comfortable leaving his six-figure day job.

In 2021, Baldwin earned more than $1.5 million from property sales, a wholesale deal, and rental income. Today, he has “enough money that I could retire tomorrow and never have to work again a day in my life,” he said.

The 29-year-old also invests in the stock market. He’s a long-term investor and prefers low-cost index funds. As of November 5, he had $1.26 million in Vanguard’s S&P 500 fund (VOO). He owns individual stocks as well, including Tesla (TSLA), Apple (AAPL), and Microsoft (MSFT), he said.

Plus, he has some of his money in cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, ether, shiba inu, and dogecoin. “That’s a very small percentage of my portfolio because of how volatile it is,” he noted.

Baldwin said real estate is the most tried-and-true way to generate wealth. With volatile investments such as crypto, “you can make a lot of money, but you can also lose all of your money,” he said. “If you take your money and buy real estate, you’ll never make 30 times or even five times your money in one day. But you can bet that over time you will become a millionaire.”

Ali and Josh Lupo plan to live completely off investment income from their real-estate holdings and brokerage account 

The FI Couple ali and josh

The New York-based couple Ali and Josh Lupo.

Courtesy of Ali and Josh Lupo

Ali and Josh Lupo managed to buy their first property in upstate New York despite owing six figures in debt and earning modest salaries (at the time, they both earned less than $50,000 a year, they said). 

They’ve paid down $102,000 worth of debt and are tackling their next big goal: retiring before 40.

They plan to get there by continuing to grow their real-estate portfolio (they own four doors, live in one, and collect rent from the other three) and investing in low-cost index funds through their retirement accounts and a taxable brokerage account. 

Ali, 30, has already scaled down to part-time work. She works two days a week and spends the rest of the week growing their brand, The FI Couple. Josh, 31, who has been self-employed since 2018, is also starting to cut back and works about 30 hours a week. 

Their goal is to bring in enough

investment income

(from their real-estate holdings and brokerage account) to pay for their cost of living entirely. They’re “about 50% of the way there,” they said. When they reach 100%, they’ll feel comfortable fully leaving their day jobs and living off of their investments.

Brennan and Erin Schlagbaum save up to 86% of their income and invest most of it in index funds and ETFs

brennan erin Schlagbaum

The Cincinnati-based couple Brennan and Erin Schlagbaum and their daughter.

Courtesy of Brennan and Erin Schlagbaum

After paying off their $234,000 mortgage and eliminating their housing cost, the Cincinnati-based couple Brennan and Erin Schlagbaum are able to save a big chunk of money. In December, they said they saved 86% of their income. 

The 30-year-olds keep some of their savings accessible in a checking account but invest most of their money for the long term. They have a handful of retirement accounts — two IRAs, a solo 401(k), Erin’s employee stock ownership plan, and a pension plan from Brennan’s old company — as well as two health savings accounts and a brokerage account. They invest in index funds and ETFs. The only individual stock they own is Meta (FB), and it’s a small allocation, Brennan said. 

They have a small amount of money invested in crypto, Brennan added. “I think a very small allocation, 2% to 5% of your portfolio, is a smart play. If you lose 100% of it, it’s not going to hurt you, but you have the opportunity for significant gain by getting into the space.”

Plus, they’ve already opened three investment accounts for their 4-month-old daughter: a Roth IRA, a brokerage account, and a 529 plan. 

Their net worth, which includes their investments, cash, and real-estate equity, was about $780,000 as of January 2021, Brennan said. They’re focusing on growing their brokerage account and expect it to hit $2.5 million by the time they’re 45. Brennan was already able to quit his CPA job to run his finance coaching business Budgetdog full time, and their next big goal is to have Erin quit and join him in early retirement.

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