How This Couple Reached Financial Freedom Before 40 And Live On A Sailboat

Do you want to reach financial freedom and live your dream life? In my Extraordinary Series here on Making Sense of Cents, I like to feature people who are doing things a little differently. Today, I have a great interview with Fleur and Ronald. In only eight years, they were able to reach financial freedom and now…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: June 17, 2024

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Do you want to reach financial freedom and live your dream life?

In my Extraordinary Series here on Making Sense of Cents, I like to feature people who are doing things a little differently.

Today, I have a great interview with Fleur and Ronald. In only eight years, they were able to reach financial freedom and now they live on a sailboat.

They have been able to save enough money to invest in three real estate properties, buy and live on a 42 foot sailing catamaran, build a passive income stream, and more.

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • How they reached financial freedom and FIRE
  • How they afford to travel and live on a boat
  • What an average day is like for them
  • How much living on a sailboat costs them
  • All about their passive income stream
  • How they saved money to purchase real estate properties

And more! This interview is packed full of valuable information.

I’m very excited to share this interview with you. Enjoy!

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1. Tell me your story. Who are you and what do you do?

We’re Ronald (37) and Fleur (40) from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Currently, we live on our beautiful catamaran in the south of Spain.

It has always been our dream to be able to travel the world. Around eight years ago, we set the goal to retire before we both turned 40. We wanted to achieve this by creating a passive income that would allow us to sail the world full-time without having to worry about money.

After deciding on our goal, we worked out a financial plan and put in a lot of effort. It was a fun process to go through together: we were so committed! We learned a lot about saving money, creating assets, investing in real estate and the FIRE movement.

Last year, we were able to quit our jobs and set off on our adventure! The past months we have sailed from the Netherlands in the north of Europe to the sunny Mediterranean. Next spring, we will sail further into the Mediterranean and explore the beautiful islands here.

With our blog and our Design Your Financial Freedom Toolkit, we now help others to achieve financial freedom as well.

2. How do you afford to travel and live on a boat?

We are financially independent!

This means that we don’t have to work for an income anymore.

We were able to save enough money to buy our boat and we also have a passive income stream that covers all our monthly expenses.

Over the years, we invested our savings in real estate. We own three real estate properties in the Netherlands and we rent out two of those. Each property has space for three students. They have their own room and share the kitchen and bathroom.

The revenue we get from our rental properties is around 3,000 euros, which is approximately $3,600 USD, each month. After we deduct all the costs like taxes, maintenance etc, we have a profit of around 2,300 euro ($2,800 USD) per month. This is the amount we use for our living expenses on the boat.

3. Tell me about your boat! I think it’s similar to mine 🙂

Yes, we have the same boat as you do! And we love it! She is a 42-foot catamaran from the brand Lagoon. She was built in 2019, so it’s still fairly new.

In May 2018, we signed the contract for the boat. Due to high demand, we had to wait more than a year before we were able to pick up the boat from the factory in France. In August 2019, the boat was handed over to us. Together with a skipper we then sailed it from France to The Netherlands. That trip was amazing and we learned so much about catamaran sailing.

The first year we had the boat we were still in full working mode. We both ran our own businesses and weren’t able to stop working yet. It took us an extra year to get the boat and ourselves ready and to make the switch from land to boat life.

We always refer to the boat as our floating apartment. We have so much space on this boat! The layout and the design of the boat are the two things that really made us fall in love with this specific catamaran. With the catamaran we have two hulls which creates a lot more space on the in- and on the outside of the boat. We also love the trampolines at the front of the boat. They are great for afternoon drinks and small naps in the sun 😉

We create videos about the sailing trips with our Lagoon 42. You can find them on our YouTube channel.

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4. Why did you decide to start sailing?

We love to travel and, in the past, we travelled to beautiful destinations such as Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, Borneo, South Africa and the United States.

Travelling broadens our perspective and it challenges us to leave our comfort zone. It also shows us that there isn’t one standard way of doing things.

We didn’t want any kids, so that’s why we talked a lot about our future and what it would look like. We knew that we wanted to spend time living in other countries than the Netherlands. At first, we thought about backpacking, but we figured that we would miss a place to retreat and relax.

It was only after reading about an American couple, named Matt & Jessica, who sold everything they owned and started living on a sailboat. Their story inspired us so much! We were convinced that sailing would be the perfect way to travel for us as well. We loved the idea of being on the water, sleeping in the most remote places and moving our house using the power of the wind.

After we decided that we wanted to buy a sailboat, we started watching YouTube videos of SV Delos, Sailing La Vagabonde and the Wynns.

We must have watched hundreds of hours of those videos before we set sail ourselves. It was a great way to prepare ourselves and to see what living on a sailboat is all about.

5. Where do you hope to sail? What experience do you have sailing?

Ronald has quite some sailing experience as he grew up sailing as a little kid and his parents owned a boat. Fleur’s sailing experience was pretty much non existent before we departed. But you can only gain experience by doing it, so at one point you have to take the leap and trust that you will cope with situations and problems as they occur.

French Polynesia is our dream destination.

The islands there are so beautiful! But, we’re not in a hurry at all. We really enjoy taking it slow and exploring all the beautiful places along the way.

For the next few years, we want to sail the Mediterranean Sea and Europe. Europe is amazing and so pretty. We sailed in Greece before with a charter and we are keen to get there with our own catamaran now.

6. What’s an average day like for you?

We are still in the process of finding balance in our life when it comes to spending our time as early retirees. Just six months ago we were still working full-time jobs in the Netherlands. The transformation has been massive and it takes time to find a new daily routine.

On an average day, we wake up around 7:45 in the morning, take a shower, sometimes do a few yoga exercises and drink a cup of coffee in the cockpit outside. Most of the times the sun is out, so that’s a great start of the day!

After that we get productive. We like getting tasks done in the morning, so we have the afternoon for fun activities. Mornings are often spent behind the laptop – writing a blog, answering emails, doing a video call or editing a YouTube video – but it can also be doing boat jobs. In the afternoon we go for a hike, eat tapas on a terrace or have a coffee with friends in the marina.

When we are sailing, our day looks totally different. We try to sail as much as possible – instead of running the engines. This does mean that we depend on the wind to be able to move to a certain location. We don’t always have influence on that 😉 On sailing days, we are pretty much busy with navigating the boat. We are outside all day, listen to music, read a book, make lunch, watch dolphins (if we are lucky) and look a lot at the water, the sails and the instruments of the boat.

7. How much does living on a boat and sailing cost you?

From the moment we started living on the boat full-time, we have been tracking our monthly expenses. We do this to gain insight in our own spending, but also to be able to share this information with others. We write monthly expense overviews to show others what our lifestyle costs.

On average we spend around 1,700 Euros per month, which is around $2,000 USD. This covers all our living expenses, such as groceries, eating out and fun activities as well as the insurance and maintenance of the boat and the fees for the marina.

People tend to think that a travelling lifestyle is quite expensive, but we actually discovered that we can easily afford it from our passive income.

8. Why did you decide to seek financial freedom and create your dream life?

For us personally, financial freedom is part of living a free life.

Being independent is an important core value for the both of us. Financial freedom gives us a safe base which allows us to create more adventures.

We feel that society is designed around having a full-time job, but there is so much more in life. However, it is hard to create the time to explore the world when you have a job to go to. Especially when you need your job to pay for all your bills. We actively looked for an alternative lifestyle that would allow us to travel the world without the fear of running out of money.

The fact that we live on a sailboat creates extra freedom, since we can live off the grid. We have solar panels and lithium batteries for energy, a water maker to turn salt water into fresh water and sails to get us to the next place. This set-up allows us to anchor instead of staying in a marina.

Being at anchor is amazing: it doesn’t cost anything and it gives us so much freedom. Who doesn’t want to start the day with a morning swim in their backyard ;)?

9. How did you save enough money to invest in three real estate properties? 

When we were in our twenties, a lot of our friends were buying their first house with a mortgage. We decided to wait, because we didn’t want the costs associated with that kind of debt.

We kept living in our cheap small two-bedroom rental apartment until we had saved enough money to buy our own apartment. Our first apartment costed us only 74,000 euros and it took us five years to save the money for it. It wasn’t big, but it was totally ours!

Not having a mortgage on our apartment proved to be a golden decision, because it enabled us to save more money faster. The money that we normally would have paid on our mortgage went straight to our savings account. Before we knew it we were able to purchase a second property. We rented out our first apartment and from that point the savings really started to grow. We had no housing costs and extra income from our rental property next to our full-time jobs.

Looking back, it took us 13.5 years to save more than 800,000 euros (around $960,000 USD). If you would have told us this in advance, we never would have believed it. But we are the living proof that being frugal, saving money and investing it in assets can create financial freedom.

10. What do you currently do for income?

First of all, we make sure that our real estate properties are well maintained. We manage all the technical and administrative issues concerning the student housing ourselves.

We did experiment with a management company in the past, but we weren’t happy about the quality of the service and the extra costs involved.

Managing the rental properties probably takes around half a day each month, so it isn’t time-consuming at all.

Next to this, we are now working on creating an online passive income stream.

The passive income we get from the rental properties is great, but we are keen on diversifying our asset portfolio more. That way, we can mitigate the risk of only getting a passive income from real estate.

11. Can you tell me more about your Design Your Financial Freedom Toolkit?

When we quit our full-time jobs and started our sailing adventure, we received a lot of questions about how we had been able to achieve this financially at the age of 37 & 40.

We already wrote blog articles on our website From Penny to Many to share the steps and tips we had learned working towards financial freedom. We decided to create a practical toolkit to apply our approach to your personal situation, this is the Design Your Financial Freedom Toolkit.

The toolkit guides you through four main steps: set your goal, save money, create and grow assets and break the cycle. We think that each step is important and contributes to the financial freedom process. Every step in the toolkit has practical and easy to use templates that help you design your own financial freedom journey.

It makes us very proud and happy that we are in the situation that we now can inspire and help others to set the steps towards financial independence as well.

12. Lastly, what is your very best tip (or two) that you have for someone who wants to reach the same success as you?

There are a few important tips and lessons from the steps we took:

First of all, we learned that having a big audacious goal is very important. This goal should not be “a lump sum of money”, but instead something that you want to achieve in life. Once you make achieving your goal your main priority, it will become so much easier to make the right financial decisions in life.

Saving money is essential and the key for that is spending less. We always worked hard on reducing our costs as this is a way more interesting approach to save money compared to earning more. We always tried to save a minimum of 50% of our monthly net income. Sometimes, you need to make bold choices to achieve this, for instance not having a mortgage.

Another golden rule is to invest your saved money in assets that generate a monthly revenue as fast as you can. Investing your money will create an extra income stream which will help you to save more money faster. Getting to your first asset is the hardest. The sooner you are able to invest and get an extra income stream from your investment, the better. We learned that investing in assets is like a snowball effect: the ball doesn’t have to be big in the beginning, it just needs to get going.

What is your dream life? Share in the comments below!

Do you have any additional questions for Fleur and Ronald?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. What an amazing story of achieving a life goal as a couple! There are a lot of great and inspirational take-home messages here. I love how they said that the goal should not be “a lump sum of money”, but instead something that you want to achieve in life. I completely agree that once the big audacious goal is made, the right financial decisions will come along and that makes things so much easier on your financial journey. You only get one take on this planet, being able to live a life on your own terms is truly wonderful. Thanks, Michelle for sharing their incredible story. I really enjoy reading your Extraordinary Series blog posts : )

    1. Hi Mrs 50, thank you for your great comment on the interview. Makes us happy to read that you found it inspiring ☺️ And yes, we truly believe that financial freedom is not a goal in itself, but rather a tool to create a better life for yourself to enjoy your true talents. Have a nice day! All the best, Ronald & Fleur

  2. Seb

    thank you for sharing this story, it’s really inspiring!

    1. Thanks so reading it Deb. Cool you liked it! All the best, Ronald & Fleur

      1. Ehm it got autocorrected 😏 Sorry for that Seb

  3. I’m jealous! My brother might be retiring in a few years and wants me to sail to Hawaii with him. Doubt I can take the time off. Need to figure passive income!

    1. Hi Kristian, that sounds awesome! If you still have a few years, now is the time to start! You will love going though the Toolkit to design your route towards passive income! Good luck, you can do it!

      Ronald &Fleur