How I Retired At Age 30 with $500,000

My monthly Extraordinary Lives series is something that I really enjoy sharing with you all, and I’m back with another great interview. Today’s interview is with Purple, who retired at the end of 2020 at the age of 30, with $500,000 invested. Are you interested in financial independence and/or early retirement? If so, this interview…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: August 14, 2023

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My monthly Extraordinary Lives series is something that I really enjoy sharing with you all, and I’m back with another great interview. Today’s interview is with Purple, who retired at the end of 2020 at the age of 30, with $500,000 invested.

Are you interested in financial independence and/or early retirement?

If so, this interview is for you!

You probably know Purple from the popular blog APurpleLife.com. APurpleLife.com is one of my favorite blogs, so I’m excited to share this interview with you.

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • How an early retirement amount of $500,000 was chosen
  • Why she chose to retire early
  • The career she had before she retired early
  • Whether or not she still earns income in early retirement
  • The sacrifices that had to be made to reach early retirement
  • Her choice of health insurance as an early retiree and full-time nomad

And more!

This interview is packed full of valuable information on reaching early retirement.

Enjoy!

Related content:

1. Tell me your story. Who are you and what do you do? Can you go into detail on how much you saved for early retirement, how you chose that amount, etc.?

Hi y’all! I’m “Purple” and I wrote on APurpleLife.com about my journey to and through retirement. I’m a 31 year old who was born and raised in Atlanta. I went to college in the northeast and then moved to Manhattan and began my career in ad agencies, Mad Men style. 

A few years later, I moved into marketing and stayed in that industry for the duration of my career. In 2012, my partner introduced me to the idea of financial independence and I’m very embarrassed to say that I basically dismissed the idea. 

It took two years of job hopping before I decided to hear him out. I had convinced myself that if I just found my dream job that I would be happy enough to work for another 40+ years, but then I got that dream job…and I still didn’t want to keep working for decades in this high stress career. 

So I joined the FI-community and lurked for years while writing my blog in private to catalog my journey. I started my journey to financial independence and my blog in January 2015 and then moved to Seattle that summer. In July 2018 I took my blog public and in October 2020 I reached my financial goals and quit my job to retire at age 30. 

I chose my retirement goal of $500,000 invested, by analyzing my annual spending ($18,000 in Seattle) and adding an 11% buffer on top of that. The way I came to that amount was by backtesting what would happen if I had retired with that amount during any 70 year period in the past. 

I have complete flexibility over my spending as a result of having no house, car, kids or pets. I also am planning to have a completely nomadic lifestyle indefinitely. As a result, if I decrease my spending by a few thousand dollars by moving to somewhere with a lower cost of living while maintaining my standard of living, I would have succeeded in every 70 year period in the past, even if I had retired on the eve of the Great Depression. 

I go into all the numbers and information about why I’m comfortable with my original retirement goal in a post here if you’re curious. Luckily, since I retired those months ago, my life has been going better than forecast monetarily.

At the time of this writing my net worth is flirting with $700,000. 

2. When did you begin saving for early retirement?

I began saving for retirement in 2015 after, as I mentioned, regrettably not listening to my partner for 2 years. However, in retrospect I needed those two years to go from thinking retirement was an impossible dream that I couldn’t imagine, to an actual option that I would like to pursue. So in the end, he convinced me once I was more open to the idea. 

When I started my first job, I opened a company 401(k) at my Mom’s suggestion and ended up choosing sub-par funds based on the advice of her financial advisor. That was everything I had invested in the world, but once I got on the bandwagon of FI, I read more about investing until I understood it and felt comfortable diving in myself.

After that, I created the goal of maxing my 401(k) and then investing anything I had left over in a Traditional IRA and then a Taxable Account.

If you’re curious, here’s my salary, expenses and net worth since leaving college:

2011

  • Age: 21
  • Location: Manhattan
  • Salary: $35,000
  • Spending: $35,000? (I didn’t really track it)
  • Net Worth: $5,000

2012

  • Age: 22
  • Location: Manhattan
  • Salary: $48,000 (New Job and Promotion, Funemployed for 1 month)
  • Spending: $35,000? 
  • Net Worth: $20,439

2013

  • Age: 23
  • Location: Manhattan
  • Salary: $65,000 (New Job and Promotion, Funemployed for 4 months)
  • Spending: $35,000?
  • Net Worth: $29,545

2014

  • Age: 24
  • Location: Manhattan
  • Salary: $68,000 (New Job within the same company)
  • Spending: $35,000
  • Net Worth: $48,562

2015

  • Age: 25
  • Location: Seattle
  • Spending: $30,000
  • Salary: $85,000 (New Job, Funemployed for 2 months)
  • Net Worth: $89,450

2016

  • Age: 26
  • Location: Seattle
  • Spending: $22,518
  • Salary: $85,000 
  • Net Worth: $137,612

2017

  • Age: 27
  • Location: Seattle
  • Spending: $18,436
  • Salary: $103,000 (New Job, Funemployed for 4 months)
  • Net Worth: $234,822

2018

  • Age: 28
  • Location: Seattle
  • Spending: $17,715
  • Salary: $106,000
  • Net Worth: $280,884

2019

  • Age: 29
  • Location: Seattle
  • Spending: $18,000 
  • Salary: $110,034
  • Net Worth: $448,230

2020

  • Age: 30
  • Location: WA, GA, CT
  • Spending: $15,886
  • Salary: $114,229
  • Net Worth: $620,767

3. What made you want to retire early?

I decided to change my life after realizing that I had done everything everyone told me to do and I was still unhappy.

I bought the bags, went to fancy dinners and purchased pricey first class plane tickets. After several job hops I found a fantastic boss and a position that was less frantic and allowed me time to think. 

My partner had been mentioning early retirement to me, but I had dismissed it because I told myself I just needed to find the right job, but then I got it. It checked every box I had written a year prior. And I still didn’t want to do it for another 40 years. 

So one day I decided to look into what my partner had been saying. I dove into books and blogs and it was like getting hit in the head with a sledgehammer. My Mom had retired at 55 and my grandparents had retired at 50 from the military. That was always my default trajectory: retiring in my 50s.

My Mom didn’t even start investing in stocks until she was 40.

I had plenty of time! 

But reading about how someone could retire at 30 blew my mind! It all seemed so simple. I didn’t have to wait to live the life I wanted, which would be filled with uninterrupted time with loved ones and spontaneous travel. I could do it much, much sooner. 

On a more morbid note, one of the reasons I was so keen to live a life I wanted now is because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow – either for ourselves or with those we love. So I set out to have an amazing life now and later. 

4. Would you say that you live comfortably?

Absolutely.

I would even say my life is luxurious. For example, we just booked a month-long stay in a penthouse in Phuket, Thailand that has multiple porches and its own pool with a view of the ocean. Most of the Airbnbs I’ve stayed in as a nomad have nicer amenities than the apartment I had in Seattle – and that was a nice apartment. 

Before I quit, I lived comfortably, but it was not the same. Now I’m a nomad that lives out of Airbnbs where it is someone’s review-incentivized job to provide a great experience. It’s basically the opposite of having a landlord in my experience. 

I was often ignored completely when I had a problem by landlords in NYC and Seattle. In contrast, I usually hear back within minutes for anything we need within an Airbnb and any problem is quickly fixed. 

5. What career did you have before you retired?

As I mentioned, I started working in ad agencies in Manhattan.

Once I got serious about my financial plan, I realized we had to get out of NYC so we moved to Seattle and during my second job in Seattle, I made the switch to marketing. 

In ad agencies, 60-80 hour work weeks are not uncommon, but luckily, they became rare for me after the switch (though they did still happen). I was also very fortunate that my last position was mostly remote so I didn’t have to commute and instead I worked from home with my partner (who is remote as well). 

One of the reasons I wanted to retire ASAP, was that I was always thinking about work. I couldn’t escape it no matter how hard I tried.

My job required a lot of thought and I wasn’t able to turn off my brain as a result.

There was no way to ‘not take my work home with me.’

6. Do you still earn an income in early retirement?

Shockingly I do.

I declared that I would never do anything resembling work again if I could help it and that I would never earn another dime in retirement, but it’s time to eat my hat. I started writing my blog in January of 2015 and decided to monetize it in July of 2019.

As a result, I do make a little accidental income from either the website directly or opportunities that come up because of it. It’s not life changing money though.

For example, last year, I made about $2,000 and detailed all of what that entailed in an annual post that I did here

I didn’t intend to make money, but it seems to keep being thrown at me even though I turn down most opportunities, especially if they sound anything remotely like ‘work’, but there are still a few that sneak through.

7. What sacrifices or hard decisions did you have to make? 

I haven’t had to make any sacrifices.

I wrote a whole post about that actually because the question kept coming up. It seems to be a serious misconception about financial independence.

Personally, I don’t think life is sustainable if you are sacrificing anything. I believe you should figure out how much you spend to be happy and the plan for that. 

However, hard decisions have been made in my life. I also think that should be a theme throughout anyone’s life. Hard decisions can be necessary for growth. In my situation, I had to decide to leave Manhattan, the only place I’d ever lived as an adult, for Seattle, a city my partner had never even visited. 

I also had to trust that I could find an apartment and a good job despite having no connections on the other side of the country – and I did. The gamble paid off and it was completely worth it. 

8. What will you do about health insurance in early retirement?

I wrote a whole post about that actually – check it out here. The TL;DR version is that I intended to get expat insurance, which is wonderful and covers everything normal insurance does anywhere in the world (including preventative care after one year in the program).

However, the expat insurance I was looking at with IMG Global, requires that you’re outside of the US for 6 out of 12 months, which obviously wasn’t happening with borders closed due to the global pandemic. 

So I had to create a stopgap plan until global travel is possible again. In the meantime, I have travel insurance through World Nomads that covers catastrophic events anywhere in the US and in countries I include on my policy. 

9. What are your long-term plans now that you will have significantly more time not working?

I don’t have any long term plans besides seeing the world and experiencing life.

I want to see cool shit, eat delicious food and spend time with the people I love. Basically I just want to go with the flow and follow inspiration and curiosity as it strikes. 

This flexible approach has allowed me to develop new skills, such as birding, nail painting and speaking. It has also allowed me to tackle new challenges like completing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November and attempting to read one non-fiction book a week in 2021. 

In addition, I’ve been taking full advantage of nomad life now that we’re fully vaccinated. We’re moving around the US about every month and learning, eating and exploring as we go.

In case you’re interested in more details, I write an extensive recap post of everything I do in a month and actually did those recaps weekly for the first three months of retirement. Here’s the latest one

10. If you were starting back at ground zero, what would you do differently from the beginning?

I don’t think I would do anything differently.

I dreamed of the life I wanted to live and then saved for it while attempting to enjoy my current life to the fullest. For example, I had an anti-budget instead of a budget. I spent whatever I wanted and then checked how much that was at the end of the month and invested the rest.

Then I looked at averages from the previous year to understand what I generally spent and that became my ‘budget’ . I didn’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole or try to reach a lofty goal. I just saved what I could and estimated how long my journey would take based on that math. 

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

Be honest with yourself.

Think about what makes you happy and work towards it – no matter what that is. When I decided to pursue early retirement, I took a hard look at everything I was spending money on. Did that restaurant meal feel worth $250 of my blood, sweat and tears? Could I make the same dish at home for a quarter of the cost with a lot more friends there to enjoy it in an environment that I actually preferred? 

Some of the time, the answer to if something was worth it was yes and I kept that in my budget, but a lot of the times the answer was no. Those things didn’t make me happier so I eliminated them from my life and tried to be as intentional as I could about how I spent my money and my time (the most precious resource). 

Overall, I’d just suggest figuring out what makes you happy and spend money on that. And to that end, don’t be afraid to be weird and just do whatever you want. People will judge you regardless so you might as well be happy.

Are you interested in early retirement or financial independence? What other questions do you have for Purple?


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. Thanks for sharing, I love hearing stories of financial independence from all sorts of perspectives.

    With a family (and more expenses), my FI number is way more than $500k, but the principles are the same. I also continue to work despite technically hitting my FI number because I’m in a job I enjoy and I decided to set new goals for passive income and all my various side hustles.

    Congrats to you, Purple, and enjoy the retired lifestyle!

    1. Thank you for reading πŸ™‚ ! Congratulations on hitting your FI number and having a job you enjoy – that’s so awesome. Will do!

  2. Hi Michelle, thanks for the post. Great to get an insight into the founder of apurplelife.com! I’m sure I’ll be re-reading this inspiring article but what stays in my mind right now is this in point #7:

    “Personally, I don’t think life is sustainable if you are sacrificing anything. I believe you should figure out how much you spend to be happy and the plan for that.”

    My wife and I have never agreed on what needs to be sacrificed to achieve financial independence. However, determining our expenditure for a lifestyle we are happy with and then work towards achieving the income that would manage such expenditure, that works for us.

    1. So glad you liked it πŸ™‚ . And that’s amazing y’all found common ground and a goal to shoot for that works for you both. Good luck!

    2. So glad you enjoyed it πŸ™‚ . That’s awesome y’all found common ground and an amount to shoot for that works for you both!

  3. Lisa

    Would love to see info on her spending. I don’t see how one can stay at airbnbs all year and keep her spending at the level she says it is.

    1. Jill

      She and her partner keep their finances separate and they split the cost of everything. The spending she mentions is for her portion. You can get a sample of her costs recently in Portland, Maine here: https://apurplelife.com/2021/06/15/slow-travel-review-portland-maine/

      1. Thanks for the help Jill πŸ˜‰ !

  4. Karim

    Hi MICHELLE,
    I really like the article and amazing work. It’s very informative for me.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. Thank you for reading πŸ™‚ .

  5. Great interview! I love Purple’s advice about happiness in the last question.

    “Overall, I’d just suggest figuring out what makes you happy and spend money on that. And to that end, don’t be afraid to be weird and just do whatever you want. People will judge you regardless so you might as well be happy.”

    As someone who tracks his happiness and takes it very seriously, I have found that you have to do what makes you happy. Only YOU are in charge of your own happiness, and you have to figure it out. If you don’t know what it is, there are tools you can use (books such as The Artist’s Way) to help really hone in on it.

    But seizing your own happiness is more important than anything else. Whether you end up retiring early or not.

    1. I’m so happy you liked it πŸ™‚ and that is SO true!

  6. Seems so strange to see the numbers 30 years of age next to $500k net worth (in the best way) πŸ™‚

    Congrats on the success. Love the story. I especially love how you didn’t make hundreds of thousands per year in salary to do it, but achieved early retirement through smart saving. An inspiration for our next generation.

    1. Haha yeah it’s pretty wild. And thank you so much!

    2. JC

      actually she did. by 23 she was making over 100k. which for a marketing professional is really uncommon.

  7. Thank you and yep – so true.

  8. I appreciate the rundown here of your net worth each year. That makes it seem more attainable to the average person (me included).

  9. This post is awesome – it’s definitely an interesting and novel approach to attack early retirement!

    Congrats on the enormous milestone and being able to retire at 30, Purple Life!

  10. Jaswinder Kaur

    Wow! It is really a Great Inspiring story!

    There are lots of different roads to retirement, but some people are always struggling hand to mouth.
    I mean, everybody’s life and situation is different, because some people have so many responsibilities and they have to stay with their families to look after their parents or elders. Despite of having financial freedom, they have to stay with them.

    My husband never think at the age of 63 for retirement, he is starting his own Engineering company, because he loves to be busy all the time time and he never think to even retire and I have never heard a single word from his mouth about retirement in last 34 years.

    I asked few times, he said, “He will work continuously” he is happy by working whole day. Happiness is different for everyone.

    Glad you found the way to be happy. Good luck for future and Enjoy!!

  11. Jim

    I have looked at the posts linked in this one and have not seen one that explains how your accounts were set up to allow access…at 30 you’re too young to access your funds in a 401k or IRA account for nearly 30 more years, so how much of the $500k was in regular investment/savings accounts that you can draw on for your annual expense budget without triggering additional tax penalties?

    At a 4% of the account value per year withdrawal rate, you would need to have that $500k completely in accounts you can access to get $20k per year–unless you’re including added tax penalties in your expenses.

    Apologies if I’ve missed a post explaining this point.

  12. Hello!

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us and being so open!

    One question I have is from the year 2016 to 2017 your net worth jumped from like $137k to 234k. Do you mind going more in detail how you saved about 100k in that year? Did you invest in specific accounts? What made you income besides your salary job.

    Thank you!