I was recently talking with a younger acquaintance about my decision to leave the workforce early. I’d left a demanding career to pursue my personal passions, while I was still young and healthy enough to do so.
My acquaintance is in his early 30s. He’s single and makes a boatload of money working in IT for a pharma company. He’s also a big proponent of the FIRE (financial independence-retire early) movement. He takes part in Reddit boards and reads every investment article he can get his hands on. His goal, he told me, is to sock away every dollar he can so that he, too, can retire early one day. Hopefully even earlier than I did, he said with a grin.
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Before I knew it, my young friend was telling me about his portfolio. Between his 401(k)s and taxable accounts, he’s already accumulated a portfolio that’s well into six figures. It’s spread across low-cost mutual funds and ETFs, with a sprinkling of individual stocks. Still, he said, he was always looking for investment advice. Were there any tips I could share with him for a successful early retirement?
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While I have an M.B.A. and worked in investor relations for a number of years, I make no claim to be an investment expert. I was fortunate early in my life to have read the advice of people like Warren Buffett and John Bogle. I learned from them about the power of dollar-cost averaging and investing in low-cost mutual funds that track the market. By riding those two dull horses through the ups and downs of turbulent markets, I’ve been able to achieve a modest measure of financial security for myself and my family.
But it was clear that my young friend already had these investment fundamentals well in hand. To be honest, my concern was not about his finances, but his health. Despite being young, he was at least 30 pounds overweight. He carried an unhealthy spare tire around his middle. If he didn’t get his weight under control, he may not reach that early retirement he’s working so hard for.
With all the discretion I could muster, I gave him my tip. If he wasn’t already doing it, I suggested he get started early on a disciplined exercise program that included at least two to three hours of moderate exercise every week. I told him about all the research showing that seniors in their 70s and 80s who’d been working out regularly for 30 or 40 years had the hearts and skeletal muscle health of people 30 years younger.
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