This is an interview with Jeremy and Winnie of Go Curry Cracker.
Hello. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
Hi! We retired in our 30s to travel the world and start a family. That was about 7 years ago, and our 4.5-year-old son has now been to 40+ countries. I also have a small blogging hobby.
When did you first start dreaming about retiring early and why?
When I was in my late 20s, I finally paid off my student loans. This was after 6 years of living lean, putting every possible cent into them.
I even traded in my vacation hours for extra paychecks. Then I took my first real vacation as an adult.
The first week, I thought mostly about work. During week 2, I started to relax and enjoy things. By the end of week 3, I started asking, “How can I do this every day for the rest of my life?!”
I really enjoyed my job, but this travel thing was even better!
Then I went back home and wrote a 50-page business plan about how to retire early. 10 years later, I walked out of the office for the last time.
What did the ‘big plan’ you had in mind include and what was the first step?
The plan was to build a portfolio of investments that would fund our ideal lifestyle. This requires having at least 25x our cost of living in stocks and bonds.
To start, we significantly downsized.
We sold the house, the car, the motorcycle, moved into a small student apartment, started walking and biking everywhere, and made all of our meals at home.
Now, we could return to the US, buy a house, buy a couple cars, eat out for most meals, and still not need to work. We just happen to now want most of those things.
Did your careers and education help you retire early in any way?
I have an engineering degree, and our plan really looked at our lifestyle and spending as an engineering challenge rather than a financial one. This allowed us to prioritize and simplify.
What we basically did was live like college students for much longer than it is socially acceptable to do so. This allowed us to save substantially more than our peers. We front-loaded our frugality.
Think of it like this, if you save 10% of after-tax income that means you are spending 90%. After 9 years, you maybe have enough savings to take 1 year off of work.
But if you save 50%, you can take a year off after just 1 year, 9 times faster!
We were saving 70%+, and my last 3 years’ of work we mostly lived off just dividend income and put my whole paycheck into more investments.
How did inflation and market swings impact your early retirement??
I worked a total of 16 years after college, 6 to pay off student loans and 10 to build our portfolio.
During that time, we experienced the Y2K crash and the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. We “lost” over $400k during that one.
In a lot of ways, the downward swings helped because we were able to buy more shares at lower prices.
Because we continue to LBYM (live beneath your means) and we’ve had an extended bull market, our portfolio has continued to grow even though we no longer have paychecks.
What were the best things you did and lifestyle changes you made to save $100K/year?
We had to really rethink the American dream, so in a lot of ways we returned to a more idyllic 1950s lifestyle – smaller living space, home cooking vs restaurants, and less reliance on automobiles.
Saving 50% of income is even another way to look at old-school savings advice, “Live off one income and save the other.”
My personal favorite thing we did was replace cars with bicycles. My main form of transportation for several years was a bike I bought on Craigslist for $50.
I sold it later for $60. It also doubled as a free gym membership. Compare $10 in profit to the average cost of ownership of an automobile.
Read also: How Rich Saved $100K by Age 25
How do you save thousands of dollars every year in taxes?
This might be a bit of an understatement… in our first 6 years of early retirement and world travel, we had taxable income of about $100,000/year and paid around $0 in income taxes.
It’s part of my strategy to Never Pay Taxes Again.
By living off investment income rather than employment income, we are able to benefit from the 0% tax rate on qualified dividends and long-term capital gains.
Then I employ tax-free Roth conversions and capital gain harvesting to reduce our future tax burden.
How did you manage your money while on the road?
Our investments are mostly on auto-pilot. We use low-cost Vanguard index funds, and I only spend about an hour per year to rebalance and implement our tax strategies.
All of our spending goes on credit cards to get airline and hotel points for free travel. When we need cash, we have a couple ATM cards that reimburse any fees.
What side hustles have you tried to earn extra income, and which one is your favorite?
While working I mostly focused on career, trying to grow income as fast as possible.
I did invest a bit in real estate, and didn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t until after retiring that we did anything side-hustley.
Post retirement, Winnie wrote a book about early retirement and world travel and I started a blog about the same.
When did you start Go Curry Cracker and how has it grown since then?
When I announced my retirement at work, I had a lot of offers from co-workers for beers and coffee so they could ask about our plan.
Most of the questions were similar, “How did you save so much?” “Can you really pay zero taxes?” “What do you mean you plan to fly Business Class for free?”
I started writing about our travels so friends and family could follow along, and then I added the financial stuff.
Traffic started to really grow maybe 2-3 years later, and it even accidentally started making money. Now it pays most of our expenses.
What are you top tips for beginner investors?
Aim to put 50%+ of after-tax income into low-cost index funds. Put it on auto-pilot and ignore it for 10-15 years.
How does a typical day in your life look like now?
We’ve really trended towards normalcy the past couple of years.
Jr requested to go to preschool, so we’ve settled down a bit and travel around the school calendar. Winnie paints a lot these days.
Blogging takes 4-8 hours per week, and I spend a lot of time biking and playing guitar.
Life is pretty busy… I still wonder how we ever had time for jobs.
What’s next for you and Go Curry Cracker?
We plan to stay in Asia until Jr is reading and writing fluently in Chinese, and then we will probably return to the US for middle and high school.
We’ll continue slowly exploring the globe and pursuing our creative interests.