I Retired at 33!

In the WildThrough careful saving and planning, I managed to accumulate enough wealth to make me financially independent which allowed me to retire at age 33.  When I retired in 2013 I expected to have fun, but not this much fun!

I have a lovely wife that tried to retire early in 2015 but kept working part time for six more months until she joined me in early retirement in 2016.

We live in Raleigh, North Carolina with our three generally wonderful children aged 5,10, and 12.

If you want to see all the details, check out the much longer version of “How I Retired Early at 33“.


So what kind of stuff will you find on Root of Good?

  • Personal Finance
  • Financial Independence
  • Investing
  • Having Kids without Breaking the Bank
  • Travel
  • Moneyhacks
  • Anything else that makes life more awesome!


Ok, sir, but why should I listen to you since you’re just some dude on the internet?

Most folks blogging about money and financial freedom on the internet fall into two categories: (1) deep in debt and deftly paying it off, or (2) hard core savers that accumulated great wealth at a young age.

I would put myself in the latter group.  Our household has grown moderately rich by being frugal, saving a large proportion of our earnings, and investing our assets wisely.  No winning lottery ticket ever fell into our pockets (who wastes money on lottery tickets anyway right? ).  No unknown rich great uncles that hate their immediate family have left us massive inheritances.  Yet.  Unfortunately we were born without a trust fund.  Neither of us have ever worked at a dot com or start up that paid out huge stock options eventually worth millions when Google or Facebook bought the start up.

My wife and I had regular jobs working roughly 9 to 5 each day and we saved most of our paychecks.  When we first started working after college, collectively we made well under $100,000 annually.  In 2013 when I quit working, our household income topped out around $150,000 annually.  While working, we consistently pumped our savings into 401k’s, IRA’s, HSA’s, 529’s, and regular brokerage accounts.  These investments grew enormously over roughly ten years and made us financially independent today.  Here’s the full story on how we went from zero to millionaire in ten years.


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Money is the Root of All Good.  If someone tries to persuade you otherwise, then they probably want some of your money, so watch out!

Money is a powerful tool in your hands.  It lets you do anything you want to do with your life.

My goal is to share some wisdom about money without boring you to tears.  On Root of Good you will find timely, relevant content that tells you how to get more money, keep more of your hard earned money, and invest your money so that it works for you over time.


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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Joe! I enjoy your blog, and your latest post about the first days of preschool brought back (mostly) good memories of our children’s first days of kindergarten.

    1. Thanks, Lisa! If you would like, you can subscribe to the blog via email or “like” me on facebook (to get updated when I post something new. Email and facebook links are to the right ———->

  1. I’m interested in starting a blog myself, on my own financial journey. I am fairly tech savvy, have built web sites etc so using some blogging software and hosting it seems easy. I’m more interested in how you learned (or are learning) to monetize your blog – ads/banners/clicks and all that stuff that turns a hobby and a sharing of information into passive income.

    All the wealthy financial people on TV seem to get rich by writing books about it – about the slow and steady pace, the discipline to LBYM, shrewd asset allocation etc. None of them have actually hit the lotto or made spectacularly smart single-stock investments.

    Appreciate if you can include some of the “how to blog” in your blog because making money on the blog is all part of financial independence, right?


    1. I mostly learned on the fly how to use Google Adsense and incorporate it onto the blog. It is relatively easy using wordpress as the blog software.

      Good tip on putting up something about “how to blog”. I’m no expert by any means, but I can certainly relate my experience starting a blog and the various steps to go through.

      The best advice I have heard is to just start writing. Put up good content and don’t worry about monetizing too much at the very beginning.

      As for making money at blogging, I think of it as the NBA. A number of bloggers make a decent income, many more make a little. Maybe not quite NBA disparities in income, but you get the gist. I made $32 in my first month of blogging for reference. Enough to pay for a few months of website hosting! My financial independence will be funded by income from my investment portfolio, and not blogging income. Any income from blogging is just gravy. It’ll probably mean slightly nicer or longer vacations or something fun.

      If you are interested in blogging and eventually monetizing your content, consider starting your blog at a paid internet host. I think all the free blogger websites won’t allow you to do any real monetization like adsense advertising or affiliate links. If you are interested in setting up a new site, Hostgator was extremely easy to use and configure with WordPress. Also very affordable (around $80 for a year). Check out hostgator from my recommendations page at https://rootofgood.com/recommendations/ and you can save 25% off the regular price using my coupon code ROOTOFGOOD25 . Shameless plug there, but they were very easy to use to get started and have worked well so far.

      1. Thanks again for the information. I dont mind paying a little bit to get a blog going on a site that will eventually allow me to monetize.

        I’m a regular reader of Joe’s blog Retireby40 and Financial Samurai to name a few. I also enjoy the ER.org forum and the Bogleheads forum. I am also a Dave Ramsey fan — skipping the religious stuff he spews, his common sense (your grandma gives this same advice) is spot on, although his target audience is generally the financially handicapped who are struggling to climb their way (snowball their way) out of debt or on the verge of a major crisis…. versus the financially more sophisticated which you tend to find in the aforementioned blogs and forums. He makes a LOT of money on his money programs – materials – books – podcasts – etc.

        As I talk to my peers, I think I have a somewhat unique angle to FI , which i think will differentiate me from other bloggers and make my content interesting. That said, I am not such a well versed writer – but i enjoy writing (A’s in english in high school and an older sister who is a writer/author). Nor am I actually retired yet….

        I would plan to Blog as a means of keeping busy when I retire early…. likely discussing how I got to that point in my career and financial life…. and then blog about my explorations and my personal path to find and implement an Act II “how I spend retirement” of sorts (such as forging a new career or launching a business etc not for financial reasons, more for mental health reasons).

        What do you think? What was the deciding factor to launch your blog?

        Do you recommend inviting other bloggers in to be “guest bloggers” or just sticking with my own content at first?

        1. Sounds like we are reading many of the same things (except I don’t do Dave Ramsay and kind of made fun of him here just a bit!).

          The beauty of the blog is that you can make it what you want. I think “interesting” is better than regurgitated personal finance advice. I recall seeing Sam at Financial Samurai struggling with writing generic personal finance advice instead of his normally more interesting posts. I say do what is fun and interesting for you. It may not be the optimal way to get traffic, but individuals who like reading your blog will be likely to come back for more, and subscribe, and comment, and share you on facebook, or mention you to their friends.

          I think your ideas of writing about your story to FI and what you plan on doing post-retirement in terms of hobbies and business startups sounds interesting. I’d read it.

          I remember sitting in a cube years ago reading tales of people traveling the world, doing outrageous things. Bring a little of the excitement that comes with being FI. Share it with your readers.

          Why did I decide to blog? I have toyed with the idea for a while. I figured I have plenty of free time, so why not learn the technical side of blogging? The technical side interests me as much as the writing/research side of blogging. Like you said, good mental exercise.

          For content, I would depend on yourself initially. Network with other bloggers. Joe at retireby40 stops by here sometime, and I stop by his site. I imagine other bloggers that would potentially guest post are likely to agree to guest post if they like your content. I personally get way more excited reading solid interesting content than seeing a really pretty website design.

          I have a blog swap/guest post coming up soon with Nick at pretired.org. It seems we have some philosophies in common, and we like each other’s writing.

          If you think you might want to start the blog, go for it! Block off a Saturday or some time, and just sit down and jump in. Most of the internet hosting sites let you buy just a month up front, so you could really be out of pocket almost nothing (maybe $15-20 including domain registration), and see how your first month or two goes. Maybe you get 2 months in and decide it is stupid, no one reads your blog, you hate writing, etc. Just cancel your web hosting and close it down! You’ll never know if you never try it. I think hostgator (where I am) offers 30 or 45 days 100% refund if you want to cancel, but check the terms on that.

          Good luck with whatever you decide!

  2. Hey Justin…Very interesting story and I think we went very similar paths. Except you’re financially independent and probably smarter! =) I’m also 33, have always been frugal…went to state university…worked one year and then went to law school part time while working full time. There was no state option where I lived (NYC), unless I moved 7 hours away. There is a city university but then I’d have to quit my job which I don’t know if I could have done. But my student loans would definitely be a lot less. I also work in government and the pension is a bit of a golden handcuff. I’ve been scanning a few of your articles…but will read them more when I get the chance. Glad I found your blog!

    1. Those pensions can be curses in disguise. I wish my former employer had an opt out available where they would give you a 4-6% 401k match instead of spending 15% of your salary (on top of the 6% withheld from your paycheck) to prop up their pension. If you leave before vesting in the pension, the 15% they put into the pension on your behalf is worthless. I think the governmental employers would be better served having market rate pay and market benefits to include defined contribution plans with matches. If employees come and go between the public and private side, awesome! More exchange of information and ideas.

      Glad you stopped by! Do you have a target year to reach financial independence, or is it 20+ years to get a pension?

      1. I agree about pensions…unlike my co-workers/other union members, I would prefer a good 401k match. My wife just started a government job and they keep diluting the pension and now it takes 10 years to vest. I used to work in the federal government where there is a match and a pension (though a less generous pension). I don’t have a target date to reach financial independence…and would like it to happen earlier than 20+ years! But it is very generous…works out to about 60% of my salary. Also, living in NYC doesn’t help as housing is ridiculously expensive, but we have so much family and friends here so no plans to leave.

        1. I would run your numbers and see if you can retire comfortably at an earlier date than 20+ years. If your pension rules were like mine, you could still get something at age 65 with as little as 5 years service.

          In my case it would have been $100/month in 2013 dollars, and I never intended to put in more than 5 years or so at the government job, so I was planning on pulling out my pension contributions anyway.

          When I was doing the analysis, I figured somewhere around 10-15 years of service is the point at which it made sense to leave the money in the pension plan. Also check to see if you can buy extra years of service. I know people who bought back time for periods when they worked in temp or part time jobs for cities, the state, or state universities. Apparently it is a great return on investment, but I never researched it further.

          1. How about air time? It’s the full actuarial cost. Normally, 40-50% of your salary. So, maybe 50K per year for me, but it generates 6k in retirement benefits with a 3% COLA on that amount for life.

            Thoughts? thanks michael

  3. Great story! Thanks for sharing, I’m impressed that you retired so young and am hoping to do the same one day!

      1. I once met someone getting her PHD in law. She said she could link 90% of the crimes in any part of the world to poverty.

        I agree wholeheartedly.

  4. Great story and inspiration for anyone looking for some FI wisdom. Thanks for sharing your life story and look forward to many more updates.

  5. I remember coming by here long ago and gaining a big part of my inspiration – thanks so much and I’ll try to comment more and lurk less!

  6. Great blog, found it over on reddit. I’ve been uber-saving for 20 years now and the thing I’m starting to worry about is bridging the gap of health care coverage until I reach an age where I’m eligible for those benefits.

    What’s your plan on that front, especially that you have children? Right now it’s easy with your wife covering that front, but what happens when she retires?

    Thanks for your insights!

  7. I literally just logged into my Fidelity 401k accounts for me and my wife and upped the contributions to hit the annual $17500 mark based on this article. I’m 35 and well on my way to FI due to saving and investing throughout my 14 years since college, but would have been better off if I had studied taxes years ago. THANK YOU for clearly illustrating the power of optimizing the tax side!!!!!!! I admit I was thick headed before…. Better late than never. Thanks again.

    1. Awesome! Enjoy the tax savings. And congrats on getting a few steps closer to FIRE by spending a few minutes clicking stuff on the internet.

      I need to add a “tip the blogger” button on the side in case someone in your situation is so ecstatic about saving thousands on taxes that they want to throw a few bucks my way. 🙂

  8. Great story and definitely impressive retiring at 33. Unfortunately at that age I was stupid and dumb and have no clue about a possibility of retiring early by changing a life style. Well, at least I got it at some point and now rushing to catch up. Better late than never. However, I adopted a DGI strategy and options trading to boost my savings and get to the FF goal faster. Although I am somewhat still behind I can already see the snowball rolling. Hope I will be able to follow your example soon – although not at 33 anymore 🙂

  9. Great website. I’m a decade late into the workforce and recently discovered the concept of early retirement. Very appealing, and I’m hoping to figure out a game plan to follow your footsteps. Keep up the good work!

  10. You’re right. MD = earning POTENTIAL, but ironically (and unfortunately) doesn’t equate to savings for most MD’s. I actually don’t think I’d ever catch up to where I’d be if I had stayed in software development, but that’s water under the bridge now! Thx!

    1. I have a feeling you’re right. I know I saw plenty of high school friends just finishing up their residencies as I was retiring. Factor in higher taxes while working plus heavy debt repayment and they will probably be in their 40’s or 50’s before ever catching up with where I would have been if I kept working.

  11. Hi Justin,

    I am just starting to look around your site. Came over from retireby40. It is amazing you finished at 33. I am 28 right now trying to do something similar but my goal will be 40 years old. I started a little late working at the age of 25 coming out of pharmacy school and 85,000 dollars in student loans. My goal is to hit around 2 million net worth with my partner by 40 and then live off the investment gains/dividends/interest and other income streams.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. My initial spreadsheets said we would make it around 40-45, but we managed to increase our income over time and enjoyed great market returns since 2009, so that got accelerated a bit. 🙂 And we did a great job cutting expenses over the years too.

  12. What an awesome age to retire. Although I’ll retire at an older age, it’ll be interesting to see my wife retire at 33 as well. Just started reading your blog today! Great content.

  13. Congrats on the super early retirement! I’m 34 and very jealous, in a good way, of your commitment to accomplishing your goal. Keep up the good work, I’ll be looking to join you soon!

  14. Very impressive blog and thank you very much for sharing your inspiring story and strategy. I am an avid Personal Capital user as well. I believe I am on very good track towards the early retirement only if I can remove any commitment towards the future college tuition contribution for my two kids. The college tuition seems to be projected only higher and higher. I am curious about your view on this. Do you plan to support your kids through college which inevitably put a dent on the retirement saving or leave the kids on their own (student loan, scholarship, etc).

    1. Yes, we will support them but probably not at 100%. Right now we have ~2 years worth of tuition per kid in in dedicated savings in 529s. We should be able to fund the other 2 years of tuition from our portfolio without any problems. Tuition to in state schools here are under $9k/yr.

      The oldest 2 kids are doing very well in school and will probably get some kind of academic scholarships (but who knows, right?). There’s also student loans, work/study, summer jobs in HS and college, grants, research assistanceships, internships, etc.

      There’s also the chance that our portfolio will expand to the point where we can pay for all college costs completely.

      Then there’s the chance that one or more kids won’t go to a standard 4 year college. Possibly 2 year community college first, or become entrepreneurs right out of HS, or college may not be as valuable as it is today. Hard to say since we’re still 7 years out.

  15. Hi Justin, Just came across your blog. Congratulations to you! We have been on the Encore Voyage for just a bit longer, but have done it pretty much in the same way. Congratulate Mrs. RoG on her new found freedom. Take note that things will get interesting from here as you embark on the 24/7 togetherness journey. I hope you’ll pop on over to the Voyage to see some of the stuff we’ve learned. It’s a great ride!

  16. I see on your website where you invested in retirement vehicles like traditional IRA’s and 401k’s. Unlike a tax deferred plan, like a Roth, these plans offer tax deductible contributions, but you pay income tax at distribution time. In addition to a 10% early withdrawal penalty! Do you have real estate or other investments that you withdraw from that don’t penalize for being under age 59 1/2? Also, with both of you now retired and not receiving healthcare through an employer, how are you keeping costs down in health coverage? For a family of 5 premiums must be $15-20k+ per year!?

  17. Just curious. How did you manage to get Obamacare for 5 people at $125/month?

    It sounds like you got the subsidy. But in order to get the subsidy this much, you need your MAGI to be much less than 40K according to the obamacare rules.

    So can you tell me how MAGI can be very low when you have so much dividend income?

      1. Justin

        Let me try to understand. You projected your income as 42K but AGI is lower because only 8-10K was counted for Obamacare.
        The 20-22K is from your tax deferred accounts which I assume from IRA and/or 401K. In other words, for Obamacare eligibility, money from tax deferred accounts is not counted? Wait, you are younger than 59 1/2 so how do you collect money from tax deferred accounts without penalty?

  18. Hi Justin – We just now published a post on our blog where we have mentioned few kind words about your blog 🙂 You might want to check.

    I have been following your blog since 2 years and eagerly look forward to new posts 🙂 Thanks for all the knowledge/experiences that you are sharing with your readers. Our post is just a small to convey the gratitude for the value that you are delivering to your readers 🙂


  19. Congratulations in achieving freedom at such a young age. You have a long life ahead of you and are head of your family. You’re awesome. I agree that money can accomplish much good. Would you share the good you are doing with yours to encourage others to similar generosity?

    “Prosperity for generosity”

    1. We give very little to charity, but may change that if we end up with significantly more than we have now (young kids make for an uncertain future). I’m more of a fan of giving it away when you’re gone (unless you’re Bill Gates rich).

      I use my free time to help out family and friends, run this blog (it pays well so not exactly charity), volunteer at our kids’ school frequently, and pitch in where I can.

  20. Just came across your site. Inspirational story….looking forward to navigating around your website and hopefully pick up some practical tips. Thank you for sharing your story and experiences!

    1. It was a 5 year home equity loan from Penfed. I kept refinancing from 30 to 15 to 10 to 5 years as I paid down the loan balance. I think that 5 year HE loan was also zero closing costs.

        1. There are funky rules. I think it was something like $100k balance or less is tax deductible but interest from amounts over that are not. And I think it depends on whether you cash out some money or if it’s refinancing a regular mortgage. Time to do some research to find out the rules for sure.

  21. I appreciate your website because you have children – as we do. It seems most of the early retirement blogs are for families with no children. My experience is that college is the biggest expense with children. If you can find ways to minimize college expenses, that is a big help. For example: junior college for first 2 years, state college for last 2 years, AP courses, scholarships, part-time employment. I prefer to avoid loans if possible. And I suggest majoring in STEM field where you can earn a decent income.

  22. Hi Justin,
    I’ve been following your blog for a while now-I must say you are doing a fantastic job! Congratulations on hitting $2M recently. What you do is such an inspiration

    I’m just curious-you always say you’ve reached 2M net worth-when i review the portfolio, it’s already 2M. What about other assets such as your house, etc.


  23. Hi Justin!

    Just discovering your blog. I have read one or two of your articles before that I had come across but never really parsed through the blog. Loving what you have here so far. Looking forward to reading more!

  24. Hello, I am so excited to find someone that lives in my town! I am on the FI Journey and although I’ve always focused on retiring early, I just recently found out about the actual movement. Would you mind if I asked you a few specific questions since you actually live in Raleigh and I do too, your information is so much more relevant to me than all of the other bloggers! I just turned 32 and am aiming for early retirement at 38.

    1. Sure! Fire away.

      If you’re on Facebook, there’s also a couple of local FIRE-related groups. NC Triangle on FIRE and ChooseFI – Raleigh being two of them.

  25. Just found you website, and can’t wait to dive deep into it. quick question, how do you guys pay for health insurance? that is one of my concerns that if I retire early, I still want to have access to good health care especially since I have 2 little ones.

  26. Justin,
    Just read about you on the finance yahoo web site. Great Jobs between Kaisorn and you. Great web site too, full of useful information.

  27. Thank you, Justin. Reading your blog has incredibly helpful and enriching. Reading about you and your families’ financial success has given so many of us (readers) the example and knowledge to begin our own Financial Independence (FI) journey, down a trusted path. It is because of your blog and a short list of others that have paved the way, that FIRE starters are able to step out in faith to share their own stories, through their own blog/website.

    I would like to personally thank you for helping to inspire me to start http://www.EducatoronFIRE.us. Like you, I plan to write about FIRE and personal finance, but also about faith, family, and FUN! I have been in the field of education for a significant amount of time and would like to spread FIRE to as many other educators as I can.

    If you have a chance to make it over to the site I hope you are able to see and read how much your site and writing have have impacted it. And, if you feel inclined, please leave feedback on how things can be improved. You are a leader in the FIRE space and your knowledge and experience is greatly appreciated. Again, thank you Justin.

  28. love the blog! I’m in a similar boat as you; soon to retire (i’ll be 40 this year) and thankful for the FIRE mindset! great to meet ya!

  29. I am so happy I discovered your site, you have got another follower! As I am on my journey to financial freedom, it´s very inspiring to read about yours. I started investing some years ago so I’m still on my journey. I started blogging last year so feel free to come by and say hello, hopefully, it will be interested to follow me on the path to freedom!

  30. Greetings! I found your Blog by way of a short writeup on http://www.savingforcollege.com (the 529 site). I clicked on the link for RoG embedded. Your story is very cool. Its also inspiring. Like you, I am part of the FIRE community. Unlike you, I have not yet arrived there. However, I am enjoying my journey, working part-time in a very flexible high-paying job. Basically, my real estate income is replacing my income from work. It affords me the ability to work limited hours. I am very thankful for only having to work full time until the age of 36! I am excited for what the future holds!

  31. Just stumbled onto your interview on the Millionaire’s Unveiled podcast! Really inspiring and learned a bit from you. Thanks for the inspiration and sharing your story.

    1. I don’t have an article on it.

      I get $400/yr from the Citigold Private client annual subscription benefit for having $1M there. And they were giving ~$100/yr for doing silly stuff like monthly transfers to/from another acct and doing billpay monthly. They will cease that in 2 months once they convert my accts to their new “simplified” banking products.

      The $1000 x2 bonuses are for transferring assets to Citi. You can move those assets out and transfer them back in to get a brokerage bonus.

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