Quit Like a Millionaire

Today we have a guest post from Kristy from the blog Millennial Revolution.

“Anyone can become FI with a 6-figure salary!”

“Financially independent?! If you’re not American and privileged, forget it!”

“Try to become FI if you are living on $30K a year while raising a family! HA!”

These are some of the biggest criticisms of the FIRE movement. Apparently, we’re all a bunch of rich assholes and there’s no way you can become financially independent if you weren’t born with privilege.

I get it. Seeing other people succeed is excruciating when you’re struggling. It’s easier to dismiss their accomplishments so you can feel better. I was there. I used to be a hater too.

But you know what else I used to be?

Dirt poor.


Kristy’s former abode


Embarrassingly so. To this day, my parents still refuse to admit it, despite the fact that living on 44 cents USD/day in China put us in the bottom 1% of the world (according to the World Bank).

When I first immigrated to Canada with my mom, we didn’t know how to use a toilet. We thought a hot shower was the most impressive thing in the world. I remember how insanely big bananas were!

Our first week in Canada, my mom once tried to scoop a pile of discarded peanuts off the floor, saying she was going to wash it so we can eat it. My Dad stopped her, smartly realizing that it was a bad idea, reasoning that it would cost us more money to pay for the Hepatitis medication than we would save on our peanut budget.

When my dad gave me a can of Coke, I got a nosebleed because I’d never tasted anything so good in my life. I couldn’t bear to throw away the empty can. It sat on my sink, doubling as my toothbrush holder, hair roller, and even my teddy bear.

That’s why when I read Mrs. RootofGood’s story on this blog,I could immediately relate. No one truly understands what it’s like growing up in poverty unless you’ve been through it.

But why am I telling you this? To weep about my messed-up childhood and make you feel sorry for me?


In fact, I’m grateful I grew up this way. Nearly all of my peers in Canada grew up more privileged than I did, but my parents never let me forget how lucky I am. For them, poverty was the least of their problems. When you survive a famine, civil war, and 10 years in a labor camp, nothing fazes you. My Dad’s only wish growing up was “to be full.”

As a result, my Dad taught me valuable lessons from living in poverty that helped propel me from the bottom 1% to the top 1%.

That being said, I never really thought my story was remarkable. Growing up poor China in the 1980’s wasn’t that surprising, given that 84% of the population lived in poverty (thanks a lot, Communism!). So why should anyone care?

Well, imagine my shock when an editor from Penguin Random House e-mailed me, and asking if I wanted to write a book.

My first thought was “what?” “Why?”

Apparently one of her clients (a Hollywood actress) is a fan of the Millennial Revolution and referred her to us. It took some convincing, but the editor finally got us to agree to write the book. Turns out, what I thought was my “normal” origin story was precisely what made my journey special.

Because my journey went all the way from poverty, to middle class, and then to millionaire and financially independent without any privilege or unfair advantage, my journey was accessible and, more importantly, reproducible. I didn’t start the next SnapChat or invest in Amazon when it was $10. Everything I did to get here, anyone can do.

That’s why I spent the last 2 years working on Quit Like a Millionaire—because I want to help those who are suffering realize that not having privilege doesn’t preclude you from becoming FI. If I can go from digging around in a medical waste heap and living on 44 cents a day to millionaire status, maybe it will inspire others on how to break out of poverty.

Since I’m not a fan of “woo-woo” or “think yourself rich” mindset books, this book is a step-by-step guide that’s mathematically reproducible to help anyone become FI (as we like to say on our blog, we MATH SHIT UP). It also contains detailed investing and withdrawal strategies to stay FI. If you don’t have a 6-figure salary, don’t worry. We also wrote about why “You Don’t Need a Million to Break Free”.

And guess what? Your favorite blogger, Justin from this very blog, is in Quit Like a Millionaire too! For those with kids, I interview him and other experts (including Mr. Money Mustache, GoCurryCracker, and leaders of the World Schooling community) to get the low down on how to become FI with kids and how to educate them while travelling the world.

Mrs. RootofGood and I are living proof that the FIRE movement isn’t just for those who are privileged. It’s for everyone.

In my culture, we have a word “Chi Ku”, which literally means “eat bitterness.” It’s the idea that you develop strength of character from pushing through suffering without complaint. My Dad “chi ku-ed” a lot under the totalitarian terror of the communists. And because he taught me how to “chi ku” as well, that’s how I got to where I am today.

If you want to learn how to become FI, regardless of your background, race, or economic status, then read Quit Like a Millionaire. If you believe that FI should be accessible to everyone, spread the message and pass this book on to a friend or family member.

To read an excerpt of the book from Salon Magazine click here:


Justin will be drawing a winner for a free copy of Quit Like a Millionaire (physical if you live in the US, and e-copy if you’re non-US based) and all you have to do to enter is (1 entry per action):

Edit 7/16/2019: The drawing is over. Congrats to Mike! Enjoy your winning copy of Quit Like a Millionaire! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Root of Good’s comments:

Kristy’s story is interesting and her book Quit Like a Millionaire is a compelling read. If you’ve read much of her blog Millennial Revolution, then you’ll be familiar with her engaging writing style. Her voice carries over to the book as well. 

My thanks go to Kristy for providing us a little background on her journey and her impetus for writing the book. 


Do you think growing up in poverty is a benefit or a burden for those seeking Financial Independence? On the one hand, you have a ton of motivation to escape poverty (it sucks!). On the other hand, you don’t have the cultural and financial resources that the privileged elite enjoy. But what do you think? 



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  1. I’m not as familiar with Kristy as many in the personal finance community. However, I think these are the stories that deserve more focus. It’s not just for the rags-to-riches narrative, but for “mathing shit up.” I think the personal finance space needs a lot more of that.

    1. Exactly. I listen to people complain about crappy apartments, bad traffic, and crummy jobs while they pull into their $300-400k house driveway, wearing $200 shoes, a $300 purse, and stepping out of their brand new $50k Mercedes truck.

      This is me playing the world’s tiniest violin. Cry me a river. First-world problems.

      I have always focused on long-terms gains instead of short-term pleasures. Jobs can become golden handcuffs if you are not careful. I have read articles in the NYT about $0 savings including where one guy said he worked 7 days a week, has no retirement and $0 in savings, but paid for weddings for both of his daughters including paying for their education at the private colleges of their choice!

      When the SH*T hits the fan, why is savings always the first to go and not the $40k car sitting in the driveway?

      Once I saw that a job could be here today gone tomorrow, I started saving and investing like never before (up to 40% of my income). My advice: Skip the latte and the $4k mortgage and put that money to work for you instead of you working for that money to buy the coffee and that huge house on the cul-de-sac. What have they ever done for you?


  2. I loved this article and just added Kristy’s book to my reading list. While I did not grow up in the abject poverty and oppression Kristy’s family did, i was the third child to a single, first-generation immigrant mother. We survived on public assistance and the kindness of others. Reframing my view on money was one of my biggest hurdles on my path to FIRE. (Because I totally earned and deserved to finally have nice things, right…) Outsiders looking into my story only see a high-paid IT executive who cashed out with her privilege. They don’t see the incredible hard work and tough choices I made to get to that point. Some may think there are too many FIRE books and blogs out there. I say, talk to me when we catch up to inane beauty, sports, and business how-to content.
    Let’s set this world on FIRE!

  3. Congratulations!
    I think growing up in poverty is a big handicap. Most people never escape poverty.
    You have to be driven and very lucky to succeed like Kristy did.
    It’s not easy.

  4. What a inspiration! I think it’s more how you were raised, than what you were raised with. You can be thankful and want to better yourself or be an entitled victim. We have a few friends that emigrated here from Holland after WWll with $40.00 in there pockets. All they could leave with. No degree and didn’t speak English.They are multimillionaires now.

  5. Well done Kristy and thanks for sharing Justin. I can certainly relate to your story. I grew up at the time USSR was falling apart and will never forget the times when we had nothing to eat in our kitchen and there was nowhere to turn to, we just had to hope that my mom will get paid soon. Going from the bottom 1% to the top 1% was only possible in the US for me. It is sad to see so many people who don’t realize this as much as it is shocking to see that there’s anyone who would want communism or socialism. My wife and I made a lot of mistakes (and had fun with some of them) but we are now on our way to FI. I’m so grateful to all of the FIRE community for helping me figure out the path to FIRE and sharing so many personal experiences.

  6. Congrats Kristy! I admire how your father inspire you don’t be trapped in a victimized mindset. Growing up disadvantaged, you sometimes need to fight not only the lack of resources, but also the feeling that you don’t deserve any better. I hope your history can inspire others. I personally really enjoy to see how you found your identity after retirement.

  7. cultural resources are not a small deal. they might be even more important than financial ones. we grew up redneck near the adirondack mountains of new york state. we had plenty to eat and a bunch of typical “stuff” or a working class family. the cultural part i speak of was that even responsible saving never taught me about INVESTING that savings and growing it like a champ. i was a lucky one to learn it like i learned the birds and bees: on the street. thankfully the information is more available in these times than 30 years ago when i was starting out.

  8. Had the pleasure to receive an advanced copy of the book. It’s a great book, not your typically personal finance book that’s for sure.

  9. Love it! Excellent post and can’t wait to read the book!

    While I wasn’t quite as poor as Kristy, I did have to overcome a ton of stuff and make a lot of stupid mistakes. I’m happy to say that my wife and I are well over half way to FI and are excited to join in the FI fun!


  10. Hi Justin and Kristy, I’m from Ireland, and a big fan of you both. Your giveaway has forced me out of my anonymous stalking mode! I definitely believe there’s a up side to growing up poor…we weren’t as poor as Kristy or Kaisorn…but no bathroom/inside toilet, few/no clothes apart from school uniform, Cornflakes one Xmas dinner kind of thing :-). I’m always telling my teenagers that we’re millionaires compared to most of the world, and I always appreciate what a wonderful life our family have (on a budget!). Keep up the great work/fun! Slán ó Éirinn

    1. I think the answer is contained in step 1 – the fact that you live in a socialist/communist country!

      1. What if your country started out capitalist but you suspect it may be turning socialist? So many examples of this but semi impossible to plan for…

        1. I’d say suspecting your country is turning socialist and actually being socialist are two different things. Things can move to the left…or right…without being on the actual extreme end. It sounds like you, like me, aren’t a big fan of socialism. When your country gets so far left you can’t stand it, quietly get out! But the empty threats of leaving that most people give are just unproductive and a bit harmful.

          1. Yes.. Our country recently announced national healthcare, expropriation of private property and prescribed assets for pension funds. I suspect that time to leave may soon be upon me.

  11. I had the good fortune to preorder this book early last month; it showed up yesterday, and I devoured it immediately after work. If you enjoy Millennial Revolution you will love this read. Well done, FIRECracker!

  12. That’s kick-ass, Kristy! I love a good success story. If you continuously make good (and often difficult) decisions you can overcome almost anything. Thanks for reminding us!

  13. If you want to become a nomadic traveler (like us) or simply want to live your passion without having to worry about the financial aspect of life, you should definitely add this book to your summer reading list. It is going to be life changing 🙂

    Case in point, our journey of quitting our jobs, selling all of our stuff and traveling the world was highly inspired by Kristy and Bryce. There are a number of FI trailblazers but very few that travel full-time to model after. They inspired us by showing that it is possible to live a fulfilled life of perpetual travel through FI. They are our role models and encouraged us to start a blog to show that traveling the world is actually cheaper (& more fun) than staying at home.

  14. Hi, I am 80% through your book. Its really great. But I am not clear on something that I hope you will respond to. Is the Yield Shield only in the portfolio for the first 5 years ? You say its temporary in the text but in other areas I feel you imply that its permanent. Once you’ve been retired for 5 years would you go back to your earlier simpler allocation ? And if its temporary when is it implemented ? just as you are about to retire ? I want to get my allocation right so thats why I am asking .do you still ascribe to 60/40 stocks/bonds or did you change ? thank you

  15. I do not believe growing up in poverty or financially poor is a benefit onto itself. There are statistics out there which show that someone who grew up poor has a significant higher probability of remaining poor into their 20s and 30s than someone who did not grow up in a poor household.

    But if you couple a financially poor childhood with parents who have taught and shown you the value of hard work, then I think not wanting to repeat that life provides a strong motivation to excel. That is one of the reasons why, despite growing up in a financially poor household, I was able to get to over $10 million of net worth in my 30’s.

    No one can really try both (growing up rich and growing up poor at the same time) and we are stuck with only our own experience.

  16. Such a good read and inspiration enjoyed immensely. I was dirt poor in my small town in Mississippi so I fully understand the meaning of poor. With no education and no family members that were able to help I dug my way out too. Most people I meet just aren’t going to make the sacrifices needed to be successful. Thanks for the book loved it.

  17. This book has been on my reading list since I heard Millenial Revolution on the BP Money Podcast a while back. Love the background, love the story!

    To answer your question Rootofgood, I think that growing up in poverty, or even just in a hardworking blue-collar family is a good thing. A great thing! I think the work ethic, the “you don’t get something for nothing” attitude, and the understanding of what it feels like to not just instantly get what you want are all invaluable lessons that help set the stage for FI mindset and worldview.

    Good stuff all around!

  18. From what I can tell, every FIRE blogger makes their money blogging and not working a blue collar job. If everyone starts a blog, who will be left to do the real jobs that keep America’s wheels running? Also, why are none of the people who advocate for FIRE very philanthropic? Lots and Lots of articles about money and how to keep it, but none about spending all of this new time making our country a better place for others.

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