U.S. Census Bureau data shows that for men, the average retirement age is 65, while for women, it’s 63. This is a significant milestone, considering most people have worked since the age of 18, some even younger.
By the time I retired at 35, I had already reached peak burnout. I started working in a Fruit of the Loom factory straight out of high school. During that time, I had been laid off a few times and lived on bologna sandwiches. When NAFTA was signed, the company slammed its doors and headed overseas. I was 26. Even though I had already built up some net worth, I wasn’t yet comfortable with retirement. I took another job, at a warehouse. Those would be my only two jobs. When I quit the warehouse at age 35, I was done.
My greatest edge to amassing wealth was my age. I started working and investing young. After I paid my car off at the age of 21, something clicked inside me. Suddenly, I had an extra $200 a month. It felt like I had won the lottery. I began to search for other areas of my life to save money, to widen the gap between my expenses and income.
Here are 7 money tricks that helped me retire at 35:
- Stop playing games
I took adulting seriously at the age of 18. I know people in their 50’s who still don’t take it seriously. Those same people are struggling. If you don’t make a plan now, trust me, life is already making a plan for you. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. The time to get it together and roll with the punches is now. When you make 18, games are over.
I worked on production at Fruit of the Loom, meaning there was no salary if I didn’t produce. I put on a face mask—much like the ones we wear for Covid 19—and went to town sewing sleeves on shirts. The mask, by the way, was to keep lint out of my nose and mouth. It was optional. The main reason I wore it, though, was because I liked to talk and it had the same effect as electrical tape on my mouth. I didn’t play games when I was at work. Those big checks kept me focused.
- Save 20%
Fortunately for me, I wasn’t materialistic. I had loads of self-discipline. My cars were driven until the wheels fell off and even then, I tried to drive on the rims. All my clothes were bought at high-end stores, but every single item was purchased on clearance. I squeezed those pennies so tight Abe Lincoln’s eyes bulged out. You better believe I saved money. Those were investing dollars.
When people all around me were financing new cars, I had enough money saved to pay cash for one. My first car was new. That was my first lesson about car depreciation. I was in my forties before I bought a new car again. Every check, I saved a minimum of 20%, but once I got married, we got aggressive with our savings plan and saved his entire check while living on just my income. We were saving 50% of our combined income. Both our vehicles were worth about $2000 each. We rented an apartment and paid cash for everything. Saving was a priority.
Make efforts to save at least 20% of your income. Get aggressive. Show that paycheck who’s boss.
- Be 10 minutes early
Don’t be the last person to work. When I worked for Fruit of the Loom, I didn’t think my boss would notice that I was the last person clocking in every day. I was young. I stayed up late, dragging myself into work the next morning. At the time, I thought youth was a free pass. He pulled me aside one day and told me that it wasn’t. Get to work on time or lose your job. That was my wake-up call. I set my alarm a half-hour earlier from then on.
Being on time shows you care. Bosses notice that. When you get your yearly evaluation, this will come into play. Give your all at whatever you do. Go over and above. After that day, I became a superstar employee. I made sure I waved to my boss when I clocked in early so he’d notice me. It paid off when I got my next raise.
- Invest in real estate
Buying a chunk of earth is the best investment you will ever make. Land and homes are outrageously priced in our town. There are very few tracts of land left, with the average home sitting on less than an acre. I’ve sold land double what I paid for it. What I love about real estate the most is the appreciation value. Tenants pay the note, while it goes up in value. When the property is paid for, it will generate a steady stream of income for as long as you own it. If you are a conservative investor, real estate is the way to go.
At 25, I purchased my first rental for $10,000. It was a mobile home and churned out $750 a month for over 20 years. That’s over $180,000 for that one unit. Eventually, I sold it as part of a package deal for a portfolio I owned, but I got back every dime of my initial investment, plus some.
- Don’t keep up with the Joneses
Most people don’t know that I’m wealthy. I drive a Chevy Traverse that gets me from point A to point B. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had luxury cars, but it wasn’t until I was worth over $3 million. The feeling of driving around in a $70,000 car wasn’t special enough to keep me driving them. They depreciate too fast for my taste.
Like most millionaires, I’m frugal. I don’t really care who drives what, or what size anyone’s house is in what neighborhood. My dollars need to go up in value, not down. My time is worth more to me than owning material things. When our time is up, our kids are just going to dump it at the Goodwill anyway.
- Invest the extra money
I have multiple tenants who get back $10,000 on their tax refund. It’s a small windfall, but it’s enough to invest in real estate, the stock market, or a side hustle. There are a lot of good options for side hustles. If you like to make money on the weekend pressure washing, invest in a good setup. Invest the money you make from that second job. If you pick up enough business, maybe you will decide to make that your full-time job. You will never know if you don’t try.
If you make all extra money your investment money and do your due diligence, then you are creating wealth in the long term. All millionaires have invested in themselves to some capacity. Whether it is real estate, stocks, or education, you can’t get ahead if you don’t take some type of calculated risk.
I recently launched a site called The Cash Queen to empower people to move forward in their financial life. I’ve invested money and time into it. I wrote a book called The Millionaire’s Game Plan, which required more investment of my time and money.
- Be proactive in creating wealth
I know a guy who inherited $2 million dollars. At the time, he had a job making $40,000 a year. He quit his job after he got his windfall. Within 3 years, he was broke. He bought vacation homes and expensive cars. One of the homes flooded. He had no property insurance. The home was a total loss. Needless to say, he’s working again, only making less money doing harder work. He didn’t stay on top of his finances.
Just because you have money doesn’t mean you are wealthy. I became a millionaire sewing sleeves on t-shirts at Fruit of the Loom. I invested every spare dollar. Create a portfolio with passive cash flow. Track your expenses and cash flow monthly. Make a plan to retire within the next 5 or 10 years if that’s your goal.
Tracie Breaux is the founder of The Cash Queen and she’s passionate about empowering women to achieve financial independence.