Couple Amon and Christina Browning worked full-time for the U.S. government but decided to retire early. The Brownings retired in 2019 when Amon was 39 and Christina 41. The decision to retire early came when Amon received an award at work in 2011 acknowledging him for his 10 years of service.
At the same ceremony, an old man was given an award for 40 years of service but Amon said the distinction depressed him. He was simply unimpressed by the way the old man was celebrated and said to himself he wouldn’t want to find himself in the same situation in three decades.
So he and his wife decided to retire early. At the time, they earned less than $100,000 each in the San Francisco Bay Area. Christina earned around $70,000 as an attorney while Amon brought home around $98,000 as an urban planner.
In order to retire early, the couple decided to pursue the financial independence, retire early (FIRE), movement to supplement their salaries.
“I worked for the government for 17 years, and I couldn’t see myself working for the government for another 20 years,” Amon told CNBC Make It. “I couldn’t go into work every day, go to my cubicle, because there was so much more in life that I really wanted to do.”
To achieve financial independence, the couple ventured into real estate by flipping houses and also drove Uber in their spare time.
“We knew from our jobs, if we saved as much money as we could, for however many years, we still would not be able to retire early,” Christina said. “We had to go out and make extra money. So that was a huge focus for us.”
To help meet their financial goals, they also decided to live frugally as much as they can, while raising their two children.
“One way they saved was by selling extra home goods and other personal items on Facebook Marketplace. But living cheaply came easily to the duo, who met in college in line for free food,” according to CNBC Make It.
In addition to saving and working side hustles, the couple said investing was key in achieving their financial goals. The couple also noted that they have retired with enough investments that they would not have to work again.
“We put our money back into the stock market, back into real estate, so that we could get that compound effect,” said Christina. “That’s how you get to your financial independence.”
Christina and her family have lived in Japan and Spain but they decided to settle in Portugal largely due to the country’s nature and friendly people, they said, adding that they live comfortably on less than $2,000 per month in Portugal.
On weekdays, they spend time in their garden, growing some of the food they eat. “Every day feels like a Saturday for us,” Amon said.