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Want to retire early or achieve financial independence? Learn the one KEY habit that has helped couples retire in their 30s!

Achieve Financial Independence Together

Over the years, as I've interviewed couples who are financially independent (with some retiring early in their 30s!), I've noticed certain patterns and behaviors that have lead them to those big outcomes.

The key? Growing the gap between what you earn and what you spend.

Spend Less Than You Earn

“Spend less than you earn” is one of the most basic of financial principles. Even before I started writing about marriage and money, I heard of it from others.

If you're looking to retire early, taking care of your spending and what you earn can really boost your progress.

Looking to become financially independent? Learn from how couples have managed to retire in their 30s!

Reduce Expenses

Many have found reducing their expenses to be an easier path to growing the gap.

Simi and her husband Pete have managed to keep their annual expenses under $30,000 a year.

Justin and his wife looked at key expenses (such as housing, transportation, and food) early on in their marriage and found ways to keep them in check.

Their house is in a beautiful neighborhood and very conveniently located, it wasn't a hot or trendy area when they bought it. Over the years, they've fixed it up and make it the perfect home for their family of five.

For transportation, they kept things simple by avoiding car loans and instead opting for $50 car payment system (very similar to our cash for cars plan).

Simi and Pete use their bikes to get around town. Their car is used occasionally (mainly long trips).

When they were living in the Boston area, Liz's husband Nate (also known as the Frugalwoods) commuted to work on his bike.

Pretty much all early retirees I interviewed mentioned being intentional with groceries and cooking at home.

These seem like small changes, but just cutting back on those three areas can save most people a tremendous amount of money.

Looking to dump the debt and retire early? These couples share how they were able to retire in their 30s! #fi #fire #financialindependence

Build Income

Others have looked have found ways to build their income streams using the talents and resources that they have.

For example, the Frugalwoods turned their home in the city into a rental property.

On his way to financial independence, Nick Loper has started and nurtured several side hustles.

When Can We Retire?

So you're probably wondering, how big of a deal is this? Can you really speed up retiring by growing your gap?

Yes, you can.

The fun part is, depending on how much you two work at this, you can shave decades. Don't believe me? Run the numbers yourself!

There's a wonderful calculator that can give a ballpark figure on when you can retire. Simplify enter your income and your expenses.

when can we retire calculator couple money marriage finances

But I want to be clear about something  – as crucial as growing the gap between your income and your expenses, it's not the ‘secret sauce' to early retirement. It's just the outcome.

So what is the secret to becoming financially independent and retiring early?

Simplifying and Being Content

I've had quite a few early retirees on and besides the strategies, they all talked about finding joy with less.

Not less as in becoming pauper, but less in regards to expenses, activities, and distractions from what they truly wanted.

Simi and Pete had an awesome home that he customized, but after considering their needs and priorities, they downsized into another house.

Simplifying their lives gave them more time as a family and less stress, worry, and expenses with STUFF.

Funny thing is with this ‘extra' time, Simi has started a business she enjoys that gives her the autonomy, flexibility, and challenge she desires.

Justin and his family are able to go on more trips and explore together because they've removed many of the typical expenses families have.

Liz and Nate have in a sense unplugged themselves from much of the city life that many young couples love. Instead of feeling isolated or missing out on the hot spots,  they have found real joy and connectedness on their homestead.

Your Plans

If you want to hear more about how a few of these couples have managed to retire in their 30s, here are some podcast episodes to check out.

You can also subscribe to the podcast and get the episodes sent straight to you!

Every couple has a different idea fo what they want. I'd love to hear yours – what does financial independence mean to you? How are you working to get there?

This post was originally posted in February 2018. The post has been updated in January 2020.

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

7 comments add your comment

  1. I love Ms. Frugalwoods too. And I also enjoyed reading your blog. My husband and I decide to use my income for expenses and put his towards our mortgage. It’s been working great so far!

  2. Great Post!

    You touch upon one of the simplest and most basic principles in order to reach financial Independence: spend less than you earn. So, there are two ways to attack this. Individuals need to strive to earn more and spend less. Utilizing both of these strategies at once can have a HUGE impact on your financial future.

    I love how you touch upon simplicity. I advocate this quite frequently. Especially early in life, most individuals do not have complicated lives financially. They do not have multiple and large financial obligations. This is the time to keep things simple and to save as much money as possible. Ideally, you want to save as much as you can through tax sheltered accounts and then save more using other savings vehicles.

    Of course, there are multiple variables to consider. However, I love KISS…keep it simple stupid. Earn more. Spend less. Enjoy life with simplicity and be content!

    • LOL! Ah, yes, I may have had those conversations with my husband as well a few times…..

      Yeah, the calculator has been fun for me as we plan out a few ideas, but right now we found a savings rate that we’re happy with. Some months, though, we’ll do a challenge to see if we can crank things up.

  3. It’s so nice to hear about couples working together on the subject of money to improve their lifestyle. Money is something that so many couples fight about and it’s just so unimportant in the long run. You just to need to spend enough to live, and that’s it.
    After all, you can’t take it with you, and your gravestone isn’t going to say “Had an enormous savings account”.

  4. I get so carried away with my financially-free dreams that posts like this are a really good reminder to me that life has been just as good while we have been “scrimping and sacrificing” as it was when we were spending more! I have to admit that I love “stuff” but I realllly love the feeling of being intentional with our money and I hope to keep our expenses low once we can afford much more!