Retired at 36: How a minimalist investment strategy can lead to maximum results

Posted: 19 January 2021 8:00 am
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One investor’s roadmap to success, plus a few good book recommendations along the way.

Our series highlights stories from real people who’ve joined the financial independence, retire early (FIRE) movement. Some have successfully reached FIRE, while others are on track to do so over the next few years. Answers are edited for length and clarity.

  • Name: Adam Fortuna
  • Current age: 37
  • Profession: Retired — former product manage and software engineer
  • Time in FIRE movement: 14 years

What is your overall investment strategy?

I follow a minimal approach to investing — choosing the fewest funds possible to achieve a diversified, low-fee index fund portfolio. For me, that largely focuses on three funds: A US index fund, an international index fund and a general bond fund.

I hold all of these funds longterm with the intention of only selling when I need money to live. I also set aside about 5% of my portfolio for speculative investments: picking specific stocks that I think show room for growth with the goal of selling them for a profit after anywhere from a few months to a few years.

When did you start aggressively saving and investing?

When I was 23, my mom passed away. She left me with $100,000 that she had inherited only a year before when her mom passed away. This kicked off my journey to find out what I could do with it — a process that would lead to many mistakes over the years to wrap my head around how to invest confidently and not be taken advantage of by the financial services industry.

What inspired you to join the FIRE movement?

Two things were the key for me. I found a book with a funny title: The Bogleheads Guide to Investing. Reading this was the first time I ever felt like I was able to understand the difference between a long-term investment and a speculative investment.

The second was reading Mr. Money Mustache’s blog. Specifically, the article “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement.” This helped me understand how much I needed to save to be set for life — a number I hadn’t ever considered before that. After that, I was sold and on my way to working up to that number.

What advice would you give others looking to join the movement?

Here are three tips for others looking to retire early:

  • Run your numbers. Learn how much you’re spending today, how many hours of work go into your purchases, how much you spend yearly and how much you’d need to save given the 4% rule.
  • Learn how to invest. And learn to do so on your own using low-fee index funds, target-date funds or a robo-advisor. Most people, myself included, don’t get a solid investing education in school. What’s great is that the basics of investing that would suffice for 99% of the population are incredibly easy to learn.
  • Don’t over-engineer your plan. A lot of people — again, myself included — tend to over plan the future. Make sure you’re balancing future plans with current happiness. You can build a life you love today that will continue into the future whether you FIRE or not. In the same way lottery winners aren’t notably happy a year after their big win, those in the FIRE movement who do retire early don’t usually see a major shift in happiness. If you were happy before, you’re still happy. But if you weren’t happy, it won’t solve all of life’s problems.

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