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Kristy Shen & Bryce Leung: Quit Like A Millionaire

My guests have completely rejected mass media and what everyone else tells them to do. By doing so, they were able to retire by age 31 and travel the world.

They are the authors of Quit Like A Millionaire: No Gimmicks, Luck, Or Trust Fund Required. They've influenced over 1.3 million readers on their site, Millennial-Revolution.com explaining their journeys of how they were able to retire very early on, how they were able to travel the world and do it in a contrarian method.

My guests that I'm excited to introduce you to are Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung.

In this episode, we're going to talk about quitting like a millionaire. It’s a complete contrarian point of view than you most likely are getting. We're also going to talk about what it means to be location independent and how you can retire yourselves in eight years, perhaps sooner, depending on how you leverage the information that you're about to know.

We're going to talk about the 4% rule, why you need to know it and how that is your North Star for retirement and getting the freedom that you may desire.

With that said, I am super excited to present to you this episode. Let's get to it.

Dustin
You rejected the advice of your boomer parents refusing to settle down and buy a house. Instead, you invested your money, built a seven-figure portfolio, retired and started traveling the world on permanent vacation in your 30s. It took you about eight years, plus or minus. Looking back to when you first started this journey to freedom, did you have an idea of how long it was going to take you and exactly what was about to transpire?
Kristy & Bryce
Originally, we were trying to buy a house, and when Bryce did the math and the calculation and showed me that we could be retired within three years, this was around 5 or 6 years into working, I thought he was nuts. I was like, “The math is wrong. There's no way this could be true.” I didn't believe it for a second. This financial independence thing is powerful. Not only did we retire, but we also found out that we could travel the world for less money than living in a major metropolitan city. I'm glad that I was wrong and that this is possible.
Dustin
You said to retire in three years. Was Bryce working in the background and doing things and you were going about your day? Had you started this journey earlier, then you wake up one day and you're like, “We can retire in three years?”
Kristy & Bryce
I grew up with a scarcity mindset because I was born in China in a rural village. At one point, my family lived on $0.44 a day. My understanding of investing always terrified me. The fact that we would take all the money that we saved, which we were going to put into a house, put it into the stock market and then use the passive income to retire. That was not something that I could handle. Growing up in poverty, I thought that putting your money into the stock market is the scariest thing ever. Bryce’s abundance mindset, having grown up in a regular middle-class family, helped ease that transition into, “This is how rich people get richer. This is how you make money with money. Don't think about money in terms of dollars. Think about it in terms of percentages.” I had to rely on that abundance mindset in order to get over the fear of investing.
Dustin
Bryce, were you the one leading the charge here, planning the escape behind the scenes?
Kristy & Bryce
We were trying to do the adult thing and buy a house, work our jobs, retire with a pension and we're trying to do all that. The thing about the housing market is when our parents were buying houses, they were worth maybe 2X, 3X, 4X their annual salary. If you're making $50,000, a house maybe will be $100,000, $150,000. In this day and age where that’s not even true anymore. People who are making $50,000 are trying to get into housing markets in San Diego, but it could be in New York, LA or Toronto. They're looking at houses like $700,000, $800,000, $900,000, $1 million, this kind of stuff. It's astronomical and completely unaffordable. That's the big challenge that our generation is dealing with right now.
When I was looking at that and we were not finding any possible way to enter this crappy housing market, I started looking at alternatives. We were like, “What else could we do with all this money?” Because we had been saving up money for this down payment for this house that we were supposed to invest in because that's what adults are supposed to do. There was no way of doing it. At a certain point, that down payment fund had grown to $500,000. We were like, “This is a lot of money. What else can we do with it?” That's when we learned about all this Financial Independence Retire Early stuff. The Financial Independence Retire Early or the FIRE movement is an acronym that somebody came up with.
It states that if you have a portfolio worth X amount of dollars, you can safely withdraw 4% of that every year, inflation-adjusted and you'll be able to do that sustainably forever. If you are living off of $30,000 and you have a $750,000 portfolio, you could retire and never have to work again. We were living off of about $40,000. We realized that if we had $1 million, then we could retire. Based on our trajectory, I grabbed up the spreadsheets and I figured out how much we were saving, how much we could make if we were to start investing right now and realistically, how long would it take to hit that. It was not that long. It was 3, 4, 5 years. If I had taken all that money and then plowed it into an overpriced house, I would have been in debt for the next 25 years. Twenty-five years in debt or three years to retirement, what would you choose?
Dustin
You make it quite simple and obvious. I want to talk for sure about the journey. I want to get deep into the details of the process and the journey that you've gone on. I want to ask, you originally rejected that advice from your parents. I'm curious to know what they think of you now?
Kristy & Bryce
When we first became millionaires and I told my mom that I'm retired and I don't need to work anymore, her response was, “So what? You don't have a house.” That's the only thing that you would ever be considered successful is if you have a house. When we were traveling for the first year, my dad kept sending me emails every month saying, “Get back to work. Here's a list of jobs I found for you. I don't want you to die destitute, so get back to work.” That was the first year. A lot of our friends were surprised too. The second-year when we came back home, my parents were like, "You’re still traveling and you haven't run out of money? It's probably because you're lucky the stock market's doing well.” The third-year that we came back, they were like, “You still haven't run out of money? Interesting, maybe the stock market's still doing well and you're still lucky.” The fourth-year we came back and my dad's like, “What are these ETF funds? Tell me about index investing. How does this work?” Now he's investing in the index funds that we're investing in. That's big for an Asian parent to be like, “You actually know what you're talking about.”
Asian parents never admit that their kids know what they're talking about. They're always idiots right up until the end.
Dustin
My goal for this is to wake people up to what is possible. Let's start at the beginning. From what I gathered, it looked like you had graduated and now you're into the working world. You’re living in one of the most expensive cities in Canada and you saved nearly 50% of your income. If I have my facts correct, that's a feat in itself. How was that even possible? How did you not get sucked into, “Let's live in a nice rental apartment and let's go out every night and eat food?” How did you come out with that mindset to save?
Kristy & Bryce
This is what I've discovered. Part of it is my immigrant and scarcity mindset. It is obvious to see whether you have that mindset or not by looking at the way I and Bryce eat chicken wings. If you look at my chicken wing, there's no meat on them. Every single strand of meat is gone, I licked the bone clean. Bryce has half the chicken still there and he's like, “I'm done.” Coming from that background, for me, I realized that you don't need that much to be happy. If I can grow up in China with no toilets, no hot water, no hot showers and I can get this far, all you need is four walls and then you focus on your priorities. You don't need to spend that much money. You don't need a fancy car. You don't need a gigantic house.
We rented the top floor of a one-bedroom apartment for $850 while everybody else kept moving up to their one-bedroom, then two-bedroom, then moved to a house. We never owned a car. We used car-sharing services and the only thing we spent money on and never regretted spending was vacations. We spent $5,000 a year minimum on vacations. I knew that everybody likes to put down the scarcity mindset because you have to have an abundance mindset. In this case, it helped a lot because I was happy optimizing my expenses and only spending money on things that I cared about like vacations, then optimize the heck out of everything else like transportation, housing and food. We cooked a lot rather than going out to eat.
What she was saying about the chicken wings, we see that with the corn as well. When I eat corn, the corns are spewing in every direction. When she eats corn, the corn cob is clean because if you grew up in poverty, you don't waste anything. No penny or no scrap of food ever goes to waste. Even though we're millionaires now, that instinct and those habits are still in Kristy. That's why we spend very purposefully. There are a lot of people out there that write to us and say like, “All the money is flying out of my window and I don't know where it's all going.” That doesn't happen if you grew up in poverty because you track every single penny. It doesn't mean that you are like a miser. It doesn't mean you don't spend money where you wanted to, but when you do spend, it's a deliberate decision. There is never any situation in which, “$100 got lost. What happened to it?” That situation never happens to us.
Dustin
I have a friend who is more like Bryce. For me growing up, I was always told to clean my plate. My chicken wings are more like Kristy's and I always marvel at other people that don't finish their food even though they consider themselves finished. I can completely relate. When it comes to the tracking as well, I have been guilty for most of my life of not tracking. These last few years, I have gone and seen that. Before, the money disappeared. Now I know where everyone's going. When someone's entering this world of being better with their finances, getting into personal finance, do you recommend that everyone track to that level of detail? Is knowing where your money is going mission critical?
Kristy & Bryce
You don't have to track it on a daily basis because that's not easy to manage when you're working and you don't have a lot of time. The most important is to look at the big picture. For example, to get a general idea of like, “I need to get to FI.” What's more important to me? Do I want to buy my time back or do I need to buy all these things? When you have that mindset, you can track it in terms of monthly or think about what your yearly budget is and get a general idea of how much you would spend per month. If you mess up, that's okay. You can make mistakes. If you make a mistake in one month, then next month, you can find a way to optimize that better and then you can make that back.
It's like working out. It's a small number of tasks over a series, done over a long period of time to get the results. It's not like you snap your fingers and all of a sudden, you’re fit. It is exactly like when you're financially fit. You get an idea of what your financial goals are and then you work towards it. If you make a mistake, you don't give up and say, “I'm not cut out for this.” You keep going and then the little things that you do add up over time. It's mind-boggling how much it makes a difference over a long period. You have to think about it in terms of, “I'm going to get financially fit over the long period of time and it's okay if I make mistakes.”
Dustin
Did you ever think about leaving Toronto, being in such an expensive city? Did that thought ever cross your mind? Other people talk about going to more economically friendly cities. What was going on for you?
Kristy & Bryce
That's what we realized in retirement. For a lot of people, this is common where they grew up in which city, I grew up in Toronto, and they think that's the only city where I can ever live. That's a narrow-minded mindset but also understandable because I had that as well. The short answer is no. The idea of leaving Toronto as I imagine for leaving San Diego or for people living in New York, leaving New York never crossed my mind. After we got to our FI number, we decided that we wanted to spend the next year traveling the world. It was a self-indulgent victory lap thing where we did our backpacking.
Do you know that annoying Millennial thing where they backpack across Europe and go find themselves or whatever bullshit those idiots do? We did that. We became those people and I'm not ashamed of it at all. It was a lot of fun. We did that for a year. We backpacked all across Europe. We were in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Japan. After a year of doing that, we came back home where I thought I would end up retired. We realized that the amount of money we had spent traveling around the world was about the same amount of money that we were planning on retiring in Canada. That's when the light bulb clicked in my head. I was like, “If traveling the world is the same cost of staying in one place, why don't I travel the world forever?” That's what we've been doing. We've been doing that for a few years.
Dustin
If we were to stair-step this out, the first part of your journey here is you were mindful of the expenses. You got to the point where you could save money. The next part is now putting that money to work for you and investing. Is that right?
Kristy & Bryce
Yes, correct.
Dustin
When you started this journey, from how it sounds like you, you didn't start right away. You weren't investing right out of the gate. You were saving and then you put that money into investing, is that right?
Kristy & Bryce
We’re simply going to buy a house. Around 2012 when we got disgusted with the overpriced housing market, that's when I started looking into all these different strategies and I went, “We're going to try something different.” About 2012 is when we got fully invested in the stock market. 2015 is when we ended up retired. I was 32 and Kristy was 31 at the time.
Dustin
I want to get into investing here and what your advice is. I came across that story about meeting that investment advisor and I think this was Kristy talking about it and how overjoyed you were in that meeting about the information that person shared with you. What didn’t you like what was shared in that meeting?
Kristy & Bryce
Initially, we went to a bank and we said, “We want to invest in index funds.” They're like, “No, you can't.” They tried to throw every single obstacle they could find in our path to not invest in index funds. At first, they thought we didn't have any money because we looked young. Later on, when they found out how much money we had to invest, they were rolling out the red carpet and then telling us we’re geniuses. They’re saying, “You should go for this fund. It's a return of 20%.” I'm like, “That sounds like bullshit.”
They're like, “Your geniuses. Whatever you want to do, we'll do it.” I'm like, “If I'm a genius, then why am I hiring you?” That doesn't make any sense. Later on, we ended up having an advisor who called us an idiot at one point. I was like, “Good, this person is honest and telling us the truth.” It made me realize how many predatory financial advisors there are out there. The nice lady at the bank is not there to help you. She's there to steal your money and reduce your investment returns so that it could lie in their own pockets.
Dustin
Why did that advisor call you an idiot?
Kristy & Bryce
Because at the time, we thought that we would do dividend investing. We wanted to buy individual stocks and then live off the dividends. He helped us understand that that carries sector risk with it. If you're focusing on bank stocks like just financials, during 2008 financials we’re hit hard. You're focusing on one sector of the market and you're also buying individual stocks, which could go to zero. From that, that was one of our learnings. This is an entire journey. We didn't snap our fingers and all of a sudden become financially literate. We didn't become millionaires overnight. It is learning step-by-step throughout researching about investing, learning it from that advisor and then over time learning the mistakes through investing that we got to where we are. Don't trust people who tell you you're geniuses. Immediately, that's a red flag right there.
Back then, we were the baby birds of investors. We were starting to learn the ropes in this stuff. That guy has since moved on, sold the practice and done other things. That's why we are doing it ourselves. Now that we've learned everything over the years, that's why we wrote the blog and that's why we wrote the book, Quit Like A Millionaire. We're giving all that information away for free. I don't need the money. I want to teach people how to do this themselves because it's not that hard, but the information is not that easy to get.
Dustin
I appreciate that and I want to acknowledge both of you for doing that because you could easily be living it up in any part of the world. The fact that you're paying it forward, I'm appreciative because I'm learning from you and we get to share it with our tribe here. Putting yourself back in that situation at the start of the journey, some people are passionate about the business or the thing that they're working on. Maybe they love their job or maybe they consider themselves allergic to investing. It would be so easy for them to hire an advisor. If you're starting over now, do you hire that advisor or do you self-manage and pick-up the knowledge yourself?
Kristy & Bryce
It was hard to find that information all in one place. In order to get to where we are now in terms of our investment knowledge, it was like a dozen thick textbooks, a couple of university courses and some school of hard knocks like real life stuff. There wasn't any one place where I could read everything I needed to know about how to invest in the stock market. That's what we've created with our blog. There's a series of 52 articles that we wrote called the Investment Workshop in our blog. It's a step-by-step guide on every single thing you need to know to build a portfolio and invest as we did. It’s put up for free because I don't need the money. I don't care. I'm already rich. I want everyone to know how this works so they can decide to do it themselves. At the time that we were doing this, going with a bank advisor was the right thing to do because there was no way for me to learn that information on my own. Now that I figured it out, I'm trying to teach it to everybody. I don't think I need to do that now.
We've already made the mistakes so you can learn from us. You don't have to make the same mistakes again.
Dustin
I appreciate that and I want to give people a little taste here. We have people from different parts and some of them are starting their journey. They've never invested in a stock or a fund. You were fans of index investing or ETFs. Can you explain at a high level what that is and why people should be excited by this, versus rolling the dice and investing in Apple, oil and gas or real estate?
Kristy & Bryce
This whole FIRE movement took off over the past few years and one of the reasons is because the idea of index investing didn't exist many years ago. Most people think of the stock market as a gambling den where they go, “I'm going to buy on Apple. I'm going to buy on Amazon and I'm going to make a lot of money with that stuff.” You don't know when you are picking a winner and you don't know when you're picking a loser. People will try to convince you that they know but they don't. The most consistently reproducible way of making money in the stock market is to buy all stocks at once. You don't pick individual stocks.
You buy every single stock that's out there on the US or the international markets and you rely on the fact that people go to work every day. People make money for companies. You don't know which company is going to make more money or less money than the other company. You don't know which companies are going to go and take off and become a billion-dollar company. You don't know which ones are going to go bankrupt. As a whole, the economy always expands. People always make money over time. Sometimes there are recessions and temporary downturns but as a whole, humans generate wealth when they go to work. That's what you're betting on.
It's like, do you bet on a single horse or do you bet on all horses that they will eventually all reach the finish line? I know that all horses will eventually reach the finish line, but I don't know which horse is going to make it there first. That's what index investing is based on. Instead of buying an individual stock, you buy a single basket of all stocks that are out there and you let your bet ride. The reason why this whole FIRE thing didn't exist before is because the skill level required to invest in the stock market was much higher before in order to invest in this successfully. You had to buy individual stocks. You got to know when to get in and when to get out. You have to know how to do all the technical analysis, read press releases and fundamentals and all that stuff. Now, you don't need to do any of that because investing has taken off to the level that it has. It has become cheap and available that anyone in America or Canada or the developed world can with a click of a button buy every single stock in the entire world. That's all you need to do.
Dustin
You described this perfectly, having all horses cross the finish line. It makes sense logically. I want to ask you about 2008. You were doing this back then when markets were falling. You were putting money in and you were seeing it drop. Logically, it makes sense, but I can't imagine the emotional situation you were in when you were putting money in and it disappeared. Knowing that over the long haul you're going to win, but when you're in that moment and you're seeing it evaporate, how did you maintain that composure?
Kristy & Bryce
The was part of the hardest thing we had to do. 2008 was probably the best time to learn about how scary the markets can get. Back in 2008, people were screaming on the news about the global financial collapse of all economies. They were like, “We're going to go back to bartering. We're going to go back to trading goats for garlic bulbs,” or whatever the heck. It was scary because nobody knew what was going to happen. It was a completely unprecedented event. I remember vividly the experience of putting $1,000 into the stock markets and literally the next day, my holdings would have gone down by $1,000. It's like that South Park GIF or whatever where they’re like, “It's gone.” It's like, “What did I do? Did I set my money on fire?”
Intellectually, I knew that by owning individual stocks, Lehman Brothers or whatever, they can go to zero and they did. In order for the entire stock market to go to zero, all stocks and all companies would have to go bankrupt at the same time. At that point, there's nowhere to hide. I have to assume that that's not going to happen. I have to assume that the world is not going to end and we're all going to figure it out. As a result, the literature and the research told me that when stock markets are plummeting like that, the worst thing to do is to sell. The okay thing to do is to hold it and wait for it to come back up. The best thing to do is buy. That's what I did.
I kept buying and buying as the world economy was collapsing. As a result, what I was doing is I was picking up more and more units of index funds, a slice of every single company that was still surviving in the world. When things eventually started to recover, I was able to participate in the upside a lot more strongly than I participated in the downside. The stock market did not correct and recover its original position from 2008 until 2012. Because I did that, as the end of 2009 rolled around, I had made all my money back. I managed to get out of 2008 in two years without losing any money and most fund managers in Wall Street weren't able to do what we did.
Dustin
The two things I learned from you sharing that and also getting ready for the show was at the end of 2008, despite everything going on, your net worth went up. It didn't go up as it did in other years, but while other people's net worth was massively affected. You still showed a trend line going up.
Kristy & Bryce
It had to do with the fact that we kept putting money into the stock market. We were still working and saving and investing as the markets were falling. Everyone else was losing money and we weren't because we understood at the time how index investing was supposed to work, which is when markets go down, you buy more. For people who are misinterpreting that and saying, “When any stock goes down, you buy more,” that's terrible advice with an individual stock. If tomorrow Jeff Bezos goes nuts and closes up his company or whatever, if Amazon is on the way to zero, buy more as it goes down is a terrible advice. What you're going to do is you’re going to buy more and more of the falling knives and stuff.
Index investing doesn't go to zero because it would require the collapse of the entire US economy. The only thing that's going to cause that is a nuclear war or aliens. At that point, who gives a crap about your investment portfolio? You're running from the nuclear hell-fire or the aliens. There's no way to guard against that, so you have to assume that everything's going to be okay. That's why index investing is inherently a lot safer than people think it is. There's no way short of a thermonuclear war with aliens that your index funds can go to zero. If you buy individual stocks, there's a chance that every single stock could go to zero.
Dustin
I love how you describe it. You make it real. It's easy to look at you and say, “They were born smart and gifted.” I want people to know that you're human and you make mistakes. Kristy, you said that one of your single biggest investing mistakes was exiting the stock market. Why was that your single biggest investing mistake and what was going on?
Kristy & Bryce
At that point, I got house horny and I was watching all my coworkers and friends get into the housing market and they were all saying, “You have to buy in now. You're going to miss out. Interest rates are low. If you don't buy now, you're never going to be able to get in.” I said, “We need to pull our money out of the stock market and we need to put it into a house.” That house hunt lasted 2 or 3 years because we kept going to open houses. The real estate agent would look at us and say out loud, “Really? Do you think you can afford this place?” “I'm about to drop $500,000 on this one asset and you're going to insult me? No, thanks.” On top of that, we were seeing all sorts of things that made it seem like a Ponzi scheme because we would see houses that are dilapidated in our neighborhood and then some developer would buy it for $500,000 even though it has roofs that looks like it's about to collapse. It's got holes in the backyard. I don't know why. It's got mysterious signs on the window that says “UFO” and what I thought was red paint or I hope was red paint.
The house would be flipped in about two months. When you go see the open house, you know that they did a very bad job slapping some paint here and there. Even the floorboards were creaking and I seriously thought we were going to find a body in that house before it was sold. This house gets flipped and sold for $800,000. Under those conditions, even though I kept looking for a house and then looking at all the bidding wars that are happening around me, we left the money out of the market. That was a big mistake because we missed out on 2 or 3 years of market run-up.
Up until that point, one of our biggest financial mistakes was having two separate apartments where we were paying double the rent for a while. When I calculated the extra money that we're paying by doubling the rent, it was still less than how much money we lost by staying out of the market because we are waiting to buy a house. You can come back from that because even though we did that, we still managed to retire in 8 or 9 years. As I said, if you make a mistake, it doesn't matter. You keep going and then eventually, you'll correct over the long-term.
Dustin
Tracking with your journey, Kristy and Bryce, you’re saving money. You put that money to work for you. You're avoiding some pitfalls there. You almost got into that house but thank goodness for the UFO and the window. Now you're getting to this point where your net worth is building your portfolio and you're approaching that. 2014, hits and you resign, quit or whatever you want to call it, and you start that permanent vacation. What did that feel? Was it like one of those moments where you gave your boss the finger or did you do it politely? How was the build-up to that and finally quitting?
Kristy & Bryce
I don’t do anything politely. That would never have happened. I was picturing myself dancing out of the office. It didn't actually happen. What happened was I gave my notice and then I had a mini panic attack because one of the things that happen is even if you know the math works out, even if you calculate how much money you're going to have and you know that you're going to be okay, there's an identity shift that happens. Once you've been an engineer for a whole decade, then you leave that office and then later on, you start thinking to yourself, “The next time someone asks me, what do you do for a living? How am I going to answer that question? I'm retired. I don't work.” It doesn't compute.
We all think that we're going to give our boss the finger and then dance out of the office. In reality, there's a mind-shift that needs to happen when you go into retirement. It's the fact that you are so tied to that job, your job has become your identity. Since then, I have realized that I am not my job and none of you is your job. You are perfectly fine. You are enough the way you are and the job doesn't define you. Only after I've made that realization did I enjoy retirement and realize that financial independence is powerful because you get to buy your time back and you're not attached to this one identity. You're not going to have that same job for the rest of your life, so being attached to the identity makes no sense.
Dustin
What do you tell people now when they ask you, “What do you do?”
Kristy & Bryce
The most difficult audience that we have to tell are customs officers. When we're flying into a new place and they're like, “What do you do for a living?” I tell them, “We're retired.” They're like, “Secondary screening. Are you a drug dealer? Are you smuggling something? What's going on?” I stopped doing that. Now I tell people that we're authors because it's true. We published a book called Quit Like A Millionaire. It's a one-stop-shop about everything you need to know about how to pull off this life that we have. That has been nice because it's allowed me to launder my own money. Now I have a story that I can tell a customs officer that they understand because I can't tell them, “I do this whole FIRE thing. I invest in the stock market. I'm retired at 30.” They're like, “What?” If I say, “I'm an author and I'm a bestselling author in America and I make all my money from that,” they go, “Okay, I understand that.” That's been nice.
Dustin
I could picture that. They accept that story and then stamp the passport, then you’re on your way.
Kristy & Bryce
A lot less taser now. That's been nice though, a lot less waterboarding too.
Dustin
Kristy, I want to go back to your thought there around mindset. I think that's such a critical thing. There's one thing financially to get to that point where the math makes sense and it's telling you, then there's the mindset. Did you think like, “If this doesn't work out, I'm going to have a backup plan?” Did you know like, “The numbers are the numbers, we don't need a backup plan?” Were you secretly thinking, “I’m going to go back and become an engineer again?”
Kristy & Bryce
I have multiple backup plans and I knew that I was not going to become an engineer again. Once you get out of The Matrix, you're not going back in. We had multiple backup plans as a result of becoming engineers because we always think about the worst case that happens and I'm a pessimist by nature. We had multiple backup plans like we had a cash cushion of three years of living expenses. We also had the yield that was coming from the portfolio. A lot of people were asking, “If you retire into a recession, you have to sell your assets at a loss, then you're depleting your portfolio as we go on.” They don't realize that interests and dividends are generated from the portfolio. You don't have to sell any assets. You get those dividends anyway.
The third thing that I wasn't expecting that became a backup plan is travel. When we originally thought of traveling, we thought, “You go to the UK and you spend $5,000 for two weeks of vacation.” That's how expensive travel is. We're going to need $100,000 to travel for a year. In reality, when you balance expensive places like the UK with inexpensive places like Portugal or Poland, places that we didn't even think about going to when we were vacationing, you can easily live on $40,000 a year. When you go to places like Thailand where you can get a condo for $500 a month with a pool and a sauna, then you can get massages for one hour for $10, you realize you can live on even less than $40,000 a year. You can live on $20,000 or $25,000 a year for a couple in Southeast Asia. At that point, I realized we have three backup plans. We have the cash cushion, the yields from our portfolio that enables us to not have to sell anything and we can use travel as a way to mitigate anything that goes wrong. We have a saying that we discovered after we started traveling.
That is, “If shit hits the fan, we're going to Thailand.” We’re talking to you from Thailand. Despite the fact that the math works, so that with $1 million you can retire on $40,000. In not just Thailand, but Southeast Asia, it's easy to live off of $20,000 to $25,000. It’s half of what you would live off in North America. It's not even a deprivation living. We’re in a nice condo. Our building has a pool. We're eating out every day and getting massages every other day. It's not costing us a lot of money. What we realized is that when you combine that with the tactical strategies of how you arrange your portfolio, it's possible that in a recession you could still make money while living on a beach. That's our reality now.
That's what we wrote in the book and that's what we're teaching people how to do. Once you realize how all these different pieces fit together, how your portfolio, how your investments, how your living expenses and the location where you want to live, you can put it together so that you never lose money. It becomes a superpower and life becomes incredibly easy. Once we realize that, we're like, “We need to tell people,” which is why we're on your show and why we wrote the book and why we're doing all these kinds of things. We need to tell people how easy life can be if you understand this stuff. If you don't understand this stuff, life is hard. We’re waking up every day lying on a beach and making money every day. I'm like, “This feels like cheating.”
Dustin
Is there a reason to come back to Canada? Is there a reason to get off the road or do you envision you living abroad for the rest of your life?
Kristy & Bryce
I have to see my families from time to time, otherwise they'll get upset with me.
I've already been disowned, so that's probably not going to be a problem.
Being disowned is an excellent way of keeping the nomadic lifestyle. Kristy is kidding, they’re fine now. It only took five years to be fine. We're continuing to live nomadically. There could be life circumstances that might bring us back to North America. I wouldn't mind that. If we have a kid or if something happens to our parents or we need to spend more time back home or whatever, we're prepared to do that. I think travel is always going to be a permanent part of our life. Something might pull us back to North America for a little while, maybe a year or two. When we are in the place for more than six months, our feet get itchy. We wanted to be like, “This is fine, but I want to get back on the road.” It feels like part of my identity now. I think travel is a permanent part of our identity and we're going to continue traveling one way or another. It may not be what we're doing like jet setting all around the world with our backpacks. It might turn into slower travel. We might stay for a few months in each city or we might get an RV and drive around or whatever. Nomadism is always going to be a part of our identities now. Kristy, what do you think?
We will always go back to see family. It's the fact that we can choose to live wherever we want. That's very powerful because when other people have to deal with inflation, you’re location independent. You have the flexibility to have that extra safety net to figure out where you want to be and then change the circumstances accordingly.
Dustin
You started this journey young. You mentioned the book. You've got the blog. You show people all around the world. You show people of all different walks of life how to go into this process. I can imagine the skeptics out there. I'm sure you get them anytime you put information out or make a post. You always have those people out there. I'm going to play a little skeptic here for you. Let's say I'm in my late 30s, 40s or 50s. How does your advice change? Does it change to people that are starting a little bit later than you?
Kristy & Bryce
It doesn’t matter where you start. It only matters that you start doing the right things going forward. You're right, people say, “You discovered all this stuff in your twenties. Of course, it's possible for you, but I'm 45 or whatever and it's too late for me.” It's never too late because when we started in our twenties, we had zero dollars. If you're 45, you probably have more than zero dollars. People get trapped in their existing rut. They get trapped into spending a lot of money and having a very expensive lifestyle. Housing is often a big part of it. They have a lot of debt. They have a huge mortgage and they go, “There's no way out.” The thing is you can undo every one of those decisions.
You can get out of the mortgage if you wanted to. You could sell the house and go back to renting. You can move into a lower-cost city. You can do all this stuff. The question is, are you willing to do it? If you are willing to do it, it doesn't matter whether you're starting off with $100, $1,000 or $0. We did it in nine years starting from zero dollars. If you are willing to invest in nine years and we didn't do anything crazy. We didn't start the next Snapchat. We didn't start some tech company that's sold for $1 billion. We didn't buy Amazon at $10. We didn't do anything that other people can't do. Everything that we did, you can copy our moves. If you copy our moves within 9 to 10 years, you're going to become a millionaire. That is how the math works out. The question is, are you willing to do it?
To follow Bryce's point, we do something called the Reader Case series on our blog where real-life people write-in, we change to alias so we can hide their details because it's private information, they write-in and they asked us about their financial situation. They asked us to analyze it. There are cases on there where people are later on in life. They're like, “Is it too late for me?” They've made mistakes and we still help them dig themselves out of that financial hole. There have been people who have written to us in their late 50s and they thought that they were in big trouble for their retirement. After they started reading our blog and following the workshop, they have $500,000 now and they're on their way to become financially independent. It's never too late to start. You have to understand how the fundamentals work, then you need to correct your mistakes. It's not about, “I made a mistake and I can never dig myself out of it,” then getting trapped in the past because the past doesn't matter. What matters now is what you do going forward because you can't change the past.
We all made financial mistakes. Kristy made financial mistakes. A lot of people get trapped in those past mistakes. It was like, “I got into this student debt. I bought this big house. I'm screwed.” Here's a strange thing. A lot of people write into our blog and go, “Can you help me out in this stuff?” We don't publish every case study, but it's rarely or it almost never happens that I can't find a way out for them. I go, “If you do this and this, you'll be a millionaire.” I don't know whether they do it or not, but there's almost always a way out. That's what I tried to impress on people. There's always a way out. No mistake is so bad that you can't come out of or you can't come back from.
Dustin
You mentioned the book. We talked about the blog as resources. Before we sign off, I'm curious what's exciting for you? What are you thrilled about? What are you working on that you’re able to share? What’s the future hold for you?
Kristy & Bryce
Two things are our priorities for 2020. Now that we've slowed down in our travels, for us, a big thing is community. We've had a little bit of a traveling commune going where there are other people following us around the world. We met up with another couple who came here in Thailand for a month. They sold everything, their three properties. They became financially independent and they're traveling and we're hanging out in Thailand. There’s another person who’s on their way to becoming financially independent. They're also coming. We're meeting up with someone else in Valley who also sold everything to travel the world and following in our footsteps. Community is a big thing.
It could be isolating when you're retired, but it could also be a great way to meet new people and open up your horizons, people that are outside of the bubble that you would be in when you're working. Number two is talks. We are going to be at the Financial Freedom Summit in Missouri. That's going to be starting May 1st. We're also talking at a financial retreat called Chautauqua and that's going to happen in September, October 2020 in Croatia. We've also been invited to do a Google talk. That's in the works. Spreading the message and creating community is two of our biggest priorities. Once we've seen how much happiness and freedom this lifestyle brings us, we want to bring as many people with us as possible.
Dustin
I want to acknowledge both of you for putting the information out because you could be on that beach and doing the good life, but the fact that you're paying it forward speaks to who you are as people. I want to encourage people to check out the blog. I want to encourage them to get a copy of the book, Quit Like A Millionaire. That's available on Amazon and wherever you get your books these days. The website is Millennial-Revolution.com. Kristy and Bryce, if people want to continue the conversation with you personally other than the book and the website, are there any other resources that they should check out?
Kristy & Bryce
Those are the two best ones. Another book that we love from a friend and mentor of ours is The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins. That's next on the resources as well for people who are learning how to invest. That's where I would go and let's start there.
Dustin
I appreciate both of you and thanks for being on the show and what you’re up to in the world.
Kristy & Bryce
Thank you so much for having us.

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