Now Or Never

Want to retire by 35? These millennials are on track to do it

This couple shares a 400 square foot apartment, and cuts costs at almost every opportunity. That means no meals out at restaurants, no car, no cable television, and a monthly grocery bill of only $250.

This couple shares a 400-square-foot apartment in Vancouver and has $400,000 in the bank

Stephanie Williams and Celestian Rince in their Vancouver apartment. (Submitted by Celestian Rince)
Listen9:19

"How is that even possible?"

When Stephanie Williams, 32, and Celestian Rince, 30, tell people about their goal of retiring at 35, that's often the first question people have. 

The Vancouver couple is on track to leave their jobs within three years, even living in one of the country's most expensive cities.

And they weren't born into money, either, if that's what you're thinking: Williams is a receptionist and Rince is a freelance editor.

So how can two millennials possibly manage to retire approximately three decades earlier than most of their peers? It takes a lot of sacrifice.

Living lean

The couple shares a tiny 400-square-foot apartment, and cuts costs at every opportunity. That means no meals out at restaurants, no car, no cable television or smartphones, and a monthly grocery bill of only $250.

For us it was a question of nudging our incomes up while keeping our expenses steady.- Celestian Rince

While those lifestyle choices might sound dramatic, Williams said that being frugal comes naturally to the pair.

"I was never a big spender because I didn't have the money. We didn't make any major lifestyle changes when we decided we wanted to retire early," she said.

"For us it was a question of nudging our incomes up while keeping our expenses steady."

The only luxury Williams and Rince allow themselves is travel, something the pair makes a priority of throughout the year. In 2018, they spent a combined $9,815 on travel internationally and within Canada. 

Stephanie and Celestian on a trip to Mexico. They say travel is one of their few lifestyle 'splurges.' (Submitted by Celestian Rince)

Keeping your eye on the prize

Williams and Rince first decided to aim for early retirement in 2010, when they were each working jobs Williams described as "horrible."

"Celestian was working minimum wage at a grocery store and I was working at a warehouse. It was pretty bad. We were thinking: is this what our lives are going to be like?"

Desperately searching for a way out, they discovered a blog called Early Retirement Extreme. It advises that you save upward of 50 per cent of your income in order to retire in 15 to 20 years.

A lot of people think you need a lot more money than maybe you actually do, if you live a modest lifestyle.- Stephanie Williams

The pair embraced the challenge and soon found better-paying jobs. With slightly higher incomes, they've managed to accumulate $400,000 in retirement savings. In the next three years, they hope to have $700,000 in total.

But stashing away that much money — and living so frugally — does raise some eyebrows, even among their families.

"They thought I was a bit strange at first," said Rince. 

"They think you're a little bit crazy," interjected Williams. "He's really the odd one out among his relatives."

A more modest, 'carefree' life

Celestian and Stephanie plan to remain frugal in retirement, and are considering building a homestead on the Gulf Islands. (Submitted by Celestian Rince)

While their saving regimen may be extreme, their retirement plans are not. Beyond a bit of travel and dreams of building a small cabin in the Gulf Islands, the pair don't plan on changing their daily routines very much.

"Pretty similar to what we have but more carefree," said Rince. 

Even though their generation has accrued record amount of personal debt, Williams and Rince believe that early retirement can be in reach for most young people — as long as they plan to live minimally, both in retirement and their working years. To inspire others, they've shared their saving journey on a blog

"A lot of people think you need a lot more money than maybe you actually do, if you live a modest lifestyle," said Williams.

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