(GCC: A few years ago at FinCon, I had a chat with a fiery young woman whose dream was to save just enough $ to leave the corporate world. “I’m going to front load 100% of my retirement savings and then just let it percolate while I pursue other interests.” I loved the idea and the gumption. Fast forward to today: mission accomplished!)

My name is Gwen. I’m 27 years old, and even if I never save another penny I will enjoy a comfortable standard retirement. How did I manage that? I’m glad you asked!

When I first found FIRE at the ripe old age of 22, I was a junior in college. I didn’t have very much money coming in, so I couldn’t put many of the lessons into practice right away.

I was fortunate to get an internship with a Fortune 100 company in college – shortly after I found the FIRE world, as a matter of fact. I had a position doing things that interested me, so I worked hard and was rewarded with a full-time job upon graduation. I was so excited to start working, bringing in money, and start optimizing all my finances.

I graduated with no student loan debt thanks to a lot of hard work, a full-ride scholarship for academics, and a stint in the Air National Guard. Thanks to the military, I was getting $900 a month to attend school. I only had to pay for my car, car insurance, gas, and cell phone. Since I bought my car outright in cash with my bonus money, this meant my overall expenses each month were incredibly low. $900 is A LOT of money to a college student that doesn’t have to pay rent or food. Despite the fact I was bringing in all that money, I didn’t go crazy and instead saved it up. I am so glad I did.

I didn’t have the best introduction to the permanent working world. I went from the freedom of a college student, to being told where to be and what to do for 8 hours a day.  I get that’s the whole point of a job, but I didn’t like it. I’d stare longingly out the window in the spring as the weather got warmer. People would invite me to fun events, but I didn’t have enough vacation time to go. I didn’t live near family anymore so I missed out on birthdays and major milestones. I didn’t get to work on things that interested me. Instead, thanks to my lack of seniority, I got mostly scut work that no one (including me) wanted to do.

The first 3 years of my career I was basically a glorified intern. Nothing much was expected of me since my main job was to learn how that team worked, how it fit into the IT Division, and what impact that team had on the greater company as a whole. I did this for 2 different teams for 18 months apiece.

I learned a lot. In fact, I probably took away more lessons than they intended. I learned I’m not good at technical roles. I learned I like talking to people and helping them solve their problems. I learned I dislike having people hover over me and watching my every move. I learned I am most productive early in the morning and least productive right after lunch. I learned I don’t like only interacting with the same few people day in and day out. Frankly, towards the end of my rotational program, I was miserable.

I made do by throwing myself into the FIRE world. (I especially loved Go Curry Cracker!) Reading blogs, constantly updating my budget, fiddling with projections…. all of that helped distract me from how much I disliked working a corporate job. I didn’t let lifestyle creep impact me too much.

I kept my same car I had in college, didn’t go out shopping for useless crap, and tried to pack as many lunches as possible. I knew I couldn’t work a corporate job for the next 10 years and didn’t want to get trapped into that lifestyle. The politics, the pettiness of coworkers, the rigid career progression….. It was not for me.

So I started a side-hustle (or two, or three) to help speed up that timeline. I bought a multi-family rental property and became a landlord. I learned how to do stained glass (something that had always interested me) and started to make a few pieces here and there. I started my own blog.

I even started a podcast with my friend J that covers different paths to FIRE through side hustles and other endeavors.

(GCC: Gwen and J hosted yours truly on their podcast a few weeks back, with some old-fashioned hard hitting questions.)

While I was working on building up these side hustles, I was putting at least $2600 a month away into various investment accounts. Depending on my expenses, that meant I was saving between 50-70% of my monthly income. My original FIRE goal was to save up $600k in 10 or so years and retire early. But after I figured out 10 years in Corporate America wasn’t going to be the best path for me, I decided to let my portfolio percolate while I did other things.

I saved up $200k in 5 years and quit my job. My portfolio will continue to compound and grow over the next 30 odd years until I am traditional retirement age. That $200k is the foundation for a comfortable retirement. I’m going to let my portfolio do the heavy lifting while I work on the things I want to.

Because I saved aggressively at the beginning of my career, I am finally in control of my life. If you front load your retirement savings, you could be free from the awful corporate world, too! Just imagine your life without a corporate job and think of all the things you could be doing.

Now that I don’t work for The Man anymore, I am free to take that bike ride around the lake at 1 in the afternoon! I can say yes to going to fun events. I am free to focus all my mental energy on things that I’m interested in and want to do more of. I can run to the grocery store at 2 on a Wednesday. I can do chores during the day so my weekends are free to hang out with friends and family. The words “business casual” are no longer in my vocabulary. Every day is jeans day (or sweatpants day, let’s be real here).

Join me on the other side – it’s amazing!

Would you jump ship early and percolate your portfolio?

(GCC: Help Wanted: A fiery young woman with a percolating portfolio for a nomadic nanny position. The salary is zero, but all core living & travel expenses covered and you get to hang out 24/7 with an adventurous 3 year old. Bonus points if you speak fluent Spanish. Apply within. Joking not joking. Kinda. Maybe. Sorta.)