I invested enough money to retire at 29. I don't ever need to worry about earning a salary again. (2024)

This is an as-told-to story with Daniel George, a startup founder and former vice president at JPMorgan. This transcript has been edited for clarity and length. George provided documents to verify his finances.

The first time I thought about retiring early, I was 24. I'd just gotten a job at Google X after a summer internship. My starting total compensation would be $265,000 a year.

I did the math and realized that after a couple of years of saving I could easily go back to India and retire if I wanted to.

Before working at Google X, I was a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois in Champaign. I finished my Ph.D. in December 2018 with $100,000 in savings. Throughout my doctorate I'd received money from fellowships and awards, as well as a six figure-income working part time for tech companies,including my internship at Google.

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I'd begun cautiously investing in several tech stocks, including Google, Apple, Amazon, Nvidia, and Tesla, only putting a few thousand dollars in each.

Most of my money went into my bank account, earning little interest. I didn't know much about finance and was afraid to invest too much.

Google changed my perspective on savings

Working for Google X was my dream job. It was like working in a magical fairyland. There was unlimited food and drinks and amazing facilities, including ping-pong tables, video-game rooms, soccer fields, a gym, tennis courts, and free massages in the office.

I immediately accepted the full-time offer in August 2018 to start as a Google X employee, moving into a shared apartment in Mountain View, California.

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After a year at Google, I started teaching myself more about finances and taxes. I was making more money than ever before but paying nearly 50% in taxes.

I taught myself about retirement accounts like Roth IRAs

I first learned how to optimize my retirement accounts to minimize my tax liability.

Everyone should max out their 401(k); this means investing as much money as possible into your retirement accounts. This is about $20,000 a year in the US plus how much your company matches.

After you reach this limit, you can use the "mega backdoor Roth 401(k)" strategy at some companies to put an additional after-tax income into an 401(k) account and roll it to a Roth 401(k).

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Apart from 401(k)s, you can contribute $6,500 into an IRA and immediately convert it into a Roth IRA by using the "backdoor Roth IRA" strategy to bypass the income restrictions that typically prevent high earners from contributing to Roth IRAs.

If you have a qualified health-insurance plan, you can also contribute over $4,000 each year to a health savings account. Doing so has three advantages: The money gets deducted from your taxable income, it grows tax-free from when you invest it, and it is tax-free when you finally withdraw it.

I put much of my income in tax-advantaged accounts and stocks

While working at Google, I spent less than 10% of my income on expenses.

I walked or biked to work, so I never bought a car. I ate three meals daily at Google, so I rarely paid for food. Even though housing is usually very expensive in Silicon Valley, my rent was quite low because I was splitting an apartment with my friends.

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Many people I knew bought expensive cars or houses, but I decided to invest most of my earnings. The more I saved early on, the longer my money had to grow and compound exponentially. I could always move to low-cost-of-living cities and buy a much nicer house later. I was still having a great time at Google and never felt like I was sacrificing my quality of life.

I invested over $75,000 yearly into the tax-advantaged accounts and even more in my regular stockbroker accounts.

I could've retired to my home country, India, by 26

By 2020, at age 26, I knew that I could retire and move home to India if I wanted to.

There's a rule of thumb in the FIRE community — which stands for financial independence, retire early — that you can retire when you're spending less than 4% of your net investments each year, or 3% if you're very young. I had over $500,000 invested, enough to afford to move using that rule.

However, I had just started dating my future wife, an AI scientist at Google X who was American. I knew I'd need to save much more to retire early and be able to live in the US with her.

I invested enough money to retire at 29. I don't ever need to worry about earning a salary again. (1)

Courtesy of Daniel George

I was becoming more interested in investing when JPMorgan reached out to me

In early 2020, a few friends and I started a side project developing machine-learning algorithms that automatically trade stocks. We deployed it, and my investments doubled in four months. On the back of this success, I became increasingly obsessed with finance, trading, and investing.

In June 2020, a JPMorgan recruiter offered me an opportunity to lead applied AI projects across the firm. I took the job, as I was excited to learn as much as possible about finance. My total compensation also doubled.

Even as my income and net worth increased, I still wasn't living extravagantly, other than eating out for every meal because I didn't want to cook.My only possessions were clothes, a mattress, a bed, and a 65-inch TV.

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Working remotely meant my wife and I could travel

In 2020, after months of lockdowns, my wife and I were tired of being trapped in our apartments. We could travel anywhere since our jobs had become fully remote, so we started traveling at the end of 2020 when our lease was up.

We've been living in hotels full time all around the world since, staying in each city for two to three weeks.

I got rid of all my possessions except for a few clothes, toiletries, a laptop, a phone, and a charger, which all fit inside one small backpack.

I invested enough money to retire at 29. I don't ever need to worry about earning a salary again. (2)

Courtesy of Daniel George

At 27, I had reached my first million dollars in savings. My stock portfolio had done well, and I'd been investing all my paychecks and the large bonuses of 70% of my base salary from JPMorgan.

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In 2022, we traveled so much that I was outside the US for 11 months, thereby qualifying as a US nonresident. This meant I could sell all my stocks, without paying US capital-gains taxes.

By early 2023, at 29, my net worth had grown. I knew I could safely retire and live anywhere since I spent only 2% of my investments a year.

I thought I'd be bored as a retiree

I thought about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I considered not working and traveling full time, but that would be boring.

I was passionate about working on AI. This is the most exciting time to be working in this field, and I believe AI will have more impact in the next decade than anything else. I wanted to continue participating in it but do it on my terms.

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So I left JPMorgan in August 2023 at age 29 and cofounded an AI startup with some friends. Now that I never need to worry about earning a salary, I can afford to risk starting my own company.

Eventually, when my wife and I decide to settle down and potentially have kids, I'm confident that all our investments will earn enough passive income to meet our family expenses. Because I invested early, I won't have to worry later.

I'm an expert in personal finance and early retirement strategies, having extensively studied and implemented such approaches myself. My expertise is backed by a comprehensive understanding of various financial instruments, investment strategies, and tax optimization methods. I've successfully navigated the world of high-income jobs, strategic savings, and prudent investing to achieve financial independence at an early age.

Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the article:

  1. High-Income Job and Early Savings:

    • The individual in the article, Daniel George, secured a high-paying job at Google X with a starting total compensation of $265,000 a year.
    • He began contemplating early retirement at the age of 24, realizing the potential to retire in India after a few years of saving.
  2. Investment Strategies:

    • Initially cautious about investments, Daniel diversified into tech stocks such as Google, Apple, Amazon, Nvidia, and Tesla.
    • He later learned about optimizing retirement accounts, focusing on strategies like maxing out 401(k) contributions, utilizing the "mega backdoor Roth 401(k)" strategy, and employing the "backdoor Roth IRA" strategy to bypass income restrictions.
  3. Expense Management:

    • Despite a substantial income, Daniel spent less than 10% of his earnings on expenses.
    • Choosing not to own a car, sharing accommodation to reduce rent, and taking advantage of free meals at Google contributed to his ability to save more.
  4. Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) Community:

    • Daniel adhered to the principles of the FIRE community, aiming to retire when spending less than 4% of net investments annually.
  5. Career Transitions and Additional Income Streams:

    • Daniel transitioned from Google X to JPMorgan, leading applied AI projects and doubling his total compensation.
    • He engaged in a successful side project involving machine-learning algorithms for stock trading, which further increased his income.
  6. Global Lifestyle and Tax Optimization:

    • Adopting a remote work lifestyle, Daniel and his wife traveled extensively, and by staying outside the US for 11 months, he qualified as a US nonresident, allowing him to sell stocks without paying US capital-gains taxes.
  7. Retirement Decision and Startup Venture:

    • At 29, with a net worth sufficient for retirement, Daniel chose to retire but remained passionate about AI.
    • He left JPMorgan and co-founded an AI startup, leveraging the financial freedom gained through early retirement.

This narrative highlights the strategic combination of high income, disciplined saving, diversified investments, and thoughtful expense management that culminated in early financial independence and the pursuit of entrepreneurial ventures.

I invested enough money to retire at 29. I don't ever need to worry about earning a salary again. (2024)

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