How This Entrepreneur Retired At 36 After Paying Himself Just $36,000 A Year

The FIRE movement, and the idea of working to retire early is everywhere these days. But while so many people want to realize this goal, it’s a hard dream to to put into motion. For 38-year-old Jeremy Schneider, who lived off of $36,000 for almost a decade, and who was able to retire when he was just 36 years old, making it happen came down to this formula: starting and selling a company plus living below his means plus buying and holding index funds. Consider his personal story a springboard to your own FIRE success.

“Don’t Have Money, Don’t Spend It”

Schneider, after turning down a coveted job at Microsoft after graduating from college in 2002, started a company called devoted to rental housing advertising. He paid himself $36,000 the entire time he operated the company to reinvest in it to help it grow. For a big chunk of that time, he managed to live in San Diego, which is renowned for its high cost of living. “My rent was $700 a month, I walked to work every day because it was like two blocks from my office… my car was a $3,000 car I paid cash for,” he shared with The Money Manual. “My credit card bill in total was usually around $1,000 and that covered everything, food, entertainment, everything… and I was spending another $300 on my cell phone bill and utilities.” In total, Schneider says he was living on about $2,000 a month before he retired. “I was bringing in over $3,000. $500 of that I was investing because I was maxing out my Roth IRA and the other $500 [was going to] building up my savings or occasionally taking a flight.”
I wasn’t really doing anything that interesting, I was just spending less money than I had.
His motto? “Don’t have money, don’t spend it,” he shared. And its not as hard as people think. “I wasn’t really doing anything that interesting, I was just spending less money than I had.”

Becoming A Millionaire

Schneider sold his company for $5 million in 2014. He held 70% of the company’s shares at the time he sold it. Following the sale, Schneider bought stock in the company that acquired and began receiving a retention bonus salary. And he retired. At 36. In the years that followed, he continued to buy and hold index funds and now says his net worth is hovering at about $3.5 million. He told us he lives off less than 2% of his investments, which gave him the confidence to fully exit the workforce. (Editor’s note: There are a lot of calculators online for assessing your magic number, here’s one of our favorites).

One Big Takeaway: Invest Early

There is a lot to take away from Schneider’s success, but one of the biggest is the importance of investing early and the value of compound interest. Schneider has been investing since he was a teen. When he had his first job working at a summer camp when he was 14, his dad put $1,500 of his own money along with the $1,500 Schneider made that summer into a Roth IRA for him.
I was lucky to have access and visibility to investment at that young age.
“I was lucky to have… access and visibility to investment at that young age,” he shared. “In my twenties I just started putting more money into that thing.” While Schneider didn’t have the cash in the early years of his company to invest, as soon as he did, he made socking away money and investing it a routine. “That’s how I got to an over $100,000 net worth in my early thirties living on $36,000,” he says, and he believes he would have been a millionaire in his forties even without the windfall from the sale of his company, from this strategy.

Do Nothing Before You Get Rid Of Debt

While Schneider never had student loan debt, he did dabble in credit card debt during the early years of his company, but paid it off as soon as he could. He encourages everyone to pay off their debts, besides a mortgage, before they do anything else. “Get crazy. Go bonkers. Go bananas…. Do nothing before you get rid of that debt,” he advises, in order to avoid paying interest. It’s at that point, he says, that you can begin to build your net worth, and work towards the things that are important to you, like retiring early. Since retirement Schneider has been able to follow his passions — volleyball, photography, helping people get control of their finances via his blog Personal Finance Club. And isn’t that really what FIRE is all about? What to hear more about Schneider’s debt journey? Check out Episode 6 of The Money Manual’s podcast “Let’s Talk About Debt” to learn more about his story. Don’t forget to follow Schneider on Instagram @PersonalFinanceClub. Is debt an issue for you? Join our Facebook group “Let’s Talk About Debt” a community devoted to helping people get out of debt! All photos: Courtesy of Jeremy Schneider