How I Built a Seven Figure Portfolio and Retired at 31

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Kristy Shen (aka "FIRECracker") is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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In order to be successful, the Boomers said we had to:

1) Get a job

2) Buy a house

3) Be a loyal employee

4) Retire with a pension at 65

And because they were older and wiser, while I was a stupid, naive Millennial girl, I thought it might be a good idea to follow their advice.

So I applied their four-step plan and I’m sharing the results with you, so you can see how it turned out.

Ready? Here we go!!!

1) Get a job


“But I love writing! And how can I be an engineer when I suck at coding?”


“But writing is my dream! I can’t just give up on my dreams.”


So I went to get an engineering degree….

…And immediately regretted it.

Why? Because while other people were halfway through the textbook by day two, I struggled with “Hello World”.

And while other people partied and got drunk, I stayed sober, pulling three consecutive all-nighters, just for one exam. (Spoiler alert: they all got A’s. I barely passed.)

And while other people’s inboxes exploded with job offers — from Google, from Apple, from Microsoft — mine exploded with…nothing.

But I eventually got my degree — by the skin of my teeth — but I still got my degree.

And that degree would land me a job…


I gave up my dream, but at least I got a job.



2) Buy a house


“But houses are too expensive! How can I afford to buy a house?”


So I looked for a house.

I searched everywhere: Downtown. The sub-burbs. Even the sub-burb’s sub-burbs.

But no matter where I looked, housing was unaffordable.

Semis cost HALF A MILLION dollars in my high-cost metropolitan city. Houses, DOUBLE that. Hell, even a goddamn parking space was somehow $80,000.

The banks tried to shove mortgages down my throat. They tried to convince me to be up to my eyeballs in debt like my friends, who bragged about their houses going up, up, up, while their sanity came down down down.

“Renting is for losers,” they said, looking all smug. But something about the bags under their eyes and the gray streaks in their hair told me otherwise.

Crooked semis listed in my city: $688,000 each

3) Be a loyal employee

I stayed with one company and worked really really hard and really really late.

I ditched my friends, my husband, and my family. And when I wasn’t working, I still thought about work. All day. Everyday.


I took on every project, every assignment, and every support ticket. I worked every minute, every hour, every day. I started texting and answering emails on the subway, in bed, on the can, and even in the bathtub. And when my friends asked me out to dinner or drinks, I said no — every single time. I couldn’t. I was working.


Sleep two hours a day. Stress. Drink coffee. Stress some more. Find large clumps of hair on the pillow.

Start popping pills.

First, an aspirin. Then a few Ambiens. Then a handful of Aspirin, Ambien, Xanax, and Prozac.


Bolt up in bed at 3 AM.

Watch room spin. Feel blood pounding, pounding, POUNDING. Clutch chest.Can’t breath. Can’t breathe. CAN’T BREATHE. Call an ambulance.

Wake up in the hospital.

Doctor: “You had a panic attack.”

“So I wasn’t dying?”

“No. But, you need to stop stressing out about work and starting thinking about yourself. Can you reduce your work load?”

HA. Fat chance.

Go back to work the next day. Tell no one.

Then realize I’m not the only one going through this.

Turns out my co-worker Alex also had a nervous breakdown he didn’t tell anyone about, and is on the exact same anti-depressants as me.

Turns out my boss Scott was hospitalized with a blood clot in his leg. Doctors say it was stress-induced.

Turns out a few months after my return, my mentor Andy collapses and almost dies at his desk (I am NOT kidding, this ACTUALLY happened.)

The Boomers dream is slowly killing us. All of us.

And that brings me to my best friend, Amanda.

Same company. Same job. Working 60, 70, 80 hours a week. For eight years.

Then her mother dies from a brain aneurysm. Then her uncle dies from pancreatic cancer. Then her grandmother dies from a heart attack.

All in the course of one year.

And when she comes back from her grandmother’s funeral, what happens?

She finds a pink slip on her desk. A God. Damned. Pink. Slip.

“Your services are no longer needed. Sorry. Budget Cuts.”

Despite the fact that she just lost half her family. Despite the fact that she still managed to get her project in. And despite the fact that the company made $2 Billion dollars that year. Didn’t matter. Get the Hell out.




You know what? They’re right.

I AM entitled.

I’m entitled to a job that’s safe. I’m entitled to a job that’s secure. I’m entitled to ALL the things the Boomers promised me, because I sold out my dreams for THIS.

And that’s when I turned my back on them. All of them.

I went back to pursue the dream I gave up all those years ago. I went back to writing.

For five years, my life became:

Work hateful job. Write. Pass out.

Work hateful job. Write. Pass out.

My 60-hour workweek becomes 100. I now have two jobs.

My Boomer parents SCREAM at me to buy a house. I ignore them. Instead, I build an investment portfolio with that down payment money, built up of assets that PAY me, instead of an insatiable house monster that devours all my pay-checks.

Work hateful job. Write. Pass out.

Work hateful job. Write. Pass out.

And then something strange happens.

The portfolio income starts replacing more and more of my pay-check. And on top of that, my laser-like focus on achieving my dream makes my expenses drop by half. Because for every expense that came up, I asked the question “Does this help me achieve my dream?”

If so, spend. If not, don’t.

New laptop? Sure.

Writing classes? Why not.

New car? No.

Going clubbing and dropping $150 on bottle service? HELL NO.

This, of course, freed more of my pay-check to put towards my investments. Which, of course, caused the passive income to go up even faster.

The tiny seed I had planted was now a full-grown tree. And when that tree dropped seeds, those seeds grew into more trees.

Soon, I had an entire forest. An entire forest of money.

So with every passing day, I needed my job less and less.

One day I woke up and realized I hadn’t had a panic attack in six months. My Xanax prescription ran out and I just forgot to refill it. I didn’t need it anymore. My stress was gone.

And people noticed.

Why are you so happy all the time?they asked, thoroughly creeped out.

FYI, you know your job is bad when people are creeped out by your happiness.

It was right around here that my writing got good enough to get a literary agent, who then turned around and sold the book to Scholastic, the biggest children’s publisher in the world.

I am now a published author. Something I had dreamed about since I was 8.

And when that day came, I logged into my investment account and realized the passive income from my investments matched my living expenses.

So after being a loyal employee for nine years, I handed in my resignation.

It was the best day of my life.


4) Retire at 65 31!

The Boomers were wrong. I did everything they told me to do, and I was not successful.

I tried a career I didn’t belong in. Didn’t work.

I tried to buy a house I didn’t want. Didn’t work.

I tried to stay loyal to a company who wanted to lay me off while making $2 Billion dollars a year. Didn’t work.

So what did work?

Instead of buying a house, RENT.

Instead of paying off a mortgage, INVEST.

Instead of giving all your time to a job you hate, BUILD YOUR DREAMS.

Because in the end, the size of your pay-check, the value of your house, the size of your pension, NONE of that matters.

What matters is that you are FREE.

You are living your dreams and you are FREE.

5) Bring as many people with you as possible.

Oh there’s no step 5?

Well, too bad. I added my own.

Okay, so this is the REAL reason why I wrote this article. Once I found out what life could be like, instead of what we’ve been told life should be like, I wanted to bring as many people with me as possible. I wanted people to know that what I did is reproducible by anyone.

I’m not a genius. I didn’t inherit any money or win the lottery. I simply stopped doing what the Boomers told us to do and did the exact opposite.

And it worked.

And if it worked for me, it will work for you too.

Let’s prove to the Boomers that we are NOT lazy, we are NOT narcissistic, and we are NOT entitled.

In fact, we are the most educated, the most tech savvy, the most socially conscious generation in history.

And we are going to prove them wrong.


Want the numbers behind the story?
I wrote a year-to-year breakdown here.

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55 thoughts on “How I Built a Seven Figure Portfolio and Retired at 31”

  1. Hello both,

    As someone who is just a few years older than you, I have a few questions to better understand Your definition of ‘freedom’.

    1. Does your plan include having kids? If you do plan to have kids what are your plans for your upbringing? Does your nestegg suffice to upkeep their spending and needs?

    2. What are you projecting to be your income excluding investment income in future years? What would it alone cover?

    3. Do you think it was worth it for you to have slaved all those years to save? Would you slave again to allow your kids not have to?

    To me freedom is being able to enjoy a certain lifestyle with a long term future outlook without being financial restricted. My anology: It is like going to your favorite restaurant whenever you want and not having to look at prices to order. Different for different people but at the core of its the same for everyone.



    1. Hi Tony,

      Thanks for reading the blog!

      To answer your questions,

      1) Yes our plan includes kids. We factored in their cost into our calculations and spoke to other early retirees with kids. To give you a more detailed breakdown of how this will work with kids, we will be hosting a guest post from a couple who has already done this with kids (

      2) Projected income from writing and coding is less than $20,000. Since our costs dropped after leaving work, we can life off the dividends from the portfolio, without having to look at the market. So the side income isn’t really needed. We just do it because we enjoy writing and coding.

      3) We did work hard to get to where we are today, but it’s worth it. As for our “future” kids, we want them to be self sufficient and financially literate, so we’d want them to earn their own money, not just give them money so they don’t have to work.

    2. Good job breaking out of the rat race, and doing it as a team! I’m also retired mega early, with a wife and kids, but at 44 instead of 31, so my route was different than your own.

      However, I had a job which allowed us to live in great places, which paid for my degrees, and which has given me the retirement income I need to now live abroad cheaply. So I hung in there for 21 years versus saving the huge amount you guys managed to do, which is incredible, by the way! I’ve got to check out your investment strategies more, to see how you grew those savings into a massive portfolio–very impressive!

      Like you, I also write (eBooks, freelance articles, etc) and have dabbled in websites and videos. Your concept of Millennial Revolution is clearly working out for you guys; I believe that your audience would potentially include older folks as well, so that is the only advice that I humbly offer–you don’t want to alienate older folks by limiting your appeal to only Millennials. That’s only my opinion, offered in the spirit of help, because I think you guys are obviously on the right track by getting out of the cubicle and getting on the road to freedom and the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle.

      You’ve got the money; you avoided the home ownership tie-down. Now you have the time to explore creative outlets and other methods of generating passive income, like this! Way to go! Sincere best of luck to you, and thanks for sharing your stories!

      1. Congrats on retiring early and thanks for the advice! I’m impressed that you managed to find a stable job which paid for your education AND gave you the flexibility to live in great places! Very hard to find these days.

  2. Hello
    I’m a 45 years old computer programmer, I also understood the meaning of investments, debts, etc, but I found very difficult to have the knowledge to be real successful while investing, a lot of people talk about that but most of the time while asking them question I figured out that they were advising others and knowing very little about the subject.

    I manage my own portfolio, but if you could provide some useful guidelines it will be highly appreciated.
    Live the life you deserve, enjoy it.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Enediel,

      Thanks for reading our story! It’s great to see a fellow programmer stop by.

      You’ve asked a good question about investing, and it’s something that other blog dogs have asked as well. Our next post will be the kick off for a big investing series that we’re going to write. We’d love to have you read it and give us your feedback.

      1. In that investment series can you comment on why you handed over the reigns to Garth (I’m assuming you started out self directed)?

    1. Thanks for letting us know. What version of Chrome are you using? I’m not seeing it on our end for some reason.

  3. I’m a boomer & think you guys have done fantastic. Now, after socking away all that money, you guys can finally pursue your own dreams & live life on your own terms!

  4. By the way, I have 2 sons, both in their mid 20’s who are following THIER passions, and not following other peoples dreams. As long as they are happy & healthy, thats all that counts. Always be true to yourself & do whats right for you. Congrats to you guys.

    1. Hi Lin,

      You are an awesome parent and your kids are very lucky! Good for them for following their passions and I hope all their dreams come true!

  5. Love the message here guys, was thinking of doing my own video series, as I also didn’t like the job I had, which was a government job, started learning marketing on the side, now I do freelance while working from home, saving money and investing now, I only have a small one though right now following couch potato investment strategy of only 35 000 , hopefully I can build it bigger like you guys did, 31 though. so starting a bit late.

    1. Hi Lang,

      Thank you! It’s great to hear that you’re doing freelance work, saving, and investing! It doesn’t matter when you start, as long as you do it consistently, you will reap the rewards. You are already WAY ahead of many of my friends and ex-coworkers. They keep complaining about how much they hate their jobs, but never look into side incomes, or save any money to invest.

      Stay the course! Would love to hear about your progress.

  6. bts? looks like my desk except i dont have the achievers mug. you were a good worker.

    fyi my favorite part of the desk was the lovely sound the docking station made when i am taking out my laptop and shoving it my cabinet drawer to go home.

    congrats on your success.

      1. they were wonderfull enough to offer me parole in summer. hope i make it out.
        they said they need room for the new cell mates that are in south east asia via malaysia.

  7. Nice inspiring blog/posts. You say you became a millionaire (jointly, I gather) at 31. I’m a little confused – You graduated from a five-year co-op program in 2006… did you become a millionaire in 2016 or much earlier (and younger)? Just trying to get a benchmark!

  8. Do you think that lonely children get more opportunities than multiple siblings?

    Do you think you will inherit some or lots of money from your parents?

    Do you believe that your engineering jobs gave you an edge over liberal professions?

    Do you have friends?

    Did you take piano, violin or any musical lessons when you where young?

    How dis you meet your boyfriend?

    Listen I am 10o% with you guys and applaud your success, I am an analytical and believe that genetics and environment often play a deterministic role in results.

    1. Do you think that lonely children get more opportunities than multiple siblings?
      – You mean “only” children? I dunno. Wanderer has siblings, so…I guess no?

      Do you think you will inherit some or lots of money from your parents?
      – That’s morbid.

      Do you believe that your engineering jobs gave you an edge over liberal professions?
      – Yes. Absolutely. But there is a trade off.

      Do you have friends?
      – With my scintillating personality, I think we both know the answer.

      Did you take piano, violin or any musical lessons when you where young?
      – I took piano, Wanderer took violin. Neither instrument helped us much as we are both tone deaf.

      How dis you meet your boyfriend?
      – He was my computer lab partner in university. Our first encounter involved destroying a lab station full of expensive equipment. It was love at first sight.

  9. Now that is a depressing picture of the cubicle! I donno if I could take that for 10+ years either.

    We moved offices my last 5 years and got this amazing space overlooking the San Francisco bay. They allowed us to choose our desks and I hurried up to the desk right next to the window, like on an airplane. A view makes things so much nicer!

    I don’t think you’ll find it difficult to live off dividends from a $1M portfolio and supplement the $20,000 – $30,000 with additional freelance work. Freelance work is super plentiful!


    1. HA HA. Yeah, I shudder whenever I see a cubical picture now. Those things are mini prisons, really. Though I’ve never had one with a window so I don’t know what that’s like 🙂

      And yeah, people tend to easily forget about side income. But the reality is that if you retire young, you will mostly likely want to do SOMETHING….usually something that you’re passionate about because you have choices. And the irony is that when you do something you love and don’t care about getting paid, people end up throwing money at you because you’re doing it passionately to HELP people rather than half-assedly to collect a pay-check. That makes a HUGE difference. People notice these things.

  10. I like. Computer Engineer here, feeling exactly the same way! Pay is great at work, but I really hate dealing condescending jerks and politicians at work. Working my ways towards FI now. Meanwhile, I’m grinding my way to FI.

    1. Welcome! Always nice to chat with fellow computer nerds 🙂 Yes, computer engineering is very stressful and intense, but the salary is definitely helpful for reaching FI. Also, the ability to code is a useful skill.

      I’m curious to see how far you are from reaching FI. I think being a coder, you have a HUGE advantage because you can develop a side income and get to FI sooner. How long have you been working?

      1. I’ve worked for almost 5 years. I intended to work for longer, climbing the corporate ladder until I realized I don’t want to. Surprisingly, I see a lot of engineers in the FIRE club. One just left the valley for good

        I believe in another 5 years, I can be FI, but given, there are unexpected circumstances like starting a family, wedding cost.

        I did purchase a home at the Silicon Valley low, so that will help my exit strategy. but as you know, the cost of living in the valley is so high, it’s quite difficult for me to settle down here. I’ve seen hot chocolate costing as much as $7 USD.

        Do you happen to be Canadian right? ( I see you calculating cost in CAD)

        1. Yeah, you’re right. A lot of FIRE people are engineers. I think it has to do with the fact that our salary is high enough to get there, but our careers don’t require us to be ostentatious like doctors, lawyers, and investment banks. This is why you regularly see millionaire/billionaire tech guys in the Valley wearing crocks and cargo shorts. We just don’t a damn about appearance and what other people think of us.

          $7 USD hot chocolate. Yeesh. For that price, it better be laced with booze or weed or something. That’s the thing with the Valley. High income, high spending. We made less here in Toronto, but at least the costs are lower…though housing is getting there.

          I suspect you can easily get to FI in 5 years…even considering the wedding and family planning costs. People keep saying it costs 200K to raise a kid, but that’s mostly because it takes into account childcare costs. If you’re retired, that goes away.

          And yes, I’m Canadian.

          1. Are you still based in Canada now or have you taken a nomadic lifestyle now? Did you give up that awesome low-rent Toronto flat you had?

  11. Congrats on early retirement! You are a great writer, very entertaining yet still educational, thank you. You mentioned you live off mostly your dividend income. if you have approx $1 million in principal what total yield are you receiving from your portfolio that enables you to live of it?was their a blog post that outlines your specific portfolio construction? I’ve read your whole investing series but didn’t see your specific asset allocation etc. thanks!!

    1. Thank you! And to answer your questions:

      “if you have approx $1 million in principal what total yield are you receiving from your portfolio that enables you to live of it?”
      The yield from our portfolio is around 3% after fees. By the 4% rule, we can safely withdrawal 4%, but we’ve found that we can easily live on just the yield of 3%.

      “Was their a blog post that outlines your specific portfolio construction?”
      Yup: It’s not super obvious but we mention in brackets: “ours is 60/40”. So we are 60% equities and 40% bonds, with some preferred shares, high yield bonds, and REITs mixed in to raise the yield from 2% to 4% before fees.

      1. Thank you for your response. Your site has inspired me to do some math and figure out when I can be FI. However, I live in the states and one issue I foresee is the cost of healthcare. I assume you are covered with universal healthcare in Canada? Forgive me I don’t know much about it. Also what’s your tax rate on your dividends please? Mine would be 15%. I have a nice chunk of money in pension and 401ks but can’t tap that without penalty until 59 years old. Is it the same for you? I think you mentioned you have money in retirement accounts, just curious how that works for you. Thank you in advance.

        1. Your tax system for dividends and long-term capital gains is MUCH better for a potential early retiree than ours. As a couple, you guys can earn up to $75k without paying a cent! In fact, our friend and fellow FI-er GoCurryCracker wrote an excellent article about how to never pay taxes again in early retirement here.

          As for healthcare, yup universal healthcare in Canada is pretty great, but Obamacare (despite your Republican’s mouth-frothing objections) helps you here. Because the Obamacare subsidies are income-based rather than means-based, once you retire your income will drop, qualifying you for all those Federal subsidies Ted Cruz wants to take away. That being said, beware of the Medicaid gap. Part of Obamacare is that states were required to expand their Medicaid coverage with Federal money, and that part hit a roadblock when your Supreme Court decided to allow state’s governors to refuse that expansion. Inexplicably, many Republican governors have done exactly that. That being said, once you are no longer bound to your job, you can move to a more friendly state.

          And as for withdrawing from 401ks and IRAs, no we don’t have an age restriction in Canada for our equivalent RRSPs and TFSAs. That being said, the US of A never takes no for answer to ANYTHING, and as a result fellow bloggers have figured out how to extract money from their 401ks and IRAs penalty-free.

          1. Good points! US tax system favors dividends, especially those anointed as ‘qualified’. As a couple, with standard deductions, and if you live in a state with no income tax, you can effectively shield $80K+ of passive income! You can even buy the gold-plated Obamacare plan with that kind of income.

            This is why I prefer a dividend-portfolio instead of an index portfolio for those wishing to live off dividends. Of course, this income should come from as many diversified solid companies as you can, at least 20 so the occasional loser doesn’t hurt your income too much. Further, I noticed in your earlier comment that you also want to life off dividends and yet, despite getting 4% yield, you end up with only 3% after fees! So, fees take away 25% of your passive income! This is why dividend stocks are better as there are no fees to contend with, and for larger value portfolios like what you have ($1 million or so), a diversified dividend portfolio is far cheaper to maintain and even trade (say 30-50 trades/year IF you like to do that) than even an index fund/ETF that charges an ultra-low 0.05% in fees. Brokerage fees are very low these days, so expenses can be next to nothing in this method. Have you considered this?

            1. Yup. A dividend-heavy portfolio for us Canuckistans means an overweight on oil, gas, and financials. As we’ve seen in the recent oil crisis, that would have been not so fun.

              You Yanks in your dividend-chasing funtimes have a much more diversified industry mix that we don’t, like healthcare, defence and Trump-branded hair spray. Wish we had that 🙂

  12. Hello Firecracker, just a quick question. You didn’t have any capital gains for about 2 and 1/2 years is that right?

    From the end of 2009 you exited your entire portfolio and didn’t get back into the markets until you hired Garth as your advisor in late 2012?

  13. Dear Firecracker,

    The boomers/elders were correct in pushing you. Very oriental, very non-Caucasian…………..but ultimately right on the money.

    Consider the benefits:

    1. Assortative mating: you found a high earning, intelligent, ambitious spouse with similar values. Check out:

    2. Higher educations make for more stable marriages with lower rates of divorce.

    3. Jonathan Clements holds the contrarian belief that if you work hard when you are young on a career that may not be ideal, you can enjoy the years ahead pursuing your dreams:

    4. If you “settled” for being a writer early on you would never have this life, your spouse and your travels.

    5. You have financial security on an international level. If your Canadian stocks tank following a crash in the housing market / financial sector and your dividends are cancelled, you can always go back to the US and get a job.

    Do your parents / elders / boomers deserve a hug 😊 and thanks?

    1. Ha ha. Nice try. Clearly, you are a Boomer. If I had listened to my parents and bought a house, I’d probably have died from a heart-attack at in my cubical by now. Now that I’m out, life is SO much better. My health has improve drastically and I have no regrets in life. I’m SO glad I didn’t listen to them. Boomers suck.

  14. Hi Kristy, this is really nice blog.You have a real love for writing (and freedom), and I congratulate you for realizing your dreams and goals! I actually share this blog to my FB page, so followers will see this as Freedom pursuit is really not impossible and as young and as fun as you can realize these. Thank you for sharing your talents. Your blog was ailed to me by ETR.

  15. Actually, I do have a question.

    Do you count RRSP as your income and withdraw from it? Or do you keep it intact for your socially accepted ‘retirement day’? I’m struggling to decide whether I should could my 401k because of the 10% penalty. I may not withdraw until I’m 65 because of that.

    1. Yes, we are counting RRSP as our income because in Canada, you can withdraw it at anytime, it just counts toward your income.

      For 401Ks, you need to jump through some hoops and create what’s known as a “Roth IRA ladder”. We can write about this if you find it interesting.

  16. Hi Lin

    I am really fascinated by your story and congratulate you both on what you’ve achieved.

    My story is a bit unusual in that I am a doctor working in the UK and have always wanted to return to my home town of Toronto. There are many reasons why I haven’t taken this step however watching the property market boom has been a part of putting me off.

    It is interesting that you invested into a diverse portfolio and been successful with this. Just curious, are you investing through a financial firm or did you create your own portfolio after researching? Do you ever publish details of your portfolio such as percentage invested in different markets?

    Thanks for reading my post. Kindest regards.

    1. We’re investing through Turner Investments. The fee is 1% (dropping down to 0.85% once you reach $1M) and tax deductible.

      And here are the details of our portfolio:
      17% in a mix of government, corporate, high-yield, real return bonds; 5% in REITs; 18% in preferreds; 12% in Canadian equities; 21% in US growth; 18% in international markets; 4% alternative strategies, 5% cash.

  17. A breath of fresh air. Before I begin, a little about myself:

    1. I’m in my mid-forties, and some twenty years or so past my parole from university with an engineering degree. Like you, I also barely got by in university (although I must say that the first two years were a breeze, but the last two were a total ass-kicking; my back-side is still sore from the experience), having shamefully limped across the stage to get the ol’ sheepskin (Chemical Engineering in my case).
    2. I somehow managed to avoid getting a baby-mama, have no crumb-snatchers (either real or imagined), and, like you, do not own a home.
    3. I have never owned a car.
    4. I actually started late in my formal ‘career’ (which, actually, is just a good-paying job to me), having spent a good decade or so roaming about (mostly in Asia) and wondering just what the hell to do with myself. Unlike you, I am a lazy SOB who has done little or nothing to maximize my earning potential. In fact, you could say that, after learning what I would have to subject myself to in order to earn more, I went out of my way to minimize- or more to the point, limit- my earnings potential.
    5. Also, like you, young Firecracker, I had the itch to write from a very young age, and have been told by many that I am a very good writer (which is most unusual among engineers, so I am always told), but unlike you, I have never crossed over to the dark-side, and fully embraced the writer within (though I do have copious scribblings at home).
    6. Oh, and before I forget- I am an American (so some of what I say will necessarily have an American context) who lives in California and travels regularly to Canada on fact-finding missions.

    That aside, I just wanted to say the following:

    You are obviously a very bright young woman. I am personally pleased and heartened that at least one person like yourself exists among the Millenial crowd (and I hear that your ranks are growing). Judging from my own group (Generation X or Gen-X), I can confidently say that most of us are too far gone to be saved. Gen X, by the way, took the biggest hit during housing/economic debacle of 2008. A lot of your fellow Canadians have grown inured- often to the point of violence- with the constant comparisons of the Canadian housing market to the US housing market, but let me tell you, based on what I am seeing among many of your generation as regards the pursuit of a home in Canada, I am worried. Very, very worried.

    I am surrounded by Boomers, Gen Xers and Millenials who have all bought into the ‘housing-as-investment’ gamble. The Millenials in particular are walking out of colleges, typically with student loan debt in the high-five to low six figures- and this is for an undergrad degree (what lawyers and doctors in my day emerged from professional schools in total with)- and are eagerly looking to load up with more housing debt, but not before getting that brand-new car, also with copious auto loan debt. And yet, people look at me like I am nuts- no house, no car, no kids and no stay-at-home wife (these actually still exist, and reflect the controlling bias of many of my male associates). To this you have to add the fact that the California real estate market has been, traditional and historically, extremely volatile- whether you look at it on a local, regional or state-wide basis. Mix and stir, and it’s not a pretty combination going forward.

    A few years ago, I was offered a spot in management, and took a pass. A while back, one of the higher-ups at work remarked how he was taking a mood-enhancer AND a mood-suppressor (WTF!). I have a couple of running buddies in personnel at several organizations similar to my own and all of them say the same thing: all of the line managers at their organizations are on call, 24/7, and a majority of them, in addition to being both dysfunctional and certifiable, have substance-abuse problems (and some have MULTIPLE substance-abuse problems). More than a few managers have had heart attacks and strokes on the job. I realized early on that more money is not always better; you have to ask yourself what is paid and and what is bought. I would rather have more time to myself than more money. I would rather sleep well and be healthy (and earn less money) than get very little sleep and play chicken with my health (and get more money). As a result (and getting a late start did not help things, let me tell you), my plan to Exit, Stage Left has been delayed, but is still firmly and solidly on track.

    Bottom-line here is this: I completely feel where you are coming from, know where you have been, and hopefully, within a decade or so, move in your direction (at least on the exiting from work front). I have decided to write, but unlike you, I have decided to write for myself, and for my sanity (not so much for profit- the self-directed investment portfolio will serve that need), and I just realized recently that I have been writing for quite some time, judging by the dozens of notebooks filled with musings, scribblings, ideas and full-blown stories and articles I have at home.

    I really do know where you are coming from. As a minority kid from the get-toe, who at an early age was identified as having real ability in STEM-related areas, I was encouraged to follow the path of engineering and science, even though my true talent (and my interest) lay in writing. Actually, I was forced to march down the STEM path, ending up with a Brass Rat for all of my pain and suffering, and while it has been lucrative and rewarding in its own way, it also is not a good fit for me (not enough quality writing). I am glad to see that you finally have the courage to do what you love, and I am now at a point in my life where I can muster up the courage to do what I generally love to do, too. I am also glad that you saw through the ruse and took a pass on the housing gamble. That alone will add years to your life. Just do me a favor and don’t give up. NEVAH QUIT!

    Just one last piece of advice, for what it is worth: As you get older, you will probably want to have a crumb-snatcher or two, and you will probably want that nice house in a great neighborhood with good schools, if only to provide a decent place for those crumb-snatchers. It’s not a cop-out, sell-out or foolish or silly to want to provide the best possible environment for your kids, so long as you realize that 1) the roof over your head is a form of consumption, 2) the roof over your head is not a giant piggy bank (especially true in volatile housing markets like California) and 3) the rich really are right- paying for your home in cold, hard cash really is better than mortgaging your home- and yourself- for a decades-long stint. You can have the home (maybe in Canada, then again, maybe not… the world is a very big place) WITHOUT the s–t that generally comes with it, if you know what I mean, and if indeed that is what you want down the line.

    Keep up the good work and continue to go against the grain!

    1. “And yet, people look at me like I am nuts- no house, no car, no kids and no stay-at-home wife ”

      Yup. I know exactly that’s like. But then again, who cares? Not giving a crap about what other people think and NOT buying into the housing cult, got me this far. And I’m SO much happier for it. No regrets.

      Stay strong and live your life how you WANT to live, not how other people think you should live.

  18. I think you’re glossing over some important points.

    You were able to build your investments using money from your engineering income – without it, you wouldn’t be able to plant the seeds to get to $1 million by the age of 31.

    You advocate following your dreams which is fine, but not every writer will get published. For every one writer who makes it there are thousands who don’t. You mocked waiting for the engineering job offers to roll in…………do you really think writers are just having job offers rolling in for them after college?

    You are the child of immigrants, most immigrants come from poverty stricken countries and many of them would bend over backwards for the chance to earn a degree and having a well paying job. Many schools in these countries require connections/bribes. Many people work hard manual labor and barely survive. So when these immigrants come to Canada or America they try to tell their kids to seize the opportunity to not starve and do better. Those parents aren’t monsters, they want better for their kids.

    I’m a child of immigrants (about your age), and I don’t regret working hard in college while others got drunk (there didn’t seem to be anything glamorous about getting drunk anyway). I’ve visited my parents’ home country, seeing kids hustling snacks/water in the hot sun all day, some working in factories, etc. I had the luxury of studying – yeah, I’ll take that any day. Boo hoo, I don’t get drunk and watch others dance badly in college – I think I was fine without it. Many of the kids who did goof off came from privileged backgrounds, maybe they could afford to slack off because their parents would be their safety net.

    As for buying a house – again, the immigrant parent perspective comes into play : cruel landlords who can toss you out vs having a home of your own. Yes, liquid assets are nice but having something tactile, a roof over your head you own – that has a lot of value when it comes to peace of mind.

    Everyone has a right to live their own life the way they see fit, but I think your portrayal of boomers is way off base. Personally, I think a decent chunk of their advice is grounded in reality and based on their own experiences. While its true some of their advice can be outdated and not congruent with reality, the same can be said of you and people like you. There are so many articles, websites, blogs, videos about travel bloggers, writers, you tubers, etc who keep saying “look at me, I’m breaking the mold!”. Yeah, sure- but you’re selling a unrealistic dream. You might as well be selling a timeshare property as the deal of a lifetime. You get people to come to your site, increase the web traffic, and people like you get more ad revenue.

    1. ” Yeah, sure- but you’re selling a unrealistic dream.”
      Right. It’s so unrealistic that I’m actually LIVING it.

      Wow. You completely missed the whole point of this article. The point is that as Millennials we now face job instability and unaffordable housing, which is NOT something the boomers had to deal with. And now instead of coming up with solutions to actually solve the problem, we’re told to just work and stress ourselves into an early grave to pay for an unaffordable house. Hey, if you think that’s a great way to live your life, go ahead and live it. I did the opposite and I’m WAY happier and have zero regrets.

      “You get people to come to your site, increase the web traffic, and people like you get more ad revenue.”
      HA! The amount of “ad revenue” from this site barely covers my server costs. In fact I’ve had to PAY out of pocket for automated email subscriptions. I love how you make assumptions with zero basis on fact.

      Clearly, you fall into the crowd that would rather just do what you’ve been told than question the status quo. Do us all a favour and get off my blog. If you prefer to stay ignorant, not learn about investing, continue buying into the cult, then please please keep doing that so the rest of us can live awesome lives without you.

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