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A woman who retired at 38 says most people probably can't do it

Business Insider logo Business Insider 3/12/2019 Tanza Loudenback
a woman wearing a jacket and smiling at the camera © Mark Bunge

Tanja Hester began planning her early retirement at 32, she recently told The Cut.

She was driven to retire early by a demanding work life that put stress on both her physical health and her marriage, she said.

"Isn't the idea that you're supposed to achieve more to get a better lifestyle, not a worse one? It was like my work advancement came at the expense of the rest of my life," Hester, a blogger at Our Next Life, told The Cut.

Before they officially left their jobs, Hester and her husband had put away about 37 times their annual spending, but they weren't starting from scratch.

"It took us about six years to save up for our retirement, and we were not starting from zero. I want to be very clear about that," she told The Cut. "We had retirement savings and home equity before we began the process. I don't think most people can retire at 38 like I did."

Looking back, Hester said, she worked hard on her own as the child of a single dad on disability to eventually be able to retire early, but she was helped by at least some "luck and privilege," like graduating college with very little debt. Still, Hester and her husband have "always been big savers," she said.

Related video: Here are signs that you are on track for early retirement (provided by CNBC)

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Hester writes in her book "Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way" that there are a number of ways to fast-track yourself to financial independence and create support structures to stay on that path, Business Insider's Hillary Hoffower reported. 

"There are two sides to the saving equation that affect how quickly you can save: how much you earn and how much you spend," Hester writes. She outlines four steps to quick savings progress: Underspend on housing, underspend on transportation, increase your earnings, and use your raises to increase your savings.

"What really helped us do it was that we moved from LA to Tahoe, which has a much lower cost of living," Hester told the Cut. "We bought a home here in 2011, when the housing market was in our favor, and telecommuted for years."

Ultimately, deciding how much money you need to retire early really depends on two factors: Your cost of living and how much you expect to earn through investments or passive income during retirement. Once you've calculated that amount, which Grant Sabatier, a self-made millionaire who retired at 30, calls your "target number," you can figure out how much you need to save monthly, weekly, or even daily to get there.

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