Does Early Retirement Give You a Fulfilled Life?

EOI Startup Stories - Saving Habit

Entrepreneurs: Naren & Sugandha

Blog: Saving Habit

Welcome to Entrepreneurs of India #startupstories episode 120

Early retirement does not seem a good a option in India. Whenever we think of calling it day, a lot of questions pop up. However, Naren and Sugandha, a couple from Goa, have a different story to tell. They both are planning to retire at the age of forty five, the time when most of us yearn for a promotion at work!

They are part of F.I.R.E (Financial Independence, Early Retirement), a moment taken by young professionals globally to reclaim their freedom by reaching financial independence in just 10-15 years, by saving their monthly income, efficient spending and smart investments. They frequently write about various aspects of F.I.R.E on their blog

How do they do it? Why is early retirement a good option? Naren and Sugandha tell their story.

1) How did your get your idea for this blog?

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We both were independently striving for success and money in two different countries, and we both came to this idea independently. It will be best if we tell you how we individually arrived at this idea.

Naren: I had finished my Masters in Computer Engineering and was obsessed with solving my working-for-money problem once and for all by striking rich via start-up route. However, after six years of hard work, the start-up did sell but not for the millions everyone had dreamed.

This was something I was not prepared for, I expected to have lots of money at this point in my life. This failure made me aware of the uncertainty and risk of depending on just earning more to become rich. Around this time I noticed a young 30-something computer engineer/blogger living in the USA who retired from work just by saving and investing his salary income.

Sugandha: I thought money solves all problems and doing interesting work and making lots of money was a clear goal of my career. After years of hard work, I was working in middle management at a start-up and making the money I dreamt of with a bright future ahead of me.

But at this point instead of being happy about having arrived, I felt unhappy and disappointed. I realized that there is something more important than just job title and paycheck namely control and autonomy over my work and life. This unhappiness forced me to look outside of 9-6 jobs and F.I.R.E came to my rescue.

2) Why is “now” a good time for this idea to exist? 

We live in times where our starting salary is higher than the final salary of our parents when they retired. The downside is that we have to work long hours, be ready for layoffs at short notice and accept a short shelf-life of 10-15 years for even white-collar workers like IT and MBAs.

Also, globally we are slowly moving from doing what you are told in jobs to careers which demand the attitude of an entrepreneur- self-motivated, driven, problem solver. Such an attitude comes with being Financially Independent- when you work not to pay your bills but for the love of it. Such individuals will be rewarded in the future of the workforce.

Thirdly, our generation is lucky to branch out into non-traditional fields and to find success. The future is very promising too. Technology has brought the world to our doorstep so if you are driven you can compete not only in local markets but in global markets.  F.I.R.E provides you with the safety net to explore high-risk high reward careers & business opportunities.

These are just practical aspects. What about the human aspect of finding happiness for yourself by doing what you want in life while balancing family duties responsibly?

The idea behind FIRE is to leverage the high white-collar income and save 50% or more of your income to build a safety net & launch pad for yourself in that 10-15 years of shelf-life instead of getting into home loan EMI debt that limits your freedom and career mobility.

3) What was the reaction from your family when you first decided to become an entrepreneur?

To be frank: They don’t understand what we are doing. Getting featured in national media has calmed them into thinking that we must be doing something right.

One positive change we’ve seen in them recently is that we managed to convince them to gift money towards our newborn son’s college education instead of buying clothes or toys. It went against their natural impulse but they trusted us. So a combination of brushing off their fears plus constantly showing them your small wins can bring them around to accept what you are doing even if they don’t understand it fully.

4) What was your biggest mistake in business and what did you learn from it?

Biggest mistake was blindly following the ideas from U.S based FIRE blogs. We found that many of those bloggers themselves were not retired early but were advising others to do so in a reckless manner. We’ve now learnt to use our own personal experience & common sense to figure out the corpus needed to retire early based on Indian conditions. Trusting oneself and understanding the potential of an idea by tuning out the noise created by hype was key learning.

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5) What is your biggest obstacle in the next 12 months and how will you overcome it?

In the last couple of years, we were able to quit our jobs and start a business that covers our modest life in Goa.

In the next 12 months, our biggest challenge is to ramp up our business, to increase our income while maintaining our work-life balance.

6) What habits contribute to your success?

  • Curiosity about how things work and applying them to solve our problems.
  • Being consistent- It is the most difficult but key to success in business.
  • Thinking outside of the box- pursuing F.I.R.E constantly involves pushing your boundaries and coming up with answers
  • Willingness to accept our mistakes even if foundational and starting all over again from scratch, and openly discussing issues

7) If you had the opportunity to start this business again what would you do differently?

Might have invested in Equities from Day 1 instead of real estate.

8) What is your favourite inspirational quote?

Naren: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together – African proverb

Sugandha: The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams – Oprah Winfrey

9) Where do you find inspiration?

Naren: Whenever I feel down with some problem, I look for videos on YouTube for Lee Kuan Yew’s speeches. My problems always pale in comparison.

While many know that he is responsible for Modern Singapore’s success,  not many know the enormous risks and perilous situations he had to surmount. A nation-builder and political entrepreneur who inspires many.

Sugandha: I am inspired by the blogs I come across. For instance, fellow F.I.R.E blogger such as MMM, retireby40, Frugalwoods– to achieve financial freedom and Retire Early.

The Livingbigtinyhouses movement-  For thinking out of the box, to take a pause and evaluate what really is important and how you need less then you think to be happy.  A couple sailing the world with three kids- . while running a business.

All these people and ideas inspire me. We are lucky to have access to unconventional life stories of people from all over the world- Ordinary people with extraordinary lives!!!

10) What is your favourite book?

Naren: 7 habits of highly effective people

Sugandha : Autobiography of a Yogi and The Source. These two books have expanded my mind in last few years.

11) What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Ask yourself why you want to do this? The journey of an entrepreneur is filled with ups and downs. However, If you have the right motivations – you will succeed.

Save at least 50% of your income right from your first salary. By the time you figure out what you want to do in life in about 10 years or so, the savings would have compounded to a massive safety net enabling you to step out and live your dream life.

EOI Summary

The crux of early retirement lies in earning and spending your money sensibly. Saving 50% of the monthly income is ideal if you’re going to adopt F.I.R.E plan. The early retirement plans work today since most people who are into a white-collar jobs are getting paid decently. However, you have to be very smart when it comes to managing your money. Thank you, Naren and Sugandha for stopping by to share your story.

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