A couple used 3 strategies to save 70% of their income to retire early

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Christina and Amon Browning, of Our Rich Journey, knew by their late 20s and early 30s that they wanted to retire early. While they reached financial independence in a relatively short amount of time — they retired at ages 39 and 41 — it required aggressive saving. 

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, they had to navigate high costs of living. The couple also had to find ways to increase their income in order to save more, and reach financial independence on their timeline. 

It took them about 10 years to reach their goal. At one point they were saving 70% of their income, the couple told personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi on an episode of her podcast, So Money.

Their aggressive savings tactics are part of the reason they were able to reach financial independence in a short amount of time. Here are the three measures they took to make it happen.

They increased their savings rate slowly

“We didn’t start saving 70% of our income overnight,” Amon said on the podcast. Like most American families, they had expenses like car payments, a mortgage, and bills that kept them from saving a huge chunk of their income. 

“Before we really got intentional about our saving and investing, we were investing and saving about 10 to 15% of our income,” Amon said. “But when we got intentional about it … we realized that there were a lot of things that we can start to save on.”

It took them a little while to pare down their expenses and identify priorities. “We just tried to focus on getting 1% better,” said Amon.

They used house hacking to cover their housing costs

House hacking is a popular way to cut back on housing expenses and earn income, generally involving renting out your primary residence or another home to cover your housing costs. Christina and Amon used the method several times while living in California, and sometimes even made more than they spent.

One house-hacking mission involved buying a fixer-upper with a small down payment and updating it themselves. They then used the increased value and equity to buy other properties, and rented out the home on a home-sharing site. “Because we were able to make so much on Airbnb, it covered the cost of the mortgage on the house and the apartment, so we were able to live rent- and mortgage-free,” Amon told Business Insider by email. 

In another example, the couple rented a three-bedroom apartment, living in one room and renting the other two. “We rented each room out separately and used the money from the rented rooms to pay for the place,” Amon said. They now live in Portugal with their two daughters.

The couple cut out unnecessary expenses

Amon and Christina said that cutting down their expenses helped them to save more. “We stopped trying to keep up with the Joneses,” Amon said. “We broke from the consumer culture.”

One such expense was their luxury SUV. “At one point, we were driving a BMW X5,” Amon said. In 2020, a new BMW X5 goes for about $59,000, according to the manufacturer’s website. The couple decided to get rid of this cost, opting for a more affordable used car instead.

They replaced their daily driver with an $800 used minivan, Amon told Torabi. Without a car payment, and with no loan, the used minivan helped free up cash. “That was another huge area of savings,” he said.

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