Most engineers think of retiring at age 50 to 60 years old at the thought of their current pace of financial gains (and losses). Rarely do engineers, especially the underpaid, think that they can already rest from work in their 30s. But not this 30-something couple.
Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung have retired in 2014 with more than $1 million in their bank account. They were only 31 then. Both are computer engineers whose work had helped them become more rational in spending their money when they were still earning at large.
She revealed on the podcast So Money that the biggest factor that had allowed them to achieve the early retirement is not giving in to the FOMO, or the fear of missing out. She underscored that it can be a driving force of spending for many people.
“I’ve got to do this, because everybody else is doing this” is a mentality that the two didn’t develop. Hence the big savings.
This applied so well when Shen is being pressured by her parents to buy a house since she was 25. “My parents have been screaming at me to buy a house for the last eight years,” said the 33-year-old Shen to CBC. “’If you’re a renter, you’re a loser.’”
Now the two, who are currently children’s book authors and bloggers of their own right at the Millennial Revolution, have proven that they made the right decision not to buy their own home and rent instead.
“People are just making decisions, not because it’s a good investment, but because they’re getting emotionally pulled into saying, ‘Oh no! I’m going to miss out! What if other people are in the market and I’m not in the housing market?’” Shen told in the podcast.
Much of this thinking, Shen shared, is because of her work as an engineer. It taught her to focus on math rather than emotion when it came to her money.
“I think engineering may have helped us, because we actually stepped back and looked at the numbers and said, ‘Wait. This doesn’t make any sense.’” She went on to say that this is far from FOMO, which is based on feelings rather than fact.
Moreover, Shen pointed out the fact the engineers are not so obsessed with status symbols and showing off their wealth, despite that they have the potential to earn a lot of money. And the goal is to optimize rather than earn for aesthetics. Shen thought perhaps this is also why there are so many engineers who are financially independent.
Currently, the two live on $30,000 to $40,000 annually, an amount that largely comes from dividend payments generated from their stock portfolio worth a million dollars. “If you have a million-dollar portfolio, it pays you,” said Leung.
For this, the engineer couple enjoys the luxury of traveling the world while doing volunteer work, occasional freelancing, and writing children’s books.