- Kiersten and Julien Saunders retired in their 40s and I want to follow their lead.
- Her new book encourages people to re-examine why they want to become financially independent.
- I revise my financial plan and add three tips from her book, including talking to fellow Filipinos about money.
With $96,000 in student loan debt, I never thought I could retire early until I read Kiersten and Julien Saunders’ “Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away.”
The book outlines the precise strategies they used to pay off $200,000 in debt, retire in their 40s, and create a lifestyle filled with ease and purpose. I had the pleasure of speaking with the Saunders a few weeks ago about their wealth building journey and the idea of ”paying out.”
The couple said, “It’s totally counter-cultural, a bit controversial when we talk about ‘cashing out,'” which they describe as having enough cash on hand for emergencies while investing the rest in the market to fund their retirement to back up. They also describe the term payout as the option to work as little or as much as they want on projects that align with their values and serve the communities they care about.
Talking to the Saunders felt like I’d just had a soothing conversation with older siblings who cheered me on from the sidelines and gave me lavish advice on the wealth-building challenges ahead. Here are three simple changes I’m making to my financial plan after we chatted and read her book, Cashing Out.
1. I’m reconsidering why I want to achieve financial independence in the first place
As a reporter who spends all day talking to people who have hit significant financial milestones, it’s hard not to compare myself to others who have paid off six-figure student loan debt in less than two years, or to people who have a Made fortunes by investing their money in the stock market.
In their book, the Saunders say that giving your income a purpose will help you build wealth. You write: “If you don’t give your income a purpose, someone else will. And your purpose for your income may not be in your best interest.”
Personally, I’m not trying to build financial independence so I can buy a mansion or show off a branded car. After a deep soul search I have learned that I want to achieve financial independence so that I can:
- Become a stronger writer
- Travel the world with my blood and my chosen family
- Giving back to causes I believe in, especially the queer and trans community
- Pay annual six-figure reparations to Black and Indigenous communities and encourage other non-Black and non-Indigenous people of wealth to do the same
The Saunders also write, “The act of accumulating wealth isn’t just a way to enjoy beautiful things; it enables you to leave the world in a better shape.”
2. I increase my giving budget by $10 per month
Early in their wealth-building journey, the Saunders slashed their living expenses, at one point saving 70% of their income from their corporate jobs for early retirement. However, the couple consistently gave back to the black community, whether through monetary donations or by giving their time and energy to help others.
Armed with the self-awareness that part of my motivation for building wealth is giving back to my community, I realized that it would be impactful to gradually increase my own giving budget—starting at $10 a month—so that I could have a It would feel like spending my money when I achieve financial independence.
3. Talk to other Filipinos about money
In their book, the Saunders write, “Over the years we’ve learned that your best defense against becoming trapped in consumerism is to have a solid foundation of values, a community to lean on, and rock solid foundations beliefs that guide you you think about money.”
The Saunderses also hosted a virtual dinner party series called Money on the Table, in which they spoke to the black community about their relationship with money and their financial goals for the future.
Coming from a community organizing background, I can understand why opening up these conversations has helped the Saunders stay motivated to meet their financial goals. To follow in their footsteps, I plan to take more time to talk to my Filipino friends and family about our shared relationship with money.
There’s a lyric from Jay-Z that says, “Down here, we measure success by how many people succeed next to you. Over here we say you’re broke when everyone but you is broke.” That feeling always stuck with me, but the Saunderses gave me the blueprint to actually integrate my values into my wealth-building plan.