Reader Story: How I Quit the Rat Race With Real Estate Aged 34

Shortly after we started our blog (in October 2015) a guy found it and got in touch with us via facebook. His name is Ankur. It turned out he’s a fellow FIRE blogger on the way to financial independence. In fact he already quit the rat race!

He came to Germany in 2003 at the age of 22 for his masters studies and has lived in Munich ever since then. He is married with two kids and after more than years in the corporate world, he decided to follow his heart. 

He was a hardcore stock market investor but before the crash he stopped investing in the stock market and started buying rental real estate in the Munich area instead. Now he owns several.

Quit the rat race

Ankur had his last day at work at the end of December 2015. In German: “Er hat’s geschafft!”. He did it! He was out of the rat race.

I asked him to share his story with us and our readers because I truly believe that this kind of FI success story has the power to make people think and understand that financial independence is not some sort of utopian fairytale but a real, achievable alternative to a standard career path and working until you’re 65.

His story is in many ways similar but also different to ours. We both moved to Germany from a much poorer country and instead of adopting a standard German way of life, we started questioning things, thinking and investing.

We’re not looking for stories that prove one specific “quit the rat race” strategy. On the contrary! Our goal with this series of reader stories is to show how FI can be reached in different ways. We don’t need to follow a ready-made strategy. We can all learn from different stories, journeys and strategies and then make our own decisions as to how we want to live our lives and how we want to quit the rat race.

Like Ankur, we also invest in real estate (but not exclusively), but I want to make something very clear: this post (and in fact this blog) is not about convincing you to go and buy rental real estate. Not at all. In fact I think that finding good flats as investments is getting increasingly difficult (almost impossible) since the prices are far too high in the areas where I would be able (or want to) to invest. Some people even speak of a bubble.

So having said that, please give a warm welcome to Ankur from Munich, Germany and his story/answers.

Why did you stop the 9 to 5 routine (at the tender age of 34)?               

Bored-out due to never ending rat race. Unable to accept society-driven thinking about success and life.

Many of us love our jobs because we do not know how to enjoy anything else. We learn to introduce ourselves through our work, assess and judge others by their profession. For me, life is more than unreasonable working hours, boring colleagues and work places, never ending competition, disrespect to creativity, corporate guidelines, travel policy, power point templates, process optimizations and standardizations and so on.

Passion and purpose missing

Actors do not stop acting just because they have earned enough nor do football stars take early retirement for the same reason.

I am an engineer by accident and not by passion. Few years back I began to think about things I like and want to do rather what I am expected to do. If I want to make experiences and experiments in life, better I do it when I am younger and healthier. I do not like to postpone wishes and talk about them, ‘If I will have time, once I retire’…

I wanted to get control of my time, of my holidays, of my creativity and I wanted to spend time wherever I like.

How did you manage to quit your job?

Save and invest. Start small. Try different things and learn from them. One of them will suit you the best from the lot, stick to it for few years. Wait from an invitation for a blog article J

My grandfather taught me at a very young age one good thing which I consider my virtue. He used to encourage savings and if I was willing to save, he would double my savings and arrange a fixed deposit for me.

Things that helped me to gain financial independence:

  • Saving and investing is monotonous but rewarding. Saving of absolute amount does not matter, attitude matters. I was saving even as I worked in part time next to my studies.
  • Invest cleverly and do not let surplus money relax in bank accounts or in gold bars.
  • Avoid high risk investments unless I can afford to lose some of it.
  • Work hard, almost impossible to achieve anything without it.
  • I do not compare. Comparing kills creativity and induces negativities. No two persons are the same (proven that each person has a different DNA).
  • I saved more than 75% of our take away salary at least for 9 years. Started investing at an early stage in fixed interest, moved to stocks only to balance gains with losses until I finally started buying properties to rent through bank’s help. Saved money, bought property, furnished, rented and managed it by myself.
  • Patience to deal with property brokers, banks, tenant issues, cost estimates of maintenance works, tax consultant, bills etc.
  • My rental properties pre-tax return is 8% (based on net rent and total purchased price) per year. Given the interest rates in the bank at 0.25% per year, I do not feel uncomfortable at all. I started buying in an undervalued market, most of the properties have already appreciated by 50-75% in the value.

How much is enough and when to stop?

I agree time and space are infinite but my body’s cells and organs work non-stop and they will stop after a few decades. In the field of medicine it is called clinical death.

How much to save or invest is a personal estimate depending on your wishes, lifestyle, family size etc. Plan abundantly as most of the expenses come unplanned.

My Suggestion for your investment idea: Do not blindly copy or follow anyone. Be sensitive to your gut feeling; if you feel good go ahead with your own plan. People who make quick decisions also learn quickly from their mistakes. If you or you and your partner are working and saving, 8-10 years of rigorous savings are generally enough (if they are invested properly and give decent returns).

What next?

Work as much as you need and want for a life you imagine to live.

This is definitely not a start of my retirement days but a change of priorities in life, change in philosophy and thinking about life and to experiment in life and try out different and new things.  I certainly like new ideas and to engage myself in work (activity, engagement) for a life I imagine living.

ABOUT ANKUR’s BLOG 

ankurgargsimplelife.wordpress.com

Summarize your blog in 25 words

It’s about downsizing, parenting and simple living.

Why did you start it?

I started it to share my personal experiences when I took time off from work to spend time raising my kids.

What do you hope to achieve with your blog?

I like to write what I think and how I see the world. I hope readers will find it entertaining and/or at times motivational.

What is your main focus?

I enjoy different aspects of life, travel, relationships and people. Hence there is no particular focus on one topic.

ABOUT YOU

What brought you to the path to FI? Why did you not become a consumerist idiot?

I became an adult with less means in life, and realized at some point that I prefer that way.

What do you do when you’re not blogging?

I blog part time only. I look after rented properties of my own, website development for my properties, tenant management and spend time with family and on my hobbies.

What are your goals in life? What’s on your bucket list?

I have few wishes but not hard goals. Goals drift me from spontaneity. I would like to visit new places, meet new people, experiment and try out new things in life.

HEALTH

What do you do to stay healthy?

By not over-eating and good mix of fruits and vegetables in diet. But I often deviate from it.

TECHNICAL

What is your FI strategy?

Invest in rental assets. I had luck to invest in fair and undervalued markets with higher rent/price ratio.

What are your favourite money/personal finance/investment tools?

Simple and compound interest calculations and cash flow analysis.

WHAT WE REALLY WANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOU

If you were prime minister what law would you change?

For sanity sake there is a lot to be changed (abolish weapons, guns, child labour etc). I prefer to remain insane since it is impossible for me to think about changing the world. I can only change myself.

If you could change anything about the education system of your country, what would it be?

I studied in India and prefer the education system of Germany. Without being educated in India, I would not have made the statement. Therefore both are okay as they are. Good points in German education: Free of charge, more training based and less theory based and freedom study what you like.

If you could wake up in someone else’s body whose would it be?

The person will sue me for intellectual property violations. I prefer not to imagine that 🙂

What three people would you like to go on an all-day drinking session with?

    • Poor child from a slum (inspirational and at the same time condemning of superfluous living)
    • Hard working labourer (to listen to life reality)
    • Any rich person or industrialist (to listen to life idealism)

What is your definition of happiness?

Confinement and branding of a particular and temporary emotion which may or may not occur consciously.

ADVICE

What is your advice to people just starting out on their path to FI?

Good things take time so carry patience in abundance.  There were often moments when I thought seriously to give up but one needs to think about future independence and find strength and perseverance.

Some final words from Mr. W

Thank you Ankur for sharing your story! Another example of how you can quit the rat race within a relatively short time, here in Europe. It involves hard work, but it can be done! It doesn’t always have to be stocks, you don’t need to start a business, just do boring things like buying flats…

If you are on your way to FI or have already reached it and have a story you’d like to share with us and our readers, write to us! If you’re a blogger and would like to tell us about you and your blog, get in touch! Here is a list of questions that will guide you…

  • Ankur, you give such thoughtful responses. It’s always so refreshing to encounter other FIRE people who are more focussed on living quality lives rather than competing over the typical boring things.

    • Ankur Garg

      Thanks Jessica that you found the article refreshing. Are you also on the FIRE FB group?

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