My 15-Year Journey to Financial Independence

[Hi guys! Got an awesome post for y’all today on hitting FIRE through real estate. It comes from my boy Chad Carson who’s currently chilling in Ecuador with his family living the good life as we’re all chained to our desks ;) Great guy, great insight, and great story. Hope it inspires you!]


When we started our real estate investing business in 2003, I had $1,000 in the bank, a paid-off 1994 Toyota Camry, and no college debt thanks to a football scholarship from Clemson University (Go Tigers!). My business partner, who was a little older, owned a home and had an internet business that paid his bills (barely).

We faced many of the same challenges other new entrepreneurs and investors face: we couldn’t possibly learn everything we needed to know, yet we couldn’t wait forever to get started.

So, I initially apprenticed for a year finding deals for a more experienced investor. Down south in the US, we call this being a “bird dog” because I sniffed out deals for someone else. I learned an incredible amount from this on-the-job training and saved some cash. At the same time, my business partner and I gave ourselves a crash course of real estate education from books and seminars.

After this first year of learning, we began buying properties on our own to resell at higher prices (aka flips). We used money partners, debt leverage, and a small amount of our own cash to fund the purchases.

About the time of our 2nd or 3rd purchase, we attended a real estate class that made a big impression on us.

Can We Buy 50 Houses Per Year?

The class was taught by an experienced house flipper with an impressive business. At the time she was flipping fifty houses per year for an average profit of $20,000 per house.

I did hit my head a few times playing football in college, but even I could do that back-of-the-envelope math. 50 deals x $20,000 = $1 million per year!

This will likely sound naive (and it was), but my business partner and I decided that 50 deals per year and 1 million dollars were probably good enough for us (ha, ha). So, we decided that our goal was to build a real estate business as “successful” as the teacher of that class.

We figured the wealth building would take care of itself as we grew our business (oops again).

Our Sprint Up the Real Estate Mountain

rental collage
A collage of our rental properties

Between 2004 and 2007 was our sprint up the real estate mountain. My business partner and I ramped up to buy and sell more properties by creating business systems and investing a lot of money into marketing.

We became REALLY good at finding real estate deals. We also became good at finding the money to buy them. As self-employed investors in their 20’s, we were not exactly attractive borrowers for traditional financing. As a result, a large majority of our financing came from private loans and seller financing.

By 2007 (right before the cliff of the Great Recession), we had our buying machine in full motion. We had nearly 50 acquisition closings in that year alone! Somewhere in between that crazy amount of activity, I also found time to get married to my wonderful (and patient) wife.

But had we reached the goal we set earlier? Were we an impressive business like the teacher at the class? Not exactly.

The Results of the Sprint

Our 2007 sprint up the mountain did achieve a similar level of yearly volume as the teacher who inspired us. But our results were a little different.

On the positive side, some of our 2007 acquisitions were flips that generated even better profits than the teacher had made. We also did more than just flip houses. Some of our acquisitions were keeper rental properties. By the end of the year, we had 43 separate buildings (58 units) either owned or under our control with lease option contracts. And some of these rentals had low-interest financing that would pay off in only 10-15 years.

But not all was positive. A large enough handful of the new properties were NOT good deals. Some were in bad locations that made them harder to sell or to attract good tenants. On others, we underestimated repair costs, which meant we had to invest more of our own cash. And some properties had negative rental cash flow because we underestimated operating costs like maintenance and vacancy.

Plus, by the second half of 2007, we noticed signs of a slowing real estate market. We did not predict the severity of the recession to come, but we certainly saw the storm clouds brewing.

All of this caused us to step back and reflect on our journey up to that point.

Reflections From High Altitude

financial independence mountain

In some ways, we had reached a milestone. We were successfully buying, selling, and holding profitable real estate. We had more cash in the bank and equity in real estate than ever before. But the economic realities and our mistakes weighed on us.

My business partner and I sat down to talk towards the end of 2007. We realized some important lessons.

  1. We realized we had used borrowed goals. The lady who flipped 50 houses per year was impressive, but we needed to find our own path. We learned that a massive, fast-growing real estate empire wouldn’t automatically give us the life we imagined.
  2. We realized that business and investing weren’t just about making money. They were most of all about life! So, what did we want our lives to look like anyway? I can still vividly remember writing down some of my favorite things to do in life. These included playing pick-up basketball in the middle of the day. Learning something new, like a foreign language. And traveling to new, interesting places with my wife, family, and friends. I can also remember being shocked that these activities that constituted “the good life” didn’t even cost that much money!
  3. We realized that life didn’t start once we reached our final goals. Financial independence for us was both the peak and the plateaus along the way. We didn’t have to put our lives on hold until “someday.” We could enjoy life while continuing to climb the financial mountain.

Bracing For the Economic Storm

My business partner and I had our work cut out for us as the storm of the 2008-2010 recession hit. Because the market was soft, we had to keep a lot of properties rather than resell them. And as I explained before, we had to handle the mistake properties that we acquired in 2007 and before.

But our frugal habits and low cost of living now benefited us. We had not spent most of the cash we made during our sprint up the real estate mountain, so we drew on that to cover many of our mistakes. This allowed us to enjoy life during a time of decreased income.

But more than simply surviving, I wanted to enjoy the plateaus during my climb towards financial independence.

About that time, I read a fantastic book called Vagabonding – An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel. The book inspired me to travel while I was young and flexible instead of waiting. So, my wife and I decided to take a mini-retirement as soon as possible.

vagabonding book

My First Mini-Retirement

My business partner and I worked to get our real estate portfolio as stable as possible. We also worked hard to create systems and to leverage the skills of other people in order to free up our time and energy. My wife and I then scrounged up every extra penny we could save.

Then in August 2009, my wife and I set off for a 4-month mini-retirement in Spain, Peru, the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina, and the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.

Aside from the amazing experiences, I was shocked that this kind of “retirement” experience was possible before I had fully arrived financially. Yes, we had some passive income and a decent net worth. But we had not reached all of our financial goals.

The experience convinced me to continue these kinds of experiences throughout my life. Even after returning we planned and took 1-2 months trips almost every year. And the experience also gave me the energy and perspective to move into our next, smarter growth phase.

Our Next, Smarter Growth Phase

The next 7-year phase of our business and investing began after I returned from our mini-retirement. We focused on pruning the mistakes of our past and doubling down on the successes. We sold properties when we could (even at a loss if necessary). And we refinanced or paid off loans that were less than ideal.

We also began to acquire more new properties. It turns out that in 2010 people were still scared to buy real estate. So, we found plenty of low-hanging deals! And our strategy of using private loans and seller financing was a blessing in disguise. We still had access to funds from private lenders when others had no access to the frigid bank financing market.

But we never returned to our frantic pace of before. The pace was always deliberate, careful, and thoughtful. It was a lot like my experience hiking at high altitude in the Andes Mountains of South America. We took two steps forward, paused, and sometimes took a step back. But we always kept steadily moving up.

By the end of this next growth phase, we had purchased some of our best performing rental properties and flips. And we had steadily improved our net worth and cash flow. Between the sales and the new purchases, we found ourselves in 2016 at a plateau of 90 rental units, most of which produced consistent cash flow.

About that time, we began planning the next phase of our early retirement journey!

Mini-Retirement Part 2 – Ecuador With My Family

Relaxing in our favorite old colonial plaza in Cuenca, Ecuador

One of the most important things in our lives also happened during the smarter growth phase. We had two kids! After a few years of nesting, our travel itch returned. So, we began planning another, longer trip.

While the first mini-retirement was a challenge, detaching ourselves from our lives with kids made this second mini-retirement MUCH harder. While money is always a factor, getting freedom this time was more about our STUFF. We learned first hand that simplicity is the uncommon path to freedom.

After months of yard sales and other simplification efforts, including renting out our residence, we were ready for the next phase of our journey.

In January of this year, we arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador – our home for the next year.

It’s a beautiful, small city set 8,400 feet high in the green Andes Mountains. Several rivers and lush parks criss-cross the ancient city in the shadows of colonial-era cathedrals. We love it!

Why Early Retirement & Financial Independence?

People at home often asked us why Ecuador? Why a year abroad with your family? Officially we could answer because we love the friendly people, the mild weather, and the opportunity for our kids to become fluent in Spanish at an early age.

These reasons are very true.

But there’s a deeper why. And it’s less practical but much more important.

Because it feeds our souls! Because it’s who we are, deep down inside!

Abraham Maslow was a 20th-century American psychologist. He described the essence of why we pursue financial independence and an early retirement:

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”

What a man [or woman] can be, he or she MUST be. That quote has both inspired and haunted me for a long time.

Maslow also offered an equally challenging follow-up:

“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”

Money is an important part of life. Early on, it puts food on the table and warms your house when it’s cold outside. But its ultimate power is to buy you freedom.

But this type of freedom isn’t just about sipping margaritas on the beach. Financial freedom is about becoming who you MUST be. It’s about being happy, in the deepest and truest sense of the word.

In Closing

By sharing the details of my story, I wanted to give you a true picture of my messy, mistake-ridden climb towards early retirement. I’m certainly not perfect, but then again, there is no perfect path to anything worthwhile. At best we make mistakes, learn, and keep moving forward.

There are only three main things necessary for financial independence:

  1. Building a strong source of regular income
  2. Saving a large portion of that income
  3. Investing the savings in assets that will grow or at least not lose value

The unique angle in our story was that we used real estate both for #1 – our income source (house flipping business) and for #3 – our investments (rental properties). For #2, my wife and I lived simply and employed tactics like house hacking to reduce our personal expenses and to save more money.

Our particular path, however, wasn’t necessarily better. Yes, it was exciting, but if you’re taking an alternative path like holding a steady job while investing on the side, that’s just as viable (and perhaps more stable and safe).

The beginning of any path towards financial freedom starts by deciding it’s important. Then, with a combination of persistence, frugality, and trusted investing tools like real estate or other favorites (like stock index investing), you can reach amazing heights in your finances and your life.

I look forward to hearing about your own amazing stories!


Chad Carson blogs over at – a site about using real estate investing to retire early and do what matters most in your life. He shares practical strategies, step-by-step explanations, and real-world case studies, all with the goal of helping you build your worth and live your dreams. He can also be found on Twitter at @CoachChadCarson.

Want another early retirement story? Check out how Jeremy from Go Curry Cracker called it quits. In a bit more feistier way ;) (And not related to real estate)

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  1. Yaz | The Wallet Moth June 9, 2017 at 5:42 AM

    Great read, thanks for sharing Chad! It’s so interesting to hear people’s unique journey towards their own version of financial independence.
    My own journey still feels very early on in comparison!
    (and great choice living in Cuenca – I visited maybe 8 years ago and have been yearning to return ever since…!)

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 11:40 AM

      Yaz, awesome that you’ve been to Cuenca too! I can see how you’d yearn to come back.The weather, pace of life, green mountains, and fresh food is magnetic for us too:)

      Good luck with your own journey!

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 11:42 AM

      Thanks Nicole! Yeah, the 50 properties in one year is not something I want to replicate. Too much work and stress.:)

  2. Mrs Adventure Rich June 9, 2017 at 7:31 AM

    What an adventure! 50 houses… as someone toying with the thought of 1 property, this number blows me away!

    I like your Reflection from High Altitude… it seems like that was a clear and humble “ah-ha” moment that set you on the path to FIRE!

    Thank for the dose of Friday inspiration!

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 11:44 AM

      Yeah – the numbers blow me away now too:) It kind of wore me out writing about it and remembering! But the truth is that I know many people with 1-5 properties who have ALL they need. So, your 1 property will be just fine! I have a business partner and did this as a career, so it’s definitely not the path everyone needs to take.

  3. Budget on a Stick June 9, 2017 at 7:43 AM

    Holy crap that was a sprint. Im curious about how you were able to weather the recession so well.

    Congratulations on FIRE! Sounds like quite the journey to get there and quite the journey during

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 11:48 AM

      Yes, sprint was the best word I could think of. I definitely enjoy walking more now:)

      Weathering the recession wasn’t easy. But it was a combination of hustle, good cash reserves (drained those a lot), pivoting to new strategies, having long-term financing (without balloons or adjustable rates), and strong relationships. The last one – relationships was really big. Going through challenges definitely made me realize the value of long-term mentors, my wife, a business partner, team members, lenders, etc. You kind of circle the wagons and figure out how to do what’s necessary. And then on the other side, the good news (for me at least) was that less of the competition was still around:)

  4. Cath @ Get MoneyWise June 9, 2017 at 7:46 AM

    Great to see a fellow property investor and house hacker making their way on the FIRE path. I feel like a rookie sitting over here with only 4 properties.

    But the Aussie market has massive transaction costs making flipping a much hard pursuit to make profitable. And with the median price in Sydney a cool $1 million, yields are terrible (2-3%).

    I love your point about choosing your path and it doesn’t need to be the same. We aren’t quite there yet to FIRE but our property investing has given us a great starting point to launch off. We are looking to change paths now to an investment vehicle and this helps me to know I am making the right choice for us and us alone.

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 11:52 AM

      4 properties is great! And like you said, every market is different. My price points in South Carolina are much lower than you’re probably facing in Australia. You’ve also probably received a LOT more appreciation, which increases your net worth – the most important measure.

      Good luck with your own path! Definitely, everyone has to find their own. I don’t wish the big property path on others if they don’t want it. 4-5 properties can financially get you everything you need.

  5. Lily @ June 9, 2017 at 8:11 AM

    Congratulations for FIRE – Ecuador is an interesting place what’s the school situation?

  6. FullTimeFinance June 9, 2017 at 8:15 AM

    I can’t even imagine owning 90 houses. The complexities of tracking them all make my head spin. I’m assuming you use property management and are not out fixing toilets at midnight yourself from Ecuador…what else goes into managing them remotely.

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:05 PM

      Ha, Ha. If all those properties happened overnight (like 2007 for me) it does create complexity. But over time by treating it like a business, creating systems, and outsourcing key tasks, it is definitely manageable. I spend about 2-4 hours per week on the business, mainly paying bills and doing some bookkeeping. You can see the 10 main tools I use to manage real estate while I travel here:

      And you’re right, I don’t fix toilets from Ecuador:) We have 3rd party management for some of the properties and a really competent assistant back at home to help with others. I am available on the phone for weird situations (like unusual repairs), but most simple stuff (like toilets) our assistant just calls our plumber. I never even know about it until I pay the bill.

      The other key thing many real estate investors miss is buying profitable enough properties in the first place so that they can outsource tasks. Being a DYI landlord is great early on while you learn the business, but at some point, you need cash flow to pay a manager, pay contractors, etc. If you can’t afford to outsource anything, you’ve just chained yourself to another job.

  7. Paul June 9, 2017 at 8:27 AM

    Love the story, and wish I had gotten in the game when lending as simple as signing a piece of paper. I still want to get into real estate but I just don’t see how it is possible. My question is how does someone start out in today’s lending environment. I already own a house and since I started my own business less than 2 years ago I doubt I can qualify for anything at the bank. I know you reference seller financing a lot but I’m not sure that is even a real thing that people actually do.

    Really the financing aspect is the thing that gets me the most. I just don’t know how people can possibly get >1 home loans in today’s environment without at least 30% down.

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:17 PM

      Hey Paul,
      It sounds like you’re self-employed, like I’ve always been, and yes that makes it harder to get loans. But it’s not impossible. After 2 years with your business, if you’re paying yourself a reasonable salary and/or showing a good profit, lenders should be able to still get you loans. Most conventional lenders tell me you can get between 4-10 loans as long as you have the income.

      I wrote an article on BiggerPockets about the different ways to finance your first real estate investment deal. The options I talk about in the article are FHA, VA, conventional, portfolio (local banks), hard money, private, and seller financing. You might find the explanations there helpful:

      In addition to seller financing, I used private loans a lot (and still do) for my deals. For example, I have lenders who used their self-directed IRA/401k to loan money to me. They basically became my bank. I like these individual lenders because they are more flexible and I can keep doing business with them for many years. It’s not as simple as walking into a bank, but you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to loan money to you when you start looking and asking (especially in the FIRE community!).

      1. Paul June 12, 2017 at 8:29 AM

        thanks, that is helpful.

  8. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar June 9, 2017 at 8:47 AM

    Oh man this is awesome. I’m contemplating taking a few years off starting 2019. It’ll be the year when my oldest daughter is in kindergarten. That way, we can drop daycare and give my kids a real summer. I dream of playing volleyball more often and going on nature hikes with my daughters. This kind of stuff really makes me want it more. Keep em coming!

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:19 PM

      That’s awesome Chris! Do it! Our oldest daughter is kindergarten age, and it’s been the perfect timing for us. While you have volleyball, I’ve found my own pick-up basketball game and running group here in Cuenca. And nature hikes to waterfalls have been awesome too. So, we’re on the same page:) Good luck!

  9. C.J. Cato June 9, 2017 at 8:52 AM

    Great Story. I am starting to see this trend more and more. The idea that one can live life now, that retirement isn’t when your life starts That with the right planning you can enjoy more time and family now.

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:33 PM

      I think you’re right, C.J. It seems like more and more people are choosing to intersperse activities like long-term travel throughout their life instead of saving it all for the end. I like that trend personally and hope more people will join me!

  10. Friendly Russian June 9, 2017 at 9:09 AM

    This is really great story. When I read stories like that, one question pops in my head. Now, when you have more experience and have learned some lessons, what would you different from the beginning?

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:27 PM

      Great question! As you could probably tell from the story, I would not have sprinted as fast. I didn’t need to do 50 deals in 2007.

      Even though it’s hard to judge by looking back with 20-20 hindsight on the consequences of the Great Recession, I still didn’t need to go so fast. Buying so many deals actually slowed us down overall, because we had to deal with the hassle and energy drain of the negative issues. Going fast made us less careful and thoughtful with our growth.

      The best FIRE metaphor for me is an ultra marathon or one of those through-hikers on the 2,000+ mile Appalachian Trail. It’s a LONG grind. And life and a changing world will happen while you’re racing. So pace yourself. And be ok taking a break for picnics along the way (aka mini-retirements!). A real ultra marathon runner would laugh at rookies (like I was) sprinting to start a long race. They know that injury, fatigue, and unknown perils will eventually slow them down.

      So, I’d tell my younger self to start slowly, speed up to a pace I can comfortably handle, keep climbing, and enjoy the scenery with my climbing partners along the way.

      1. Friendly Russian June 9, 2017 at 10:01 PM

        Great. thanks a lot for answering.

  11. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance June 9, 2017 at 9:12 AM

    Wow I’m so happy for you, Chad! You are such an inspiration for Mr. FAF and I since we’ve also been thinking about investing in real estate for our future and retirement. I’m glad you got to travel to so many cool places and still know that your family is taken care of financially. =)

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:36 PM

      Thanks Ms. FAF! I just checked out your own blog and look forward to following your journies! I feel very fortunate that we were able to mix in the travel and growth along the way. It’s definitely been an amazing experience for our family.

  12. Mrs. Picky Pincher June 9, 2017 at 9:15 AM

    Bravo on your journey Chad! I really resonated with the “borrowed goals.” It’s tough to forge your own path in life when you’re used to being told what to do from ages 0 – 18. So we borrow goals set by other people, hoping we’ll get the same results. But it’s about finding what works for you and where YOU want to go. And that’s the toughest part.

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:38 PM

      You’re so right – it is tough to break free from those borrowed goals. I think it’s tough because on the other hand modeling other people is very useful. It’s what we do from a young age to learn almost everything.

      But part of adulthood (and the path to FIRE) seems to be borrowing the PRINCIPLES from others and figuring out a way to apply them to your own unique goals and circumstances. Definitely trickier, but avoids a lot of problems in the end!

  13. Mao June 9, 2017 at 9:52 AM

    What an incredible story! 50 properties a year, wow! Congrats on your achievement and early retirement, hope our path would cross soon.

    Great quote by the way: If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” I love it.


    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:41 PM

      Thanks Mao! Definitely hope our paths cross. We’ll be in Ecuador most of this year, so come find us if you happen to be this way. Exciting to see on your blog that you’ll soon be doing a lot of traveling too! Sounds fun.

  14. Master Duke June 9, 2017 at 9:58 AM

    Incredible hustle and awesome story.

    I love that you all first went into a learning phase, that you grew from mistakes, and continued through the recession. Kudos to you !!

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:43 PM

      Thanks Master Duke. Never stop learning, right?! I enjoyed the learning that AVOIDED the mistakes much more than the learning BECAUSE OF mistakes. But either will do I guess:)

  15. ZJ Thorne June 9, 2017 at 9:59 AM

    I love that Maslow quote! How much discontentment flows from people failing to heed it’s warning!!

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:47 PM

      Exactly! I always find myself going back to Maslow when talking about my FIRE journey. I think it’s the similarity with his idea of the heirarchy of needs. First, you have to take care of the necessities like food, water, shelter. Then you work on important things like relationships and community. But even with all of those satisfied, that need to BE what you’re capable of will keep gnawing at you for the rest of your life. And as many in the FIRE community know – experiences and free time tend to satisfy that existential itch more than high income and fancy stuff.

  16. The Savvy Couple June 9, 2017 at 10:56 AM

    What a freaking journey! Awesome stuff!

  17. Michelle Schroeder-Gardner June 9, 2017 at 11:56 AM

    Wow, this is such an inspiring story! Makes me tired to read about having all of those houses, haha :)

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:48 PM

      Ha, ha. Yeah – it made me tired too. Must be why I needed a trip:)

  18. Joe June 9, 2017 at 12:09 PM

    What a great story. Thanks for sharing and inspiring many young investors. I think the key for you was to get into real estate investing early and learn a ton about it. Great job and congratulation.

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:51 PM

      Thanks Joe! I know you do a little real estate yourself, right? Getting in early and learning a lot were definitely the keys for me. That’s why I love strategies like house hacking and live-in flips so much for people’s first homes (instead of expensive dream houses or renting). It allows them to learn about real estate, make money, grow their net worth without having to build a big portfolio. They can expand later as they go.

  19. Grant @ Life Prep Couple June 9, 2017 at 12:40 PM

    Just a fantastic post. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on FIRE. I thought I could see the writing on the wall with 58 units in 2007. Well done surving the recision.

    I’m looking forward to learning about real estate on your blog as I’m anxious to get our first rental.

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:52 PM

      Thanks, Grant. Yeah – it wasn’t a foregone conclusion to survive the recession after growing so fast before. As I said, we made a lot of mistakes. And many other investors in similar situations did not make it.

      I look forward to having you over on the blog! Let me know how I can help.

  20. Mrs. BITA June 9, 2017 at 12:41 PM

    Love your story. Our path to FIRE includes no real estate other than the house we live in, so it is fascinating to read a story so different from our own. And I’ve added Cuenca to my list of places to see, so thank you for that.

  21. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 12:56 PM

    I agree. It’s fascinating to read about others path to FIRE, even (or especially) if it’s much different than your own. I read your own about page and laughed out loud at the dialogue with death at the end of life (was I supposed to laugh at death – ha, ha). So, well done on your blog:) I look forward to following along.

    Cuenca is great. I think you’ll enjoy it.

  22. Syed June 9, 2017 at 1:19 PM

    Thanks for sharing your adventures Chad. And for also pointing out that there are multiple paths to financial independence, and ultimately, happiness. Real estate is one way, index investing is another and day trading is another. Do what appeals to you and do it well. And think about how it can lead you to the life you want to live.

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 6:26 PM

      Definitely agree, Syed. You’ve got to find what appeals to you, what you’re good at, and go with it. Many paths can lead to the same destination.

  23. dave June 9, 2017 at 2:42 PM

    That was a great read. Congrats on your success in real estate. It was awesome that you realized you had borrowed someone else’s goals. It is great that you identified what you truly wanted and utilized your successful business to provide the life of travel for you and your family.

    1. Chad Carson June 9, 2017 at 6:27 PM

      Thanks Dave! Borrowed goals were definitely a big aha for us. It’s ok to borrow techniques and principles, the goals not so much:)

  24. Fruclassity (Ruth) June 9, 2017 at 9:23 PM

    I love the way you break a pursuit to financial freedom into 3 clear steps – and the fact that you acknowledge there are different ways of taking those steps. One way is not inherently better than another. Enjoy your well earned freedom to be who you are : )

    1. Chad Carson June 11, 2017 at 9:00 PM

      Thank you Ruth. There definitely are a lot of different ways to apply those basic 3 steps. That’s what makes the FIRE blogging community so interesting to follow!

  25. Laurie@ThreeYear June 10, 2017 at 6:47 PM

    As a fellow South Carolinian (but a Furman grad! although I spent a lot of time at Clemson on the weekends haha), your story is so cool. The two things that resonated the most from this post were when you realized business and investing were about living life, and also the Maslow quote–if you plan on being anything less than you’re capable of, prepare to be unhappy. That rings so true. My own family is working on location independence and I think it’s really cool that you guys decided to spend a year in Ecuador while your kids were young. Wish we had it figured out before our kids started school! :) Thanks for sharing your inspirational story and what sounds like hard-won wisdom! :)

    1. Chad Carson June 11, 2017 at 8:57 PM

      Go South Carolina residents! My brother went to Furman, so I am a Paladin fan too:)

      Great to hear from you. I look forward to following your family’s progress!

      1. Laurie@ThreeYear June 12, 2017 at 5:34 AM

        Get outta town! What a small world!

        Thanks so much :)

  26. Frugal Safari June 11, 2017 at 10:15 AM

    Great article man!
    I love it how you discovered early that you needed to enjoy life more. My wife and I had that same epiphany a few years ago. We hope to reach FI in the next couple of years and slow travel for 9 months a year. I need to come to Cuenca to play some hoops with you.. talking about that home court advantage at that high altitude..haha

  27. Chad Carson June 11, 2017 at 8:54 PM

    Come on and play some hoops! But if you played ball for UC Santa Cruz, high altitude is probably the ONLY advantage I will have. Lol

    Good luck with your own FI path in the next couple of years. The 9 months of slow travel will be awesome!

  28. Chad Carson June 11, 2017 at 8:56 PM

    Go South Carolina residents! My brother went to Furman, so I am a Paladin fan too:)

    Great to hear from you. I look forward to following your family’s progress!

  29. Zac June 13, 2017 at 9:11 AM

    Good read as always, Chad! In my growing desire for FI I’ve mainly become interested in using real estate as an avenue for this. I’ve joined a couple local REIAs and BiggerPockets but I tend to get anxiety when I read or hear about people who are SO successful and creative and here I am still spinning my wheels of sorts. However, your website, YouTube videos, and posts such as this help instill a sense of inspiration from your own creativity and success that helps it feel achieveable for me. I hope that makes sense; it’s kind of hard to explain. Look forward to reading more elsewhere!

    1. Chad Carson June 13, 2017 at 2:35 PM

      Thanks, Zac! I really appreciate your comments. You couldn’t give a bigger compliment than to say my story and writing is making your own success feel more achievable.

      I look forward to following and helping with your own journey!

  30. Michael @ Financially Alert June 13, 2017 at 9:54 AM

    Chad, I love hearing about the ups and downs of your journey. You’re doing a fantastic job sharing and inspiring others.

    Will you be making a trip to the Galapagos any time this year? Enjoy the rest of your time in Ecuador. :)

    1. Chad Carson June 13, 2017 at 2:38 PM

      Thanks Michael! Yes, we really want to make it to the Galapagos this year. No set plans yet, but we’re exploring dates. I was a Biology major in college and was always fascinated with the Galapagos, so it’s sort of like Disney World for me:)

      I look forward to seeing you at FinCon though, right?

  31. Natasha June 13, 2017 at 1:05 PM

    Thanks for sharing your story Chad! Any plans for how you are going to impart the lessons you’ve learned to your kids?

    1. Chad Carson June 13, 2017 at 2:41 PM

      Hmmm … great question, Natasha. So far I’m just trying to spend a lot of time with them, let them see and hear me talk about business, and feed their own little fires and interests where I can. One daughter talked about starting to sell crafts on Etsy, so I thought that was cool! The travel bug may be infused into them from all sides (or we may turn them off completely – who knows!).

  32. Anya Sagee June 14, 2017 at 9:56 PM

    Chad, thank you for sharing your story. I was so inspired that I just read it again, this time aloud, to my husband. We, too, share the travel bug and believe in the importance of living life fully now, rather than just working for “someday.” We’re in our 50s and just starting out on our RE journey, and look forward to following your blog and continuing to learn from your experience. Have a great time in Ecuador!

    1. J. Money June 21, 2017 at 5:00 PM

      That’s so cool you read it out loud to your husband! Haha…. I’ll need to try that with my wife when I’m too lazy to read ;)

    2. Chad Carson June 27, 2017 at 1:47 AM

      Thank you, Anya! It’s an honor to have it read twice (and aloud!). My wife and I used to read books aloud together. I think we need to start back!

      I noticed your yoga website. My wife and I actually met in a yoga class and still practice. We love it.

      Best of luck with your RE and life journey!

  33. Buddy Broome June 16, 2017 at 5:20 PM

    Hi Chad, Great article, you did a great job capturing the ups and downs of investing. Most importantly, you keep the whole reason that we are investing into perspective. The reason is not for more expensive cars or wardrobe, but more enriching life experiences and quality time with friends and loved ones. You do such a good job of expressing, and more importantly living, this message. Keep up the good work!

    1. Chad Carson June 27, 2017 at 1:48 AM

      Thank you, Buddy! We share some similar ideas about biz and life.

  34. Sean June 21, 2017 at 11:25 AM

    I can’t say enough positive things about your balanced approach to real estate, family, and life. I have had the opportunity to go to a lot of real estate educational events and the typical mantra is, a bigger business is a better business. While you have certainly built a very impressive portfolio/business, I am even more impressed with the way you have done while keeping a priority hierarchy that is very admirable. Thanks as always for inspiring us!

    Best Regards,
    Sean McKay

  35. Stephen Quesinberry June 23, 2017 at 8:31 AM

    You’re everywhere! Keep up the great work!

    1. Chad Carson June 27, 2017 at 1:53 AM

      Ha, ha. Time away from real work let’s me write a little more. Writing here on Budgets Are Sexy has been a BIG time highlight. Thanks for following along.

  36. Chad Carson June 27, 2017 at 1:51 AM

    Thank you, Sean! I certainly have aspirations of prioritization and balance, but some days (and years!) are better than others. But I really appreciate the kind words.

  37. TheFrugalChoice May 6, 2019 at 11:51 AM

    really inspiring story and all the best to you and your family with the travels! I’m looking to buy our first property with my partner at some point next year and really excited about it :D