FIRE: Financial Independence Retire Early
During our interview, Peter Furling proudly smirked from his trailer home which he pilfered from a local homeless family, "My friends are all jealous because I don't have a mortgage."
TULSA, OK— In this shocking story of financial success, Peter Furling has achieved what most people dream of, retiring a millionaire at just thirty-three years old. Peter revealed his financial secrets in this exclusive interview from his Vietnam-era trailer stationed on the outskirts of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Since graduating from college, Peter Furling dreamed of retiring early and living leisurely. But unlike most people, he didn't rely on a high-paying job or a small business to make his dream a reality. Instead, he embraced the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement. The ideology convinced Peter to adopt some unconventional saving and lifestyle habits, allowing him to save ridiculous amounts of money year after year.
As an assistant manager for a car rental agency, Peter knew he had to stretch his $52,000 salary to meet his millionaire goal in one decade. Fascinated by his story, I visited Peter in Oklahoma to get the inside scoop on his millionaire fortune.
I arrived at his home, a 300-square-foot camper cabin he had salvaged from the nearby landfill. As I walked into the vintage trailer that was equally scented vintage, like a 1960s newsroom, I noticed two upside-down Home Depot buckets on the linoleum floor.
"Take a seat," Peter instructed, pointing to the buckets.
I sat on the bucket and stated the obvious, "Well this is savvy, Peter."
"Yes, buckets are affordable replacements for stools and exceptionally versatile for my frugal lifestyle."
He nodded at the bucket I sat on. "The bucket you're sitting on is also my toilet when I don't have guests, of course, turned right side up."
"Wow," I nodded. "It's that kind of ingenuity that is why I'm here. I appreciate the invite into your trailer home."
I looked around and absorbed Peter's home.
The trailer was exposed to the elements and had no windows but was cleverly curtained in some type of cloth. The trailer's walls were a rusty patina that gave his living quarters the feel of a World War II-era battleship. I sat down and continued, "We've heard about your stunning early retirement story, and we wanted to let everyone know how they can repeat your astounding success. Let's start with your home, which I heard you salvaged?"
"Yes, I had to commandeer it from a homeless family squatting in it at the Ringwoods trailer park. The owner of the RV park paid me $100 to haul the trailer away. Instead of dumping it in the landfill, I parked it here and started living in it myself."
He grinned. "Now I don't have a rent payment, and all my friends are jealous."
"So you own this land?"
"No, I have no idea who owns the land. My guess is it is tribal or owned by the landfill. I'm left alone because of my close proximity to the dump."
"Interesting, I take it this is the type of unconventional thinking that has allowed you to retire a millionaire so young. Tell me a few of your financial secrets so other folks can learn from your wisdom."
"Well, I stopped buying new clothes and doing laundry. For ten long years, I wore the same clothes, and I only washed them when they started to smell. My entire wardrobe is from Goodwill," he said proudly. "And if you hang your dirty clothes out in the rain, you don't have to do laundry. This saved me at least $492 a year."
"Wow, from saving $492 a year to millionaire. What other millionaire-making strategies did you employ?"
A lot of the truckers leave old bars of soap laying on the floor so I started collecting them," he laughed. "Between the water savings and Dial soap, I've been saving around $80 a year."
"Well, once I realized a large part of my monthly budget was food and sundries, I knew I needed a penny-wise solution." Peter paused and rubbed his hands together, his eyes glimmering. "There's a Loves truck stop a mile up the freeway, so I started showering there," he said. "A lot of the truckers leave old bars of soap laying on the floor so I started collecting them," he laughed. "Between the water savings and Dial soap, I've been saving around $80 a year."
"And the food?" I asked.
Peter smirked, his eyes deviously clever as he leaned forward on his Home Depot bucket. "The answer struck me like lightning," Peter whacked himself on his head in demonstration. "I was having trouble sleeping because the chirping crickets outside were driving me nuts. A lot of them are overflow from the landfill up the road," he gestured out the window and continued. "As you can see, my windows aren't glass but environmentally sustainable burlap. So as the crickets kept me awake all night, I remembered an article from the World Economic Forum citing the benefits of a high-protein cricket diet. So, instead of sleeping nights, I became a hunter of crickets to save and eat them later."
He nodded at a Fruit Loops box resting on a shelf, a 2x4 nailed to a wall. Peter smiled wryly, "There ain't cereal in that box, I've been eating roasted crickets for years, and it has saved me at least $20,000 on my food bills."
"That's a lot of money," I remarked.
"Yes, and it led me to be able to totally reduce my food costs to nothing."
"All based on an insect cuisine?"
"Not entirely. Squatting my trailer near a landfill allows me to be incredibly resourceful. My entire camper is furnished with items I salvaged, but once in a while, I'll find food just a few months out of date. You'd never guess what tasty things people toss away just because they're a few weeks expired; Tenderloin steaks, chicken wings, even found me an unopened can of Pringles, which expired in 1988."
I nodded, impressed.
FIRE millionaire Peter Furling shops for his next saving opportunity at the nearby landfill.
Peter continued, "There's also a local charity in Tulsa that sells food crates to homeless folks and others down on their luck. If I get there early enough, I can buy 2 full crates of food for only ten bucks. A crate can last me three weeks, and combined with my cricket cuisine, I've eliminated my food costs."
I paused to process the inspiring story.
I asked, "What do you have to say to critics who say frugal millionaires have no business taking food away from families with legitimate financial problems?"
Peter scoffed and brandished a dismissive hand. "They're just haters. I'm a millionaire who owns his day while they have to slave at a job Monday through Friday. They have car payments, I don't. They have mortgages; I don't. They have adult responsibilities; I don't. I designed my life so I can live like a ten-year-old child."
"So now that you're a millionaire, do you find yourself doing things you've always wanted to do? Like vacations, going to concerts, or dining out?"
"No, that stuff is for suckers," Peter huffed. "I worked at a rental car agency for ten years, so I heard many stories about people's vacations. Hearing about the Roman Coliseum, the pristine beaches in Tahiti, and the Great Wall of China is just as good as being there." He chuckled. "Besides, the landfill next door is plenty of travel for me; you'd be surprised how many people throw out old travel books."
He continued his face stern, "As for concerts and restaurants, these elitist luxuries are not how the new FIRE millionaires live. Spending money on memorable life experiences simply isn't in the budget. It is best left for those morons who live paycheck to paycheck."
He stood up from his bucket and walked over to the box of Fruit Loops. He poured a pile of dead crickets into a bowl. He marveled at the sight, proud of his earlier catch.
...the last time I ate at a restaurant was during the Obama administration. And I never forgave myself for the transgression. Did you know if you stopped dining out and invested those savings into an index fund, after 50 years, you would have nearly $50,000?"
He continued and grimaced, pain painting his face, "As for restaurants, the last time I ate at a restaurant was during the Obama administration. And I never forgave myself for the transgression. Restaurant food is far too expensive. Did you know if you stopped dining out and invested those savings into an index fund, after 50 years, you would have nearly $50,000?"
He paused as I let the legendary advice just wash over me.
"That's why I'm a millionaire today because of this magic called compound interest. After taxes, I was lucky to bring home $44,000 a year. I saved 90% of it and crammed all that cash into a Vanguard index fund. VSTAX, baby. After ten years, it's now worth $900,000 and I'm living the dream."
He spooned a pile of crickets in his mouth and chomped triumphantly. "I never need to work another day in my life."
I shifted in my seat, on my bucket. I probed further and found Peter the millionaire fascinating.
"So, what do you do now for income after quitting your job?"
Peter reclaimed his seat on the bucket beside mine and tapped my wrist. "I teach other people how to live like this. It's funny, I earn $4,000 a year on my dividend investments, but my business selling my financial advice makes me 5 times as more."
He paused and added, "Oh, and I get a yearly stipend from The World Economic Forum for sharing my story. They like my tale, so they've helped me get all kinds of free publicity on all kinds of financial websites. I've been on the front page of CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and Marketwatch. It has been great for business. Turns out a lot of people want to live like ascetic monks as they feel they are 'sticking it to the man.'"
"That's incredible; so is your wife proud of what you've done?"
"Wife?" he narrowed his eyes. "I'm not married. Not many women want to date a millionaire who grifts from local charities and dines on insects. The last woman I went out with didn't like our first date."
"Oh, how did that go?"
She didn't think playing checkers at the Loves truck stop was respectable. She walked out on me. But hey, at least I saved $3 bucks as she ordered a Coke from the diner, which of course, I promptly refused to pay for."
"So what's the plan going forward?"
"There is no plan. I do whatever I want."
He ran his fingers through his unkempt beard and continued, "Well, as long as it doesn't cost money. Or gas. Or travel. Or anything. I love my freedom; I have as much freedom as old Jobe, who works on Hawthorne Street. You met Jobe, right?"
"The beggar with the cardboard sign I saw on the way over here?"
"Yes. We play checkers every Friday night. And Sunday, we head to Best Buy and watch all the football games through the window." He smacked his lips, "Yup, we just pull up a lawn chair and watch from the Sidewalk. You see, I sold my TV and canceled cable years ago. That saved me $1,100 a year, and after 50 years, do you know how much that will be worth if religiously invested in an index fund?"
He kicked his heels up on an old log stunting as a coffee table. Smacking his lips with a mouth full of crunchy crickets, he touted, "Nope, I plan on living like this for the rest of my life...
"Financial freedom, baby. I own nothing, do nothing, and buy nothing—but I'm happy."
Since 2010, The Millionaire Fastlane and the CENTS Framework has guided thousands of struggling entrepreneurs and former ex-employees into more than just a bill-paying career. The Millionaire Fastlane has guided them into life-changing wealth, untethered freedom, and massive personal fulfillment. Stop surviving and start thriving.Try for Free Get the Book
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If you were anything like me when I was twenty, you've become disillusioned and distrustful of slick-talking gurus who sell big promises at big prices.
After my second business exit and realizing I never had to work another day in my life, I started writing The Millionaire Fastlane. I wrote the book as if I were in a time machine and could write to my younger self, a period rife with failures, mistakes, and dumb ideas. With zero sugarcoating, what had I wished I known? If I could go back and speak to 21-year-old me, what lessons would I impart?
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The most profound article on personal finance you will ever read. And you won't need to spend 12 hours reading a dry 400 page book by a motivational speaker who made billions of dollars selling seminars, not index fund investments.
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