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Thursday, September 15, 2022

45-year-old who retired with $3 million says ‘getting rich’ didn’t make him happier—here’s what did

September 15, 2022
By Sam Dogen

Alexander Spatari | Getty

In 2007, at 30 years old, I achieved a net worth of $1 million. I had saved 50% of my $150,000-per-year salary, invested 90% of every annual bonus, and had a few successful real estate investments.

Surprisingly, reaching that milestone didn’t make me happier. In fact, I felt pretty miserable. I was working more than 60 hours a week at a job I no longer enjoyed. Still, I kept going and eventually reached a $3 million net worth — enough for me to quit my job and retire early at 34.

It’s been 10 years since I left the corporate world, and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what gives me the most satisfaction in life.

I initially thought the answer was wealth. But getting rich didn’t make me happier. Doing these three things have brought me more joy than money ever did:

1. I committed to what I love, and minimized the things I didn’t.

Although I was scared to leave behind my secure banking job, I took a leap of faith to do what I love: Work on Financial Samurai, the personal finance blog I started as a hobby in 2009.

Very quickly, I realized how much I enjoyed writing and connecting with other people online. So I made a commitment to publish three times a week. And after I retired, I had even more time to write.

Each morning felt like Christmas; I’d wake up eager and excited to read everyone’s comments. Since then, people have shared stories with me about getting their first jobs, buying homes, starting families, living with disabilities and launching their own businesses.

The social connection brings me so much happiness. It’s as if I’ve grown up with millions of readers.

2. I went from mentee to mentor.

One of the downsides to early retirement is feeling that your skills have faded and that you’re no longer contributing to a broader team or purpose. I’ve overcome this sadness by transforming from mentee to mentor.

For example, I became a coach in 2017. For three years, I coached a high school tennis team that ended up winning sectional titles for the first time in their school’s history. Even though I only made $1,200 a month for each season, the joy of coaching was priceless.

I’ll never forget when one senior, who struggled to close out deciding matches, finally won one. He threw his arms in the air and rushed up to give me a hug. It was a wonderful moment. 

If you really want to feel rich. Be a mentor. Share your wisdom. Help people achieve their potential. Giving your time is more rewarding than only giving your money.

3. I tried new things that scared me.

Even though it was scary to not have a steady job at 34, it was thrilling to see if I could survive without a steady paycheck. I felt like a college graduate again, ready to face the world and reinvent myself.

When the pandemic hit, I decided to write a book. It would be my first foray into traditional publishing, where at the end of the journey, I would have a physical book in my hands.  

So for two years, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Then I spent another six months editing. It was a learning process trying to figure out how to keep readers interested in a topic that many might find intimidating. I also broke through my comfort zone and did interviews on live TV.

My book, “Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom,″ was released in July this year and became a national bestseller. It was fulfilling to see my years of hard work, during incredibly uncertain times, pay off.

Sam Dogen worked in investing banking for 13 years before starting Financial Samurai, a personal finance website. He is also the author of “Buy This, Not That: How to Spend Your Way to Wealth and Financial Freedom.” Follow Sam on Twitter @financialsamura.

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams