Would You Give Up Sex, Good Food, And Vacations To Pay Off Your Mortgage Extremely Early?

To pay off your mortgage extremely early, you need the discipline of a monk

Would you give up all the pleasures in life to pay up your mortgage early? One man did, which is amazing. Before we get to his story, let me share my own mortgage pay off story.

I bought my first property a week after turning 26. It was a two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,000 sqft condo in Pacific Heights, San Francisco. It was nothing fancy, but it had one car parking, and a terrific view of Lafayette Park. The condo cost $580,500 and I put down $120,500 for a remaining $460,000 mortgage that I finally paid off 12 years later in mid-2015!

My original goal was to pay off the mortgage by 2013 (10 years), but life got in the way as it so often does when we aren't honed in with our finances. The original mortgage rate was 5.85%. After several refinances, it went down to 3.375% and I no longer had the urge to pre-pay as aggressively.


The reason why I didn't pay down my mortgage faster was because I used my savings to buy more properties and stocks. I knew my career had upside potential since I was only in my 20s. Taking on more risk with more debt seemed like the best way to go.

From 2003 through 2008, the bet paid off. My returns trounced the 3.375% mortgage interest rate. Then the financial crisis hit in 2009, making me wish I had used the proceeds from my vacation property purchase a couple years earlier to pay down debt or hold cash instead.

Today, I don't regret taking 12 years to pay off the mortgage. I found, and went beyond my maximum comfort leverage point. That's the only real way you can find out your true risk tolerance. To regain my sense of financial security, I'm presently actively trying to increase my asset-to-liability ratio. As your desire to work and ability to produce income start to fade, it's important to reduce debt.

The paid off rental property now generates about $50,000 a year in gross income and $35,000 a year in net operating profits (post HOA, property taxes, maintenance). With cap rates getting down to 3% – 3.5% in SF, this property is currently worth between $1,000,000 – $1,200,000. For comparison, in mid-2015 a 610 sqft one bedroom version of my condo in the complex sold for $840,000.

Originally, this Pacific Heights condo was going to be the cornerstone of my retirement income strategy i.e., $35,000 a year in net rental income + $25,000 in Social Security + $40,000 in dividend and CD interest income. Now it's just one part due to the accumulation of multiple passive income streams.

If you have a mortgage, how quickly do you plan to pay it off?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Would You Give Up Sex, Good Food, And Vacations To Pay Off Your Mortgage Extremely Early?

In personal finance land, paying off your mortgage in 12 years is pretty ho-hum. So I want to introduce you to Sean Cooper, a Canadian who came up with a $170,000 down payment on his $425,000 house he bought in August 2012 as a 27 year old. Three years later, he paid the entire sucker off!

So how did he do it? The first thing I thought about was parental assistance given there's a massive generational wealth transfer on the way. Sean promises me he received no help from his parents for either the downpayment or the quick mortgage payoff. He had a single mother, and he helped her instead.

This is what Sean did:

  • Lived in his basement and rented out the upstairs portion of his house, which contains three bedrooms.
  • Lived off ramen noodles, Kraft dinner specials, and water mostly.
  • Regularly worked 70-100 hours a week as a pension analyst, freelance writer, and as a part-time meat department clerk at his local grocery store.
  • Generated a total annual income of ~$100,000 net, comprised of $55,000 from his FT job, $18,600 from rental income before expenses, and ~$40,000 in freelance income.
  • Had discretionary expenses of $9,600/year, i.e., $800/month excluding his mortgage.
  • Paid $850 a week to his mortgage ($700+ to principal), and had total expenses of roughly $60,000 a year.
  • Mortgage rate was 3.04% for 5 years.
  • Doing the math, he therefore used 100% of the remaining $40,000 a year to pay down his mortgage = ~$120,000 over three years, and the remaining $130,000 of his mortgage was paid down monthly at a rate of over $3,000 in principal a month.
  • Didn't go on vacation. Didn't go out with his buddies to eat our drink for three years. His most exciting vacation was a 24 hour bus ride to Wisconsin.
  • Didn't take girls out anywhere and had/has no girlfriend.

You can read more about his story that caught his nation's attention here. The 1,200+ comments in the article are particularly enlightening because the feedback is split between praise and vitriol. Sean basically gave up everything so he could pay off his mortgage early.

Feedback On Extreme Mortgage Payoff

One negative commenter wrote, “So basically he wasted 3 years of his life. Life is short, a house is just not that important.

Another commenter wrote, “Another media PR job to whitewash the economy misery of the youth. 100 hours of work a week = over 14 hours of work a day, every day. Before we celebrate him, I'd like to know more about the psychological price he paid by turning into a work addict.

I'm totally on board the frugal train, and I think it's great Sean was able to crush his mortgage so quickly. There's just no way I could just live off $10,000 a year in NYC or San Francisco after paying my mortgage. After slaving away at a difficult job the first four years out of college, the one thing I really wanted was a place of my own.

That's why I bought my first property after sharing a studio+alcove apartment with a guy for two years, and a dumpy 2/1 at the edge of Chinatown with a woman for a year. I figured, if I was going to work that many hours, I better at least have a nice place to live! I'm sure Sean felt a similar way.

My 20s Was Too Much Fun To Give Up

In addition to wanting to balance hard work with a better living environment, my 20s saw a significant amount of recreational travel. Raised in a foreign service household that moved every 2-4 years, I wanted to visit a new country every year on vacation, and that cost money. Furthermore, how was I supposed to fly back to Hawaii and visit my parents at least once a year? Roundtrip tickets cost at least $350, and up to $1,000 during the holidays.

I also had a penchant for cars in my 20s; from the Mercedes G500 (a $78,000 mistake) to the 1989 BMW 635CSi (a classic car of my dreams I bought for only $3,600 and drove until the brakes stopped working one day). Although I saved 50% or more of my after-tax income every year, it's partly because I was fortunate to have a healthy salary and annual bonus as well.

Finally, every heterosexual male out of college wants to take out the ladies when he finally starts making money. It's hard to pick up a date with a bus pass, treat her to a nice meal, or fly her to San Diego for a weekend to see the baby pandas on an annual discretionary budget of $10,000 a year. Having the ability to treat a woman, whether she needed to be treated or not, was a huge motivation for making, saving, and spending money in my 20s.


I decided to reach out to Sean and ask him about his thoughts now that his story has gone viral. It's a small world because Sean was actually one of my freelance writers at a place I was consulting for as their managing editor back in 2014. Let's see if he was OK to give up so much to pay off his mortgage.

Sam: You've gotten a lot of praise for paying down your mortgage in three years, but you've also gotten a lot of criticism. Why do you think some people hate you for being able to pay down your mortgage so soon?

Sean: Yes, my story has been very polarizing. Some people either love what I’ve done and want to follow in my footsteps and others think I’m crazy. I think it all comes down your own personal views on money. Canadians and Americans went from nations of savers to spenders. We want everything now – many of us just aren’t willing to make the financial sacrifices, instead relying on credit. I think I hit a sore spot for a lot of people, which has led to the criticism.

Sam: Instead of trying to tear someone down to their level, why don't more people just do more for themselves to get up to someone else's level?

Sean: Exactly. Instead of criticizing my story, try to draw inspiration from it. Whether your goal is to pay off your student debt or save towards the down payment of a home, it’s all about setting a goal and taking the necessary steps to achieve it. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer – it requires hard work. If you aren’t willing to make those sacrifices, you have to be willing to accept your current reality. If you’d like to strive for something greater, then be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

I see it this way: short-term pain for long-term gain. I may have worked hard for three years, but now I have the rest of my life to enjoy myself. A word of caution: not everyone can pay off their mortgage in three years like me, but if you can learn a lesson or two from my story, maybe you can pay down your mortgage in 15 or 20 years instead of 25 years.

Sam: Given you were able to afford a home in your 20s through no downpayment inheritance, do you think the media is blowing the real estate affordability crisis out of proportion? If you can pay off a mortgage by the age of 30, surely plenty of other people with jobs can at least buy a median priced home with a lot of hustle and discipline no?

Sean: No, I don’t believe the media is blowing the real estate affordability crisis out of proportion. The facts speak for themselves: the average price of a detached home in Toronto and Vancouver is over $1 million. To pay off my mortgage in three years I had to make many financial sacrifices. I worked 70-80 hours a week, lived frugally, took no vacations and put my social life on hold.

I was fortunate to buy my home for only $425,000 in August 2012. Today my home is worth about $600,000. I would have a tough time affording my own house today – that in my opinion is an affordability crisis. While homeownership requires some financial sacrifices, it shouldn’t mean putting your life on hold until your mortgage is paid off.

Sam: There seems to be some alarm about a Canadian housing bubble, similar to the one we had in the United States. Do you agree there's a Canadian housing bubble? Lending standards seem much stricter in Canada compared to lending standards in the US pre-crisis.

Sean: Everyone from the IMF to the Bank of Canada has said the Canadian housing market is overvalued. While I agree our housing market is overvalued in some markets, I don’t agree that there’s a housing bubble. As you mentioned, lending standards are a lot stricter in Canada compared to the U.S. Canada was praised for its rock-solid banking industry during the financial crisis. Canadian lenders don’t offer NINJA (No Income, No Job or Assets) mortgages.

Similar to the U.S., the lending standards in Canada are a lot stricter post-crisis. The minimum down payment has been increased and the maximum amortization period has been gradually reduced from 40 years to 25 years. Unless the economy suffers a major recession, I don’t see a housing bubble happening anytime soon.

Sam: How are you spending/investing your increased disposable income now that you don't have a mortgage?

Sean: I’m still living frugally, although I’m not watching my spending as much as I used to. I’ve been dining out more often with friends. I’m also planning to travel. To thank my friends for sticking by me during the last three years, I threw a big mortgage burning party to celebrate. I also went on a $1,000 shopping spree for new clothes. Instead of letting the money just accumulate, I’m saving go towards lifestyle inflation, I’m taking the amount I was paying towards my mortgage ($800 per week) and investing it.

Sam: When do you plan to move out of your basement and live in the main portion of your house and rent out your basement instead?

Sean: This is the question I’ve been asked the most. People are perplexed why I’m stilling living in the basement. As a single person, it just doesn’t make sense to live in the main floor. There are three bedrooms – I simply don’t need the space! That might change when I get married and start a family, but until then I’m perfectly content living in the basement.

It all comes down to cash flow: if I live upstairs and rent out the basement I’ll only earn $800 a month in rent, but if I continue to live in the basement and rent out the upstairs, I’ll earn double that amount, $1,600 a month.

Sam: Do you have a net worth goal or age goal where you plan to leave your day job?

Sean: My goal is to achieve a net worth of $1 million by age 35 (current net worth is ~$670,000). I believe this is realistic. If housing prices keep going up at their current rate, I estimate my house will be worth about $800,000 by 2019. I’ll just have to come up with $200,000 in investible assets. Paying off my mortgage is only one of my goals.

With over 80 percent of my net worth tied up in one asset (my house), my next goal is to build my investible assets. I have over $40,000 of contribution room in my Tax-Free Savings Account (the Canadian equivalent of the Roth IRA). I plan to max that out mid-2016. After that I plan to invest in low-cost index funds in non-registered accounts.

While my story has led to many opportunities, I don’t have any plans to leave my day job anytime soon. I’m currently working on a book that chronicles my journey to mortgage freedom and serves as a blueprint for those who would like to follow in my footsteps. Once the book is released, I plan to do speaking.

Sam: During your mortgage paydown years, how much were you spending on average a month and a year, and how much was your monthly and yearly gross and net income?

Sean Cooper Monthly And Year Expenses Chart
Sean Cooper Monthly And Year Expenses Chart courtesy of Sean

Sam: The homeownership rate has steadily declined among all demographics here in the US. How is the homeownership rate like in Canada? Is owning a home ASAP still one of the main goals of the Millennial generation today?

Sean: Despite stricter mortgage rules, Canada's homeownership rate has been steadily rising. In Canada’s priciest markets, Toronto and Vancouver, a lot of Millennials are choosing to rent instead of buy. This can be a good choice as long as you’re financially disciplined. However, my worry is without the forced savings of a mortgage, some Millennials will choose to spend what they save from renting versus owning on lifestyle inflation instead of investing it.

Canada Home Ownership Rate Latest Chart

Sean: Given it is so cold for six months a year in Canada, why don't more Canadians migrate to the United States? There are plenty of areas where housing is cheaper than Toronto and Vancouver. Further, there's more job opportunities.

Sam: I think it partially comes down to the U.S.’s strict immigration policies. Foreigners often choose to work and study in Canada because it’s tougher to get a work or study permit in the U.S. There are many Canadian snowbirds that head to Florida during the wintertime. When the Canadian dollar and U.S. dollar were near to parity, there was a lot more interest in investing in U.S. real estate. With the Canadian Loonie hitting an 11-year low versus the U.S. greenback, there’s less incentive for Canadians to head south of the border.

Sam: What do you think is the general perception Canadians have about Americans in terms of work life balance, productivity, ingenuity, financial acumen, and general way of life?

Sean: Canadians and the Americans seem to share a lot of the same views about work. Although the standard workweek is 40 hours, many work upwards of 50 hours. However, there continues to be a productivity gap between Canada and U.S. Despite similar work hours, Americans are more productive than Canadians. Both nations share as a whole share  similar views on the general way of life, although it varies between regions.

Canadian Debt Loads Rising Chart

Household debt in Canada keeps rising, as many Canadians see no urgency in paying down debt while interest rates remain low. The Fed rising interest rates should serve as a wakeup call for Canadians that interest rates won’t be this low forever. Take advantage of low interest rates while they last and pay down your debt. While you may be able to achieve a higher rate of return through investing, there’s no guarantee. 

Nothing beats the guaranteed rate of return of debt repayment. To give up everything to pay off a mortgage early takes sacrifice. But I'm sure glad is happy today!

Related: The Biggest Downside Of Paying Off Your Mortgage Early Nobody Talks About


Explore real estate crowdsourcing opportunities. You don't have to give up everything to invest in real estate. If you don't have the downpayment to buy a property, don't want to deal with the hassle of managing real estate, or don't want to tie up your liquidity in physical real estate, take a look at Fundrise, one of the largest real estate crowdsourcing companies today.

Real estate is a key component of a diversified portfolio. Real estate crowdsourcing allows you to be more flexible in your real estate investments by investing beyond just where you live for the best returns possible. For example, cap rates are around 3% in San Francisco and New York City, but over 10% in the Midwest if you're looking for strictly investing income returns.

Sign up and take a look at all the residential and commercial investment opportunities around the country Fundrise has to offer. It's free to look. Real estate is my favorite asset class in an inflationary environment.

Fundrise Due Diligence Funnel
Less than 5% of the real estate deals shown gets through the Fundrise funnel

Looking for a great mortgage? Check out Credible online for some of the lowest mortgage rates for purchase or refinance. They have one of the largest networks of mortgage lenders who will compete for your business. When banks compete for your business, you win.

Related: The Canadian Housing Market Is In A Big Bubble

About The Author

57 thoughts on “Would You Give Up Sex, Good Food, And Vacations To Pay Off Your Mortgage Extremely Early?”

  1. I have been following your blog for quite a while. I would like to share something. My name is Nick. Currently 23 years old. At 22, I finished a well respected accounting school and with 60k worth of debt, I was able to obtain a public accounting job with decent income. For a whole year, I was partying, going out and blowing money. What a mistake was that. Looking back now, I wish I stayed home, said no to all the women and friends. And spent more time studying for my cpa and then gmat ( I want to become a financier). All this so called partying is pointless. You accomplish nothing by it. I only want to do one thing now- and that’s finance. Finance is my life, my passion. For everyone who beats this guy up for wasting 3 years of his life- it is never wasted until YOU personally think so. I applaud him for doing this and now I will jump back into my busy season and more cpa studying until I pass the fuck out. Best regards samurai. You rock.

  2. I didn’t give up the financial level that he did but I did give up 5 years of my social life to finish my undergrad nights/weekends/online while working 50+ hrs/week — 3 yrs – did FT classes all 4 seasons + 2 yrs weekend MBA with even more social sacrifice…fast forward 10 years from not having a degree and I now make about $275k/yr all in counting RSUs and bonuses at 70% of target (in a cheap cost of living area in the SE USA) and averaging a salary increase of around 25% CAGR the last 5 years. I’m not nearly as close to some friends as I was in large part due to my career/school focus for 5 years in my late 20s. I think its still worth it but somewhat difficult to measure. It’s safe to say my income would be probably 1/3 of what it is today if I hadn’t made those sacrifices.

  3. I was surprised how negatively some people reacted to his story. I think it is pretty impressive what he was able to accomplish. I doubt that I would have made as many sacrifices as he did if I was in the same situation though. But I agree with his logic of continuing to live in the basement however even after paying off the mortgage. Being able to get double the rental income and not have to move is pretty sweet .

  4. I applaud what Sam did. I did something very similar – built my first home when I was in my 20s. I put 35% down and then put every extra cent I could towards the principle, and between my main job (average salary), part-time teaching gigs at a local University, some freelance work, and some blog income I was on track to pay off the mortgage in 7-9 years. An unexpected inheritance allowed me to pay it off in less than 5, but even without that I was feeling pretty proud of the sacrifices I made in my younger years to rapidly pay down my mortgage. More importantly than being mortgage free, however, was the sacrifices I made when I was younger have become habits. I know I can live without cable, designer clothes, and fancy toys. I now have a healthy stock portfolio, several rental properties, and a slightly better paying job but I still live rather frugally. The healthy saving habits I learned in my twenties have served me well in life and have allowed me to get in a position where I can splurge a little now and more importantly, have security and comfort. I now work because I enjoy what I do, not because I “have to.”

    Sean should be an inspiration to his peers! My guess is the naysayers who think it is so important to ‘live’ for those three years will be the same people complaining in their 40s, 50s and 60s because they are stuck in a job that stresses them out with no retirement in sight.

  5. I keep going back and forth on my current plan to pay off loan and how fast (can I) do it.
    In addition I’m at 4% 15 yr (refi in July 2011).


    Refi was for $207K
    Home value is ~ $505K per Zillow (Seattle WA)
    P&I is $1530
    Extra principle in 2015 was $7.5K
    I owe $129K

    Question: Interest rates are rising and I see those 5/1 arms at 3.25% ish. But when I plug that into an amortization table my payoff would “only” change by 2 months earlier? In addition even a “free” refi would cost me $2K I’m guessing. Should I refi?

    If I retired today (I’m 55) I can pull $$ from my 401k without 10% penalty. Is that crazy to payoff a mortgage with retirement savings? (it’s about 15% of my balance and I also have a pension).

    Decisions, decisions.

  6. Matthew Hoyt

    My man Sean:

    Super impressive discipline on the savings. I myself bought a house in my 20’s. It was a 4 bedroom, I converted the den into a 5th bedroom and rented out 4 rooms, for 8 years. I saved a ton as a result but no way was I as lean as you spending wise.

    Here is what I did different. My house was about the same price – $480,000. My rate too, almost the same – 3.375%. But I didn’t put a single penny of additional principal. I bought as many more properties as I could. I still do.

    If your goal is to have one house and a simple comfortable financial situation. You win. If your goal is to get your net worth higher your real estate needs some debt. I like 50-70 LTV. Your primary can be an exception if that makes you happy but yours has a rental component. Rough numbers you paid down $250,000 in debt in three years. This could have been used to buy two or three more properties. With your intelligence, and discipline and work ethic it’s a pretty safe bet you can make well North of 3.04%.

    If I was you I’d cash out 400k and this very minute and buy a multi unit or two. Or house if you prefer but I think you might really like the better cash flow of the multi.

    Just my two cents,

    1. I agree with Matt on this, I consider debt and leverage a valuable tool in building wealth. At the very least now that you have a completely paid off property you can acquire another and really go long on the real estate market.

  7. Trying to get ahead

    My wife and I earn about $316,000 per year combined and have a combined net worth of about $1.3 million, with a $790,000 house, a $97,315 mortgage at under 3%, $29,000 in student loans and a $13,400 car loan. We bought our house seven years ago for $600,000 with a $480,000 mortgage. At the time, we also had $180,000 in student loans. That $660,000 looked like a mountain of debt to us. We also earned much less money when we started seven years ago than we do now. We chipped away at the debt slowly by prepaying any extra money we had monthly, which ranged from month to month, and plowing most of our bonuses to debt prepayment. $533,685 of it is gone, but we still have $126,315 of it left plus the car loan for the car we bought along the way. We go back and forth all the time between wanting to prepay debt and increase our exposure to the stock market. It’s a constant struggle that we still haven’t figured out. We inflated our lifestyle substantially in 2015 and only saved about 43% of our gross income (60% net income). We were much more frugal before that. Our goal is to save 55% of our gross income (76% net income) going forward because we believe we can do everything we want, assuming no excessive leakage, on that budget even though it never works out quite that well in practice. By YE2016, we plan to save about $220,000, which includes paying off all of our debt in full, including our mortgage. We equate debt repayment with savings. Debt free at 33 with a $1.6 million net worth. It’s not as much as I’d like but I think it’s respectable and hopefully we can keep growing it from there. We take alot of heat from friends for prepaying debt under 3% but we already have 46% of our net worth in the stock market so we take some comfort in delevering and mixing up how we allocate the excess funds. You can’t go broke if you don’t owe anyone any money!

  8. Thank you for the feedback everyone. Now that my mortgage is paid off, I’m trying my best to have a better work-life balance. I just spent the evening hanging out with my sister and a friend. I would have never done that before because I was so focused on work. In hindsight, I probably should have paid my mortgage off in 5-6 years and enjoyed life more, but I’m trying to make up for it now.

    1. I totally agree, Sean. It’s a great stress-relief to have your mortgage paid off, especially if you have invested in the house (i.e., large home-improvement/repair projects, new appliances, etc.).

      It is remarkable that you are so young and achieved such an accomplishment!

      Don’t worry about what others say about your dating life. You should look for quality, not quantity in a partner. Good things come to those who wait.

      You are focused and are on the right path. Keep up the good work!

  9. People can do what they want, I suppose. I’m not here to judge. For me though, instead of paying it off in three years why not pay it off in six and live s little. Your 20s only happen once. The older you become, the smaller the dating pool…

        1. If men tend to date younger women, and women tend to date older men, the logic is simple. Try doing a study and plotting the Y and X access and come back to me with a post.

  10. I’m with wall St playboys except I think we can also judge him for being a 30 y/o Virgin. That’s an absolute waste of prime years. Saving half my income has still allowed me to travel frequently, and accumulate a lot nice lady friends along the way. At 29 I’m liquid and have had one hell of a decade and should still hit 1mm in my 30s.

  11. I should pay off my Mortgage for my current house somewhere between 4-5 years. (between 2016-2017). This is assuming:

    1) the sale of my first home a co-op in NYC sells in January as anticipated. (The sale is not over until the fat lady sings, this is the 4th contract I’ve been on in 8 years with a 4 year tenant and the 2nd this year)

    2) I choose to stay at my current position: I’m seriously looking for a new position in my field which will likely lead to me moving to a slightly higher city (Chicago) which is why instead of using all the equity from the NY sale I’m going to move it to my mortgage over 12-24 months. I want to keep a bit more cash on hand as I would be moving; renting for 6-months to a year and then looking to buy only after my current residence is sold. I might end up taking on a modest Mortgage in a new city depending or I might buy a new place for cash. It all depends on where I land. If I’m still at my current spot in 2 years, I’ll have a paid off house and a slightly higher cash position which means I’d be looking for a rental investment or something else.

    Either way it would be 12-14 years since buying my first place so in the grand scheme of things I would end up using most of a 15 year Mortgage; except I started off with a 30 year one. It also would be my 3rd house; I sold my 2nd one for a slight loss in 2013.

    I’m willing to be frugal to achieve this goal but not as Frugal as Sean. I also don’t like to run “lean” and prefer a slightly larger “emergency fund” so I tend to save and make a large payment over paying off things along the way. This allows me some leeway in my spending such as my decision this summer to buy a replacement for my 2000 Jetta in cash. Yes this means that sometimes Mortgage money goes to a car, but that is balance by my needing to hand over cash to buy that other item. I should mention I’ve been eyeing a new car since about 2012 so it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision completely.

  12. I dont think he cares about sex,good food or anything else. His life will be a mirror image of whats now. He will end enslaving himself until late years of his life and thats all die with a lot of money in the bank.
    Why couldnt he find a girfriend and spend 10k eachliving in the basement? Because is not that a women wouldnt want a man like this but the man itself is afraid of women, and its afraid of spending money. Its sad, i have an uncle that he is now reaching 60 yr old and our family has showed him a better way of life, je was eating one or two times per day. Negating pretty much my cousin, as not helping him in any way… for what? Just money.
    While, the sacrifice that he has done is awesome. He now has to learn to spend money . I dont want to say enjoy life since most people his kind enjoying life is just looking at his $ go up everyday.
    I am 28 and i have the same purchasing power that he has. Reality is i have spend money in the things i want, he hasnt. So, if i wanted to compare with him i have done many things, also to add spice to the food i have traveled the whole USA, have a wife of 7 years, have two homes, actually spend money remodeling the home the way i want it.. just to name a few…
    If it was only 3 years i would amazed, but reality is that the Sean will live frugal all his life always thinking about somone taking his hard earn money. So it will be hard for him to have a soul mate in the same page that he is at. While i have big goals myself i want to reach 10million dollars by age 40 or 45. If i only reach 2 million by 45 i still be happy so why take the toll on me and be ao frugal as to think of what i am drinking right now and not enjoy it to reach 20 million in the bank and die with them?…
    He must set a goal to reach certain amount but instead of saving so much he needs to find the vehicle to make 3x more , 10x whatever he needs it to be. But, just by reading what he has to say he can make 10x more today and still live like the beggar down the street. Hope he changes. And again he is probably happy, or even more happy than everyone here with his life. So, this is just my opinion.

  13. Firstly, I’m a 22 year old renting student so take my comment with a grain of salt. That being said, I think it is an inspirational story. And although even most of us with an above average interest in personal finance would have a hard time committing to all the sacrifices that Sean has made. We can certainly learn from him. Taking on a side job specifically to pay down your mortgage faster might be a good motivator and renting some of the space out for a few years to help pay down the debt seems to be a decent option.
    One thing scares me though. I would never focus all my free capital towards paying down a mortgage and completely ignoring equity etc. Diversification is key.

  14. Way to go Sean! Thanks for posting Sean’s story, Sam. :)

    Sean/Sam – don’t worry about all the haters – they are all just jealous!

    Sean – Good discipline on your part to pay off that debt. That’s one less thing to worry about now.

  15. We live off 15% of our 250k annual income and still manage to live what I consider a 5* life. We both have cars, a beautiful house, go on multiple first class international vacations a year and dine out fairly often. We could pay off the house in a year or two but with a rate under 3% it’s not worth it.

    There are always ways to live the lifestyle you want for little to no money. So in the end I prefer not sacrificing and still saving and investing huge amounts.

    1. Could you share your budget on how you spend $37,000?

      One first class international flight to KL for me this summer would cost at least $5,000. So minimum $10,000 for two.

      1. Mortgage and insurance 1700.00
        auto insurance and gas 120
        cell phone service 110
        security 25
        internet 30
        utilities 350
        netflix 9
        groceries 300
        dining out 55
        shopping/misc and uncategorized 300 ish

        When we went to south korea, thailand, kuala lumpur, Singapore and Bali earlier this year, tickets cost us 110000 miles and a couple hundred dollars in business class. All hotels were either free with points or other promotions. Thankfully since SE Asia is cheap in the first place, all other food and activities were pretty much easily covered within the Misc budget or credit card statement credits.
        This coming years trips include Sydney in a few days for new years, then bali again, Iceland, Ireland, Poland, Croatia and Switzerland for next Christmas. Along with various free trips within the US.

        There is almost always a way to get what you want for little money. That includes travel, food, furniture, cars etc

        1. Thanks for sharing!

          Will you be holding off on going on another international flight? Or did you have more miles to use for 2016? Does your job allow you to accumulate a lot of the miles given miles are generally gained through consumption?

          1. Lots more flights planned, we have about 3 million to use up so more miles then time sadly.
            Both my wife and I accumulate miles through work, but also through about ten credit card bonuses a year. Between the two is usually good for north of half a million a year. With the upcoming AA devaluation, Im taking my parents to SE asia in Cathay Pacific first class. For only 67,500 AA miles apiece it cant be beat.

            1. Very cool. I’d love to get a guest post from you one day about how one couple lives off $37,000 a year and flies first class international every year. I think a lot of people be interested in how you were able to accumulate so many miles.

  16. I’m all in favor of hustling and making some “reasonable” sacrifices to reach Financial Independence, this is actually what my wife and I are doing these days. But I would not give up one the social life I had in my twenties. 3 years is a third of your twenties, and I think in my case it would have had a huge impact on my future if I had given up on night out, etc… in those days.

    Then again, as Sean puts it, this could work for some people, and not for others. For me the right time to save aggressively is now (arguably I should have started a couple years earlier), but definitely not 10 years ago, when I was in my mid twenties.

  17. Impressive stuff from Sean. I know myself well enough to say no to the three-year mortgage pay off idea. We have a 15 year mortgage @ 3.625% and until recently I had been obsessed with the idea of paying off the mortgage in 9-12 years by throwing an extra couple hundred at the loan every month. I’m now having second thoughts and thinking that this money may be better utilized invested elsewhere. Obviously, the internal question is to take the guaranteed 3.625% return by paying down mortgage principal or invest elsewhere with hopes of a better return. With us being so young, I am starting to think the idea of taking on more calculated risk in our financial lives may make sense.

  18. What we call “debt” is nothing more than paying a larger overall sum for an asset (in the form of interest) in exchange for paying over a longer period of time. It’s not slavery or anything like that (Google “debt is slavery” if you don’t believe people making this assertion), but simply a choice you make to acquire an asset you could not purchase outright. Otherwise most of us could never own a home at all, or a college education, or perhaps a car. So perhaps with all the interest, a house with a sticker price of $400K might cost you $450K spread over 10 years, or $500K spread over 15 years (whatever the case might be).

    If it’s that important to you to minimize the time period/amount of interest, then you will do what Sean has done. Or you could buy a less expensive house, something that doesn’t seem to have occurred to Sean. Personally I would be satisfied to accept a longer term on the mortgage as a tradeoff, knowing my final purchase price is higher, and I also purchased a far less expensive property.

    Also, the idea of subsisting on “ramen noodles, Kraft dinner specials, and water mostly” seems like a lousy way to live. Not very nutritious besides.

  19. Moderation is the spice of life. Some of everything, not too much of anything. I will argue that any extreme is not healthy. Too much partying/spending is bad, too much saving/going without is also bad (not quite as bad but not good either). I would suspect that when you are hyper focused on something it is difficult to ever be less so even when it is no longer needed. The extreme runners (20 plus miles every day) look emaciated and unhealthy and have huge anxiety when they are injured and unable to run a particular day as they are unable to get their fix. Compare that to the guys/gals that run 5 miles (or hit the gym) 3 times a week and enjoy drinks with friends on the weekend… which look healthier/happier to you? Moderation!… IMHO.

    I doubt Sean will be able to just stop and enjoy after reaching his extreme milestone, he will likely just set another one to get his fix.

  20. Knowing what I know now, I could not do what Sean did. It would have been due to the inherent risk involved in purchasing a $425K house, not the fear of losing 3 years of my life. I’d like to think I would have purchased a property with a total price of less than his down payment. Perhaps not even with cash – but then I would have hoped to pay it off in 5 years.

    I tip my hat to Sean because now that he has it paid off, he can amass wealth more quickly and do great things while he is still young.

  21. Way to go, Sean! That’s an incredible amount of discipline. I don’t think I would be able to do that, mostly because I’m a very private, introverted person, and the very short time I’ve lived with other people in my house were really, really stressful for me. (On the plus side, it did make me want to be out of the house all the time, so I did hit the gym 7 days a week.) I lived my twenties in a very disciplined manner compared to most people my age, but not nearly as disciplined as Sean did.

    Regarding your comment, Sam, that “women seem to like older men who are more financially secure after all”: I can’t speak for all women, obviously, but as for myself, I’ve generally been attracted to men who have their shit together. Unfortunately, most “men” in their twenties that I’ve encountered seemed to be focused more on having fun, playing video games, and chasing tail, without being particularly motivated to earn money or save toward future goals. By default, then, I ended up being attracted to older men who are more financially secure. But if I had encountered a guy like Sean in my twenties, I would have been very attracted to him. Living in the basement and acting like you’re broke isn’t a negative in my book, so long as that’s the mechanism that allows him to save or pay down his mortgage quickly. That amount of maturity and financial discipline is virtually unheard of for men that age.

  22. While I do not believe I could make the three year commitment that Sean has made, I have never actually been forced to. I suppose we would all be surprised with what we could do if we really had to for some reason. I have lived sparsely without cable for a time. What is amazing is that living without cable is considered (by many) frugal in this country. His mentality and many on this board are to be extreme. I do not wish to be so extreme, but I certainly understand the mentality. Good for him.

  23. I say good for Sean! Financial security is worth a lot – if nothing else, he can now stop stressing so much about money and find new things to fill his thoughts. I did something like this in my mid-twenties, and now I’m happy to have a life that is more balanced and fulfilling. I think it’s a great strategy to figure out what you want your life to look like at a certain point in time and then back into what it takes to get you there. Plus all the sacrifices along the way will help him appreciate the “end point” (which is really just a new beginning). And he’ll find the right girlfriend who will value financial security over fancy cars or expensive dinners.

  24. Wall Street Playboys

    Feel bad for this guy. While the amount of money he saved is commendable he will unlikely ever become rich or enjoy his life since he does not value his time at all. After reading this bullet you know he simy doesn’t get it. The good news is that it makes competition Roget or the top 200x easier.

    “Regularly worked 70-100 hours a week as a pension analyst, freelance writer, and as a part-time meat department clerk at his ***local grocery store****”

    He is willing to trade his time for *less* money by taking an even lower paying job.

    If he makes $50K as a pension analyst he is making about $25 an hour. A grocery store probably pus half of that at best.

    Look up the chain. If he is paid $25 an hour the firm he works for is likely charging the equivalent of closer to $75-100 an hour at minimum (assuming 25% company sg&a expense as a percent of sales)

    He spent three years killing himself to pay himself 1/2 of what he is worth only to find his net worth is now likely 50-75% lower than it should have been.

    Living like a monk? Totally fine with this. That is a life choice.

    Deciding your time is worth *less* than you are **currently** making is a POVERTY BELIEF.

    You are never being paid what you are worth if you work for someone else. Why would you accept even less.

    He should have started his own consulting side job or at least paid himself $25 an hour outside of work since that is likely closer to his current hourly wage.

    He is essentially working *overtime* and being paid 1/2 instead of the standard 1.5x hourly wage.

    Finally, you shouldn’t work for an hourly wage but at least his drives the point home.

    Living like a monk is not a debatable topic (his life his choice), choosing to pay yourself far less than you are worth is simply foolish.

    Looking forward to the hater responses… Never ever trade your time for money and you are always being paid less than you are worth if you work for someone else. Always, otherwise the company cannot turn a profit.

      1. Wall Street Playboys

        He is free to spend as little as he likes.

        The problem with these frugality stories is they *encourage* people to be paid far less than they are worth and be “happy about it”.

        He won’t be able to get those 40 hours a week for 3 years back making 1/2 his less than fair income.

        It is sad to see a movement take off where people are encouraged to take a lower income than they know they are worth.

        He essentially taught himself he is overpaid by accepting lower positions, when he could have made more, worked less and ended up in the same spot.

        Don’t get taken to the cleaners when you know you’re worth more! Learn to stand up for yourself even if you end up ruffling some feathers. You only get one chance at life, don’t treat yourself worse than your employer already will.

        1. I had the similar thought.

          Haters always hate, so no point eating time on people who hate other people’s success.

          That said, if you’re going to go to extreme measures, you want to try to optimize your effort for maximal results. Trading more time for less money, e.g. a lower paying job, is a recipe for failure. Better to invest that time into something which will generate money either passively, out that lets you leverage your time so your earning more than you would just working your job.

          Working another job makes someone else rich.

          Working for yourself let’s you capture all the excess profits.

  25. Lots of people do this kind of thing when they finally wake up and decide to get out from under their mountain of personal debt. Just look at all of the Dave Ramsey success stories. The really amazing thing is that Sean had the foresight to do this at the beginning of his financial journey.

    Some day Sean will will be very wealthy, and a lot of the people talking trash online will say some version of “Oh, it must be nice to just have everything handed to you.” Hard work and discipline is where it all starts. Thanks for the inspiration!

  26. The beauty about finances is that everybody is different. I too sacrificed a ton at Sean’s age…maybe a little more. 100 hour work weeks were the norm, although I still found time for dating & hanging with my friends. It is possible to do both, although admittedly I lost more than one girlfriend along the way because I was so focused. One told me point blank “all you care about is money”…and it just didn’t register to her when I explained the whole concept of financial freedom and sacrificing for the future.

    Hell, my friends back then that traveled and partied are still my friends today…diversity is great, I don’t devalue one philosophy over the other, really as long as you are happy that is all that counts. Sean is set, at a young age the sacrifice is behind him, he can now ease his way into a balanced lifestyle and spending level that makes him happy. Hell some people still save money when they are retired already, it is just in your DNA. Bravo Sean!

    1. I dont think having a girlfriend when you are super frugal would be a problem. Broke people taking food stamps have 5 to 8 kids and they are broke all day, everyday.
      It was sean is decision not to have a women since he is scared of money running away somehow. The other way around is to live off and better off women, while that wont last you may have a point for a greater good if she understand you. But, if he spends 10k a year living in a basement wouldnt it be better to have a partner puttinf another 10k making it 20k for both living in a basement? I think 20k is enough for two people living frugal at least you will have money to watch movies every other week and have dinner 2 times a month.
      Thats what i would do. Then again, he will be there for a lot more years living the same way with no girlfriend. Would it be sacrifice if you love what you do?

  27. In my opinion, there is no right or wrong opinion to this question. I bought my home in jan of 05 with a 80/10/10 loan. The first was at 4.75, the second at 6.75. I did prepay. Refi 1 was to consolidate into a 15 year fixed at 4.25. I then did a significant prepay (15k). Rates kept dropping though and a couple of years later, refi 2 was into a 10 year at 3.25%. I never though I would get a better deal.

    Then, rates continued to drop. At 3.25, I did no prepays. Finally, 31 months ago, I did another refi – 15 years at 2.75%. This freed up $1100 per month. All of that (and more) has gone towards savings and diversifying into real estate investments. I just don’t see the rationale for why I would prepay unless I think my entire portfolio would earn less than 2.75 over the next years on an annual basis. I am not a bull by any means on the markets but think I can reasonably earn 5 to 5.5 percent annually over that time frame. Someone would have to really convince me that prepaying makes financial sense. I do understand that there is a mental aspect to it as well. I told my wife that when we move, I will not have a mortgage in my next house. At least 5 years from that occurring.

  28. I went with Other.

    I have 2 mortgages, 1 is a rental property (former home), and one is my current home.

    Both are in the 3.75-3.825% interest range, and one is a 30 year fixed and 1 is a 10/1 Arm (18 months in).

    I currently invest in Tax free bonds, and have been making +/- 8.25% returns on them for the past 10 years. As long as they continue to perform better than the 3.825% interest rate with a comfortable margin it is a fairly low risk investment that pays me to keep the tax deduction, and continue investing the money. As soon as the risk/reward on the interest carry trade looks bad I will liquidate enough of the Bond portfolio to pay off one or both of the mortgages. Until then I look at it as a better than 4% positive return on the investment, and cannot come up with a good financial reason to pay them off.


    1. ThirtySomething

      Just curious – what tax free bonds are yielding 8+%? I’d like to get some of those.

    2. this 50something would also like some of them 8% tax free bonds too… I’ll even take em at 6%. come on Tenser, don’t hold out on us… or are they vaporbonds?

      1. That would be municipal bonds, but you’ll only get that rate of return if youre in closed end funds, CEFs, and in a high enough tax bracket to appreciate it. You get an effective yield boost since its not taxed and to receive a similar yield would be moved into some riskier products.

  29. Johnny Bass

    Awesome! That’s what I am talking about! I am 31 and living at home, saving all my money. I know that ALL the money I save doesn’t bring anymore happiness but it just makes EVERYTHING EASIER. I am sacrificing a good amount as far as living on my own, but doesn’t matter. I am happy.
    At the same time, living with my parents which are awesome, that someday they will be gone and gone forever. So, as far as living with them now, I look at it as a blessing to have them around and to have them at all. While, I save my money and build up my money mind set. Great Article by the way :) I will get to my goals that I set.

    People that mind, don’t matter, people that matter, don’t mind.
    Do what YOU want and follow YOUR life’s path. YOU are the only one that knows EXACTLY what YOU want.
    Love, Laugh, Smile, and realize that WE ALL ARE ONE BIG FAMILY…:) Happy Holidays!

  30. People should feel free to respectfully criticize Sean’s approach. I admire him, but I recognize that my own similar behavior in my 20s was a mistake. I damaged personal relationships for the sake of irrational focus on saving. It’s hard to know if I am better off today as a result. Sometimes this financial martyrdom needs to be evaluated further in terms of overall well-being. If Sean was able to accomplish his goal without compromising his interpersonal goals, that is outstanding. Unfortunately I was not able to do so. Interesting article. Thanks Sam.

  31. Some women may find Sean’s lifestyle more attractive than not actually, who are we to judge every woman on earth. A social life doesn’t have to equate to wining and dining anyone as you please at a moments notice at any venue in the world.

    There are always sacrifices we have to make, from big to small. The trick is to not care about the alternatives and go full force with the choice you make.

    I think the real question here is what was his rate? Did it make financial sense for him to pay it off so early when he could have been investing?

  32. Personally, no but I applaud him for his decision. I always find it funny when people look at what someone like Sean does and just trashes it because it conflicts with their own worldview. They enjoy their life, what they spend money on, and while they’d love to pay off their mortgage early they are unwilling to sacrifice… so they trash someone who IS willing to sacrifice. It’s a very sad way to go through the world.

  33. Sure, why not? I already live on microwaved food. I haven’t taken a day off of work or observed a holiday in over twenty years, and life without sex would be way more comfortable than life without a roof over your head.

    Also, it is easier to work hard and bust your ass when you’re young than do it when you’re older and tired and less flexible. And when you’re older, you can enjoy things more, because you have a better scope of who you are and who other people are.

  34. Good for him! Three years isn’t a long time in the scheme of things. He’s still young, and can now enjoy the rest of his life without a mortgage payment hanging over him. I wish I’d been that sensible when I was younger.

  35. Joe Fornasiero

    What was Sean’s interest rate on his mortgage? If his home is appreciating at the rate as stated why not utilize the mortgage leverage to increase his net worth and use the extra cash to purchase rental property or index funds? While I agree that paying down the will reduce his overall risk, he’s also very concentrated to one asset which could go down in value if we are in a bubble.

    1. My friend some people are afraid to death of owing $1… i have a uncle that could have today 10 million if invested his money. But, instead he only has about 1.5million. Nothing invested in properties or market. He has the same personality as my uncle, frugal to the bone.

    2. It isn’t necessarily the best strategy but it isn’t the worst either. His house might go down in value but he will always still have a place to live and provide him some rental income. Some people are just more risk averse. He is concentrated in one asset but he is also only 30 years old so he has plenty of time to accumulate other assets.

  36. I think it’s great that he could do what he wanted. I could not do that myself, but I respect a person’s dedication to such a task. When you’re young is the time to be frugal because when you’re older, many people don’t have the energy and/or the patience for working so much and living so cheaply. Me personally, I know I can’t work a lot because I need a minimum level of sleep every night (due to a health condition). But if a person can do it and has the mental and physical strength to stay dedicated to paying off debt in such an extreme way, why not? I also liked that he threw his friends a party and bought new clothes after all was said and done. Although, instead of it all going to retirement, I would have used his extra money after pay-off each month and split it–with half going to retirement and the other half for vacations. :)

    Also I noted from his expenses–if he doesn’t buy alcohol, he might be a more religious individual so that could also partly explain his less of a desire to party in the first place (so giving up that “lifestyle” may not have been giving it up at all).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *