• Jim White retired at 43 with his wife after years of saving with a net worth of over $1 million.
  • White said he wanted to spend more time with his family and valued having more freedom in life.

Jim White started dreaming about retiring early when his daughter was born in 2010. Like many new fathers in the US, he took just a week off from his office job to spend time with his newborn.

"My heart broke," he told Business Insider. "I wanted to be with her as she grew up and felt like work was in the way."

White, who worked as an engineering manager for an IT company in Ohio, told BI he couldn't see how he'd be able to quit his job without being "filthy rich."

He came across a blog by Joe Udo called "Retire by 40" in 2014. Udo, who was around the same age as White, detailed how he planned to retire early by aggressively saving and investing his 9-to-5 salary. If Udo could do it, White thought, maybe he could too.

They saved and invested better

White started researching the FIRE movement — Financial Independence, Retire Early — and pitched his plan to his wife, Lisa, who worked for a nonprofit.

The couple had already been saving but decided to ramp up their savings and investments. White was making $107,000 a year in 2014.

The couple had a net worth of $813,000 but started following the 4% rule, which says you should only retire early if you can live off 4% of your savings each year.

If they could build a portfolio of $1 million, they'd be able to use $40,000 a year on living expenses.

The couple built a portfolio of over $1 million

White said the main change he made was adjusting his investments.

"Although I had been socking away a lot of money into the 401(k) plan at work, I had just picked random mutual funds that seemed good because they showed some good performance in prior years," he added.

Analyzing his plan, he discovered one fund he was investing in was "very high cost" and switched from mutual funds to lower-cost index funds. By tweaking the funds he included in his plan, he told BI he saved around $65,000.

The hardest part was waiting, White said. Once they'd cut their expenses and changed their investments, they had to wait for their savings to accumulate. They also started saving 60% of his pay and living off the rest.

They retired and moved to Panama

By 2018, they had investments, assets, and savings worth over $1 million, according to financial documents BI has viewed.

They sold their house for $267,800 in 2018 and rented a nearby apartment for a few months. White retired at the end of the year aged 43 — Lisa had already left her job.

With their newfound freedom, the couple decided to relocate to Boquete, a small town in Panama, because of its warmer climate. "I've lived in Ohio pretty much my whole life, and I can't stand the winters," White said. "We moved to the mountains of Panama, and it was 75 degrees every day of the year."

They sold their car and most of their belongings and packed the rest into a storage unit. The family moved with their daughter, then nine, in July 2019. They rented a three-bedroom house in a gated community for $1,100 a month and didn't need a car. "We'd walk every day," he said.

They started homeschooling their daughter, intending to place her in an international school later. But, they ended up homeschooling her for the three years they lived in Panama, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They lived off around $50,000 a year, slightly higher than anticipated.

The couple moved back to the US to travel in an RV

They moved back to the US in April 2022. Since October, the family has been traveling around Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia, Indiana, Texas, and Arizona in an RV, which they bought but plan to sell after their trip.

"We've been spending incredible amounts of time as a family, just like I wanted, ever since," he said. "It's really been a dream come true."

When they're finished with their travels, they plan to move back to Ohio to give their daughter, who is now 14, some stability. "We've had our quality time together, and now she wants to spend more time with her friends," White told BI.

Lisa wants to live near family again and plans to return to work part-time.

For now, White is content to spend his time on hobbies like coding, learning Spanish, and writing his blog, "Route to Retire."

"Just because we're not working right now doesn't mean we don't plan to ever work again," White said. "It's just that we have that choice."

2024-05-06T11:21:47Z dg43tfdfdgfd