Keeping up with neighbors can derail goals

  • Chris Chung is a data analyst and personal finance influencer who is due to retire by the age of 45.
  • He said his biggest achievement was internalizing: learning he doesn’t have to keep up with the neighbours.
  • He found that not comparing your wealth to your peers and staying focused on your goals is key.

Chris Chung was 26 years old when he decided to focus on being debt free and financially independent.

After paying off $50,000 student loans over two years, he was investing heavily in pursuit of early retirement. Chung, 33, showed Insider his investment portfolio and the predictions that he’ll be able to comfortably retire by the time he turns 45 – 12 years from now.

When asked what financial achievement he’s most proud of, Chung did not refer to savings, investments, or a prestigious job, but rather: “Being able to be myself, not feeling like I have to keep up with neighbors.”

“In my early twenties, I did a lot of things not because I wanted to do it, but to impress others,” he added.

Chung said he doesn’t make as much money as the others in his friend group, which includes a doctor, a small business owner, and a Google employee — but that doesn’t bother him anymore as he achieves more of his financial goals.

His goals are not based on “things”

“Everyone gets the nice car and the nice house, and they’re doing all these other things,” Chung said. “I’m happy and comfortable in my own skin because I’ve been focused on my own goals.”

Chung said his biggest focus is simply: “Invest, invest, invest, and retire early.”

In addition to his day job as a data analyst in the public sector, listing his personal financial journey on Instagram as “The Everyday Millennial” has also boosted his confidence and serves as a reminder of how far he’s come since he began focusing on his student loan debt. It even became a lucrative side hustle for him, bringing in an extra $20,000 a year.

Financial success can look different for everyone

“The unique thing about my current journey is that I live in a family of three with my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, my wife, and my daughter, Emilia,” Chung said. “This certainly isn’t the norm for most people, but it works for us financially — and as a family.”

Chung said he understands that this decision likely won’t be a common one, but that by living this way, he can continue to save and invest aggressively, and that the bonus will have the ability to retire nearly two years before his daughter graduates from high school.

“I am comfortable enough to focus on my own financial goals,” Chung said, adding that his focus on what’s best for his family guides much of his financial planning.

However, he understands that setting financial goals and then taking the steps to achieve them is ‘daunting’. Part of Chung’s hustle is the Personal Finance course, which includes specific training to help buyers achieve their individual goals. He also offers a free expense tracker that he created and used to set his own budget.

“One of the biggest reasons I became an influencer in personal finance is because I love helping people, and this is an important topic that I am passionate about,” Chung said.

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