When I graduated from college, I did what society expected: I got a job.
I landed my dream gig: I was a newspaper reporter in a scenic Colorado town. I loved my colleagues; I had a blast everyday in the newsroom.
I didn’t earn much — my starting salary was $21,000 per year in 2005 (that’s $24,600 in today’s dollars) — but I lived below my means, contributed 15% into a 401(k), had zero debt, and even splurged on a snowboard. I felt happy. Life was awesome.
Except for one teeny-tiny little problem: I lacked freedom.
I was required to come to the office 5 days per week, and sit in my chair from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. — regardless of whether or not I operated at peak productivity during those hours.
If I wanted to spend a week at the beach or mountains, I needed to “submit a request.”
That irked me. Why should arbitrary rules govern the hours of MY life? Why shouldn’t I be the master of my limited hours on this earth?
I needed escape.
So I saved money. Like a maniac.
I hustled during the evenings and weekends, writing freelance articles, and saved every dime. I landed a few promotions with commensurate pay raises, and shoved the excess in the bank.
As I repeat time-and-again on Afford Anything, earning more is the best way to turbocharge your savings.
In April 2008, I handed in my resignation and bought a one-way airline ticket to Egypt. I was 24 years old, and I’d saved $25,000 in the bank.
I spent the next 2+ years backpacking the globe, sleeping in hostels or guesthouses, riding bumpy buses alongside chickens, and occasionally sparring with monkeys over the last banana. (Pro tip: Bare your teeth.)
I rode camels in Cairo, drank tea in Jerusalem, learned to scuba-dive in Thailand, explored the islands of Indonesia, hiked in Tasmania, played with kids in Myanmar, drove 27,000 kilometers around Australia … you get the idea.
I called this my mini-retirement.
I returned to the U.S. at age 26, and a disturbing thought entered my mind: I might have to get a job again.
No. No. Never!!!!
After getting a taste of NOT sitting in a crappy cubicle, I couldn’t go back. I wanted to maintain my freedom forever.
First, I decided to become a digital nomad. I landed freelance gigs and created a modest-but-comfortable existence as a self-employed writer.
I thought “earn a living from your laptop” is the ultimate dream. I could work from anywhere: Hawaii, Thailand, Argentina.
Nothing could be better. Right?
I wanted more.
I wanted financial independence: The ability to live entirely on passive income.
I wanted to create investments that gave me the freedom to NEVER. WORK. AGAIN.
Let me be clear: the operative word is “freedom.” My aspiration wasn’t to become a lazy-bones who avoids work. I wanted the FREEDOM to only work for pleasure, rather than for a paycheck.
I decided I’d pursue this through real estate investing.
My out-of-pocket housing costs came to a grand total of $0.00. On top of that, my first house paid me with extra cash in my pocket each month.
I learned a ton from old-fashioned trial-and-error. I created systems and processes. I hired a team. I built a business. I designed the business to run without me. Then, when I was certain that this real estate business could stand on its own two feet, I moved 2,000 miles away from my rental properties.
I designed a passive investment income stream.
The money that flows into my bank account, while I’m busy sleeping / camping / traveling / hiking / snowboarding / practicing yoga / blogging, is enough to support myself and my partner Will for the rest of our lives.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that our investment income could support a bling-bling-BMW lifestyle. I’m not poppin’ corks at the club ’til the break of dawn, or whatever those song lyrics say.
All I’m saying is that, with minimal input from me (less than one hour per week), my investments create enough passive, recurring income that I never need to work again.
I can work if I want to (and running Afford Anything is a huge time-suck!), but I don’t NEED to.
I don’t work in a cubicle and I never sit in rush-hour traffic. I live life exactly as I want. I’ll spend 4 hours hiking on a random Tuesday if the mood strikes. Or I’ll stay up all night writing blog posts. Or I’ll travel to Bali on a whim.
I’ve broken the shackles of paycheck-dependence.
And on this website, Afford Anything, I want to help you do the same.
“Thanks for your story. But, um, who are you?”
My name is Paula Pant. I’m 32 years old, and I live in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I’ve traveled to 35 countries. I love yoga, hiking, snowboarding, reading, writing, travel, plants, animals, investing, blogging, podcasting, and stand-up comedy. I live in a high-rise downtown condo with Will, my partner of 8 years, plus two cats, two frogs and two turtles.
I almost-never watch TV, although I have a weak spot for Game of Thrones, John Oliver, and The Simpsons. I mostly read business and investing books, but I also like trashy chick-lit novels. I’m vegetarian at home, but omnivorous at restaurants. I’m not a big partier, unless drinks are free. Then it’s game-on.
I prefer red wine and dirty martinis. I’m addicted to Mexican, Thai and Italian foods.
I was born 100 miles from Mt. Everest, in a small Himalayan country called Nepal. I immigrated to the U.S. while I was still wearing diapers and drooling all over myself. I spent my school years in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I failed at every musical theater audition I tried.
Then I moved to Boulder, Colorado, ostensibly for “college” but actually to have an excuse to play in the mountains. I graduated with honors, landed my newspaper reporting job, and, well, you know the rest of the story.
Thanks for reading. I hope you join the Afford Anything tribe; there’s an amazing community gathered here, in this pocket of the Internet.