Millennial retirees travel the world instead of buying a home

‘We realized that traveling around the world costs about the same as living in one place in an expensive city like New York’

Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung have been traveling around the world since they retired in 2015.

The Millennial couple, from Toronto, initially wanted to take just one year to travel, but it's been four years and they haven’t stopped yet.

"After a year ended, we realized that traveling around the world costs about the same as living in one place in an expensive city like New York," Leung told FOX Business.

Shen, 36, and Leung, 37, are followers of the F.I.R.E. Movement, which stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. Followers of the movement spend years saving and investing their money in order to quit their jobs before a more traditional retirement age.


The couple also runs the blog Millennial Revolution and they recently published a book called "Quit Like a Millionaire."

Before they started following the F.I.R.E. movement, though, Shen said her goal was to do "the thing that everybody else does" -- as in, "buy the house, work until you're 65, retire with a pension."

However, houses in Toronto were over $1 million and at the same time, Shen noticed that her job as a computer engineer was getting less stable as positions were being outsourced to places like India.

"Unaffordable housing and ... the lack of job security made me realize, you know what? I'm not going to get into over a million dollars in debt and then get laid off," Shen said. "It doesn’t make sense."

"And I think this is the thing that our generation, as Millennials, struggle with," she added. "Because our parents keep telling us, okay, you have to buy a house, and then if you're loyal to a company, then they’ll take care of you once you retire at 65 with a pension … I don't know the last time you tried to find a job, but that is no longer the case. Every five years, we have to look for a job."

Leung said he started looking into what else they could do with their money -- which by that point was about half a million dollars. He found that by investing the money in low-cost index funds, financial independence would be achievable.

"When I ran the math, I realized that, even just assuming pretty conservative rates of return in the stock market, the choice that I presented to her was, we could either buy a house -- exchange our half a million dollars for more than half a million dollars of debt and then spend the next 25 years trying to pay that off -- or if we start doing this other thing, we might be able to retire in three," Leung said.


It was around 2012 when Shen and Leung started focusing on saving and investing their money. As Leung had predicted, it took them three years to retire from their jobs -- on top of the previous six years they had been working, without focusing on F.I.R.E.

Once they finally did retire, they traveled around the world for a year, thinking they would move back to North America and live in an inexpensive city. But it turned out that they could just keep traveling.

"What we realized is that when we combined this F.I. stuff with global travel, the two synergize incredibly well," Leung said. "[Travel] allows you to, at the same time, go see amazing places and eat amazing food … but also lets you control your budget very, very powerfully because when you can just live anywhere, the cost of living can vary dramatically."

One example, he said, is that when they lived in Canada, they were living off about $40,000 a year, but if they moved to Thailand their cost of living dropped significantly.

"We realized that when you put those two parts of the puzzle together, it becomes sexy and glamorous and safer somehow to actually just be able to pack up and travel wherever you go," Leung said. "If the stock markets were to crash tomorrow, we'd be taking a flight to Thailand and our cost of living would drop by half. And that's how we would survive one of those things."


Aside from constantly being able to travel, Leung and Shen have found that retirement has made their life healthier and more fulfilling.

"I think now we get a chance to actually help people," Leung said. "Teaching people how to do this and how to put their life together in this amazing way, that's what's been most fulfilling about it."

On their blog, Shen and Leung run an investment workshop that's free so that anyone can have access to it, regardless of how much money they have.

"It really is about leading by example, rather than telling people or judging them for not doing the right thing or telling them they're a stupid Millennial and they're just not doing what they're supposed to be doing," Shen said. "And I think that has been really fulfilling. I think it's probably one of the most fulfilling things we've ever done."


Even though they're still traveling the world, their strategy has changed since they started in 2015.

"It has morphed from the frantic days of like, okay, let's switch cities every two days and now it's kind of more like we'll spend a month in a city and spend a month in another city," Leung said.

Shen added: "The world has become one city and we're kind of visiting different communities, like the expat community or F.I.R.E. communities around the world. I don't really see it so much as travel, it's really more like nomadic lifestyle. It's more like a slow-travel nomadic lifestyle now."

That lifestyle is something Shen and Leung don't think they'll ever want to stop.

"I do think that once you start traveling, your brain kind of changes,” Shen said. "It kind of feels like you've lived multiple lifetimes. So then when you actually go back to once place and kind of go back to ... what your life used to be, it can't quite fit into that. It's like putting a round peg into a square hole. You don't quite fit into that mold anymore."

"It's like, once you've gone out of the matrix, you can't really go back in," she added.