Amberly Grant grew up knowing she wanted to be a millionaire. She had no idea that by her middle thirties, she would almost be there.
Grant, a child care provider in Ottawa, Canada, and the daughter of an artist, was aware of how scarce money was.
As Grant recalls, “My mum would always say, ‘I don’t even have a dime'”. In the meantime, her father’s catchphrase for money was “he’ll labour till the day he dies.”
Grant, who is currently 34 and resides in Denver, claims that the financial outlook of her parents had a big impact on her. “We have to ride the bus because I don’t want to live a life where I have to worry all the time about whether my car will break down. I wanted to avoid that pressure “She can remember thinking.
Grant currently earns $145,000 per year as a senior project manager at a software company, with a performance incentive of up to 20%, and another $78,000 per year from two Denver rental homes.
She considers herself financially independent because her real estate portfolio is sufficient to support Grant’s lifestyle, meaning she could quit her work and retire early if she so desired. Grant doesn’t have any immediate plans to accomplish that, though. Grant’s total assets, including her houses and retirement funds, total around $835,000. Here’s how she went about it.
Establishing a habit of saving
Grant worked about 20 hours a week at restaurants and bakeries during high school and, by age 19, had saved around $6,000 A friend of her father gave her an old car that the dealer didn’t want back, and Grant spent $1,800 fixing it up before hitting the road to Los Angeles.
She got a job waiting tables in Hermosa Beach, a gig that paid about $20,000 a year. It wasn’t much, but it was far more than Grant needed to live on. Her rent was just $250 a month — the product of sharing a 3-bedroom apartment with six other people.
I always worked with people who made just as much money as me, but they never saved the same amount as I did. ——- Amberly Grant
Grant was even able to put money away for the future. “I always worked with people, and they made just as much money as me, but they never saved the same amount as I did,” she says. Consistently saving wasn’t about seeing a significant number in her bank account just yet. Instead, it meant the freedom to follow life wherever it led her: “I would take time off and travel and live abroad.”
From ages 19 to 25, Grant bounced between LA, New York, Thailand, Australia, and Tucson, Arizona, before settling in Denver. She’d find a modest-paying job in each new place, live cheaply, and bank enough money to pick up and move on to the next adventure. Over that span, she earned between $13,000 and $20,000 a year, she says.
Boosting her income and supercharging her savings
Determined to make more money, Grant enrolled at the Community College of Denver at 25. She paid no tuition, thanks to government grants and financial aid. From there, she transferred to the University of Colorado at Boulder. Again, she paid no tuition.
“I couldn’t imagine walking away with $40,000 in debt from university. So I again applied to about 20 different scholarships,” she says. “I walked out of all of my schooling with zero debt.”
Grant graduated in 2017 with a degree in business management, strategy, and entrepreneurship. She bounced around jobs for a bit before finding her first gig, making “real” money at 29. She earned $52,000 a year but was able to build up her savings due to her low cost of living. She split a three-bedroom home with two roommates for $400 a month.
By February 2019, Grant’s salary had increased to $65,000, and she and her boyfriend decided to buy a house and move in together. To make the 20% down payment on the duplex, they each contributed $25,000, with his mother kicking in $50,000.
The relationship faltered. One year later, Grant was forced to buy them out for $80,000. Luckily, right around the time of the purchase, a competing company wanted Grant, then a project coordinator, to step up to the role of project manager. The new gig came with a salary of $115,000 a year. She also boosted her income by renting out the house’s basement apartment. She was able to pay her ex and his mother back in cash.
Finding financial independence through real estate
During college, Grant’s professors weren’t the only ones teaching her about money. She also discovered Mr. Money Mustache, a blog by Pete Adeney, a leading figure in the FIRE movement, which stands for financial independence and early retirement.
“I sat in the rec room of the community college and read every single article that Pete wrote, and I realized, ‘Oh, my God, these are my people.'” Grant says. Grant particularly admired many FIRE adherents’ approach to real estate investing: buying different properties so that rental income could drive down their cost of living and provide a diversified source of income.
Grant bought a second house in 2021, another duplex, funding the down payment through a mix of cash savings and a home equity line of credit on her first property. She paid back the loan within a year. These days, Grant leases the top floors of both duplexes to long-term renters, with the income from those tenants covering the mortgage payments on the two properties. She lists the bottom units on Airbnb, bringing in roughly $6,500 in monthly profit.
Looking forward to early retirement
Grant’s monthly budget, which includes the mortgage payment on a Colorado home the couple just purchased, is more than supported by her real estate revenue and salary. Despite the fact that her Canadian boyfriend is unable to work while he waits for a U.S. visa, they are still able to save close to 70% of Grant’s salary.
Grant’s real estate revenue alone should theoretically be sufficient to pay for her living expenses, making her work unnecessary. But now, expenses have changed because she and her partner had a baby in the fall.
Grant has found comfort in knowing she had a money reserve as a new mother. The woman claims, “I have been able to spend and obtain whatever we need for our child. Grant, according to her, intends to continue working full-time for at least three to five more years, which will give her ample time to increase her retirement savings from $240,000 to roughly $750,000.
When she retires, she plans to take out around 4% of her savings annually, which would equal $30,000 in income. Grant reaches a figure she could comfortably live on without a 9-to-5 job after factoring in the $78,000 annual rental revenue. Grant is unsure of what that lifestyle will entail in detail. When her child and any future children are old enough to swim, she plans to spend some time living overseas, possibly even sailing around the Greek islands.
Her dreams are generally unrestricted, and that has always been the point. “We want to expose our kids to that,” she says. “I love going to see friends abroad and to go to new places, to study the culture, eat different foods, and learn a language.” “FIRE will give us the freedom to go wherever we want, so that’s something.”