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Benjamin Davis and the Journey of a CFS-sufferer towards Early Retirement

Posted: 26 Apr 2017 02:05 AM PDT

Today we have a guest post by Ben from From Cents to Retirement.

My name is Benjamin Davis, I run From Cents to Retirement and I recently published my first book called My strategy to retire early: My journey to become financially independent and retire in my early 30s. I was born in Portugal to an Italian and Canadian family. As my father had a job which required him to travel, we ended up traveling a lot, and most of my time was split between Portugal and Italy. When I turned 18, I moved to Canada, where I studied for a few years.

In 2010 I went to Germany looking for a research position which eventually enabled me to enroll on a PhD program. The first position I landed was great, as well as the environment. However, I eventually had to take another position in a different city, which wasn't that great. Not only the city but also my working environment.

Today, I can clearly say that I don’t really like Germany. Please don't take me as a rude guy, because I am not. We all relate to some cultures but we don't have to relate to all of them. I don't like the German culture, because Germans are too cold (especially for a Latino like me) and the weather sucks. Except for Canada, I tend to prefer warm countries.

One day in Germany, I woke up exhausted, with intense muscle pain and a few other symptoms. Although I rested for a few weeks, I didn't get better. I started to get depressed and I honestly wanted to die. My blood-work was absolutely normal and doctors told me they had no idea what I had. I was (mis) diagnosed with a variety of diseases until I eventually correctly diagnosed with ME/CFS (Myalgic encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I looked for a CFS specialist (if you suffer from CFS, I am really sympathetic because its really hard to find doctors who even believe that CFS exists) and I she confirmed I had a mild version of CFS. Here are some symptoms I have on a daily basis:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dizziness 
  • Chronic muscle tension (primarily in my neck)
  • Brain fog
  • Feeling weak
  • Low mood

Over the years, I have learned to manage the symptoms (some better than others). I've also changed my lifestyle tremendously but I could not get rid of stress entirely, because of my PhD and the working environment I was in. Fortunately, I decided to do something about it - and this is how the early retirement idea came about!

In late 2014 I decided that I had to do something about CFS as I didn't know if I could have a job for much longer. I wanted to create ways to make money regardless I came in the office or not. This is something everyone desires, I am sure, but I had a real reason to do that. A few years ago, I had invested in stocks, with pretty good success. I eventually cashed out and spent the money. So I needed to learn how to invest and generate money from scratch. And my condition was really the driving force underpinning my desire to retire early.

I changed my life entirely. I started to educate myself on finances, reading over 100 books on personal finances and investment, which I eventually put together in a list and start providing reviews and summaries on my blog (for example, check out my rich dad poor dad summary). Early retirement blogs were also a I great source of inspiration. I advocate financial education for everyone because there is a lot of struggle out there and it doesn't have to be like that. I helped many people, particularly friends. As word of mouth gained some traction, I eventually went on to set up a small consulting business, although I stopped it because of my PhD. Today, when people ask me questions through my blog (I get many about Real Estate) I send them to free resources online, such as free books on Real Estate. My net worth is currently about a quarter of a million dollars.

I never dreamed of being rich. Before CFS I was so happy with the my life that I never thought about saving and investing. I was happy in the rat race. CFS was the game changer, which made me think of early retirement. Financial freedom was not something I wanted, but something I needed. And I deeply believe that CFS triggered a survival instinct in my body, which made me fight and have something to look forward - early retirement was the perfect answer from every angle.

Today, I invest primarily in Real Estate, having 10 units and with hopes to buy a 5-unit complex soon. I have specialized in deep-value cash-flow intensive Real Estate deals. My business model for Real Estate investments is actually very simple: I buy properties dirt cheap because their owners don't want them anymore (or think they can't be rented out), remodel them and monetizing them with great tenants. As a result, I've got investments which yield up to 20% net a year! As I expect a stock market correction, my stock portfolio is actually pretty small right now.

I am on track to retire by 33. 2017 will hopefully be a great year for me, which lots of improvements in my health and wealth.


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