“My goal is to retire early so I can do the things I really enjoy.”

Dear DTA,

“My goal is to retire early so that I can do the things I really enjoy. Perhaps you can help me pursue that dream.”

-Cameron B.

Appreciate you taking the time to write to us, Cameron.

You have a wonderful dream. And it’s one that I think you’ll find that many people share.

The good news is that it’s not a pipe dream. Early retirement is attainable for many people out there.

[ad#Google Adsense 336×280-IA]However, it takes a lot of dedication, will, persistence, patience, and perseverance to make it happen.

You have to really want it. Otherwise, it’ll be very difficult to attain.

I speak from experience.

There was once a time that I also wanted early retirement. I wanted it so bad that I could almost taste it.

But I didn’t know what to do. And I didn’t know if it was possible.

This was back in late 2009. I was 27 years old. And I had a net worth that was below $0, meaning I was worth less than zero dollars.

But I had that desire… that will… that persistence. I wanted it more than anything.

And so I set out on a journey that would eventually culminate in reaching financial independence in early 2016, at just 33 years old.

It’s a journey that I recount via my “blueprint” to early retirement, which expounds on pretty much everything I did.

The everlasting legacy I’ve built – which generates the passive income I need to live life on my terms – is my real-money, real-life portfolio that generates the five-figure passive dividend income I need to live life on my terms.

If you read through it all, you’ll find that I did nothing that’s somehow impossible for anyone else to replicate.

It’s really an old-fashioned approach: reaching early retirement generally involves a lot of budgeting, frugality, saving, and robust but intelligent investing.

So the first thing you’ll have to do is set up your budget.

You can’t move forward without first knowing where you’re already at. Think of the budget as a compass. It’ll tell you where your monthly income and expenses are at now, and it’ll provide a guide for you to know how you can get closer to your long-term financial goals.

The key to the budget is creating as large a gap as possible between your income and expenses.

Focusing on the latter is more important initially, because what you keep is more important than what you make. If you can’t control your spending, a limitless amount of income will never be enough.

I can tell you that I got pretty extreme here, partially because I wanted to quit my job ASAP.

I sold my car. Moved to a cheaper place. Ate cheap noodles like a college kid. So on and so forth.

Through the power of frugality, I was able to spend very little money, which helped me rocket my savings rate past 50% for years on end.

All in all, some lifestyle changes will probably be necessary for you.

Once you have your spending under control, you should look for ways to increase your income.

Think about working extra hours at work, or look into getting a second part-time job.

If you make both these moves, you’ll probably find yourself with a lot of excess capital at the end of each month. Soon enough, this capital will start to add up.

At that point, it’s time to invest it.

I personally chose dividend growth investing as the investment strategy to help me reach my dreams.

I chose this strategy because it seemed to be the best way to build the passive income I’d need to pay my bills (without needing a job to generate income), while simultaneously building my wealth at a rate faster than anything else I could find.

Indeed, the passive income comes about via the growing dividends that dividend growth stocks pay out.

It’s simple.

A wonderful business makes a lot of money. And they tend to make more money each year.

Well, they can only do so much with that money.

And much of it ends up going right back to shareholders, in the form of dividends.

As the profit grows, so do the dividends.

And these dividends are typically growing faster than inflation, meaning your purchasing power is also growing, setting you up for the long haul.

Moreover, the dividend income is totally passive. You don’t need to do anything for it. You just sit back, collect, and reinvest or spend.

It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Dividend growth investing has been very kind to me, as evidenced by my portfolio and the passive income it pays out.

What I do is invest in high-quality dividend growth stocks, like those you’ll find on David Fish’s Dividend Champions, Contenders, and Challengers list. And I invest when the valuation is right.

If you peruse Mr. Fish’s list, you’ll find that many of the stocks are household names. We’re often talking blue-chip stocks here.

You’ll see companies like Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP), and Walt Disney Co. (DIS).

These are companies that literally rain profit and cash. And the rain never seems to stop. It actually only seems to increase in intensity over time.

Well, when you own shares in these businesses, they tend to rain cash on you.

And that’s the kind of rain that you don’t want an umbrella for!

Before you get started, though, you should know that knowledge is power.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of accessible knowledge right here on the site.

For instance, fellow contributor Dave Van Knapp has put together an excellent resource for investors new to dividend growth investing. His series of lessons on dividend growth investing is a fabulous starting point for anyone interested in the strategy and how to successfully execute it.

And when you’re ready to actually invest some of that excess capital you’re building up, my undervalued dividend growth stock series is a great place for actionable ideas in real-time.

No matter what investment strategy you ultimately decide on, getting started today on the saving is absolutely crucial.

That way you have some money to work with once you’re ready to invest.

And that early retirement won’t happen by itself.

You’ll need to work hard, build up that capital, and generate passive income.

So it’s imperative that you start walking that journey as soon as possible, Cameron.

I wish you luck and success.

Jason Fieber

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Disclaimer: Jason Fieber is not a licensed financial advisor, tax professional, or stock broker. Please consult with a licensed investment professional before investing any of your money. If your money is not FDIC insured, it may decline in value. To protect the privacy of our readers, any names published in this article are under aliases. In addition, text may be edited, omitted or paraphrased for grammar or length.