How do you afford to travel long term? Do you work along the way? Did you liquidate your retirement accounts? We get these questions a lot. Here is the simple answer to how we left work in our 30’s to visit all seven continents. (Spoiler: it’s easy and you can do it too.)
While it sounds difficult, preparing financially for long term travel, retirement or any other goal comes down to one basic concept: spend less money than you make and invest the difference.
Think about it this way. No matter who you are or how much money you make, you can always find ways to cut money from your budget. This is just sound financial management. But what would happen if you took that savings and invested it long term?
Simple example: Cut $3 from your budget every day. That could mean making your own coffee instead of buying a cup, cooking one more meal instead of eating at a restaurant, drinking water instead of soda. Maybe even negotiating with the taxi driver instead of taking their first offer or better yet, choosing to walk. If that $90 per month were invested, assuming an average of 6% over time, you would have an additional $41,881 after 20 years. That can be achieved solely by drinking tap water or carrying a filter instead of buying bottled water.
Carrying that concept further, cut some more easy money out of the budget. Maybe driving a cheaper car and living in a less fancy home. Say the cheaper used car costs $100 less per month from better fuel efficiency, smaller insurance, lower price, etc. And now reduce living costs by doing the same with a home or apartment. Cheaper rent for a smaller flat, less maintenance with a smaller house and so forth. Let’s say this saves an additional $200 per month.
Now, including the daily savings, there is an extra $390 each month available for investment solely by living simpler. At 6% for 20 years that money becomes $181,486. Over 40 years? $780,954 additional to what you would already save. As you can see, gains multiply exponentially so the earlier you start the better.
How about looking at this on a larger scale. Pretend you have a job making $50,000 per year and take home $40,000 after taxes. By living more minimally, say $18,000 of that can be saved each year, which is $1,500 per month. In 20 years you will have $698,026 assuming those funds are invested every month with a 6% average return. In 40 years, $3,003,672. If your investments happen to make 8%? $5,272,921.
As you can see, time is money. If you started the above example at age 20 and planned to retire at 60, you could have over $3,000,000. But if you waited only 5 more years until age 25 to start, you have only $2,138,283 when you reach 60. That is $861,717 less by waiting only 5 years because the investments and their returns from the beginning have the longest time to grow.
This is just a simple example but you can carry this forward using even greater savings. Try downloading a future value compounding app and put in your own numbers. Now try upping the monthly savings amount and lengthening the investment time. Every dollars makes a difference and that difference is exponentially greater over a longer time period. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, only how much you save. A person making $1,000,000 per year and spending $1,000,000 will end up with nothing but, as shown above, someone earning $50,000 can save over $5,000,000.
It’s less important in what you invest as long as those investments are safe, started early and done consistently. We personally only choose things that are diversified which we understand (no Bitcoin). Set a regular interval to invest savings and do it like clockwork. If markets are high, do it anyways. If values have fallen and the world is freaking out, don’t worry about your losses, invest even more. The goal is to get to the point where your investment returns pay for your long term travel expenses.
Obviously this is a very small part of a much more complicated picture including asset diversification, debt free living, proper investment choices, etc., but this foundation will get you started.
Being frugal and valuing experience over things is how we choose to live our life. Watch the Netflix documentary “Minimalism” if you want some inspiration on living with less.
And the second most common question we get: How is it possible that our bags are so small for a trip so long? Take a look at our backpack contents and see how we live with less.
Before you jump the gun and leave to travel, ensure you have covered all steps on this long term travel planning guide. This is what we followed before buying our one way ticket.