Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of The Browning Family
Here's How The Browning Family Saved $2M, Moved To Portugal, And Retired At 40
Christina and Amon Browning have always enjoyed traveling, and have lived in other countries, including Japan and Spain, before settling in California. But like so many people, they were working to enjoy the weekends. When the weekends came around, a dark cloud would overtake their happiness because Monday mornings were approaching.
They were tired of the rat race, so they started teaching themselves how to invest in stock with the goal of retiring at 40.
“We learned it ourselves. We didn’t come from families with money nor did we come from families that talked about this concept of investing. We taught ourselves,” Christina and Amon told Travel Noire.
Christina casually brought up moving abroad to Amon, but she didn’t think he would follow through with the plans until he told her that he had a job interview in Spain.
“I didn’t think he was serious,” she stated. “Amon is the kind of person that when you give him an idea he runs with it.”
Amon got the job and that’s what began their journey as expats in Europe while on their same journey of retiring by 40. The Brownings are known on YouTube as “Our Rich Journey” family where they explain to people how they retired early by investing.
The duo spoke with us to explain the best part about living in Portugal and more about their financial journey.
Travel Noire: What was it about Portugal that attracted you and your family?
Amon + Christina: When we got closer to quitting our jobs and retiring, we felt it was the best place because of safety. It’s the third safest country in the entire world, so it’s much safer than the United States. The healthcare system is also ranked higher than the United States. Residents get free health care, ER visits, and overnight stays in the hospital. Not to mention, there’s a higher level of care provided here than the United States.
The people here are kind and welcoming. The process of getting your residency is incredibly smooth because they really encourage people to come.
Of course, the food is amazing, but what we love is that it’s easy to get to other parts of Europe and Africa in a short amount of time. Also, since we’re situated in the western part of Europe, getting to the US is easy.
Travel Noire: Can you tell us more about the cost of living compared to the U.S.?
Amon + Christina: Cost of living is so much lower. Both of our girls attend private school and last month, we spent less than $1,500 for the whole month. That price includes all their fees and expenses.
Travel Noire: How did Europe even come up?
Amon + Christina: Amon studied abroad when he was in college. He went to Thailand and then right after I graduated, I went to Spain for three months because that was the max time without a special visa. We both came back and started working, but we feel like we’re perpetually in motion and always looking for something exciting.
One day, when we were living in San Diego, I told him that I feel like there’s something more we should be doing. I asked him if we could move. Amon is the type of person that if you tell him something, he’s like, ‘okay, done.’
I kid you not, I forgot about it. It was something I just thought about and two weeks later, he tells me, ‘I have an interview for a job in Spain.’
Travel Noire: What are the benefits of working abroad?
Amon + Christina: There are so many benefits to working. First of all, when we went abroad, companies were paying for our trips. They were paying for housing and there were so many amazing financial benefits, which helped us on our financial independence journey. When we went overseas and got these jobs, it covered so many of our expenses that we could take our savings and invest in the stock market and invest in real estate in the U.S.
There are so many quality of life reasons to move abroad, but there are also huge financial reasons to move abroad, including the savings alone. We do, however, tell people to not just move abroad. You really have to love the country you’re traveling to because the honeymoon phase will wear off and this will be your new home.
When we lived in the States, we lived for the weekends but when we were abroad in Europe, we felt like everyday was this adventure. In America, you fall into this routine when you’re there and you can’t slow down that routine. You don’t have the time to sit back and take a break because if you do, you will be left behind.
However, when you come abroad, you can slow down and calm down.
Travel Noire: So now you’re at the point where you’ve retired early?
Amon + Christina: If you’re going to go on this journey to retire early ,we realized investment has to be a big part of it.
You can either invest in real estate, invest in the stock market, those are the two common ways, or you can invest in a combination of both.
We invested in real estate in the Bay Area and in San Diego as well. When we talk about FIRE, or “Financial Independence Retiring Early,” we tell people to focus on three pillars: saving as much money as you can, making as much money as you can, and investing as much money as you can.
We were government employees, they’re good salaries, they’re not terrible salaries, but they’re not huge salaries, compared to people working in the private sector. So for us, we kept thinking, what side hustles can we create? We started building furniture, selling furniture, we were Uber drivers, and we did all these extra things to get more money.
You can’t just allow money to sit in your savings account, you’re not going to be able to retire early off of that because it doesn’t even keep up with the rate of inflation. Our whole goal was, let’s get this money into the stock market, let’s get it into real estate and let the money grow. We were able to save nearly $2 million.
A lot of stuff you’ll see if you’re researching investing is a lot about day trading or options. There’s an easier way and a simpler way. Our whole process was majority stock market index fund. When people want to learn about investing, they’re learning about these very complicated processes that don’t have even the same return as something like the total stock market.
We didn’t grow up learning about money or talking about money, we just taught ourselves.
When we started our YouTube channel a couple of years ago, one of Amon’s co-workers told us to do it and tell everyone about it. Our response was no because no one would be interested, and now we have half a million subscribers because people are interested. They also realize that it doesn’t matter when you start. Some people say, “I’m 30 it’s too late,” or “I’m 60, it’s too late.”
Our response is that it’s all relative because maybe in your 20s, you weren’t ready to receive that information and take action.
It’s important for people to know that if we can teach ourselves, so can you.
Travel Noire: Do you feel accepted in Portugal?
Amon + Christina: We get this question all the time and what we’ve found is that racism exists everywhere. There’s always going to be people somewhere that don’t like you for your skin color.
I’m sure racism exists here in Portugal, but our experience and a lot of other Black expats that we have talked to would tell you it’s nothing like what we’ve experienced in the United States.
We feel accepted everywhere we go. Portugal is one of the most welcoming countries. One thing we were so surprised about is how diverse Portugal is.
We have a feeling Portugal is going to take off for Black expats. There are so many of us here, but we think the wave is just getting started.
Our advice would be to reach out to expat groups, start developing connections with people, and ask them about the life experience. All of these things helped to inform us and really helped with our transition.
Our other piece of advice is once you get here, and you’re settled, don’t just hang out with other expats. Make friends with the Portuguese people and learn about life here.
The couple currently educates people on how to retire early and move abroad. You can find out more by clicking here.