Retiring at 27: Ambitious, Lazy or Crazy?
I don't know why the word "lazy" gets such a bad rap -- I'm a big fan of lazy.
Here's why: Lazy is a smart man's motivation to get from point A to B as quickly as possible. A lazy person knows there's lots of life and fun to be experienced, so finding the shortcuts through the slough just makes a lot more sense than dragging your feet down a long road.
Lazy can help you build a multi-million dollar business in a few short years and reach retirement in your 20s. At least, that's how I decided to do it.
Everyone has their own version of what happens after we die. Mine is simple: you are dead. You are dirt. The end. Game over. Thank you and goodbye.
To some, this could be very troubling, and if you're not careful, you could misinterpret this belief and make it an excuse to do nothing. It's all futile anyways, right? Absolutely not.
Believing I only have one shot, I could not be more motivated to craft the exact life I want to live. I mean, what did I have to lose?
With retirement as my starting point, I decided $7 million after tax was the number and age 27 would be the deadline.
I was 21 at the time with only one year of operating my own thriving business, Renters Warehouse, under my belt.
The numbers for my property management company were already looking good and the trajectory was definitely heading towards my seemingly lofty ambitions. It was time to walk the walk.
I meticulously set forth to build a business that I could exit when the time was right, with employees and management that were just as vested in the long-term vision as I was.
With my self-imposed retirement goal nipping at my heels, I focused on building "bench strength" at Renters Warehouse. This meant having a president groomed to be CEO, an office manager capable of becoming my operations manager and a litany of cross-trained employees that were hungry for professional growth.
Transparency being paramount, I empowered key executives by giving them full access to the books, called on them for crucial management decisions and made sure they had a hand in the branding, funding and hiring decisions early on.
Woven into our company culture was the idea that leadership comes from all corners. It wasn't long before the encouragement to step up would inch me closer and closer to stepping down.
After talking such a big game for seven years, the time came to meet this retirement I had envisioned for myself. It didn't come with that big blast of confetti you might have imagined. If anything, the dawning of this new era came with apprehension, and of course, a little fear.
By 2013, I had built a business I was proud of and now had a net worth of just under $20 million. Months past my 27th birthday, I was on vacation with my wife in the Virgin Islands. Caught working with my laptop, a very important interrogation took place: "Didn't you say you were going to retire when you were 27?"
It was time to move on.
You can imagine that telling people you're planning to retire after less than a decade of work can get you some disapproving looks. I probably couldn't sound lazier if I tried.
All too often, people associate retiring to handing in the office keys for hammocks and golf courses. What about those who grow to love their office just as much as a golf course? I refuse to believe it has to be all or nothing.
Retirement means I can choose when I want to work and when I want to golf. Maybe next week I venture off to Peru and the following week I plan a media tour to expand our franchise awareness. Designing each day of your life is a privilege. It's a privilege earned through the proficiency in which you design your team and your company's culture.
Call me lazy or ambitious, just don't call me on vacation -- or my wife might have a few words for you. Who knows, it might be just what you need.
Brenton Hayden is the founder and chairman of the board of Renters Warehouse. A Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Business graduate, Hayden leads a team of over 140 employees and franchises in 21 states with a portfolio of managed properties valued at just under $1 billion.