What is the best route (or tips) for a 25-year-old to become financially independent? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Dandan Zhu, Headhunter, Career Coach, Investor, & Podcaster, on Quora:

As someone who reached financial independence in my 20s, this is exactly how I did it:

#1. Break free from conventional thinking and peer pressure. As a depressed, miserable, socially-awkward, and lonely kid in high school, I hated my life. My parents, teachers, and society kept telling me things and forcing me to give up my dreams. After college, I was completely at a loss of what career to go into because I hated my major that my family forced me to take since it was "Stable" and would bring me "Success".

I finally had enough of taking others' orders! I rebelled against my family's wishes and started to heavily invest in positive thinking, motivational, and self-help books, trainings, and programs. The message from my role models in the books I read was clear: to live a life of true happiness, excitement, and accomplishment, you first need financial independence.

But how can someone like me obtain that? Which leads me to this next point:

#2. Find a lucrative career that earns you 6-figures plus ASAP. All this BS about compound interest doesn't work if you're trying to retire by the time you're 30! Compound interest takes too much time to manifest into financial independence. Time is something you can't afford if you're trying to retire young. They are completely at odds with each other.

The best way to get rich young is to make a high income as a starting point. That usually means sales. For me, that was headhunting, the hardest type of sales job. As you see here, it's the only career where youngsters straight out of college (some direct from high school!) can make 6-figures almost right away.

By 25, I was making $215k+ per year. Not all headhunters are financially-savvy. Here's what I did to continue gaining an edge on retirement.

#3. Reduce cost of living no matter how much you earn. Although I spent money on luxury items (which I eventually came to regret), my total living expenses are 80% less than anyone I know. Instead of living in Manhattan, I chose to continue living with roommates in a modest neighborhood in Brooklyn. Instead of leasing a new BMW or Maserati, both of which I could easily afford, I continued to use my trusty old Prius.

Instead of eating at the finest restaurants, drinking (Manhattan charges $15 per cocktail including tip), going out to bars, buying table service at clubs, vacationing in 5-star resorts, I continued to view financial independence as my #1 priority. That means, I shop clearance, I go on cost-efficient vacations, and I eat $5-10 dollar meals.

#4. Invest 95% of your income. If you want to retire young, you need your money to work for you as much as possible.

You're actively working your 9-5 and saving smartly, but your money should also be working itself 24/7.

This means, you need to (1) understand and (2) be courageous enough to start investing! You can't win when you don't risk anything. Money will rot away in your savings account until inflation* finally hits you in the face!

*Sure, as of this writing, we're experiencing a temporary reduction in inflation, but this will adjust as interest rates continue to rise.

Personally, I mainly invest in real estate. I currently have 9 units working for me, paying off all my living costs and then some. Even though I have evictions and troublesome tenants, I have managed my emotions and understood the legal processes to deal with these issues that are inevitable.

Core Message

At any given moment, I do not have any cash on hand. Most wealthy people are in the same boat. Their cash, for the most part, are tied up in investments (physical and paper) and businesses. Like many other 1%'ers, if I need a cash infusion, then I'll use debt to cover short-term cash needs. My continued income from my businesses pay back my debt. To top it off, I'm also getting the best deal out of Uncle Sam when it comes to my annual tax bill.

If you're serious about retiring young, you're going to have to take chances on yourself and become a better person. Someone with better skills, more persuasive capabilities, more understanding/knowledge, and a serious competitive edge (and focus) into one area of expertise. Focus will drive you to excel in a certain field. Passion will fuel you to push through the hardest times.

With the right mindset, approach, and investment into your skills, ANYONE can be successful.

Most importantly, think for yourself and shed the negativity and influence of naysayers who aren't retired rich and young.

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Published on: Nov 2, 2017