While the question of raising the legal retirement age is of constant debate, some people are focused on simply retiring as early as possible. Among them is Victor Lora, author of the book La retraite à 40 ans, c’est possible (Retiring at 40, it’s possible).
At 33 years old, Victor Lora has already quit employment, after what he describes as a conventional start to his career.
“I studied engineering, then did a year at ESCP Business School before going into investment banking, where I worked as a mergers and acquisitions analyst for a couple of years. The job was interesting and very well paid, but also quite stressful. I didn’t see myself staying there for ten years. In fact, many employees stop because they can’t take it anymore. I wanted to do something different.”
A change of direction, a life choice
To leave employment, Victor had to become financially independent. While thinking about his future, he came across a movement from the United States aimed at burnt-out tech workers looking to leave their extremely well-paid jobs. It advocates setting aside 80% of your income at the beginning of your career, allowing you to build up savings and ultimately become financially independent within 8 to 10 years. As soon as he read this, Victor thought: “This is for me.”
However, applying this American model in France was not entirely straightforward, not least because the tax systems and levels of pay are different, and so Victor decided to adapt “frugalism” to suit life in France. “The initial amount that you save doesn’t necessarily have to be huge; rather, it’s a matter of adapting. Although France’s payroll deductions are disproportionately high compared to the US, there are far more attractive incentives to invest in real estate or start-up companies.”
Here’s where I’m at now: I’m no longer employed, but I’m still working and doing what I want to do. Money doesn’t come into the equation.
According to Victor, it’s important to tailor your work to suit you as an individual, which is much easier when you’re not an employee. “My standard of living is good because I put the things I care about first; I prioritise living life to the fullest.”
Investing in values, rather than shares
Rather than buying into the usual trappings of wealth, Victor prefers to live below his means. “I’ve saved heavily for years and I start from the principle that money can come and go.” His strategy as a consumer is informed by sustainable development and he has no doubts that we all need to consume less, while still being conscious of the limits of his system. “I invest in the stock market, and there isn’t much there that is irreproachable when it comes to sustainability, plus part of my wealth is based on using leverage, which isn’t particularly environmentally friendly. I take ownership of my actions and I do as best I can, but generally the level of debate over what we need to do to protect the planet is quite poor and fails to take into account all the parameters.”
My standard of living is good because I put the things I care about first; I prioritise living life to the fullest.
A book that provokes reactions
Victor’s book, La retraite à 40 ans, c’est possible (Retiring at 40, it’s possible), was a hit, topping distribution platforms’ bestseller lists for a long time. What surprised him, however, was the wide range of feedback he received. For some readers, it was a revelation; for others, it simply “clicked” or affirmed a sense of purpose they had not yet articulated.
“I intentionally wrote the book for the mass market; it isn’t meant to be a detailed methodology of the best wealth management techniques. I’ve been pleased with the reception, which on the whole has been very positive.”
A life lived with purpose
Victor considers himself to be an active member of society. He works with many organisations focused on sustainability issues and devotes much of his time to supporting entrepreneurs as they launch their businesses, as well as young people seeking guidance.
“Pro bono work is a key part of my life and something I do in a range of areas. My self-financed podcasts have also certainly helped more people manage their wealth than many banks!”
However, Victor is deeply concerned by the levels of aggression in today’s world and actively seeks out communities where kindness is celebrated. “I have faith in humanity and I’m committed to continuing to help others. By offering my skills, I come into contact with communities where people are kind.”
So, why does he do it? Not for the money. Rather, he is simply happy to be able to help others. “Giving is the most gratifying thing of all. When I have children, I want to pass on values to them, rather than assets.”
For him, it is up to each individual to decide their own definition of success, something he thinks will be more difficult for younger generations, who are victims of the models imposed by social networks and by the damage being done to the environment. However, he likes to keep things in perspective and has this advice for others:
“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You have to organise your life in a way that fits your personal circumstances; if self-employment is not for you, be an employee but do it at your own pace.
“Life is tough, but it’s when you take a hit that you really know you’re alive.”
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