Young, rich, and retired: How one millennial couple made it happen
Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung are wealthy, retired, globetrotting millennials. Distinctions they earned by defying a well-worn financial platitude passed down by their parents’ generation – buying a house is a good idea. (Facebook)
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Thursday, September 1, 2016 6:00AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 1, 2016 1:49PM EDT
Bryce Leung and Kristy Shen are wealthy, retired, globetrotting millennials. Distinctions they earned by defying a well-worn financial platitude passed down by their parents’ generation – buying a house is a good idea.
The couple, both of whom are 33, started down a conventional path; get married, and save as much as possible. But skyrocketing home prices and investors flipping shoddy properties for a quick buck in their Toronto neighbourhood made them think twice about wading into the city’s red hot real estate market.
By 2012 they had $500,000 socked away for a down payment, but runaway home prices outpaced their plans for home ownership in Canada’s largest city.
“Even though we put in a lot of money the prices kept going up,” Shen told the Business News Network from Osaka, Japan. “It seemed like our goal was running away from us.”
The average selling price of a detached home in Toronto’s 416 area code has surged by 63 per cent to over $1.2 million since Shen and Leung turned their back on the market in 2012, according to data from the Toronto Real Estate Board.
The pair resigned to a life of renting. For Shen, the tipping point came on her way to work when she passed a dilapidated house with a for sale sign out front.
“Within two weeks it sold for half a million dollars. I was really shocked,” she said.
Shen watched as the buyer moved in, made some hasty renovations, and flipped the property back onto the market in less than two months.
“He basically just slapped some hardwood floors in there, and some paint,” she said. “You could tell they didn’t do a great job. The floors weren’t very even. The stairs were not even as well.”
It sold for $800,000 after a few weeks, attracting multiple bids from anxious buyers.
“At that point I started thinking this was not sustainable,” said Shen.
Frustrated, but armed with $500,000 in the bank, the pair sought the advice of well-known Toronto financial adviser Garth Turner. He recommended an asset mix of 60 per cent stocks and 40 per cent fixed income investments, like corporate bonds.
While many other millennials were busy settling into their careers or struggling to find work, Shen and Leung did the unthinkable. The engineering grads quit their jobs for a life of travel and leisure, bankrolled by their portfolio’s payouts. They were 31.
“We can actually live off the dividends without touching the capital. Even if it drops (the value of the portfolio) we don’t need to touch that,” said Shen.
The couple’s assets also include between three and five years of living expenses in cash in case of a downturn in equities.
Committed renters like Shen and Leung are also largely shielded from the fallout of the looming housing price correction expected in Toronto and Vancouver by some real estate observers and the Bank of Canada.
“Because we’re not tied to expensive, expensive Toronto, we can move to lower cost cities, either in Canada or somewhere else,” said Shen.
The former engineers will fly to Korea Thursday, before moving on to Cambodia, Thailand, and the U.S. According to Shen’s blog, the trip is expected to span 15 countries, 42 cities, and 3 continents.