Retirement at 40:
An Interview with Gwendolyn Juleus
All right, I am back here with Gwendolyn Julius and she is a financial empowerment coach, I encourage you to go hear our full conversation. But one of the things that really stuck out for me is that Gwen has this past from sort of rural Alabama, right, and being one of 14 children living in poverty, and to now she’s sitting here like by choice. She’s moved to Panama, she retired at the age of 40. She’s on a mission to help other women like herself, reach that financial freedom and early retirement. She calls it fire, or financial independence, retire early. I love it. So welcome back when I yeah, I’d love to hear if you’d be willing to share more about some of those really, I think, really amazing and, and kind of you’ve been put through the fire a lot in your life. So I’d love to hear some of those foundational pieces that you see has really helped you get sort of from from, like, on this like, kind of impossible journey of life.
Yes, thank you so much blue, I appreciate you. Yes, my foundation, I believe that my foundation has led laid the path for me to get to fire by the age of 40. Like you said, I am the fourth oldest child of 14 children, my mother and my father, and my 14 siblings and I lived in little wooden houses. In this in rural Alabama. I remember, like two or three of the rural homes, they were all young, like wooden shacks, maybe three room houses. So that is how I grew up. I grew up in poverty, we lived off of my father’s paycheck as a long distance truck driver. And my mother was mainly a caregiver. But she did work outside of the home, some. But my two older sisters and I did a lot of helping my mother with the household duties and household chores. And I believe that foundation that I received from being raised in the environment that I was raised is what led me to fire. I also believe that it is a part that it is the path that I was meant to travel, I believe that it is the path that got it for me to be on because I honestly do not believe that I would be here where I am financially independent, retired early, living in a whole other country at this age, if it wasn’t the path that God meant for me to be on. And I believe that with my whole heart,
and I can I just pause there for a moment when because that’s so powerful, what you just said. And I think if I understood correctly, you were not really raised in a church. So I’m also really curious like, how you can’t or At what point you came to see or connect with God.
Right? The last time I remember going to church with my mother was I don’t know I had to be, you know, like a toddler or something because I remember falling in the church. And you know, getting my nice Sunday clothes dirty. I’m at Red Alabama clay. got that right, Alabama clay in my little Sunday clothes. So I had to be a toddler. The last time I remember going to church with my parents and with my mother. And so the next time that I connected with going to church, I was 19 years old. I was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and someone invited me to go to church. And then when I went to the church, that is the first place where I really heard the Bible being preached in a way that I understood it, and that it spoke to me. So I remember giving my life to Christ at that particular moment in my life, enjoying going to church, every Sunday, every Wednesday, I was just yearning to get back to church so that I could get more, you know, become fed more of the Word of God because I had not heard it. And I was just obviously yearning for it. Because I believe that all people want to know God, whether they know that they want to know him or not, because he is our Creator. And I think we all want to know our Creator. So that is a path that I took. And so ever since I was 19 years old, when I gave my life to Christ. I’ve always felt like God has. The way I said is God had to be there for me he had to be in my life because how in the world that I go from that life that I was living as a child to now the life that I am living now, if it had not been for God’s intervention in my life because I did not have the knowledge to do it. I did not know the right path to take. All I did was keep putting one foot in front of the other and going with my intuition and going with my gut going doing what I was told moving, you know, one step in front of the other. I didn’t Have any mentors I didn’t have any financial mentors like I told you earlier my whole thing was anytime I heard somebody talking about money I listen every time I saw a magazine about money I picked it up I saw a newspaper about money and then the seminar I was always going to be there because I wanted to hear I wanted to notice information so I believe even that guy put that yearning for the financial information inside of me because nobody else in my family I’m one of 14 nobody else feels this way about financial literacy and about money except for just Yeah, I love it it’s my i love it i just i can never get enough of learning about money learning about ways to earn save, invest all of those sorts of things. So
I love what you’re saying too about like that connecting to something greater right so however whatever the path is, like yes, and and it is called a path of her own right so we all kind of have this but yeah, God greater spirit, like there’s something there that I think really leads us especially to, to doing really remarkable things in the world. Like that’s, that’s a common thread that I I’ve heard throughout so. So that’s amazing that that happened for you at such a young age that you sort of had this lens of like, Oh, I am, there is support for me there is like this great, I can connect into this greater source of energy of power, right? Love. right and right. I’m putting your words in your mouth. But that’s what I hear when you say like you gave your life to Christ, like those are the things I’m hearing.
Because at the time, I was a very naive 19 year old when I left home, I had no knowledge of the world. I’m the girl who didn’t know their ATM machines existed when she was 16. Right? And
you told me you were like picking peas and like doing chores.
Yes, we grew up in rural Alabama. And so in the summertime, when I was maybe 10, or 11 years old, my sisters, my two older sisters, and my older brother and I, we, in the summer we would meet this guy would come by our home, pick us up on this truck, and he would take us to his pee feels his family, they will take us to their pee fields. And so we were picking peas from as early as probably seven or eight o’clock in the morning, and then all the way into a two to three o’clock in the afternoon. And new day, the middle of the day, we were out in these fields picking peas in the summertime just to earn a little money so that we could have you know a little bit of money. Sometimes we had to take the money and buy, you know, food for the family. If that was what was needed. Sometimes we had to take the money and give it to our parents. But we were grateful just to have the opportunity to earn a little bit of money. I did this probably what I was planning for three summers, at least until we moved from that particular town and to the other city that I finished growing up in. But yeah, we did that for in the summer of us. And when I left home, I say that I was very green. I was very naive. So there had to be God had to be watching out for me they had to be because how else would I have made it? I was so naive. I was so there was so many things that I didn’t know, I wasn’t savvy, I didn’t know a lot of things about the world. But here I am. I’ve managed to make it. And then a lot of the lessons that like my two older sisters and I we helped my mother with all of the domestic chores, a lot of things that helped me a lot of the things that my mother taught me how to do helped me when I went into the military, all of that I believe is defined. I learned how to learn how to cook, I learned how to clean I learned how to be responsible, which is a huge thing in the military. I learned how to drive and at a young age, I was 16 years old driving in Montgomery and Montgomery is the big city where I come from. So you know, no one else was driving in Montgomery on the interstate at the age of 16. But I was just always so curious about driving, I just wanted to know, wanting to know wanting to know, and anything that I want to know I’m gonna find out. I’m just going to research I’m going to ask somebody until I you know, get to what it is that I’m trying to get after I had no mentors. I look so God had to be the person. You know, that helped me to get to where I am today because there’s not. You know, I believe that he brought certain people into my life like the woman when I was 16 years old, to even introduce me to financial literacy and what it could possibly be in my life. I didn’t know that before I met her I had no idea. I had no idea. But then all of a sudden when I got a taste of it now I had a yearning for and so I would fall you know, from then on, I went on and I did the additional research. But the foundation that I had growing up helped me when I moved into the military. When I left home, I knew when you get to basic training, you have to be a part of a team. I have 14 brothers this may 13 President This is that’s not a team.
Your life is
my whole life when the team so my mother did not allow us to fight with one another. We had to get along so I knew how to get along with other people. I knew how to be a part of a team, I knew how to be a team player, I knew how to pull my own weight as a part of the team and not be the, you know, the lackey taking advantage of other people’s hard work and me not doing anything. My mother didn’t allow that sort of stuff. So the things that she taught us how to do, and then we would time management, she taught us because like, if we were supposed to do something that was a certain time she wanted it done. If we were to go in and have to clean the kitchen, she wanted her kitchen cleaned a certain kind of way. And in the military, you had to pay attention to details, my mother taught me to pay attention to details, if you didn’t do her kitchen, the way she told you to do her kitchen. I don’t know. We don’t know what might have happened. So all of those sorts of things helped me on my journey. When I went into the military and I was sitting mister person, I knew how to pay attention, I knew how to follow orders, I knew how to do what I was told, I knew how to you know, pick up behind myself, those sorts of things and things that I saw people over the years, you know, get in trouble for that you would think would be basic things. Everybody didn’t, you know, see them as basically they kind of do what they wanted to do. So it got them in trouble. I never got in trouble for those sorts of things in the military, my record speaks for itself is pristine, to be quite honest. Because upbringing and a foundation that I had, and I believe that God was with me. Now there was plenty of times when I found myself in situations where I had no idea what to do. No idea what to do. I just did the best thing that I knew how and a lot of times my work ethic, because I knew how to work. My sense of being responsible being where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there on time, those sorts of things gave me the grace with people, even though I didn’t know how to get the job done. Because I wasn’t responsible person because I was where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. Because I was receptive to learning those sorts of things gave me grace with people that they showed me what I was supposed to don’t even know, you know, maybe they felt like I should have known but because I just didn’t know, they gave they had some grace with me. And they showed me what I was supposed to be doing. And then I managed to get it done.
I love this so much when it’s just like it just I’m getting this really clear message from you, which is like that you and you know, I think this is good for all of us to remember, it’s like, you might not know how to get from here to there. But you don’t have to. Because there’s all kinds of support and guidance available. If you just keep you’re willing to step forward, you’re willing to not know you’re willing to ask, right? Love it. That’s
powerful. Yeah, right, one foot in front of the other doing the best that you can and all situations. I was never like question for lack of integrity. When I was in, people always knew I had integrity, they always knew that if they gave me a job to do, it was going to be done. And it was going to be done correctly. And if I didn’t know how to do it, I was going to come back, get guidance, and then go back and do my best. So I’ve never had the problem of you know, sometimes we have a term in the military called shamming. Like we have people who are scammers as never, you know, given that particular term associated with me, people always knew that they could rely on me to get the job done. That was my reputation. And I always tried to be as honest as I knew how to be as fair as I do, how to be in with superiors and subordinates alike. Mm hmm.
Amazing, and then you were able to navigate sort of the opportunities out there. Absolutely. So that you could actually not only retire with this pristine record, but retire and have saved enough and have accumulated enough income to actually retire, retire, like not retire and then get another job right away, like right cash. Right?
Right. But because I personal finance is my passion, I knew that things that I needed to put in place. Personally, aside from having a pension, I had to have a good credit report, I had to own a home, I had to have money saved. I knew how to prepare myself for PCs moves because see a lot of times people I know how to prepare myself to even retire from the military. When I got ready to retire from the military. I was looking three years out. So I went to South Korea and I told myself I wasn’t leaving South Korea for three years. And when I did leave South Korea, I was going to be leaving as a retiree. So those three years with the time that I was going to spend getting my friends, making sure that my finances was completely in order. Anything that needed to be paid off was going to be paid off. Anything that needed to be taken care of is going to be taken care of anything that needed to be saved was going to be saved in that amount of time. So that when I got out of the military, I didn’t want to have any financial worries. I didn’t want that to be a problem for me whatsoever. So I was thinking long term and planning for my exit from the military and I’ve known people at They spent 20 some odd years, 26 years in military, they get out and they didn’t even have a home to go to. I don’t understand. I understand that, like, how do you spend that amount of years in the military and not purchase a home somewhere alone along the way. But back to what I was saying about my foundation, the reputation that I had in the military allowed me to go from being an enlisted person when I first joined. And then because I had went to all of these boards is what they call them, just representing my units and different boards, and then getting an award. And then so of course, I get the awards of my commander looks good. My first sergeant looks good, the next level looks good. And so because I was doing that for them, when I asked them to sign paperwork, so if I could go to Officer Candidate School, they were more than willing to sign the paperwork for me, because they knew I was someone who would be a good person for this particular opportunity. I had a high enough, I was taking college classes. So they saw that I was putting in the effort there, I was good at my physical, my PT score was very high, always was high, I was always, you know, getting the points on that. So I was good there, I could do the physical education. I was doing all of the military education that you’re supposed to be doing as a young enlisted person, I was taking those courses, so I was getting there. So they saw that I was putting all the pieces in place, so that when I can see them and ask them for an opportunity to go to this board to become an officer, they gladly sign the paperwork for being so they sign the paperwork, I submitted the paperwork. And then I went before, like a local board, like three personnel interviewed me, so to speak, and to see if I was a good candidate to become an officer. And so I was given the opportunity and the time to go and participate in that. And then I got selected to become an officer. And, you know, from the four star general to the two star general to the, you know, gs 13, who’s directly in charge of me, they were all like, Oh, my God, congratulations, this is gonna be a great opportunity for you. But all of that happened, because of the foundation that I had, in me switching from becoming an enlisted person going to that Officer Candidate School, becoming a second lieutenant in the army getting promoted, along with the promotion came more money. So when I got the new money, I didn’t take it and have a party and buy new things. I took that new money and put it to a new endeavors, new savings, new, maybe paying down some debt that I had. And then when I got the next promotion, I took that additional income. And that additional, you know, whatever else came along with that new promotion put into my future. And then when I got the next promotion, and then the next promotion, all of those things I put toward, you know, I took advantage of the increased income and the increased opportunities to better my life and get myself prepared for retirement. And so that is how I ended up being able to reach fire by the age of 40. Because instead of retiring from the United States Army as an enlisted person, let’s just say e seven or D eight, I was able to retire as a major, that’s a huge gap in income as far as the retirement amount. So that is how I was able to, you know, reach fire by the age of 40.
Oh, I love it. I love it. I just, I heard in there, the word integrity. So really approaching your work your way of being in the world with integrity. I also heard of being of service, right? So really looking like well, how, how can you be contributing to your team to your superiors? Like, however, you know, and, and really being ambitious, like not being afraid to say, I can do more I can take on more. I don’t know exactly how but I can learn.
Exactly, but I had a couple of people that told me they thought you’d make a great office and I was like an officer Really? I never I never even thought about it. Because like I said I was naive. I thought I don’t. So I thought that you had to go to college. So I thought ROTC or, you know, West Point. West Point or designation was the old ways I didn’t even know that was a thing called Officer Candidate School that you could be coming in, you know, for me to switch. I didn’t even know but somehow somewhere someone you know, I had a girlfriend who’s I knew in Germany and then when I came to Virginia, her husband was had gotten selected for OCS and I was like OCS What’s that? I didn’t even know I had eight years in the Army back then I had no idea and not get an opportunity to become an officer had already passed me by. So you know, she was a friend of mine. She told her husband she was like you will pick a break cuz she was my supervisor. Jeremy so she knew my work ethic. She knew who I was. And so she was like you make a great candidate for us. He is, you know, doing this, this, this and this. And
yeah. So there is another great example of like another woman lighting the path for you
shot up at Lisa. Awesome.
Yeah, so much of that. I think whether, you know, anyone listening has been involved in the military, been in the military, any you know or not. There’s just some really key lessons in what you just shared. So thank you so much for sharing a little, a little more about your journey and your foundation. Again, I encourage everyone to hear our full conversation in the previous episode, you can find that either wherever you’re listening right now just go to the previous episode or go to a path of her own comm you can that that’s also a good place to find out more and get in contact if you want to get to know Gwen Moore and her financial services. If you’re especially if you’re just feeling like, gosh, I don’t know how to manage money or I don’t know what I’m doing.
And especially I would be happy to help. Yeah,
yeah. And and I know you’ve got something that people can get started right away for free on your site. You want to mention that and then tell us your website.
Yes. If you go to Gwendolyn Juliet’s dot com, if you click right on the home page, there is a free guide 30 ways that you can turn towards your money and I just say take one thing a day, and just go through the whole month and 30 ways that you can turn towards your mind and it’s just basically a checklist of questions you can ask yourself if you have this, this, this, this and this in order, and if you don’t have it done, then just take some time to get that one thing done, check it off the list. Do number two, check it off the list. And it’s just you know, a lot of great ways that you can help make things easier for yourself financially.
I love it. I love a good checklist. Yes. Thank you so much. Glad to hear such a joy and such an inspiration, your journey.
I appreciate it.