26 August 2016 –

This week’s article is a little different than most. In fact it’s a story that I’ve taken from the New Zealand Herald newspaper about quite a remarkable family.

It’s possible that this story could provide inspiration for anyone who feels that they need to just work a few more years before retiring, or that they just don’t earn enough to retire early, or that early retirement isn’t possible without millions in the bank.

So on to the story of the Gee family, Garrett and Jessica Gee, and their two young children Dorothy and Manilla. At 25, Garrett sold a mobile app he had developed, to Snapchat for US$71m. Now that’s a lot of bucks that would suddenly propel you into a different league when it comes to spending ability.

So what did they do? Buy a new mansion to live in plus holiday homes in the mountains and the tropics? Splurge on the latest Ferrari for him, and Mercedes for her? Install gold-plated taps around the house and buy a Picasso or two for the hallway? Nope, they  carefully invested the money, then sold everything and set off for a family adventure around the world looking for worthwhile projects to spend their time working on.

They’ve been to 25 countries — a lot more than many of us — and they have no plans to end their permanent holiday.

Garrett and Jessica Gee and their children, Manilla and Dorothy, are on a non-stop trip around the world. Photo / The Bucket List Family
Garrett and Jessica Gee and their children, Manilla and Dorothy, are on a non-stop trip around the world. Photo / The Bucket List Family

You have to admit it: it’s hard not to envy this picture-perfect family.

They’re young, beautiful and they recently got rich — really rich. They’ve been to 25 countries — a lot more than many of us — and they have no plans to end their permanent holiday.

Their Instagram account is littered with mouth-watering snaps from their adventures abroad, and if that isn’t enough, they’re on a mission to help as many people in need as they possibly can.

So, yes — on top of it all, they’re genuinely lovely people.

This is The Bucket List Family — Garrett and Jessica Gee, and their two young children Dorothy and Manilla.

The developer of a mobile scanning app, 25-year-old Garrett sold it to Snapchat last year for a whopping $71 million. But rather than relax and enjoy a lavish lifestyle, the family decided to sell everything they owned, including their Utah home, their cars, furniture and most of their belongings, so they could head off and see the world – and change it for the better.

They were most recently in Nepal, where they decided to set up a school for young women at risk of human traffickers, and have since made their way to the Czech Republic.

News.com.au spoke to Jessica about the family’s 12 months on the road, their latest charity venture, and what it’s really like to travel the world with two little kids in tow.

Can you tell us about your time in Nepal?

We’ve been working with effect.org learning about the problem of human trafficking and what can be done to help. We learned that more schools in poor villages would educate and protect these young women from traffickers.

We’ve decided to open a school! We are doing a fundraiser for anyone who would like to learn more about the fight against human trafficking and possibly donate.

At first we were quite nervous bringing our children to Nepal. Everything is so different. But it is different in a good way and we’ve really loved exploring such a unique culture.

Where has The Bucket List Family been so far, and what have been some of the highlights?

So far, we’ve travelled to 25 different countries together. Some highlights have included swimming with humpback whales in Tonga, watching leatherback turtles lay their eggs in Dominica, and hopping alongside a troop of kangaroos in Australia. We really love wildlife!

How did The Bucket List Family concept come about?

When my husband [Garrett] was a student in college he created an iPhone app and later sold it to Snapchat. After he sold it, we had the financial freedom to do a lot of different things.

We considered buying a house or maybe a new car but it didn’t feel right to splurge. We were raised to be frugal and we didn’t want money to change us. So we decided to do something very different.

Instead of buying a house to settle down, we decided to take off for a family adventure around the world. But we didn’t want to spend our new savings. So we put all the money into safe investments and agreed not to touch it. To fund our travels around the world, we sold all of our belongings. We sold our apartment, two cars, furniture, clothes, and everything else.

How do you continue to fund your travels?

When we sold everything we left with about US$50,000 (NZ$68,418). We agreed that we would travel until that finished and then stop as to not touch our savings.

My husband is very entrepreneurial so he took it upon himself as a goal to find ways to save money and make money along the way so we could extend our travels. He experimented with many projects including building a brand around our family and creating an Instagram account and YouTube channel where we post weekly video updates every Sunday.

As our audience began to grow, we’ve been able to work with sponsors and brands that pay us to feature their products, services, or resorts. We’ve worked with brands like The Ritz-Carlton, Sheridyn Swim, and some Australian-based children clothing brands.

We had spent about US$35,000 ($48,000) of the initial US$50,000 ($68,418) when we began making enough money to break even. Initially, we budgeted our travels to last six months, but now we’ve been away for 10 months and still making it stretch!

You guys do a lot to help people in need. Why is it important to give back?

We are very grateful for the blessings in our lives and we believe the best way to express our gratitude is to pay it forward and bless the lives of others.

Sometimes we do anonymous acts of service and sometimes we involve our followers on Instagram and Facebook for larger projects.

Last Christmas we surprised seven people in need with free Lasik eye surgery. Last month we surprised a special family with a free trip to the Bahamas.

Now, this month we are focused on building the school to help young women at risk of human trafficking in Nepal.

What’s it like travelling with the little ones?

We were very cautious and nervous as we left for this journey around the world with two very young children. But it has actually been so amazing! Our son, Manilla, was just one when we left and it has been so much fun watching him learn different animal names and noises while actually interacting with the animals in the wild all around the world. Our daughter, Dorothy, learned to swim in the Caribbean and now she believes she is a real life mermaid!

Most of all, we’re just very grateful for the unique amount of quality time we’re able to spend together.

Do you have any practical advice for other families travelling with kids?

We thought it would be difficult to live out of suitcases and pack so light. But, living minimalistic has been very liberating and has removed a lot of stress from life that we didn’t even realise was possible.

Also, along the way we’ve learned little tips and tricks that help with travelling with kids. When we have long flights we will packs snacks that take a long time to eat and keep our children occupied for longer. Stuff like string cheese, lollipops, or raisins that take a long time to pull out of the box.

Also, it’s kind of weird but it helps when we tell bedtime stories about our upcoming adventures.

The night before a long flight we will tell our kids a bedtime story about a “magical land called Thailand where we will see elephants, eat yummy noodles, and see beautiful floating lanterns!” This helps them get excited and think more about the destination ahead and less about the long stressful flight.

How has this experience brought you together as a family, and what have you learned about yourselves, and the world, so far?

Probably the most important lesson we have learned so far is how good and loving the world is. Everywhere.

People can often focus on the negative and heartbreaking stories in the media so it sometimes feels like the world is a dark place full of evil and tragedy. But during our journey around the world we’ve seen that although evil exists, there is so much more light, peace, love, and goodness in the world.

No matter the country or culture, we find people and families full of kindness and beauty. It has given us so much hope and comfort for our children and the future they will grow up in. Source: NZ Herald  27/08/16

Now having $71m sitting in reserve back home would certainly put your mind at rest that, when you eventually return home, you’re not going to need to get back to the same job you left behind, or worry about having to start again.

But the reason I like this story is that these guys became financially independent, albeit with a little more than most of us, and rather than continue to do the same-old, same-old, or splash the cash around in wasteful ways, took the opportunity to not only travel relatively frugally, but do some good along the way as well.

So what’s the point of this story? Well, to me just it’s another example of how financial independence gives you opportunities that you’re not going to have when you’re tied to a job. Whether it’s giving you the freedom to roam, or to just do the things you’ve always wanted to given the time, or to give away your time helping others. Financial independence is going to help hand this to you on a silver platter. And guess what?  You don’t need $71m behind you to achieve this either.

What plans do you have when you reach financial freedom? Carry on working? Take early retirement? Travel the world, or do something you’ve always wanted to? 

Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas with the rest of us. And hopefully, you might give inspiration to those still considering hopping on the FIRE bandwagon.

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23 thoughts on “What would you do if you just sold your idea for $71m?”

    1. Hi there Green Swan. Yeah, I liked the philosophy behind the story. Not so much that they had suddenly put a shed-load of money in the bank but that they became financially independent and chose to travel the world a fairly modest budget and using their time to do what they want which is help others. That’s what you can do when you become FI. Oh, and $71m in the bank does help too.

  1. Good on them. It is uplifting to read positive stories. As for what I would do, it’s so far away that I haven’t seriously considered it. I have at least 2 decades to work things through for myself. In that time, I imagine I will probably change as a person, so my ideas and plans will change as well. I would like to travel, but probably not on a permanent basis. Recently I thought I would like to have a dog trained as a therapy dog, and do visits at the local hospital – they have a formal program for this, and the difference it makes to patients and staff alike are priceless.

    1. Hi there Mrs ETT. I guess when your final goal is some years off, you’re right, circumstances and priorities will change and who knows what your situation will be like in 20 years time. However, if you set your long term goal to be financially independent in 20 years time, what you do when you get there is entirely up to you. Giving your time to a good cause is a worthy goal and who can say no to dogs eh.

  2. Whether you have $100 or $1M or $100M, the same rules of money discipline still apply. You gotta hand it to them for sticking to their values despite the enormous wealth. Damn impressive.

    Our FIRE plan involves spending lots of time with our kids also. They will be 9 and 11 when pull the plug. Travel is on the cards, Europe for sure – mainly to visit family and friends more in the UK. We will use that base as a springboard to mainland Europe and farther afield. Mrs PIE plans for lots of involvement with kids school perhaps some teaching assistant role.

    1. Nice one Mr PIE. Are you able to do ‘home schooling’ while you travel? I’ve read a couple of news articles lately about the education system taking a harder line on planned absences from schools. It seems that while this was once the thing to do, enrich your kids minds through travel, it’s now seen as not towing the line and supposedly causes kids to be irreparably damaged by the experience, and puts them years behind their peers. Supposedly anyway.

  3. Great post, and great article.
    It goes to show that with the right attitude you don’t need millions to live the life you desire – just some imagination and drive.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi there Good Life George. You’re right and that was my reason for posting this story. This family became financially independent and chose to travel the world. Sounds like a good idea to me. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. They look to be leading fantastic lives. If I had $71m (minus taxes) I have no idea what I would do. I would stop working for sure but it’s hard to think of creative ideas to spend that money when I’ve conditioned myself so much to save everything I can. Great post that shows a model lifestyle!

  5. They sound like an amazing family, that’s for sure. I’m jealous and proud of them, they are living the lives that many people would love, yet also funding it too, they aren’t going crazy with the money.

    I think once we reach FI, I’d still want to keep earning money and trying to help people financially. Kind of like how ClubThrifty do.

    They are very financially responsible, if only everyone else could show that kind of control.


    1. Yeah, it would be hard not to dip into the investment pool every now and again wouldn’t it. Fly first class here and there, stay in some luxury accommodation perhaps. I take my hat off to them for having the strength to resist such urges.

  6. Love this story, thanks for highlighting!

    The only thing I would say is I don’t think I’d be so conservative with 71 million in the bank. Surely they could do a bit more good in the world by loosening the purse strings a bit.

    Maybe a bit harsh, they are clearly doing far better than 99% of other people would be given that sort of money practically over night!

    1. Yeah, I doubt I could actually maintain a conservative lifestyle with that kind of money. Just think of the interest if you invested it in a modest return portfolio. Unless you went stupid, I doubt you could ever spend it all on yourself. Thanks for dropping by FIREstarter.

    1. Yeah, I think it puts many of our plans to shame but we don’t feel we should base our own success on what someone else has achieved. But if their story inspires you to up your own game then that’s a positive outcome too. Thanks for dropping in PoF.

  7. That is extremely cool! I think it’s funny how so many people would opt to spend the $71 million. I would certainly invest it in something that generates passive income, so that your reservoir would continually be replenished automatically. Sounds like that is what this couple did. I would probably buy several large apartment complexes that would bring in large amounts of cash flow every month. If you could get 7% on your money in these apartment complexes you would generate $4.9 million per year in passive income. I could get used to that 🙂

    1. It is pretty cool isn’t it. But I think that the important thing to note is that they don’t ‘need’ $71m to live on. If they had built up financial reserves of only $1m to $1.5m they could still do the same thing based on they’re spending rate. And that’s the whole point of building a sufficient investment portfolio so that you can live on just the interest practically forever. The final figure really only depends on how much you need to enjoy your chosen lifestyle doesn’t it. Thanks for dropping by and commenting YFM.

    1. 71 mill in the bank, I wouldn’t be complaining either lol. The point I was trying to get across was more about the freedom to do what you want when you have Financial Independence. Admittedly, this family have a significantly lager buffer than most retirees.

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