Singaporean ex-lawyer who quit her job at 29 and retired at 38 explains how you can do the same, Lifestyle News

When Jean Voronkova decided to quit her $120,000-a-year job as a mid-level attorney at a Big Four law firm nearly 10 years ago, her father didn’t speak to her for two years.

It’s no surprise that many around the 29-year-old didn’t understand why she would quit her lucrative job as a lawyer which offered her many of life’s luxuries – one of them being Dior bags which she admitted to having a soft spot for.

For Jean’s parents, it took them longer to accept that their daughter would never become the lawyer they wanted her to be.

“My dad thought it was a sabbatical for a few months because I was exhausted. When they figured it out, he stopped talking to me for about two years,” Jean explained.

Her father’s reaction, she added, was “the one that hurt the most emotionally”.

“The rest was all I could bear and handle,” said Jean, now 39.

The pursuit of “shiny things”, as John calls the money, prestige and status that “good work” brings, was never on his agenda.

Becoming a lawyer, says Jean, was done in large part to make her parents happy.

“I was always dissatisfied with the way life options were presented to us in Singapore,” said the self-proclaimed high achiever who was from the Raffles Girls’ School gifted program and went to Victoria Junior College before leaving. graduating in law from the National University of Singapore.

About the expectations she felt at the time, she shared, “Everyone expects you later in life to be a doctor or a lawyer. Not even an accountant or an engineer, it’s not good enough.

“It’s like, four life options in total? And they’re all similar and kind of look awful,” she shared, adding that she’s known since she was a teenager that it wasn’t. not the way for her. “I didn’t like it at all.”

“I wanted something else, even though I didn’t know what I wanted.”

That “something” became clearer, however, when she became a lawyer. Despite the hefty paycheck that came with her job, imagining herself climbing the ladder to become a senior lawyer did little to comfort her.

“I didn’t feel inspired that if I kept going and was industrious, I could potentially be where the bosses were. The life ahead of me was despairing and depressing me instead of motivating me. When that last realization set in, I knew I had to go.”

His age also played a role in his decision. “I felt like if I persisted into my thirties, I might never have the courage to leave my life back then, gold handcuffs and all.”

After leaving his career of more than six years, Jean dove headlong into his new life, working through a range of jobs, while hopping from country to country.

From a surf instructor in Vietnam and Sri Lanka to a freelance legal worker, she’s also been a guest relations manager at a five-star resort, language teacher, personal trainer, and Zumba instructor, to name a few. some.

Jean also started four different businesses along the way – “selling beanbags, luxury Brazilian swimwear, then having my own one-man yoga business and owning a surf school with my husband.” The couple had met as surf instructors in Vietnam before getting married and starting their business.


More recently, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Jean returned from Vietnam to Singapore for a few months and even completed a three-week stint as a staff member at FairPrice – “one of those Covid jobs” – before joining her husband. Vitaly, who is Russian, in Moscow.

More changes were to come.

When Jean turned 38 last year, the couple packed their bags and moved to Bali, a move they had already dreamed of for several years and had begun to actively plan.


The tipping point came during the pandemic, when the business of the surf school they had established in Vietnam came to a halt “and nothing else was holding us back”.

“Once our monthly passive income was able to cover our all-inclusive monthly living expenses at our target retirement destination of Bali, which is about $1,500 ($2,098) per month for the two of us, we left.”

So how could they do it? Jean attributes it to four main factors: planning, luck, what she calls geo-arbitrage, and sacrifice.

In fact, she shared these tips on how to achieve her goal in a Youtube video published in June this year.

“It only took four years of dedicated investment and financial planning to reach my target amount,” Jean told AsiaOne, which we agree is a modest sum by most standards.

Rental fees from the overseas properties the couple had purchased contribute the bulk of their passive income, which is between $1,500 and $2,000 per month.

Jean considers herself lucky that the couple’s surf school in Vietnam and their investments have paid off.

The concept of geo-arbitrage or geographical arbitrage is also another factor that made it easier for them to save.

“Living in Vietnam has allowed us to take advantage of the modest cost of living while earning money from our US dollar business, which has accelerated our savings rate,” Jean explained.

“When it comes to retirement in Bali, we’re also lucky that the life we ​​want to lead and the dream place to be is actually very affordable, in terms of the cost of living,” said Jean, noting that they could not have done so if they had wanted to settle in Singapore.

The fact that the couple does not live a lavish life and is content with a basic but comfortable standard of living is also another important point to mention. In Bali, the house is a decent sized property with a garden that they rent out for less than $500 a month, and they ride around on scooters as transportation.

Of course, such a life also comes with sacrifices. Luxuries such as shopping sprees and designer handbags were the easiest to give up.

“I think the hardest thing (about my life choices) is how it’s stifled my ability to be generous to my family, like bringing my parents for expensive meals and giving them fancy gifts.” , revealed John.

When she is back in Singapore, meetings with friends would also be at places like Ya Kun instead of Raffles Courtyard, for example.

She prefers to maintain friendships with those who don’t mind meeting in more casual places than accepting treats from friends in more lavish settings, she says, because she’s “not super willing to shift the financial consequences of [her] lifestyle choices over others.

On the other hand, however, what is well worth the sacrifice is the absolute freedom she is able to enjoy.

“Life is on my own terms, I decide how, when, what and why for most things I do. That sense of self-determination is what I value the most.”

For Jean, hers is a story about how one doesn’t have to conform to the typically Singaporean mould.

“Many people who earn less than me as a lawyer have actually taken similar alternative paths,” she explained. “And they’ve found myriad ways to make it work for themselves.”

“I know of other former professionals who are now pilates instructors, pottery teachers, or have become chiropractors, bakers, or restaurateurs. due to actual financial failure. . Actually, I can’t really name one.”

Jean’s parents also pulled themselves together and accepted her way of life, once time made it clear to her that she was not turning back, nor was she “struggling to survive”.

The “big turning point,” she shared, was when her parents went to visit her in Vietnam.


“They saw my life in the village and saw me working on the beach teaching kitesurfing. They saw how happy, content and at peace I was, which was very different from what I was when I was still in the corporate world.”

For those hoping to take the “alternative route” of life like Jean did, or perhaps yearning for what’s known as the Financial Independence, Early Retirement (FIRE) movement, she offers some advice. quick on how you can prepare for the journey ahead. .

1. Save money

“Save money up front. Don’t buy any get-rich-quick schemes. Conservative, steady slow increases over a long period of time work more reliably and efficiently.”

2. “Downgrading” isn’t so bad

“For a lot of people (even if they don’t really know it yet), life is less about things and more about great experiences and great relationships, so don’t worry too much about downgrading your lifestyle.”

3. You can always change your mind

“Life is never really set in stone and final, so you can always change the course of things (backwards, if necessary) if things don’t work out. But at least you tried and you don’t wonder anymore. until the end.”

ALSO READ: Singapore Woman Shares How Much It Costs To Be A Digital Nomad In Bali

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Jon J. Epps