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David Beaudoin had what many sports-loving academics would regard as a dream job. He graduated from Laval University in Quebec City with a PhD and walked right into a regular teaching gig there as a statistics professor while devoting his research to applying statistical analysis to the wide world of sports and authoring papers that, for example, examined “biased penalty calls” in the NHL.
By crunching data sets, Beaudoin found there is indeed bias, and teams that have taken “more penalties in a match are less likely to have the next penalty called against them,” among other things.
But despite outward appearances, the approachable professor was a mess inside. Standing before a class of 175 students to deliver a lecture was never his idea of a good time. He would tie himself in knots as a diary of self-doubts reeled through his mind: Was he being clear enough? Did the kids get the concept? Was he delivering the statistical goods? In truth, he was nailing it in class, but it was always hard to convince himself of that.
“I am a pretty shy person,” he said. “I was good at teaching, but I did not enjoy it.”
Beaudoin finally decided he had had enough of the professorial grind and retired about a year ago, along with some 300,000 other Canadians who did the same. Unlike most, however, the professor was 43 years old. That is, a comparative kid, but one who amassed a substantial retirement nest egg not solely through teaching statistics, but with a side hustle that combined his numerical chops and statistical modelling know-how to primarily bet on sports.
“One of my biggest life goals was to be able to quit my job as early as possible,” he said. “I always thought it was sad to see people working until their 60s, and then once they retire, they get sick or, worse, they die, so I had this ambition to retire at 40.”
If, perhaps, you’re wondering who on Earth zeroes in on 40 as their optimal retirement age, the answer is: more people than you might think. There is an entire movement dedicated to retiring at a ridiculously young age, according to Ed Rempel, a Toronto financial planner and tax accountant. It even has a hip-sounding acronym — FIRE — which stands for “financial independence, retire early.”
Some of these people come to Rempel for advice. For the record, the 64-year-old could have packed it in 15 years ago, but he continues to work, albeit at a dialed-back pace, because he enjoys it.
“I have come across cases where young people are saving 80 per cent of their income,” he said. “It is extreme frugality, and there is house-hacking, travel-hacking and car-hacking going on, and it is all geared toward extreme costs savings.”
There are no daily double-doubles at good ol’ Timmies for this FIRE crew. These savers live lean, invest their savings and, depending on your view of being unfathomably cheap, avoid all unnecessary expenditures for a couple of decades, all with the goal of constructing a portfolio they can retire on long before retirement is even a glimmer in the eye for most.
There is house-hacking, travel-hacking and car-hacking going on, and it is all geared toward extreme costs savings.
Ed Rempel, financial planner
Retirement in the FIRE model is typically defined as working when you want, at what you want, without needing to make money. Rempel added that the bulk of the young people he works with have good-paying jobs to begin with.
Beaudoin’s good-paying job as a university professor topped out at an annual salary of $105,000. But gambling came into his life long before the university classroom did. As a teenager, he bet on hockey games through Loto-Québec, and as an undergraduate, a relative mentioned to him there were plenty of offshore sportsbooks operating online.
It was the early days of what was an unregulated web-based gambling market, and what Beaudoin discovered was that different sportsbooks often had wildly differing odds. One site might peg the Montreal Canadiens at 3:1 to beat the hated Boston Bruins, while another might give the Bruins a 2:1 edge.
Instead of partying at the bar with his university buddies, Beaudoin was “the nerd,” in his words, who was constantly on his laptop looking for “arbitrage” opportunities to exploit the contradictory odds and, for example, bet on the Canadiens to both win and lose, and still come out ahead.
“The beauty of it was you did not need to know anything about a league,” he said. “If the odds were there, you could bet both sides and still be guaranteed to make a profit.”
Darts, Aussie rules football, Beaudoin went wherever the odds led him. His mom and dad weren’t too crazy about their son’s gambling ways until he explained to them that he was effectively gaming the system and, by the way, pulling in around $10,000 during a good week.
If the odds were there, you could bet both sides and still be guaranteed to make a profit
The gambling winnings paid for his education and staked his other side hustles: real estate and the stock market. Today, he outright owns a $500,000 house and has three rental properties valued at $350,000, $200,000 and $150,000, with about $150,000 or so in combined mortgage debt. The rentals generate around $72,000 in gross income.
In case that seems like too many eggs in the housing basket, the professor has a tax-free savings account, a registered retirement savings plan and a university pension to one day look forward to, and he has been socking money into registered education savings plans since his kids were born. He is not especially frugal either, and enjoys tropical getaways with the family.
Topping his retirement wish list is buying a place in the Caribbean while his passion project/hobby is making videos for his Professor MJ YouTube channel. The videos show the sports-loving stats nerd dispensing tips to bettors looking to earn money or, as he put it, “lose less.”
Tally it all together and Freedom 43 sounds much more inviting than the Freedom 55 that the old London Life Insurance Co. advertisement trumpeted. However, it is also 40 years shy of the average life expectancy for Canadians, and 40 years is a long time to live off one’s assets, particularly when in the market to buy a place in the Caribbean.
“The earlier you retire, the earlier you’ll be accessing funds, and so those funds don’t have as long to build,” Caval Olson-Lepage, a Saskatoon-based financial planner, said.
Pensions are a classically ageist financial vehicle in that plan members, including most university professors, typically can’t access their pension prior to age 55. The Canadian Pension Plan doesn’t kick in until age 60 and Old Age Security is but a far-off dream until 65. In the meantime, the 43-year-old professor is on the hook for paying the bills with the money he already has.
There is also the small matter of Beaudoin’s gambling habit. He said he bets because of the challenge involved in trying to beat the house, something that 95 per cent of hardcore gamblers fail to do.
“One of the pitfalls of retiring early is exactly what this guy is doing, which is having investments where you are not confident of the long-term return,” Rempel said. “Sports betting — he is doing well now — but it could very easily go badly.”
Luck does have a way of changing. But over a 20-plus year span of making bets, the professor has made a lot of money, although exactly how much he won’t say, save for the obvious hint: he has enough to retire on at 43.
Beaudoin still bets daily, but doesn’t view himself as a gambling addict. He loves sports. He likes statistics. By marrying the two together, he looks to beat the odds and, thus far, things have worked out.
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“I am free of all the stress that came with teaching,” he said. “My goal was to retire at 40, and you could say I missed my goal by three years, but I am still very happy.”
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