26-year-old librarian aims to retire by 32: I 'envision myself doing passion projects and not being restricted'

"I would start teaching at about 5 in the morning, and I would teach until about 7:30."

Sara DeSantis and her boyfriend.
Courtesy Sara DeSantis

Sara DeSantis was a senior at Furman University in 2017 when she first learned about FIRE, or the "financial independence, retire early" movement. Her boyfriend was following that lifestyle, and she was intrigued by the idea of spending most of her working years being more relaxed. So she joined the FIRE movement herself.

Today DeSantis, 26, lives with that same boyfriend in Indianapolis, Indiana. The two are aiming to retire within five years, by the time DeSantis turns 32. "I envision myself doing passion projects and not being restricted," she says.

To reach that goal, DeSantis has taken on multiple jobs to create several income streams. After graduating and while she was getting her master's, DeSantis worked both a full-time job and two side gigs. Once she graduated, she got a better-paying full-time job and continued taking on side hustles. Those multiple income streams enabled her to pay off $50,000-worth of college debt within two years of graduating and to save aggressively for FIRE.

How a FIRE supersaver plans to retire at 32

Video by Courtney Stith

Between various retirement accounts and a liquid savings account, she's been able to amass more than $80,000 in the last four years, she says.

The couple's goal is a FIRE number of at least $700,000. If they can invest that much, they reason, that will generate the $21,600 per year they need to cover their expenses.

Her jobs: From $14/hour to a $52,000 salary

As a new graduate living in Greenville, South Carolina, DeSantis got a full-time job as an assistant librarian at her local public library. It paid $14 per hour.

After completing her master's in library and information science, and getting qualified to be a full-time librarian, she got a job as a full-time, better-paid librarian at the University of South Carolina Upstate making $50,000 per year.

The couple moved to Indianapolis in early 2021 after DeSantis' boyfriend got a job as an engineer at Eli Lilly, and DeSantis ultimately got a job as a content portfolio specialist with the pharmaceutical company as well. Her pay is now $52,000.

One side hustle: Online tutoring, sometimes at 5 a.m.

To supplement her library assistant income right out of college, DeSantis also picked up some tutoring side hustles online. She started teaching on VIPKid, a platform where Chinese kids learn English in 25-minute classes. The flexibility and unusual hours of the gig made it easy for her to work before her day job.

"I would wake up around 4:30 in the morning," she says. "I would start teaching at about 5 in the morning, and I would teach until about 7:30." She would bring in $20 per hour and made about $3,600 on VIPKid that year. She still teaches a class here and there on the platform.

Sara DeSantis and her boyfriend.
Courtesy Sara DeSantis

During the pandemic, DeSantis also started tutoring in research and writing on TutorMe, a platform for students who need help with everything from biology to graphic design work. She worked nights, sometimes until 1 a.m., as that's when she found students needed the most help.

All told, she earned an extra $25,000 from the site in 2020. She's hoping to earn another $20,000-$25,000 from the platform this year.

Another side hustle: Selling things she 'didn't use'

In addition to her various jobs and side hustles, DeSantis is always on the lookout for ways to bring in extra cash, such as selling items on sites like Mercari and Facebook Marketplace. "When I moved in with my boyfriend in South Carolina [before moving to Indianapolis]," she says, "I realized I had a bunch of stuff that I didn't use so I was able to sell a lot of it."

These one-time sales — which included "everything from some limited edition Kylie Cosmetics I never used, the balls that are in the blender bottles, clothes, swimsuits, cups, etc." — have brought "$10,000 at least" over the years, she says. That money went into savings as well.

Sara DeSantis and family.
Courtesy Sara DeSantis

An additional income stream: Teaching financial literacy

As a librarian for the University of South Carolina Upstate, DeSantis started teaching a financial literacy course. After she moved, she continued with it remotely. "I'm teaching six classes every semester," she says, and "I'm making $6,000 per semester" from the course. All of that goes into savings.

As she and her boyfriend continue to earn and save aggressively toward their goal, retirement is not too far off. She's looking forward to a time when she isn't juggling so many jobs and side hustles.

"Just [having] that time," she says. "If I could have a cup of coffee every morning and not be rushed, that is my ideal day."

More from Grow: