Personal Finance > Money Dreams

Retired rich at 26
After selling his company to Cisco, Phil Gordon doesn't work anymore -- but he's not sitting around.
May 1, 2003: 9:56 AM EDT
By Leslie Haggin Geary, CNN/Money staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - By most measures, Phil Gordon has the perfect retirement.

In his early twenties, he worked 50- to 60-hour weeks as the lead engineer at Netsys, a software company that he and three friends started out of college. Business flourished, and within a few years Cisco Systems bought Netsys in a stock swap valued at $95 million.

Gordon worked another year after the sale, until he decided to take a two-week vacation in Bali. It was Gordon's first break from the office and it was there that he realized there was more to life than work. At age 26, he was good and ready to retire.

Instead of sticking close to home and going on potentially wild shopping sprees for, say, real estate or cars, Gordon gave away most of his belongings to Goodwill, bought a one-way ticket to Cape Town, South Africa, then traveled through the rest of the continent, working his way to Cairo. En route, he dove with Great White sharks, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, went to a soccer match in Ethiopia and rafted down the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe.

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That was just the beginning. Today, Gordon has visited 22 countries. His adventures include four months traveling across Australia in a Land Cruiser, treks throughout Southeast Asia, three months in Peru, Bolivia, the Galapagos Islands and hiking throughout Alaska.

When he wasn't on the road, Gordon also managed to earn a reputation as a world-class poker player, coming in fourth in the 2000 World Series of Poker. (Gordon has been playing since his great aunt Liv taught him cards at the tender age of seven; he subsequently spent much of his youth in public card rooms.)

But Gordon is far from spoiled, and he's long known he wanted to "give back" in some fashion. Now, he and his buddy, Rafe Furst, are traveling throughout the United States to raise money for Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation.

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The twist? The duo travels in a giant red-white-and blue RV from one major sports event to another, bouncing from, say, the Super Bowl to the World Figure Skating Championships to the Final Four and then The Masters and so on.

Needless to say, the fundraising drive -- which has been dubbed "The Ultimate Sports Adventure" -- is not the traditional retiree's RV road trip.

"Almost everyone knows someone who's been affected by cancer in some way or another, so people understand what we're trying to do," says Gordon.

In fact, Gordon decided to raise money for cancer after his great aunt Liv died of lung cancer. Today, one of his goals is to make all poker rooms smoke-free. He also would like the world to have "more love, less ethnic hatred." He's doing his part to tackle the latter, as well.

Americans, he argues, "have the most money and most time and energy and the least desire to experience other cultures."

To build awareness, Gordon posts his travel diary on the Internet for people to read. He and Furst also have created a Web site for their sports/cancer trip, and they keep in touch with fans via e-mails and updated travel logs.

What comes next for someone who still has decades of retirement ahead of him?

Gordon says he's received plenty of offers to consult and return back to work. But he's not interested. The world is a big place and he has plenty of traveling -- and card playing -- to do.  Top of page

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