We're back with another young millionaire interview!
For the last six weeks, we've interviewed one 30-something millionaire or soon-to-be millionaire. The goal is to give you (the readers of this blog) an inside view on what it takes to reach this incredible milestone.
This week we're joined by the blogger behind My Financial Journey who is well above the 7-figure mark in his 30's. He's sharing why paying yourself first really makes the biggest financial difference.
How old are you? If you have a family, tell us about them and their ages.
I just turned 39.
I'm married and have 5 young children ages 13, 11, 9, 5, and 3.
What part of the country do you live in? Do you own your home or rent?
I live in Wisconsin and we built our dream home 2 years ago out in the country on 15 acres.
What is your current net worth? What are your assets and what are your liabilities?
My current net worth is $1.6M, but that includes my home, my cash savings, mortgage, and some additional real estate.
I also track my retirement nest egg which only includes my retirement accounts which currently sits at $1.075M.
What are your current sources of income?
I work in IT and as of last year, my wife has been teaching. For most of our retirement accumulating years, we relied solely on my income.
What has been the single best thing you’ve done to increase your income up until this point?
I guess I would say getting my MBA shortly after college. I got it through a local university by attending night classes and the entire thing cost me less than $10k. It was an immediate excuse for companies to throw more money at me and the payback period was almost instantaneous and that extra income has been compounded ever since.
Overall, I have not chased the highest paying jobs in my career and instead focused on work life/balance. The employer that I am at now I actually took almost 25% less versus competing job offers because I knew it was a better fit for my family and had great benefits.
What ways do you invest your money?
100% of my 401k money is invested in Vanguard index funds which accounts for nearly half of my portfolio.
The rest I sheepishly admit is in Roth & Traditional Rollover IRAs invested in individual stocks. I would not recommend this, but I’ve tracked my performance closely on my blog over the last 12 years and have significantly outperformed the markets so I have had a hard time convincing myself to do the right thing and put it all in index funds.
Did you receive an inheritance or windfall of some kind during your life so far?
My father passed away 2 years ago and I do have some partial ownership of real estate, but I do not include it in any of my financials or depend on it for early retirement.
What debts do you have (if any)? If so, what are they? Which have you paid off?
The only debts I have ever had in my life are my student loans and my mortgage. My student loans are currently at $39k and I am scheduled to make my last payment when I’m 55. They are locked in at 2.625% before discount for electronic payment and making payments for the first year so they are ridiculously cheap and I stretched my payments out as long as possible.
My mortgage is $287k and at 3.5% and again will be paid off in about 28 years because of the low rate. I’ve never had any credit card debt, car loans, or any other form of bad debt in my life.
How do you track your net worth?
I can get my net worth from Mint though I don’t really care about my net worth too much as my primary goal is financial independence. So the fact that I own a $400k house or have a $2,000 car really doesn’t help me there. I need somewhere to live, I likely need a car, and well any money not in a retirement account I could, in theory, spend on something stupid.
Given this, I prefer to track what I call my Retirement Nestegg which only includes accounts and assets that are 100% designed to cover my retirement. These I track every single month.
Do you live on a budget?
I don’t and never really have.
My wife and I are naturally quite frugal and the first priority for money has always been retirement accounts and then we just managed with what was left over. I calculated our savings rate one time early on when we only had 2 kids and one income and it came out to 86%. It’s nowhere near that now, but it also doesn’t need to be as we did all of the legwork a decade ago and now kind of just get to sit back and watch the compounding show.
What are your annual expenses?
As I alluded to in my last answer our savings rate is not very good right now. We make by far the most we’ve ever made and yet our savings rate is probably as low as it’s ever been. This is primarily due to us building our dream house and finding a million different house projects to throw money at. This is something I need to get a good grasp on soon as I am actively looking at semi-retiring next year and need to figure out our baseline expenses for our family of 7.
We’ve had many very expensive one time expenses related to the house that are really messing with our financials. Like I said we have never budgeted so I don’t have a clear picture of where our money is going. We've never needed to in the past as it always ended up in the retirement account, but this is becoming more important now as I want to make sure what our required expenses will be to make sure that if we dial back our jobs that we will still be comfortable.
Do you have a favorite fintech tool that helps you grow your wealth?
Yes, my blog has been invaluable to growing my wealth. I started it in 2005 after running across 2 Million Blog and it has been instrumental in me setting goals for myself and tracking them. I initially started it for entirely for myself but did hit a patch where I was quasi-popular at one point many years ago, but eventually got busy and stopped writing for others.
However, I never stopped updating my progress and setting new goals for myself. The action of writing down my goals and putting together plans and also getting other people giving me feedback has been invaluable and there is no way I’m a millionaire in my 30's without it. I firmly believe that.
Related Post: 7 Free Money Tools That Will Help You Build Wealth Today
Why is it important for you to build up your wealth?
Pure and simple, wealth gives me the freedom to do things that I normally wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. I love my family and my kids are growing up so fast.
This wealth is going to allow me to quit working full-time and spend so much more time with them. Something most parents simply cannot do.
What is one financial mistake you’ve made during your young millionaire journey?
This one is tough, but from a purely financial perspective, we never should have built our dream house 2 years ago. We live on 15 acres out in the country and built a custom home on it.
Obviously, I’m a millionaire at age 38 ready to semi-retire so it can’t be too bad, but in the 8 or so years before us building that house had diverted about $200k in cash into a savings account earning paltry interest while the stock market had one of the greatest runs in its history.
I would be a multi-millionaire for sure if we had just stuck with super charging the retirement accounts and raising our family in our existing house.
But again what might be a financial mistake could actually be viewed as a positive life choice. This is a very slippery slope as you can easily justify any stupid expense as it “makes me happy”, but ultimately you need to ask yourself why you are trying to become wealthy. For me, it was so that I could have the freedom to raise my family and be around my kids as much as possible.
This dream house in the country was part of that. It allowed our kids to grow up in the country, to raise animals, grow vegetables, etc.
In hindsight, that money invested would have allowed me to retire even earlier and I guess in theory we could have still built the house, but it would have been a risky bet as the market could have gone down and not straight up.
Related Post: 5 Ways to Avoid Becoming House Rich and Cash Poor
What book has been most influential to you?
I have read quite a few financial books, but I can’t say anyone made a huge influence on my personal finance habits. I did, however, love reading the financial bloggers out there sharing their financials and personal finance advice.
2million’s blog got me started blogging and All Financial Matters were great reads that taught me a lot starting out. More recently Mr. Money Mustache, JL Collins (Simple Path to Wealth), and the Mad Fientist are must-reads for me as I start taking the plunge of working when it’s convenient.
What is one financial hack that has helped you that you think most people don’t know about?
I’m not sure it qualifies as a hack, but the pay yourself first method makes it really hard to screw up your plans.
If you automatically set aside a large portion of your income from each paycheck from the first job you get and it’s non-negotiable money you can never touch, it makes the rest of your life super easy. It doesn’t matter how badly you manage the rest of your spending you will be in good shape as long as you also stay away from debt.
Take the decision-making process out of it. The money is just always gone. You never had it and it doesn’t take a conscious decision to move it to a certain account
Where do you find the most joy in your life?
Spending time with my family and helping others.
For the 20-something with a $0 net worth, what advice would you give them to become a millionaire in their 30's?
Save as much money as you possibly can right now … starting TODAY and every single paycheck going forward.
Invest it automatically in the low-cost index funds. Find ways to increase your income and increase your savings and not your lifestyle when you run across that additional money. This is so critically important as every additional dollar you can save now will multiply almost unbelievably in the future. Stick to it and let compounding work its magic.
Also be honest with yourself as to why you want to become a millionaire. What is a million dollars going to do for you? As Morgan Housel said, “When most people say they want to be a millionaire, what they really mean is “I want to spend a million dollars,” which is literally the opposite of being a millionaire.”
Where are you in your net worth journey?
Please let me know in the comments below!
Track your net worth today for FREE with Personal Capital. It’s the first step on your journey to becoming a young millionaire!