How to become a millionaire

Millionaire by 30

Okay spoiler alert: That’s not my yacht, but this is my guide on how I became a millionaire by 30.

Many may think it, but money does not buy happiness. I truly believe that statement. However, wanting more in life is not a crime. I’ve always been driven in my endeavors and money just happens to be one of them. Ever since graduating from college, I wanted to know how to become a millionaire.

The financial path I have chosen allowed me to have a net worth of $1,000,000 by the time I reached 30 years old. This path directly aligns with my goal of retiring by my 50th birthday.

I’ve always had an uber-competitive outlook on life, it’s just in my DNA. My money outlook is no different. If I’m going to do this whole “personal finance thing”, you better bet your ass I’m going to try my best.

Throughout my wealth-building process, I have been able to fulfill my love for traveling, continue my vacations, buy things that I NEED, and splurge here and there on items that make me happy. 

There’s no right or wrong way to build wealth, you just need a plan that you can stick to and execute.

There’s no right or wrong way to build wealth, you just need a realistic plan that you can stick to and execute. I have used 8 simple money management skills to grow my net worth. Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t genius stock picks or risky cryptocurrency investments. Just finance fundamentals at work! Here’s how I did it.

1. Education: Return On Investment

Degrees and fields of study lead to varying job opportunities and pay scales. I have always tried to think of my education as a personal loan to myself.  

If your future job cannot repay the student loans and support your desired lifestyle choices, financial failure is imminent. Banks wouldn’t give a loan out if they knew there was a good chance someone would default on the payments. So why do it to yourself?

I chose a marine engineering systems degree from the United States Merchant Marine Academy for a handful of reasons. First, job placement out of my school was close to 100% immediately following graduation. Two, the starting salaries were extremely competitive with many entry-level positions starting in the six figures. Three, USMMA is a federal service academy like West Point or Annapolis, as a result, my education was paid for by taxpayer dollars with a graduation obligation to fulfill afterward.

On a side note, a must-read book by a fellow USMMA member, Robert T. Kiyosaki, Rich Dad Poor Dad, is going to get your financial mindset in the right place for wealth building.

To recap for those that may have missed it. I came out of school with an engineering degree, a six-figure job upon graduation, and no student loans. I was able to increase my chances for financial success right from the get-go. 

It was a strategic move and not just lucky!

Yes I know, not everyone can have that same experience with college. However, choosing the $60,000 per year university with a degree that only pays $45,000 will have you paying off loans for the rest of your life.  

Instead, research a school that is going to financially work for you. There are plenty of student loan calculators and data on what entry-level jobs pay. It’s simple, do the math to find out what you’re getting yourself into after graduation.

Will you be able to support yourself? 

Also, for those questioning whether going back to school is the right choice, a Return On Investment calculation should be completed.

If the masters degree that you want to go back to school for isn’t going to have a positive Return on Investment in your career, is it worth it? Be a realist when it comes to financial decisions, not an optimist.

Remember, you are not above community college for the first couple of years. It allows you to keep costs way down and achieve the same degree all the expensive schools hand out.

Scholarships can also be your best friend in minimizing your college loans. Thousands of scholarships go unclaimed each year because students are too lazy to do the work needed. 

The moral of the story is to plan for what happens after graduation. Loan payments begin, rent payments are due, and life is not cheap. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

It’s okay to pursue goals and rack-up student debt, just be sure you are setting yourself up for a way to dig out.

2. Career Choices and Job Hunting

You hear all the time from college graduates that they can’t find a job. All too often it’s because they are looking for their ideal position, in their ideal location, with an ideal starting salary. News flash, that scenario rarely happens. Wake up!

A quick way to jump-start your career is by being ready to make some SACRIFICES.

Examples:

  • Pick up and leave your hometown to get that dream job even if it’s located across the country. 
  • Swallow your pride by taking the lower-paying entry-level job because you know there’s a high chance of upward movement. 
  • Take the position in a department that may not be your first choice just to get your foot in the door of that company that you know you want to be at.

All the above-mentioned career moves will get you a step ahead of the pack when it comes to advancing to the next level. Don’t feel sorry for yourself that you are unemployed, yet aren’t making moves to land a good job. 

It’s more than just sitting on your laptop searching a 20-mile radius on Indeed!

SACRIFICE is what makes goals achievable. 

As a marine engineer, my job involves working on a ship for half of the year. My schedule consists of 60 days on and 60 days off. I work six months a year and take home a six-figure salary with great benefits.  

What’s my sacrifice? Being away from friends, family, and home for six months of the year is not an easy task. Your life gets put on hold while everyone else’s keeps moving along. 

It takes a great amount of mental stamina and more importantly a supportive family. Both of which I have. This sacrifice has allowed me to become a millionaire ahead of most my age.

My path is going to be different from yours, but how will you get your upper hand in life? Sacrifice a little something along the way and there’s a good chance you will come out on top.

3. Retirement Accounts

The most important strategy I can stress with saving and accumulating wealth is to start early with a retirement account. Early means immediately after starting your first job. Not 1, 3, or 5 years down the road. Compound interest over time will help build your net worth.

Tax-sheltered accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs(Individual Retirement Account) allow you to save and invest with pre-tax dollars.

Roth IRAs are post-tax dollar accounts that allow you to save and invest money to withdraw it tax-free in retirement.

All tax-friendly retirement accounts have annual contribution limits. The Roth IRA also has an income limit you need to be aware of once you start earning into six figures. Research what account is right for you.

I am fortunate enough to work for a company with a great 401(k) retirement plan. Others may not be so lucky.

Target Date Retirement Funds

If you are lost on what funds to put your money into, a Target Date Retirement Fund will be a good place to start. It is a fund that creates a portfolio based on the date you wish to retire.

Essentially the fund starts as a high-risk portfolio and as your retirement date approaches, the money gets moved into safer assets such as a more heavily weighted bond portfolio. The best part is that all the maneuvering is done on your behalf by the fund manager.

Automatic % Increase

Many 401(k) accounts can be set to automatically increase your paycheck deduction yearly. A good strategy is to set your deduction increase in line with your wage increase percentage.

I see the same paycheck year to year which my lifestyle has grown accustomed to, but at the same time, I continue to save more and more each year without ever seeing a difference. I don’t even have a chance to “miss” the money.

Company Match

Many companies will match a certain percentage of your salary if you are contributing toward your 401(k). Most will need you to contribute a minimum amount to receive the match.

If you are struggling financially and need to decrease your paycheck deduction, try your hardest to contribute the minimum amount to get the company match. It’s free money and is a shame to let it go to waste.

4. High Deductible Health Plan with Health Savings Account

Many employers have been switching to High Deductible Health Care Plans. One major advantage of the High Deductible Health Plan is that insurers are able to keep premium prices low(relatively speaking that is ugh), thus putting more money in your pockets. 

If you are young and healthy, HDHPs are almost guaranteed to save you money. Why pay for the plans with higher premiums if you are not benefitting from them.

Life is all about risk assessment and I consider the chance of paying a higher deductible worth the savings reward from an HDHP. Luckily, a lot of these HDHPs are paired with a Health Savings Account or HSA for when medical attention is needed.

With a Health Savings Account, employees can have automatic paycheck deductions entered into an HSA before taxes are taken out. All money in your HSA can then be used for approved medical purchases. Using pre-tax savings for medical costs will save you significantly in the long term.

High Deductible Health Plans with HSAs have a few major advantages to get you ahead.

Tax-Advantaged

Instead of paying for medical costs and deductibles with your after-tax dollars from a normal checking account, money can be used with your HSA Debit Card. This allows your hard-earned dollars to go a lot farther when paying for medical costs. All paycheck deductions made into an HSA also lower your taxable income for the year which you will benefit from come tax-filing time. 

Investable

Much like an IRA account, HSAs can be invested in funds to grow your account over time. A more conservative investing approach should be utilized so that the funds can be accessed in an emergency. Health Savings Accounts that are invested and grown throughout a lifetime can be a great supplement to Medicare during retirement, a time in which medical bills normally grow. 

Company Match

Companies will sometimes contribute a dollar or percentage amount to an employee’s HSA. Unfortunately, many companies just like mine have slowly decreased their match contribution. Even if its only $250, the money can go toward medical expenses that you would normally pay out-of-pocket.

Start Early

One mistake I made early on in my career was not contributing to my HSA. I thought that because I was healthy and never once made a doctor’s visit, contributing extra to my HSA was pointless. 

Fast forward ten years into my working life and I now have a 5-month-old son. It’s no secret kids are expensive. Being able to pay medical expenses with tax-free money gives you a huge advantage. 

When a member of my family needs to go to the doctor, the HSA card is used and my normal checking account never sees a hit. It’s good peace of mind to know that your normal monthly expenses won’t be affected by an unexpected hospital visit.

Utilizing a Health Savings Account will save you from making out-of-pocket medical payments using after-tax dollars. The “set-it and forget-it” type strategy will give you financial security during medical emergencies and into retirement. Take advantage of it and start saving before you need the money.

5. Brokerage Account

Tax-advantaged retirement accounts are a must, but let’s shift it into high gear. One regret I have is not starting a separate brokerage account for investing any extra saved money.

Brokerage accounts give you more flexibility on where and how you can invest your money. They can be personally controlled or professionally managed for a fee. Depending on your experience and confidence level, either way, is acceptable.

For a handful of years, I was saving cash and simply putting it into a money market savings account with my bank. Looking back, my money could have done so much better than the measly 1-2% it was growing at. 

I thought that maxing-out my 401(k) was good enough. Looking back, the stock market has had one of its longest bull runs in history and I had money sitting on the sidelines. Get yourself into the game!

I have been using a Merrill Lynch brokerage account simply because my checking and savings account with Bank of America gets me some affiliated perks. Shop around and see what investment account is right for you. There are plenty of brokerage houses that tailor to different types of investors. 

Even beginners with very little savings have options out there. Check out my Acorns App review here! It doesn’t matter how much you have to invest, just start.

Learn about the basics of investing Index funds, ETFs, and Mutual Funds

6. Being a Responsible Credit Card Owner

Current interest rates for credit cards fall anywhere from 15-20% on average. Wow, that’s high! Not playing by the “credit card rules” will end badly for you, I promise. Luckily, the rules are simple. Buy things with your credit card and pay them off by the due date. Pretty straightforward.

Credit cards can be your best friend with the perks they offer. Cashback, travel rewards, retail rewards, and countless other goodies make these cards useful tools for those responsible enough to wield them.

Present-day credit cards are great money-saving tools. The right card used to its full potential actually allows you to keep more of your hard-earned money. 

However, the enormous credit card interest rates will stop your wealth-building right in its tracks when you fail to pay on time. Being responsible with credit cards is a great way to stay on target with your saving goals. 

I have saved thousands of dollars from just being a responsible credit card user. I use my credit card for everyday necessary purchases. 

Through my normal spending habits, my reward miles start adding up. I recently paid for honeymoon flights to Europe for my wife and myself using reward miles. It was the easiest way to ever save a few thousand dollars!

Being a responsible credit card user has also allowed my Credit Score to stay in the excellent range. The best interest rates on mortgages, car insurance, and student loan refinancing are available when you’re responsible with credit.

READ: How many Credit Cards should I have?

7. Needs, Wants, Moderation, and Budgets

Needs vs. Wants

“Do I need this or do I just want this?” Such a simple question, but such a game-changer. Separating needs and wants is a great way to keep on the fast track to wealth.

After graduation, I realized I needed a car to get around. After landing a good job, car payments were not going to be an issue for me. Ever since high school, I have wanted a BMW M3. My father got me into cars growing up and I had always dreamed of having a slew of some badass vehicles.

After some research, I found out the purchase cost of the car was high, the maintenance/insurance costs were even higher, and the reliability factor was mediocre at best. Even though I really wanted that car, I couldn’t justify it financially.

This was one of my first real “needs vs. wants” heartbreakers. The decision hurt, but I resisted and without even knowing it I was on the right path toward financial freedom. 

Moderation

Although controlling your wants is important, keeping yourself sane in our chaotic lives is essential. Moderation is key to my financial health.  

Each year my family goes on a weeklong beach vacation to the Outer Banks, NC. Our trip sets us back $2,000 every year, but It gives us a chance to kick back, relax, and blow off some steam. The money is well worth the mental reboot it gives us.

 There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself once in a while. You are only young once and life doesn’t give re-dos.  Be responsible, have fun, and if you find your rewards placing your financial goals in jeopardy, some reconsideration may be in order.

Budgets

Budgeting your monthly expenses is a must, don’t just wing it. Budgets can be done mentally, on paper, or with some great online budgeting apps. There’s no excuse for creating a budget and failing to stick to it.

Read about 50 30 20 Budgeting

Take care of all your “needs” first. This should include funding your HSA, 401(k), and having an emergency fund. Create a budget that allows your financial goals to succeed.

8. Financial Goals and Distractions

Set financial goals for yourself along the way. Saving for a purpose helps push you to achieve that target.

One financial goal I made for myself in my 20s was saving enough cash for a 20% down payment for a $500k house. $100,000 seemed like a far-off goal at the time, but I was determined to get there. 

Financial goals don’t always have to be huge achievements. Celebrate the small victories as well. Saving $6000 for your Roth IRA is one hell of a goal each year.

I would be lying if I told you that fancy cars and watches don’t pique my interest. I would be lying if I told you eating out at the nicest restaurants in town wasn’t delicious. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t want to have the newest iPhone or latest MacBook.  

I indulge in the above practices on occasion, but making them a routine part of my lifestyle would directly conflict with my goal of saving enough to retire by 50. In other words, they are just distractions on my way to wealth. They are wants and not needs, they are my enemy. 

The strict frugal strategy is just not for me. Find a path that allows you to reach your life goals, sets up your retirement, and allows you to have some fun along the way. Kick your finances into high gear now so that you’ll be on cruise control later on!

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