The First Million Might Be The Easiest: How To Become A Millionaire By Age 30

Balandra Bay, Mexico VacationGrowing up in a middle class household made me strong. My parents always drove beaters and frowned upon ordering anything other than water when we went out to eat. I knew my parents were not rich because their incomes were in the public domain as foreign service officers. As a result, I made a conscience choice in high school not to attend one of the two private colleges that had accepted me in order to save us money.

We were by no means poor. We just pulled up to parties in a paintless 1976 Nissan Datsun alongside Audis, Mercedes, and BMWs for the four years we lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia between 1986-1990. I was quite mortified as a kid I’ve got to admit. I knew nothing of expensive shoes because I had none except for my wealthier friend’s hand-me-down Jordans that were two sizes too large. I couldn’t even afford a camera or a Nintendo game system. We led comfortable lives, but didn’t have more than we needed.

I was always curious about my wealthier friends. Many of their parents were business owners so one day I told my father, I too wanted to be a businessman. By the time I was 13 I was hooked on every single episode of “The Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous,” narrated by Robin Leech. A million dollar house and a $40,000 sports car. What a life! I thought to myself in the 8th grade. Might as well give it a go. That’s when I started really hitting the books.

How Much Should I Have Saved In My IRA At Various Ages?

Pool overlooking the ocean. Retirement villa.The IRA is a pre-tax retirement vehicle available to most people who work for an employer and make less than $69,000 a year. If your modified adjusted gross income is $59,000 or less and you do have a retirement plan offered at work, you can take the full deduction of currently $5,500. If you are married, you get to contribute the full pre-tax IRA contribution if your AGI is under $95,000. Deductions are gradually phased out once you reach incomes of $69,000 for individuals and $115,000 for married couples.

If you do not have a retirement plan offered at work (rarer case), the rules are a little different. There is no income limit for individuals, and a full deduction of up to $178,000 in joint income, partial deduction from $178,000-$188,000, and no deduction if joint income is above $188,000. The best thing you can do is ask your benefits department to see if you qualify because the laws are changing all the time.

From 1974 until 1980, the IRA contribution limit for investors was $1500. From 1981 until 2001 the contribution limit improved to $2000. In 2002 the limit was raised to $3,000, again to $4000 in 2005, one more time to $5,000 in 2008 and now to $5,500 in 2013. I don’t know about you, but such low limits are hardly anything to get excited about.

When I graduated from college in 1999, my base income was $40,000 living in NYC. I was considering contributing to an IRA until I learned more about the contribution restrictions. Adding $2,000 to my IRA at the time felt stupid when I was busy trying to max out my 401(k) which had a more reasonable contribution limit of $10,000. Besides, I didn’t want to not be able to contribute pre-tax money to an IRA the very next year just in case I made more than their arbitrarily low income limit.

You’ll discover in this article that even small contributions add up over time. So don’t be stupid like me and not contribute while you still have the opportunity. Make deferring taxes a key tenet in your efforts to achieve financial independence. Taxes are our biggest expense and you want to save more than the government taketh away!


The DVD Rental Method to CD Investing: The Only Way To Achieve Max Yield

When we first bought our $1,200 HDTV six years ago, we told ourselves never to go to the movies again until we watched enough DVDs to pay for the purchase.  Every time we went to the movies, we’d have to pay on average $20 for tickets.  A promise was made that only after we watched 75 DVD rentals ($1,500 bucks in movie tickets saved – $300 for Netflix fee), would we treat ourselves out to the theater. We reached our goal within two years, and in the four years afterwards we’ve only gone to three movies!

We realized that once we went through the initial 6 month waiting period for the latest movies to come out on DVD, all was fresh again.  We’re now programmed to watch movies with a 6 month lag, bringing us the same opening night excitement.  The annoyance of someone sitting right in front of you in an empty theater and jabbering away is no more!  Furthermore, a 52″ screen and six point surround sound system sure helps replicate the big screen experience!


Celebrate Small Wins To Keep Financial Motivation Alive

Life is like a bucket of cherries. Don't each one go to waste!Building wealth is a long game. It’s sometimes very easy to get discouraged as a result. Despite a lucky investment when I was 22, I felt very little pleasure having a large savings account in my early 20s. Money degenerates to just numbers on a screen that provides no utility unless spent.

I was actually considering quitting my newfound job in San Francisco after two years in 2003 to live a vagabond lifestyle in Hawaii. Surf in the morning, massages in the afternoon, and Mai Tais in the evening can’t be that bad. Thoughts of buying a Eurovan VW to go road-tripping across the continent as I took showers at rest stops also crossed my mind.

It’s dangerous to receive a financial windfall so early in life because there’s a risk of saying fuck all to everything. You suddenly think building a sizable financial nut is so easy, when it’s clearly difficult in a short period of time. With a sudden injection of wealth, you may never achieve your potential because you simply don’t bother trying as hard.

After much deliberation and a perpetually drunk upstairs neighbor, I decided to buy my own property to “get rid” of my money. I was sick of renting and I was also unmotivated to work for money, a big problem if you work in finance! As soon as I plunked down the six figure check I felt a sense of relief. Having no money never felt so good!

Finally, I’m working for something more, I remember thinking after paying my first mortgage payment. Living in a nicer property instead of a dingy one bedroom was a reward for four years of hard work and risk taking. Slacking off was not an option because if I did I might lose my home!

Perhaps the real reason why I love property so much is not so much for the returns, but for the refocus it provides. Mortgage debt saved me from being another know-it-all kid who throws his life away at the age of 26 due to a lack of patience and perspective. A mortgage was the anchor that kept me from blowing away.

Years later at the age of 32 my enthusiasm for work once again began to fade. 10 years raced by after college but I was afraid to go out on my own because work was all I knew. The Dark Side Of Early Retirement was penned to make sure I wasn’t falling into the same trap without any purpose. When the post was published, I was immediately bashed over the head by the early retirement community if you read the comments. Little did they know my goal was to purposefully bash my own crazy thoughts to make sure I wasn’t missing anything before deciding to take the leap of faith two years later!


Good Advice On How To Better Manage Your Own Money

Waialae Golf CourseFor two decades I’ve been managing my own money. It all started when I saved up $3,000 from random minimum wage jobs to open up an online trading account under my father’s guidance. This was in the early 90′s when Charles Schwab first came out. One time I bought a company which I thought sold software, but was actually a bank! Clearly, I had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully, when you start off with only $3,000, the most you can lose is $3,000.

When it takes you several summers at $4 an hour to squirrel away $3,000 only to see half of it vanish in a matter of months due to poor investment decisions, you kind of curse the world. But, you also learn from your mistakes so you can minimize the experience of feeling that dull knife slicing through your financial security. Losing money early on taught me the importance of managing money.

Although the financial crisis of 2008-2009 certainly gave my net worth a massive uppercut to the chin, I didn’t panic. I just started this site and have more than doubled my net worth since then as everything has more than recovered as well. I credit net worth diversification to surviving the crisis and not jumping off a bridge when the S&P 500 hit 666. I also credit my childhood stupidity.

In this article, I want to provide the best advice on how to manage your own money. We will talk about fundamental principles as well as mental states you should accept if you want to continue growing your wealth over the long term.


Curse You Bank Fees! How To Never Pay Sneaky Bank Fees Again

What the duck!

What the duck!

First Republic is one of four banks I do business with. They are a boutique bank known for their quality of service. When you go into one of their branches you don’t stand in line and wait for a teller to serve you behind a bullet proof window. Instead, you actually sit at a bank officer’s desk to deposit a check, open up a CD, or pay your mortgage. It’s quite an intimate experience. The fresh baked all you can eat cookies are a nice touch too.

Back in 2009, First Republic ran a 5-year CD special at 4.15%. With extra cash on hand, I locked in a good chunk of change in order to protect my money from further risk. In retrospect, I should have dumped everything in the stock markets. But I’ve been following my system of allocating 30% of all savings in long duration CDs since 1999 and it’s worked out well through the previous downturns so there was no desire to change.

In addition to opening up a couple CDs I also opened up a savings account given their savings account interest rate was also higher than the competition. Over the next year I ended up drawing down my savings account to the point where there was only $33.25 left. I had multiple accounts open with four banks and wanted to simplify my financial life. Carrying around four ATM cards (I hate ATM fees) and keeping track of more than five money market savings accounts was a big pain so I stopped using First Republic for anything other than a CD depository.