When I read Sam’s post on how to make a six-figure salary, I had a strong (negative) reaction to the advice given. I’ve done just about everything wrong according to his advice, and at 29 have a six-figure salary and $200k in net worth. While I’ve experienced enough privilege in my life to go through college with my tuition paid by my parents, I’m also not a trust fund baby.
I grew up in a pretty average middle class household, went to public school all my life, and assumed that the business world was for people not like myself. I’ve also always excelled in the arts, being accepted into prestigious programs for painting, drama and writing, but due to a combination of ADD, depression and anxiety, my academic performance never quite reflected my intellectual potential. With that, I didn’t graduate from an Ivy League School. I finished four years at large private college with a degree in the arts. When I graduated college in 2005, I had no idea what to do, or how to make money, let alone save it and invest for retirement.
Sam explains that the best way to get a six-figure income is to do well in high school, get into a top-tier college, and then be the best in any one of a large number of professions (medicine, law finance, high tech, public servant etc). I wouldn’t say this is terrible advice, as this strategy clearly helps many people get ahead, but not having Harvard or Berkeley on your diploma doesn’t mean that you’ll always be stuck earning $50k a year, or that you should ignore putting money away for old age before it’s too late.
On the flip side, my boyfriend followed all the “right” steps, graduating from a prestigious institution with high honors, yet has spent the past decade unemployed or underemployed. He has no savings and only a part-time job on his resume. I’ve built up my career from scratch and comparatively speaking am doing much better off with my 3.2 from an unknown school versus his 3.8 from a top-tier institution. Grades matter, but what also matters is drive, stamina, and motivation, and above all else, faith that the stars will align if you refuse to give up.
I’ve had my fair share of professional ups and downs in my career to date. But, regardless of the turbulence I try and save a significant portion of my income. I’m not frugal by any means (if you read my blog you’ll know that I also spend a significant chunk of change on shopping) but even so I’ve always focused on living under my means. I know many just-out-of-college or young professionals who buy a new car off the bat and then complain about their monthly car payments. It’s strange.
I argue that anyone can obtain a six-figure salary, but you have to be prepared to work hard, take risks, and shut out any fear you have of the unknown. It also helps not to have kids in your 20s as I understand that the cost and responsibility of taking care of kids makes this a lot more challenging. If you have a choice, I’d recommend to wait to have kids until you’re in your 30s if you want to earn financial security.
Can anyone become rich if they want to? Sam says, “There is No Monopoly on Being Rich.” He argues that if you work hard and believe that you can be wealthy, you can be “rich.” I don’t think anyone can be rich in the financial sense, but a good 75% of people have the ability to be doing better than they are. Where I live, where basic houses start at $700k, a $100k salary does not make you rich. The wealth comes from saving and spending smartly, and making the right financial decisions.
While not everyone can be a millionaire, anyone can improve their current networth by focusing on becoming really good at one thing that they’re passionate about and that is a marketable skill. With that, anyone can be financially secure and have enough for a solid retirement. This is my story of my life since graduation, from $15k to $100k in annual salary, and $8k to $200k in net worth before 30.