The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Person

Average Net WorthEverything is relative when it comes to money.  If we all earn $1 million dollars a year and have $5 million in the bank at the age of 40, none of us are very wealthy given all our costs (housing, food, transportation, vacations) will be priced at levels that squeeze us to the very end.  As such, we must first get an idea of what the real average net worth is in our respective countries, and then figure out the average net worth of the above average person!

According to CNN Money 2014, the average net worth for the following ages are: $9,000 for ages 25-34,  $52,000 for ages 35-44, $100,000 for ages 45-54, $180,000 for ages 55-64, and $232,000+ for 65+. Seems very low, but that’s because we use averages and a large age range.

The Above Average Person is loosely defined as:

1) A person who went to college and believes that grades do matter.

2) Does not spend more than they make because that would be irrational.

3) Saves for the future because they realize at some point they no longer are willing or able to work.

4) Largely depends on themselves, as opposed to mom and dad or the government.

5) Takes responsibility for their own actions when things go wrong and learns from the situation to make things better.

6) Has an open mind and is willing to look at the merits of both sides of an argument.

7) Welcomes constructive criticism and is not overly sensitive from friends, loved ones, and strangers in order to keep improving.

8) Has a healthy amount of self-esteem to be able to lead change and believe in themselves.

9) Understands the mental to physical connection in everything we do so that that a healthy mind corresponds with a healthy body.

10) Enjoys empowering themselves through learning, whether it be through books, personal finance blogs, magazines, seminars, continuing education and so forth.

11) Has little-to-no student loan debt due to scholarships and part-time work.

Now that we have a rough definition of what “above average” means, we can take a look at the tables I’ve constructed based on the tens of thousands of past comments by you and posts I’ve written to highlight the average net worth of the above average person.

THE ABOVE AVERAGE NET WORTH DECONSTRUCTED

First, we must highlight what the average tax-deferred retirement savings plan is for those in America. We’ll focus on the simple 401K system we have here where one can contribute $17,500 of their pre-tax income every year as of 2014.

This chart can be used as a rough estimate for those with the RRSP plan in Canada, and retirement plans in Europe and Australia as well. In fact, any country that has any sort of tax-deferred retirement plan and social safety net program for retirement that has a GDP/capita of $30,000 or more can use the below chart as an aspirational guide. Remember, we are talking about the “above average person”.

FINANCIAL SAMURAI TAX DEFERRED (401K)  SAVINGS GUIDE

Age Years Worked Low End High End
22 0 $0 $0
23 1 $8,000 $17,000
24 2 $25,000 $35,000
25 3 $42,000 $60,000
30 8 $127,000 $182,000
35 13 $215,000 $331,000
40 18 $300,000 $521,000
45 23 $383,000 $764,000
50 28 $468,000 $1,075,000
55 33 $553,000 $1,470,000
60 38 $638,000 $1,974,000
65 43 $723,000 $2,618,000

The assumption here is that the above average person is able to start maxing out their tax-deferred retirement plan every year after the second full year of work, and continue on without fail until 65.  The low and high end account for 0% to a relatively conservative 5% constant rate of return.  Of course you can lose money and make much more if you are good and lucky.

This chart does not take into consideration any after-tax savings post 401K contribution.  To understand what the average after-tax savings rate is post tax-deferred retirement contribution is a gargantuan task because there are too many assumptions that are debatable eg. income and after-tax savings rate post maximum pre-tax retirement contributions.  That said, I’ll offer a base case guide anyway.

FINANCIAL SAMURAI AFTER-TAX SAVINGS GUIDE

Age Years Worked Low End High End
22 0 $0 $0
23 1 $5,000 $10,000
24 2 $10,000 $20,000
25 3 $15,000 $35,000
30 8 $50,000 $85,000
35 13 $100,000 $130,000
40 18 $125,000 $200,000
45 23 $150,000 $250,000
50 28 $175,000 $300,000
55 33 $200,000 $350,000
60 38 $225,000 $400,000
65 43 $250,000 $500,000

The above chart assumes on the low end that one saves about $5,000 a year in after-tax income and around $10,000-$15,000 a year in after-tax income on the high-end after maxing out their tax-deferred retirement vehicle. I’ve tried to keep things as simple as possible, assuming no inflation and no investment returns. I also believe saving $5,000-$15,000 a year in after-tax income is very realistic for the above average person, and probably very easy for many who earn more than $85,000 per person. Finally, the chart should show you the power of consistency.

THE IMPORTANCE OF REAL ESTATE

A 2010 study showed that the average net worth of a homeowner is roughly $200,000, or 40X greater than the average renter’s net worth of $5,000. We can debate the merits of this study (done by a real estate association of course) all day long (demographic sampling, housing price changes, etc), but the point is, “above average” people generally all own homes and are wealthier, be it 2X wealthier or 40X wealthier than the average renter.

The return on rent is always -100%. You get a place to live and that’s that. There is never a positive return on an asset after a month, or 30 years of renting. A renter cannot pass on her paid off house to her kids or grandchildren. There is no asset accumulation at all.  There is a reason why some 97% of millionaires are property owners.

The value of real estate varies across all the land and the world. It is very hard to make an assumption of what should be inputted as a result. According to the US Census bureau, the median home price in America is $221,800 while the average home price is $272,900. You can’t get anything livable in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and maybe even Washington DC and Boston for $250,000. But, you sure can in the mid west for $250,000.

Hence, let’s construct an equity value chart of something based on a range of $250,000-$500,000, with the assumption that upon retirement, you have your house paid off and can attribute this amount into your net worth, or the capitalized value of all rents you would pay if you did not own.

FINANCIAL SAMURAI HOME EQUITY PROGRESS GUIDE

Age Years Owned Equity Build Progress (Low) Equity Build Progress (High)
28 1 $3,500 $7,500
30 3 $12,000 $23,000
35 5 $20,000 $40,000
40 10 $45,000 $95,000
45 15 $85,000 $150,000
50 20 $110,000 $215,000
55 25 $150,000 $300,000
60 30 $190,000 $390,000
65 35 $250,000 $500,000
Total Home Equity $250,000 $500,000

I assume that the above average person buys a $250,000-$500,000 piece of property at 27. By the time they turn 28, they will have owned the property for 1 year and have paid down $3,500-$7,500 in principal on a $250,000-$400,000 loan. I conservatively assume a $250,000 no money down loan for the low end house, even though after 5 years of working, the low-end above average person should have around $25,000-$30,000 saved up in cash based on the after-tax savings charts above.

By the time a 27 year old pays off his or her mortgage in 30 years, s/he will be 57 years old with a place to live rent from for the rest of his/her life. That is the true value of the property, the rent saved for the remainder of the owner’s life. It can be calculated as the present value of those future rental payments, or simply the market value of the home. I assume zero price appreciation on the home to keep things conservative and no extra payments to accelerate the payoff either.

THE X FACTOR

So far, we’ve touched upon pre-tax savings, after-tax savings, investment returns of 0 for those savings to remain conservative, and real estate. You need to spend less than you earn for that inevitable day you no longer have an income. You also need to live somewhere, hence, you should own your property if you know you will be there for much longer than 5-10 years.

There’s something missing in all of this, and that something is what I call the X Factor. Above average people seem to always be thinking of new ways to build wealth.  There is an optimism about them that no matter what happens, they can always find ways to make more money. It’s hard to quantify what that X Factor is for the average above average person, but it’s there somehow through music, writing, athletics, communication, entrepreneurship, hustling, and so much more.

The great thing about savings and real estate is that the process is highly automatic.  If you implement the plan and wake up 10 years later, you will inevitably be worth much more provided you keep your job and your home.  Given savings and building equity in your home over the next several decades is largely automatic, the X Factor comes out because you have so much more free time to do something else!

THE AVERAGE NET WORTH OF THE ABOVE AVERAGE PERSON

I have gone ahead and averaged the averages for pre-tax savings, post-tax savings, and real estate equity progress in the spreadsheet below. The pre and post tax savings can be invested however you see fit and is a topic of another post. Another thing to note is taxation, given pre-tax savings have to eventually be withdrawn and taxed. Again, these are rough estimates to give you an idea of the average net worth of the above average person.

THE AVERAGE NET WORTH OF THE ABOVE AVERAGE PERSON
Age Yrs Worked Avg Pre-Tax Savings Avg Post-Tax Savings Avg Property Equity Avg Total NW
22 0 $ - $ - $ - $ -
23 1 $ 12,500 $ 7,500 $ - $ 20,000
24 2 $ 30,000 $ 15,000 $ - $ 45,000
25 3 $ 45,000 $ 25,000 $ - $ 70,000
30 8 $ 154,500 $ 67,500 $ 17,500 $ 239,500
35 13 $ 273,000 $ 115,000 $ 30,000 $ 418,000
40 18 $ 410,500 $ 162,500 $ 70,000 $ 643,000
45 23 $ 573,500 $ 200,000 $ 117,500 $ 891,000
50 28 $ 771,500 $ 237,500 $ 162,500 $ 1,171,500
55 33 $ 1,011,500 $ 275,000 $ 225,000 $ 1,511,500
60 38 $ 1,306,000 $ 312,500 $ 290,000 $ 1,908,500
65 43 $ 1,670,500 $ 375,000 $ 375,000 $ 2,420,500
Source: FinancialSamurai.com 2014

There you have it! Based on my assumptions above, the average net worth of the above average 30 year old is around $240,000. By the time this person is 40, his/her net worth should climb to around $650,000 and all the way up to around $2,000,000 million by the age of 60.

Of course some of you above average Financial Samurai readers will have a total net worth much higher than the chart. But then, I’d have to write another post entitled, “The Average Net Worth Of Financial Rockstars!”

Note: The figures in this post are per person, not per couple. Here is the average net worth for the above average married couple.

Recommended Actions For Increasing Your Net Worth

* Manage Your Finances In One Place: The best way to build wealth is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with Personal Capital. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts on their Dashboard so you can see where you can optimize. Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 28 different accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to track my finances. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how my stock accounts are doing, how my net worth is progressing, and where my spending is going.

One of their best tools is the 401K Fee Analyzer which has helped me save over $1,700 in annual portfolio fees I had no idea I was paying. You just click on the Investment Tab and run your portfolio through their fee analyzer with one click of the button. Their Investment Checkup tool is also great because it graphically shows whether your investment portfolios are property allocated based on your risk profile. There is no better free online tool that has helped me stay on top of my finances more than Personal Capital. It’s important to aggregate all your accounts to get an entire view of your net worth profile. It only takes a minute to sign up.

* Check Your Credit Score: Check your credit score at least once a year given the risk of identity theft as well as the importance of having a good credit score when borrowing money, apply for a mortgage, and applying for a job. For over a year, I thought I had a 790ish credit score and was fine, until my mortgage refinance bank on day 80 of my refinance told me they could not go through due to a $8 late payment by my tenants from two years ago. My credit score was hit by 110 points to 680 and I could not get the lowest rate. I had to spend an extra 10 days fixing my score by contacting the utility company to write a “Clear Credit Letter” to get the bank to follow through. Check your credit score for free here at GoFreeCredit.com and protect yourself.

Updated 3/31/2014.

Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Tony Kim says

    Hello,

    I’m 29.5 years of age. I’ve been working for 6 years. My parents helped me pay for 2 years of college I paid for the last 3 years. I graduated with a total of 27K USD in debt. I got my first job making $31,200 USD after tax. I worked there for 1 year 2 months before I got laid off early 2010(during the recession, I was working in oil and gas). My first year of working I lived at home with my mother for 2 years to save extra cash and drove a 1995 toyota corolla that was fully paid off. The first year of working I focused on saving every dollar possible. I was able to stay on a budget of around $100 USD per week for food and gas. I didn’t eat out for lunch and ate before meeting up friends at happy hour. After I was laid off I had about 25K in Cash and stocks. Luckily I started making money as the market was crashing so I jumped into the market at the bottom.

    I have been unemployed since. I first liquidated my stock account and started an online retailer that failed. I lost approx. $3,000 USD and about 5 months of time. Then I started a food business that didnt take off until early 2011. This business I kept for 2 years and solid it early 2013. After I sold the business I had approx $150,000 K in cash. I sold the 2nd business as I was starting a 3rd business(brick and mortar retail). It has now been a little over a year and I currently have about $125,000 USD in the stock market(managed by a financial advisor) and $75,000 USD in cash, no home equity. By 30 which is only 5 months away I should be worth close to $275,000 USD(business worth not included). I know I’m ahead but I still feel behind. I am currently looking to start a new business or looking to get into real estate. Any tips?

    None of my friends want to open up about their personal finances. Its frustrating!! Why is it so taboo to talk about net worth?

    note: I didnt start paying off college loans until last year because the interest was below 3%. I also found it difficult to get a business loan so instead of paying off college debt I decided to use the money to grow my businesses that luckily returned over 3%.

    I use a simple excel sheet to track my net worth. I update it every week. I have tried mint but its not too accurate on labeling different purchases.

    Tony

    • says

      Great story Tony about starting at the bottom, taking risks, and working your way up! You’ve come to the right place if you enjoy talking about personal finances.

      Your friends are probably a little embarrassed about their personal finances, hence why they don’t want to discuss.

      I highly recommend signing up for Personal Capital to track your net worth. They are a free online tool which not only tracks your net worth and sends you a weekly e-mail on how it’s changed with some latest news on the markets, it also analyzes your investments for excessive fees and helps you keep track of your net worth. I found $1,700 a YEAR in investment fees I had no idea I was paying with their free tool!

      I used to do Excel once a month for 10 years until I found them. It’s a great tool and a no brainer to use technology to help in growing our wealth.

      Good to have you around and keep on saving!

      Sam

  2. Joseph says

    Why is the delusional belief that grades matter needed to be considered above average. There is no significant correlation between good grades and higher salaries. When I completed my degree in Physics I had a 2.8 and had several job offers at graduation including Google where I ended up deciding to work.

    Going to college is important. Choosing a major employers respect is important. Choosing classes that are challenging and relevant to your career goals is important. Grades do not matter at all. Nobody has ever asked me my GPA since I graduated. Employers do not care.

    If anything focusing on grades encourages people to take easier classes and less classes per term. Only taking on as much as you can do perfectly may be a good way to keep your GPA up in school, but once you graduate you will be unable to adapt to the real world where that just isn’t practical.

    • says

      Impressive you got into Google with. 2.8 GPA. Where did you go and how did you get your foot in the door? Of the googles I’ve asked, several have said they have a minimum GPA cut off,

    • Jack says

      To me, grades do matter. I work at a Fortune 500 company and when I interview people, I do look at their grades, but it’s only just one aspect of a person and would never hire on grades alone.

      Why does a good GPA matter? It shows to me that the person was disciplined in getting their assignments done, on time, and did a good job to deserve the grade they were given. If I had to interview a person with a 2.8 GPA right out of school, they better be damn great in the other areas I look at.

        • Ivan says

          GPA in Science degree are generally overlooked in the industry… (have a 2.8 GPA in physics who have some understanding of advanced Calculus, optics, and eletronics are at far better position then folks who has a 4.0 GPA in humanities (which go back to you said “a degree that employers respected”). With good experience, a 2.8 phyical science or math graduate shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a job in a great company (but consider that they may not get into grad school which lower their chance of getting promoted).

          • says

            I don’t know about that Ivan. If someone got a 2.8, that’s a C+ average. There must have been some heavy, heavy partying, irresponsibility, lack of focus or something else going on as a result.

            If you were an employer, would you risk it over a candidate with a 3.3, all things being equal? There are tons of 3.0+ students out there looking for a job.

          • Jack says

            Professions and grades are not related to each other so I’m not sure why you’d mix up the two.

            Someone with a BA is most likely not looking for a job that requires a BS degree and vice versa. That’s downright foolish when the job says a B.S. degree required to do the job.

            We already know that people with STEM degrees on average earn more than those with non-STEM degrees and that there is a higher demand for those with STEM degrees than non-STEM.

            What I’m saying is when I’m interviewing a bunch of candidates for a particular job, they are usually candidates with the similar specializations/skills. for example, a bunch of chip designers. There’s not going to be a professional journalist, librarian, or teacher in those list of candidates when I’m comparing GPAs.

            • Adam Miller says

              Financial Sameria, it sounds like you are more familiar with lower level colleges. At top schools, a 2.8 GPA in an engineering track or Physics is pretty good. I am sure if he chose Physics at a top university, he wasn’t interested in getting as much partying in as possible.

            • says

              If you think William and Mary and Berkeley are lower level colleges, then yes.

              But nobody with under a 3.0, more like under a 3.5 would even get a response at Goldman Sachs, where I started. The same went for places like McKinsey, Bain, private equity shops etc.

              Why would a company bother interviewing a 2.8 in engineering when they have tons of 3.8s in engineering?

              Where did you go to school, what was your GPA and what are you doing now?

        • matt says

          I had an 2.80 GPA in Electrical Engineering. I also worked my way through college working 30-40 hours a week. Compare me to someone who got a 3.8 is that they probably did not work and had enough time to study where I did not. Also most were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Grades do not necessarily point to intelligence or worth ethic. I am in a position to hire engineers and techs and I can tell you I could care less about grades.

          • says

            I think we tend to pivot towards what we know. If we didn’t do well, then we are more forgiving of those who also didn’t do as well.

            Good you are giving other 2.8 GPAs a chance! The question is, would you let your kids get below a 3.0 GPA?

            • Rob says

              I help to hire and direct talent. I think, and agree with the posters that engineering (my discipline) is the misnomer. I lead my team, recommend whom we hire and don’t really consider grades. We aren’t looking at people for what a talking head nominated as their worth on a 4.0 scale – we want proactive problem solvers who can do the work we give them.

              I would take a 2.8 in Physics and weigh that person equally the same as any other candidate. In IT we are looking for talent. Having good grades is sufficient but not necessary to explain someone is talented.

            • matt says

              I 2nd Rob and add that grades are only a small part especially in Engineering. What you learn in school is only a fraction of what makes a person succesful. The smartest person in the world is useless if they can not work with people and cannot explain their thoughts clearly.

              I would take work ethic and can do attitude anytime over somebody with grades.

            • Josh says

              You need to do your homework on the average GPAs at schools like Berkeley. The technical degrees tend to have much lower GPAs (there are very few 3.8s with everything graded on a curve). These same students had very high GPAs entering college. I could understand if you have a finance degree, then the average GPA is going to be (and needs to be) higher.

              Where did you go to school: Georgia Tech
              What was your GPA: 2.9
              What are you doing now? CFO

            • Jon says

              Grade point is one of the few measures of success an interviewer has of a person who is just graduating college if that graduate has no other pertinent experience that applies.

              That said, companies who use grade point as their main criteria for hiring are missing the boat big time IME. I’ve been hiring and working with technical types (mostly engineers) for over 30 years now. Some of the best “problem solvers” i’ve hired and worked with were not 4 points.

              4 pointers tend to be good at theory that is already printed in a book somewhere. They usually fall flat on their face when they have to manipulate the formulae and/or the problem solving method beyond what they’ve memorized in a book. Which happens all the time in engineering fields.

              Of course i’m generalizing here as i’ve also dealt with 4 pointers that were VERY good at application as well. It’s just been my experience that folks with lower grade points tend to be more open to the possiblity that they are not always right and tend seek out other, better solutions.

              High grade point many times mean larger ego. Much larger! Which is a huge problem in technical fields.

  3. Jewie says

    It’s a good post. Essentially what your financial life *could be* if you have batted 1.000. At 35 I’m $100k behind the $418k bogey, due to some unlucky events (divorce), some lucky events (buying a foreclosed property at a $50k discount to fair value), and typical early 20s lifestyling. But I don’t consider the $418k completely unfair.

    I’m with the author that grades often do matter. I’m shocked Google doesn’t have minimums, unless you’re a coding unicorn or data scientist PhD. On Wall Street, GPA minimums are the norm even for experienced hires at most mutual funds, hedge funds, sell side.

  4. Squid4Life says

    I don’t believe grades should matter. I kept a 4.0 GPA and didn’t bother finishing college when I realized that employers don’t really care. I taught myself finance and did better than the people in grad school. Then again, I love playing with numbers so finance and accounting came with ease. No employer has ever asked me for my GPA and when they see I didn’t finish college and ask why, I am honest about it. I was able to sell myself, without the added padding. My current salary is six figures. My friends who went on to grad school don’t even make close to what I do and they have major debt still from school.

  5. Eric says

    I have to imagine most of the people on here are full of it. How are you 24 with a net worth of $100k? Or these guys that are in their 30s saying they have $500k.. You have to all come from money, there’s just no way these numbers are even possible unless you’re making $250k a year.

    My wife and I started bringing in about $110k a year after taxes starting 2 years ago (I’m 30)
    our monthly bills come out to about $7,000 so that leaves us with $26,000 a year. When you figure nights out, gifts, extra junk, that leaves me with about $15,000 to put away each year. I currently have a net worth of about $50k, with $25k in my investments. (would have been more if I didn’t have to pay for an engagement ring and part of a wedding last year) Even if I continue to put $15,000 a year away, and average 20% returns I’ll still have under $175k by the time I’m 35… someone please tell me what I’m doing wrong? FYI I’m doing way better than most people I know. I do know one guy that has been maxing out his 401k since he was like 22 and has about $65k in there, but he still lives at home with his parents at age 29!

    • Jonathan says

      Eric, it’s glaringly obvious what you’re doing wrong – “our monthly bills come out to about $7,000″

      I can’t even imagine how your monthly spending is that high. Presumably there’s some major student loan debt in there – but even so, those are some high expenses! You don’t mention children so I assume it’s just the two of you.

      My wife and I are also 30, and make a bit more than you; however, we’re able to increase our net worth by nearly 50% of our incomes each year (mostly by saving…partly through asset appreciation) and give away about 25% of our income. Our basic spending each month is well under half of yours, even with a baby.

    • Lynn says

      You need to track where your money goes. An average American household brings home less than half of what you and your wife make, you definitely can find rooms to trim your expenses. When I was your age my husband and I made about what you make. We lived in a one bedroom apartment, ate at home most of the time, walked the park as a recreation, did staycations instead of vacations, invite friends over instead of going out (invest in a good margarita machine). In two years we saved $100k, roughly half the take home and didn’t even feel like we didn’t have fun. Watching our nest eggs grow is fun.

      • says

        Tracking where your money goes is EXACTLY what everybody should do! How many times have we withdrawn money from the ATM machine and then several days later we are wondering WHERE IT ALL WENT?! Now imagine if we don’t track our net worth and expenses, then that’s a disaster.

        I recommend everybody sign up for Personal Capital, a free financial tools program that tracks your net worth for you, sends you an e-mail once a week with the latest net worth amount, and highlights your portfolio performance. You can manage your expenses and income and analyze your portfolios for excessive fees too. They’ve got their software as an app for the iPhone or Android too.

        One we start knowing where our money is going, we can start optimizing our wealth. You saving $100,000 is awesome in two years, especially since it’s half your take home. Well done! Focus on net worth over growing income!

    • Adam Miller says

      I made my money by living small in my twenties. When I graduated college, I used a VA loan to buy a triplex and lived in the middle crappy unit while I fixed it up and lived there essentially rent free. Once it was fixed up, I used the money I saved to buy another triplex and did the same thing. I bought another triplex and lived in the crappy unit while I fixed it up. At that point, I had $1000 in cash flow with a free place to live and I was 24 years old. I am 36 now and own a B&B, and own 30 units with a net worth about $650,000. It all started by living small when I was young. Would I be willing to live like that now? Hell no!! That is why I did it when I was 22 and used to the college lifestyle.

      • says

        Wow, 30 units is a lot! Where do you own these properties? In SF, one unit would be at least $600,000, and a one bedroom, maybe.

        You are exactly right about doing this stuff in our 20s, b/c we won’t want to hustle as much when we are older.

    • bonnie says

      Not full of it, but definitely more frugal… Whatever you are doing to have a monthly budget of 7k means you haven’t yet recognized the difference between necessity and personal choice.
      I started out of university with a salary of 30k, and prioritized putting the max in my 401k that I was allowed. I am now mid-30s and still make less than 6 figures a year (some of the sciences really don’t pay all that great!), but I have maxed out my 401k every year that I’ve had one (there were two years where my employer didn’t have one), and have invested carefully and consistently. I have lived in a tiny studio apartment for more than 12 years in order to save up enough cash to buy a home. While I don’t live in SF, I do in another high cost of living area in California where even a fixer upper starter home will run you around 500k. Not coming from a family with a ton of money, I wasn’t yet in a position to risk it all and purchase when the market here began to skyrocket back in 2001. Instead, I opted for sacrifice and a little extra patience while continuing to try to live like a starving college student. Family and friends have heckled me for years, but I finally got my break earlier this year when I managed to land a duplex in a good neighborhood in town as a result of having invested the difference I saved between living in luxury for the past 12 years (having a larger apartment) or scrimping a bit (living in my shack and sucking it up). Even after buying the property, I have 300k in my 401k, around 60k in stocks and bonds, and 20k in my savings/checking. The duplex came with tenants that get to finish out their leases, so I am still just renting a room in town (which definitely sucks), but I am saving up even more money in the meantime. Net worth clocks in at about 630k. Monthly expenses = about $1200. I worked to pay my own way through school (UC) and came out with, while perhaps not the GPA I wanted, 0 debt. I worked my butt off to do it, and I still do today. I don’t work at my ‘dream job’ – and I don’t make oodles of dough – but my job has survived the economic downturn and has provided me with a roof over my head, groceries and enough extra money to save for retirement and to indulge in my various hobbies (within reason). I have only owned 2 cars – both bought used and with cash (I splurged last year and upgraded from my 97 corolla to an 08 Honda fit). I eat out, but usually for breakfast rather than dinner, and while I love to travel, I usually only manage to take one big trip a year, and I always budget for it in advance. I don’t try to keep up with the Joneses or my more affluent friends. Those that don’t respect or understand that I can’t always eat out at the 5 star restaurant, take the cruise to Mexico, or hop a flight to go skiing in Colorado with them and still maintain my financial solvency/independence aren’t really friends (or prospective spouses/partners!)… and I learned early on to eventually distance myself from them. When I am tempted to waver from my long-term plan I just remembering/thinking about where I want to be when I am my parents’ ages. I have seen how their individual work ethics, investment strategies, personal life decisions (divorce, home purchases, relocations for jobs/homes – and timing of same) and plain old dumb luck (good and bad) have impacted them – often for the worse. Who knows if I’ll be able to ever retire? I don’t. Not sure I’ll want to anyway. BUT – I do hope to have the duplex paid off by the time I’m 55… and to move up a little bit from my backpacker’s budget when I travel. After that, who knows!

  6. Eric Z says

    I find your articles intriguing. Thanks for helping me think about the future. I’m 40 years old and worked for an HR Outsourcing firm for 14 years consulting on and working with DC and DB plans. I spoke with many clients and their employees and thought it was so sad so many 50+ year olds didn’t even have $70K or $80K in their 401(k) plans; these were also employees who were making decent money- $60K+/year. I always remember my Dad telling me to save as much as early as I can in my 401(k) plan. I feel that was revolutionary coming from an immigrant from Lithuania who never even finished middle school. I’m proud him and my Mom saved a decent amount for retirement. Unfortunately they have both passed away but left me with some good saving habits.

    I’ve saved around $320K in my 401(k) plan so far and have another $50K in my old ESOP. My wife is a year younger and has $130K. I feel comfortable where we are, even though it’s low according to your “what should you have saved by XX chart.” I feel your chart is the ideal amount to save but not very realistic for many because of low earning potential out of school and debt. I was fortunate and saved a decent amount living at home but I was only making $26K out of school.

    Regarding grades, my thought is the most important part is to graduate. I had a high 2 GPA from a state school in IL. I feel many more employers now ask for and take into consideration a candidate’s GPA, but I feel it doesn’t directly correlate to high job performance. The same goes with graduate degrees, especially when a candidate goes straight from their bachelors to their masters. I always recommend gaining true work experience before going back to school. The job market is saturated with many grad degrees with little experience. I still value experience but it’s unfortunate many just look at grades and degrees. As you’ve said and others have commented, it’s important to look at the whole person when assessing candidates.

    My current role is an HR leader in health care making decent living financially (I know that’s relative though).

    Thanks again.
    EZ

  7. NotBrian says

    What an incredible bunch of drivel.

    I have a HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA (much like BILL GATES), and have a net worth of $2,000,000. I invested in real estate that I bought outright (NO MORTGAGES), have a steady rental income of $15,000 per month and an appreciating portfolio.

  8. AJ says

    Hello! I have been reading this website for awhile but this is my first post! :) I think I’m on par for my age. 33, 350k net worth (290k in 401k and Roth IRA and 60k in pension) I plan on leaving my job due to military transfer in a few years and will be rolling my pension into an IRA since who knows if it will be there in 30+ years. My husband has another 150k in his 401k and Roth. We are working on early retirement. He has 8 years left in the military and I’d love for him to be able to relax after that. He is about to leave for his 5th deployment and we want to enjoy life after the military. Early retirement can be done with a little hard work and financial knowledge! I started work with a telecommunications company at age 19 and went to college while working. It was not easy but it gave me the ability to begin saving early (started my Roth at 19 and always contributed the max, contributed around 10% to 401k in beginning but just started maxing out a few years ago) I was fortunate enough for have my employer help with tuition reimbursement of 3k per year but I payed the rest myself as I went and graduated with no student loans. We have no car payments, only a mortgage. But our goal is to pay that off before he retires from the military in 8 years. No kids (it’s a little hard to do when he is constantly gone) but hopefully that will happen in a year or so. I also credit no children with the ability to save, although some people would have spent that money on nicer cars, homes, etc. This is not to brag but give my story and how I made it happen! )

  9. says

    I graduated from a lousy school with a 2.8 GPA. I skipped most classes because it was old guys teaching old stuff. Instead I learned how to identify challenges and solve them with critical thinking – a far more universal skill. Now I’m killing it at a prominent space industry distruptor, whose name I don’t care to mention. Prior to that I was at two successful startups in SV who are at the core of technology you use dozens of times per day.

    Some jobs [most in finance probably] require people who can follow instructions. In which case, grades might be a good indicator of how well a person conforms and performs to standards. Other jobs, like those that are paving new ground for humanity, require people to invent things that can’t be graded on anything other than success. In which case, deviations from the norm combined with raw talent are probably a better indicator of success.

    As a fellow above-average person I propose a change to bullet (1):

    “A person who is assertive and can develop skills that deliver value to and assure success within his/her environment.”

    Email/web/full name excluded for the sake of my employer(s)

  10. Lynn says

    We bought our first house at age 22 and had 10 by 30yrs old. We never over-spent when we were young. We took a lot of educated risks and now, in our 50’s, have a nw of 14mil. I handle the RE (20+ rentals) and my husband is a highly compensated executive. No one ever gave us anything. We did things outside of the 9-5 to get wealthy. My kid bought his first rental at age 20 and is worth about 200K at age 25. Yes – we did give him the downpayment. He is a smart kid and makes about 100K. You probably won’t achieve wealth from your 9-5. Your 9-5 allows you the opportunity to get in to other investments. You must not get so caught-up in the day-to-day that you lose sight of the real opportunities. Think outside the box and put some time in to it EARLY. We made sick $$$ in our 20’s, but not through the 9-5.

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