3 Millionaire Couples Who Started From the Bottom
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"Every time our salaries increased, we kept our spending low and automatically invested the difference."

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“We started investing for the future early—and never stopped.”

Michele Moore, 50, and Michael Moore, 50, a certified marriage coach and a federal contractor in Albuquerque, N.M.

“Michael and I have always stretched our dollars however we could—from shopping at discount stores and meal planning to avoid food waste to buying used cars in cash. When we first got together, we'd exchange stories about how our parents inspired these habits so we could start saving for the future early and benefit from compounding returns.

By the time we got married in 2005 (and were in our late 30s), we’d each saved about $200,000 in tax-advantaged retirement plans. Hitting $1 million wasn’t actually our goal—or even something we thought we’d achieve. We were simply trying to be as retirement ready as possible and knew that slow and steady wealth-building wins the race.

So we continued investing diligently through all the market’s ups and downs (and enjoyed many years of big returns). I always contributed at least 10 percent of my income to my retirement accounts, until recently when I opened my own business and stopped taking a paycheck. Even though we’re solely living off Michael’s income now, he religiously contributes to his 401(k) and recoups a 6-percent employer match.

Another net-worth booster was a condo I bought in 1999. After our wedding, I sold it for a $100,000 profit that I put toward our next home. We’ve moved several times since then, always selling our homes for more than we paid, which has helped pad our savings.

Our net worth recently hit $1 million, and it feels surreal. With our eyes on retirement, we’ve re-financed our mortgage to pay it off sooner, so we can continue growing our nest egg more.”

"We put our teachers’ salaries to work for us.”

Gerry, 54, and Zena, 51, a blogger and former teacher in Douglas, GA

“In September 2016, Zena and I officially joined the millionaire’s club—a pretty impressive feat for two teachers who’ve never cracked six-figure salaries. We kicked off our careers in 2002, earning about $40,000 each. By 2016, we were earning a combined $135,000, which we maximized by keeping our expenses in check. The more cash we free up, the more we invest.

We keep our eyes on the big three: transportation, housing and food. In 2004, we bought used cars to avoid big payments, and drove them for 12 years until they gave out. We even sold our oversized home three years ago for $150,000 and bought a much smaller house for $68,000. We mind our food spending and cook budget-friendly meals most nights.

We keep the rest of our spending pretty simple, too: Zena has a no-frills phone plan for $12 per month, while I get free calls over WiFi using a Google Voice number. We cut the cable cord a long time ago and stick to a basic Netflix account.

For the past 14 years, we’ve fully funded our 403(b)s and IRAs, and eventually started hitting our HSAs and 457 (another retirement account available to teachers) plans hard, too. Of course, along the way, we’ve benefitted from big market gains—which finally pushed us across the $1 million line. Today, our net worth sits at about $1.1 million.”


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