Investing

In my 20s, I knew nothing about investing: Now I’m on track to have $3 million invested by 65

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Chloé Daniels is the founder of Clo Bare Money Coach.
Courtesy Chloé Daniels
Key Points
  • I made sure to track my successes so I could bring hard data with me when the time came to negotiate for more money.
  • Knowing my risk tolerance and time horizon has helped me make investment decisions that are right for me. 
  • Even if I never invest another dollar, I should have $3 million by the time I retire.

A little over two years ago, I couldn't tell you what an IRA was, let alone the difference between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA. I had about $10,000 in an employer 401(k) but understood very little about how to make it work for me. 

Now, at age 30, I am on track to have $3 million invested by 65, even if I never put another dollar in. 

What I did wasn't complicated or extreme. I focused on increasing my income, decreasing my expenses, and investing the difference. Here are some of the top lessons I've learned along the way.

First, focus on increasing income 

A concept that has been really helpful for me throughout this process is the 80/20 rule. I first learned about it after reading Tim Ferriss' "The Four-Hour Workweek." 

The idea behind the 80/20 rule is that 80% of your results come from only 20% of your efforts, while the other 80% of your efforts produce only 20% of your results. It resonated with me. I started thinking about how I could apply the rule to my approach to my finances. 

I knew that there were only so many saving hacks I could use and expenses that I could cut back on. In order to grow my wealth, I needed to understand my earning potential and best apply my efforts. 

I started by advocating for myself at my 9-to-5 job. This meant regularly communicating with my boss about my progress and goals. As I took on more responsibilities, I made sure to track my successes so I could bring hard data with me when the time came to negotiate for more money. I knew my value and I made sure to have the evidence to back it up.

Since 2015, I have had seven promotions. Those boosted my salary from $42,000 a year to $203,000. 

I started my side hustle Clo Bare Money Coach in 2020. I worked on it for about a year before I quit my job and took it full time, and doing it alongside my 9-to-5 helped me to bring in almost an additional $100,000 in 2021.

Increasing my income ultimately has allowed me to invest more than $80,000 since 2020, which averaged out to be about $3,200 each month.

Take advantage of employer-sponsored retirement accounts 

Retirement accounts can allow money to grow either tax-free, as with a Roth or HSA, or tax-deferred, as with a traditional IRA or 401(k), which means you won't have to report your capital gains and dividends as income to the IRS every year.

That can result in some savings that you wouldn't get in a taxable brokerage account. If possible, max out employer retirement accounts to get the most tax savings: That's my best advice.

In 2020, I started maxing out my 401(k) and IRA. 2022 is the first year I opened a taxable brokerage account. Now, I am focused on maxing out my IRA and solo 401(k). After about a year of side hustling, I left my full time job to pursue Clo Bare full time in October 2021. My investment strategy didn't change all that much other than opening a solo 401(k).

I'm still trying to invest as much as possible, but knowing that I have enough money invested to be able to retire someday does give me peace of mind if I have a tight month and can't add as much as I would normally like.

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Keep it simple with the stock market

Trying to pick individual stocks is hard to do, even for people who have studied the stock market for their entire lives. So the first $100,000 of my investments focused primarily on one type of investment: low-cost index funds

The way I like to explain index funds is to think about it like buying a box of chocolates rather than a single chocolate bar. Index funds mirror the market, which means their performance is often aligned with how indexes like the S&P 500 perform.

In actively managed mutual funds, a professional is trading regularly in an attempt to make you, the investor, as much money as possible. But these funds often require you to pay a higher fee. And index funds often outperform them anyway.

Figure out your time horizon and risk tolerance as an investor

When I first started out, I was nervous about choosing the wrong investments or losing money because of external factors beyond my control. This is a completely understandable concern and I know I'm not alone in feeling it. 

If you start to feel panic, though, my best advice is to look at the returns of the stock market for the last 100 years. A dip in the market doesn't seem quite as intimidating when you compare it to the performance of the stock market over the long term. 

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I have found that knowing my risk tolerance and time horizon has helped me make investment decisions that are right for me. 

Because I have roughly 30 years left to invest, my own risk preference is more aggressive because I have time on my side. If the market dips, I have decades to make up for it. And I know I'm not going to panic-sell my shares. 

Educating myself on how the stock market works has been a huge driver in my success as an investor. The dips and the corrections don't worry me as much because I know they are a natural part of the process.

Chloé Daniels, founder of Clo Bare Money Coach and The Lazy Investor's Course, is a personal finance creator, blogger, and coach focused on helping people learn how to manage money and build wealth without shame or judgment. She aims to provide education in a fun, easy to understand, and accessible way, and is known for her reels and TikToks that showcase her terrible dance moves while also providing finance tips. She's based in Chicago and can be found on Instagram and TikTok @clobaremoneycoach or at clobare.com.

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