There’s no denying that saving money can feel like hard work at times: It requires a long-term mindset and at least a few short-term sacrifices.
Yet these three make hitting $100,000 net worth by 25 look easy. With specific plans in place to reach their goals and some serious discipline, they’re proof you don’t need a six-figure salary to build up a net worth of that much. Here's how they did it.
“I treated saving money like a video game—and figured out how to beat it.”
Gwen, 26, IT specialist in the Midwest
“I never set out to save $100,000 by a specific age—I just wanted to save as much as possible. My ultimate goal is to retire by 35, so I’ve been prioritizing saving and living below my means since college.
I was fortunate to have some great financial role models: My parents made me save 50 percent of my allowance and gifts, encouraged me to avoid debt and ingrained frugal habits, like paying for cars in cash, reusing plastic bags and buying second-hand.
When I started my first full-time job, I adopted smart habits of my own: I built up a $10,000 cash cushion, and automatically transfer money into my 401(k) until it’s maxed out, $100 into my Health Savings Account (HSA) and $450 into my Roth IRA. I cut costs by living with a roommate. I drove the car I'd had since college and visited friends and family for vacation instead of traveling to luxury spots.
Over the following three years, my income increased, too—I hit $77,000 last year—and I worked up to saving about 75 percent of my take-home pay. This ultimately helped me hit a net worth of $100,000 last July—which felt great, and really validated all my frugal choices.
My next goal? Grow my savings and investments to $200,000 by the end of the year. (I’m around the $150,000-mark now.) I know accomplishing this is somewhat dependent on the market continuing its upward climb—but I’ll do my part either way.”
Her advice for others: “Treat your savings like a game! What skills can you sharpen to earn more money? How can you optimize your spending in order to keep as much of your money as possible? What else can you do to make your money work for you?
I know saving is hard, especially when you don’t earn much. But it’s entirely doable if you start with small changes. It can be as easy as shopping with a list and ordering fewer drink at happy hour. Once you’ve mastered the habit, you can watch the effects compound.”
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“Having money to fall back on provides a sense of security I’ve never had before.”
Drew, 27, commercial real estate professional, Washington, D.C.
“Growing up, my family was not well off. I actually received free breakfast and lunch at school because our household income was so low. As I’ve embarked on saving as an adult, that perspective has motivated me: Having money to fall back on provides a sense of security I never had. And because I never lived a lavish lifestyle, I don’t find joy in buying stuff.
After just two years of consistently saving and investing in my early 20s, I reached a net worth of $100,000 at 25. And it wasn’t because I earned a huge salary. In fact, it’s never exceeded $70,000.
Rather, I attribute my success to three things: First, I’ve always held multiple side gigs. I even lived off my income as a ride-share driver, deliveryman and real estate photographer my first year out of college and saved my salary. I’m also frugal: I say no to lavish trips with friends and big purchases like a car—opting to stay local and ride my bike to work. Finally, I’ve kept my living costs very low by house hacking, or renting out spare rooms in my three-bedroom home for a profit.
This has allowed me to build my net worth across a variety of sources: When I reached $100,000, I had $13,500 in cash and nearly $50,000 across a regular brokerage account, 401(k), IRA and other investments like gold. Plus, I'd put $40,000 between mortgage payments and the down payment into my home, which has increased in value by about $45,000 since I purchased it.
His advice for others: “Do things that make saving simple—like setting up automatic transfers and opening an account that’s separate from your checking account, so you’re not tempted to spend. You can start with just $25, $50 or $100 at first.
If that’s overwhelming, make a specific plan to hit your goal. If you don’t succeed, you’ll fail upwards! Let's say life throws you a curve ball—you had a few medical bills and totaled your car. These expenses might prevent you from getting to $100,000 by a certain age. But if you started saving early and practice good habits, you could still end up with $50,000 or even more.”
“The most important step I took on my journey to $100K was proactive career growth.”
Hannah, 29, data scientist in Raleigh, N.C.
“I’ve had a lifelong fascination with saving and investing. As a teenager, I talked my grandpa into letting me invest a small amount I’d saved from odd jobs and gifts in his next commercial real estate deal. Unfortunately, we lost money when the project went sideways—but my grandpa returned my investment in full.
By high school graduation, I had $25,000 saved from waiting tables, teaching tennis and a $4,000 cash scholarship. Four years later, I’d whittled it down to $15,000—the rest went to living expenses and a car—which prompted a new goal: save $75,000 for another real estate deal with my grandpa. I didn’t manage to achieve that goal before my grandpa’s health declined because: life. (I got married and had a baby!)
However, it set a fire in me to ruthlessly prioritize saving over the next three years. By 24, I’d amassed $100,000—an additional $55,000 in my savings account and $30,000 between my 401(k) and IRA.
I recognize I’ve been lucky in certain ways: I didn’t graduate with student loans, thanks to my family’s generosity, and I’ve benefitted from the long-running bull market: The first time I checked my 401(k) balance, I had annualized returns of 19 percent! But I also proactively invested in my career growth, fighting for $25,000 worth of raises. Growing my income to $75,000 by 24 allowed my frugal habits—like living with three roommates and scouting out free entertainment—to take me even farther.
Even though I never got to do a deal with my grandpa, I did eventually invest in real estate. Today, my husband and I own two properties: our home, where we rent out the basement, and a separate rental. We bought them with cash for about $130,000, and they’re now worth about $200,000 combined.”
Her advice for others: “If you want to save a lot of money quickly, it’s important to recognize the role your income plays. If your full-time salary isn’t enough (in addition to cutting back), find ways to increase your income without boosting your lifestyle. For most people, picking a side gig is a great solution.
There’s also huge value in breaking up a goal into small, achievable steps. For example, I started by talking with my boss about getting a promotion at the end of the year. Then I made a plan to increase my job performance, making sure my boss noticed. Finally, I checked in every few months to make sure I was on track for the promotion—that I eventually scored.”