“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.”
July 6, 2017
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