Save $20K? Pay Off $11K in Debt? How We Hit Huge Money Goals in 12 Months
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"If you're ready to hustle, anything's possible!"

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"I almost doubled my net worth in 12 months."

David Cole, 32, U.S. marine in Meridian, Miss.

"I began tracking my net worth a little over a year ago. As of September 2016, it landed at $44,000—not too shabby for someone bringing home about $50,000! (That’s a combination of my taxable income, plus military benefits like a housing and food allowance.) I already had an $8,000 emergency fund, no debt and was putting away more than 25 percent of my salary in a Roth IRA and military retirement account. Still, I thought there was more room for growth.

So I made a goal to save and invest about half my income each month. I don’t have cable or an expensive phone plan. I prep meals to keep food expenses under control. And I don’t care much about material things or buying the latest gadgets, which allows me to stretch my take-home pay. I do, however, allow myself some fun purchases, and don’t stress too much if I don’t save the full 50 percent every single month.

For example, when I went on vacation to Key West in August, I ended up saving just 25 percent of my income—but then made up for some of the shortfall another month, when I saved 65 percent. Giving myself some leeway keeps me motivated to keep going.

Today, my net worth sits at about $92,000—thanks to my high savings rate and a killer bull market—and I have no plans of slowing down on my way to $100,000."

"I scored a 38-percent raise using some clever interview hacks."

Jessica Kay, 32, digital marketer in San Diego, Calif. 

"I have one career tip that's never steered me wrong: not sharing my previous salary with a potential new employer. The way I look at it, how much I get offered should be based on my skills and experience—not what my last employer was willing to pay.

This strategy played a major role in boosting my salary from $72,000 to $100,000 when I landed a higher-level management position with another company last year. After six years in my previous role, my salary had stalled, and I knew I was worth more. I’m glad I listened to my instincts; the bump helped me pay off around $5,000 of debt and bankroll my wedding.

Whenever I’m asked about my salary, I respond with something like: ‘I usually like discussing compensation in terms of the value I can bring to this position. Given my experience, here's what I'm comfortable accepting.’ Then I confidently hit them with my qualifications to back up why I deserve that salary. It's all about proving your worth.

Of course, the salary piece is just one side of the coin; I also thoroughly prepare for interviews so it’s clear I’m a candidate worth paying well. To snag my 38-percent salary increase, I spent about three hours researching the company and practicing my responses to anticipated questions—especially ones that showcase specific skills and accomplishments.”


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