I Am a Millionaire Now - It Is Different Than I Thought it Would Be
I am a millionaire, but I don't feel like one. Perhaps the better way of saying it is it does not feel like I thought it would. Let's get back to that a little later. First a bit about me and the family. I am a forty-one year old white male. Married for 12 years with two kids- a nine year old girl and a seven year old boy. I have an undergraduate degree in finance and went to night school to get an MBA. I have spent my entire career working in information technology (IT). Most of that time has been programming. I have a few stints in management, but it didn't take.
My wife works at home and has done so since our daughter was born. She volunteers at the kid's school quite a bit. I also keep her busy with a lot of the business activity. Our kids attend public school. We were going the private school route for a few years. When both were going to be all-day students, the bill was $18,500 for the year. By the time they are be in 2nd and 4th grade, the bill will be $21,000 and that was if tuition stayed the same. Fat chance on that.
I have started my own company. The dream was to have a big operation where I would have 50+ people working for me and spend my time running the business and helping bring in new clients. Four years into it, we are considered successful, but the big dreams have turned out to be little dreams. I have a few people working for me but the majority of revenue is still billing my own hours.
I come from a middle class home. My father worked for the federal government and never made more than $25,000 a year. I went to public schools. I am smart and my grades always reflected that. I graduated high school in the top 10 percent (barely). My father passed away when I was in high school. While there was life insurance, it was not much. My mom had to go back to work after staying home to raise the kids for 20 years
My career and savings started when I was 22 and graduated from college. 18 years later I can see several things: * I made some great decisions * I made some bad decisions * I made good decisions with bad results * There has been good luck and bad luck, which came whether intended or not Inaction that should have been action.
Some Good Decisions
Student Loans - I never had any. My undergraduate was paid for by scholarships and out of pocket. My employer paid for the MBA. I did not go to a big school, although I could have. The decision to go where I did, McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA, was made out of finances. They offered a scholarship that covered tuition, books and a room. I was on my own for food. A little help from mom and some part time work took care of that. I noticed that many of my friends upon graduation were paying off student loans. Every month they were paying a couple of hundred dollars. For them this went on for years. I was saving my money instead. This provided a good foundation for later.
Avoiding bad debt - I can remember one day talking to a friend who was about to get married. He had $8,000 in student loans, $10,000 in car debt, $3,000 in credit card debt and was about to get a loan to pay for his portion of his $30,000 wedding. He never told me exactly what he wound up paying for the wedding but I bet his portion was half. Here is a guy who is 25 years old and $36,000 in debt and all he has to show for it is a car and a marriage certificate. He was going to be paying that off until he is in his thirties and then start saving. I had a ten year head start for savings on him.
While I have had car notes, they were never huge and never more than three years. I put as big a down payment as I could. I have bought more used cars than new cars. I pay off the credit card every month. I do charge everything I can. This maximizes the points. The bill has often been higher than what I want it to be. My wife and I have had more than our share of fights when I opened the credit card statement. In the end I made sure the balance never got up and we never paid interest or fines. I recently had a conversation with a co-worker who told me she had $75,000 in credit card debt. This fascinated me because we had similar jobs with similar pay and are similar ages. How can I have so much and her so little? Her answer was it started small when she was in her 20's. She and her husband would carry a balance this month and go on vacation instead of paying for it. That balance never got paid. The next month they had an $800 car repair, adding to the balance. They had a cycle of accumulating bad debt for 15 years that resulted in $75,000 of debt.
Ground rules with the spouse - Before we got engaged, I wanted to go over finances with my then-girlfriend. I discovered she had $2,800 in credit card debt. I let it be known that we were not going to get engaged until she got it off the credit cards. She applied for and received a debt consolidation loan at a much more reasonable rate. This started the groundwork very early for us about what would be good and bad financial decisions.
My wife is not a money person. She is a spender and consumer. She impulse buys regularly while I seldom do. My saving has often been countered by her spending. I could have been a millionaire many years ago if she viewed money like I do. The things we do for love.
While we have fought, and will fight again, over money and spending, there have always been some ground rules. No credit card debt, do not touch the savings unless for another investment, save every month, try to avoid spending on the big things.
We have taken trips, bought clothes, had nice meals and remodeled kitchens. We temper these things. I try to delay these expenses and question if we really need all of it. One thing that works for us was we created a separate checking account for her. Every month we transferred money into that account. Birthday gifts, baby gifts, wedding showers, clothes and her pocket money all came from there. These were the items that would get out of hand. More than once she was giving a wedding or baby shower with other people. It always seemed that one of the others would go out and spend an outrageous amount. The $400 dollar cake was my favorite. They would through the receipts in a pile, add them up and divide. Three showers in a month totaling $450 can bite you quickly. When these types of expense would come from our savings, she treated it like there was a bottomless well. When she had to pay from her own account, she started budgeting. The account literally saved our marriage.
Buy a house early - I bought my first house when I was 25. I paid $52,000 for it. It is a 2 bedroom /1 bath with 1100 square feet. I lived in it for 5 years. Four years being single and one after we got married. I still own that house today. It has been a rental property the rest of the time. By the time we moved out, I could rent it to cover the note and then some. As time went by and property values rose so did rents. This house is now paid off and is valued at $210,000. I collect $850 a month in rent. I could get a little more but we have a good tenant who pays on time and doesn't call much.
That single decision is now responsible for nearly 15 percent of my net worth and provides around $6000 a year positive cash flow (minus taxes and insurance). Maximize 401K - We have put as much in to our 401Ks as we can. These accounts are now worth over $200,000 and the returns have just been average. I have changed jobs several times. Several of these 401Ks are now in IRAs. This money is taxed-deferred, encourages savings and adds up over time.
Save every month - Shortly after college I opened a mutual fund account. I started putting $100 a month into it. After a while I upped it to $110. I got another fund and started adding $50 a month into it. Over the course of time, those monthly investments became $800 a month. But over the course of time, these mutua
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