How to Become a Millionaire in your 30’s – Interview 19 (Adam)

Adam from Minafi in Japan

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A major step in becoming a young millionaire is tracking your net worth. On the other hand, wealth building is not all about the numbers.

Our guest today, Adam from Minafi, sees wealth building as a way to travel, explore the world and create lifelong memories with his wife. By securing solid financial footing in his 30’s, Adam has been able to realize those dreams early in his life.

Let’s hear how Adam took advantage of the opportunities in his life and honored his family by pursuing a life of simplicity and stress-freedom.

The Details

How old are you? If you have a family, tell us about them and their ages.

Hey there! I’m Adam, 36 years old. I met my wife 17 years ago in college (wow, it’s been that long?). She’s one year younger than me. We’ve decided not to have children, but do have an extremely cute pup that recently celebrated her 10th birthday.

What part of the country do you live in? Do you own your home or rent?

I grew up in Florida, living there for 35 years. In the past year, we sold our home in Orlando and moved across the country to Salt Lake City. Both cities have almost the exact same cost of living and population size, which has made the move less disruptive than we expected (it helped that both Mrs. Minafi and I transferred with our existing jobs).

We both grew up in homes owned by our parents. After college, we very quickly bought a house — in 2007. You can probably guess the rest of that story, but it doesn’t end well. We sold that house 11 years later for a 20% loss. We’re renting now and absolutely love how much less stressful life is.

Adam from Minafi in Japan

When did you start tracking your net worth? What was it at that time?

One of the luckiest things that ever happened to me was that I didn’t get into my top college (Carnegie Mellon). Instead, I ended up at UCF, the University of Central Florida. When I graduated (after 5 years) I had a net worth of $0.

3 months later my mom passed away. What followed was the hardest year of my life. All of the sudden I had inherited $100,000, law school loans, a multi-unit property, and a deadbeat tenant.

Over the next year, I sorted everything out, sold the house and started investing. It was right around that time that I started finally tracking my net worth. That sudden spike from $0 to about $250,000 (after selling the house) left me with a feeling of responsibility. I knew I wanted to grow that windfall, and tracking my net worth was a way to understand if I was moving in the right direction.

What is your current net worth? What are your assets and what are your liabilities?

As of this moment my net worth is about $1.9 million. That’s 100% in stocks. I’ve made personal decision not to accumulate debt or pursue real estate and instead focus on the stock side. Aside from a little money on credit cards which is paid off each month, we have no debt. Of that $1.9 million it breaks down to a few core stocks (rounding):

  • $700k – Company stock (that I can sell at any time. I actually just received this stock TODAY, so I’m feeling kind of giddy right now).
  • $600k – US Stocks, favoring $VTSAX, Vanguards Total US Stock Market Fund
  • $250k – International, favoring $VTIAX, Vanguard International Fund
  • $225k – Bonds, favoring Total Bond Market or Tax-efficient bonds.
  • $50k – Vanguard REIT Fund, Real Estate Investment Trust
  • $40k – Speculative investments. Currently, in some cryptocurrencies, I’ll likely sell off soon.
  • Cash for the rest

I’m still working out what I’ll do with the company stock. Selling that much stock at once has drawbacks. For one, it jumps my tax-bracket. It also ties me in with the value at the current moment. I’m leaning towards dollar cost averaging it over some time while also spreading the sale over at least 2018 and 2019 taxes. More for me to determine there. If you were in my shoes, what would you do with it?

Related Podcast:  Investing Strategies from One Young Multi-Millionaire

The Process

What are your current sources of income?

At the moment both my wife and I work fulltime in typical 9-5 style jobs with great benefits. As much as I’d love to say I’m making money from my blog or other side projects those are just expensive (but fun) hobbies at this point.

What has been the single best thing you’ve done to increase your income up to this point?

Luck, hard work and luck. Aside from the windfall when my mom passed away, I was fortunate enough to land a job at a startup that was eventually acquired, then the company that acquired us went public. The total amount after tax earned from that combination of events is going to be somewhere around $1 million alone – possibly more.

If you ask me would I recommend working at a startup to get a windfall like this I would say a resounding NO. It worked out for me, sure, but working at a startup is like buying a lottery ticket. Chances are that things are not going to pay off in the same way.

Even for me, before I joined the startup that would payoff I worked at a number of other up and coming companies. None of them paid off anywhere near the same amount.

What ways do you invest your money?

I prefer the simplest way possible – US Stocks, International Stocks, Bonds, and a few real estate funds. I tend to over think things. If I can go with a minimal portfolio and let that do its thing I’m happy.

We’ve briefly touched on the inheritance and company windfall, can you elaborate further?

Yes, I was fortunate enough to receive 3 separate windfalls in my life.

  • ~$250k when my mom passed away
  • $500k when the startup I worked at was acquired and another
  • $700k when the acquiring company went public

The $250k was back in 2006 and promptly lost half of its value when I started investing (but has since recovered). The startup windfalls are still new and feel like lottery wins. All of these were unexpected and not part of my initial FIRE plans. Each one adjusted my clock forward a number of years.

You said you have no debt earlier. Which debts have you paid off?

We used to have a mortgage. For that, we were paying more than the minimum in order to pay it off in 12-15 years rather than the full 30. Since we moved, we have no debt – other than revolving consumer debt which is paid off each month.

Related Podcast:  With no mortgage, what do you do with the extra money?

How do you track your net worth?

I feel like I’ve tried just about everything for this. I use Personal Capital for tracking investments, which has been without a doubt my favorite tool for that. I also update a spreadsheet with my assets and allocations every quarter, as well as tracking all numbers on a monthly bases. This allows me flexibility on my history while not being tied to a tool.

For tracking expenses and budgeting I started with Mint, tried Personal Capital and am now trying You Need a Budget after hearing many good things with it. For my personal style of expenses so far I prefer Mint from this group.

What are your annual expenses?

Higher than I like for sure. Over the last 3 years, our expenses have grown from $60k to $80k to nearing $100k this year. In the $80k year we got married (large expense) and in the $100k year we fully combined expenses. We also moved across the country, went on a honeymoon, bought a new car in cash and had about 8 other trips this year as well – which had seriously added up.

Of that about $26k is housing (closer to $30k with utilities, home goods and improvements) – our highest expense. Travel is above $13k, $12k food, $3k transportation, and many other categories.

I do a rundown of my monthly spending down the penny each quarter, as well as a list of everything I’m investing in.

We haven’t been eying our expenses often enough with a discerning eye lately which has been one reason for the jump. I’m irrationally excited to see how low we can take it in 2019 while not feeling like we are depriving ourselves. My target for our expenses for a normal year is closer to $70k for our household – but we’ll see how close that is in a little over a years time.

What is your favorite fintech tool that helps you grow your wealth?

I’d have to go with Google Sheets. As simple as they are that’s the tool I always seem to come back to. Even if I’m tracking somewhere else, moving that data to Google Sheets give me flexibility over the data to manipulate and try to find insights with.

Young Millionaire

Why is it important for you to build up your wealth?

My mom passed away when she was 54. Before she passed she had many goals for travel, seeing the world and living her life. Those are all things I share. Rather than waiting until I’m “FI” or “RE”, I’m trying my best to do those now (as you might guess from our relatively high yearly expenses).

Adam at Megacon

What is one financial mistake you’ve made during your young millionaire journey?

I started down my financial path in 2006 – one of the worst times in recent history to begin. I sold my mom’s house (good) but also immediately bought a house (not so good). At the time, I had some money in the bank, but the mortgage on the house was 43% of my income!

Putting that large a part of my incoming cash into one expense still hurts me today. I was making $37k/year right out of college for about $2,500 a month in take home pay yet I was paying $1,600 a month on a mortgage. That’s straight mortgage & taxes too. Add another few hundred a month for general household fixes that come with owning a house and you can see I wasn’t thinking.

In retrospect I should’ve looked for housing that a much smaller portion of my income – ideally under 20%.

What book has been most influential to you?

The first book I read on investing was The Bogleheads Guide to Investing. I feel like that’s still the best introduction that anyone can have. It focuses on the basics – diversification, fees, tax-efficient fund placement. That foundation is all most people will need to invest for the rest of their lives.

What is one financial hack that has helped you that you think most people don’t know about?

One strategy I’ve always like is simple: have your job pay you to improve. One reason I was able to increase my income and earn equity in the companies I worked for was because I was constantly improving and taking on more work. This was only possible because I was spending time learning about areas others at the company weren’t focused on.

For example, for most of my career I was a software developer. The teams I was on were without a tech lead – so I learned everything I could and started acting like one. Eventually when the job was available everyone on the team recommended me for it. The same can be said for project management, product management, data analysis and many other skills.

By increasing your usefulness to a company, you increase your options. When these new skills are in line with what you want to do with your career it’s a win-win to explore them.

Check out my weekly podcast for more interviews like this one!

Where do you find the most joy in your life?

I love creating things that help people learn and grow. For the past decade I’ve been helping people learn how to code and it’s been tremendously fulfilling. Breaking down a difficult topic into the smallest pieces and presenting them in a new way can help communicate the topic in a new and exciting way.

I’ve been trying to do more of this type of breakdown on my blog as well. I started an Interactive Guide to Early Retirement and Financial Independence. Articles like this that adapt to your input are addicting to me. I get so much joy out of exploring them and trying out alternate paths. They’re like a research tool combined with an exploration. I want to spend more time creating things like this.

For the 20-something with a $0 net worth, what advice would you give them to become a millionaire in their 30’s?

I’ll be honest, it’s going to be tough. When I was 24 and had almost $300,000 to my name I assumed I would be a millionaire by the age of 30. Instead, the great recession hit and I didn’t end up passing 1 million until I was 34.

My takeaway from this was to focus less on getting to a number and more about enjoying the journey there. Stay emotionally healthy, set goals and enjoy time with your loved ones.

Throughout all of this you can set up positive money behaviors: having a high savings rate, setting money aside for expenses later, paying off debt and talking to your spouse about money.

Becoming a millionaire in your 30s isn’t something you have control over. That may sound scary, but it’s the truth. You can work as hard as you can, but you’ll still be at the mercy of the stock market or the real estate market or the company you work for.

I’d shift your thinking from “I need to be a millionaire by 30”, to “what do I have control over that I can improve?”. That may be your spending, your relationships, your goals, your expenses and to some extent your job. If you focus on making each of these better you’ll be on a great trajectory.


Where are you in your net worth journey?

Please let me know in the comments below!


Track your net worth today for FREE with Personal Capital. It’s the first step on your journey to becoming a young millionaire!


 

Author: Andy Hill

Andy Hill is the host of the Marriage, Kids and Money Podcast which focuses on helping young families build wealth. This 5-star rated podcast was nominated as "Best New Personal Finance Podcast" by Plutus. Andy's advice and personal finance experience have been featured in major media outlets like Business Insider, MarketWatch and NBC News.

6 thoughts on “How to Become a Millionaire in your 30’s – Interview 19 (Adam)”

  1. I appreciate the book recommendation and would welcome any other “beginner investor” book recommendations!

    Andy, I’d be curious to read a few “Millionaire in your 40s” or even 50s interviews, highlighting people who weren’t able to make this goal earlier (maybe due to lower incomes, larger debts, different family priorities, late starts, etc) but still achieved it later.

    1. “A Simple Path to Wealth” that Andy mentioned is a great one. It’s similar to Bogleheads Guide, but less technical and more practical. You could read “Path to Wealth” as the broad strokes and then “Bogleheads” for the math side of why everything works out.

  2. I’m not sure I can see quite how this can be deemed a success story. Of Adam’s U$1.9m net worth U$1.45m is the result of windfalls. Had he invested the 250k inherited in 2006 in the Dow Jones Industrial Average at it’s highest point of 2006 he would still have doubled this to 500k. Despite he and his wife working 9-5 (does this really leave much time to to travel, explore the world and create lifelong memories?) and having no kids or property he has effectively accrued no additional capital whatsoever.

    1. That’s one way of looking at it.

      I see his story as a success for three reasons:

      1. He honored his mother’s memory by creating a life centered on adventure and family (you don’t need kids to have a family in my opinion)

      2. Instead of frittering away that inheritance, he grew it to a point that has allowed him to achieve financial independence

      3. He’s found a unique way of saving for tomorrow and having fun today that’s allowed him to have a great relationship with his wife. Something I admire.

      I appreciate your opinion and thank you for starting an interesting dialogue.

    2. Hey Simon! For me, finding an amazing startup to work for, putting my all into it and having it pay off financially is for sure a success story – although not one that I could recommend since it’s not easily repeatable. The $1.2m earned from that startup has a lot of additional context that would be it’s own article, but the broad strokes are:

      • I worked at multiple startups, left ones I didn’t see going anywhere, networked with everyone in the local community to understand who was doing amazing things I saw that could payoff long-term and did what I could to join them.
      • I accepted a lower salary than I would have made elsewhere for the opportunity to work at that startup.
      • Joined early enough that there were only a handful of people working at the startup.
      • I worked hard, and long hours, rising from a software engineer to a director (kind of like a CTO) and saw my stock share (and responsibilities increased).

      There’s a stigma to windfalls that they are lucky, or unearned – but I’d push back on that. That company wouldn’t have been the same without my work put into it – and I imagine it would have sold for a different price. The smaller the company, the larger the impact a single person can have, especially early employees or directors/top management.

      You’re right thought, that $250k investing in 2006 would’ve climbed a bunch – if only I had just let it sit there. :/ Instead I bought a house (which I sold for a $70k loss), and lost a significant amount to load funds, fees and taxes created by investment advisor before I learned to manage things myself.

      We managed to save roughly 50% of our income from 24 (37k salary) to 30 ($88k) to 36 ($150k salary), but since our incomes weren’t huge – especially in our 20s – the amount of wealth created in that time seems small compared to the others. With a $37k salary, that might only be ~$15k saved after taxes.

      One thing that stands out to me is the tremendous impact of lifestyle inflation. Even with savings 50% of my income, since my income rose that meant those previous years saving didn’t add up. The “save half your income for 17 years” equation relies on stable spending/income, but since I increased both I should have saved more each year to stay on track. My FI date was pushed out because of that increase up to closer to 44 without the acquisitions – assuming markets kept going.

      From a travel side, that’s our biggest expense outside of mortgage/rent. In the past few years we’ve explored Japan (twice), southeast Asia on our honeymoon, Amsterdam, Scotland – just a too many places to name. We could have saved more by traveling less, but we love it too much.

      All this to say, your math is right! But it leaves out two parts: 1) hard work that went into the startup and 2) mistakes made with inheritance that stopped it from growing to it’s full potential.

      Thanks for the comment Simon!
      Adam

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