Are you dreaming of becoming wealthy? I money troubles keeping you up at night? Are you overwhelmed with the idea of having enough for your retirement? Great, you are in the right place. The post will reveal a true story about how I became a millionaire in U.S. and the steps I took to get there. No games, no gimmicks, just truth.
Before we dive in I want to disclose three things
- Definitions: I measure our net worth value, defined by all our assets minus all of our financial liabilities. If you want to calculate YOUR Net Worth, check our Net Worth FREE calculator.
- Goals: I did not set a goal of becoming a millionaire one day. I had smaller goals that led me to where we are today.
- Ownership: all of our assets are family-owned by LLCs and protected by a living trust, so when I say mine, I mean ours.
Now, lets talk turkey, I mean, money 😊
There were three main stages in our journey: learning, growing, thriving.
When I immigrated in U.S. in 2003 I literally spoke no English, and knew nothing about personal finance. I did not realize Excel existed, I was missing basic foundational knowledge of banking and finance systems, I did not own a banking account or have ever seen a checkbook.
My journey with money of course, started at home, by learning from my mom. My mom was a budget ninja. She kept lists of all expenses and was vigilant about stretching every ruble our family made. So, the first thing I did after I came to America was not learn more about our family expenses.
Next, I realized I need to learn the language and go to school. While I wanted to go to college and advance, I also dreamed about getting married and starting a family.
From 2005, when my daughter was born, I started my journey. Finishing 2 degrees (Bachelor in Finance and MBA) took almost 11 years, and I worked almost the entire time. I went to school, raised young kids, ran a household and worked part time at the same time. It was not easy, and yes at times, it was exhausting.
Roughly about the same time in 2006, we agreed to pay off all Paul`s student debt and our auto loan debt. That took a few years.
Roughly in 2007 I learned about the credit score system, credit agencies in Ameirca. About the same year I pulled my first credit report that showed I had 300+ credit score. It was scary and I made a goal to build my credit.
I improved my credit standing by borrowing money from banks under the student loan program. Here is show: each semester I would receive a huge check from a bank that I would deposit. I went on and paid for all school costs with my savings, and lastly, after about 1-2 months, I would write the check to the bank and pay off the student loan in full. I built my score to 800+ in under two years.
Roughly, in late 2007 I had my first finance class where I learned about the power of compounding interest. I was fortunate to be trained by Dr. Christine McClatchey.
Mrs McClatchey is an incredible teacher and her classes, hands down, transformed my understanding of personal finance. After my first class with her, I changed my major from General Business to finance. She taught me about real estate investments, index investing, and the value of starting early. She also introduced and guided us on the use of a financial calculator, my favorite instrument of all time. Understanding how numbers work has changed my life for good.
I became obsessed with wanting to start investing right away. I opened an account at Vanguard first. My husband was sceptical since I was new to investing. We also were faced with a $3000 minimum requirement that at that time sounded to us like an impossible goal to hit.
In 2008, after we received a $4,000 tax return from IRS, we invested $1,000 in Vanguard STAR fund and another $3,000 in VIVAX Vanguard Fund
After that, we were able to invest only about $50 a month since I still had to pay for school and avoid student loans at the same time. Over time, as time went on, I increased our savings to $100, $200 and $350 per month. One of my winning strategies was to set up auto-deposit investments when Vanguard would draw a set amount from my checking account and invest it into index funds.
Since we had low income in 2008, we opened two ROTH (post-tax) retirement savings accounts to avoid any tax impact. Our goal was to form a habit of doing two things well: keeping expenses low and keep investments flowing.
In 2010, right in the midst on the recession, we purchased a foreclosure home. Since we could not sell our other house, we were forced to become landlords. Our tenants did not behave well and we had no idea about ow to keep them in line, we lost quite a bit of money on not knowing how to run real estate business and our tenants took advantage of our incompetency.
We held the house for few more years, before we sold it and purchased our first 1031 Exchange condo for cash. I started reading a lot and listening to free webinars about real estate investments and how to be a more effective landlord. We changed our leases, we established processes, and drastically improved our returns on the overall portfolio.
About the same time, it became clear we need to run our real estate business as a serious venture. SO, after some research, we started to attend weekly real Estate Investor meetups (free real estate classes) and learned more about the way we can leverage real estate investments to retire early.
Over the years, we added 401K portfolios and one more property to our list of investments. We continue driving our debt down, keeping our expenses low, and taking care of our health.
Today, 18 years later, we are happily married, have three incredible kids (6, 11, and 15), and keeping living a frugal life, and growing our asset base. We are virtually debt-free, but a small remainder of our main home’s primary mortgage.
Both of our credit scores in 800+ figures, we have awesome remote-jobs, huge house in Northern Colorado. We all are healthy and love our life. We travel a lot more and enjoying life to its fullest.
I did happen to calculate our net worth in January 2021 and was shocked to see that we surpassed $1M a long time ago and now approaching $2M. I guess it was astonishing to see since we did not aim for it. We had smaller goals that we hit every month and every year, but seeing the number confirmed my gut feeling that we were doing ok. 😊
What has changed? The assets we have today do provide for more freedoms and more certainty. What I love the most about the experience is the journey itself. As a couple, the journey to financial independence united us, it allowed us to develop new skills and unearthed new learning opportunities.
I can tell you today with 100% confidence: anybody can become wealthy in this country.
In the next post, I will share how YOU can build a million dollars asset portfolio and retire early.