Finally, our family achieved $200,000 of net worth today. Another major milestone has been reached for our Single Income No Kid (not yet) family. In the end of July 2006, I stepped on Canada as an English as a Second Language (ESL) student and 10 years later this random Korean immigrant’s net worth reached $200,000. It took me about 6 years since graduation of university.
People say, the first $100,000 is the hardest and yes it definitely was for me. Our net worth reached $100,000 in January 2015. It took about 4.5 years to achieve that however from $100,000 to $200,000, it only took about 1.5 years. I am very confident that it will take less than 1.5 years to achieve $300,000 milestone because that $200,000 is working 24/7 for our family to bring in more cash every single day through dividend incomes and capital gains from investing. I am on the right track to retire before 45.
Is $200,000 within 6 years sounds too good to be true?
What about $1,000,000 or $2,000,000 before 45 and retire permanently?
If this interests you then the following 5 key tips will guide you to amass sufficient money to retire from your job permanently and live life as you like on your own terms.
1. Understand who you are and set up your own goals
When I first came to Canada I was able to get some part time jobs working in kitchens and doing some chores making $7 per hour which was less than minimum wage at the time.
Although I was glad that I had a job at least paying some bills at the time while practicing my English a bit, I felt stuck in life. The employers dictated hours and days I work while only paying me $7 per hour. When I was growing up in Korea, I saw many foreign workers from developing countries in 3D sectors (Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning) where not many Koreans prefer to work. I looked into a mirror and quickly realized that I was one of the foreign workers in Canada.
I was easily replaceable by other foreign workers who is willing to work for $7 per hour. The jobs I was doing could be done by anyone with very little or no educations. I was taken advantage by the employers due to the fact that I spoke poor English and was a fresh foreign worker without a university degree. Honestly, I was worth only $7 per hour person by my employers. Nothing more, nothing less… Quite sad huh?
That was the beginning of my awakenings. I flew 11,000 km from Korea to Canada to wake myself up.
I assessed myself. I….
-was around mid-20’s
-lived in Vancouver, Canada where English is one of its official languages but had no English skills whatsoever
-had a high school degree which was the highest degree I had
-no family and no close friend connections
-a return flight ticket to Korea and a visa expiring within a year
I knew I had to act quickly. Luckily I had two positive things going for me.
First, I just graduated from 2 years South Korean Military service so had a full of confidence and an anything-is-possible-attitude and
second, I had about $20,000 savings that I accumulated over my lifetime.
Once I assessed what I was missing, I started to set up my own goals.
A. Be fluent in English
B. Get higher educations and build irreplaceable skills
I had many small goals in between but those were two major goals.
I realized, in order to at least be treated equally, I need to speak fluent English. Basic communication skills are absolutely necessary. I surrounded myself with English only. I stopped anything to do with my own mother tongue. I read local free newspapers, I spoke only English even forced my Korean friends to speak English when we talked, I listened radio shows and news and I watched any kinds of TV shows and movies during my free time believing that this is the only way to learn. The results were surprisingly good. Within only a few months, I was able to at least communicate with most of native speakers without having too many problems, I started to pick up more words from TV shows and gaining a deeper understanding of the local cultures.
After setting up goals, I became focused. I was driven to achieve goals. I could be the best I can be by striving for highest potentials. That’s what setting up goals do to you. Goals motivate you and give you purpose but you gotta make sure stay focused because they can be easily neglected by stresses of life. When you are focused, you will be closer towards the goals and start knocking them off one by one before you know it.
As I said, you need to objectively assess yourself. The most important conversation you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. Self-assessment is an honest and a very humble process. You should ask yourself who you are right now and what you want to be in a near future. It may be painful to you right now but after 2-3 years you will be surprised by how much you have achieved. It is a process of asking who you are then better yourself. Once you self-reflected then you need to set up your own goals. Does not matter they are SMART goals or not. Just start something first. You will figure things out as you move along.
Let me share my first ‘goals paper’ that I created around March 2007 and used it until September 2013. The way I set up my goals is simple. One piece of A4 paper and fold in half from left to right. Then I put my career related goals in the left side and put hobby/ bucket list related goals on the right side. I added a goal and a hobby at a time. Some goals were quite silly and embarrassing when I think of them now, some were quite serious and some were considered to be almost impossible at the time.
Both sides are equally important. (What’s the point of life if you don’t have any hobbies? 🙂 )
The picture was taken a while ago and I created another goals paper that I am using that is less career oriented but more value oriented.
Attach the goals paper on a wall where you can remind yourself every day and cross it off as you achieve them. Put a date when you achieve it by the side.
To be honest, this step is the most difficult one so if you come this far then give yourself big applauds.
2. Invest in yourself
About 8 months of staying in Canada working and learning English, I had to decide whether to go back home or stay and get educations. Heading back home would have been easier than staying and living out of my comfort zone but I knew in my heart that I wanted to take challenges. I was young and fearless (still I am 3:) ). What is to lose? From the part time jobs, I was able to save another $4,000 and I put all my eggs into getting educations. I researched almost all of the universities in Canada and found a great and very affordable university.
Life begins at the end of my comfort zone right?
Right after moving, I visited the university and told myself ‘My dreams begin here’
I passed a pre-requisite English test to get into a university and studied my ass off trying to catch up. All of a sudden, English which used to be the biggest issue of mine, wasn’t an issue anymore.
Most of classmates were 6 years younger than me at the time but I always told myself that it was never too late. In fact, I was earlier than so many people who really had not given themselves a time to look into themselves and going beyond their potentials. Age is just a number. Age difference should not stop you. You can improve yourself anytime whether you are 50 years old trying to do something different.
I previously wrote in this blog that my wife just started studying nursing when she is just about to become 30 years old. Most of the classmates are 10 years younger than her but she tells me there are a lot of 40-50 years old immigrant doctors in their home countries studying nursing. Some used to be brain surgeons and family physicians. They are not afraid to change from what they have studied entire their lives to make themselves more flexible in this foreign country to provide better and safe environments for their kids. I am learning every day from just listening to these stories and you should as well.
I always knew I wanted to be a business man. My passion and my heart was there. Coincidentally, I did well in accounting courses (Yes, you are right. I am from Korea) and that’s when I decided to become an accountant. and added some more related goals into my goals sheet. I knew I had to work 2-5 times harder than others to have my random Asian name to be picked among other job candidates. I worked my ass off and was able to find my first job in my 4th year of university. All I had was unlimited amount of confidence and laser-sharp focus.
Did I tell you that to find my first job, I sent out more than 100 resumes?
To find my next job after moving here in Toronto, I had 5 unsuccessful interviews?
You gotta keep trying. Keep pushing hard because there is no failure as long as you keep trying. There is no failure if you haven’t given up. The moment you give up then that’s becomes your failure.
Here are reasons why you need to invest in yourself
A. Irreplaceable skills
Once you go through specified training, no one other than people who went through the same or similar training can replace you. Think about it. It is quite simple. Without training, I wouldn’t have been an accountant. Without necessary training, I cannot be a mechanic, nurse, physician, pharmacist, HR officer, sushi-chef, hotel managers etc… Even if I could be one of them through starting from the bottom, it will take a lot longer than people who were pre-trained through colleges and universities.
One of my favorite quotes from Warren Buffett is the following.
B. Monetary benefits
According to College Board report ‘The benefits of higher education for individual and society’, the benefits of a 2-4 year college/ university degree are equivalent to an investment that returns 15.2% every year. To put it in context, Warren Buffett’s, the 3rd richest man in the world having a net worth of $64 billion, average investment return was 19.2% during last 50 years. 15.2% isn’t as high as 19.2% but high enough to get you easily where you want to be and live comfortably.
C. Other benefits
-Longer life spans through better access to health care, better dietary practices and live healthier lifestyle. Lower obesity and smoking rates.
-Greater economic stability and security and more family oriented
-Greater job satisfaction
-Greater knowledge of government and political environment, higher voting rate and less dependency on government assistance
-Greater community service, volunteer work and leadership
-More self-respect and confidence and continuing education
-More attendance of leisure and artistic activities
The Greatest investment we can make is in ourselves
3. Live below your means
The Canadian landscape has changed a lot since I arrived. More and more people are obsessed with fancy and bigger houses and shiny luxury cars in this fast changing world where cheap and super quick borrowed money is readily available. I am definitely an odd ball here trying to do the exactly opposite.
Luxury cars? No…
Buying houses by getting into unaffordable mortgage in this inflated housing market? No…
Trying to keep up with Joneses? No…
For example, by not having a luxury leased car, you will be able to save about $1,000 per month ($500 from lease, $300 from insurance and $200 from other incidentals such as expensive fuels and maintenance). That $1,000 per month over 5 years equal to $50,000. Oh wait… if you invested that money in an index fund at historical average returns at around 11% compounded over 5 year then it would have been $80,000.
The result of saying ‘No’ to those temptations?
$200,000 in your bank account within 6 years into career.
Many of my CPA colleagues from my accounting schools live like millionaires even though they are still in debt. A lot of them wear expensive Italian suits and lavish dresses and purses that cost $2,000-$5,000 and drive Mercedes but I often hear them complaining about their credit card debts and its high interest charges. They have relatively higher salary than most of people but what’s really the issue? They are misunderstanding what ‘You only live once’ really means.
It is really about getting rid of your desire for those luxuries in your life so that you can live happier life by doing what really matters more. I drive an 8 years old car that I bought used in cash which fully satisfies my needs while I am saving $15,000- $20,000 per year giving our family a huge boost to do things that actually matter to us.
Dave Ramsey, a radio host and author of many personal finance books said the following in his radio show that I love
“We buy things we don’t need
With money we don’t have
To impress people we don’t like”
Here… I put together 30 ways to minimize your expenditures while maintaining the quality of life.
Cost cutting is by far the most powerful way to increase your wealth. All you need to is to identify where you can cut and act on it. Stay away from TV, magazines, shopping malls, family, colleagues, friends’ pressure to spend and spend more. Don’t ever borrow to buy depreciating assets. Get into the habits of minimizing your expenditure and have a mentality of “Less is More”
The biggest misconception of ‘living below means’ that most of people have is sacrificing quality of life to live below means.
You don’t have to sacrifice anything important. Most of great things in the world are free or low costs. All you need to do is to look around.
4. Save and invest
A. Pay yourself first
I pay myself first no matter what happens. I know how much monthly essential expenditures would be such as rent, grocery (I never sacrifice quality of what we eat), utilities, internet etc… Everything else goes immediately to our investment accounts where we buy high quality undervalued stocks and ETFs. Other discretionary expenditures such as eating out and drinking come later.
B. Start earning side Income
A lot of self-made rich people are hustlers. You gotta find various ways to add to your bottom line.
Me? I love writing, teaching and sharing.
My wife and I have been running this blog for a while and have been making some money from blogging that adds to our bottom line. I use adsense and other affiliate links (e.g. Amazon). I never knew that I would be able to make money through blogging when I started this blog but it really grew significantly over time. Thank you for your support my precious readers. Nothing is better when I do what I love and make some money to support the family.
If you want to learn how to start blog, click the link below.
C. Automate saving
You are your own worst enemy when it comes to saving and investing. If you don’t think you can handle ‘pay yourself first’ mentality, then automate it. Have your bank set up a monthly or bi-weekly automatic recurring transfers from your chequing accounts to your investing accounts. This forced investing approach work great and will make you extremely happy while you see your investment account growing.
D. Start investing ASAP
It is never too late when it comes to investing and growing your net worth. I put together an excel to see how long it would take people to reach $1,000,000 of net worth.
Assume Person A and B and used a simple average return of S&P 500’s 11% between 1990 and 2013.
- Starts investing at 30
- Only $5,000 per year for only 15 years. Total contribution of less than $75,000.
- When he becomes 60, he/she will be a millionaire.
- Starts investing at 40
- Have to invest $12,650 per year for 21 years until he becomes 60. Total contribution of $266,000.
- When he becomes 60, he/she will be a millionaire.
Albert Einstein said,
“Compound Interest is the Eighth Wonder of the World”
I wrote an article about saving early to be a millionaire in the past. Use the calculator from the article and see how long it would take you to reach your financial independence.
E. Stay invested
While you are collecting dividend incomes and enjoying compound interest does its magic, there will be market crashes. No one knows when and it happens very quickly. When market crashes, your portfolio may lose its 20-50% of market value and you would start to panic and your emotion may overwhelm you to make stupid decisions.
The last thing you want to do is sell everything at the bottom. I repeat here again. Don’t sell. As long as you have diversified portfolio with lots of quality stocks or ETFs then nothing to worry about. Market crash could be once in a lifetime opportunity for you to make a huge gain if you have some cash to take advantage of markets. There have been more than 10 market crashes since 1950’s. Every single time, the market recovered back and reached higher than the pre-market crash level. Think it as your opportunity, not time to sell.
Always do your own research and invest based on fundamentals, not emotions.
F. Don’t invest in mutual funds but invest in low cost investments
I gotta admit I wasted about 3- 4 years investing in mutual funds. I had poured money into mutual funds from the beginning of my career in September 2010 until I started researching on my own and decided to be more responsible for my own financial future (September 2014). I opened direct investing accounts and started investing in high quality and low cost Vanguard and Blackrock (i-share) ETFs and dividend stocks. If you are not sure what ETFs to buy? Then my best recommendation goes to this extremely diversified total world ETF, VT or VTI
There are also so many great ETFs that you can choose from. Stick to low MER ETFs with some international diversification.
G. Debt is your biggest enemy
Well, if you can manage it properly, debt can be your net worth booster however make sure stay as far away as possible from high interest debts (e.g. credit card debt) That 19.99% of credit card debt is your net worth killing machine. Warren Buffett became the third richest person in the world by having only 19.20% of annual return and the credit card company charges you 19.99% of your debt. They are the biggest thieves in this world if you carry debt. I love using credit card for its convenience while earning 1-3% cash back on purchases. However, I always pay my credit card debt off every month before interest kicks in. Don’t make credit card companies richer but yourself by paying your balances in full every month.
Once credit card debt is gone, then focus on next highest interest charging debt. Attack it relentlessly until it is gone. Manageable low interest mortgage and investment debt can be great tool of building wealth when used wisely.
H. Minimize taxes
Utilize 401K and IRAs (TFSA and RRSP for Canadians). Among many legal tax planning strategies, those are the simplest tax saving vehicles that will get you to your destination extremely quicker. They serve two extremely important purposes. Contributions to those accounts (401K, IRA and RRSP) not only allow you to deduct from your taxable income and generate higher returns during tax season but also the funds sitting in those vehicles will compound extremely faster than normal investing accounts as the dividends and capital gains are sheltered from taxes.
Take a look at this blogger optimizing their taxes. Learn how to minimize your taxes.
I. Start tracking your net worth
Knowing where you are and where you will be headed is a great starting point to be a millionaire and retire comfortably. Set up your saving & investing goals and see how you are doing and identify areas that you can improve. Improving your financial lifestyle is a great addiction to have.
and about 2 years later.
J. Learn from the best
Lastly, I recommend the following two super investors of the world. Take a look and see how they invest. No need for reinventing the wheel.
K. Read the books that will teach you top secrets of accumulating wealth
A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.
Check out my hand picked top 10 personal finance and investing books that you should read. You won’t regret it.
5. Enjoy your life to fullest while letting your money work
It is really possible to achieve an early retirement. Let your money work for you and grow itself up indefinitely. Early retirement means that having your essential and some fun expenses covered by non-work related income. Nothing more than that. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how this works but somehow many people perceive early retirement like a big taboo.
Open your mind. Keep learning something new and accumulate knowledge. The key is having a mindset that an early retirement isn’t difficult, because it really isn’t but you need to be focused and put some effort. Set up your goals and achieve them one by one. You will be reaching your destination before you know it. Don’t think too much about the destination because the journey itself is quite fun and rewarding.
Good luck! You can do it!
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