I became a millionaire at 31.
I didn't sell a business, get a six figure inheritance, or rob a bank. Rather, my husband and I accomplished this feat by being incredibly purposeful and deliberate with our finances over a period of many years.
When I graduated from physician assistant school at the age of 25, I was saddled with an overwhelming student loan debt of $161,000. My husband and I had little savings to speak of, no real knowledge about investing, and the added burden of a mortgage to contend with. The future looked daunting, and at times it felt like we were facing an insurmountable challenge.
At the time, I thought my primary money problem was my student loan debt. (Turns out, it wasn't. More on that later.) Nevertheless, I remained determined to tackle my student loans head-on and focused all my energy on paying them off as rapidly as possible, hoping to achieve financial stability sooner rather than later.
I worked full time as a PA-C, and then picked up 4-5 per diem (part time) positions to increase my income. At the time, my husband made ~$30K per year. We lived off of his income, and applied every dollar I earned to my student loan debt. This is the easiest path towards achieving short term money goals, but is definitely not a sustainable long term solution.
After paying ~$10K per month towards the student loan debt consistently, the loans were paid off in 16 months.
This time period was grueling. It was physically challenging to work that many hours, but the hardest part was maintaining mental stamina. There were so many days I wanted to quit, but I reminded myself of the big vision and continued. I flooded my brain with stories and images of other people who had paid off big amounts of student loan debt, and essentially drowned out the noise from my own doubt. The process was worth it.
My experience learning to channel both focus & discipline during my student loan payoff ultimately gave me tremendous confidence in my ability to achieve the next money goal.
We then turned our attention to investing & paying off our mortgage early. We paid off our mortgage in 2020 (I don't recommend this for most people), and then massively accelerated our investing.
There were two things I was primarily focused on during this time:
1) Maximizing gross household income. This includes both at my primary job, and through side hustles. For my husband, it has been providing tremendous value at work, getting repeated promotions, and maximizing his bonus structure.
2) Redirecting as much earned income as possible into income producing assets. This was primarily investing in the stock market via tax advantaged accounts, and ultimately incorporating investment real estate as well.
Doing these two things well required me to learn new skill sets in multiple areas of life. I read hundreds of books, listened to thousands of podcasts, took multiple courses, and paid for coaching. All of these things allowed me to move from point A (lacking a definite plan and baseline knowledge) to point B - where I am now.
Our net worth is now over $1,000,000 at 31 and 32. Net worth is a simple math equation: assets - liabilities. We have no debt aside from a mortgage on an investment property, so that's our only liability. Our total assets (across investment accounts, real estate, checking/savings, etc) MINUS our rental mortgage is >$1M.
This achievement is rare. The average "401k millionaire" crosses that $1M net worth threshold in their 50s. Why does it matter that we hit the mark early?
This principle means that our current investments still have decades to compound for us before we will need the assets. If we continued our current annual addition to our investments through age 65, we would be worth over $25,000,000 at retirement.
We may pursue that approach, but only if we are finding true meaning & fulfillment in the work we are doing along the way. This is the beauty of financial independence - time freedom & "work optional" status.
Compounding returns applies to more than just investments. It also applies to skill sets. The earlier I learn how to be an entrepreneur, the sooner I can build upon this skill set to yield truly incredible results. The same applies to investing in real estate, strategically minimizing taxes (legally), etc. Delaying anything of value to tomorrow has an opportunity cost.
It may not be your goal to be a millionaire at 31, but it should be your goal to retire in a way that doesn't burden your family & create financial peace for yourself along the way. These strategies will help you become financially successful as a healthcare professional:
Maximize your earning potential: Look for opportunities to increase your income, such as taking on additional responsibilities or working in a high-paying specialty.
Invest wisely: Invest your money in a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other assets to maximize your returns and minimize your risk. Take time to learn investing. Even if you opt to invest through a financial advisor, giving someone else blind control of your money is incredibly risky. You need to understand the basics.
Live below your means: I don't believe in extreme frugality. The major overhead expenses of housing & transportation are the budget lines you should address first, as they move your financial needle much more than your $5 coffee. When you get an increase in income, change nothing for 1 year. This "lifestyle lag", as I call it, has been key to my success.
Start your own business: Consider starting your own business so that you can monetize your passion & gain access to the world of tax reduction strategies available to small business owners.
Build a strong network: Network with other professionals and develop relationships with like-minded people. If people don't exist in your immediate circle that push your growth, use the benefit of our technologically advanced society to connect online. Don't be afraid to pay for mentorship.
Set financial goals: Set clear financial goals and develop a plan to achieve them. The time horizon of annual goals alone is too long to create urgency. I create quarterly goals that build into annual goals and then 10-year goals.
As you followed along with my story, you may have discerned the common threads that ran throughout my journey: unwavering discipline, steadfast consistency, and continual personal and practical growth through self-reflection and learning.
I've changed my life over the last 7 years by changing the way I view & use money. Look below for resources to help you do the same.
As always, invest early & travel often.