How did you make your million(s)?

Discuss all general (i.e. non-personal) investing questions and issues, investing news, and theory.

If you have at least $1 million in investable assets, which category describes you best:

Poll ended at Fri Nov 09, 2012 7:27 pm

My household never earned above average wages and we hit the target by saving/investing
52
24%
My household DID earn above average wages and we hit the target by saving/investing
148
68%
Most of the money came from a source other than wages (such as inheritance, lottery, etc.)
17
8%
 
Total votes : 217

How did you make your million(s)?

Postby RenoJay » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:27 pm

I know there are a lot of people on this board who have at least $1 million in investable assets. I am very curious if most people who earned their money by saving and investing did so with "average" wages (defined however you see fit) or "above average" wages. Basically, I'm trying to see if it's true that lifestyle/spending choices are more important than being a high wage earner.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby livesoft » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:39 pm

We have jobs. Examination of tax records show that we were in the 33% tax bracket just one year in our lives, but mostly in the 25% and 28% tax brackets. So jobs and the passage of time was all it took.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby Raybo » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:57 pm

Sold a house for more than it was worth and didn't buy another one (moved in with my, now, wife).
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby traineeinvestor » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:01 pm

Dual income household (all bar two years) both earning above average incomes and living well below our means.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby ruralavalon » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:31 pm

Extremely volatile income (could fluctuate over 500% from month to month), frugal living.
"Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein | Wiki article link:Getting Started
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby tfb » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:44 pm

RenoJay wrote:"average" wages (defined however you see fit) or "above average" wages.

Does a doctor earning average wages for a doctor earn "average wages" or "above average wages"?
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby hq38sq43 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:47 pm

Beginning early in 50+ year marriage with modest or somewhat better income, ended each year (with one or two exceptions) with net worth at least somewhat higher than prior year. Golden rule was spend less than income and invest the difference. Some folks can't do that for various reasons. But it worked for us.

Best regards,
Harry at Bradenton
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby bearwolf » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:16 pm

I owe all my success to some advice my father in law gave me. He said "Son, here's a million bucks. Don't lose it!"

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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby JDCPAEsq » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:26 pm

livesoft wrote:Examination of tax records show that we were in the 33% tax bracket just one year in our lives, but mostly in the 25% and 28% tax brackets.


You're fortunate you worked primarily in the post-1986 era when tax brackets were lower. Here's the tax rate for $50,000 of taxable income in earlier decades:
1950 - 53.69%
1960 - 59%
1970 - 51.25%
1980 - 49%

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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:32 pm

All things being equal, a couple with similar average wages could accumulate much more than a single person earning an average wage, or not depending on lifestyle consumption patterns. If the OP really wanted to know how those millions were accumulated, not only would the variables of income (average or above average) and windfalls be considered, but also the amount of time in which those savings had to compound. You could have someone who earned an average wage but whose savings could compound over 50 years as one other poster mentioned. I would venture to say someone who accumulated such a figure with little time to compound (20 years or less), average or below average wages did so by an option not on the poll - scrimping/saving and being lucky in life including marrying the right person.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby RenoJay » Sun Nov 04, 2012 10:12 pm

tfb wrote:
RenoJay wrote:"average" wages (defined however you see fit) or "above average" wages.

Does a doctor earning average wages for a doctor earn "average wages" or "above average wages"?


I think I'd consider a doctor's wages "above average" in most cases, but I think it depends where you live. What I had in mind was "are your wages above average for the area where you live" since I figure almost everyone in the Bay Area or NYC probably earns more than the median wage of the country, but still might be "average" for their area.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby Rubiosa » Sun Nov 04, 2012 10:30 pm

Two above-average incomes, only one child, frugal living, and two good and no bad investment decisions.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby scrabbler1 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 10:38 pm

Single (never married), no kids, LBYM, average annual wages in 23 years of working (retired at 45) in the mid-40s (some years full-time, some part-time). Cashed out company stock worth $300k when I left. Paid off mortgage in 9 years, debt-free most years.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby investor » Sun Nov 04, 2012 10:46 pm

investing on a steady basis into good mutual funds and using tax differed vehicles when available. . Having a bull market from 1982 to 2000 did not hurt matters any. Never made a huge salary and lived behind my income. Retired at age 55

investor.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby HomerJ » Sun Nov 04, 2012 11:00 pm

15 years ago, I was making $30k a year, and my wife was making $60k a year... We (okay she) had about $200k in investments, but we (okay me) had about $50k of student loan debt.

We both moved up rather rapidly... Me in IT, and her in Human Resources. I spent a lot of time hitting the books after work, and playing with my test domain and test network at home to learn as much as I could. I worked a lot harder back then than I do now.

Every raise, we'd increase our standard of living a bit, but also increase our savings (me, I'd increase how much I was paying each month to pay off the debt).

About 8 years ago, I was making $75k and she was making $100k.... The student loans were paid off, and after taxes, we were living a $90k lifestyle (which is a very good lifestyle here in the MidWest) and saving $50k, plus all bonuses (which were probably another $20k between us).

For the last 4-5 years, I was making $110k and she was making $130k... We were living on our my salary alone, and saving everything she made.

And now we have a paid-off house, plus a million in investments.

We were very lucky to have such good-paying jobs, but we also worked hard to get where we were... The most important thing however, was that we didn't keep increasing our spending to match our income... We realized when we had "enough", and now we're in great shape.

My wife recently quit her job, and it hasn't affected our lifestyle one bit. Since the house is paid off, we can continue to live on my salary alone AND still save a decent amount each year.

Note that we did the majority of our investing during the "lost decade".

A great income is very important, but even more important is to keep the spending under control.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby am » Sun Nov 04, 2012 11:32 pm

"Does a doctor earning average wages for a doctor earn "average wages" or "above average wages"?"

A pediatrician in a desirable coastal town may make 90-100k which will place him on the poverty line if he lives there. On the other hand, making that same amount in a small town in middle America will allow him to live like a king.

Plus most doctors have poor knowledge when it comes to investing. So that sets them back in a major way when it comes to saving and planning for retirement.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby livesoft » Sun Nov 04, 2012 11:42 pm

^Plus some doctors have poor knowledge about the poverty line.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby 6miths » Mon Nov 05, 2012 12:36 am

I would think that more and more doctors are becoming less and less financially naive.

We made it with above average income and steady index investing while living far below our means. The key for us was not getting caught up in the big lifestyle that so many MDs seem to think they can afford.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby travellight » Mon Nov 05, 2012 12:44 am

Real estate.

I think those who never got married or got married and didn't have a bad divorce and avoided having many kids have a leg up on this.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby obgyn65 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:34 am

One above average income, and LBYM.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby Yam the Bomb » Mon Nov 05, 2012 8:39 am

Started with nothing.
Worked every day since becoming a paperboy at age 11.
Never financed a car for longer than 12-months and never paid less than 50% down. In the early years that means you buy great condition but high milage cars.)
Never bought a home that I couldn't pay at least 20% down and pay off in 10-years.
Every thing I buy is on CREDIT cards and paid off in full monthly. I don't believe in debit cards. And cash is too easy to lose track of where you spend it.
Dual incomes after married (she came with nothing also.)
We have just never had the desire to live beyond our means. We OWN a very nice home. We pay CASH for our cars and home remodeling.
We don't hand money over to our kids. We raised them to be independent AND frugal.
I have a high school education so I guess I never wasted money on college either. I have put several family members through college though.

I did read the Millionaire Next Door. It definitely describes me and my wife perfectly. My dad was a drywaller his entire life. But he apparently taught us more about money and budgeting than most parents do with their kids.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby sschullo » Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:01 am

starting from nothing in our late twenties, with no talents or skills and with a companion who also started with nothing
Education was our best investment!
frugal living is a must
good parents who lived well below their means because they had to
save, invest, stay the course no matter what
never bought a new car and kept our used cars for years
no children, but if we had one child, we would have still earned over a million.
bought homes that were not oversized
learn from mistakes and keep learning no matter how old you are. For us it wasn't till our late 50s and early 60s when we learned proper asset allocation
Extremely lucky: sold our real estate without agents, saved $70,000 in commissions and earned good prices just before the crash of 2008 and 2009.
at the end, we learned that the stock market gives little. It was all of the above in what WE DID, not the stock market, that got to our goals
“It’s what you learn, after you know it all, that counts.” - John Wooden
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:11 am

6miths wrote:I would think that more and more doctors are becoming less and less financially naive.


You may be right, but note that doctors posting on this site are not statistically representative, just as the rest of us are not representative of the investing public at large.

Victoria
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby hicabob » Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:14 am

Made it to liquid million 3 times - lost it twice. First time - after cashing in stock options from a fairly successful startup -paid off house then invested in tech stocks - then bammm, 2000 - tech stocks crashed - went a little below a million liquid - but continued investing - good salary - larger company - doing nicely - excellent "on the side sw contract too " - then bammm - divorce - back way below a million liquid - I started a tech company w/ 2 partners - no income for year1 then it took off - a few years of 500k plus then sold recently for a nice chunk - no new bammm yet and since I have adopted Boglehead strategies, I don't think there will be anymore.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby RadAudit » Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:53 am

RenoJay wrote:I'm trying to see if it's true that lifestyle/spending choices are more important than being a high wage earner.


For us, lifestyle / spending choices were more important than high wages.

Graduated in the lower half of my class - and I'm still there as far as I know. Took a below average paying first job as an industrial engineer. Married. Put two kids through college through the masters level. SIngle income for most of the time. Invested 8% of the income (and a 4% match) for most of the career. Employed for 39 years and voila! made it to the figure you noted. Mostly pure luck concerning when you start investing and more luck about learning early I couldn't pick stocks.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby MathWizard » Mon Nov 05, 2012 10:33 am

Not there yet, but I am on track to make a million in today's dollars, so I voted.

You didn't say what the average income was, and I don't know what the average income is,
but I think the US median is about $40-50K for a household.
Based on that we are in the upper half, so I chose above average.

Looking towards the future:

At a steady $40K income (in today's dollars) and figuring 4% real return on investment, you would have
to be savings 30% make a million in today's dollars, so you'd be living on $28K.

Now if you had a better ROI, then you would not have to save as much.

My advice to my kids is to get a good education and to get an above median income, then to save.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby Valuethinker » Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:35 am

am wrote:"Does a doctor earning average wages for a doctor earn "average wages" or "above average wages"?"

A pediatrician in a desirable coastal town may make 90-100k which will place him on the poverty line if he lives there. On the other hand, making that same amount in a small town in middle America will allow him to live like a king.

Plus most doctors have poor knowledge when it comes to investing. So that sets them back in a major way when it comes to saving and planning for retirement.


Curious.

Does a US pediatrician, anywhere, make as little as 90-100k?

Because even a doctor in the UK, a GP, makes more than that now. This in the land of socialized medicine.

If you live in London or the commuter towns, then a GP's salary is not much. But if you live outside of that, you will be one of the highest paid people in the area. Average household income is around £40k ie $62k (average wage is about £25k for those in full time employment).
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby House Blend » Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:54 am

Valuethinker wrote:Does a US pediatrician, anywhere, make as little as 90-100k?


Dunno, but some googling revealed this
http://www.hschange.com/CONTENT/1078/

According to this 2008 survey, roughly 1/3 of US doctors earned < $150K, and 1/3 earned more than $250K. Unfortunately, no information about how those incomes might vary with geographic location.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby Valuethinker » Mon Nov 05, 2012 12:26 pm

House Blend wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:Does a US pediatrician, anywhere, make as little as 90-100k?


Dunno, but some googling revealed this
http://www.hschange.com/CONTENT/1078/

According to this 2008 survey, roughly 1/3 of US doctors earned < $150K, and 1/3 earned more than $250K. Unfortunately, no information about how those incomes might vary with geographic location.


I wonder if that includes doctors who work part time? US Veterans Administration and other doctors who work for a salary? Military doctors?
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby ResNullius » Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:45 pm

I think one of the most important things is to avoid divorce. I've seen divorce destroy the financial security of many of the folks I worked with over the years. The only thing worse is multiple divorces, gambling, drinking or doing drugs all the time, or just plain wasting money.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby statsguy » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:03 pm

For what its worth, here is our story.

We had no savings until 1980. In 1980 we started saving $25 a month and buying a $50 savings bond. In 1981 I changed jobs and got a $4000/year raise (I was all of a sudden making $32000/year. We took half of that raise and put it into a 403b plan (we kept buying savings bonds too) and my company was matching the first $5000 we put into retirement savings. Since 1981, we put half of every raise into our retirement plan. When I retired in 2010 we were saving about $35,000 a year out of my salary of $92,000. Along the way we inherited some money which we used to pay off our mortgage. Now in retirement our portfolio pays us more than our income needs... in the first two years of retirement we have been spending about $68,000/year (more than when I was working). Frankly, my biggest problem today, at 57, is thinking about how to control our RMDs in 13 years.

Best of luck to others
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby chaz » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:05 pm

Hard brain work.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:38 pm

chaz wrote:Hard brain work.


It's not a rocket surgery. :happy

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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby HomerJ » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:44 pm

statsguy wrote:Since 1981, we put half of every raise into our retirement plan.


That's the key I think... And it's pretty painless way to save your way to riches.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby LonePrairie » Mon Nov 05, 2012 3:03 pm

Widowed (at a young age); went back to school and got an advanced degree in computer science at the right time; always lived below my means.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby Jack » Mon Nov 05, 2012 3:53 pm

JDCPAEsq wrote:
livesoft wrote:Examination of tax records show that we were in the 33% tax bracket just one year in our lives, but mostly in the 25% and 28% tax brackets.


You're fortunate you worked primarily in the post-1986 era when tax brackets were lower. Here's the tax rate for $50,000 of taxable income in earlier decades:
1950 - 53.69%
1960 - 59%
1970 - 51.25%
1980 - 49%

Without a doubt, I would choose the $50,000 and a 53.69% tax in 1950 rather than $50,000 and a 25% tax in 2012.

$50,000 in 1950 is equivalent to a salary of $480,000 in today's dollars.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby 2beachcombers » Mon Nov 05, 2012 5:13 pm

Moved out of Vt when I hit 62% STate + Fed tax
Moved to TX-no state tax
Retired to Fla--ditto
Retired again to Ga--90K deduction for Seniors

Saved every $ I could for 40 yrs
Worked 37 yrs US and International

Stayed the Course--45 yr 100% equity
Boglehead moved me to 70% equity when I hit 65 and recovered from 2008

jerry
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby chaz » Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:07 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
chaz wrote:Hard brain work.


It's not a rocket surgery. :happy

Victoria

That's an incisive comment. I like your sense of humor.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby 6miths » Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:34 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
6miths wrote:I would think that more and more doctors are becoming less and less financially naive.


You may be right, but note that doctors posting on this site are not statistically representative, just as the rest of us are not representative of the investing public at large.

Victoria


That is very true of course. I am frequently surprised by colleagues who are paying 1% annually to have their portfolio managed and then fees on top of that, but it seems to me that more and more of the medical students and residents I encounter are quite sophisticated when it comes to finances. And when I say that they are sophisticated, I mean that they have an appreciation of the importance of saving, living below one's means, minimizing costs, understanding risks tolerances and the like.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby cc78 » Wed Nov 07, 2012 10:47 pm

Worked hard during college to keep my debt low. Got an IS degree, then a grad degree, worked like a madman to get ahead in life.. Then inherited it at 30.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby billjohnson » Wed Nov 07, 2012 11:26 pm

Voted B...
Last edited by billjohnson on Thu Nov 08, 2012 7:23 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby ofcmetz » Wed Nov 07, 2012 11:43 pm

I enjoyed reading the responses here. I'm not there yet so no vote.

Our path so far has been very similar to what's been said. We married young and have always had two incomes. Looking at tax returns we made combined about $44,000 in 2000. We are well over three times that now. We live well below our means and save the rest. It seems that investment returns will play less of a role than the volume of our savings in getting us there.
Showing up at the donut shop at 5 am to get them hot out of the oil is an example of successful market timing.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby twacapt » Wed Nov 07, 2012 11:49 pm

For 40 years 1). We saved more than most and 2). We lived below our means. Time plus compounding....it's that simple.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby Sheepdog » Thu Nov 08, 2012 11:18 am

I made my million net worth just this summer (barely, but proudly there) after retiring 14 years ago (now age 79) and living off of these savings and SS. I am surprised that I made that while investing conservatively (my age in bonds) in Vanguard funds and I Bonds and spending what we needed and some we didn't need, too.
Jim
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby Grt2bOutdoors » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:35 pm

Sheepdog wrote:I made my million net worth just this summer (barely, but proudly there) after retiring 14 years ago (now age 79) and living off of these savings and SS. I am surprised that I made that while investing conservatively (my age in bonds) in Vanguard funds and I Bonds and spending what we needed and some we didn't need, too.
Jim


Congratulations on joining the 7 figure club. :sharebeer
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby thebogledude » Thu Nov 08, 2012 4:00 pm

An interesting note, with the exception of one or two posts, all involve dual incomes which obviously helps.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby letsgobobby » Thu Nov 08, 2012 6:21 pm

right, all of the above is going to be the best answer - dual high incomes and frugal living and an inheritance would be in everyone's best interests.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby jon-nyc » Thu Nov 08, 2012 6:54 pm

IPO at age 31 put me into 7 figure net worth for the first time. Above average salary, prudent investing, and LBYM took over from there.
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Re: How did you make your million(s)?

Postby ge1 » Thu Nov 08, 2012 7:03 pm

High incomes for both my wife and gains from selling properties. Plus obviously savings.
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Did not inherit a thing

Postby Marmot » Thu Nov 08, 2012 8:55 pm

Worked hard. Law school for wife,HR for me; debt up the wazoo. Started putting max back in 1989, kept up the pace. Above average income, DINKS. 55 and trying to decide when to cut the cord and retire early.
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Marmot
 
Posts: 193
Joined: Sun Oct 10, 2010 2:44 pm
Location: Phoenix, AZ

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