How To Get The First Million Dollars: What We Can Learn From People Who Have Achieved A High Net Worth

If you’re ever looking for a place to lose a couple of hours, Quora is a good place to go. It’s a site where people ask questions, and then get answers from experts on the subject.

For example, I remember one question I recently read where someone asked what it was like to serve a life sentence in prison, and there were promptly several detailed answers from ex-cons and convicts alike.

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Another person had asked what it was like to live on earth after living in zero-gravity, and an astronaut who had lived on the space station promptly chimed in with a detailed answer.

This past week I was perusing the site when I saw an interesting post asking the question, “how did you make your first million dollars?“.  I thought some of the answers were very interesting, and provided some good advice to others as they endeavor to earn and save 7 figures.

How Did They Make Their First Million Dollars?

how to get a million dollarsThere were quite a few interesting stories from people who had achieved a net worth of over a million dollars. Their stories were varied, and go to show there isn’t one way to make a million dollars, but many ways.  Here are a few of the stories I read – click over to the post to read more detailed versions.

  • A 34 year old engineer:  How did the engineer get a million dollar net worth by age 34?  Here’s how he describes it: “I started with a relatively small inheritance, took a high income career path, saved most of my disposable income, invested during good times, took a calculated risk on a tech start-up, and avoided big losses and boneheaded mistakes.” He goes on to say that it isn’t complicated. “Savings is income minus expenses.  You should work on both.”
  • Restauranteur: Ching Ho is a successful restauranteur and entrepreneur. He succeeded by being willing to work harder, longer and more strategically than others.  He became an expert in as many areas related to his business as he could.  In an industry where profit margins are notoriously small, he was able to succeed by cutting costs where others were willing to pay extra.  Instead of paying huge construction costs domestically, he sourced materials directly from suppliers in China.  Instead of paying $100k for an architect he learned some basics, drew up his own plan and had an architect put finishing touches on his design.  He says, “Remember, PROFIT = revenue minus cost. Maximize revenue, minimize cost.
  • A 36 year old engineer: Another engineer making shy of six figures bursts the bubble that you need to be making high six figures in order to save a million dollars. He said, “No magic, super powers, amazing luck, or hotshot business prowess is necessary to save money. Just resourcefulness and reserve in spending. Live below your means, however modest, avoid debt, and little numbers will gradually add up to bigger numbers.
  • 32 year old in IT and real estate: A 32 year old IT guy talked about how he practiced delayed gratification and built up a portfolio of homes one by one, as well as investing in other areas.  He built his net worth through thrift, hard work and an innate need to succeed after seeing his farming parents struggle with debt for many years. “I achieved the goal at 30 by being focused and very disciplined – keeping my expenses at a pretty constant level even though I was changing jobs every few years to increase my earnings and working very hard to stand out in each role.
  • 30 year old entrepreneur and IT worker: This man has gained a $3 million net worth through his entrepreneurial focus and by how he was always very strategic about where he was working.  He graduated school with little to no debt by working through school and getting help from family.  By his early twenties he went from making $45,000 to making six figures by improving his skill set, and jumping to a risky start-up.  While he was doing this he was also creating online businesses on the side that gave him flexibility in what jobs he decided to take. He was able to take risks and join a startup with stock options, which allowed him to exceed $3 million by the time he turned 30. His advice to aspiring millionaires was, “If you are looking for advice on how to be a millionaire by 30, I’d recommend keeping a few balls in the air and then moving your chips around.  Verse yourself on lots of different businesses.  Play for the long-term.”
  • Blue collar worker who started his own business:  Another story was related by the nephew of one gentleman who succeeded by outworking everyone else.  He started out working 90 hours a week at 3 blue collar jobs. He saw where certain companies had a need, and branched off and started his own company, doing the same things he had done 90 hours a week.  He succeeded through hard work, generosity (always going out of his way to help others) and because he enjoyed working – in order to help others more.
  • 45 year old businessman: He never made a huge salary, the most he made was around $100k, but he saved and invested religiously. He invested and diversified his holdings.  Here’s how he put it.  “For most of my life, I’ve been a saver rather than a spender. I don’t own a lot of fancy stuff..  In short, I made my million the boring way. By saving and investing, then waiting a few decades.
  • 30 year old investment banker: A 30 year old investment banker accumulated a 5 million net worth by entering a field with high earning potential, and doing his job well. He also lived abroad in a low tax country and was able to save quite a bit before coming back to the states. He also found ways to increase his earning potential, while maintaining relatively low expenses.  He says saving a high percentage of his income and spending within his means was key to his success.  “I wouldn’t say I was frugal, but I was certainly not extravagant – I kept within my means and made sure I was saving a large portion of my take-home pay every year.

The answers go on from there, but there are lots of interesting stories if you have some time read them.

Advice To Be Learned From These Millionaires

So what are some things we can learn from these millionaires?  Here are a few things I keyed on from the thread.

  • Be strategic about your career: Time and again we see the people who have been successful being very strategic about their careers. They choose career paths that they know will be high paying, they avoid schooling if it isn’t needed, or they find ways to be in the right job at the right time in order to be the most profitable for them.
  • Work harder than others are willing to:  From the blue collar worker to the software engineer with a side income to the restauranteur working long hard hours, they were all willing to work hard to achieve their goals. They were very motivated and very willing to work hard to get what they wanted.
  • Be willing to delay gratification: Time and again you hear the stories of how they didn’t spend a lot of money on things for themselves or buy expensive things that were above their means. Yes, sometimes they spent money but for many of them they were more than willing to delay gratification for the furtherance of their long term goals.
  • Good at taking advantage of opportunities: They were very good at preparing themselves and being ready for when an opportunity presented itself.  If an opportunity didn’t present itself they were good at finding and creating an opportunity.
  • Spend below your means: As a group they were all able to spend well below their means, save a large  percentage of their income and not buy a bunch of toys that they didn’t need. They were able to find fun and hobbies that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. They play great financial defense.
  • Focus on increasing your income: While they spent below their means, they also were very good at finding ways to increase their income whether it was through increasing their knowledge, certifications or qualifications, or by finding new or innovative ways of making money.
  • Having millions won’t make you happy:  Time and again in the posts I read about how many of these millionaires found that wealth didn’t make them happy – and for many of them having money wasn’t the end goal. For many of them just the pursuit of and the game of making money kept them interested, and only things like family, faith and giving to others were able to make them happy.

How Long Until Your First Million?

Making a million dollars isn’t something unattainable, and just about anyone can do it even if they don’t make a huge income.  It all comes down to living your life in a way that promotes growing wealth, and not in a way that is above your means and subsidized.

Want to figure out how long until you make your first million?  Check out the calculator below.

Last Edited: 16th June 2014

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  1. says

    A good collection of feedback Pete. Seems pretty straight forward with no magic bullet. Joining a startup that hits helps!

    I also like how there are plenty of millionaires in their early 30s. Stealth wealth and much more money out there than we know.

    Can you share with us how you got to millionaire status?



  2. says

    Great article and tips…having just accomplished that milestone, I have to say that the advice you’ve gather are spot on. Thanks for sharing. Many will surely benefit from this information.

    Best wishes! AFFJ

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