The following AskReddit users share how they became millionaires. People love a good old fashioned “rags to riches” story, but not everyone can appreciate the amount of hard work, dedication, and constant decisions-making that it takes to actually make it as one.
Source list available at the end.
I used to have a job paying $10k per month (work from home) in my 20s. I’d spend all of it every month on rent, car loans, buying expensive products, traveling, or socializing with people who were doing the same thing that I was. Then, I started my own business in my 30s, the first of which failed financially, but it gave me tremendous grit, skills, and experience. It also opened up a series of new opportunities in film, apps, e-commerce, investments, consultancy services, and real estate. During this time, I went through a minimalist phase. I sold my car, got a bicycle, and donated most of my clothes to people who needed them. I gave away clothes that I hadn’t physically touched in the past 6 months, which was 95% of my wardrobe. During the same time, I went through a period of accelerated learning, reading articles, listening to podcasts, and watching Youtube videos. I didn’t have a lot of patience for reading books. Although, I’m now trying audio books (and I like it). I grew my knowledge about everything from business, to people, startups, statistics, relationships, the future, politics, astronomy, investment, refugees, poverty, culture, real estate, history, biographies, philosophy, technology, money, science, energy, strategy, art, music, health, spirituality, leadership, martial arts, war- you name it. I also realized how powerful YouTube was in developing and expanding skills for free. To prove it, I learned how to play the trumpet just by watching YouTube videos. It gave me confidence and a strong foundation that I could program my brain to do almost anything over time.
Finally, I surrounded myself with good people who were smarter, more experienced, and had broader life skills than I did. They advised, and still advise me, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have them in my life. Throughout all of this, I always had a vision for what I wanted, and it was to do the things that I love, to be the best at it, and to get paid above market rate for it. Today, my companies turn over in the nine-digit category (in annual revenue), but I still buy mostly second hand and only things that I absolutely need or make me happy. I’m in my early 40s now, and I still work a lot (but I also work smarter). I still travel a lot, learn a lot, and surround myself with people whom I love. If I were to attribute my journey to two traits, it would be curiosity and space. Question everything that is happening to you, everything that is happening around you, or has happened to you in the past. Ask why, even though it may piss people off. Find out how everything works because it helps you find opportunities in places you may have least expected. Physically travel outside your town, city, state, or country and be curious about new spaces. Get into the habit of researching your own “Whys?” and surround yourself with smart people who love answering questions. Finally, give yourself the space and time to pursue answering your “Whys?” and leave time in your day to contemplate the answers you find.
In my 20s, I was a computer programmer. This was just as the web started exploding in popularity. I could wire up websites and databases back when internet technologies were new and tooling was still primitive. I never hit it big with a viral website like Facebook or Amazon, but I did charge a lot for my programming services and I used that money to buy houses at first, and ultimately, an apartment building in coastal California.
I’m in my 40s now. I don’t feel very wealthy really. Oddly, I still check prices when shopping, and I plan on driving my old jeep until it dies. When I travel, I often pay to fly first class. I also do enjoy the nicer hotels, but other than that, I live and spend rather simply.
I’ve invested since I was 18. I have a degree in economics and a deep interest in understanding how markets work.
But honestly, I don’t “know” anything. I have a diversified portfolio of ten different stocks in various fields. Theory says that’s too little, but I don’t care. The different stocks are all listed on the most traded index in my country. I come from Denmark, so it’s the OMXC20 index.
The thing is, stocks (in general) will increase in value over time. Sure, some of my stocks are in red, but most are in black. Some drop 30%, others gain 40%, but year-on-year, my portfolio increases by about the market average of 7%. That’s including years of financial turmoil/crisis. In my opinion, the worst thing you can do with your money is not invest it.
I enlisted in the Army when I was 18, and I liked it. I asked to become an officer, and they let me. They also sent me to college, and I graduated. My officer pay was way higher, and while in the army, you don’t have that many bills to pay. I found I could save in between 1k and 5k every month of my life.
After my second deployment, I was sitting on about 200k. I hired a financial manager, and he did well for a few years.
I’ve bought and rented out a couple of houses.
I’ve currently completed 17 years in the Army. I’m creeping closer to a portfolio worth $2 million and a good pension in retirement. I’m about to make Lieutenant Colonel. I’m in my late 30s.
Just grind and save.
I live in Eastern Europe. In 1990, I took out a huge loan and bought ten apartments and furnished them all. I rent them out to people. With the money that I earn from them, I pay off the loan payments. I do this every 10 years. I now have thirty apartments and one employee who I pay to maintain them and make sure payments and maintenance is handled. The key is finding good tenants and maintaining a good relationship with them. It’s not that hard, but it is key to this strategy working.
My grandfather is a great example of “rags to riches.” He came from literally nothing. His father passed away when he was only 3. Since his childhood, he did petty jobs to earn enough to go to school, as well as, to feed his mother and sisters. He was a very brilliant man, who worked his way to success. He couldn’t succeed in his dream of becoming a Mathematics Professor however, since by that time, he had the big responsibility of marrying off his sisters (back then, there was the Dowry system). So, my grandfather gave up on an education after his degree and earned himself a job in the government sector, and he was one of the major officers of road transportation in the country in the 60s to the 90s. My dad became a millionaire through his ability to see things in the long run. He was a businessman in India in the mid 80s, who was one of the first people to bring the technology of cable television to the country. He toured countries like the U.S. and Canada studying the technology, and later, he went to China, where he found manufacturers to produce the materials at low costs. Till then, people had only seen low quality broadcast television with only two or three channels to choose from. He suffered a lot, especially financially at first because he sold most of his ancestral property to invest in cable television, and it was very unsuccessful at first. But he firmly believed it would one day blow up, and it did. By the mid 90s, my dad was the owner of a huge cable network that provided the best quality television available at that time. I came into the picture just recently because my dad is unaware and clueless about the latest technology, which I found in my various tours. I made him take a very large loan from the bank and brought the technology of premium television and fibre optic internet to our area. People were mind blown of high definition 1080i picture and that was our selling point. I took control of the internet section of my dad’s company while he continues to control the television section. That’s our story.
I know several millionaires, and they’ve all worked for it. They aren’t cheap, they’re frugal. There’s a big difference.
They live grossly under what their net worth would appear to be. They have the appearance of people who make a modest income.
It’s nice not having to worry about money, but they also have to worry about a lot of other things too. For example, teaching their children the value of money and hard work.
Being frugal. Not buying new cars. Not caring about what others think. Saving and investing (and then doing it over and over again). Not making knee jerk investments. Letting them ride out long-term, while not freaking out at every market correction. For me, it was a slow game. It’s been fun to watch it all take off though.
Being a millionaire doesn’t necessarily mean having a million dollars worth of cash in the bank, it’s about the net worth. For example, I owe around $40,000 on my house. I have lived in it for over 20 years, and it is now worth around $700,000. So, I have $660,000 equity at this point in time. I am due to retire in 7 1/2 years, and my superannuation is worth around $300,00. When my parents pass, I will receive around $200,00 inheritance. When my wife retires, she will receive about the same in superannuation, and when her mother passes, she will get around $150,000 inheritance (she has a lot more siblings than me). So, technically, we are millionaires. But oddly enough, I still have trouble making it from payday to payday.
About 3 years ago, I decided the daily grind was boring. So, I started buying low on auctions and reselling them for a profit. The key was building up initial capital to allow my operation to have no limits. After a while, I started skipping the middleman and went to the point of origin and got people to sell me their goods for flipping.
I cracked the first $1m just after 33. Then, the next few came quickly. The best advice is to build capital early on. I scrimped and saved. I had my first car until I was 30, and it finally broke down. I didn’t waste my money on holidays, or any expenditures that weren’t 100% necessary. My holidays consisted of getting time of from work, going to beach, and/or doing fun things that were free.
Once I had a little nest egg $10K, I got a house. Every time I had a spare $50, I put it in against the mortgage. Then, every time I got a pay rise, the difference went to the mortgage and not to an increase in my lifestyle choices.
I’m 45 now. Saving has become less of a priority becase the BASE capital is already there. I can spend every cent that I earn, and my base will still increase.
I was born into it. It all came from my parents. I get a lot of hate from my friends in college about this. My parents, on the other hand, went from living in lower-middle class India (born in the late 50s, so basically studying hard and family bonds were what kept them going), came to California to get their Masters and PhD, and worked for massive tech companies for about 30 years. My dad went up to being an Executive Director or something like that. They invested a lot of money and bought houses in India that they rented out. The house they bought here in California went from $1.1 million to about $3.5 million.
I started my first company when I was 16. It went up in dramatic flames. I was in college. At 21, I graduated with a business degree, but I went into tech, which was my real passion. I got a good job and started my second company just out of college. It fizzled.
I’m almost 30 now, and I have been successfully running company number three for about 5 years. I’ve worked very hard and spent very little, but I could leave at any point with several millions in hand.
I used to run an apple cart in NYC. I would buy an apple for 5 cents and sell it for 10 cents. I did this for 20 years. Then, my wife’s father died and left us with a chain of hotels.
I am on track for being a millionaire by just investing in my 401k. I started my career at 20-years-old (right after graduating from college) and started investing the minimum to my 401k. I never really thought much of it, until I did the calculations and realized that, since I started so young, the compound interest on any investment account with a decent return would be huge.
I would recommend that you just start putting money away. Everyone tells you to max your investments, but honestly, not everyone can invest $18k a year. Do the math and see how much $200 a month will grow in 30 years. This might not be the exact answer, but this will easily get you there at some point.
I actually hit big at a casino a while back. Not enough where I could afford to quit my job and buy a mansion, but I’m comfortable and my son will be too.
Be willing to move anywhere for your job. Most big companies are looking for competent people who can go where they need them to. Be that person and the money will follow effortlessly.
I’m a financial advisor. This is how my clients became millionaires. They saved all that they could, took CALCULATED risks (but always had a back-up plan), didn’t worry about owning extravagant items, worked hard for their money, and retired a few years early (but didn’t stop working until their late 50s/early 60s).
You would be shocked to know how many multimillionaires live in small houses, drive Toyotas/trucks, and use coupons. I think that the best way to look at this is to ask yourself, “How do I avoid becoming a millionaire?” The answer is, spend money in a way that makes you look like a millionaire.
Millionaire in my 20s here. A combination of things, but mostly number four. Working in software. This field tends to pay very well for good people. Being frugal. I don’t act like a pauper, but I don’t have a cable subscription (I’m a gamer, T.V. doesn’t interest me) and I prefer to cook my own meals than eat out. Being single. Kids are expensive, or so I hear. Stock options. I joined my company a couple of years before IPO, and at the time, I felt they showed a lot of promise and could do really well in their market. I was right. The stock price has been rising steadily since IPO, and the majority of my wealth is in stock options (on a steady diversification schedule).
A million dollars was never my goal. I was actually surprised when I got it a few months ago. I don’t think it has really changed me thought. It just means that I don’t have to worry abut money, and I can afford to take long distance flights in business class. Still, most people will want to retire on at least a million. People live a long time now, and if you’re planning on taking a 20-year-retirement, that’s $50k a year- which is a fairly modest salary depending on where you live. The trick there is to save, invest, and not think of yourself as rich with that retirement account sitting there full of money.
Post are edited for clarity.