Last month my net worth hit $500,000 for the first (and hopefully last) time.
(I still can’t believe I’m typing that…)
That said, this is one of those accomplishments you only want to celebrate once. So, I thought now would be the perfect time to share all the specific details that so many of you have been asking about.
From my days as a fresh-faced teenager to the grizzled 30-year old typing before you today, (I found my first gray hair the other day, just fyi…) I thought laying everything out in one easy to read article could serve as some inspiration. Or explanation. Or at least distraction…
Whatever your reason for reading, enjoy!
2006 (Age 16): $500
Young Money Wizard learns the value of the dollar…
I bounced around various odd jobs before finding my highest paying job ever – $10 per hour. For a teenager with no money, I felt like I’d won the Powerball.
Only problem? Earning that extra few bucks an hour over minimum wage was as brutal as you’d expect for a 16-year-old with no meaningful life experience to offer the world.
I got paid with sweat equity. Literally.
I’m hired to dig ditches in the absolutely scorching Texas summers. I can still remember dripping with sweat while the 105-degree sun totally baked my plastic hard hat. Day after day…
No matter, I ended the summer with 500 big ones to my name. I was pumped!
I remember the number exactly, because $500 was the minimum amount it took to qualify for a Certificate of Deposit (CD) at the now defunct Wachovia Bank.
At the time, they were offering an incredible 5% guaranteed return for all 12-month CDs. So I locked up my life’s savings into that CD, and I waited…
2007 (Age 17): $525
One year later, that CD matured, and I was absolutely astounded to earn a FREE $25 of interest. For doing nothing except having money!
It definitely beat digging ditches…
The idea was intoxicating, and I was officially hooked on investing.
2008 (Age 18): $5,000
Addicted to the idea of earning free money for having money, I went back to the ditches and dug like a madman. I even got promoted to Forklift operator!
This pushed my earnings up to around $15 an hour. By the end of this Summer, I’d managed to bank nearly $5,000 to my name.
But I knew that if I really wanted to start earning investment returns on that money, I’d have to step outside my comfort zone of risk-free savings accounts.
I needed to get into the stock market.
It took me a few more months to work up the courage to jump into the market. (I wrote about the exact stocks I bought here.) By September 2018, my first investments had oh-so-perfectly timed one of the worst market crashes in history, and I watched my investments get absolutely destroyed. It was a crash course in just how risky the market can be.
Thankfully though, I’d read some good investing books and knew I just needed to wait it out, so I actually deployed even more money shortly after the crash.
Looking back, this was the foundation that helped propel me through the next several years.
Summer 2013 (Age 23): $20,000
The next five years were a hazy blur of college.
Aside from a few too many brewskis and way too much time devoted to Call of Duty, I also bounced around from major to major.
Purely motivated by money, I originally had dreams of being a doctor or lawyer. But after realizing I was terrible at Science and that law school was a scam, I went for the most direct path to the money I could find: a double major in Finance & Economics. (You can read more about this in my thoughts on the highest and lowest paying college majors.)
Along the way, I picked up a few internships in banking and saved as much money as I could. (It’s worth noting that I was significantly helped along by free tuition from a mixture of academic scholarships and awesome parents, an advantage that isn’t lost on me.)
Those savings, plus a recovery to my Great Recession-era investments, meant I graduated in the Summer of 2013 with just over $20,000 in savings.
End of 2013 (Age 23): $28,600
After graduating, I took an entry level job in finance making $50,000 per year.
I packed up everything I owned (it wasn’t much) and moved from Texas to Denver. I looked for the cheapest apartment I could find (which wasn’t easy with Denver’s exploding popularity) but eventually found a super basic place 20 minutes from downtown for about $1,000 per month. Shout out to paper-thin walls!
I started tracking my spending religiously, and learned I could live uber-frugally. I averaged just $2,000 of spending a month, which meant I saved 34% of my take home pay.
This totaled $7,000 of savings after my first 6 months in the working world. I realized my individual stock picks were under-performing a basic strategy of index funds, so I adjusted how I invested my savings.
By the end of the year, my net worth had grown to $28,600.
End of 2014 (Age 24): $81,619
Young Money Wizard is out and about!
I explored Denver as much as a single guy could. I hiked nearly every major trail near the city, learned how to ski, and met some new friends. (Including Lady Money Wizard!)
I did so as frugally as I could, which meant spending about $2,200 per month for a 42% savings rate.
I added over $20,000 to my portfolio this year and started seeing the beginnings of compound interest.
End of 2015 (Age 25): $110,000
I get promoted to around $60,000 per year. Spending also increases to about $2,500 per month ($30,400 for the year) as Lady Money Wizard and I get to know each other and travel all over the country together.
In September, I pack up everything I own (a little more than before, but still not much) and move in with Lady Money Wizard in Minneapolis.
Two months later, my net worth passes $100,000, and I decide to start a blog about money. I think I’ll call it “My Money Wizard” and wonder if anyone will ever read it…
End of 2016 (Age 26): $150,656
I’m now making around $70,000 a year and saving a bunch on rent compared to Denver. Plus, now that I’m a bonafide money blogger, I feel the need to really keep my finances in check.
Not coincidentally, I think this is also the first year I maxed out my 401(k), which definitely starts to supercharge the savings thanks to those sweet, sweet tax advantages.
All in all, I spend just $24,900 during the year and add more than $30,000 to my savings.
End of 2017 (Age 27): $228,452
A great year where I added nearly $80,000 to my net worth, but for whatever reason I can’t find my exact records of my savings/spending this year, and I’m too lazy to keep looking.
I do remember two unforgettable events this year:
- September 2017 – I hit the $200,000 milestone.
- October 2017 – Lady Money Wizard bought a house in Minneapolis. (I split mortgage and maintenance payments.)
End of 2018 (Age 28): $249,012
If memory serves, I’m making around $85,000 this year.
I published a super detailed 2018 spending report where I realized I spent $33,893 during the year, my highest ever. (The big culprit was my half of a $13,000 kitchen remodel.)
In any case, I still managed to save 52% of my income this year.
Interestingly, I actually passed a quarter-million in net worth this year, then passed it again (in the wrong direction) after the market fell 10% at the end of the year.
End of 2019 (Age 29): $353,011
Net worth really goes crazy this year.
I spend just $29,780 all year and add another $40,622 to the portfolio. (58% savings rate) But my net worth actually increases an astounding $103,999 thanks to compound interest and a banner year for the stock market.
I made the same $85K or so, but at the end of the year I get promoted and am promised a 6-figure salary in 2020.
End of 2020 (Age 30): $473,457
The pandemic brings a 30% stock market crash, but by the end of the year the market’s recovered for a 13% gain… somehow.
I’m fortunate to keep my job and things really start getting ridiculous now – I spend just $30,841 of my $105,000 salary. But more interesting? The portfolio is so big that it outperforms my best efforts… the stock market adds $62,000 to my wealth this year, which is more than the $58,249 I worked to save all year.
February 2021 (Age 30): $501,460
And for dramatic effect, just $1,460 over the half-millionaire mark.
The Money Wizard’s Journey to Half a Million
So, there it all is. At least as much as this foggy 30-something brain can remember these days.
Not quite the perfectly smooth exponential line you see in the textbooks, but you can definitely see the trend.
Hope you liked this jaunt down memory lane. Thanks for joining me, and a special thanks to anyone who’s been on this wild ride with me for the past few years!
Do you enjoy my free blog? Share this article on your favorite social media or take advantage of free, awesome products like Personal Capital or Rakuten using this site’s affiliate links. (Like those two links!) Thanks for keeping this place alive!
JAMES MEURIG JONES says
Well done, shows it is possble and not imp…….le
The Money Wizard says
Impossible is nothing. 🙂
The Money Wizard says
Big congratulations MMW! I have been following your journey and to be honest, using your monthly updates as a pacesetter. I’m ahead of you but you are catching up! But, I’m also a decade older than you and started focusing on financial independence about 6 years ago … found your blog about 3. MMM was the first blog I read that opened my eyes to this concept but without taking anything away from MMM, I prefer your transparent, dare I say more midwestern approach. I’m from Madison, WI. Anyway, thanks so much for your blog, I look forward to it a lot. Is your peace out # still 750K? I think ours will be 1 million… Hoping to get there in 5 years. Anyway, thanks and see you at the finish line!
The Money Wizard says
Haha, see you at the finish line, indeed! When you do, you’ll have to get some cheese curds and beer at The Old Fashioned in the blog’s name.
Congrats MMW! You have been a pleasure to read and learn from over the years. Thanks for sharing so much, I have learned a lot. Much continued success!
The Money Wizard says
Thanks, Donnie! Glad it’s helped.
Accidentally Retired says
You are crushing it. Great job!
The Money Wizard says
I’ve been following your blog for the last few years and it inspired me to start saving more and paying attention to budget and investing too. The articles are so fun to read and since you are about a year younger than me, I’m using your progress as inspiration for my own financial journey. Keep up the great work and I’ll keep reading 🙂
The Money Wizard says
So awesome to hear, Sam… that’s really what it’s all about. Makes me want to write some more articles!
Thanks for the note.
Ron T. says
Great job MMW!!! I’ve been following you for about a year and I’m well older than you. I have to say that you have inspired me to save as much as I can with my larger family and home. But what a great year last year in 2020! The great thing is that I saved a ton last year by not traveling due to the pandemic. The sad thing is that my family and I didn’t travel anywhere!! I also see that you also have minimal travel expenses but just wait, when we ALL get back to traveling around the world, the costs will definitely eat into those savings! Good luck and I will continue to follow your progress.
I think my path was similar but it is much longer because I’m a fossil, well a boomer, but same difference. What will be interesting is when you go through your first big market crash now that you have a bunch of assets. I remember it taking a long time to get to $500K, which arguably was worth well over a million in today’s dollars, just to see it get cut in half by the dot com bust in 2000. I didn’t sell a share and it came back in time. Same thing in 2008, again I was all in stocks and never sold a share. You’ve only seen the one tiny blip in 2020 and it recovered so fast I don’t count that as a real bear market, but you will see one some day. And I know you’ll do the right thing, because you are rock solid at this with all your experience. But I assure you the feeling is still really odd to see years of savings and investing disappear over a few weeks and maybe taking a year or more to recover.
Jordan F says
You are wise beyond your years. I wish I had the knowledge I have now at the age of 16. Instead, schools make kids play daily trading in the stock market, rather than teach us the power of compounding interest. What a shame! I’m always super impressed with your housing costs (I live in Colorado….I’m sure you are aware of the housing market here). Keep pumping out great content.
The Money Wizard says
Really interesting point. I never thought about how ridiculous it is that the only finance most schools teach consists of stock trading video games.
David @ Filled With Money says
The elusive half a million dollar mark.. Congratulations. I am crossing my fingers and trying my absolute best to get there this year.
At this rate, I don’t think I will get there… but there’s always hope. Blogs like yours are giving me hope 🙂
So amazing, MMW!! Always look forward to your posts. Can’t waitttt to get to 500K (I’m at 400K now so almost there). Keep up the great work! Are you planning to live in the same city once you retire? My husband and I are in Canada and we’re seriously contemplating moving to a warmer country like Portugal. Also because you can have an amazing quality of life there. Would love to hear your plans.