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My Million Dollar Journey – Some Lessons Learned

This is something that I want to talk about as I’ve been getting questions on this lately.  One particular question is, what are you going to do if you don’t reach your one million by 35?

My million dollar net worth goal is just that, a time based goal.  If I reach the 1 million in net worth by the age of 35, then great!  It will be a great sense of achievement.  If I’m not quite there, then no big deal.  In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter either way.  I don’t plan to retire or plan on any significant life changes when I reach the $1 million mark.  I consider personal finance fun, and keeping score via my net worth helps push me in the right direction.

My real financial goal is financial independence.  Financial independence is achieved when your passive income is enough to meet your expenses which gives you the choice of whether to work for money or not.  While on my pursuit of high net worth and passive income though, we aim to live a balanced life.

Life shouldn’t be all about money.  Life is about experiencing new things, relationships, people and following your dreams.  At your funeral, will your eulogy include all of the “material things” that you have accumulated?  Of course not, it’s going to be about the relationships you formed, how you affected people, and the kind of person you were.

What I consider more important than the financial destination, is the journey itself.  So far, my million dollar journey has taught me that:

Life

  • It’s important to enjoy life and to find fulfillment in what you do.
  • Building online communities that focus on personal finance and investing education is something that I love to do.
  • Giving back feels a heck of a lot better than receiving.
  • Continual learning is one of the keys to success in any niche.
  • Being courageous isn’t about eliminating fear, it’s about acting despite the fear.

Personal Finance

Investing

  • Even though we can try to predict long term market averages, market returns in any particular year is impossible to estimate (see 2008).
  • Index investing is the best choice for 99% of the investors out there.
  • Asset allocation is essential to help weather market down turns.
  • Before starting this blog, I believed in shooting for the stars when picking individual stocks and that investing (gambling) was much better than paying down a mortgage.  I now believe that paying down debt is likely the best bet for most people before investing.
  • Successful technical trading is challenging!  I’ve learned that technical trading is not absolute but helps increase the odds of obtaining gains.
  • Options can be used to reduce risk in a portfolio, but it takes a while to wrap your head around them.

What have you learned while on your financial journey?

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • moneygardener April 20, 2009, 9:57 am

    Well put, I think life is enriched by continuous learning. The fact that you are focused on your goals is the largest factor for your success in reaching them.

  • Four Pillars April 20, 2009, 9:58 am

    I’ve learned lots of things but one item is that when you are doing retirement planning – it’s not worth being too detailed unless you are very close to retirement age.

    If you are within 15-20 years of retirement then it’s probably worthwhile to do some basic analysis to see if your intended retirement date makes sense. If you have more than 20 years to go then just live responsibly and save 10-20% of your income and you can figure out the details later.

  • Kathryn April 20, 2009, 11:28 am

    Great post!

    I’ve learned that

    * I enjoy spending money on things that align with my values (outings with friends and family, charitable giving, etc)

    * the boring road to wealth (couch potato portfolio and automatic monthly investing) is slow but it works over time

    * if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is

    * baby steps are often better than giant leaps. I’d rather reach our goal slowly at 50 or 60 then not at all.

    * get rich quick only works 1% of the time. I’d rather put my money on the 99% (index investing and dollar cost averaging).

  • Nurseb911 April 20, 2009, 11:54 am

    Good job putting your thoughts together so elegantly. Even if I won the lottery to achieved financial freedom tomorrow my life wouldn’t be altered dramatically. I would spend more time doing the things I love, but that’s the beauty of my education and career: flexibility

    One thing I’ve learnt about money is that its lonely if you don’t have someone important to share it with. The best investment you ever make is in your relationship.

  • Chet Kwapisinski April 20, 2009, 12:34 pm

    FT — very well said! What a great way to start the week and finding a kindred spirit. What I have learned on my journey is family above all else.

    Cheers

  • InvestAssetWealth April 20, 2009, 1:19 pm

    Learn to change and adapt in a dynamic business environment. Doing the same old things will only work for so long. Roll with the punches, anticipate, and plan at least 3 moves ahead.

    Have a hand in many different ventures. Diversify your positions and efforts. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

    Money comes, money goes. Don’t get attached to money, or material items of value. Focus on the security that money can bring you.

    Above all, soak up the journey. Its a travesty to work your whole life as just a means to an end. Everyones “Million Dollar Journey” should be equally important as the pot at the end of the rainbow.

    I thought this was a fantastic post FrugalTrader!

    InvestAssetWealth

  • Dividend Growth Investor April 20, 2009, 1:26 pm

    FT,

    I like the balanced approach to everything in life that you have described on your blog.

    Keep digging!

    DGI

  • cannon_fodder April 20, 2009, 1:31 pm

    One thing that I have learned in the past few months is that you can listen to the majority of the experts and they can still be as wrong as any amateur. It is a little like playing poker – you can do everything right and still wind up worse than people who did it wrong.

    I have also changed my mindset regarding retirement – previously I thought of working hard and then retiring as early as possible. Now I’m thinking of working hard, then going to my employer about changing my job to a less stressful (and less lucrative) position but working longer. I still will keep busy and will be able to easily fund the retirement lifestyle I’d like (buying nice cars, travelling well, playing golf, etc.).

    If you and your wife only need $40k between you to retire, it would be very easy to continue working at a salary position without having to touch your retirement funds. And in this economic climate, it might be better to hold on to any job you can until you have a very substantial buffer should it all go south.

  • mjw2005 April 21, 2009, 2:24 am

    Great post MDJ…I have been thinking alot about balance in ones life recently and I am starting to think that maybe it is more important to focus on the here and now then try and squirel away lots of money now for some future use….

    For me personally I am going to reduce some of my savings to the 10-15% level so I can enjoy the “now” more…I maybe poorer in the future but as long as I save 10-15% I think I’ll be fine….

    Anyways a great post!

  • Matthew Sapaula April 21, 2009, 4:52 am

    People will often seek financial freedom in their goal in putting up their business, but I should say that one must know what his priorities are in terms of reaching these goals to enable them to be progressively productive than rather being stagnant yet convenient.

    Building a or business empire should always be focused on progression and productivity and how such can inspire people to look at money as a tool for freedom and rather than shallow convenience.

  • Canadian Finance April 21, 2009, 1:01 pm

    Good post FT, glad to hear you’re not too concerned about one number.

    With all the sound financial decisions you’ve made, you’ll be in good shape at 35 no matter what your actual net worth is!

  • AS_1952 April 21, 2009, 5:28 pm

    I also agree that your post is excellent.

    You are absolutely correct in deciding that financial independence is your goal. How and when you reach it is your decision….and one in which can evolve throughout your life. Using a compass instead of a map leads to a much more interesting journey.

  • FinanciallyEnhanced April 22, 2009, 12:15 am

    Great Post!
    I definitely agree with the statement ‘Life shouldn’t be all about money’. Most people who have little money assume that with money comes enjoyment but life is more than just money, as you have shown in your post.
    Good luck with the goal for $1 Million.

  • Mark in Nepean April 22, 2009, 10:04 pm

    FT: Well written, well balanced.

    Money, in the end, is just a tool. Simply be grateful you have a healthy mind and body to set goals, and then have the capability to work towards them. Some aren’t so lucky.

    I couldn’t agree more with cannon_fodder. That is my path as well, and I’m about 25 years from what I consider “confortable” retirement.

    FT – Keep the insighful posts coming!

  • Kate April 24, 2009, 6:40 pm

    Great post! The biggest lesson I’ve learned when it comes to money goals is to take it slow or as authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval would say, use “The Power of Small”. For me, the most effective way to save has been to start small and automate everything so that I save without even thinking about it. Then when I have a little extra I want to add, I can do so consciously. For me, it’s a stress reliever and a confidence builder.

  • MoneyEnergy April 27, 2009, 3:25 am

    I agree…. when you start spending too much time thinking about money, you start to feel debased. We need to stay balanced and in that sense can be “financially free,” as in, free from having to think about finances all the time.

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