5 Financial Principles from a 34 Year Old Millionaire Investor

I asked regular reader Philip to share his story of how he grew his net worth to over $1M before the age of 35.  Enjoy!

I was recently with a group of good friends out for a charity golf tournament, enjoying a nice day on the links instead of being at work.  As usual, I had a few amazing shots, but many more horrible ones that I just wanted to get out of my mind.  Despite my mediocre golf play, it was a great day to have fun and relax.     At the end of the round we grabbed dinner at the clubhouse and chatted about various things.

At one point during dinner, the conversation somehow turned to finances, where the majority of my friends were unified in complaining about taxes, the cost of life and the stress of debt.  Most of them are in the same stage of life I am: mid 30s, living in suburbia, 10 years into their careers and married with kids. From what I know of their careers, some of them make very good money, some of them have more modest incomes. Regardless of their incomes, they all seemed to give me the impression that things were tight and saving was a luxury most don’t have right now due to young children, daily expenses and big mortgages.

On the way out of the clubhouse and back to our cars, I couldn’t help but notice that most of them had really nice golf bags, filled with the newest and hottest wedges and drivers.   To match that, many of them headed back to newer SUVs and higher end sedans.   My walk back to the car was no different, with the exception of my old set of golf clubs and my 7 year old car.

I have been teased a few times about my old set of  “executive OSI” bi-metal technology wedges.  Yes, my golf clubs are 16 years old.  While I might play a bit better with a new set, but for me, my set works just fine.  I don’t seem to play golf much worse than my friends who buy a new set every year, so I figure it isn’t worth spending a ton of money just to buy something new.

My old golf clubs are a good representation of how I manage many things in my life.  I’m careful with my money, and I’m usually pretty happy with the material possessions I have.   I’m in a really good position, where I don’t have a lot of the financial stresses that my friends are facing right now.  I was lucky to get really good financial advice early in life, and I’ve followed it religiously through the years.

At this point, I’m 34 years old, married for 7 years and have a 4 year old child.  Our net worth is now $1.35M.  Our home is worth about $350K with no mortgage, and our other assets (RRSPs, TFSAs, and Non-Registered portfolios worth approximately $1M) I manage myself.   Both my wife and I work full time. We both earn about 100K per year individually which has been a big contributor to our savings success (note though that our salaries weren’t always as high as they are today).  We also have never inherited anything, so  we started from scratch early on and made it from there.

I think the biggest contributor to our savings and future savings is in our lifestyle, that’s essentially where we save the most money.

Related: 25 Ways to Save Money

Our financial strategy has been fairly simple, almost boring, but it has paid off for our family.  Yes, it means I play golf with older clubs and drive an older car.  But that’s a choice that I’m comfortable with and I’m happy with what I have.

The financial and lifestyle management strategy we follow is based on five really basic principles.  We don’t get much more complicated than this in our financial planning, and it works for us.

 1.      Geography

I am well diversified by geography, with no more than 10%-15% of my portfolio in Canada.

My rational for this is:

  • Canada is less than 3% of the total world stock market;
  • In the past 10 years, the Canadian market has only been the top world performer once; and,
  • Only 10 companies make up 41% of TSX exchange, so it’s pretty small:5 banks.  4 energy stocks.  1 rail stock.  More info:  http://www.world-stock-exchanges.net/top10.html.

2.      Asset Class

I carefully track what asset classes I invest in, with an overweight on stocks (instead of real estate, bonds etc).

My rational for this is:

  • Generally, since 1926 stocks have outperformed bonds and other investments by a factor of about 30:1   More info:  http://www.investorsfriend.com/asset_performance.htm
  • In Canada, the 25 year average house price gain is 5.3%.  Meanwhile, inflation was running at 3.03% over the same period.
  • Over the same period, the TSX composite would have returned 10.75% annually, bonds 10.9% and the S&P 500 13.5%.

3.      Portfolio costs

I’m very careful on my portfolio costs.  I do most things myself through self-directed accounts, buying ETFs or low cost mutual funds.

My rational for this is:

  • The “average” investor (like me) expects to earn (before fees) 6% per year on their portfolio of stocks/bonds/real estate – over a 25 year period.
  • If I am paying a 2% fee to someone who is managing this portfolio for me, it can cost me a large portion of my overall portfolio growth.
  • I also think most mutual funds are just enriching themselves and not their clients.  Therefore I stay away from most of these financial products.

4.      Tax

I think pro-actively about tax and what it means in my investment choices.    I always think about how to best structure myself for tax efficiency (see portfolio allocation).

My rational for this is:

  • Capital Gains tax: Basically, you’ll pay a max of 23% tax on these in most cases.
  • Canadian Dividends tax:  you’ll pay a max of 30% tax on these.
  • Income / Interest / Bonds tax:  you’ll pay a max of 46% on these.

 5.      Lifestyle management

  • I enjoy my life.  I invest in hobbies, annual vacations, and luxuries.  However I do this within the context of what I earn, so that I always can save a good portion of my income, aiming for 20% per year.
  • I learn how to do things myself (renovations, car maintenance, home maintenance).  If I need a new deck, new driveway, new bathroom, new flooring:  my first question is how can I learn to do this myself and get it done.
  • For any new purchase, the first thing I consider is if I can buy it used.  Most times I can and do. This saves me an incredible amount of money.  I rarely buy things new.
  • I really take care of my things.  I’ve had my golf clubs for 16 years; I’ve had my BBQ for 12 years, etc.  I basically just take care of things and give them the maintenance they need to avoid issues.  Overall I tend to save a lot of money here – I just don’t often find I need to “buy stuff”.
  • I have a wife who shares my values and we are both happy and comfortable with our lives.

So that’s my financial story in a nutshell.  It’s a bit boring, but somehow it’s working and we really find ourselves in a fortunate position.  We have a great life, we’re happy, and we have what I think is a good financial plan.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Philip!  Do you have a financial success story that you would like to share?  If so, contact me!

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7 years ago

You had me until “We each make $100,000”. Most young couples with $200,000 of income would be able to make ends meet. What about the people who make $50,000 a year with a wife who stays home with their children?
These are the ones who need the most help balancing things, but they are also the ones who can’t afford to save 20% of their income.

These strategies, though valid, will NOT work for someone in that position. I see it every day…..

7 years ago
Reply to  Ken

@Ken, note that the writer mentioned that they built up to a $100k salary each. I’m sure that they made career/education choices to ensure that their incomes increase every year.

7 years ago

Regardless of bank account balance or “how I got there”, I’d be pretty carefree too if my wife and I enjoyed $200k+ in annual income. Try living like the rest of us and see how life goes for you.

7 years ago

I would like to know more about their portfolio, how it’s allotted and bond content, if any.

7 years ago

Sounds like a good plan. Minimize expenses, maximize earnings, and let time do the rest!

7 years ago

I agree that having earning more money makes it easier to save more. However, you would be surprised to know that it is not always true if you are not careful with managing the money as Philip has been.

Even if a person earns a decent earning, there are always avenues to spend the money on things that are not really necessary and at the end, that individual is always poor :)

Great going Philip and good luck !

7 years ago

The two biggest factors in your wealth are your incomes, and point #5. The other points would mean a difference between a NW of 1.4 and 1.3million, maybe 1.2mil.

We are in the same boat as you, same age, slightly higher income, but about half the net worth. I think the biggest difference is we’ve only been married for 4 years. Never underestimate how beneficial marriage can be (if done right). Paying for one home instead of two and having two incomes instead of one has an amazing effect on finances. Particularly if the two incomes are high and both people have the same financial mindset.

7 years ago

My wife and I are both accountants so income wise we are in a similar boat as the author and on a similar path… and I would agree 100% with all the comments about being a different reality at 50k or less, like the vast majority of Canadians.

FT’s answer is silly. No offence.

For example, at 50k, maximizing your TFSA every year (as well as your spouse) is hard enough, it eliminates the need for #4.

Geography is similar… in fact, if the author had considered correlation, he would realize that developed economies tend to move together over the long-term… at a factor of over .90. Only two funds/ETF, developed and developing, is sufficient to diversify geography risks.

#2 about asset class is the same thing Ed keeps writing about on this board. However stocks may have return more than real estate, real estate is usually leveraged 5-1 or more… therefore a 10% gain in value after costs may be a 50% return for the investor, not including any rents.

#3 and #5 are decent advice…

Overall, this belonged as a forum post, not an blog editorial. The author clearly did not put much thought into it, has a very basic system that would not work if he did not have a very high income… and has a two high income.

7 years ago

@Goldberg, what’s silly about it? Look at your career as an Accountant, did it not start off low then slowly you obtained pay increases until where you are today?

7 years ago

Author did well, congratulations to them.
No need to measure yourself against them, or measure them to anyone else.

Seems to me based on Lifestyle Management, the income levels just meant age 34, rather than age 45-50.

7 years ago

Wow, interesting responses, not what I would have expected. Surprised that so many ppl are so angry that this guy makes a decent living. I certainly agree that higher incomes *should* make it easier to save more, and agree that it’s certainly not as easy as “well then just earn more”. But I challenge the assertion that someone earning $50k is in a hopeless position. There are folks who make $50k who manage to save more than those making $100k. How can that be? And people who earn 200k but “feel poor” as in the author’s post.

The key here is Point #5, which is summed up by the Wealthy Barber as “I hate to break this to you, but you’re going to have to spend less than you earn.”

Too often the “I don’t make enough” argument is used as a crutch to abdicate from making an otherwise difficult decision. Is 50k enough to have a 3000sqft house, a new car, a $100 cell phone bill, and go on vacations? Certainly not. So now you have a choice to make. You can either go without some of those things (note, those listed above are luxuries, nice-to-haves, not talking about food), or you can go without saving/investing in your future. If you choose the former, that’s fine – just don’t tell me you’re helpless and didn’t have a choice. I live without a cell phone. Try it…. strange as it seems, you won’t die. :-)

Look I’m not unsympathetic to those with lower incomes, especially near or below the poverty line where necessities like food and shelter really are at risk. That’s not fun at all. But there is a big, fat middle of Canadians that think they “need” way more house, car, electronics, etc than they really do.

Daniel Fitzgerald
7 years ago

Financial advise to those making <$100k yr (essentially everyone) tends to be condescending, uninformed and useless. Generally it assumes people are frivolous, wasteful, lazy, unintelligent and just don't understand basic math. Asset allocation, geographic diversity, etc. are all fun things to dream about. But when one only has, on a good month, $100 to save these are as useful as suggesting people "make more money".

Write an article on how someone can have a secure financial future with that $100 a month to invest. That is useful. That is what is needed. Everything else wastes our time.

7 years ago

#12 Daniel Fitzgerald – Exactly my point. On the contrary – I am not assuming for a moment that people making under $100k are bad at math. I’m suggesting many are refusing to face the realities of what the numbers are telling them.

Give me the budgets of 10 people earning $40-80k (the “fat” Canadian Middle) and I will find from 9 of them anywhere from 100 to 500+/month in spending on CHOICES. An iPhone5 is a choice. More car than basic transportation is a choice. Many clothing purchases are a choice. Meals out are a choice. I could go on and on.

So take that $100-500+/month worth of “choice” purchases, own up to the reality that you are not entitled to an iPhone, or a weekly golf game (as in the post), and that you do not earn sufficiently to have these things. Save the money instead.

$500/mo for 30yrs invested (wisely, perhaps using some of the tips above), and you’ll have a happy retirement. There’s the useful advice you wanted.

7 years ago

#13 Dwilly,

I totally agree with you! In almost all cases, its a matter of choices, sticking to a budget and living within your means. I don’t own a cell phone either and refuse to until its cheaper then a land line. I’ll dump the land line when that comes to pass.

7 years ago

There is some good advice here but come on, with a combined income of $200k being a millionaire is a lot more attainable. Many Canadians dream of an income of $100k, let alone both partners pulling in that sum…

7 years ago

Completely agree with Dwilly (#13). Following the points listed in the article is valid whether you have $100/mo or $10,000/mo to save.
In my group of friends, my wife and I earn the most, and definitely spend the least. We have the smallest house, the oldest cars, no cable, a pay and talk phone and can count on one hand the number of times we go out for dinner.

7 years ago

Philip, congratulations on getting to where you are today.

I’m surprised at the level of hostility in the comments. Yes, 200K a year is WAY above the average Canadian household salary, but at 34 years old it is not unreasonable. He is probably 10+ years into his career.

The first three points are fair considerations for someone in his situation but the last 2 are key for everyone. Tax efficiency is key to growth. In Canada taxes are your single biggest expense. Find ways to cut back on the tax you pay and your savings should grow.

Free Money Minute
7 years ago

I agree that your salary helps, but you have done a great job to get to that level of net worth without debt. Most people with that income tend to drive newer cars and buy new, new, new. They also tend to call someone to fix things, rather than making the effort to do it themselves. Kudos on a great job!

7 years ago

Philip – congrats on where you are, both in savings and in career development.

Victor Wooten
7 years ago

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

7 years ago

I have a question – $1.35M seems extremely high for two earning 100k incomes at your ages. (My wife and I are 31/34 and make about the same/ year after a 10 year ramp up in our careers and do all the same things you have done except buy a house (we are on the west coast where prices are just stupid). We save about 100k/ year after tax currently and our net worth is only about 400k.

How much of your total wealth is from:
1. Gains on real estate?
2. Inheritance?

With what has been happening in stocks worldwide over the last 10 years, I can’t figure out how you have accumulated that much wealth that quickly unless some of it was gifted to you or you were EXTREMELY lucky with your timing (i.e. your house cost 100k and all your buys in the stock market were very well timed (almost all in 2008)??

7 years ago

Great information and an inspiration for anyone aspiring to earn a million.

Would it be possible to elaborate on exactly how over $1M was earned? The article mentions saving 20% each year. With 2 incomes of $100k this would be $40k per year. If that was saved for 10 years that would be $400k and thats assuming two salaries of $100k.

$400k in savings and a house fully paid for worth $350k equals about $750k, and thats completely ignoring any taxes or childcare costs (was there a period of one income?). Where does the remaining ~$600k come from?

Perhaps more than 6% was earned, a significant real estate gain was realized, significantly more than 20% was saved each year – or a bit of all of the above – but it’s very difficult to tell with the info given. Any insight is appreciated

7 years ago

This is a well written and personally open blog post. We should thank the author for sharing and learn from their experiences in a positive way. The 5 principles are valid and valuable, even though we might not all relate to certain aspects of them.

7 years ago

Hope the author returns to blast out a few responses to all commentators.


1) What % of your $1M in investable assets has resulted from pure returns (capital gains, dividends) and what % is from savings (additional input)?

[note: this is all I truly want to know…the rest that follows is just the usual BS :) ]

2) Do you and your spouse have union/gov’t pensions?
It does make financial life a whole heck of a lot less stressful when you know you don’t actually have to save any of your pay cheque and still be able to retire in comfort. I know a few couples who are in the same income bracket as you and have full 100% government union pensions.
They save 0%.

3) Any interest for introducing private equity into your portfolio?
The returns are much higher than the stock market, the volatility is lower, the manipulation and fraud is all but absent, and there are some great tax benefits.

4) Do you and your spouse have plans on retiring, living off your (partial) dividends and collecting low-income family government payments a la “The Idiot Millionaire” plan? If not, why?


“I also think most mutual funds are just enriching themselves and not their clients. Therefore I stay away from most of these financial products.”

It’s quite revealing to see just how many true millionaires do NOT put money into mutual funds. I guess the unknowing Average Joe still gets sucked in by the industry pitchmen. Btw, buying mutual funds puts you even further away from the centre of profit.

Asset Classes:
1) I’m not sure why anyone even bothers to use outright incorrect information such as the “since 1926…” chart et al you provided. To believe in this, without question, shows an “investor” to be wholly naive and without any true understanding of the compared markets. Either that, or you have just been brainwashed by The Street, as pretty much most every other buyer of stocks has.

2) Real estate is a bit off when you use simple averages. Just as your portfolio is positioned globally, RE has seen greater, or lesser, rises across Canada than the number you posted. I had a house in Alberta bought for $200k in 2002, sold for $400k in 2005 — gain of 26%/yr. Spread over 25 years, this equates to 2.8% annual average…but those gains were made in just three years…there’s 22 more years and the price of the house now only has to rise half as much as the average to come in at the 25-year average. I doubt RE in Alberta will be running at a 50% discount to the national average over the next two decades. Just one example, I’m sure pockets of similar found all across the country.

[As a side note, there was a Scandinavian researcher a few years ago who took gobs of historical global RE data and found that across time RE rose an average of 1% annually.]

3) One’s RE portion of net worth can also be boosted by living in a (much) less expensive geographical local. The equivalent of your $350k mortgage-free house may sell for $850k in British Columbia. Paying off a shrimpy mortgage with a high income is much easier than paying off a large mortgage with a high income (and impossible with an average income). But not all of us want to live in P.E.I.

4) Inflation is wrong as well. If you believe “official” government reporting that is. People seem to forget that inflation is a rise in asset prices — including real estate, stocks, and wages. On one hand you state 25-year inflation ran ~3% yet RE rose ~5%, Canadian stocks were rocking ~10% per year, and your income went up…???
Ask again, how much was REAL inflation?

5) I find it interesting that most high-income earners make the broad “shoulda been an engineer” (or the ilk) argument in response to income. Perhaps they realize, perhaps not, but without two of the lowest income jobs in N. America, each and every one of us would most likely be dead within a month: farmer and long-haul truck driver. Just something to think about if you ever find yourself feeling overly important. :)
(And if you’ve ever been in the midst of a garbage strike….let’s just say I’ll take a garbage man over a ‘white collar’ any day of the week!)

Of course in a capitalist society, those who are currently winning are those with the most money, regardless of how it was accumulated, so congrats on getting into the Canadian 1% club!

7 years ago

Another question for the author:
How did you and your wife finance i) your house purchase, and ii) your educations?

And I just have to put this in here…

From the author’s provided website link:

“The editor…has a SUPERIOR track record of stock picking and in his personal investments as detailed in our Performance page.”

The editor’s (Shawn Allen) personal portfolio performance is 13.6% per year average (2000-2012).

This MDJ article states the 25-year average S&P 500 return is 13.5%.

Thus all the editor has done is match the long-term returns of the general market. Not superior by any measurement.

The above is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t believe most of what you read, and even less when it comes to giving away your money.

p.s. — totally missed it…as Goldberg pointed out (#8), RE is most often heavily leveraged as my example of the Alberta RE. I merely listed buy/sell prices and not the true cost/profit = $270k on $70k, ~57% per year. More if I factor out the ‘rent’ portion of the mortgage.

Joe the pilot
7 years ago

There’s a big difference between you and a lot of the people posting negative comments. If those people were making the same kind of money as you and your wife, I can almost guarantee they would be driving that new leased foreign SUV and swinging that new Callaway driver. You my friend are not. You could probably double your household income and your lifestyle would stay the same. Great read. Keep it up. This site is a gold mine and contains a wealth of information and the best part………you’re posting all this for FREE!

7 years ago

I don’t really see a lot of hostility in the posts. Nobody is angry at Phillip for making lots of money. There just isn’t a lot advice to be had.

I’d be more interested to read about his “lean” years. Paying for school, choosing a career, getting started.

The post comes off as: “Want to be a millionaire? Make lots of money.”

I glean more from FT’s monthly updates than this post.

7 years ago


You made a very astute observation here, and I am glad you noted it again.

“4) Do you and your spouse have plans on retiring, living off your (partial) dividends and collecting low-income family government payments a la “The Idiot Millionaire” plan? If not, why?”

If he comes back with a response I sincerelly hope the answer is a resounding ‘no’ and I suspect Philip has a better principles than abusing social programs and suckling on the teat of the state a la Idiot Millionaire (legal but reprehensible).

7 years ago

Which raises yet another question:
Is your “overweight on stocks” portfolio geared more towards capital gains or dividends?


7 years ago

SST – your S&P time periods are different when comparing his return to the S&P. 25 years (in your stat) includes the roaring 90’s. His time period 2000-2012 was quite the opposite. If you are going to critique then get your facts straight.

7 years ago

I enjoyed reading this article.

Father of Five
7 years ago

I enjoyed the article. Author made choices like we all do, and seems like they are working well for him. I chose a career that is now paying $140k but started out at $27k. once I finished university. So FT’s point about income having to build up is valid. Plus in your 20’s and 30’s you will normally be in an acquiring stage when it comes to major possessions (furniture, appliances, car etc.). so to have a great net worth at the author’s age was not a foregone conclusion, he and his spouse clearly worked at it.

FT you have been an inspiration to me to sharpen my pencils and look more closely at my finances and aim higher. Keep up the good work.

7 years ago

@Chris #30: “If you are going to critique then get your facts straight.”

Dear Chris,
Continuing to discuss another “guru’s” market returns within the context of the first author’s (Philip) article might be construed as a detraction, thus I will decline further comment.

Besides that, the hilarity of you trumpeting for “facts” from the financial industry is great way to start the weekend! Have a read:

Summary: 25-30%+ of financial industry employees are scoundrels.

7 years ago

Regardless of the blogger and his wife’s high salaries, his net worth is still quite impressive for a 34-y/o. If it was the same couple making a combined salary of $100k and having a net worth of, say, $700k, would y’all be more impressed?

7 years ago

BT, as a couple in their mid-30’s with a net worth of 700k, they’d likely still rank in the top 99th percentile of Canadian Households.

7 years ago

Thank you for all your feedback and comments. I will try to address some of the questions:

1. Income
It is a fair comment regarding high income, and i agree at lower incomes in my career it was much more difficult to save a lot of money.

2. Lean years.
I did indeed have tougher years – I worked part time through my entire education ( undergrad and graduate) and shared tiny apartments with many roommates crammed in. I think this gave me good work ethic, and it made getting a job upon graduation much easier given 6 years of work experience. I had some debt at the end but it was very manageable

3. Work type
Both my wife and I work in private industry – our workplaces match 4 percent of our rrsp contributions. This also had been a positive help. The work is tough and requires sacrifices, but overall it is meaningful work for us.

4. Investments
I have been fortunate to have good returns. During the market corrections of 2008 and 2011, I took the opportunity to buy many more US,EU and Canadian blue chip stocks by re-allocating most of my fixed income investments to equities and using all available cash and contributions I could put away that year to buy equities that later rebounded 20-30 percent. I essentially ” doubled down” when equity prices were depressed by emotion and uncertainty. I plan on doing the same should a correction occur with the US debt ceiling issue upcoming. This could be right/wrong in many eyes. I just believe strongly in the long term value of equities, so when they are on sale, I go shopping.

I am by no means a sophisticated investor. I hope the main takeaway from my clarification comment is that education ( in whichever chosen field), work ethic, and most importantly managing lifestyle are foundations to financial health. Add in a little luck and hopefully good things happen. I am sad to see so many of my friends with opportunity and high income feel external factors are the cause of their financial stress, when they more than anyone should know better that they are squandering an opportunity that too few people get.

7 years ago

Hi again
I did forget to mention – this blog has been a great learning forum for me.
It’s a great resource and has really helped me fine tune many elements of my
financial and lifestyle management. So many thanks FT and all of you for sharing your insights and advice.

7 years ago

Thanks for your your follow-up, Philip. Even though it lacks in specifics, you do paint a broad picture of your path to that cool million.

Of interest is your first two Financial Principles: Geography and Asset Class.

You state your portfolio is overweight on stocks but decidedly underweight on home soil stocks.

Research has shown that most millionaires, regardless of country of residence, posses a portfolio which is underweight in stocks but overweight on “local” stocks — just the opposite of your strategy.

Just to prove, as you stated, it’s income which makes the million, not the stock market.

7 years ago

I didn’t get that it was just income. What I’m seeing is high income combined with high savings, and good control of emotions while investing in the market. I wouldn’t be surprised if a large bulk of Philip’s net worth is due to investing during the correction. Congrats Philip, your story is motivating!

7 years ago

I did put forth the question in #23: “What % of your $1M in investable assets has resulted from pure returns (capital gains, dividends) and what % is from savings (additional input)?”, but thus far it has gone unanswered.

Assuming simple maths, I have to disagree with FT re: “a large bulk of Philip’s net worth is due to investing during the correction”.

We could all try to suss out intricate portfolio details via his basic principles, but that would be almost entirely speculative.

As before, any you slice it, $1M+ was gained. Well done.

Mr. Frugal
7 years ago

Some people seem to under estimate the value of hard work and savings. It may take a little bit longer but these results can be achieved even with lower salaries. My wife and I started out 20 years ago with salaries in the $40K range. We’re currently making about $80K each. At 45 years of age, we’ve accumulated in excess of $1M. We did this by living frugally and investing – primarly in GICs. We’ve only recently started investing in equities. To top it off, my wife took 5 years off work to be a stay at home mom. So, to all of the nay sayers I say “put that in your pipe and smoke it”.

7 years ago

Lee Cooperman said best

North America used to be a place where a citizen could achieve
It is now a place where we have learned to receive…

The age of entitlement has created a bunch of whiners who complain that a couple make 200K a year and live frugally.

This from people who clearly did little to better themselves by education, hard work, or discipline. No you chose to party in high school, get a job at grade 12 vs. going to university or college.

Yes socialism/Marxism has taken over our society as politicians and gladhanders find ways to tax wealth creators and salary payers…..

Don’t worry though, as capital flight occurs to save what little we have left after governments devise ways to steal it form us you too will find out how to live frugally like we have.

You get rich by frugality and planning. Not taking a cheque….

7 years ago

I just read this article (being referenced from the Globe and Mail) so my comments are late relative to when this article was published.

First, congrats to Phillip. You remind me of my wife and me not only when we were your age but now as well. We’re in our early 50’s now. My wife is retired and I could be too, but I’m semi-retired instead. Neither of us have DB pensions.

We live simple, modest lives for the most part and our enjoyment comes from being with family. My golf clubs are quite old (technology really doesn’t change that much despite what the marketing tells you) and our modest vehicles are 6 and 11 years old.

I didn’t read all the comments but I think the key point is to control your spending. My favourite personal finance book is “The Millionaire Next Door” which advocates exactly what Phillip is doing. Play good offence (earn a good income) and good defense (be frugal). Not everyone can do the former but everyone can do the latter.

The federal government has been considering how to increase pension savings, not for low income earners, but for middle income earners who don’t save enough for their retirements. That is telling.

If MOST people took a good, honest look at their spending they could save more. Yes it would take some sacrifice but humans are wonderfully adaptive creatures and eventually you’d get used to the new lifestyle/reality. It’s all about attitude.

Joe Smith
7 years ago

To my mind, most comments are missing Philip’s key point: Wealth creation is a lot about lifestyle. Most comments are going to income.

Sure Philip and his partner make a good income. I wonder if it is their clear abundance of common sense that largely got them those incomes. To my mind Philip is talking more about what the commentators can be doing with their own lives: Get out of the cash flow mindset and more into cash retention. Buy wisely. Use wisely. Always.

I was attracted to the article by a ’34yo millionaire with the 7 year old car’ line in the Globe and Mail. I too drive a 7 year old car. I bought it from a friend. Luckily, no GST there. It’s an IS 250AWD, with a somewhat smaller engine. Typically, only small minds buy big engines.

I’m 56, been retired for over 3 years, and have a net worth of close to 8m. I can drive whatever car I want, but I take pleasure in not showboating, and practicing the same sensibilities that got me to where I am today. Of course that car has no collision insurance, and being 7 years old, nicks and the like are non concerns.

I’m no miser. I have several things hanging on my walls that are each worth more than what is in most commentators’ driveways. I have a fabulous wine collection, hardly a bottle bought at retail. I own nice clothes, none bought at retail. In fact, I rarely go near a store of any sort. I take a perverse pleasure in not paying for parking: Imagine paying for the privilege of not walking an extra little bit!
My cell carrier is discount, costs me $50/mo.

For most of my life, I had a middle class income at best, but I was always frugal. I remember thinking 20 years or so ago, after I would carve $8-10/month out of say a phone or cable plan, that was another day’s income I just saved. In perpetuity.

I bought a new Toyota pick up in my late 20s, sold it in my mid 40s. Good on gas those things, reliable, if prone to ‘skin cancer’. On the end, when I went out, I used to have to park it down the street a bit; I didn’t want my still working and mortgaged to this day buddies that were driving something shiny teasing me about my poor man’s ride. That truck saw me through my first two duplex buy and sells, a condo, and business start up when I was 38.

That business was slow going for the first ten years. If I had to go to a convention, I stayed at a tertiary hotel and so on. Costs were always, always under control. Again, it’s more about cash retention not flow. Pay a little more attention to Philip’s stories of what he drives and play’s that silly game with, than his income. But do note, he still has fun playing that silly game, and isn’t shy to go out for a meal when done doing so. It’s about choices.

Philip, congratulations on your and your partner’s success!

7 years ago

This does not add up at all. Assume the couple has worked for ten years. Assume, although this is not true, that they made (combined) 200K from day one.

20% of that is 40k a year in savings. At a rate of even 10 percent a year (every year) of returns they should have less than 700k.

At the same time they were paying off a 350k house in ten years, presumably daycare, and some student debt. So that left them about 3000 bucks a month to live on (utilities, car, insurance, food, vacations, etc. – which they claim not to skimp on)- and this is all assuming that their incomes started at 100k each.

If their incomes started lower and climbed, which is what Philip says happened, they should be even further behind these calculations.

Philip claims they inherited nothing, so where did they extra money come from? I don’t think Philip is telling the whole story.

7 years ago

The first comment befuddles me – “these strategies won’t work for someone in that position” meaning of a $50k income.

Buying ETF’s? Yes, they can buy any financial product too, so that works.
Buying things used? Yes that works.
Having a spouse of the same vision? Yes, that’s possible.
Take care of your things? Yes, that’s possible.

The first comment makes no sense and validates the article, rather than invalidating it.

7 years ago

In the “Net Worth Update September 2013” the breakdown shows a current net worth on September 30, 2013 of $792,100.


“Total Net Worth: ~$792,100 (+1.19%)”

Now, 15 days later the author is claiming a net worth of $1,350,000. So Net Worth has increased by $558,000 in 15 days! That is quite impressive. Am I missing something? Have I read a post incorrectly?

7 years ago

@hazzard, this article is a “guest post” from a regular reader. So no, my net worth did not increase by $558k in 15 days.

7 years ago

Not even close. The fact the the author is well off is great, good or him. HOWEVER, he more than likely got started long ago, before he had huge amounts of debt, before having children and probably after getting great advice from a parent or family friend.

In the average readers life, they start too late, they already have debt and they need to get out before they can accumulate.

Income – Expenses = Surplus / Surplus x Time = Wealth

If expenses are anywhere near income, you’re not going to get rich at any age.

I am a successful financial planner with a wife, a house, and 4 kids. Even I have difficulty increasing the surplus every month, and sometimes, not at all. I’m just tired of these kind of posts and articles that show off the success of the few, even though the many have no chance of coming close these numbers.

Just sayin…

7 years ago


Agree with your equation. The issue here, that the more enlightened folks on the blog are trying to point out, is to question the second term in your equation: expenses.

I said it before and I’ll say it again. Give me the budgets of the 10 people who have posted on this blog, who make a “median” salary (likely less than yours, if you are a CFP) and complain of no surplus, and I will easily find on 9 of them HUNDREDS of dollars in monthly “not required” expenses. Cell phones. Cars. Entertainment. Clothes. It’s just too easy.

I will now make an incendiary comment and suggest that even CHILDREN are a voluntary, choice expense, not a “requirement”. If you only make $45k/yr and have elected to have 4 children, then yes, I will bet that you are stretched. But nobody made you have those kids. If you decided to have them, despite your low earning power, then you made an implicit decision to increase your expenses, reduce or eliminate your surplus, and therefore your future wealth.

Now again, I am not unsympathetic with those who really do have a tough time making ends meet. What the folks on this blog are suggesting is that far more people are far more capable of creating a surplus then they would have you believe, if they can just bring themselves to sell the BMW, cancel the satellite TV, etc.

7 years ago

Something doesn’t add up.

Starting at $0, If you save 50,000 a year – making monthly contributions of 1/12 of 50 and get a return of 10% a year – it would take 11 years to get to a million dollars. This presumes 0 taxes.

Now a 10 percent return in a period where stock markets haven’t returned anything near that would be rather remarkable. Throw in paying for a house along the way.

Colour me skeptical.