So it’s 2003, we were 23 years old and we just received our University degrees. My girlfriend (now wife) and I had about $40k in student loan debt, a brand new $25k car loan (shiver), and a brand new $100k mortgage to boot. In addition, I was planning on buying an engagement ring in the near future. To top it all off, we didn’t even have spectacular starting salaries with a combined income of $85000/year. OK Ok, this was a pretty good starting point but well behind the curve compared to our classmates starting in the same fields.

I guess some of you are wondering how we’ve built our net worth to a respectable size at a young age (I’m 27) with all that debt at graduation (negative net worth). No, we’re not doctors or lawyers, and we surely didn’t have an inheritance to kick start us. The secret, I believe, is in the spending and work ethic that I developed at a very young age. I started a part time job while I was in Junior High school and continued throughout University. Although I did party on occasion, I didn’t waste all my money on partying and booze like most of my friends did. :) I was a super saver which was a trait I developed from my parents. I saved most of my income (salary/gst cheques etc) which went into a bank account or a mutual fund. Most of my University tuition was covered by my work terms that went along with my university program, the student debt was from my wifes degree (paid off in late 2005).

As our careers advanced over the last few years, our combined salaries have raised to around the $105k/year mark (still behind the curve). We continue to live the same lifestyle as when we were making $85k so a lot more goes into savings. I would estimate that we save around 15%-20% of our gross income. Our savings rate may decrease in the near future as we plan to have kids and perhaps move to a bigger home. The savings thus far has gone towards my wifes pension (not included in the net worth statement), my RRSP, my non-registered investment account, and a high interest savings account (for emergencies etc).

How do we save so much? The secret is “Paying Yourself First“. This concept was first introduced to me by the book “The Wealthy Barber” when I read it back in high school. I’m sure most of you have heard of this before, but this simple technique is incredibly powerful. As the concept explains, you put a portion of your income into a savings account automatically. When I say automatically, you either program your online bank account to do an automatic electronic transfer on payday, or get your employer to do an automatic transfer out of your paycheck. You would be surprised how fast your savings nest egg can grow, I know that I am every time that I review my savings.

Another saving technique that works exceptionally well is separating your “needs” and your “wants”. As the Wealthy Barber says, if you can only buy what you “need” and not what you “want”, you will come out ahead. We try to use this technique daily.

Since graduating from University, stock market investing has peaked my interest and has taken up most of my spare time. I’ve learned to do basic stock analysis, both fundamental/value and technical. Stock investing is out of the scope of this post but I have no doubt that I will be posting about it often.

For those young readers out there who dream about financial freedom (like I did), I hope that some of the information from this blog can help you get started. It’s all about setting a goal and committing to it. We still have a long way to go before we get to financial freedom, but I believe that we’re well on our way.

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I would love to hear more details, such as how much you pay yourself, your frugal techniques, and what you consider needs vs. wants.

[…] December 2006 (5) Home > General > Moving Foward… How did we get here? […]

“As our careers advanced over the last few years, our combined salaries have raised to around the $105k/year mark (still behind the curve). We continue to live the same lifestyle as when we were making $85k so a lot more goes into savings. I would estimate that we save around 15%-20% of our gross income”

That, above all else, is the secret to success.

Good job.


impressive. just to put things in perspective i’m 27 myself. I started out the year of 2006 at
42,520. After saving about 1600 a month in 2006 and aggressively investing, I’ve accumulated $72,360.

Year over year net worth increase of 70%. Pretty good. My goal isn’t quite as lofty this year. I’m hoping to continue saving 20K a year!!

single. household income 75K. owner of a 250K condo that I live in. strategy is to continue overweight in blue chip equities. i’m looking to invest more into europe going forward as their P/Es are more attractive than the s&P 500. howa bout yours?

i’m buying ETFs and european stocks that trade on the nyse or nasdaq. that’s the easiest way to get my exposure :D

i did something similar i have luck to have
group rrsp and maching funds at work put some of my money every week grows quick and best thing is that tax portion goes there too

[…] Million Dollar Journey: The writer behind Million Dollar Journey started off with rocky financial prospects. He and his girlfriend had significant debt from student loans, a car and a mortgage. They didn’t have a huge income to work with, either. They’ve managed to build their net worth by being “super savers,” investing and differentiating between needs and wants. […]

impressive. I’ve just found your blogs. Will keep reading your blog often.

Inspiring! I’m a 30 year old father myself and am in the process of setting up my own blog sharing what I’ve learned over the last several years. I’ve built my own net worth from a negative amount to over $350,000.00 in the last 4 years (mostly in real estate but also have saved $80,000.00 in my RRSP) I own my own townhouse in Steveston BC, and manage a self directed RRSP and invest in mostly stocks (heavy Canadian financials since the big TSX sell off) I’ll keep following your story and feel free to check out my blog as well!

[…] (Canadian dollars) by the age he hits 35. I particularly like his down-to-earth approach and his own story about starting out after college with his spouse with debt and managing to clear that way before he […]

Ha, very cool. I’m not as disciplined or motivated to get rich as you guys, I’m more in the “get rich slowly” class. For a few reasons, one of them being that I don’t want to work my *ss off, am a part time musician (formerly full time, so having a “normal person salary” is already a great thing in my case ;-)) and have not found a way to invest in real estate yet (don’t have a wife or girlfriend to share costs and am not very good with these things so I will wait for that).

But I’m really into stock investing. It took me a while to figure out my style and strategy. I tend to be an “investrader” meaning I actively trade stocks that are fundamentally poised to go up, hence a mix of these two approaches. The SINGLE BEST IDEA for me (and I’m sure for you via this blog too here) I’ve had so far is to really take the time and TRACK MY PERFORMANCE. I keep a scoresheet of my investments, update it weekly and track various metrics. It is amazing how the simple fact of consciously tracking down your progress really helps you improve.

My plan is to get rich by the time I’m 40, I’m 32 right now. Actually my “real” goal is to simply be financially free, which for me would be to just trade as my main source of income. My goal is to achieve a 30% return via trading activities on a consistent basis. Once that is done, I simply need to accumulate enough capital to be able to live on that income. For the moment I work full time but plan to “phase out” my work towards trading as I accumulate more & more money. I remain very frugal and would be happy to keep the level of quality of life I have now (e.g. not to have a huge house, expensive car, etc etc). Things != Hapiness.

With what I said above, given that capital gains (=investment income) are only taxed 50%, that I would likely not have to “save” as much money as I currently do and that I think I will be able to achieve 30% returns on a consistent basis, I think I need to accumulate 150-200k in a taxable investing account (not RRSP) to be able to achieve the same “employee” income as I have now. I’m about 10% there ;-)

Another part of my plan is to find a nice sunny location where I can go live and pay less taxes. Once I’m steadily successful with trading nothing prevents me from going to live anywhere I want in the world, as the only thing I need is a computer with internet to make money :-). I’m sure there are plenty of places to live where I will pay next to nothing in taxes. I can always do a little bit of work on the sidelines if times get rough.

Anyways I’d be happy to share some thoughts about investing in the market. On the other hand I really need to get into the “other parts” about getting rich (real estate, etc), I think that would help me a lot. The single biggest hurdle for me right now is real estate, as I am renting and hence all that money is leaving my pockets…

Bruno, I love your ideas about how to cash out and live your life. You are right that you should get into real estate. Can you own a rental building/house that you can also live in? Is there anybody who can co-sign for you if neccessary? I’ve done well by purchasing in crappy neighbourhoods with fantastic locations. These places do float to the top eventually and now I actually say, hey, thanks Mr. Crack Dealer for keeping this place affordable until I had a chance to buy in! Well, there’s my little piece of advice.

I’m 41 and at the wealth management stage. I have about 1.3 million in assets but they are pretty out of control. The big thing for me now is to figure out taxes and how to hold on to my money, how to structure my assets and expenses and all that so I can remain supposedly retired. I do not work per se but I do earn my own money and have never been on UI or welfare. I do deals and pay myself as neccessary.

I am impressed with this Journey. You will definately reach your goals, probably a lot sooner than you think. And unlike me, you will know as you are approaching them and will be in control of them. My assets kind of snuck up on me and now I’m trying to smarten up so I don’t lose a whole pile to taxes and eroding my capital through spending. In fact, I’m quite sure that the people who’s posts I have read will leapfrog right past me when they hit my age. That’s okay with me! You deserve it.

I have a corporation right now that holds cash and realestate, though the biggest portion of the realestate is about to be sold. Dividends on a capital gain in a corporation are taxed at 50%, subject to a few rules. I just learned that at the KPMG and Reader’s Digest sites.

So I will be taking a capital dividend this year I guess, and will turn the money I’ve already taken out of the corp. into a loan, which I will repay within 2 years or it will become income. (that’s how it works as I just found out at the KPMG site.)

Wealth management comes next for all you people! Onward with your goals and dreams – some of you may become the next big time financiers. I’ve seen a few things and I can tell you that you are a lot more together than I was 15 years ago. (Well, and right now for that matter.) I’ll be reading your ideas to do a better job of making an earning from my assets.

Thanks all, Susan

I get a kick out of your comment about not being doctors or lawyers to explain your large net worth at age 27.

Show me a doctor at age 27 with a positive net worth. Considering most people graduate college at age 22, then medical school at age 26, then must spend at least 3 years in residency (which pays beans), no doctor is capable of making a decent income until at least age 29, and that doesn’t include those who spend more time in various specialty training. The typical med school dept is well into 6 figures – that kind of hurts the net worth, too.

There’s even a section in the Millionaire Next Door that illustrates this concept, that doctors have a very late start at setting aside retirement funds because they don’t make any money until much later in life.

Dear FT, Your articles are amazing and your introduction is inspiring. I’m another person closer to your age (25), passionate about investments and willing to dedicate my life for the Million Dollar Journey. I never talk about the markets or investments in my blog however I talk about my life. My goal is to be able to express myself and be good with my passion and excel in performance. I like the concept of learning by experiencing and I’m sure you are in the same process and I see the passion and dedication. I wish you luck and hoping to party with you (if you are interested) when I reach my goal.

Very interesting website however some of the numbers do no make sense. Peter please help me get further understanding…..

If you save your fortune for the past 5 years at 20% (gross) (100k x 20% x 5) you would have saved 120k. How do you magically have more than 300k net worth?

I’m asking these questions because I also graduated engineering in 2003 from Concordia. My salary is 85k and my wife makes 130k. If we save 20% and assume a flat result on the market, we would still only have saved 220k. This is with a family salary more than double yours. You must have started with a net worth in 2003 of at least 200k right?

I would be interested in seeing more details..

Ok, however it still does not make sense to me.. Your capital growth from the real estate can only be based on your investment property. That property is only worth 124k today. How much did it appreciate. Even if we assume it doubled , that would only account for 60k of the 200k capital gain.

The stock market capital gains, I’m not sure how you invested to make an additional 160k, but it had to be high beta (high risk stocks).

Since you do not mention your name on this website, it would be interesting to see how you came out to the net worth you have. Frankly it does not add up..

This is a great site for someone close to 30 to compare his savings and net worth to another person. However having 300k net worth after only 5 years since graduating and a 105k gross (70k net), is incredibly difficult to believe.

Let us know more how much capital gains from stock and from your investment property you made.


FrugalTrader. I’m skeptical however I know the real estate market boomed since 2003 and now slowed down. This could explain your fast increase in net worth. Getting to 1 million net worth by 35 could be more difficult now that the real estate has stabilized. However it is still very impressive that under 30 years of age you were able to reach 300k of net worth. I do not know anyone in your shoes from my engineering graduating class.

Keep it up and happy new year.


I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and I’ve learned a great deal of information. Thanks ! Although so far, most of it are only my knowledge and not being applied yet.

Looking at your net worth updates it’s very encouraging for reader like me to follow suit. I am recent grad (Spring 2008) and currently have a full time job. What I am interested to know more is how you get yourself from your position of recent graduate in 2003 to having your net worth as in 2006.

Within 3 years, you already have 2 properties, 2 vehicles and significant amount of RSP and other investment. I wonder how did you get that far in such a short period of time? If you can enlighten me, that would be greatly appreciated.

I’ve been working for around 6 months now and I consider myself very frugal.
I packed my lunch and I dont go shopping. However, I am nowhere near getting to position like yours. I am still renting a place, and living in Toronto makes it really expensive (1 bedroom apt – I know this is not the most frugal decision but after 5 years in University/co-op life of sharing a room/apt, I feel like having my own freedom and privacy).

Frugal Trader said: “take a gander through the archives.”

FT, Your Newfoundland heritage appears inescapable! ;) Though I believe correct usage is: ” ‘Ave a gander at the archives”

For the uninitiated, a translation follows:[insert British Accent] “Please review the archives”

In jest,

Hey frugaltrader, i’ve been looking at this site for the past few hours and learned alot! usually i use for research but im bookmarking this site!

i’m 20 years old i feel the same way you do really passionate about investing and retiring early. My current etrade account is at $14,000 and my investment goal is to invest in conservative dividend paying companies buying at well, a time like this. I began investing 5 or so months before oil peaked.

i found the smith manoeuvre very interesting. i havn’t bought my first house yet and my parents are still allowing me to sponge off them rent free. i make $2400 a month as a plumbing apprentice after tax and have a $500 a month car payment. no debt whatsoever.

Hey Frugal Trader,

I just stumbled across this site today when I typed “how to save money” into google. I’ve looked through a bit of the site and have already learned a great deal. I’m 25 years old, engaged and we are about to buy our first home. We’ve been watching house prices slide over the past 6 months or so and have decided that now is a great time to build a new home. The mortgage payments are not going to be too bad but a house has other expenses that our current apartment does not have. We will still be able to afford the house but it doesn’t leave much room for savings. What do you think would be the best way for us to keep saving without having to give up too much of the lifestyle that we love.

First of all, congrats on your great blog!
Thoughtfully crafted, insightful, and lots of pertinent info for those who want to get ahead in life. I wish there was a blog like yours in 1990’s.

We started similar way like yours. Right after the university in 1993, we were in debt of about 80k. 50k in student loan and 30k in BRAND new car loan. (what not to do!! lol)

Worked like crazy, lived frugally, and finally got out of debt in 1998. This joy of being debt free inspired us to have a dream of retiring early. At first we wanted to retire by 60, then that became “Freedom 55”, and now we are looking at 50 or possibly sooner. We purchased our home in 2004 and we are on target to pay it off in 2011. So hopefully we can save lot more towards our retirement right after that.

Your two comments summarized our financial lifestyle. We, too, adhere to “Paying Yourself First” and we learned to identify “needs” and “wants” in our spending habit. We are building our nest egg based on those two concepts. They work for us.

Anyways, good luck and all the best in your journey…

[…] I have explained in our financial story before, we graduated university with a boat load of debt.  However, we kept our expenses low by […]

Wow you are an inspiration! At what age did you become debt free? What age do you target to be a millionaire?

Best of luck and I will be checking in often!

I’m 27 and own two is princple and the other is a rental unit. My wife and I have a combined annual income of 120K. My goal is to have enough investments that i can make passive income and retire at 35 as well. Other than my car (2006 Civic) with $13000 left to pay out we don’t have any other dept. I plan on paying this loan off this year with a lump sum payment. I enjoy following your site and wanted to link if you have an links or spreadsheets on how i can calutle our networth.

Hey Frugal Trader,

Good on you for having this goal. I have the same goal, but I’m taking it one step further by being financially independent by age 40 in 8-10 yrs.

My net worth was about $2million by age 30, and has since sunk to about $1.6mil due to the correction. I’ve got about 700k split between cash, 401k, and company stock. The rest is in the equity in my home, rental property, and vacation properties.

My goal is to amass $2million CASH in 8-10 years, and revisit selling a property then. I’ve already taken the 20-30% write-down, and hope things will rebound by then.

I recommend you try and accumulate 1 million dollars in liquid assets, and don’t include property or locked up investments.

Hope you can have a look at my blog too.



Rich By 30, Retire By 40

[…] my wife and I graduated from University, we had major debt.  We set a goal of paying off all the debt in a short period of time, so we lived frugally and […]

hi Frugal Trader,

You have a great blog and I just happen to know about yesterday while I was looking to see how to buy stocks.

I’m 29 and looking to buy some stock (up to $5000 to start) and trade online for short term gains.
How do I find the company I wanted to invest since there are thousands of company?
Is there a simple way for beginners to find and feel easier to trade?
Can you suggest some companies that might be suitable for beginners to experience trading online?

Thank you,

Hello Frugal Trader

I am glad to have discovered your website early June this year. Your website has triggered a major transformation in my life which I am very thankful for, and I would like to share here.

Since my dad passed away 10 years ago I had a careless vision about money. I didn’t really care how much I save or spend, and I have been unlucky with money anyway for as long as I can remember.

I came to Canada in 2005, and went through some hard time during the first 2 years, during which I recklessly lost half of my very little net worth. Things were not that much better during the following years, until early this June when I found your website and how you calculate your net worth every month, in addition to the valuable posts you write about.

I was excited to prepare my first ever monthly net worth statement last June, and I even collected old data (bank accounts, investments, credit card statements ..etc) to track and calculate my monthly net worth during the past 5 years, to understand better what I have been through. The chart I got was really shameful.

Anyway, I started taking major and serious decisions in my life now. I will be leaving soon my bigger apartment to move into another smaller one which will save me $3000 a year. I opened my first RRSP account only this year. I am following the “buy what you need, not what you want” rule. I closed my car loan by paying it off from my line of credit that has a lower interest rate, but will be paying that off too soon to save $1500 during the next 3 years. I am be looking into my portfolio to find every opportunity possible to save, and I am also trying to make use of every offer possible in the market.

I am a religious person, and I know that money should not be everything in life. I know that we shouldn’t be skimpy. There is a thin line between being skimpy and frugal. I believe now that we should deal with money wisely, the same way we would deal with our health or with our social relationships, and with every other thing in life.

Thanks Frugal Trader for this website. You have made a major impact in the life of someone out there. Unfortunately, and unlike you, I am starting late (I am 37) and my current net worth is around $30,000 only, and I might not have the financial-oriented mind that you have, but it’s better late than sorry, and I hope to learn more in your website.

Best regards

Hi again Frugal,

interestingly I find myself at the same point you are (ofcourse I am much older but better late than never). In summary I have:

zero debt,
30k in savings
plus an available 5% down.
I do save 28% of my income but wont once we buy a house. Then it will be more like 10%.
Basically I have been saving everything i can for the last 3 years, and keeping our 15 year old car alive (its a lexus lol).

We are expecting our second child, and I will be the only earner in the family for another 2 years (my wife does not work now, so no maternity $$).

Given this, and the fact we find bigger accomodatins, I am thinking what may be the best next step. shall we buy now..or wait.. ofcourse there is no right answer but wanted to put it out there for more mature opinions. I can hold off and keep saving 15% or buy and hardly save 10%….
not sure what is best…


Hi, thanks for the reply! :)
It is a tough call … I am in ontario, and we are looking specifically at burlington area. the average price of a townhome is 350+ and a semi is 370-390. (I am leaning towards the semis, bigger, more scalable and tends to be a better investment for about $100/150 more per month?)

So the range i would say is 350-400. I’d do more than 5% only if it makes sense to do a HELOC (not sure yet if it does).

Wow, guys/gals! I’m impressed. You all appear to be on the right road and should be very proud of your accomplishments. I am much older than you and am doing ok, but we were not anywhere close to where you are at your age. I’m curious as to how you’ll fair after (having put yourself/spouse thru school) and weathering huge market crashes that take away 1/2 your savings – twice in an 8 year period; putting your kids thru university debt-free; cash flowing a wedding; helping the youngsters get on their feet while they were looking for jobs after graduation and handling some medical problems along the way. Do keep this going. I’m very curious to see how it all plays out.

This is the “old guy” – been there, done that (what you are currently facing) – seriously, if you were my kid I would tell you to stay put and SAVE. Your kids grow up soooooooooooooooo fast and you’re sooooooooooooooo busy raising them, you honestly won’t miss having a bigger/better place – but you most certainly WILL miss not having that savings in a blink of an eye when they’re grown and they’re in university and you and spouse are dreaming of retirement. Sure wish someone had told me that – back in the day. Best of luck – however you proceed.

Hey FT, I’m just wondering I’m a 24 year old professional, I started investing and saving 3 years ago, I’m thinking how I would be able to make my own blog site. And maybe put my views out there. I don’t eve plan to “retire”, that word has no appeal to me, I do however want to be financially free from a full time job by 27. I have one property rented out and plan to do 3 more this year. And I don’t rent or own property for myself yet, I plan to live with my family till I’m financially free and I was wondering if I could maybe give my views on the last 3 years, I’ve maxed out my RRSPs for the last 3 years and used the first time home buyer plan buy a home property to rent it out and grow my tax sheltered money through a home investment. I think some other people might be interested in that. I love your net worth statements which I do every month as well, and my brother is 19 now and he does it too. Any tips to start out would help, Thank You!

re: “I plan to live with my family till I’m financially free…”

That’s generous of them.

@SST yeah I’m lucky ;)

Good to see you acknowledge the “luck” factor.
Even Buffett admits luck has played a role in his success.

Also interesting to note the difference in culture paths to attaining financial “freedom”. I have known, and still do, a number of immigrant families over the years, and their approach is much different than the ‘North American’ DYI/independent route.

Example: three families will buy a house together and live in it. They now have 3-6 incomes paying off a mortgage as well as possibly no costs such as daycare if children are involved. Once the first house has been rapidly paid off, the same method is applied to the second and third houses. Within a very short period, three families all have a mortgage free house of their own whereas the typical Canadian is probably still paying off the first all by their lonesome.

Does your financial plan, based upon support of your family, include any future freedom for them?

Nice story…I wish I would have started in my 20s. Seems like you have found the perfect recipe…Live on less, Save and Invest! Continue doing that and you’ll be wealthy beyond your imagination, especially given your time horizon and great family income.

So do you have an exit plan or age for retirement? It seems your definitely ahead of the curve in that regard. :)