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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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.
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Paul Unosawa
7 years ago

Hey thanks, thats what everyone tells me, I guess I’m lucky I found an interest in frugal living and investing at an early age. I think my brother has few years ahead of me in that department, but I’m not complaining.
I don’t have an exit strategy per se, I just completed filling my second home, it is a rent to own model so I get a downpayment on the home and let the client buy it from me within 3/4 years, so I am net positive off the bat, in the first two months. That gives me leverage to get more homes, but CMHC is tightening their rules so it is getting tougher but hey, there’s always more opportunities.
If I could cashflow enough to start my own brokerage and manage rental properties, invest other people’s money and take a cut, sort of like a private REIT if you will, that is my end goal/”exit” strategy.

A Frugal Family's Journey
7 years ago

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. :)

7 years ago

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?

Sukun Paul
7 years ago

@SST yeah I’m lucky ;)

7 years ago

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

That’s generous of them.

Paul Unosawa
7 years ago

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!

8 years ago

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.

8 years ago

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.

8 years ago


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).

8 years ago

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…