The five keys of our wealth creation are principles shared with Mrs. TPM and define our households perspective on wealth creation. We got very lucky that we had similar values, ambitions and spending habits. Without that, we likely would not be where we are today. The five keys to our wealth creation are rooted in our values and we constantly pushed and supported each other to do more.
1 – Invest in Ourselves
My wife and I took our careers very seriously. We decided early on to focus on careers with high earning potential. Most career advice says to focus on things you love, but we decided to pursue careers we like, but that also pay well so we can have flexibility later in life for passion projects. If we focused on things we loved to do early on, we would not be self-made millionaires by the time we reached our early 30’s.
I studied IT and later studied things like entrepreneurship and finance while getting my business degree and merged all the theoretical subjects to transform my career. I pursued certifications, went to countless conferences and even worked on my public speaking, which does not come easy to an introvert like myself.
Mrs. TPM pursued not one but two undergraduate degrees in four years. This set her up to have many companies trying to woo her. She picked a company that she wanted to work for and built skills on the job, always looking for new roles and bigger responsibility. Her career even found her at Harvard Business School to take a two-week leadership development course.
Alas, we never took much personal risk to launch an expensive business idea. We did however invest in our skills to earn large paychecks that pushed our household income into the 1% or earners.
2 – Work Extremely Hard Early in Life
We started our chosen career path early and decided to work hard in our twenties. While our friends from college were busy finding themselves or pursuing professional degrees, we were putting in long hours. I was traveling all over the world consulting with major corporations. It’s never easy being the young twenty something recommending solutions to VP’s and Directors with established careers and tenure. Being placed in stressful situations early in life, pushed me beyond my comfort zone. Most days I felt uncomfortable, some days I wanted to vomit.
Today I miss the excitement at times. I don’t have to work as hard as I used to and can structure my day pretty much as I please. My wife hasn’t had luck structuring her days yet, but she is one of the best of what she does. Mrs. TPM was a born manager and delegator. At the age of fifteen she was a manager at a coffee shop after high school where she directed the work of people two or three times her age.
3 – Invest Every Month in Taxable Accounts
Even when I was a broke college kid, I earned money and some of it made its way to common stocks. I put some away every month. My family never talked about money and were the furthest thing from investors. I started learning on my own. My investing started in childhood with a baseball card collection. I realized sometime in my teens that baseball cards weren’t going to appreciate like they had in previous generations. They were simply toys.
Where did others put their money? Somehow I got my hands on a copy of One Up On Wall Street: How To Use What You Already Know To Make Money In The Market by Peter Lynch. His strategy taught me the basics of the stock market and how to make stock selections. It made perfect sense. Invest in what I know. So I asked my parents to help me open an account and off I went. It was small dollars, but I learned a lot.
To this day I still invest a little bit every month through dollar cost averaging into high quality stocks. I also pool funds from our career and dividends and the cash sits in our accounts until we can make intelligent decisions.
4 – No Debt, Ever Again
Besides a mortgage, which we consider a quasi investment, we have no debt. None. Our cash flow is not tied down every month to fund consumer purchases we made long ago.
We weren’t always in the position of no debt, but it didn’t take long to see the error of our ways and rid ourselves of the burden. We have not carried any debt of any kind since 2006 when I had $16,000 in student loan debt and had two years left of a ridiculous new car loan. In 2002 I financed a new Chrysler Sebring which cost about $16,000 at the time. I financed this over 5 years. I kept this car until it fell apart, but it was the last car I ever financed. All other automobiles we have purchased over the years were paid for in cash.
5 – Defer Income Tax to the Legal Limit
We have maxed out our company 401k plans for over a decade up to the limits set by the government. Recently we have also maxed out our HSA’s. Two years ago our companies began switching the healthcare plans to high deductible plans only.
There is one more option available to us to defer income that we have not taken. Mrs. TPM’s company offers a deferred compensation plan. We have not taken advantage of this plan yet. There are many rules involved about withdrawing money. The one rule I can’t get past is that if we defer compensation in the plan, we have no rights to the money should the company go under and you are essentially assuming the credit risk of the company itself. Employees at Lehman brothers and other companies that went bust lost the value of their plans.
What keys of wealth creation have most impacted your net worth?