My Artist Friend, or How to Become a Millionaire While Making $700/Month

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My artist friend “A” has got it made. At only 25, she’s already invested enough in index funds to achieve $800,000+ at 65 with no further contributions. How, you ask? Here’s how someone earning less than $10,000/year will become a Millionaire in her lifetime.

“A” isn’t rich, but she’s Smart As Fuck. Her family was able to put away some money for her education, but she also did plenty of working and saving on her own. She ended up getting shitloads of scholarships though, so within a year of finishing school, she found herself sitting on $50,000! Well, fuck, I guess that money’s going into index funds! A longtime Mr. Money Mustache devotee, “A” figured index funds were the best place for her money, and at her age, IT IS. With the 7% return I talk about so much, her current $53,896 becomes $807,063 in 40 years! To make matters even more mindboggling, SHE EVEN HAS AN EMERGENCY FUND OF $14,000. We’re not even done yet, because SHE’S SO FRUGAL, THIS WOULD LAST HER 20 MONTHS. Not possible? Here’s her living sitch.

Income is a terrible indicator of success. “A” makes $700/month as a freelance artist. Over a year, that’s $8,400. Her monthly rent is only $200. That’s because she lives with three other people. She’s been with her boyfriend for over five years, and even if something terrible happens, she’s open to moving back in with family. She can live comfortably on $700/month. She spends $80 on groceries, about $45 on entertainment, and puts aside $40 for potential emergencies. Her phone costs $25, about $25 goes into dental, and stuff like clothing is practically negligible because she shops at thrift stores. She breaks even every month. WHAT ARE YOU AND I DOING WRONG.

“A” may be frugal, but she’s not living a small life. She’s already been to five countries including Japan and China, she’s done a road trip across the US, and she’s also seen several Canadian provinces. She also – like me – works at her dream job, so it really doesn’t feel like work at all. She’s practically retired already! What would YOU call it if you could do whatever the hell you wanted and just happened to make $700/month?

“A” also knows she can do better. In my interview with her, she talked about getting to $15,000/year reliably and aiming for $375,000 as her FI goal. If, right now, she puts aside just $100/month for her index funds, she’ll hit that number in 25 years! Mr. Money Mustache once said, “If You’re Not Getting Rich in your 20s, You’re Doing it Wrong”. Your twenties are the MOST IMPORTANT TIME TO SAVE because the compound interest gains are unreal. Being a Millionaire is within your reach.

“A” makes less than $10,000/year. What’s your excuse?

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Everything Actually Costs 10x More

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This one’s a quickie.

If you’re reading this, I’m gonna assume you’re around 30. You’re here because you care about Money and Retirement, but you’re also reading this because you haven’t figured it all out yet. You’re not a Millionaire yet. That’s okay. Neither am I… but I can help you get there more effectively. All you need to remember is the title of this post. Here’s why.

Assuming you’re 30, you’ve got 35 years left before a standard retirement age of 65. Every $1 you put into an investment now, generating 7% interest annually, will turn into – wait for it – $10.68 BY 65! Do you know what that means?!? EVERY $10,000 YOU’RE ABLE TO PUT AWAY NOW IS WORTH $106,765.81 BY RETIREMENT!

Before you all jump on me saying 7% annually is unrealistic, I’m obviously talking about index funds that sometimes go up, and sometimes go down. The idea is that 7% is the average growth over a number of years, and you’re not gonna be dumb enough to cash out your index funds entirely right after a crash like 2008. When you decide to cash out, you’ll already be swimming in hundreds of thousands, so you can wait a little bit for the market to recover. You only need to withdraw enough to live on anyway, which should only be about $100/day for maximum happiness! Even that’s kind of extravagant.

For me personally, the US index fund I invested in has gone up 8.2% in the past 10 years. My MER is oddly high (and I’m gonna look into that), but even after factoring that in, my projection for 10-year growth is still about 7%. I’m not just telling you what to do! I’m also doing it!

Just remember: Spending $1 today is costing you $10 in the future. Save it, and invest it. And if you suddenly come across a windfall of $100,000, put it aside so you can become a Millionaire through no effort at all.

$1 + Time = $10.

Simple, right? Even a millennial like you can do it.

Happiness is $100/Day

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You’ve probably heard a $75,000 salary is what you need to be Happy. That’s incorrect. $75,000 is what you need to be Happy if you’re silly and spendy. Here’s evidence of someone Happy at $36,000. Hell, here’s evidence of an Entire Family living on $25,330. For the purposes of today’s article though, I’m pinning Happiness at $36,500, or $100/day. Think of each day of Happiness as one unit of Happiness, and each unit is $100.

In an effort to keep myself honest, I have a confession to make: My jobs make me less than $36,500/year. I have other methods of income, and I get a lot of stuff for free, but the cash reality of my situation is I’m very average. To many, I’d be considered poor. My counterargument is I work way less and am arguably happier, and I’m staying afloat, so I’m just fine. Consider this evidence of another person happy on < $36,500. I don’t even feel as though I’m making sacrifices. I eat at restaurants nearly every day, currently have 30 litres of beer in my fridge, see the latest movies, and I travel enough that I can’t even remember all the places I’ve been. I can’t even think of anything else I’d want! I don’t want anything shiny, and a huge house would just mean more shit to clean. Any more travel would be exhausting because I’m a homebody, AND I’VE ALREADY BEEN TO TEN COUNTRIES! The last thing I want is unbridled consumerism. This article makes me sick. Andy has a Lamborghini Huracán and moans about not being able to fit his backpack and textbooks in it. After a certain level of spendiness, you apparently become an idiot!

Human minds adapt easily to any situation. Get used to living on less and you’ll be happy living on less. I’ve turned it into a game. Since I work only 30 hours a week (but don’t need to), I have plenty of time to brainstorm ways to save money. That’s one of the reasons this blog exists! On the flip side, get used to spending like a maniac and no amount of Hugo Boss tees or Gucci bags will be enough to satisfy you. Once you raise the bar for what makes you Happy, you’ll be miserable the moment you have to eat at Olive Garden instead of Le Crocodile. Is that any way to live?

Now you know that $36,500 is your Happiness Number, here’s what you should do if you make more: INVEST. Occasional splurging is fine, but don’t make a habit of it. Your goal is now to reach your Retirement Number, which is your Annual Expenses times 25. Once you reach that, you should be able to reliably make 5% each year from your investments, and withdraw 4% to finance your lifestyle. Your nest egg keeps growing, and you’ll have enough to live on FOREVER. After that, you’ll learn that Happiness isn’t tied to Money after $100/day. You’ll realize Happiness is actually more like “Money + Time + Freedom”. Come to think of it, that may be why I’m super stoked about life, even as a poor kid. Most of my work hours are optional, which translates to Time and Freedom whenever I want. Huh.

A final note: You can keep “investing” after you reach your Retirement Number. Invest in nonmaterial things that bring you joy. Donate to a charity you care about, put money back into your community, give young entrepreneurs a leg up. You don’t need a Lamborghini Huracán, and let’s face it, you wouldn’t know how to drive it anyway. Andy certainly doesn’t. He can’t even figure out what to do with his laundry.

What do you think? Can YOU get by on $100/day?