Michael's plan was to get a good job and save as much as he could. But then his company started laying off staff and he faced a bleak future.
I always knew that I wanted to be a millionaire.
I just didn't know how I was going to do it.
When I was 14 years old, I came across a Tony Robbins book in my mum's dusty bookshelf. It was called Unlimited Power. This little book had a profound effect on my life.
I learned that taking massive action was the key to success and that by modelling someone else's success, I could get the same results by using the same strategies.
My career started out pretty normal. Like many young graduates, I had no clue what I wanted to do. So, I analysed the current job market.
In the year 2000, money was flowing rapidly to technology and I decided I'd jump into IT (information technology). I went to work for a tech company in San Diego as a systems administrator making $66,000 per year.
Collecting a pay cheque was a nice change of pace. I quickly realised that in order to reach my goal, I needed to save and invest. I followed a principle I had read about called, "pay yourself first".
This concept taught me to put aside a portion of my pay cheque every time I was paid. I followed this advice and would automatically deduct a certain percentage of my wages and put it into both my savings and investment accounts.
Things were going great at my new job for the first few months. But when September 11 happened, the market plummeted and along with it, my company. People began to get laid off almost weekly, and the future looked bleak.
Instead of waiting for the seventh round of lay-offs, I made the decision with a couple of co-workers to leave and start our own IT support company. We started out very lean and hustled hard for the first couple of years. We worked out of our homes and had very low overhead costs.
The lesson here is that you can't control certain events in life. But, you can control how you react to them. A lot of people would have been fearful in our position, but we saw it as an opportunity and capitalised on it.
It was a calculated risk that paid off, and that decision would ultimately increase my income earning potential within the year.
Do you consistently look for new ways to maximise your earning potential?
Over time, we began to grow and eventually expanded into Chicago. We were profitable throughout, but after a decade of running the company, I knew I wanted to move on. So, we sold the company and cashed out a chunk of equity. I decided to stay with the new company for a while to help with the transition and to see where it could take me.
At about the same time, I began investing in real estate. I didn't know what I was doing, and I even made a huge bumbling mistake. Nevertheless, I continued to take action, and the subsequent real estate investments have served me well.
Being a landlord is great. You provide valuable housing to others, receive passive income, and build up equity over time using other people's money.
A year and a half later, it was time to leave the company. I found myself at an interesting crossroads. I was 36 years old, married, and had a one-year-old daughter at home.
I could have easily gone back to work somewhere else, or even started a new company.
But I also realised I had a unique opportunity — to be fully present with my growing family. I chose the latter because that's what was important to me.
At the time our net worth was $2.3 million, and it was enough to give me options.
Now your initial thought might be that I walked away with a huge check from the sale of my company. But that actually wasn't the case because I had partners to split the proceeds with. So, although it helped to own a business, I would argue you could create similar results by following this simple formula for building wealth.
1. Create and maximise income
2. Save and invest aggressively
3. Leverage real estate
Today I run a blog called Financially Alert that teaches these core principles. I also do financial coaching for people looking to reach specific financial goals sooner than later. I am passionate about giving back and teaching these strategies to others. I truly believe people have more impact in the world and are their most authentic selves when they feel abundance in their own lives.
Here's a little of what I teach them.
CREATE AND MAXIMISE INCOME
Don't overlook the power of your income generation. It's much easier to get ahead financially if you're earning a good income. This can be created by landing a great job out of university, negotiating your current one, or working for yourself. Income is only limited by your imagination, and I believe the more money you make, the more positive impact you can have on this world.
SAVE AND INVEST AGGRESSIVELY
It doesn't matter how much money you earn. You could be making a million dollars per year, but if you're spending it all (or more), you'll never get to make your money work for you. Learn to save and invest your hard-earned dollars because they will eventually go to work for you. If you save a large enough base, your dollars will start to create passive income for you. Once you generate enough passive income to cover your expenses, you are financially independent.
LEVERAGE REAL ESTATE
Ever play the game, Monopoly? If you haven't, you should. It teaches you how to acquire properties and generate income from rent. Being a landlord has many advantages. Not only do you collect rent, but you can also use this income to pay down the loan and create equity for yourself. Depending on where you live, there may also be some significant tax advantages from owning real estate. Who wouldn't want more passive income and better tax breaks? Of course, you'll need to learn what a good deal is in order to come out ahead.
Michael runs the blog Financially Alert and lives with his family in San Diego.