Skip to main content

How I Saved $100K By 26

As I detailed in my latest Net Worth Update, nearly 4 years after beginning my first full time job, I finally hit my first major Net Worth milestone of $100K!!

So exciting!!

It’s been quite the journey, starting essentially at $0 Net Worth 4 years ago in July 2014 at 22 years old. I’ve learned so much over this time period and my outlook and priorities 4 years ago is vastly different from what they are now.

In the spirit of full transparency I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve thought were essential to getting me to this milestone earlier than many people.

But first, in order to satisfy my nerdiness, let’s take a quick look at the breakdown of the numbers!

$100K Net Worth Breakdown

The first thing I thought was pretty cool was that I actually did not save $100K on my own.

In fact, I only actually saved about $90K of that. How’s that possible? So where did the rest of the $100K come from?

Numbers taken from June Net Worth Update. Investments means Investment returns!

As you can see, approximately 11% of my Net Worth has come due to my Investments rising in value.

It’s pretty crazy to see how much of an effect just simply having money in the market can do for your Net Worth.

The more money you have in the market, the more it will increase when the stock market does well.

I’m looking forward to seeing this chart again when I reach the next $100K to see how it has changed! I have a funny feeling that the % from Investments will rise as I funnel more and more money into the market.

Here is my Net Worth breakdown split into percentages:

86% of my Net Worth is tied up in Investment accounts (401K, Roth IRA, Brokerage, HSA) which seems like a lot!

Honestly, if I were not saving up for a potential rental property, that percentage would probably be much higher as I would have put that additional cash outside my emergency fund into the market by now.

I’m very 401K heavy as for the first 3 years I was only contributing to this account and my savings account!

I’ve since diversified into other accounts in order increase how much money in investments I have.

As with the Savings/Investment split it’ll be interesting to see how the percentages change over the next $100K increase!

If you’re interested for further details on what these accounts are comprised of, head over to my Net Worth Updates page where you can see the progress on a monthly basis.

How I Saved $100K by 26

Looking back, there were a few key things that happened to help me reach this milestone. I absolutely cannot claim credit for all of it, as I know had I been in a different situation, it could have taken a lot longer to get here.

Or who knows, maybe had I been born into the complete opposite situation, I may have never even gotten here period. Definitely weird to think about, but maybe that’s a post for some other time.

Here were some of the big things that helped me reach this milestone.

I Had Help

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents very generously paid for half of my college education. It is mainly because of this that I graduated with minimal students loans that I was able to pay off before starting my full time job in July 2014.

I did make college cheaper by getting a merit scholarship to cut the cost in half as well as graduating a semester early, and worked in the summers and winters between semesters in order to keep my own portion of the loans minimal.

The point is, without that help I would’ve graduated with a lot more student loans. There’s no way I could’ve reached this milestone so early if I had significant student loan debt to deal with.

In addition, my parents loaned me their 10 year old car for my first year out of college.

This allowed me to save up for a year for a down payment on a new car after they needed it back for my younger siblings. (On second thought, I probably would’ve been better off buying an old cheap car for myself right away.)

Lastly, my parents have good jobs that offer health insurance. Since I have younger siblings that need coverage, they were paying for the family plan anyways and offered to cover me until the cutoff at 26.

Thus, I didn’t have to pay any health insurance or medical costs over most of this period (just the two dental cleanings per year since I hadn’t been to the doctor since college prior to earlier this year).

Many young people take advantage of this, but it was help nonetheless and I wanted to mention it.

I recognize the amount of privilege I’ve had in my life, and realize that this was a huge part of helping me get to where I am today.

High Income

In order to save this kind of money in such a short period starting from scratch, I think having a high income is almost essential.

Unless you live in an extremely low cost of living area, with a low income most of your salary is likely going towards living expenses, leaving not as much left over to save.

So what constitutes a high income? There’s much debate on the topic and it really is subjective.

What one person considers high, another may consider average.

I’m basing my high income off this report, stating that 2014 college grads (the year I graduated) earned an average salary of $48K.

While I detail out my income in my Net Worth reports, I don’t think I’ve ever outright said what my salary is and what it’s been in the past. (Though I do mention I have a 3% employer 401K match and split that out for a reason so you all could figure that out on your own if you wanted 😉 )

Full transparency: for 3 years and 9 months of the time it took me to reach this milestone, my salary was in the range of $57K-$69K.

This April I received a pay raise to $73K, then in June I got a promotion and am currently paid $83K.

The pay raises at the end certainly helped push me to the milestone, but most of the groundwork was set when I was paid less than $70K.

So, while you don’t need a six figure salary to reach $100K Net Worth at a young age, having a higher than average income can make it much quicker.

I Made a Budget and Tracked My Expenses

I also can’t claim credit for all this either. My parents sat me down right before I started my full time job and helped me come up with a reasonable budget based on my salary.

They told me if you can stick to this budget and live within your means, you’re going to put yourself in a good financial spot. I trusted them on this, and they were absolutely right.

The budget called for putting 10% into my 401K and an extra $250 into a savings account (since I only had a couple hundred dollars to my name from finishing off my student loans).

In addition, my work pays bi-weekly (26 times a year) but the budget was set to live on two paychecks per month. That meant twice a year I essentially got a bonus which went straight to savings!

The 401K contributions and cash savings were all automated which made it so easy to save, forget about and not be tempted to spend.

Following this budget alone has guided me to saving at least 30% of my income each year since college.

I also began officially tracking my expenses a few months after, as a way to ensure I was sticking to that budget.

I want to go and give my past self a high five because that was totally on my own and was so useful to measure how I was doing! (Plus, now I have some great data points to compare my spending levels against!)

While I didn’t do a great job hedging against lifestyle inflation (as my fixed expenses got bigger, so did the budget), I always made it a point to keep the automated savings happening at a steady level.

I Found the FIRE Community

Last but certainly not least, discovering the FIRE Community last July through Mr. Money Mustache (like what, 99% percent of the community!?) was a real wake up call.

Not only did I not have to work my corporate job for 40 more years, if I took certain steps now I could be done with it in a quarter of that time.

Sitting at a $64K Net Worth one year ago back in June 2017 with half of that in cash and my car, it’s been a pretty amazing transformation.

Lifestyle inflation was already creeping up on me, and I could have easily seen it ramping up as I got paid more.

Oh my roommate is moving out? Sure I can afford to live on my own for $700/month more than I’m already paying… you get the point.

While the FIRE community has also given me so much more benefit than simply improving my financial situation; that too is for another post.

Simply put, discovering the concept of FIRE drastically altered my financial mindset and has put me on the road to sustained success.

.

I’ve made many mistakes so far on this journey, but the important thing is that I’ve learned from them and don’t plan on making the same ones again.

While it would have been really nice if I’d discovered FIRE earlier, there’s no use dwelling on what could’ve been.

It’s much better use of my time to work to build a future where I can answer the question, “What would you do with your life if money didn’t matter?” with “You’re looking at it.”

.

What recent milestone have you achieved or do you have coming up? I’d love to hear about it!

32 thoughts to “How I Saved $100K By 26”

  1. Nice post – congrats. Already looking forward to reading the $200k update!

    What was it that made you get on board with the budget, try and avoid lifestyle inflation and embrace a FIRE approach to finance? I ask because other people, given the same resources and opportunities, may not manage to achieve such a good financial result for one reason or another.

    HH

    1. Thanks! It’ll be here any day (hopefully 😂)

      For me, ultimately it was realizing that I could have the freedom to do whatever I want that was so appealing. There’s a lot of things I want to do with my life and working a corporate job for 40 years is not one of them!

  2. This is awesome! My husband and I hit 100k net worth, but most of it is from our home. 🙂 we started out making like 25k/yr, and I finally landed a job that pays over $40k/yr that I’ll start in two weeks! I’m excited to put all the money into retirement accounts, and hopefully make them grow like yours! Congrats!

  3. You are on a terrific path. You will be FI in no time if you keep at it. It’s great to look back and see how far you’ve come already, isn’t it? I’m currently 31, crossed $100K about 10 months ago and I’m already a little over $130K as of my last look at Personal Capital. You have 4-5 years on me in age and make a lot more money than I do! Your net worth is really going to skyrocket. 96% of my current net worth is in investment accounts, although I don’t include my car’s value in my total as I’m not planning to sell it anytime soon. Seems like a lot but that’s where you have to be in order to generate returns. Make as much of that money work for you as you can, although I am working on building up cash in my savings account. That said, I don’t think the ratio will change much (especially if investments continue to appreciate in the short term).

    I love getting my monthly account statement and seeing the line graph – one line is my total contributions, the other is the total value of my investments. The lines keep rising and the gap on the chart between the two lines keeps growing — compounding at work already!!

    1. Thanks Brian! Wow that is a high percentage in investments which is great! I think mine would probably be around there as well if not for the rental savings.

      I like to include the car as it would get me some money if I decided to sell it now for whatever reason, but totally understand not including it.

      The monthly updates to your net worth sure are addicting aren’t they!?

  4. Woah a fellow MMM-gateway FI person?! No way, I’ve never heard of anyone else who found this community that way! 😂😂😂

    My breakdown looks fairly similar: I’ve got about 82% of my net worth in investments (thanks for making me do math this morning! 😂), with 62% of my net worth in my retirement accounts. That’s definitely a result of doing much of my saving pre-tax with, for better or worse, much less available to save post-tax once I get paid. I was only contributing about 12-15% to my retirement accounts pre-FIRE path, and I wish I was tracking my net worth back then so I could see how the ratios of my net worth have changed since then since I now have a quarter of my paycheck going to my 401(k)!

    This is so awesome! Plus given how much more money you make than I do, I’m feeling better about where my net worth is compared to yours 😉 Can’t wait for the $200k post!

    1. So shocking right!? 😂

      Nice that’s awesome you have that much in investments! Totally the same with a vast majority in pre tax accounts though…

      But nice! I did tell you those early years were spendy ones! (Despite the high savings rates haha)

  5. Making solid gains YFK!

    Quick question, how are you accurately tracking how much your individual investments are making you? Is there something in Personal Capital that I am looking at closely enough?! I certainly think this would be interesting to track over time.

    Awesome job again! You are killing it for being as young as you are and have set yourself up very nicely for the future.

    1. Thanks Cooper! I track those out individually each month to see the returns my accounts have. I just do it in my own spreadsheet (total nerd) but the apps these days make it so easy to check.

      Appreciate it! Hoping to reach the next milestone a bit faster 🙂

      1. How exactly are you tracking it? Taking the beginning of the end of the the month balance and subtracting what you input during the month and anything left is interest growth?

        1. Yep exactly. Most institutions (like Vanguard, Fidelity, etc) will give you a monthly statement that summarizes how much you contributed and what’s the investment return that month (dividends and capital gains). So I just log into the individual accounts monthly and write down that info on my spreadsheet. Brokerage and Roth IRA are easy (since I maxed out Roth twice and don’t make regular contributions to brokerage) but the 401k is where I really need to look due to my fluctuations in my own plus employer contributions

    1. Thanks Angela! I thought it was definitely important to have that out there. I totally realize things could have been a lot different, and am very grateful for the support I’ve gotten

  6. Congratulations on this milestone! Aww yiss, 6 digits by 26!

    Great post breaking it all down. Since hitting 100K I feel like things really sped up… Just as you said, the more money you have in the market, the more profit you’ll see from the market (during good times). Here’s to hoping you hit your next milestones even faster! You’re killing it.

    1. Thank you!!

      Taking a glance at Personal Capital today and maybe it’s just a coincidence (if it stands it would be a record monthly increase) but I totally agree there! 😂

      Hopefully if I can land a successful rental property that would help speed things up! 🙂

  7. I will tell you at age 26 I was deep in debt so what you have accomplished is fantastic. Always great to have help along the way and you did yourself a favor discovering the FIRE community which is a great resource.

  8. Great stuff man, you’re killing the game!

    We are actually 1 month out from hitting our first 100k, and I was just thinking the other day whether to do a post on it. After reading yours, I am definitely going to break mine down as well! It’s always best when you hear how different people got to their financial milestones because every path is different. Generally the same money principles are applied, but the little life differences in the stories are always worth the read!

    1. Appreciate it!

      Absolutely you should definitely do a post about it! Like you said, the different paths everyone takes to get to this spot are always interesting and gives perspective into where everyone comes from!

      Looking forward to reading 🙂

  9. Like i said on Twitter, you’re killing it man! At your age, think i was only one year into my career lol, so yeah… i think you are on pace to hit the next $100K before the close of 2019.

    Keep pushing man!

  10. Well done! The first $100k is the hardest, but you gotta do it! I’m about two months out from my first $10k, assuming the market stays flat. Considering I still have a year of college tuition left, I won’t be hitting $100k for a while. Fortunately, I’m only 21 so even having a positive net worth is a great start. It’s difficult to project 5 years out because so much can happen in 5 years, but I think that realistically, I too will reach the first $100k by 26.

  11. I STARTED investing at age 26 when I sat down to do my taxes after my first year with a “real” job and realized how much I owed :/ (Hello IRA) haha! BUT between now and today (I’m 30) my wife and I have managed to boost our NW to ~193K. 158 of that is investments, so similar percentages. I don’t count car, motorcycle, expensive one-of-a-kind artwork we bought when we drank a little too much! But I do count our RV which we live in full-time and I could sell reasonably quickly if I wanted to. Great job. I think we started young compared to 99% of the people out there, but I wish I knew what you did at your age. Keep crushing it! 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: