How I Became a Millionaire (Part 1: Childhood)

One of the most complicated questions I’m asked is, “How, exactly, did you do it? How did you become a millionaire?”. I find myself scratching my head and “uhmm”-ing in response, not because I don’t remember, but because it was a process rather than one identifiable event. My short answer is this: we lived below our means and invested in our future. But it’s way more than that — you’ve likely learned bits and pieces about many of the actions I took as I sprinkle them throughout my blog posts. Today, I’m putting the pieces together to illustrate how it’s a culmination of the little choices we make that add up to something big.

I’ll start at the beginning with some lessons I learned as a child. (Parents take note: perhaps you can glean some useful information for your children.)

Part One: Childhood

I didn’t grow up with money: When my legs outgrew my pants, Mom sewed extra fabric around the cuffs. Our family of five shared a cozy two bedroom apartment. We kept our cars until the wheels fell off (literally, once). My parents were frugal role models.

After their divorce, Mom, who was admittedly terrible with keeping her checkbook balanced, assigned this task to me. I was 13. She gave me and my siblings $25-40 each a month – which was a generous allowance back in the day – with the stipulation that we pay for our own clothes, school lunches, books, recreation, yearbooks, bus fares, etc. I quickly learned that if I spent too much money at the movie theater with my friends, I could kiss hot lunches and new socks goodbye. This taught me the value of money and forced me to budget and delay gratification at an early age.

If I wanted more, I had to work for it. At age 13, when I was old enough that my peers started poking fun at me about my well-worn clothes (kids can be cruel!), I took my first job: delivering the morning newspaper before school. Oh, but I am not a morning person, and I struggled to wake before dawn. Misery was my motivation for invention; I created ways to make money that were in alignment with my interests. I loved animals, so I started a dog walking service. An entrepreneur was born.

During my 14th summer, after hearing one too many whiny complaints of “I’m sooooo bored!”, Mom helped me arrange an unpaid apprenticeship with a dog trainer at a boarding kennel. I fed the kenneled dogs and shoveled sh!t in the mornings, and in exchange, the trainer taught me how to train dogs. Through apprenticeship, I learned a valuable new skill that years later, I would turn into a thriving business of my own.

I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. Thankfully I explored this option – before enrolling in veterinary school – by “shadowing” a vet for a few days. I observed the vet as he performed his daily work to see if the profession was a good fit for me. After fainting repeatedly at the sight of blood, I learned it wasn’t my dream job after all. I discovered I liked working with healthy animals, not sick ones. Exploring my options via shadowing spared me costly tuition and many years of study that would have been for naught.

…to be continued, next, in Part Two: Early Adulthood

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Millionaire Mommy Next Door

A self-made millionaire shares her recipe for success, happiness and financial freedom.

21 thoughts on “How I Became a Millionaire (Part 1: Childhood)”

  1. The way you write portrays the importance of perception. You are able to analyze and come up with the Why’s and How’s.

    I’ve been following your blog for a while, even sent an email to thank you and share my short story a while back.

    Thanks for writing, creating value is something you are nearly saying though not directly saying. Creating value naturally brings money.

    Thanks again, keep doing what you’re doing, I’m not following in your exact foot steps, I’m on my way to becoming the Millionaire Daddy Next Door before I’m 30.

  2. Oh, thanks so much for this, looking forward to the next installment! Your story is very inspiring – even in childhood.

  3. Hi Jen! Love the new pic of you and your daughter! And, am loving this post. Can’t wait for Part 2. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t “shadow” real lawyers before I started law school. I could’ve saved myself a huge investment of time and money. I thought seeing what they did on TV and in films was good enough. So very wrong! : )

  4. I had similar experiences as a child. I started babysitting when I was 9 and I paid for everything on my own. But, I think you have a healthier attitude about money than I have. I love your story. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I was looking for this information at your “blogspot” blog, but couldn’t find. Looks like you’re writing them again. It is always nice to read your history. Congrats.

  6. Like the others, I’m looking forward to the rest of this series. It’s probably a good exercise for us all to do at some stage: To sit down and have a good hard look at how we got to where we are at.

  7. I hope you add a widget that will allow us to share your insightful articles with the worldwide community of Facebook! It is an awesome platform of exposure for your great writing.

  8. Thank you for this wonderful post !! Looking forward to reading more in these lines. As you have rightly pointed out, it is the process and not just a specific event that makes personal finance so interesting. Otherwise, all that we need to know is “Spend less than you earn and invest in your future”.

  9. Love the story! It too is very similar to my childhood which has made me more determined then ever to set a different example for my niece and nephews. I don’t want then growing up believing that they need to settle for where they are at. Thank you for your inspiration and story.

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  11. $25-$40 per week. That’s pretty sweet. My first business came when I was 9. I was known as the “candy man” or boy as was the case. I would go with my parents to Sam’s wholesale and buy candy and turn around and mark it up at school. I made $40 a week in profit. I remember my mom kidding me that she was going to start charging me rent. I remember I had financial projections, etc. I’ve always had a fascination with money.

    Thanks for sharing Jen!

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  15. I am glad to have found your blog. I was chatting with the owner of She Takes On The World blog and she mentioned that you lost your blog on blogger. That is very scary putting all of this work into something for it to be lost and no recovery. I’m glad you rebuilt on WordPress as your blog is very inspirational and I will be continually following.

    Thanks again

  16. i was watching mtv cribs, and i was looking at the wonderful houes n that show.. and i was wondering how could ur mom even afford 25-40 dollaers to each chhild? my mom cant even do tht and i live with four sibling and mom. My dad doesnt pay child support bc hes a poop. but i still dont get how to become one wen i grow upi wantmy childs life to be amazing and great.

    Sommer its pro nounced Summer =]

  17. aloso, i cant work bc my sisters are on disability.. and tht ruines alot ifi work bc of housing and stuff.?? i dont get it.

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