My Story: From Minimum Wage to Millionaire Mommy
From Minimum Wage…
Money was a constant source of tension and stress when I was growing up. My parents were intelligent, well-educated and hard-working, yet they lived paycheck to paycheck. When I was 13, they divorced, then my mom struggled to raise three kids, often relying on free lunch tickets and food stamps. As my mother approach retirement age, she was riddled with anxiety over the fact that she hadn’t saved for her golden years. My father had always been (and continues to be, even in his 70’s) a workaholic — my siblings, his grandkids and I have always wished he’d figured out a way to work less and spend more time with us instead.
As a young adult, I dropped out of college and spent the next couple of years drifting from one minimum wage job to another, paying more attention to the boys I was dating than to my financial future. I ended up broke and alone after my fiancée and I broke up. I learned that I couldn’t count on Prince Charming to sweep me off of my feet and take care of me.
My parents were struggling to make ends meet, so I couldn’t go home and become a burden on them. I abandoned my broken-down car, reduced my rent by sharing a one-bedroom apartment with three other women, and scarfed down free food during Happy Hour at our local bar (free appetizers with the purchase of a $2 draft). I learned to be resourceful and to do whatever it took to survive.
One night, while working the graveyard shift at a donut shop and pouring coffee for a homeless woman, I realized that I was one paycheck away from being homeless myself. That was my wake-up call. Motivated by fear of an uncertain future, I opened the Yellow Pages, called professional dog trainers and negotiated an unpaid apprenticeship. Less than a year later, I was hired by my mentor, and I loved the work. A couple years later, I started my own successful dog-training school. I learned the power of asking for what I want.
23 years ago, I got married. (No, that’s not how I became a millionaire… He was a construction worker, earning just $8 bucks an hour…) Anyway, by the time we had celebrated our second wedding anniversary, it was obvious that if our marriage was to survive, we needed to move away from his family. Quite frankly, my in-laws thought that I should “wear the skirt” and demonstrate subordination to their son, and since I was a “strong-minded” woman, they were not supportive of our relationship. I learned it was critical to reduce my exposure to toxic people. We packed our belongings and moved to Colorado.
…To Millionaire Mommy!
Money ranks as the first most argued topic for many couples. It has been estimated that an astounding 80% of divorces are the result of money disagreements. Having a child is considered the single best indicator of financial collapse.
I wanted a family, but I didn’t want to be one of those statistics.
My choice to form a family through adoption rather than pregnancy was a decision I made when I was an idealistic teenager. (The way I figured it, why “make my own” child when there are countless orphans dying for a family already?) Since I planned to adopt, my biological time clock wasn’t a ticking time bomb. When I was 30, I decided to achieve financial freedom before adopting our daughter because I didn’t want to repeat our parent’s experiences. Both my husband and I grew up with young, struggling, work-all-the-time parents and quite frankly, that often stunk. We didn’t want money issues to negatively impact our family.
Over the course of the next couple years, I made it my mission to learn about personal finance, investing, entrepreneurship and lifestyle design. With this newfound knowledge, I created a plan that would allow my husband and I to be free of our money worries.
And it worked! By age 40, we were 100% debt free and had over a million dollars in the bank!
Today, we are proud and happy stay-at-home parents to our amazing young daughter. Financially free, our family hasn’t set an alarm clock in years. Whether it be work, parenting or play, we wake with the sun, eager to spend each new day doing whatever we choose.
We consider ourselves “closet millionaires”. You’d have no clue that we’re millionaires by looking at our Stuff. Our family lives a typical middle-class lifestyle with one fantastic exception– we only work when we want to. Financial freedom affords us the gift of free time.
Contrary to popular belief, most millionaire households do not live the extravagant lifestyles that many assume. In fact, a millionaire or two may be living inconspicuously next door to you! The authors of the bestseller, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, found the top reason for why some people manage to accumulate wealth is that they live below their means. Many millionaires have found that living in a status neighborhood is not only a poor value, but it makes one feel the need to keep buying status objects to keep up with the Joneses.
Like most millionaires in their study, we live our lives and spend our money in ways that are in alignment with our values, interests and passions. We tend to be do-ers, not have-ers: we don’t care much for “stuff” (a McMansion home, new clothes, iPads or jewelry), but we spend generously on recreational pursuits, organic foods and long trips to faraway places. We make efforts to be environmentally green. By reducing our consumption, we save money in the process.
Why I Created “The Millionaire Mommy Next Door”
Women need more money than men. Why? (No, not so we can buy more shoes, handbags and manicures.) We need more money because we live longer than men, make significantly less salary than our male peers, and are more likely to be single parents raising a family on one income. Women comprise 87% of the impoverished elderly. A woman who works full-time for 40 years will earn $523,000 less than her male counterpart. At age 65, that extra half a million dollars could keep her from becoming one of the elderly poor!
What do these grim statistics tell us? They tell us that women, especially as they become older, are not prepared to take care of themselves financially. Yet nearly 90% of all women will end up managing their finances alone at some point in their lives.
I want to share my story and lessons learned because I’m at a point in my life where I’d like to “pay it forward”. The financial industry is rarely focused on women – my intention is to offer a supportive community and a female perspective. And my blog isn’t just about sharing my story: I’ve pledged my blog’s profits (from paid advertisements placed in the sidebar) as no-interest microloans for small businesses operated by working, impoverished women in developing countries.
Attention MEN! You are most welcome here too! Last surveyed, 35-40% of the readers of my blog are men. The topics I write about are gender-neutral and relevant for everyone, whether you have ovaries or testicles. I dare you not to learn something new here! And while you’re at it, please tell the women in your life to check it out as well.
Want To Know Even MORE About My Journey???
I’ve written a five-part series that details my story and the important lessons I’ve learned along the way:
- How I Became a Millionaire (Part 1: Childhood)
- How I Became A Millionaire (Part 2: Early Adulthood)
- How I Became A Millionaire (Part 3: My Twenties)
- How I Became A Millionaire (Part 4: My Thirties)
- From Minimum Wage to Millionaire (Part 5: My Early 40′s)
Finally, here are the archived blog posts I’ve written that are tagged “about me”.
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