Welcome back to the millionaire interview series. I started this series to get inside the heads of actual millionaires and see what they did to get there. It really matters who you get your information from so I thought it best to go out and find millionaires we can listen to.
Today’s guest is an anonymous blogger who goes by the name OthalaFehu. He’s 44 and married with 2 boys ages 12 & 8. He’s got all kinds of good content on his blog so be sure to check it out! 44 is quite young to have a million dollar net worth, so I’m excited to share this interview with you!
What is your net worth and what does it consist of? (Is it in stocks, real estate, something else? Do you currently have any debt?)
I am currently sitting on about a 1.8 million dollar net worth that consists of real estate, stocks, bonds, precious metals, and cash. I also still carry mortgages on 2 homes. ($400,000)
At what age did you become a millionaire?
For some reason it was important to me to hit the 1 million mark before I turned 40, I did it with 3 months to spare.
Tell us a bit about your childhood, where are you from, what were your parents like? Did they teach you much about money?
I experienced two distinct forms of childhood. For 12 years I lived a happy blissfully unaware suburbia middle-class existence. Then my parents got divorced and I became poor real quick and had to move to a way smaller life. My mother makes terrible impulsive money decisions based upon her immediate wants, my father is frugal to the point where you would have to call him cheap. I tend towards my father, but consciously remember to spend money now and again on purpose.
How did you learn what you know about finance?
Largely from lurking on the internet, living vicariously through early versions of personal net worth blogs.
What is the best advice you’ve received about money?
Live below your means.
What is the worst advice you’ve received about money?
You can buy yourself out of unhappiness
Did you go to college?
I went all the way. College and Law School, 19th grade.
What is your career story and are you still working?
Guilted along by good grades and no real sense of what to do with myself, I went to law school like so many other suckers in the nineties. I started as a Public Defender in a big city, gravitated to Prosecution in a small town, and finally settled where I am now, still practicing law but not in front of the bench any longer.
Are you happy with your career choice? What would you have done if you had to do something else to make a living?
I am OK with my career path, I like being a lawyer and a cog in the wheel of justice and all that. My brain is stimulated and I do get to help people out in my community.
My next two choices would have been college professor (poly-sci or philosophy) and guy who rich people give their money to in order to grow their fortunes. I suppose that is a certain kind of financial advisor.
What has been your average annual income up to this point?
I would call it $75,000 plus good government benefits. My wife makes more because she works for the federal government. These are solid salaries, but it is not like I made my money by being in the 1% or anything.
If you’re married, what has been your spouse’s annual income up to this point?
See above. Side note, I do not understand why any man would be upset that his wife makes more than him. I have thoroughly enjoyed this fact every year since we graduated law school together.
Do you or your spouse do anything on the side for income?
We rent out our vacation home through VRBO, so that is like low key property rental.
What has been your average savings rate? (Roughly speaking)
Our savings rate has always been healthy because we were both raised very blue collar. Our jobs kept giving us more and more money, but we continued to live as if we were making $40,000 per year. I would estimate that we saved around 40% over the years, including all the money we automatically sent to retirement accounts.
What was your spouse's savings rate?
We have very similar views on what to spend money on, neither one of us are very materialistic.
What is your average annual spending?
You can get a detailed version of our budget here. The Ballpark figure is $90,000+
Have you had much debt over the course of your life?
Huge. Law school cost us about $100k EACH. I joke that my wife came with a reverse dowry. It took us 13 years to pay off over $220,000 in student loans. We did not hurry to do it because they were locked in at 3.5%, but it was still a big relief to finally see them gone.
What has been your investing strategy?
I am a big fan of the buy and hold dividend portfolio. This is where I stuff my discretionary investments. All of our traditional retirement vehicles are likely in index funds with low fees.
What was your best investment?
Percentage-wise, I bought palladium at $270 an ounce, it hovers around $1,000 an ounce. I have also bought Apple at $23/share. But my best investment was my wife. Throwing my lot in with her has doubled our ability to achieve FIRE.
What was your worst investment?
I bought a new car one time, never again. Rode some loser stocks all the way down. I have also bought things that I thought I needed (like a briefcase) that I have never used. Not that this was terribly expensive, but I got ZERO use out of it, that is a lousy investment.
What has been the average rate of return on your investments?
To get a deeper look at our investments, you can check them out here. There is a broad range of accounts we invest in so it’s better to take a look at that page.
Are you currently trying to accumulate more wealth or are you done with that phase of life?
I am still accumulating. My children are still only 12 and 8, so that is my wildcard. I need about 5 more years at our current pace to really be worry-free. When they are out and in school, the only other variable will be healthcare.
What would you have done differently with your finances if you could go back?
I wasted a lot of money/health smoking for years and spending money on food that was not even good. Other than that I have not made any huge easy to point out mistakes. You could always spend less and maybe earn more, but I have a pretty good track record so far.
What was the biggest roadblock to becoming a millionaire?
Learning the language of money. Until you know what all of these PF terms mean, how you can exploit them to work for you. Ignorance holds many of us back.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve done with money in your life?
Securing the family cottage ‘up north’ for me and my children was quite an accomplishment. It is our little piece of paradise and we were once on the verge of losing it.
I am also very pleased that we used our inherited deceased in-laws' money to fund our child’s higher education. They may not have known them as people, but they will be grateful to them as benefactors.
Has giving money played a part in your finances?
I have been able to help out friends and family members, but I do so grudgingly and do not want to talk about it. (Folds arms)
Do you plan to leave an inheritance when you pass or where do you want the money to go?
I make a big deal out of inter-generational wealth. I am careful not to spoil my kids, but I also long to craft a financial footing that will give them a leg up in life.
Do you think anyone can become a millionaire today?
No. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I think the income limits are what would hold someone back. It is the poor money management. I feel it myself, it is too easy to try and spend your way to feeling better. Not everyone has the discipline to whip their finances into the shape they need to be to acquire a million dollars.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone trying to become a millionaire?
Automate your savings. Hide the money from yourself, take human nature and impulse out of the equation.
Is there anything I didn’t cover that you would like to add?
Stay healthy, none of this financial freedom means anything if you don’t have your health.
MD wrap up
Thanks, OthalaFehu! I really enjoyed reading your perspective on money and hold the same views as your strategy. Just throw as much money as you can into low-cost index funds and you will eventually become wealthy. I understand your thoughts on if everyone can become millionaires. It certainly defies the norm to not spend your money and invest it instead. Hopefully, as this idea becomes more mainstream, more people will make smarter choices with their money!