In 2016, I retired early at 35. At the time, I had $900,000 saved, and within a few years was able to accumulate a $1 million net worth.
A big factor in my success wasn't the advice I received, but the advice I ignored. I built wealth the old-fashioned way — by working hard in a regular 9-to-5 job and making strategic financial moves that many people might disagree with.
Here are seven unpopular opinions that helped me retire early as a millionaire:
1. Company loyalty will make you poor.
If you're not switching jobs regularly, you're leaving money on the table. Taking a new position at a different company is one of the best ways to get a substantial raise.
I switched jobs five times in the span of my 14-year career and got a 15% to 20% raise each time. This increased my salary well beyond the rate of inflation.
Employers will do whatever is in their best interest, and employees should do the same.
2. Most millionaires are self-made.
A 2022 report from research firm Ramsey Solutions found that 74% of millennials believe millionaires inherited their money, and more than half of baby boomers think the same.
But many of the millionaires I knew built wealth on their own, and knowing that gave me greater financial motivation.
In fact, of the 10,000 millionaires that Ramsey Solutions surveyed, 79% didn't receive any inheritances. Instead, most of them got rich through "consistent investing, avoiding debt and smart spending."
3. Your life partner can hurt your finances.
Many of my friends got married young, in their early- to mid-20s. And now, a big point of relationship tension for a lot of them is money-related, like opposite spending habits or an unwillingness to have money conversations.
I chose to wait until I found someone who shared the same financial values — and it was one of the best life decisions I ever made.
Getting on the same page about finances with a partner might not be a priority for most people, but it was for me. Today, I have a supportive spouse who just as enthusiastic as I am about investing and living a frugal lifestyle.
4. You don't need to hustle 24/7.
You might think that hustling will make you rich faster, but it also means having less time to take care of your body. And no amount of money is worth neglecting your physical and mental health.
To grow your wealth, you don't need to always be moving, producing and working. Prioritizing things like sleep, exercise and a proper diet gives you the opportunity to refuel for the next day.
I always put my health first, and as a result, I feel happier and much more energetic, productive and creative.
5. Growing up poor doesn't mean you can't build wealth.
I came from a very low-income family. My grandfather was a pastor and barely got by financially because he wasn't good with his money.
My dad adopted those same habits and spent most of his early years living paycheck-to-paycheck. Luckily, he recognized his father's bad habits and changed his ways later in life.
He taught me the value of saving and investing, and told me that credit card debt would ruin my financial stability, like it did for his dad. I learned that even if without a six-figure salary, you can still get rich.
6. A prestigious degree doesn't guarantee wealth.
While your degree can help you get your foot in the right door, it's what you do after you graduate that makes the real difference.
I didn't have a fancy degree at an Ivy League. I saved up an emergency fund and invested at least 10% of my income early on. Over the years, that helped me create a comfortable retirement lifestyle.
My best advice is to look for less expensive options — perhaps paying in-state tuition at a school that has a great program in what you are interested in. Then take advantage of the alumni network and job placement opportunities from there.
7. Your passion won't pay the bills.
Rich celebrities will often tell you that they achieved success by following their passions. But that doesn't work for everyone.
It's easier for most of us to earn a living through our strengths than through our passions. Our passions tend to be more creative, and it's usually harder to earn a high salary in a creative field.
My hobby was photography, but I chose a career in software development because it was what I was good at. The salary difference between those two career paths is drastically different.
Now, as an early retiree, I'm actually able to enjoy and spend more time on my passions.
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