We have always maxed out our retirement accounts. That slow-and-steady process allowed me to reach $500k in my early 40s. Combined with my wife’s retirement accounts we recently passed the one million dollar mark. What allowed us to retire early was the amount we had in our taxable investment account. Here’s some background on how we made our second million dollars.
The First Million
If you haven’t already read how slow and steady got me to $500k, you might want to check out that post now. My wife had similar results so between our accounts we were able to recently pass the $1 million mark. If you have a hard time seeing how to hit a million dollars in your personal retirement accounts, check out the post Here’s how much you’ll have if you max out your 401k plan.
As someone recently commented, not everyone makes enough money to max out their retirement accounts. I understand and that’s a very real challenge for a lot of people. Two thoughts on that – yes it does tie into this topic.
1. If you cannot max out your retirement accounts, you might not need to. As shown in the awesome chart over at Early Retirement Charted, what matters more than what you earn is how much you save. I mean, how much you save relative to what you earn. There are early-retirees in their 40s who never earned more than average salaries. A comfortable retirement is possible if that is indeed a priority.
2. The second thought leads to the heart of this topic. If you don’t feel like you are making enough money to save and invest, perhaps you are right. In that case, you might want to consider making more money. I wrote about my experience changing careers so that I can earn about 4x more just a few years later. It might take some hard work but here are 7 actionable tips that can help you in the process.
Continuing The Story
At the point that I paused my earlier backstory, I self-taught myself technology, changed careers and moved to another state for a higher paying opportunity. At the end of that post I wrote:
“I had a couple more job changes within the same career field. Ultimately what I learned – in skills from self-training, and experience from the positions I held, and also from taking calculated risks – put me in a position to start my own business. But that’s a story for another day…”
Today’s that day.
While doing all of the studying and learning that I previously mentioned, I was also putting those skills to use. My area of exploration was technology, specifically with coding (creating programs). What I would do is take whatever I had learned most recently and implement it. It didn’t matter what the program did – it just needed to work as expected. This allowed me to fine-tune my knowledge. It also provided a LOT of real-life troubleshooting experience. Because, believe me, rarely did something work as expected after my first attempt.
The Side Hustle
While I was learning – and still working a full-time job – I took on some side projects. I was able to locate a couple of small businesses that either needed programming or web design. This was in the mid-90s so we didn’t have all the fancy tools that we do today. Even WordPress wouldn’t be released for another seven years.
Those first two years of side-hustling honestly weren’t quite break-even financially. After the courses, hosting, tools, internet access, and other needs were covered, there wasn’t any profit to speak of.
But I was gaining a ton of experience. With every project, I got better and more efficient. My client base also continued to expand.
The Pivot Background
Right around this time, the Internet was “becoming a thing”. Netscape (remember them?) was a fairly new solution that let people surf the web for the first time. Because of these advances, clients started asking for code that would run on a website.
Guess what? I had to teach myself Internet technologies to deal with this shift. It was hard work. Back then we couldn’t just “Google something” to get an answer. It was mainly trial and error. Emphasis on error. But I was able to figure most of it out and make the transition into web development.
It was exhausting because I was working nights and weekends while I still maintained my full-time job. Thankfully my wife is an amazingly understanding and supportive person. I couldn’t have made it work without her.
Two years after I had started writing desktop applications (for Windows) I found myself with a decent-sized group of clients with steady website work. In those early days of generally accessible Internet, it was hard to find decent web hosts. Clients constantly commented about poor levels of support everywhere they tried to find hosting.
Problem identified; solution developed.
So I bought a server, found somewhere to locate it with fast Internet access, and started hosting. The new venture was named ORCS Web, Inc. (aka OrcsWeb).
Two years into it, we were making money. But not much. Not as much as I was making in my full-time job. But it was bringing in close to what my wife was making.
So guess what she did? Just like I did a couple of years earlier, she put in the work to learn the business and the technology. If you know her, you know she isn’t a tech geek. This was hard work for her. But she saw the potential and she wanted it for us. She did what was necessary to make it work.
And work it did. Over the years we went on to hire dozens of employees located across a half dozen states. We even had one employe