¡Saludos a todos! For most people, the word "millionaire" conjures up a mental image of a hot shot living a flashy lifestyle with big cars, bigger homes, fancy gourmet meals, endless travel, and pockets hemorrhaging $100 bills. As crazy as that image might sound, for many individuals that's the life of a "real" millionaire. When my wife and I crossed over to millionaire status last year, we were both excited to finally hit our seven-figure goal. However, at no point did we ever consider "living large" just because we were now "rich."
Here are the referral links for the credit cards we currently use:
1. Millionaire Household
My wife is not a millionaire and I'm not one either. Instead, we're equal members of a millionaire household which simply means that our combined assets are over $1 million. Said another way, we're both half-millionaires. Okay, so maybe we're faux millionaires or millionaire wannabes...we're living a lie! While being a member of a millionaire household isn't as impressive as being a millionaire individually, it'll have to do for now.
2. 99% of Our Wealth is Trapped in Tax-Favored Accounts
The majority of our money (99%) is tied up in tax-favored accounts: IRA, 457, HSA, Coverdell ESA, UTMA, and 529. All of those funds have stipulations that would trigger fees, penalties, and taxes if we were to take income distributions from the accounts. For example, if we liquidated our positions today, I'm sure that we'd lose at least 20% of our portfolio to income taxes and early-withdrawal penalties.
3. Less Than $10k in Our Taxable Accounts
The flip side of point number two is that we have less than $10k in our taxable accounts. We currently have almost $9k in our jointly-owned Vanguard VTSAX mutual fund. Other than our checking and savings accounts, that's the only money we have available to us outside our tax-favored accounts. When I think about that, I sure don't feel like a millionaire.
4. Scrawny Checking & Savings Accounts
Millionaires have big fat bank balances, right? Maybe so, but not us. We currently have less than $2k in our checking and savings accounts (check out the net worth statement above...$1,600!). We'll have to make do with those funds until we get our next IRA distribution in January of 2018.
5. No Home, No Car, No TV
Have you ever met a millionaire who doesn't own a home, car, or TV? If not, nice to meet you! We sold our home in 2015, and later got rid of both cars and our TV in 2016. We donated one car to charity and gave the other one to a relative. Later, we dropped our TV off at a Goodwill. Since we FIRE'd in September of 2016, we've rented Airbnb apartments, stayed with relatives, or lived in our apartment in Merida. Not having a home, a car, or a TV feels very unmillionaire-like.
6. Our Income Usually Ends at the 10% Tax Bracket
If you've ever read any of my "Free Money" posts, you know how we try to minimize our taxes by keeping our taxable income low. Ideally, our taxable income should end at the end of the 10% tax bracket. However, if we go beyond the 10% tax bracket, we are well aware that we enter into the 15% tax bracket. Sometimes we don't work our plan perfectly and end up paying at a 15% rate on a portion of our income. Nevertheless, the end of the 10% tax bracket is our taxable-income goal. Here are our taxable income goals over the last four years (Year * 10% Tax Bracket Income Goal * Income Tax Owed):
Do those look like millionaire income numbers to you? I didn't think so.
7. A Chunk of Our Meager Income Is a Roth IRA Conversion
In 2016 most of our taxable income was a $30k Roth IRA conversion, so actual spendable income that year was very low. (Fortunately, we had some cash from the sale of our home in 2015.) In 2017 we plan on making a $20k Roth IRA conversion which should push our taxable income up to about $55k. (So much for keeping our taxable income in the 10% tax bracket!) However, it's important to realize that in 2017 we've lived off about $35k ($55k - $20k). Living on about $3k a month doesn't make for much of a millionaire, does it?
8. We Sometimes Live with Our Relatives
After selling our house in 2015 and moving out of our apartment in 2016, we suddenly no longer had our own place. Since we were planning on a big trip to Mexico, it didn't make sense to set up another living arrangement. Instead, we stayed with relatives in Tennessee and Georgia in between our trips back and forth to Mexico. (We've made three multi-month trips to Mexico since leaving our jobs in Douglas, Georgia in May of 2016.)
I realize staying with family is a no-go for many people, but my wife and I get along great with our extended families. Sure, there were moments when we wanted to be in our own place, but overall our stays were enjoyable. Plus, we were able to catch up with many of our relatives because we were available to visit with people (after all, we didn't have a job ruining our schedule). It was fun being boomerang millionaires!
9. We Rarely Eat at Fancy Restaurants
Eating out can be great, but it can also be very expensive. Back in our money-moron days (hat tip: Scott Alan Turner), we ate out all the time. As we became more frugal, we realized that taming our restaurant bill would require eating at home. We soon realized that we were both good cooks, so the transition was easy...plus, we suddenly had leftover meals for lunches. The more we ate our own cooking the less appealing eating out became; we both realized that we could prepare better meals than most of the restaurants we frequented.
These days we prefer to eat out at restaurants that prepare food that we can't make at home. I'll be honest, I'm always up for a good lunch buffet: Chinese, Indian, fried seafood, etc. Lunch buffets also tend to be moderately priced with fresh food. You'll never see us dropping $100 at restaurants.
10. We Don't Dress to Impress
Sweet shoes, right? It's amazing how few clothes you need when you're not working anymore. My wardrobe consists of workout clothes, shorts, short-sleeve shirts, a pair of jeans, and comfortable shoes. My wife has a similar wardrobe. Since we're simply enjoying life, we don't have to dress to impress people. Don't get me wrong, we don't walk around dressed like hobos, but our clothes would never suggest millionaire status. (Not all of my shoes look like those in the photo!)
The Big Finish
Voila, those are a few of the reasons we're not "real" millionaires. I'm sure there are other millionaires out there living a similar existence. Are you an offbeat millionaire? If yes, how so? I look forward to your comments.
Carlessly and Homelessly Yours,
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This Post Has 56 Comments
Me Encanta Mexico! For all and intents and purposes you are millionaires, but I get your point. The better idea is that you are free. Congrats again. Perhaps, we will see you in Mexico someday. It will give me a chance to get back to being fluent in Spanish again (I used to live in Cuernavaca and translate for Mexican migrant farmworkers).
The freedom aspect is key. Having the ability pick up and move for a family adventure is priceless. I share your love of Mexico; here in the Yucatan the people are incredibly nice. I enjoy working on my Spanish every day…the taxi and Uber drivers seems to be a great source of information. The U.S. perception of Mexico is far from the reality we experience on a day to day basis. Let me know when you make it to the Yucatan. Ed
Howdy Millionaire Educator …. thanks for liking my FB page … I live on the far side of the planet …. and have my funds wrapped up in real estate here … zero investments back home … seeing I am a non -resident back home … I also have a bunch in the HK Stock Market etc …. am close to crossing over? 🙂 from FI to ER …. ER i.e. the the semi-retirement route …. I have been blogging about 6 or 7 weeks now and am learning the ropes from international overseas perspective … chat more later … CPO, From the Far Side of the Planet
Welcome to FIREdom Michael,
You’ll find there are lots of interesting people in this space. The most important part of FIRE is the FI part because that’s the element that provides your freedom options. We’re temporarily ER, but I have an eye on a few more years of hardcore savings while my son attends middle and high school. If I were younger, I might interested in an overseas teaching job, but there is so much money to be SAVED here in the U.S. It’s hard to leave so much money on the table Stateside. Thanks for visiting. Ed
Most of those so-called millionaires living in fancy houses and driving nice cars, probably aren’t really millionaires and are just playing the part. You guys are doing great! Keep up your frugal lifestyle and you’ll each be millionaires before you know it. My husband and I are both teachers, and we track our net worth as a couple, as well. We have a ways to go before we reach millionaire status, but we are working towards it. Your story is very inspiring!
Hello Mrs. Farmhouse Finance,
Like most people I like nice things, it’s just the paying for those things that I don’t like. I also hate spending tons of money to maintain, insure, and improve cars and homes. Avoiding crazy bills the last two years has been an awesome experience. As for becoming an individual millionaire, I sometimes get the itch to take another fat-cat teaching job and pulling my ole 100% hardcore savings maneuver. Saving a couple $100k more would certainly get us to that next level. Thanks for the kind words and good luck hitting your net worth goals. Ed
I hope to be a fellow “offbeat” millionaire someday (though I think I’ll keep our house if we can 😉 ). I think this is a great example of why we need to focus on a good life, not an excessive life, as we pursue FI or other goals. You may not have an excessive, flashy millionaire life, but you seem pretty happy with your “offbeat millionaire” status!
Mrs. Adventure Rich,
The good life doesn’t have to cost that much, does it? My wife and I will be buying a home next month, so I had to squeeze that “No Car, No Home, No TV” piece in there before it became a lie. Rest assured that it will be a modest “millionaire-maker” home. Down the road we’ll have to get a car too. We’re still debating whether or not we need a TV. Glad there are other offbeat individuals out there pursuing a similar dream. Frugal on, Ed
I second Jason that y’all are millionaires but you are helping destroy the stereotype of successful people are those that live in mansions and drive flashy cars. Nothing wrong with that life but I just read “The Millionaire Next Door” and y’all are certainly PAWs and not UAWs!
Wow, PAW…now that’s high praise (blushes)! The traditional millionaire dream sounds more in more like a nightmare to us these days. Big homes, fast cars, and BIGGER bills. Nope, not happening here! Plus, I hate the accompanying stress of having to make those payments. I can’t wait to reveal our next home purchase in a few weeks. You offbeat weirdos are going to love it! Ed
Great post Ed. You do not meet all of the traditional criteria of what the general public might think of when they think of what a millionaire is. In my opinion, the only thing that matters is that you have a large enough net worth that makes you financially independent. With time and future returns, you are sure to fall into some of the traditional millionaire categories such as growing your net worth to $2M. At that point, both your wife and yourself will each have $1M to call your own.
That next level of net worth will happen eventually. We have pensions that start paying at age 60, so we won’t have to tap into our funds nearly as much. Plus, there’s always the possibility that we might unFIRE for a year or two and go to hardcore savings mode. Nothing mushrooms your net worth more than savings almost all of your money, right?
However, right now we’re just focusing on enjoying life and getting our son through 6th grade. Ed
The millionaire next door! Love it.
Some of my favorite restaurants are hole in the wall ethnic places that are cheap and cook styles of food I wouldn’t be able to replicate without a lot of practice… and bad meals. 🙂
My dining out criteria is pretty simple: where do the locals eat when spending their hard-earned money? I think I’m going to start a page of my favorite “budget” restaurants. Now that’s a reference page you can sink your teeth into! Thanks for visiting. Ed
Wow thank you for your honest thoughts and analysis! I’ve always wondered about a millionaire household and millionaire individual. That makes a lot of sense.
A lot of our network is tied in our equity, so we don’t have that much cash to live a lavish life either. I love that you and your family live such a simple yet fulfilling life!
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance,
Our life does feel pretty fulfilling for sure. It’s safe to say that we’re living a middle-class lifestyle here in Mexico. The big difference is that it costs us about $1,500 a month…and that includes private school tuition. Not lavish, but certainly not a bottom-of-the-barrel lifestyle. Thanks for checking out my site. Ed
Love the post. It really emphasizes the difference between income and wealth. Sharing now…
Greetings White Coat Investor,
We build our wealth working as teachers, and our pay wasn’t bad. I believe we topped out at $135k between the two of us. Not doctor’s level of pay, but not too shabby either. Fortunately, we were able to save most of it in 403b and 457 plans. Wealth grows fast when you have two “401k” plans and are committed to savings. Our formula worked for us; I wish more people would try it. Thanks for reading. Ed
Looks like you’re having more fun than the stereotypical millionaire, and I bet your money will last longer too!
Veronike, we are having lots of fun. My only complaint is that we’re locked into a school schedule which goes against my “free spirit” ways. However, that doesn’t bother me because our son loves his school, teachers, and classmates.
We don’t plan on depleting our portfolio by revving up our spending any time soon. Plus, we’ll get our pensions when we turn 60, so we should be A-okay. Thanks for checking out my blog; I’m going to take a look at yours. Ed
Nice. My favourite blog posts are numbered lists. Must be the teacher in me. (and you perhaps) Like you, I’m home-free, with only a small apartment, car-free and am living the life of a geo-arbitrager since retiring in 2013. Love the last photo of your shoes. I did finally splurge this summer and buy waterproof hiking shoes which have become my everyday shoes as I travel about. Thanks for keeping it real with a post like this.
I just had a conversation this morning with my wife about “listicles.” It seems some in the blogging world hate them. I sometimes feel like I’m cheating when I bang a post derived from a list of facts. The truth is that somethings just read better in a list. Plus, it helps me organize my galloping thoughts.
I’m glad you liked the shoes; it’s hard to give them up. Enjoy your low-profile offbeat millionaire lifestyle. Hammer on, Ed
It’s ironic how those that “live like millionaires” tend not to have the supporting Net Worth. The people that live a more frugal life, on the other hand, can have surprising bank accounts! I loved reading your story and can certainly relate to it. Net worth is what you have, not what you spend. Being FIRE, you have unlimited time to do as you please. To me, that makes you rich! Congrats on being FIRE and on the Rockstar Feature.
Thanks Jason. Frugal living plus a decent stream of income is a magical combination. I’m pretty sure we could replicate our lifestyle in thousands of other awesome locations throughout the world. We don’t plan on living a “real” millionaire lifestyle until we become billionaires. Ed
You sound normal to me! We do have cars and a house and even TV’s and my side hustles make money I don’t need but I enjoy earning and we don’t live in Mexico, though there are those who would consider Arkansas kind of third worldish? But as far as living modestly in spite of millions I totally get you. I think in this community it is normal to be abnormal, in a good way!
Steveark, I’ve never been to Arkansas and would love to check it out. (Whenever I hear or read Arkansas, I think “Folke” and “Boggy Creek.” My earliest Squatch memories are all those crazy Arkansas legends!) As long as frugal living is abnormal, we plan on being societal freaks. Thanks for reading! Ed
Your net worth is very interesting. It’s really cool that you have total control over your taxable income. The Roth conversion is a boon for you guys. Most of our net worth is in our tax advantaged accounts too.
We live modestly, but we still spend over $50,000 per year. The overhead here is high. Someday, we’ll move to a cheaper location. Not in a big hurry, though.
Joe, it sounds like you’re finances are sweetly optimized too…high five! Staying in control of our taxable income has become easier now that our ongoing costs are so low. As for our Roth accounts, we won’t be able to convert all of our money, but we should be able to get a decent chunk to Roth status. That will help down the road when we have pension income and RMD income.
You’re $50k a year lifestyle is far from worst case scenario. Nicely done. Ed
Definitely a different perspective on your status as a “millionaire.” The literal definition is “someone who has a million dollars,” so I like the distinction of “millionaire household.” At the end of the day, you have to do what makes you happy. There’s more to life than money. Would you really be doing anything differently if you had more money? No, probably not.
Right on Kristine. We’re pretty happy doing what we’re doing. We’re not averse to working for more money, but any future work won’t be out of necessity.
I swear this reads like a chapter from “The Millionaire Next Door.”
And if you’re ever in Chicago we should all go to the Indian buffet downtown. It comes with a platter of tandoori chicken and bottomless naan, plus all of your favorites like pakora, samosas, masalas, and more. All for $15. Happy, happy, joy, joy!
OMGF, a $15 Indian buffet…I’m in! That will be my mega carb-load for the month. If I make to Chicago, I’ll be sure to contact you. Thanks, Ed
You are basically the definition of a millionaire next door 🙂 I love it, your description is exactly how I picture our eventual ‘retirement’. Just living the life you love, with no one to impress, because just living your life fulfills you and makes you happy.
Congratulations and I wish you many more stress free years of FIRE.
Thank you Budget Epicurean. We’re enjoying our no-frills free time these days. It really doesn’t take much to make us happy, and it doesn’t have to cost much either. I wish more people would try it. Thanks for visiting, Ed
You’re description sounds like “the millionaire next door”
BAMFmoney, we saved hard since 2009 while really minimizing our lifestyle. Our jobs we’re good ones, teaching jobs with lots of years of experience and multiple graduate degrees. Our pay was good, but not “off the charts” by any means.
We drove two used cars for twelve years each; one actually made it to 300k miles! By keeping living expenses low and our savings rate high we were able to hit the FF button on our net worth. The fun part was that it never felt like suffering; it was awesome banking five figures a month. So glad we did it! Thanks for visiting, Ed
A million just isn’t what it used to be!
Trust me you aren’t missing anything by not paying a high tax bracket or eating out at expensive restaurants. Personally, I think living “efficiently” is awesome and the best food is at cheap ethnic restaurants. Congrats!
Woe is me Wealthy Doc! We have to live on the efficiently because we’re barely a millionaire household. If only we had some real money…
Actually, life is pretty good these days. We love knowing how much our income will be, how much tax we’ll pay, and my wife and I don’t miss the ongoing bills.
There are lots of low-cost delicious food options here in Merida, Mexico. I working on a post to highlight some of our favorite frugal dining choices. Thanks for the comment, Ed
Oh, man. What can I say, Ed. Every time I read one of your posts, my man-crush grows. I’m a “fake” millionaire too. And I can’t wait to be a boomerang millionaire as well. Great freaking post, my friend. Cheers.
Hola Sr. Groovy,
I HAD to write this post because many people seem to think hitting the Double-Comma Club is the go-ahead to live like a rock star. Ha! As we both know, $1 million could be blown on a two-day bender if you’re Hell bent on spending money. The whole you-have-money-now-so-live-a-little mentality drives me nuts. (Hey caca-for-brains, that’s why you’re BROKE and tied to your sucky job still!)
There I feel better now! My wife and I don’t aspire to be “real” millionaires with a make-it-rain lifestyle. Heck to the NO!
When we make it up to Charlotte, we’ll have to check out some good frugal eating options with you guys. I’m still a pretty big eater, so I’m always interested in a good buffet (with low-carb options of course!). Thanks for the kind words hermano en frugalidad. Eduardo
p.s. You’re podcast with Choose FI was awesome. I’m so glad you escaped to Flyover Country!
In my book you are the epitome of a millionaire! It’s funny how I used to picture a millionaire popping champagne, driving Ferrari’s, and don’t forget the pinky ring.
Now, if I see someone with a fancy car or lavish spending, I just assume they’re broke!
Andrew, I love the mental imagery…a pinky ring! Don’t forget the ascot tie. Thanks for stopping by, Ed
Just found your blog through Rockstar Finance. Great post! I read your About Page. Where in Saudi did you teach? I lived in Dhahran for three years in the 80s. It was an amazing experience.
Hello Out of Pocket Finance,
I was just north of Dhahran in Jubail. I spent five years getting back up to $0 and building my first $100k. At the time I thought I was making great money, but now I realize that teachers can save more more in the U.S. (Thanks to the double 401k plans: 457 & 403b) It’s funny how your perspective changes as you learn new things. I’m glad I went to Saudi, but I’m also glad that I no longer live there. Thanks for visiting, Ed
Enjoyed your article…I am amazed at how closely choices you have made for your living style agree with the choices we have made…with similar finances. We have decided we will go fulltime RVing in the near future. That lifestyle can be very inexpensive if you decide to make it so. Thank you for all the information & insights. I think that preserving savings becomes a game for some of us…I enjoy all my thrift store, estate sale & garage sale buys! In the meantime purchasing good insurance (health, auto, etc.) is not unobtainable…because the funds are available! We also have become “almost” minimalists!
Hello Susan, isn’t it amazing how little it costs to live an enjoyable life? Here in Mexico we live well for about $1,500 a month, and that includes private school tuition. I hear you on the minimalism: we’ve gotten rid of stuff and stopped buying things, so our possessions are pretty minimal these days. My big purchases here in Merida have been a coffee maker, a crockpot, and a grill. I was so happy to buy those things because they improved my quality of life. Thanks for stopping by, Ed
So true! Also Merida looks awesome. We went down there for a month during college and it was a great experience to get out of the U.S. bubble we live in and experience life in a totally different culture. Really makes you realize how much excess we take for granted in the US.
Jim, you never know how good you have it until you travel and experience the world a little. There are so many nice things about living in Merida: the friendly people, the winterless weather, the good food, the convenient shopping, and the overall low-cost of living. Everything seems so expensive when I get back to the States! Our time here has been a great experience for all of us. Thanks for stopping by, Ed
so appreciate the realness of this post – I can’t wait to be a “fake” millionaire millionaire too…hehe 🙂
Jamie, you’ll be there before you know it. The trick is to cultivate an enjoyable and frugal lifestyle that enables to save a boatload. Saving money while enjoying life is a magical combination. See you in Fauxmillionairiolandia… Ede
Love this post! Thanks for taking the time to put it together. We’ve always had combined finances and that seems to make goal setting easier. I look forward to following your site. Thanks.
Two people working towards a financial goal is beyond powerful. Plus, you have someone to celebrate with when you hit your goal! I can’t wait to check out your website. Happy New Year, Ed
Great post. A million isn’t what it used to be 🙂 Btw, I’m impressed with those running shoes. They have lasted 5 years??!! How? I find it’s difficult to find good quality shoes nowadays.
I slathered a couple of dollops of Shoe Goo on them about 18 months ago. The soles are getting paper thin, I stepped on a rock the other and it hurt like crazy! I have a few pairs of well worn shoes that will never see the States again. Thanks for stopping by, Ed
It’s amazing how easy it is to blow money on restaurant food! Like you, I’ve realized I enjoy homemade food more than restaurant food. Most restaurants saturate their food in salt and fat. Who needs that? Lucky you for enjoying Mexico! I definitely want to spend more time there.
A hundred bucks in a restaurant will never compare with a $100 in a grocery store. That said, I do like eating out now and again, but I rarely order something that I could make at home. It had better be something special! I’m dying to get back to Mexico (we’re in GA these days), but we have things to do here, mainly school. Thanks for reading, GB