How can you become a millionaire?
Here’s the story of how I went from having $20,000 in debt to becoming a millionaire, plus some of the lessons I learned along the way:
Do you have what it takes to become a millionaire?
I’m going to be really honest here. For years, I never imagined I would become a millionaire one day.
You see, I had too many things working against me.
My father filed for bankruptcy not once, but twice. My mom followed suit. Both of them were in financial ruin, as they were constantly dealing with one financial crisis or another.
Unfortunately, these money lessons were passed down to me.
Simply put, struggling with money was all I knew.
As a result, I failed hard at money in my early 20’s. My financial journey began with me opening credit cards I could not afford to manage, taking out student loans I didn’t need, and landing in $20,000 worth of credit card debt.
Once I reached that financial low, I can tell you with certainty that there was no way I could imagine becoming wealthy.
And now that I’ve reflected back on my past, I can see some of the core principles that got me there.
I firmly believe that, if you apply these principles to your own financial life, you also can also build long-lasting wealth. If you’re ready to go against the grain and change your fortunes, here are eight important steps to follow:
Step #1: Realize Your Harsh Truths
As I mentioned, I had everything going against me. When I was a young adult first starting out, my father actually encouraged me to take out credit cards whenever I wanted to buy new clothes. He said,
“Oh, if you can’t afford it, you can always take out a credit card and just make the payment.”
This was the type of financial advice that was passed down to me, so I thought that was just the way things were. Unfortunately, this advice led me to rack up $20,000 worth of credit card debt in my early 20’s.
So, the first thing I had to do was recognize an incredibly harsh truth. I had to recognize the fact my father was giving me bad advice. He loved me, but that doesn’t mean he was in a position to help me manage my money.
Chances are, you have some of your own harsh truths to realize. The first step to becoming a millionaire is figuring out what they are and how to handle them.
Step 2: Find Your Battle Buddy
When I was in college, I let some of the bad financial advice I was getting seep over into my personal life. For example, I helped my college girlfriend open a credit card, which she used to rack up her own credit card debt. Yikes.
While this is an unfortunate part of my past, it brings me to point number two. If you want to improve your financial life, you need to get a “battle buddy” – a friend or companion who is fighting the good fight right along with you.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the military, a battle buddy is someone you are introduced to during basic training. Your battle buddy becomes somewhat of a “best friend.” They know everything about you – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Most importantly, they are there to speak the truth to you even when you don’t want to hear it.
My girlfriend (who is now my wife) was the best battle buddy anyone could ask for. She spoke the truth to me constantly, even when I didn’t want to hear it.
When I wanted to buy something I couldn’t afford, she was the first person to tell me to put my wallet away. While it definitely hurt my pride and my ego, she was right. I didn’t want to hear it, but I needed to hear it.
And, I am so glad I listened.
Once I took her advice to heart, I started paying off that credit card along with my nagging student loans. After a few short years, all my debt was gone.
Having a financial battle buddy made all the difference for me, and it can also help you. Ask yourself who in your life you can turn to for accountability. Chances are, you have a battle buddy already and don’t even know it.
Step #3: Learn When To Say “No”
Learning how and when to say “no” isn’t easy, but it’s a skill all adults eventually need to master. If you want to get your money straight especially, learning how to say “no” (even when it’s hard) is an absolute must.
Here’s a personal example where I had to man up and say “no.”
My mom had just moved to Las Vegas, and this was right before the real estate bubble of 2008. Her property had skyrocketed in value, which was good news.
Unfortunately, she ended up taking some of the cash that she had from the previous sale of her house and using that money to invest in Las Vegas real estate. Now, I don’t know if you know or remember what happened, but those investment properties were no investments at all.
In the end, she ended up losing all of her money and all of those real estate investments.
But, before she lost all that money, she asked if I would help her cosign a loan.
Of course, my battle buddy didn’t like this idea. When I told my soon-to-be-wife about the situation, she shut me down really fast. But, there’s even more bad news. Since I had already hinted to my mother that I would do it, I had to go back and tell her I changed my mind.
As you can imagine, she wasn’t happy about it at all. She was frustrated and disappointed, and she let me know. The thing is, I knew to say “no” was the right answer. I couldn’t move forward knowing what a huge personal risk it would be.
Do people in your life ask for loans? Do they ask for a bailout when times are tough? Do they want to lean on your good credit because they ruined their own? Do they take advantage of you on an ongoing basis?
If you truly want to get ahead, you have to stand up for yourself. Learn to say “no” when you know it’s required, and you’ll be a lot better off.
Step #4: Let Your Hustle Do the Talking
The fourth principle that allowed me to become a millionaire is probably the most important. While a lot of people talk a big game when it comes to their financial “wins,” not everyone backs their words up with action.
This is one area of my life where I do rather well. While I wasn’t the smartest kid in school or even college, I have always been able to hustle. When I was in college full-time and had a calendar full of classes, I was also in the Army National Guard. During my senior year of college, I had two part-time jobs.
I always told myself that somebody might outsmart me, but they’ll never out-hustle me.
When I became a financial advisor, I applied the same hustle to my game. I started cold calling, then eventually started doing seminars. I hustled to grow my practice because I did not want to lose.
From there, I continued that hustle into the launch of my blog. I also launched a YouTube channel and a podcast shortly after. From there, I kept on hustling and eventually wrote my first book, Soldier of Finance.
What’s the lesson here?
You might not be the smartest person in the world, but guess what? You can still work harder than the person next to you.
Don’t talk about how you’re going to succeed; hustle until you get there. Words mean nothing, but hard work will get you through to the other side.
Step #5: Never Stop Learning
The fifth principle that allowed me to become a millionaire was the fact I have never stopped learning. While a lot of people want to stop learning once they graduate college, continuing to invest in knowledge is an investment that pays off!
One of the areas I was able to learn more was in my job as a financial advisor. Over time, I took more courses and became a Certified Financial Planner™ professional. Most people assume that, once you become a CFP®, you automatically earn more money.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. I didn’t get a pay raise or a cookie or a trophy. I didn’t get anything.
The thing is, the credentials I earned helped me earn money in other ways. Not only did becoming a CFP® give me more credibility, but it helped me grow my business faster.
Was the sacrifice worth it? Yes!
But, was it hard? Oh yes. It was excruciating at times.
While I was studying for my CFP® exam, we were preparing to have our first baby. So, not only was I dealing with sleepless nights, but I was studying during all my free time.
Obviously, I had to learn a lot to become successful at blogging, too. When I first got started, I barely knew how WordPress worked, let alone how to earn money from a website. To get up to speed, I read a ton of blog articles and did a ton of research.
I’m so glad I was always interested in learning something new. If I wasn’t, there’s no way I would be where I am today.
Step #6: Invest In Yourself
When most people think of investing in themselves, they think of earning an MBA. In my case, I already mentioned that I pursued the CFP® designation. Not only was that a time commitment, but I had to invest in the training, into the books, and into the actual test itself.
Every dollar I spent was money right out of my pocket.
Later in my career, I invested in coaching programs. I talk a lot about the Strategic Coach program I was a part of, and how that was a huge investment for me costing me $9,000 per year.
Being in that program and in Michael Hyatt’s Inner Circle, which was $25,000, is one of the top reasons I am now a millionaire.
These programs cost money, but the investment has paid off in spades.
The bottom line: “Invest in yourself, and you’ll see amazing results you couldn’t get elsewhere.”
Step #7: Surround Yourself with High Achievers
The next step to making millions ties into step number six. My wife and I are super selective when it comes to who we spend our time with as well as who our kids spend their time with.
I want to be around people that challenge me and call me out when I deserve it. When you surround yourself with people who care about their own lives and strive to be the best, that kind of energy is contagious.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. When you surround yourself with people who aren’t actively trying to improve their lives, it’s equally contagious. Worse, it’s toxic.
Surround yourself with people who want to win – people who are constantly learning and growing. Over time, their energy and presence will rub off on you and help you reach your own goals.
Step #8: Don’t Let Failure Define You
Remember how I said I started adulthood with $20,000 in credit card debt? That was a huge mistake, but I’ve made plenty of others. Did you know my first foray into real estate investing was a flop? Are you aware I’ve tried a ton of different business ideas that never worked out?
I’ve had a lot of successes, but I probably had four times as many failures.
Fortunately, I never let those failures define me. I didn’t let them derail me, and I didn’t let them prevent me from trying something new.
Every successful entrepreneur and every successful millionaire has tons of failures in their history. They may not advertise their failures as I do, but it’s true.
The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to fail, and when you do, don’t let your failures dictate your future. Sweep them under the rug and move on as quickly as you can.
The Bottom Line
When I look back on my story so far, I can say with 100 percent certainty that these steps were the impetus to becoming a millionaire.
Still, success is about a lot more than money…..at least to me. After all, my family’s success in life is what made it possible for us to adopt a daughter from the Philippines and raise money for her orphanage.
More money always equals more impact, and that’s the main reason I wanted to share these principles with you. Whether your goal is helping others or improving your own life, I truly believe anyone can become a millionaire – even you.
All it takes is a relentless focus on your goals, some hard work, and a promise to never give up.