How to Earn One Million Dollars

by Ryan Yates

Every time I think of the term “one million dollars” I think of Dr. Evil and how he raises his pinky in thought. Dr. Evil had many plans for his million dollars, taking over the world and owning sharks with lasers are just the ones I remember off hand. What would you do with one million dollars? Would you buy a new car, a bigger house, better clothes, or more electronics? Today I’d like to share a humbling experience involving earning one million dollars.

A Little “Fall” Cleaning

Since fall officially started a few days ago, I figured it would be a great time to do some fall cleaning. I know everyone else in the world does “spring cleaning”, but I figure since I’m going to be in the house all weather it might as well be organized. 

I decided to start with the filing cabinet; it has put on a few pounds over past couple of years. I figured the tax return folders would be a great place to begin. I sent the family out for ice cream so I’d have few minutes to spread everything out without two little ones making snow angels in the paper wasteland. 

The process took about 30 minutes to complete and I was able to cut the documentation in half. I was feeling pretty proud of myself until I noticed a stack of papers that had the term “Social Security” stamped on the top. I’m sure you’ve received these in the mail too. They are the yearly mailings that the Social Security Administration sends out to inform you of the amount of benefits you will be receiving from the government once you are eligible. 

The mailing includes a yearly listing of the amount of money you’ve made since you started paying social security and Medicare taxes. The yearly amounts are typically the amount of money you’ve earn during those years.

My Social Security Statement

As I looked through my numbers I began to wonder how much they added up to. I grabbed the calculator and started punching away. I was extremely shocked when I read the total. I’ve made over one million dollars since I’ve been in the work force. That sounds pretty cool when you say it or read it, but it had a completely different effect on me.  

How could a person who works hard and has earned quite a bit of money be in such a shitty financial situation? My wife and I have changed our evil ways and are on the right path now, but what do I have to show for earning a million bucks? Not much. I’m underwater on a home I’m basically just renting, I’m still in debt, I own my cars – but they are nothing special, I only have $50,000 in my retirement accounts. As I reflected on these facts I began to feel sick.

How I’ll Keep More of My Next Million

The sick feeling only lasted little while. I began to think about the future. I began to understand that since I continue to earn money, I can make the next million dollar work for me. It will take planning and thought. It will take setting the right goals. It will take more work and sacrifice, but this time will be different. This time I’m much smarter. This time I understand my “money behaviors” and how they affect my life. I will win, and when I hit the next milestone it will be different. 

Why am I disclosing this very personal story? Because I want to remind you to PLAN. Get a handle on your finances; understand the habits and behaviors you have with money. Live on less than you make. Don’t be like the old me, don’t work your butt off and have nothing to show for it. 

Take a few minutes and add up your totals. Ask yourself if you’ve made the right choices. If you have, great. If not, ask yourself what you can change so that you’ll begin to make better choices. Take stock of your situation and make a plan. Don’t waste your biggest asset, your ability to earn money.


Mysti September 24, 2010 at

It is sobering when you add up the numbers. Sort of like the first time you add up your debt… look at the total and go WHOA!

A million dollars sounds like alot of Benjamin….but if you are looking at 15 years of income, I am guessing most of it went to life stuff….and then of course we have the stuff that brought us to the PF blogging world…..that wonderful debt!

I am amazed at these young 20-somethings that get it already…..that are trying to not get into the situation we are in now. I am 35, and man, I WISH I knew what I know now when I was 22. PLANNING!!!!!!!!

You, wifey, and kids are doing amazing!!! Keep up the great work. I look at you and want to be you someday. 😉

Jeffrey Kosola September 24, 2010 at

@Mysti Sobering is correct. As I dig deeper into the story of how I got here, my eyes continue to be WIDE open. I can’t believe the things I’ve done in the past. Maybe that’s why I looking for other ways to get the message about personal finance for middle and high school kids. I wasn’t tough much about money (yes I know it shows), but I have learned how to sacrifice to make positive changes. I’m so happy many of the 20 somethings are getting on board and using their brains, they will be MUCH better off in the future. If you are one of those 20 somethings reading this now (listen to me, I was dumb with a capital D).

Thank you for the encouragement. Use that phone number in the upper right sidebar one of these days and I’ll teach how to “be” like me someday 🙂 I have a special offer to extend you if you’re interested, hint hint.

Wojo September 24, 2010 at

Step 1 in Your Money or Your Life (and unfortunately, the only one I’ve gotten to so far). I echo your sentiment exactly–it was so humbling to realize how much money has flowed through our hands and to see where we’ve ended up with it. Bleh! (the sound of me throwing up all over my paperwork).

Only better things await us from here…

Jeffrey Kosola September 28, 2010 at

Hey Wojo, I love the book Your Money of Your Life. It’s a sobering read. When you take stock of the situation it’s amazing the amount of money that flows through our hands. Oops, I just throw up in my month. Sorry, you started it 🙂 I can’t wait to see where we are in five years…

Richard Hurt September 24, 2010 at

Thanks for the reminder to keep focused. I’m up in years compared to you, but I learned before it was too late to prepare for this time of my life. It is good that you share like this as that will get people’s attention better than just a “how to prepare” post. Good job, Jeff.

Jeffrey Kosola September 28, 2010 at

Thanks for the comment Richard. I’m sad and glad at the same time about this post. Sad because I wish I would have been smarter, and glad because I still have 30 some years to work. That’s great that you learn before it was too late. Do you have any tips you’d like to share with us??

myfinancialobjectives September 26, 2010 at

Thanks for sharing this story Jeff! That’s pretty crazy to hear that you have earned over $1 million dollars! I wonder when I will reach that point, because I know for darn sure I’m not even close yet!:)

Excellent point about making the next million work for you. Can you imagine how much more you will have in savings if instead of having all sorts of interest rates working against you, actually working for you? Man, your retirement account will quadruple (hopefully:))!

Jeffrey Kosola September 28, 2010 at

@MFO I’m doing my best to imagine the next million. I know with planning, and spending wisely that this time will be great. Get your SS statements out and add up the total. You’ll be surprised at the total 🙂

Dr Dean September 27, 2010 at

Sobering tale. Hopefully it will get your readers attention! I love the way you only felt sorry for yourself for just a few minutes.

That is what a successful person does-takes stock, makes a plan, executes the plan! Then Repeat!

Jeffrey Kosola September 28, 2010 at

@Dr Deano Thank you SIR, I’m trying to respect my elders..haha just kidding. You are completely correct though. If we start thinking about what could have been then we’ll be nothing but a washed up ex-homecoming king/star quarterback living our life through our kids. I think there have been a few movies like that.

Perfect advice though… 1)take stock 2)make a plan 3)execute 4)Score the game winning touchdown…

Mr Credit Card September 27, 2010 at


During Dr Evil’s time in the swinging 60s, 1 million was a lot of money. But with inflation, it does not count for much these days. So you probably have to plan for much more today!

WR September 28, 2010 at

Great article. Thanks for sharing.

The little printout from the Social Security Administration also gave me an idea of how much I earned over the course of my life (I say ‘idea’ because if you are like me, some of your tips or various entrepreneurial escapades do not show up there)

I have to say I felt the same way about 15 years ago. I was in debt and spending horrific amounts of money on stupidity. When the truth hit me I was miserable about it. It made me think about the future (which until then meant ‘next Friday’)

It is amazing what the cumulative effect of good financial habits will do for you in a relatively short amount of time. You are on the way. you will wake up one day with a feeling of contentment that the sacrifices you made were worth it.

It’s no what you earn, it is what you keep after your money passes through the filters of inflation and taxes. You can mitigate some of this by living trading down to wealth and investing in tax friendly things. Living frugally means keeping more money. Tax-smart Investing means putting that money to work for you.

I used to ‘earn’ a lot of money, now I ‘have’ a lot of money. Big difference!


Jeffrey Kosola September 30, 2010 at

@WR I’m right behind you. Good financial habits are hard to break once you see how they can amp up your finances. Thank you for the great comment.

Chris October 7, 2010 at

I used to make a good income every year in the real estate business until the bubble burst. I have spent the past 20 months becoming an internet marketer which has not proven to be very successful. It may be in the coming years as a keep at it on a part time basis.

I am now going to become a real estate investor and am looking forward to the becoming a successful venture.

It is true that the more that you make the more that you spend. When really you should be saving for a rainy day!

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