Jeff and Dee of Atlanta have a net worth of $2.8 million. But they didn’t win the lottery. They became wealthy after decades of smart saving and sensible spending.
"I think the majority of millionaires are just like us—people who’ve worked and saved all their lives," Jeff says.
When he began working as a computer technician decades ago, Jeff’s salary was just $13,000. So when the opportunity came to work extra hours, he jumped at it. His workweek went from 40 hours to 80 hours—and his income doubled in the process.
"I started spending on the 80-hour level, not the 40," he says. "Then the hours went back. But the habits I’d gotten were pretty bad."
Translation: He ran up his credit cards. It was his first real taste of debt, and he hated every minute of it. Once he paid everything off, he told himself never again.
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A few years later, Jeff and Dee met and married. This time, it was Dee who caught the credit card bug. She opened secret accounts and started charging without Jeff’s knowledge. Once her financial infidelity came to light, the couple went through what Dee recalls as "a very tense, emotional couple of years."
But they worked through it and came out the other side stronger and smarter.
"If you don’t agree on something, you really need to speak up on it," Dee says. "If it leads to an argument, so be it. If you don’t sit down and talk about it, you’re never going to be on the same page."
That was a major turning point in their marriage: learning how to communicate openly and honestly about money.
"Once we got on the same page, we were able to do more," Jeff says. "And every raise that came in, a good portion of that went into retirement. So that’s where we started building [our retirement savings] percentage from a small number to a big number."
These days, the couple saves upwards of 25-30% of their household income for retirement. How? They don’t hoard money, but they also don’t waste it. They still shop at Walmart and buy $20 shoes. They’re just normal folks.
"It’s probably been five or six years since we’ve been millionaires" Jeff says. "But again, it didn’t change our lifestyle or what we did or how we did it."
To them, being a millionaire isn’t about hoarding your money. It’s about securing your future. It’s about leaving a legacy for your kids and giving generously. And it’s about enjoying the rest of your life without worry.
Being a millionaire isn’t about hoarding your money. It’s about securing your future.
"Being a millionaire means knowing I’ll be comfortable when he quits working," Dee says. "Knowing that I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or where I’m going to live—that’s basically what being a millionaire means to me."