Early retiree says breaking these 6 ‘society rules’ helped him save $1 million: ‘I wasn’t born rich’


In 2016, I retired early at 35. At the time, I had $900,000 saved, and within a few years was able to accumulate a $1 million net worth.

I wasn’t born rich. I worked nothing but 9-to-5 jobs. I didn’t receive an inheritance or win the lottery. And I was never the smartest person in the room.

Instead, I lived frugally, invested wisely and built a strong career. Most important of all, I didn’t follow conventional wisdom.

Here are six society rules I broke to become a millionaire at 38:

1. Don’t be selfish.

I call it “healthy selfishness.” Putting yourself first means prioritizing your mental and physical health. You become better equipped to give back in a meaningful way. 

It also means saying “no.” For example, because I’m an introvert, I’ll decline social invitations or even step away from meetings when I need time to myself. Or I’ll ignore phone calls if I’m not in the right headspace to talk.

Working out is a form of meditation for me, so I go to the gym every day without fail — even if it means pushing other priorities back. I leave the gym feeling more energetic and productive.

2. Follow your passion. 

Our passions don’t always pay the bills — our strengths do. Most people’s passions are creative, and it can be more challenging to earn a high salary in a creative field. 

My passion is photography, but I chose a career in computer science because I’m good at it, and technology professions tend to pay more. 

I reserve photography for nights and weekends, and I’ve never had to experience the pressure of using it to earn a full-time salary. Because of that, it’s still my passion.

3. Don’t rock the boat. 

I was always quick to voice my opinions, especially when I thought a business move was wrong. Pointing out improvements that my team could make got me my first leadership position as a director.

Had I sat through meetings quietly, I would not have advanced into leadership positions — or higher salaries — as quickly.

Rocking the boat isn’t about being abusive or even the loudest person in the room. It’s about speaking up when you need to and proactively setting a new course. 

4. Hustle 24/7. 

Working too much and burning out will not help you become more successful. It’s okay to use entertainment and other outlets to help you decompress and relax after a job well done.

You will be much more productive during the day because of the time you take for yourself.

I watch Netflix almost every evening to unwind. I’m also a big sports fan and play in multiple fantasy football leagues. I wake up at 7 a.m. so I can have control of my day and make time for these relaxing hobbies.

5. Stick to your job description. 

A decade ago, I got the opportunity to jump two levels of management with a big promotion. I didn’t feel ready for the job, but I took it anyway. I learned as I went.

Taking that leap set a new high-paying trajectory for the rest of my career. It helped me become more confident in my abilities. 

If there’s a chance take on more responsibility than you think you might be prepared for, my best advice is be brave and give it a try. It could put you in a position for raises, promotions and other opportunities to make more money down the line.

6. Don’t be nice if you want to win.

Kindness opens doors. A big part of my success came from my personality and demeanor in the office. I gained a reputation as someone who was easy to work.

This made management more inclined to ask me to work with them on big projects.

I’ve found that having a strong ethical code and being a great teammate can lead to better opportunities over time. Don’t lead with fear or aggression when you have the chance to lead with compassion.

Steve Adcock is a personal finance expert who blogs about how to achieve financial independence. A former software developer, Steve retired early at the age of 35. Follow him on Twitter @SteveOnSpeed.

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