The First Step To Saving A Million Dollars

The First Step To Saving A Million Dollars

The First Step To Saving A Million Dollars

While growing up, I didn’t have the benefit and guidance of a mentor nor a big brother. So I was left to fend for myself and to explore my own career choices when I grew up (I would say that was about the age of 23 or so). Fortunately, I had two things that worked in my favour when I was young. I was pretty good at math and I knew that no matter what industry that I will be working in, I’ll need to have a solid set of business skills (such as public speaking, leadership, communication, problem-solving, etc.) to complement my main technical skills. With those two factors deeply entrenched in me, applied to study and got my Honours Mathematics and Business Administration degree at the University of Waterloo. When I got my first job back in late 2003, my starting salary was $35,000 per year. It took me about ten years to reach the six-figure income level and fourteen years from my graduation date to save a million dollars. Now that I am looking back and reflecting on my path to get from where I was to where I am right now, I sometimes wondered, “What if I had a mentor or a big brother to guide me? Would I have been able to achieve something better than what I have achieved now?” I may never get the real answer to that question, but it motivated me to think that maybe I can be that mentor or big brother to someone out there. And that thought led me to write this step-by-step guide on how to save your first million dollars or the second million (this is part of my Freedom 48 Journey where I will share with my readers) and be the mentor or big brother to someone who needs a bit of financial guidance. So, here is the first part of my Saving A Million Dollar Series – The First Step To Saving A Million Dollars.

Job Potential

What Jobs Have The Potential To Make More Than $100,000 Annually?
In order to save a million dollars, most likely, you’ll have to make more than a million dollars in your lifetime. I know some lucky people may win the lottery or get a million dollars in inheritance by the time they turn 19 (or you can marry a millionaire), but for the rest of us, we’ll have to earn our million dollars the conventional way – by working for it. (Some may choose the entrepreneur path to achieve this goal, but that was not a path that I took to save a million dollars so I am not qualified to write about it as I did not have the experience.) To start, we can research the jobs/career that has the potential to make the six figures salary a year in the industry that we want to build a career in. Nowadays, most of the online job sites like Workopolis, Monster or Salary have salary information for all industry groups. It only takes a little bit of effort to see if the work that you are interested in has that million dollars potential.

Assess Your Dream

Assess Your Capabilities Honestly
When I was in grade/high school, I could pitch a baseball pretty well and I thought I was pretty good at it and I could one day be the starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and make millions a year. Realistically, that would never happen for a few reasons. First of all, I was only playing leisurely with a few friends in the schoolyard and never really played any organized competitive baseball. Secondly, I was a little shrimp comparing to everyone else at my age (the average Major Leaguer is about six feet tall and I am, well, let’s just say not that tall.) Third, I had pretty good control of where I want to throw the ball, but that’s it. Nothing else. Most of the Major Leaguers have at least three good pitches (fastball, curve, slider, changeup, knuckleball, etc.) in their repertoire and I had zero. When I look back at this dream of mine, it even seems a bit silly right now. So moral of this story is not to be a dream killer to kids out there, but to remind people of an important thing – be honest with yourself when assessing your own potentials. If one dream is not realistic, then build another realistic dream.


Get The Required Training
Whether you are working towards your first career or trying to move to a new one, you’ll need the required education or training in order to perform the basic jobs in that industry. The more relevant your education or training is to the target industry that you want to build a career in, the better the chances that you’ll have to reach that six-figure salary position in that industry. While you are at it, try your very best to come out in the top tier of your class. You’ll have bragging rights with your friends and your future employers.

Acquire Skills

Acquire The Skill Sets Required To Get Your Dream Job
One common thing that I noticed when was trying to climb the corporate ladder was that hiring managers always ask for the world when they hire. If you read the job posting carefully, then take a step back and ask this question, “If I had all of the requirements for this job, can I get an even higher position than this one?” The most likely answer to this question is: yes. Hell yes. So when you look at the requirement of your dream job and if you don’t have a lot of the required skills, don’t panic. You can use it as a goal and slowly learn those skills when working towards that position. Also, don’t wait till you have all the required skills then start applying for the position. The reason behind it is, if you are not learning, then you are not growing. So how will you learn if you have all the required skills already? The key to getting your dream job is to convince the hiring manager that you can do the job. Even if you don’t have all the required skills, you have the confidence that you will acquire the skills and be able to perform on the job and you will perform very well.

Acquire Industry Designation

Work Hard To Obtain Industry Designations
Before I joined the workforce, I realized that the bare minimum that I needed was a university degree to start with. It was not the degree that indicated that I was more capable than another candidate. It was a requirement to get me on the list to be considered for certain jobs. In addition, as you move up in your career, you need to work towards the industry designations. Once again, a designation does not necessarily mean that you are more capable than others. It just gives you the opportunity to be considered for the next big gig. The destination can only open the door, but you’ll have to use your skills to get in.

Stand Out

Standout From The Crowd
Throughout my career, I think that I’ve performed quite well at my job. However, I don’t think that I was a star or an outstanding performer at all (maybe that was the reason why I never got any promotions). To maximize your earning potential and promotion opportunities, always perform your job exceptionally well and go above and beyond the minimum duties, even if you are performing a job that no one wants to perform. Also, volunteer to take some workload off your senior peers/managers and perform them exceptionally well. Eventually, you’ll become a very valuable resource at your workplace. And that will eventually lead to better opportunities. There are two blog posts from two personal finance bloggers that I follow, have really good insights into maximizing your earning potentials and opportunities. The posts are: Full Time Finance’s Confessions of a Manager: Tips For Getting A Raise, and Mustard Seed Money’s The Importance of Salary Negotiations.

Network With People

Connect With People In Your Target Industry
One thing that I felt I didn’t do too well in my career was networking with others in my industry. I don’t think that I made enough connections with people in the industry that I work in and build a good understanding of the requirements for my work. Hence, throughout my career, I never have gotten any official promotions. Every promotion that I got, I had to move to another workplace in order to move up. It was not that I wasn’t capable nor competent nor hard working. It was the industry culture that I worked in. I was usually told that “in order to move up, you needed to work on visible projects and do the work of the next level to be considered.” After a few times, I stopped listening and started to tell myself, “if I want to move up, I’d have to create my own opportunities.” Each time I moved to a new position, the connection that I made in the previous workplace was pretty much lost as I did not maintain it very well. So regardless of how you climb the corporate ladder, always remember to network even if you have moved on to newer and better things in your career.


My two cents
The first step to saving a million dollars is to work towards a career in an industry that will provide you with the potential to earn an annual six figure income and more than a million dollar during your working career. Once you get in the industry, continuously work on developing your skills, network with industry professions, obtain designations and outperform others. All these actions will lead to better chances for career advancement, which will lead to higher earnings potentials and paves the path towards saving a million dollars.


In The Second Step To Saving A Million Dollars, I will provide some insights on how to save your earnings.

Leo T. Ly, Canadian Personal Finance Blogger/Enthusiast and a Realtor Living in the Markam, Ontario, CanadaAbout Leo
I am a Canadian personal finance blogger/enthusiast and a Realtor living in Markham, Ontario, Canada. I built a net worth of a million dollars over a ten year period. I did it by being a disciplined saver, taking advantage of income tax rules and borrowing money to invest rather than for consumption. I am often excited to take advantage of free money from employers and governments in addition to building more passive income sources. After accumulating my first million dollars, I am now embarking on a second journey towards achieving financial independence. On this journey, I will strive to increase my net worth to two million dollars and retire by the age of 48 - Freedom 48. Come along and follow my journey on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google Plus.

There are 41 opinions expressed on this post.

    1. MSM, I wish that my younger self could have gotten this advice. I think I would have done a little bit better than I am right now. This post is sort of a guide to my younger self on how to find a career that will make me happy and make money at the same time. Hopefully my kids can also use it too when they grow up.

    1. Shivani, after working for almost 15 years now, I find that work life is just as important as the salary that comes with it. I want to share the experience that will allow young people to get a head start to a happy and fulfilling career if they did some work up front, before choosing a career.

    1. Welcome to the isaved5k money saving blog little sis, Ashwathy. Glad to be the big brother that shares his money saving tricks with you. Hoping that you’ll get some motivation to save more money with this post.

    1. Hi Jane,

      With discipline and a realistic saving goal, it’s possible to reach this milestone. Good luck and hope that you will reach that goal and share your journey with us.

  1. Thanks for sharing your great points. Nowadays having a mentor is a must-have. I am glad that I have my Dada as my very patient mentor. No more slacking coz time is running so fast!

    1. You are absolutely right Blair. Time is a luxury for everyone on earth, but it’s also a very power factor when it comes to saving and compounding. I am glad that you have parents that can provide you with great mentorship and hope that you can achieve all your potentials with those guidance.

    1. Hi Joysofyz,

      The first step is to get that degree and learn lots of business oriented skills. You still have time to decide how you want to build your career once you graduate. Come back and share with us. We’ll love to hear more stories of how people approach their careers when they first graduate from post secondary school.

    1. Thank you for the shout out Emily. I know first hand how it feels like to navigate the world with minimal guidance. If I can give back and just spend a little effort and I can make a difference in someone’s life, that can provide me a lot of joy and satisfaction in life.

    1. Thanks for dropping by FTF. The easier it is for people to gain the million dollars, the easier it is for that money to be spent. A really good example is the lottery winners and I heard that 66% those people’s millions are pretty much wasted within the first five years. That’s why people who have the goal to earn their million slowly, will definitely make it last.

  2. Interesting post. Sometimes, the job we love and the job that has the most money making opportunity may be different. One of my friend is a ski instructor and loved the job and its a dream job for many but the reality was that he didn’t make too much money!

    1. It’s definitely a fine balance Bhusha. The best situation is to be able to find a job that you love and it makes a good amount of money. There is no perfect solution to this problem, but we can always work towards improving our lives by doing little things that are in our control to save more money so we can be financially freed. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Miera, the key to building a happy and secure financial future is to do it at a pace that’ll motivate you. Some people may be satisfied with less money, while other wants a bit more luxury. Thanks for dropping by and sharing.

    1. Thanks Everest. I try to present it as simple as i can so that anyone interested to save a million bucks, they can definite try. It’s definitely achievable if you are determined and have the discipline to stay on track.

    1. Hi Rane,

      Don’t wish, make it your long-term goal to become a millionaire. Have a positive mindset and be disciplined with your money and spending. Becoming a millionaire is not an overnight process, it’s a slow journey. I hope that I can inspire you to dream big and turn the impossible to possible.

  3. I a bit lost when I graduate in 2004 . All I know I need a job and I dont care how much they paid me. I end up with a job that I don’t like. Luckily I notice it early and jump to different job until I found my dream job, my strength. Now I happy with my earning .

    1. @Betty, It’s great that you realized that you’re heading in the wrong path and took action to right the ship. And to end up with a dream job, that’s quite amazing as not a lot of people can say that they were in a dead end job and took the courage to make a change and found their dream job. Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Great goals. I love the 15k PVs in one month. It’s tough to do. At least for me it is :-(. Then again, I’ve had a lifetime goal of touching the basketball rim. At 44, I think I’ll have to give p on this one. Best of luck guys.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Every new endevour is difficult at first, but as time goes by and you are use to it, saving money will be fun and rewarding. The first step is to commit to wanting to save and set a realistic goal. You can do it.

  5. Very good points here, Leo. It will be a lot harder to accumulate $1 million if you decide to major in sociology vs. computer engineering. Some luck out and find that their talents and what they enjoy ends up landing them in a high paying industry. But it would serve high schoolers and college students well to do some research on their careers and find out growth and salary expectations before jumping in.
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    1. @GFY, One of the reasons that I stared to blog about Personal Finance is because of the lack of financial education in the school system. I think that many you people were not prepared to handle their finances as they did not have the background to help them make the right decisions. I was included in that group, but as time goes by, I realized that “it’s my own money, I need to be responsible for it.” After that realization, I started to learn as much as I can so I am able to manage my money responsibly.

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