The poverty line for a family of three is $20,090 a year. The median household income in America is $53,657. Politicians draw $250,000 as the line between the middle and upper classes. And the true starting point of real wealth remains a cool $1,000,000. We asked four more or less typical men, each of whom earns one of these incomes, to tell us about the lives they can afford.
$1,000,000 Per Year – Tim Nguyen, 35
Location: Huntington Beach, California
Occupation: Business owner, CEO/cofounder of BeSmartee, a DIY mortgage marketplace
Family status: Married with a 9-month-old son
Homeowner? Renter? “I’m a homeowner. No mortgage.” (Price of home: $1 million.)
Do you keep a budget? We track every single penny that comes in and out of our bank account. And we give 6 percent of our money away to charity. We have a big heart for animals, children, the elderly, the underprivileged.
What’s a weekly grocery bill for you? I break it down monthly. We eat mainly at home. We spend around $1,200 a month.
One thing your family needs but can’t afford: There’s nothing that we need that we can’t afford. Anything reasonable I can afford.
One thing you want but can’t afford: The thing that keeps me up at night is wanting to retire my parents. There’s a certain dollar figure that would allow me to pay off all their debts. That’s my first goal: to retire my parents so they can be independent and just live their lives.
The last thing you bought that required serious planning: We budget our money all the time, so we’ve already been planning for everything—I could tell you exactly where all my money is going over the next five years.
Do you have credit cards? I have one credit card. It’s cash for points, so we charge everything on the card and pay it off at the end of the month.
How much debt are you carrying now? Less than 10 grand.
Saving for retirement? Yes. [I’ve put away] north of $5 million.
At what age would you like to retire? I’ll always be working. As far as working on a start-up, I want to be done with that in five or 10 years. But as far as working, investing in real estate, things of that nature, you can do that until you’re 90.
College plans for your kids? We set up a trust with our attorney where our kids will have money for college. But they’ll only get more than that if they achieve their milestones, such as getting a certain GPA or volunteering in the community. We want our kids to be good citizens. They can’t be spoiled brats. We want them to understand what it means to work and to earn your way to the top. We put the rules in place to help reinforce that.
Looking at your current career prospects, how much money do you think you’ll be earning in ten years’ time? My goal is to have a net worth of $150 to $200 million.
How happy are you on any given day, on a scale of one to ten? I’d say eight or nine. Lately, with the start-up, I’ve been putting in two to three hours more per day than I’d like, and that’s taking away from family time. So if I could get those two or three hours back, I’d be a happy man.
How often do you worry about money? Maybe once a week. I’ve been broke before. I’ve refinanced my house to pay my employees. I’ve been through all that—that was me worried. Now, because I’m able to forecast and plan my money better, there’s not as much worry.
How much money do you think you’d need to have the life you want? I need about 25 [million]. That includes retiring my parents, an upgraded home, and enough money to make sure my kids have funds available when they want to start their own businesses. There’s a certain amount of money you need to live the life you want. Beyond that, it’s really a game, and money is the scoreboard.
Do you think your taxes are too high? I’m happy with taxes. I had a really good year when I was 22 or 23—I made about 250 grand—and I came home and complained to my dad about it. I said, “I can’t believe I’m paying all those taxes! Half the money is gone!” And my dad said, “You should feel lucky that you live in a country where you can pay taxes”: He came from a communist-run country. Ever since that day, I never complain about my taxes.
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