Money

Why Mark Cuban didn't have a car that cost more than $200 until he was 25

Mark Cuban's career is the epitome of success: He worked his way up and now owns the Dallas Mavericks, invests in successful businesses as a shark on ABC's "Shark Tank" and has a net worth of $3.77 billion.

But, before he became a billionaire, Cuban's rides included a 1966 Buick LeSabre and a Fiat X1/9 with a hole in the floorboard.

"I didn't have a car that cost more than $200 until I was 25, I think," he told Money in a recent interview. "It was crazy."

Cuban's insistence on driving clunkers stemmed from his desire to reach financial independence at an early age, a goal inspired by Paul Terhorst's "Cashing in on the American Dream: How to Retire at 35."

Photo by John Lamparski

The book preaches the values of focusing on your priorities and living well below your means. It encourages readers to downsize their houses, cars and other possessions, and to spend time developing their passions and finding meaning in their lives beyond work.

For Cuban, that meant living on as little as possible, the way a student would. "I did things like having five roommates and living off of macaroni and cheese," he told Money.

But the process wasn't always easy or straightforward. "For me, the hardest lesson I learned was getting my credit cards ripped up," he says. "I would charge something and think I would be able to pay it off and then not be able to. I can't tell you how many credit cards I had ripped up."

The hard lesson taught him to fight for his wins. "You do have to be scrappy," he says. "If we weren't scrappy, if we weren't resilient, we could have just quit."

Today, Cuban's $200 cars are a thing of the past; he's moved on to much bigger modes of transportation. In 1999, he purchased his first private jet, a Gulfstream V, which he says is the smartest thing he ever spent money on.

"It is obviously brutally expensive, but time is the one asset we simply don't own," he wrote in a column for Men's Fitness. "It saves me hours and hours."

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