Between 2004 and 2012, I lived in one of the most popular and expensive metro areas in the world, New York City, and made about $30,000 a year, and yet, I was able to sock away over $100,000 for use as a down payment for an apartment.
Surprisingly, though, my key takeaway doesn't have to do with either earning or investing.
I had a little help. I had a lot of luck. But, although it doesn't come up much in discussions of personal finance, I discovered that what matters most is simple: other people. If you make the right relationship choices in terms of who you live, hang out and get romantically involved with, it's significantly easier to make the right money choices.
Personal finance experts and self-made millionaires alike stress the importance of creating multiple streams of income. Others teach great habits to develop to save on purchases both big and small.
And those tips are important for sure.
By all means, try to earn like Jay Leno, who, even as an up-and-coming comedian, worked two jobs and banked one salary while living off of the other, or like Kyle Taylor of The Penny Hoarder, who has turned side hustles into an art form.
Likewise, you can't go wrong saving like Matt of "Distilled Dollar," who, along with his fiancee, saves 60 percent of his income and has grand long-term plans, or like Mr. and Mrs. 1500, who managed to hit their ambitious financial goals ahead of schedule.
But the most important decision I made was to surround myself with like-minded people, both romantically and socially.
I was able to save a lot while making relatively little and living in one of the world's most expensive cities without employing a more sophisticated saving strategy than high-yield online savings accounts and CDs.
Though a lot of my success is attributable to good fortune, it also really helped that I coupled up with someone who also prioritized putting money away. Together, we were able to split some costs and skip others, and, most importantly, support each other.