Millennial millionaire: The 8 steps I took to make my first million

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Since releasing my 2015 book "Millennial Millionaire," I have enjoyed speaking alongside icons of the business world and sharing my advice on all things related to money. As fun as this journey has been, I realized there never was a chance to look in the rear-view mirror, a habit this usually forward-thinking millennial happens to frown upon.

Then, during a recent radio interview with Forbes host Gregg Stebben, he put me on the spot by simply asking, "How did you do it?"

So enough of the grandiose wisdom of macroeconomics and high-flying business heroes. Here are the eight steps a twenty-something took to make his first million!

Graduate college fast

I entered college in 2005 at The University of Tampa. Despite attending four different colleges, I met my goal of graduating in four years from The College of New Jersey in 2009 with a BS in Finance and a minor in Economics.

Walking into a career in insurance and investment advising three days after graduation gave me a huge head start on my peers and, of course, it eliminated the need for more student loans.

Be an entrepreneur

The subtitle to my book, "A Guide to Becoming a Millionaire by 30," has provoked the hardest question I've been asked over the past two years: Is there a prerequisite? The honest truth is yes, and the prerequisite is capital. Without an advanced degree, the most common way I've seen to generate a high early income is sales and/or entrepreneurship.

Only three days after graduating from college, I jumped headlong into a position as a financial sales representative. The first two years were a real struggle, long hours and low income based 100 percent on commission. Coming from a family that relied on a steady paycheck (my dad worked for the army and my mom was a paralegal), this volatility caused a lot of friction on the home front. My parents couldn't understand my working crazy hours, studying for so many licenses, and then hardly getting by.

But I believed the hard work would pay off and began building my own practice right out of the gate.

Live at home

Recognizing that capital is the precursor to wealth, a financial plan becomes feasible by either earning more or saving more. A combination of the two provides the best odds. You might land a great job out of school only to watch much of your early earnings go to rent and living expenses. I lived at home until age 25, which made a nice income seem enormous.


For the first six months of my career I did nothing but put money in the bank. This allowed me to zero out my credit cards every single month. One of my proudest achievements is never paying a penny of interest while collecting some nice rewards along the way.

By age 24, my income, generated by financial advising, began to surpass that of most of my peers. From there it snowballed almost month by month as I accumulated more clients and bigger accounts. I parlayed these earnings into the same investments and financial planning strategies I teach my clients and watched my wealth grow. I added book royalties and speaking gigs on top of my day-to-day job as a CFP.

With some real estate thrown in during the second half of my 20's, I made my million during my 29th year!

Fund the 401(k) to the match

After my first year of employment, I was eligible for a 3 percent company match on my 401(k) contributions. I immediately began investing 3 percent of my compensation to the Roth 401(k) option, allocated to 100 percent equities. This quickly went from 3 percent to the IRS maximum after the next three steps were met.

Buy individual disability insurance

Knowing that income is the engine which makes any financial plan run, I purchased the maximum amount of "True Own Occupation" disability insurance with options to increase throughout my career. I've since added a second individual policy and maxed out our Group Long-Term Disability. This makes me feel invincible.

Buy real estate

With capital at my disposal and the leverage of a conventional mortgage, I bought my first property at age 25. Such a large purchase was a frightening progression, but, like anything else in life, you adapt and continue moving forward. Two more properties have since been added, which yield additional rental cash flow while paying off my mortgages.

Open a brokerage account

Once I settled into home ownership and restored my "rainy day fund" to adequate levels, I searched for greater return on my money. A moderately allocated, tax-sensitive ETF account allowed for growth opportunity without sacrificing much liquidity. Any extra, un-earmarked funds quickly find their way here.

By no means are these steps direct recommendations for the masses; they're a biographical sketch of my 20's. Your goal might be $100k, $1 million, or even $1 billion. But I hope a look behind the curtain at a CFP and fellow millennial might help you make the most of your early years.

Bryan M. Kuderna is a CFP, Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow, and Investment Adviser Representative with Kuderna Financial Team, a New Jersey based financial services firm. He is the author of the best-selling book, "Millennial Millionaire: A Guide to Become a Millionaire by 30."

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