How this 26-year-old Amazon employee saved $120,000 in less than 4 years

Portrait of Amazon Employee Shanil Issa.
Shanil Issa

Meet Shanil Issa, a 26-year-old Amazon employee, who managed to save more than $120,000 in less than four years and has no student loans or debt.

A story like Issa's makes him somewhat of an anomaly, especially when you consider the current financial state of many U.S. adults. In 2019, more than half (58%) of Americans report having less than $1,000 in savings and 32% have nothing saved, according to a GoBankingRates survey.

While impressive, Issa's savings journey wasn't without strategy and discipline, he says. His assets are spread across two savings accounts, one retirement fund, one broker account and one cryptocurrency account.

"I managed to save, invest, maintain a strict budget and diversify my portfolio enough to save over $100,000 without accumulating debt in the process," Issa tells CNBC Make It.

Issa started getting serious about money after graduating from Florida State University in 2015. At 22, he accepted a management job at Amazon and this transition into 'the real world' motivated him to begin saving.

"My finances became extremely important to me the moment I started my employment with Amazon," Issa says. "The company offered a relocation bonus to help me travel and move to Virginia for my job. During that transition phase is when I started becoming obsessed with saving money and being more frugal."

Issa followed a number of tactics to help get him on the right track financially. A big one, he says, is to evaluate your 'needs' versus your 'wants.'

"Ask yourself: 'Do I really need this in my life or do I just desire it?' The definition of a need for me is that it's life essential and crucial. A desire, to me, is more of a wishful thought for something," Issa says. "This has been super helpful when filtering out what I need in my life and ultimately helped me to save more money."

Another strategy is to consider how many hours or days of work it would take for you to earn back the money made on a purchase, Issa says. "If you're willing to compare how much you make per hour versus how much the item costs, you'd be surprised at how quickly you'll make a need-versus-want decision and your buying patterns will start to change."

To learn about finances, Issa employs wisdom from well-known financial experts. "Mark Cuban, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett are three of my favorite people to follow for both financial and entrepreneurial advice," Issa says. "A lot of the advice they provide has helped me to develop and change my attitude and mind-set about investing and saving."

Specifically, Issa says he started thinking more about the long-term outcomes of his financial decisions after reading these experts' books and hearing them speak. "I'd definitely recommend them to anyone who is just starting out," Issa says.

The best piece of financial advice Issa ever received actually came from a diagram rather than a person. The chart lists the average yearly savings a person would need in order to retire by age 45, 55 and 65, Issa says. He adds that the grid-style chart, which was created by Four Pillar Freedom, assumes you start with $0 and your savings are invested at a 7% annual interest rate.

Source: Four Pillar Freedom

"That diagram demonstrated so much value to me that I immediately knew I needed to start planning for my future. That's when I became obsessed with trying to save more money and find alternative ways to cut costs," Issa says.

Issa says this chart resonated with him—so much so that he's even set early retirement as one of his long-term financial goals.

"[I'm] seeking early-retirement so I can have unlimited freedom to do some of the things I love, such as traveling, owning a businesses, pursuing higher education and spending more quality time with my family and friends," Issa says.

To learn more about saving and strategies that can help you get started, here are some other helpful tips:

Don't miss: Suze Orman says this is the biggest mistake you can make with your retirement savings

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