Todd Baldwin's net worth crossed $1 million when he was 25.
Two years later, at 27, he was bringing in $615,000 annually ($305,000 after business expenses) thanks to a mix of income from rental properties, his day job working in commercial insurance sales and the extra cash he made as a secret shopper.
As of 2020, the majority of his revenue came from the six rental properties that he owns with his wife, Angela, which bring in $460,000 per year in rent. After expenses, including mortgage payments, taxes, insurance and utilities, the couple keep about $150,000 of that per year.
"Although our net worth is seven figures, we don't do a lot of the typical things that most people envision millionaires doing. We are super frugal," says Baldwin, who wears a $12 rubber wedding band and shares a 2009 Ford Focus with his wife. Because he keeps his expenses so low, he's able to save more than 80% of his take-home pay.
The millennial millionaire refuses to spend money on a couple of things, he tells CNBC Make It: For starters, he won't pay for entertainment, like restaurants and the movies, "but only because I know how to get paid for that."
Baldwin is a "secret shopper" and gets paid for dining out, going grocery shopping, seeing movies and even visiting hotels and casinos.
"There are a lot of businesses out there that want to know how their employees are doing and how the market is responding to their products," he explains. "So those companies will hire mystery shopping firms to find independent contractors like me to go pose at their establishment as a regular customer, buy the product or service and then report on it."
As of 2020, he had made about $30,000 since he started mystery shopping in college. The surveys he fills out after the experiences aren't too time consuming, and for that reason, he has a hard time justifying spending money at bars and restaurants.
"If a buddy wants to go to a bar or someone wants to go see a movie, I usually try to wait until I can get a mystery shop," he says, "because if you're going to go there anyway, you might as well get it for free and get paid on the top."
Thanks to secret shopping, Baldwin and his wife spent about $25 a month on food as of 2020.
"Another thing that I'll never spend money on is unnecessary bank account fees or credit card fees," says Baldwin. That's not to say he doesn't use credit cards, but he never racks up a balance and makes payments on time to avoid late fees.
Baldwin, who was raised by a single mom and started working when he was 12, gets a thrill out of saving. "It's actually really fun being able to buy something and then choosing not to," he says.
He thinks through all of his purchases, especially the big ones: "My wife and I want to start a family in the next couple of years, and I was thinking we might get an SUV. I was looking at ones that were about $60,000," he said in 2020. After running the numbers, though, they decided to redirect that money elsewhere. "We took the 60 grand and bought another rental property — and now that property cash flow is $4,000 per month."
Eventually, the rental income "could pay for four of those SUVs that I liked," he adds.
The only time Baldwin likes to splurge is if it's something for his wife — if he's allowed to, that is. "My wife is more frugal than I am!" he says. "A couple years ago, I bought her a designer purse for like 500 bucks. But when I surprised her with it, she immediately took it back, exchanged it for a $60 purse at Macy's and then we invested the difference."
"So we don't normally splurge."
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