Welcome to Millionaire Dojo! I’m Nathan Clarke – the financial sensei here and I look forward to training with you in the art of personal finance.

I started this blog to track my journey to reaching a net worth of a million dollars and hope to show you that you can do the same. And it doesn’t have to take 40 years! With a few life hacks, we can cut our expenses way down and increase our incomes. We’ll invest our savings and watch them grow over the years and before you know it, our net worth will be over one million! It really is that simple, but it isn’t very easy to do.

Why a million?

I couldn’t really care less about being a millionaire. I just think it’s a good number to set as a goal and is still seen as a lot of money to most people. Since most Americans don’t have any money saved, a million dollars is plenty to start with. I’ll also be financially independent once my net worth is up to a million so that’s the main goal for me.

What is financial independence?

If you’ve been around the personal finance blogging world, you’ve probably heard the term FIRE – Financial Independence Retire Early. Financial independence essentially means your money makes enough money that you could live off what it brings in. Whether your money is invested in the stock market, real estate, or some other form of investment, it really doesn’t matter. If it brings in enough money for you to live on, you’re financially independent. It means you don’t have to work for money anymore if you don’t want to.

I’m not concerned about the “retire early” part of FIRE because I know I’m always going to have projects I enjoy working on. It’s up to you if you want to quit working all together once you’re FI. Most people get bored after a while of doing nothing, so it’s good to have something you’re running towards in the pursuit of FI, rather than running away from a job.

I’m not the one that came up with this idea, but there’s a concept called the 4% rule. The 4% rule is where you have enough money invested that you can live off 4% of the interest it brings. So if you can live off 40,000 a year, you’d need a million dollars invested. The stock market usually does a lot better than 4% so you should be safe from inflation if you only withdraw that amount.

Why would I want to be financially independent?

For me, it comes down to freedom. If you’re FI, you can devote your time to whatever you want every single day. Since time is a finite asset, I’d like to have as much control over it as I can. You don’t have to spend anymore time sitting in traffic on your hour long commute to work. No more dealing with a boss that you can’t stand. The FI lifestyle looks to be the best option you can choose to pursue financially.

You may love your job and feel like you never want to quit. I would at least encourage you to ask yourself if your job is the 1 thing you would chose to do if it was the only thing you could do. If the answer is no, then you should probably think about becoming FI.

My money philosophy

When it comes down to it, I don’t really care about having a bunch of money. Sure, I’m trying to do everything I can to become a millionaire, but I only see money as a tool. I don’t want a Ferrari or a mansion, I just want to own my time and live comfortably. I’d also like to devote more time to making this world a better place.

Here is how I handle money and intend to become a millionaire:

Debt

My wife and I have never had any debt other than our mortgage. I did put her engagement ring on a payment plan, but I could’ve paid for it with cash. I just needed to build credit to buy our house. Staying out of debt has been one of the biggest contributors to our financial success.

There’s a triple cost in buying things on debt. There’s the money you would save from not buying the item at all, the money you spend on interest, and the money you could’ve invested instead of purchasing the item. The item is also going to go down in value, so you’re losing money there as well.
We’ve never had a car payment and don’t intend to. Cars are some of the fastest depreciating assets. You can really get ahead if you’re just a little be smarter than the average consumer.

Saving

Since we don’t have any debt, we’re able to save more money. We also try to optimize all our spending by doing a little research on everything we buy. We were born, and live in a lower cost of living area in Georgia. Our total housing is less than $1,000. We only shop at Aldi for groceries and we don’t have cable. We opted for a cheaper phone service and only pay $58.60 a month for the two of us. We just try to live as frugally as we can. We aren’t as extreme as others, but do a pretty good job of saving.

Our income isn’t super high, so we’re only saving about 30-40% of our income depending on the month. That’s a lot more than you’ll hear from most financial advisers though. If you can get your savings rate up to 50% or more, then you should be able to reach financial independence in 10 years or less.
We keep an emergency fund saved up in case anything were to happen and everyone should do this. You’ll sleep a lot better knowing you’re covered financially if an emergency arises.

Investing

We’re currently putting any money we save into index funds. Particularly, the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX). Where you invest your money is important. You want a low cost fund because every .01% that you pay in fees could add up to thousands over your investing life. Vanguard is one of the cheapest funds around and they were actually the ones who created index funds. You can’t go wrong with VTSAX and we’ll probably stay invested in this fund for the rest of our lives.

We don’t have any real estate investments but I am intrigued by the idea. You can potentially earn more from your investments, but it isn’t as passive as investing in index funds.

Income

To do all this saving, we obviously have to go out and earn some money. I’m currently a systems engineer in IT and my wife helps out at her family’s private school. I try to be a good employee and put a lot of work into getting the position I have today. I’m still in the entry level though so my income isn’t all that high.

I’m also building an eBay business which you will read about if you hang around this blog for a while. I love going out and finding treasures at yard sales and thrift stores and flipping them online. It’s become a nice boost to our income now that I’m doing it more seriously. I intend to match my day job salary with eBay sales eventually.

Why the name Millionaire Dojo?

I came up with this name as it is a combination of two things I love. Personal finance and martial arts. I got my black belt when I was 18 and continue to train each week (I’m 25 now).

I think Millionaire Dojo is suiting because I want to this website to be a place where people can come and train their minds on personal finance concepts. I’d love to eventually have people that started their financial journey by reading this website and overtime become millionaires themselves.

So where do you stand financially? If becoming financially independent is something you’re interested in, and you’d like to stay tuned to my story, make sure you sign up for the newsletter to receive the latest content in your inbox. You don’t necessarily have to become a millionaire to become financially independent, you just need enough to live on 4%.

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” -Bruce Lee