How Doing Simple Millionaire Math will Get You Started Towards Financial Freedom


For us, becoming millionaires became possible with a calculator, pen, and a yellow pad of paper.

Soon after Mr. H and I were married, I started going to the library and checking out personal finance books. One in particular left its mark. It was hardback, white dust jacket, and a story of how a guy mapped out what would happen if his net worth compounded at 18% via a combination of owning a home and investing in the stock market. Each year was visible, so you could see the math progress. I don’t remember if he actually achieved his goal. That part didn’t matter to me.

The compounding interest is what caught my eye. Intellectually, I understood the concept. I just had never sat down and personally crunched fifteen plus years of numbers to see the pot grow.

I don’t remember the title of the book. It was fairly nondescript and certainly no financial best seller of its era. Back then, books focused on riding the inflation fueled real estate boon ruled the roost.

For me doing the math long hand was the turning point. The simple act of using a calculator and pen to jot down each year’s number based on a fixed starting point profoundly changed my thinking.

It was logical and it was basic math.

I realized then that I didn’t know how, I didn’t know when, and I didn’t care that I didn’t know how or when. I only knew with every fiber of my being that someday, some how, we would be financially free. It’s just math.

To help get you started, I’ve provided a free Net Worth Calculator spreadsheet modeled on the yellow pad of paper I originally used 20 years ago. It’s my way of saying thank you for subscribing to my RSS feed. Simply click on the orange or blue button at the end of this post and pick a reader of your choice. Once inside my feed, click on the download link for Net Worth Calculator. It should be in the footer of each RSS entry. You can always download the file and then unsubscribe. I’m hoping you’ll chose to stay.

Play around with different starting net worth’s, growing at different interest rates. Have fun and pick huge numbers. I’ve included the option of annual savings increases as well as allowing a tax rate bite.

When you’ve settled on parameters that work best for you, use it as a guide to repeat the exercise long hand. It is more believable when you punch the numbers into a calculator than letting a computer do all the work.

If you’d rather stick to doing the calculations by hand, here’s a brief example of how $10,000 would grow at 15%.

Dollar Base x Yearly Percent Growth = End of Year Net Worth Pot
$10,000 x 1.15 = $11,500 at end of year 1
$11,500 x 1.15 = $13,225 at end of year 2
$13,225 x 1.15 = $15,209 at end of year 3
Rinse and repeat until you reach the net worth number you like.

The point of this exercise is to see mathematically what it takes to get from your start point to your financial freedom $. Maybe you’ll reach it, maybe you won’t. You will never make it if you don’t try.

Today is the day to prove that the math works. You have to believe in the numbers or in the future you will talk yourself out of doing the necessary saving and investing, treating it as a fool’s errand with no reward at the end.

With that in mind:

  • Do not worry if the numbers twenty years from now seem ridiculously optimistic for your current situation. In future posts I’ll tackle how you get from dreams on paper to making your net worth grow.
  • Do not get bogged down by taxes. Yes, Uncle Sam will diminish part of your yearly financial pot. But not the whole pot. Many protect their stock portfolios in tax deferred accounts. Even my stocks in regular brokerage accounts are only subjected to capital gains taxes when I sell, and I don’t sell very often. I certainly don’t turn over all my stocks on a yearly basis.
  • Do not focus on the negative. For all the bad things you can think of that will prevent you from becoming financially free, you could also get a raise or become better at investing or marry the person of your dreams and combine households. Good things can happen along the financial way.

In the next post, I’ll give some creative examples of how to use the spreadsheet, even if you currently have more debt than net worth. Later, I’ll talk about what we did after the spreadsheet.

Until then, download the spreadsheet inside my RSS feed and have fun …

Creative Ways to use the Net Worth Calculator Beyond Creating a Millionaire Math Map


As I mentioned in the last post, you can download my free Net Worth Calculator spreadsheet as my thank you for subscribing to my RSS feed. Simply click on the orange or blue feed button and follow the prompts. Once inside my feed, click on the download link for the Net Worth Calculator at the bottom of each entry.

Once you’ve had a chance to play around with the spreadsheet, I thought I’d explore some unconventional ways to put it to work.

Scenario #1
You got out of the military in January 1996 and began a civilian career. At the time, you had saved $18,500. After more than a decade at two different companies and steady pay raises, you’ve accumulated a nest egg of $135,000. At what percentage has your net worth grown?

Enter the following data.

CIR: 15% to start -you will be bracketing to find the answer
SY: 1996
SNW: $18,500
ITR: 0% because you are seeking a historical answer to growth that has already been taxed.
ASC: $0 because you are seeking a historical answer to growth that has already been saved.

Since 15% only generates $98,980 by the start of 2008, you will have to bracket the interest rate, entering a logical progression of numbers until the value at the start of 2008 reaches approximately $135,000. The answer, within the limits of the spreadsheet,  is 18.014%

Scenario #2
You like your current job, despite its nonexistent salary growth. Given your situation, it’s unrealistic to save any further. You are comfortable with learning how to invest better but is it really worth the effort?

You’ve got $16,000 tucked away in a Roth IRA earning 6%. You could either:

  1. Look for a job that pays $1,000 more per year. However in your field, those jobs are more demanding time wise and less enjoyable. It would mean that after taxes in the 15 % tax bracket, you could faithfully add $850 yearly to your retirement funds.
  2. Stay put with less work stress and direct that energy to improving your investment returns by 4% points per year. Considering how much of your Roth is currently in a money market account, becoming more comfortable with stock mutual funds might do the trick. In 5 years, what is the money difference?

Enter the following data for keeping the old job.

CIR: 10%
SY: 2008
SNW: $16,000
ITR: 0% since funds are tax protected in a Roth IRA
ASC: $0 since staying put means no added savings

Final results at 12% in 5 years = $28,197

Enter the following data for taking the new job.

CIR: 6%
SY: 2008
SNW: $16,000
ITR: 0% since funds are tax protected in a Roth IRA
ASC: $850 – I’m assuming the individual is in the 15% tax bracket and if he has $1,000 extra gross income, he will have an extra $850 after taxes available to deposit in the Roth IRA

Final results at the start of 2013:

Stay put in old job: $25,768
Take the new job: $26,203

Better, but maybe not enough to justify losing the more satisfying job.

Of course there are no guarantees. The point is to play around with the options and and see how the math works. Our happy employee might even do better than 10% as investing skills improve. You never know.

Scenario #3
You are planning to get married in 2010. By combining households, the two of you will easily cover your remaining debt load with some money to spare. You can actually start thinking about starting a nest egg. After doing some basic math, you should have $2,000 to start the marriage and after taxes you’re pretty sure you can save $4,000 a year given what you expect your combined salaries and expenses to be.

Since you are young and love to dream big, you’re shooting for a 15% return. If you succeed, what will your nest egg be worth in a decade? You are in the 28% tax bracket, but figure only a quarter of any year’s growth will be vulnerable to the IRS.

Enter the following data.

CIR: 15%
SY: 2010
SNW: $2,000
ITR: 7% since that is a quarter of 28%
ASC: $4,000

Final Results: at the start of 2021, you will have $100,337. Congratulations!

Scenario #4
When you graduate in June, your favorite uncle is gifting you $5,000 in stock and has promised to pay any tax obligation in the year of the transfer if you promise not to sell a single share for 20 years. He wants you to have a solid start in life. The stock has done well in the past and seems like a standard bearer for any new stock portfolio.

For now, you don’t want to think about your looming mountain of student loan debt. You want to …