A millennial millionaire on how he thinks about money and stops himself from “obsessing” about it


  • Don, 43, is a self-made millionaire who used to put enormous pressure on himself to make more money.
  • He said even a six-figure salary can quickly disappear with taxes, child expenses and a mortgage.
  • He now focuses on other things in his life, like his children, which bring him more happiness than wealth ever could.

Don, 43, is grateful for the financial situation he currently finds himself in.

With investment assets of just over $1 million, according to documents reviewed by Insider, the millennial father — who asked that his last name be withheld for privacy but whose full identity is known to Insider — said he realizes that with inflation that is straining the wallets of many Americansa six-figure salary just isn’t what it used to be.

For years he put a lot of pressure on himself to keep saving, investing and building his wealth. But at some point, Don said, more and more wealth stops bringing more happiness. But his family always did and he realized that he needed to make sure he devoted enough time to them and other important things in his life that money could not measure.

“The last two years during the covid era I experienced burnout, probably for the first time in a long time. And that was regardless of my income increasing significantly,” says Don, who founded a financial planning firm.

“I thought, I don’t want to continue with my work ethic like this, because if I’m just chasing the money itself and feeling burned out, then I’m missing other areas,” he continued. “So that’s what helped me rethink how I want to live my life and recalibrate so that I can focus on the joy of working without thinking, if I do this, then I earn this.”

While inflation is falling, it is still not high Federal Reserve’s 2% Target — the latest consumer price index, which measures inflation, increased by 3.2% compared to the previous year in Octoberdown from the reading of 3.7% a month earlier.

With that being the case, many Americans have a harder time being happy — and buying what they need to buy — on their current salaries, even those making six figures. A recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll and released by financial services firm Empower found that of 2,034 Americans surveyed, the average respondent believe they need to earn $284,167 each year to be happy. For millennials, that number jumped to $525,000.

The New York Federal Reserve also found in an August investigation that salary expectations have hit record highs, “most pronounced for respondents over 45 and for college graduates,” the report said.

Don said the $525,000 threshold for people in his age group is an amount that “could go a long way,” butdwindles quickly after taxes and the expenses many in his age group face like a mortgage, sending kids to school, car payments and more.

It’s hard to shift away from the sole focus of making more money, Don said, but since he plans to work for at least two more decades while raising his two children, he’s focused on making sure he devotes enough time for his family and his health so that he can actually enjoy the wealth he has built for himself.

“I want to keep learning how to be a good father,” Don said. “Even if I’m tired from work when I get home, if I want to spend quality time with my daughters and help them with their homework, I don’t want to rush into it. I want to be strongly present.”

“So when I think about my money, I think about being really grateful because it’s not something I want to ultimately define my life,” he added. “I don’t want to get into the habit of obsessing over my income.”

“You need the humility that it can be taken away from you”

Don said his upbringing largely influenced how he now thinks about money and wealth. Although he never felt like his family couldn’t make it when he was a child, he said he was taught “it’s really about having a rich family, having an abundance in your household of feeling loved and safe.”

“Looking back, I don’t remember what my presents were for Christmas or birthdays,” Don said. “But what I remember most are the little things, like my uncle who didn’t have anyone to spend the holidays with and my mom would invite him, and he’d spend time with us and play the piano, and I could hear my mom laughing from downstairs .”

It has driven Don to structure his life in terms of goals – he focuses on investing rather than impulse spending, along with intentionally setting aside time for his children, his wife and focusing on his health.

Of course, as the U.S. is still recovering from the pandemic, the future of the economy’s recovery is uncertain — and many Americans are still feel the finances are not where they should be. A Suffolk University Sawyer Business School/USA TODAY survey of 1,000 Americans from September 6-11 was found that 70% of respondents said the economy was getting worse, even as inflation continued to fall and the number of jobs increased.

Given the fluctuations in the economy and the stock market, Don said it’s important for him to consistently ensure he’s devoting enough time to things in his life other than money.

“I’m extremely grateful for where I am now, and you have to have the humility that it can be taken away from you,” Don said. “So what are the things you have in your life that money can’t measure? And once you get to that mindset, then I think you’ve reached a sense of a different kind of wealth that’s not tied to numbers.”

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