As a finance graduate in the height of the 2009 recession, I was lost and confused at 22. Following my parents’ advice, I chose finance as my major, just to realize I didn’t enjoy any of the finance internships I held.
Since I had no job and my family could use the help, I went to waitress at my parents’ restaurant in Boston, becoming increasingly frustrated about my future. As my friends went off to their 9-to-5s to start their glorious careers, I was stuck doing the job I’d held since high school.
As the year flew by, I knew I had to get serious about my life. After all, my immigrant parents didn’t work so hard to provide for me and send me to college just for me to come back and waitress at their restaurant. More importantly, I was ready to sink my teeth into my future and create a successful life.
By 30, I was able to find a career I love and build wealth, and I now continue to help others as an entrepreneur in my profession. Here is how I went from a waitress at 22 to a millionaire by 30, and my best advice for others who want to do the same.
1. Realize your strengths and weaknesses.
Work with the skills you know you have. Getty Images
While I lacked the skills to create a successful career in finance, I worked with what little skills I knew I had.
Through my entrepreneurial endeavors and hospitality jobs during high school and college, what I excelled in was communicating and influencing others, reacting on the fly, and working long days on tough jobs that were both physically and mentally challenging.
I saw a big appeal in sales roles. I knew I possessed many advantages compared to my peers because of the heavy objection handling, sales, and people-management experience I had interfacing with all personality types during my hospitality jobs.
Luckily, a headhunting firm saw potential in me and hired me to become a junior recruiter. I packed my bags, left my waitressing job, and arrived in New York City with a dream in my pocket to hit it big as a recruiter.
Don’t double down on your weaknesses; find a career that will allow you to leverage your strengths and profit.
2. Work as hard as possible to be the best.
Working with a vengeance got her far. andresr/Getty Images
Since I was used to hustling to make a buck, I was truly honored, astounded, and immensely motivated by the moneymaking potential in recruitment. I vowed to become a top producer and conquer the billing leagues.
And since I was raised by tough immigrant parents who constantly pushed me and taught me to work hard, I thrived under the high-pressure sales environment of recruitment.
From day one, I worked with a vengeance, breaking records on phone times and KPIs (key performance indicators), working over 12 hours a day, seven days a week — whatever it took to learn the job as fast as possible. Despite making countless mistakes along the way, I became a standout hire, breaking billing records and getting recognized internally as a high-potential future leader. At age 25, I was breaking $215,000 in income a year.
When you commit to something that you know you could be good at, give it your all, blindly believe, and persevere to success. Anything less will have suboptimal results.
3. Maximize your income potential while decreasing your cost of living.
Even as she earned more, she maintained a low cost of living. Getty
In order to achieve my dreams of becoming wealthy, I adopted smart financial habits. I implemented stringent cost controls from the day I landed in NYC — mostly because of the low base salary, my level of student debt, and just striving to survive while I was still learning the business and had no commissions coming in.
I rarely took taxis (once a quarter was a luxury), lived 45 minutes from work in an obscure neighborhood for cheaper rent, mostly cooked or ate discount foods, shopped only clearance on the rare occasions I would let myself buy something, and practiced countless other cost-saving measures. I used an Excel spreadsheet to track my spending and budget for everything.
Even when commissions started rolling in, the name of the game was keeping the status quo. Other than the occasional luxury goods and vacations I would go on (again, heavily discounted, and I still monitored how I spent my money), I refused to upgrade my lifestyle in any significant way. To this day, I still live in my neighborhood because it lets me sock away money at a faster rate because of very reasonable rental costs.
If you spend all your money, you’re just shackling yourself to having to work harder and longer to pay yourself back. Prioritize your financial health and set yourself on the right path to adopt wealth-creating habits.
4. Invest as much of your net worth that you can into something you deeply understand.
The author isn’t pictured. Shutterstock
By the time I was 25, I had already saved up over $100,000. I would consistently invest 75% of it or more in the stock market. While I wasn’t a genius equities trader, I knew enough to be dangerous and make some decent returns — nothing crazy.
I finally decided to truly study real-estate investing. That became my obsession. After work, at work, on weekends, that became my second job: teaching myself real-estate investing strategies by reading books on tax law and real-estate investing, and listening to audiobooks on the subject.
After I bought my second property, I quit my job at 28. After five years of being a consistent top producer, I felt confident that I no longer needed to work for someone else.
For the last two years of my 20s, I bought and sold more properties, becoming a millionaire by 30. Now, I’m self-employed with a healthy investment portfolio and my own recruitment business, DG Recruit.
If you don’t learn to invest and invest as much as humanly possible when you’re young, you’re missing out of a lot of opportunities to increase your net worth. Study and master debt instruments and the positive qualities of debt, and don’t be afraid of leveraging debt.
Long story short
I achieved such fast net-worth growth in a relatively short period by combining and maximizing multiple strategies at the same time in a concentrated, focused manner: earning, saving, and investing as much as I could.
I continued to educate myself outside of work and school and executed my plan without being afraid of decisions, timing, and risks.
My most important advice is to take action while you still have the chance to take risks. Don’t overthink things. Analysis paralysis kills so many great opportunities. Instead, be decisive and go for it. The worst that could happen is you’ll learn something new along your journey.