Since the early 2,000s, CNN Money has been profiling the financial lives of people headed toward millions because of their saving, spending, and investing habits.
I loved this series because it showed real numbers from real families. I was attracted to it for the same reason I liked reading anonymous personal finance blogs: I could see what was actually going on with someone having financial success.
It was both interesting and inspiring. I dare you to dig into some of these profiles and set some goals for yourself.
With the help of my friend Google, I’ve put together what I believe to be the most comprehensive list of these future millionaire profiles (CNN Money doesn’t have this on their site) dating back to the early 2000s.
I’ve also developed a database of their information and I’m able to present some facts, statistics, and trends, along with some of my favorites. Enjoy!
Millionaire in the Making Stats and Trends
Over the past 5 years, these individuals and couples submitted their information to CNN Money and were profiled online and in print.
The profiles followed a similar theme and contained specific personal finance nuggets, like savings account balances, annual incomes, and ages.
I took all these pieces of info and built a complete database. Now I’ll share with you the compiled financial information of the 60+ profiles.
Average Age, Family Size, Income, and Holdings of Millionaires
Here are the average stats of the 60 profiles:
- Age*: 35
- Number of Kids: 1.00 (yes, exactly 1)
- Household Income: $121,046.15
- Retirement Savings**: $180,434.75
- Emergency Savings***: $38,569.76
- Real Estate Equity****: $210,635.42
- Business Value*****: $536,250.00
What I think we can learn from these averages is that generally speaking to be a millionaire in the making you should plan on having a pretty decent sized household income and only one kid.
*Age is based on the oldest known member of the household at the time of profiling
**Includes taxable and non-taxable accounts, as well as education accounts
***Includes cash in savings (and checking, if included), CDs, and money market accounts
****Includes personal residence and rental properties
*****Only four profiles listed a business value
Want to see how you stack up? Plug your own numbers into the free software at Empower.com and quickly determine your net worth and how close you are to a million.
Statistical Outliers in the Millionaire in the Making Series
Profiles with the highest value in each category:
- Age: 52(tie) – Jeff and Leonora Claudio, Mark and Lori Gorney, Rick and Victoria Woods
- Kids: 7– George and Wendy Cicotte
- Income: $300,000– Michael and Caslyn Huck, Loan Office and Accountant
- Retirement Savings: $779,000 – Mark and Trish Crochet, Chemist and Paralegal
- Emergency Savings: $195,148 – Rick and Victoria Woods, Tennis Coach and Systems Engineer
- Real Estate Equity: $560,000– Todd French, Entrepreneur
- Business Value: $1.7M– Robert Criscuolo, Staffing Company Executive
Profiles with the lowest value in each category (excludes profiles with zero):
- Age: 24(tie) – Douglas Whipp and Kathleen Kaiser, Justin D’Angelo
- Income: $55,000– Michael Wentzel, Military
- Retirement Savings: $12,000 – Christopher Ortega and Alicia McDonald
- Emergency Savings: $1,157– Michael and Caslyn Huck
- Real Estate Equity: $11,500– Justin D’Angelo
- Business Value: $120,000– Todd French, Entrepreneur
Ages and Locations of Millionaires in the Making
Bubble Busted? Millionaire with High Home Equity Portfolio Representation
These five profiles had at least $300,000 more in real estate equity than they did in retirement and emergency savings combined:
- Todd French, CA
- Rick and Lisa Chetram, NY
- Christopher Ortega and Alicia McDonald, CA
- James and Lisa DeLaGarza, TX
- Erk and Laura Sarman, CA
Notice the States. Four of the five are from a bubble state, and the Texan is a real estate broker. It’d be great to check in on these people to see how the real estate bust has affected their MITM status.
Millionaires in the Making with Well Balanced Portfolios
These five profiles had less than $10,000 difference between their real estate equity and their savings (both retirement and emergency):
- Keith and Georgina Meulemans
- Brad and Lori Jarvis
- Scot and Heather Randol
- Han-Lin and Fu-Lin Lee
- Amy and Jesse Dickinson
The Complete List (60+) of CNN Money’s Millionaire in the Making Series (2002-2007)
Millionaires in the Making From 2007 Blog (now mostly offline)
John and Gena Rodrigues
Matthew and Kristen Shifrin
Nate and Nicki Wisneski
Ryan and Hope Wells
Frank Furbeck and Trudi Morris
Justin and Emily Bergman
Tracy and David Seims
Aris and Maria Magtibay
Amy and Jesse Dickinson
Keith and Elizabeth Bevelacqua
George and Wendy Cicotte
Jerry and Lynn Moser
2007 Millionaires in the Making
2006 Millionaires in the Making
2005 Millionaires in the Making
Christopher Ortega and Alicia McDonald
Mark and Kristi Johnson
Mark and Lori Gorney
Amy Chan Hilton and Edgar Hilton
Dave and Annie Hall
Ryan and Danielle Quilling
Jeff and Anna Briere
2004 Millionaires in the Making
Gloria and Robert Randecker
Michael and Caslyn Huck
Brad and Sharon Oldham
Rick and Victoria Woods
Michael and Maria Beall
James and Lisa DeLaGarza
Douglas Whipp and Kathleen Kaiser
Dave Coursey and Diana Patterson
Carl and Tahana Smith
Diana and Ken Knox Wolfe
Sean Dolan and Shelly Hawk
Update on Prior Millionaires in the Making
Mike and Christina Berretta
2003 Millionaires in the Making
Brad and Lori Jarvis
Scott and Kelly Ellman
Scot and Heather Randol
Erk and Laura Sarman
RJ and Tara Singh
Brett and Shannon Wask
Matt and Christy Shebuski
Mark and Trish Crochet
Keith and Georgina Meulemans
2002 Millionaires in the Making
In 2008, I did a follow-up interview the Todd French:
We talked about what led him to share his financial life to CNN Money, how the interview changed his life, and all the details behind his financials, including a nice update on his millionaire status!
Todd French’s Stats: Then and Now
An Example Millionaire Profile: The Rodrigueses from the 2007 Blog
At first glance, I thought the Rodrigueses were just another typical get-rich-quick in real estate millionaire couple from California. Big whoop, right?
If you look closer though, you’ll see that they do have some excellent saving, spending, and giving habits which have them headed towards an early retirement.
In my opinion though, if they don’t cut out some of their unnecessary risks, they may not get there.
John and Gina, both only 27, have amassed a net worth of $516K, and have a goal of retiring by 40. They make a combined $174,000 annually at Microsoft (John), and at a boutique shop (Gina) that they own.
They have about $150k in their 401(k) and $140k in cash savings. John also has around $90K in stock. Nice. The remainder of their net worth is made up primarily of supposed real estate equity and equity in their small business.
Their Frugal Life
While the savings is definitely impressive (in both size and how early they started), their spending habits seem excellent for someone of their income.
They only spend $300 annually on clothes, they split meals when they dine out (which is rare for them), and they sold their house to go rent for $600 a month (some one’s been reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad).
They’re really living below their means here.
The Business of Things
John and Gina have a high-risk tolerance and entrepreneurial spirit. They have rental properties in Phoenix and San Antonio which are currently running at a negative cash flow. They also took on $75K in debt to own a boutique shop.
Risk Without Reward
In typical Money Magazine fashion, the financial experts are unleashed on the Rodridueses’ portfolio. I agree with what they have to say.
The way I see it, the Rodrigueses are taking on too much risk with the small business and rental real estate. They could drop both the small business and real estate right now and still have a net worth of around $375K.
With John’s income and some part-time work for Gina, they could be well on the “secure” path to early retirement at 40.
“We Never See the Money, So We Don’t Miss It”
That’s exactly what William and Cynthia Foust of Mount, North Carolina had to say about their automated savings. According to a recent MONEY magazine profile, they’ve been able to save over $800,000 for their retirement. Granted they saved at a rate of 35% of their income, which is no small feat.
But a bigger feat these days seems to be remaining consistent with your savings. Life just gets in the way. One month you have excess funds and the end of the month and you can dump some money into savings. The next month, you fall short and have to reach into savings to help you out.
That’s why I love automated savings. As long as you stay at the same job, there’s nothing to get you off track. You set it up once, and you forget about it. Notice that the Fousts didn’t just do it with 401Ks though. They also used the Roth IRA, an online broker, and online savings account to supplement their effort. Great move. They are my saving heroes.
Keep in mind if you decide to do this, you need a little more discipline to make the automation work. Instead of a direct deposit (like your 401K), you’ll likely need to set up an automated withdrawal from your checking account. Start small and set the transfers to occur the day or two after your paycheck arrives. Once you get comfortable with the move you can increase your contributions.
How to be a Millionaire: As Explained by a 4th Grader
Are you smarter than this 4th grader?
Jenna Fink, of Frisco, TX knows her stuff. She drew the Elementary school grade category winning poster in the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) Be Money Wi$e National Financial Literacy Poster Contest.
“The purpose of the contest is to introduce young people to the concept of financial literacy and allow them to express their understanding of it through art. This year, more than 4,000 posters were received illustrating the theme of ‘I’m going to be a millionaire because…”
Jenna beat out a bunch of other entries. And you can see why…
The Complete List of CNN Money’s Tycoons in the Making (2004-2006)
Sometime in early 2004, CNN Money decided to begin featuring profiles of people who were building a solid portfolio primarily in real estate, or Tycoons in the Making, as they called them.
While the Millionaire sets had its share of real estate wealth, most were true savers.
This list of Tycoons is again presented in descending date order and is (best I can tell) a complete listing of the series profiles. Notice that the series ends in mid-2006. I wonder how many of these Tycoons are still “in the making?”
Chris Sontaie Ferrell
Todd and Suzanne Egress
Robert and Yvonne Cromer
Even More Millionaire Lists
While scouring the internet for those lists I stumbled upon some other lists that I found interesting.
The Surprisingly Rich – In 2003, CNN Money put together a list of people who have money but didn’t necessarily show it throughout their lives.
Check out the Surprisingly Rich
AOL Young Millionaires
The Young Millionaires
Kiplinger – Actual Millionaires
“Hundredaires” in the Making – John and Jane Spendalot
This list wouldn’t be complete without including the spoof from Adventure Money.com (no longer active, so I present the full article below):
It’s not always easy to manage your finances when you’re working 80-100 hours a week. But the long hours haven’t kept John and Jane Spendalot from setting their sites on some lofty financial goals.
“We think by the time we’re 40 we can have a positive net worth,” says Jane, 28.
Lawyers in Love
The two met three years ago as first-year associates at the prestigious Los Angeles law firm of Shall, Oh & Profligate. Law school, of course, is not cheap and the Spendalots felt the full brunt of a legal education in the pocketbooks, graduating with almost $250,000 in student loan debt combined. Thankfully, the large student loans allowed them to snare even larger salaries—John, 28, and Jane make $150,000 a year, each. Despite the large salaries, saving money isn’t as easy as one would expect, they say.
Where Does the Money Go?
The Spendalots are avid travelers. Working long hours leaves them pining for the road. Financed mostly by credit cards, the Spendalots have seen much of the world the last few years—France, Germany, Japan, Thailand, Spain, and Greece, to name a few recent jaunts.
The Spendalots also recently purchased his and her Porsches. At almost $70,000 a piece, the cars weren’t cheap, but they say they expect to keep the cars for a very long time.
“At least until they’re paid off in four years,” says John. “By then the navigation system will probably be outdated. And I thought it was going to be a bit cheesy to have his and her cars, but to paraphrase Johnny Drama from Entourage:
‘We’d look like schmucks in Jettas. In Porsches, we look good.’
“Man, I love him,” says John.
Investing in a Home
After getting married last year, the Spendalots set their sites on a home in Manhattan Beach, CA. They finally settled on a five bedroom, four bath house for $1.6 million.
“My father always used to say that a home is a great investment,” says John. “And I wanted to be responsible, so I figured we should get the biggest house we could find.”
“Yeah, we don’t have any kids, so we don’t really need five bedrooms,” says Jane. “But there’s a chance one day we might decide to have kids; maybe when we’re done practicing law. Although, I guess I might be too old by that point. Maybe we’ll adopt one of those poor kids like Angelina. I love her.”
When it came time to financing the home, the Spendalots selected a zero-down, 30-year mortgage, with interest-only payments the first ten years.
“I was flipping through the channels one night and that Susie Gorman lady was on CNBC. She was talking about how mortgage interest is deductible,” says John. “I figured the more interest we paid, the larger our tax deduction, so we’re saving money there.”
The strategy, thus far, hasn’t worked out in the Spendalots’ favor. In the year since they purchased their home, similar houses in their neighborhood have been selling for up to 10% less. Since they didn’t put any money down on the home, the Spendalots now suspect they owe quite a bit more than their home is actually worth.
“We’re not too worried, though,” says Jane. “I expect by next year home prices will start increasing by 15-20% again. You know, like normal.”
As it stands, the Sepndalots currently have a net worth of -$600,000, a rather low amount given their earning power. They do recognize that it’s important to save for retirement and have been devising a strategy.
“We’d like to start saving, but we really want to get out of debt first,” says Jane.
“We’re making the payments on our student loans and we figure that once those are paid off—in 2034—we’re going to take the money we were paying on student loans and then put that toward our credit cards. It’s called a ‘debt snow job’ or something. Some guy on the radio was talking about it. Then, we plan to start putting away money for retirement.”
The Spendalots realize that the best way to get ahead is to cut back on their spending. Although she doesn’t go grocery shopping much (the couple eats out most of the time), Jane has started bringing coupons with her to the grocery store when she does go.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “I never thought I would be one to clip coupons, but I really got into it. I even bought this cute little Fendi handbag that I call my ‘Coupon Caddy’ to carry all my stuff in.”
“And the bag will look GREAT when we’re in Rome next month.”
Hopefully, you enjoyed viewing these profiles and compiled information. I find all the profiles very inspiring in some way and all have helped to put some perspective on my own financial situation.