The Complete List of CNN’s Millionaires (and Tycoons) in the Making

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 PersonalCapital.com and quickly determine your net worth and how close you are to a million.

Personal Capital: Financial Software Price: Free Calculate your net worth. Set a budget. Manage investment accounts. Plan for retirement. Personal Capital: Financial Software

Statistical Outliers in the Millionaire in the Making Series

Profiles with the highest value in each category:

Profiles with the lowest value in each category (excludes profiles with zero):

Ages and Locations of Millionaires in the Making

Age

Age

Location

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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:

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):

Millionaire in the Making Family with Piggy Bank Savings

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
Jeanette Courts
Jerry and Lynn Moser

2007 Millionaires in the Making

Darren Fike
Sherelle Derico

2006 Millionaires in the Making

Matt and Kristina Johnson
Sid and Divya Arora
Matt and Lori Marchbanks
Jeff and Leonora Claudio
Jeff and Jet Martin
Natalie and Greg Turner
Han-Lin and Fu-Lin Lee
Paul and Audrey Yazbeck

2005 Millionaires in the Making

Justin D'Angelo
Christopher Ortega and Alicia McDonald
Mark and Kristi Johnson
Mike Rogalski
Hai Tieu
Mark and Lori Gorney
Amy Chan Hilton and Edgar Hilton
Dave and Annie Hall
Ryan and Danielle Quilling
Jeff and Anna Briere
Megan Murray

2004 Millionaires in the Making

Gloria and Robert Randecker
Michael and Caslyn Huck
Brad and Sharon Oldham
Rick and Victoria Woods
Robert Criscuolo
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
Michael Wentzel
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

Mark Merry
Tom and Mary Kemnitz
Todd French
Hillary and Mike Bernier
Rick and Lisa Chetram
Rich and Cathy Whalen
Steven and Erica Ploof

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

Todd French - Net Worth

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.

The Stats

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.

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?”

2006

Ted Theodoropoulos
Sky Minor
Ron and Yvette Godwin
Mary Buenavenura
Albert Cummings

2005

Jaz Wray
John Fragnito
Dave Goldoff
Bo Apostolache
Tamara Garber
Jim Elliott
Saverio Fulciniti
The Bouquets
Rob and Nicole Adams

2004

Cody Kennedy
Chris Sontaie Ferrell
Todd and Suzanne Egress
Stan Tafilaw
Susan Rodman
Lan Phan
Joe Becherer
Matthew Martinez
Richard Domaleski
Robert and Yvonne Cromer
Patrick Feeney
Esther Diller
Joshua Carlson

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
5 Millionaires
13 Millionaires
2006 Update on the 13 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.”

The Mortgage

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.”

The Future

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.”

Saving Money

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.

About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a former practicing CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of FinCon, the conference and community dedicated to helping other financial influencers and brands. He created this website back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money, hold himself accountable, and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence.

PT uses Personal Capital to keep track of his financial life. This free software allows him to review his net worth regularly, analyze his investments, and make decisions about his financial future.

PT keeps a portion of his emergency fund in Betterment, the automatic investing tool that makes investing super simple. Betterment focuses on what matters most: savings rate, time in the market, investing costs, and taxes. PT recommends this service to anyone looking to get started investing for themselves.

All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.

Comments

  1. It would be cool to see some “where are they now” updates…

    • Philip Taylor says:

      Yeah, I had this whole thing planned to do podcasts with them and successfully did one http://goo.gl/pN4Fj but the others were too hard to get in touch with or didn’t want to do it.

      I think many of them were “house millionaires” and after the housing crash they took a big hit. I’m sure many have retired happily though.

  2. Reading these back in 2002 was one of the first things that got me interested in personal finance. I figured if they could do it, so could I! 🙂

  3. @Nozferatu – I don’t understand what you are not impressed with. The fact that they don’t have fancy cars?

  4. I’m not too impressed…the do nothing but save.

    The couple, who run a small company that sells industrial fasteners and other supplies, paid themselves $103,000 last year. They have no credit-card debt, have lived in the same house (worth about $300,000) for 14 years and don’t drive fancy cars. They’re so frugal compared with certain friends, in fact, that they wonder if they’re missing something. “Everybody’s passing us by,” Tracy says. “What are we doing wrong?”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself..indeed..life is passing them by…they’ll grow old, have alot of money and look back and say…[explitive]..all we did was work, chase money, and save. What a waste.