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How to Make a Million Dollars in 10 Years

Truthfully, this title should actually be “How to Make a Million Dollars in 10 Years Without Going Into Debt“, but that is just getting a little too winded for my liking. It’s true though!

My girlfriend and I worked out how this can be done on a sketch pad while we were watching the sunset (which, by the way, is the best place for working on your finances if there ever was one). Here is how we figure we could earn a million bucks within just 10 years. And, more importantly, how YOU can make a million dollars in just 10 years.

Step 1: You Must Be Debt Free

If you want to make a million dollars in 10 years (the low-risk way), it really helps to be debt free.

I have many friends that have a nice car, a nice house, and fancy furniture, which basically means that they have a lot of debt. Because of all that debt, they are obligated to make those big monthly payments. Which…keeps them from earning thousands, let alone millions. If you can free yourself from the grips of all those debt payments, your cash flow will grow to a massive amount each month. And, with that cash flow you can begin to invest heavily and earn yourself that million dollars.

Step 2: You Must Live on Less

I always thought that I lived very frugally, but just recently I have discovered that I was dead wrong.

Only after I started budgeting did I realize just how much money I was throwing out the window!

  • My cell phone bill used to be $85 a month. By negotiating with Verizon, I got this reduced to only $60.
  • My car insurance used to be $960 a year. By shopping around, I was able to find a company that would insure my car for only $575!
  • I was also able to reduce my grocery bill by eating out less and buying less expensive foods (while still staying healthy).

The list goes on and on, but overall I was able to save another thousand dollars each year! Plus, I discovered that I could live on only $460 a month!

Sometimes saving is better than earning…

A thousand bucks is quite a lot of money, but since I saved it instead of earned it, it’s more like $2,000. You see, when you earn more money, you end up paying a crap-load of taxes on those earnings. In the end, your $1,000 of earned money turns into something close to $500. Therefore, if you save $1,000, you have effectively done the same thing as getting a $2,000 raise at work! Isn’t that awesome?

Related: BillCutterz Absolutely Shocked Me and Saved Me Money on My Phone Bill

Step 3: You Must Earn More

If you want to make a million dollars in a short amount of time, then it would really help to earn more than $40,000 a year. Sure, saving is a great way to increase your cash flow each month. But, you can only save so much before putting yourself into a state of poverty. At this point, you need to think about earning more money. And, since many of us work a job that pays a salary, this is the best place to start to earn more money.

If you want to move up at work and earn a few extra thousand dollars (or more) a year, then you had better start impressing your boss.

Here are some great ways to get noticed at work and earn that promotion:

  • Dress as if you already got a promotion
  • Take the lead on large projects
  • Earn your company far more than they pay you
  • After a year of hard work, show on paper why you are worth more than what you are getting paid, and most importantly, ASK FOR A RAISE!

You can also increase your income by working a 2nd job or starting your own small business on the side. Four years ago, I decided to start this website, and it now earns me a sufficient amount of money each month in addition to my full-time job.

Want to make more money? Start a website like I did! (To date in 2020, I’ve earned over $150k with my blog). Get started by clicking the banner below and using this tutorial.

Web Hosting from iPage

By earning more at work (and perhaps through another avenue) and keeping your living expenses low, your cash flow should be enormous! In just a few months, I will have my house paid off and will enjoy a surplus of $3,500 a month! In just one short year, I could have $40,000 chilling in my bank account, just waiting to be invested! If I can do it, why can’t you?

20120323 - houseStep 4: Find a Bargain on Real Estate, Fix It Up, and Rent It Out

There are plenty of ways to get wealthy:

  • your side business could take off,
  • you could invest your money perfectly in the stock market,
  • or you could invest in the ideas of others and get paid back in large royalties.

But, the best way to get wealthy that I know of is with real estate.

Three years ago, I bought my first house. I paid $75,000 for it, put another $10,000 into it and fixed it up myself, and today my home is worth over $120,000! Over a short period of time, I was able to amass a $35,000 gain by ripping off some wallpaper and slapping up some paint! Now the question is, what if I was able to do this to another house, and also rent it out for additional earnings? The income potential is limitless!

In my area, I could find a cash-only deal on a house for about $60,000. The fix-up costs would at most be $5,000 because I could do much of the work myself. After the DIY projects were completed, I could rent out this home for $900 a month (which, by the way, would increase my income and allow me to make the next purchase in less time than the first one).

[Update, 2020: This article was written in 2014 and houses can’t be purchased in my area for $60,000 anymore. They’re more like $100,000 for an extreme deal. But you know what? They don’t rent for $900 anymore – they rent for $1,350! So the math still works!]

Step 5: Repeat Step Four Again and Again

It’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. Is it really possible to make a million dollars in real estate in just 10 years? Of course it is! But let me prove it to you.

Because my girlfriend and I are quite frugal and have absolutely no debt, we can fairly easily amass $65,000 of extra cash in one year. Before you scoff at that and say, “Well then of course you can earn a million in ten years! Nobody else has the kind of income that can produce an extra $65,000 a year!”, remember that we already went through steps one through three.

If we had not gotten rid of all of our debts, reduced our spending to practically nothing, or worked hard specifically to achieve raises at work, then we would only have an extra thousand bucks a year like the rest of America. I don’t mean to be harsh, but that is the blunt truth of the situation. Follow steps one through three and you will notice a HUGE increase in your cash flow as well.

May I continue now? Thanks, I will. 🙂

Alright, so if you follow the steps outlined here, then you too could save up to $65,000 a year!

Once you get to this point, here is the process to amass your millions:

Year 1 is spent working hard, taking cheap camping vacations, and eating many meals at home (instead of at the pricey restaurant). After the first year, you will have your $65,000 to invest in your first rental house with CASH!

Year 2: You continue working hard at your day jobs, you fix up the house in the evenings, and you rent it out to a kind family in need of a home. Your net earnings on this investment are just over $800 a month. This equates to $10,000 a year (the earnings are pretty hefty when you don’t have to pay a mortgage on that rental property). After this year is over, you and your spouse have saved up $75,000 ($65k + $10k).

Year 3: You have the money to buy another rental property for $65,000, so you fix it up and rent it out. It also earns an extra $10,000 per year. At the end of this year, you have 2 rental properties and $95,000 ($10k left over from last year + $65k + $10k + $10k).

Since the math is getting a little messy, let’s shift over to table form:

How to Make a Million Dollars in 10 Years

This is where it starts to get fun!!

Year 4: You buy another house, rent it out. Then develop a savings of $95,000. 

Year 5: You buy another house, rent it out, and are able to save up $125,000 by the end of the year. 

Year 6: You have enough in savings to buy 2 houses! Your rental income has now soared to $60,000 per year, which allows you to buy 2 houses per year consistently!

Year 7: You buy another 2 houses, rent them out. And, develop a savings of $175,000 by the end of the year.

Year 8: You buy another 2 houses, rent them out, and save up $210,000 at year end.

Year 9: With your large savings, you are able to buy 3 rental houses this year! Even after those purchases, you are still able to amass $210,000 in your savings account.

Year 10: In the tenth year of this madness, you can purchase another 3 rental properties, which gives you a total of 16 houses.

Adding It All Up

Assuming that each house has an average value of $100,000 (after you have fixed them up), your 16 houses have amassed a value of $1,600,000! And, as if that isn’t enough, they are earning you $160,000 per year (not including the rising house values year after year)! At this point, if you and your spouse wanted to quit your jobs, I’d say you wouldn’t even have to think twice about it.

So, it looks like I actually overachieved and found a way to earn you $1.6 million in 10 years, not $1 million. Oops. But, since everything in life doesn’t always work perfectly to plan, you might “only” earn the million instead. It’s always good to have a buffer in your plans, right?

For me, this plan is pretty cut and dry, and pretty simple to boot. All you have to do is find one deal on a house each year, fix it up, rent it out, and then repeat the process again and again. By working with cash, your headaches with the bank are minimal and your profit margins on your investments are massive!

So what do you think? Would you sign up for this plan to make a million dollars in 10 years?

Want to Speed Up the Process? Take on a Side Hustle

The side gig has been way more of a money-maker than I would have ever imagined. I have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars with this simple blog and will likely make hundreds of thousands more. 

Want to find a gig that suits you? Here’s some great resources that we’ve written along the way:

Housing Make Money Money


My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. This is how my wife and I plan to really fund our early retirement/kids college education. We want to buy about 10 rental properties and basically live off of the income from them each month. While we aren’t planning to pay 100% of our kids tuition, we may sell a house or two and use the proceeds to help pay for college. If though it makes more sense to take money out of our investment portfolio, we will do that instead.

    • I love this plan myself. Sure, you can get the bad renter once in a while, but I believe that I will get more quality renters with houses instead of apartment complexes. I love the fact that (1) the house will likely increase in value along with inflation, (2) you can claim depreciation on your house (even though it increases in value), and (3) it provides a nice semi-passive income for years and years!

  2. There are many risks here – 16 new houses in 10 years with no real estate experience is a fairly risk approach.

    Additionally, the 2011 average US household gross income was $50,054 per annum. Therefore, even with pay rises and very high savings rates, the average family will struggle to save $65,000 per year.

    All that said, for ambitious high-earners who are interested in real estate, this approach seems fairly sensible. Additionally, assuming you have safe income streams outside of your property portfolio, re-mortgaging and releasing of equity in the rental properties will also speed this up slightly (albeit with increased levels of risk).

    • Great comment MS. My household income 4 years ago was $33,000. It is now obviously much more than that, so it can be done (even though it may be daunting for some to even consider). I am not a big fan of debt, so I’ll be going at this plan with cash – plus you can get a better deal on homes this way.

  3. The real estate market here in NYC is crazy, I would love to do this but don’t think it’s realistic for me unfortunately. 🙁

    • It would be tough in NYC. Perhaps it would be more doable if you scouted places outside of the city. I’m sure they will still be more than $65k, but it might be cheap enough for you to consider trying. Best of luck Connie! Thanks for the comment!

  4. Real estate is one investment avenue that I’m exited to get into. It just takes a lot to start up with. Eventually I will start this avenue of creating income when I have the experience and wealth.

    • Nice to meet you Joshua! Thanks for commenting! I plan to start with my first rental later this year and then buying at least one rental (with cash) each year after that. I can’t wait to share my experiences on this site for you to read and learn from!

  5. If only he bothered to factor in property taxes, repairs, maintenance, renter turnover, etc. — you are living in a fantasy world if you think a $65,000 house is just going to collect rent for 10 years straight without requiring major outlays

    • I may not have factored every single expense, but if you continue to find the negative in everything then you’ll likely be broke forever.

      • Factoring in very realistic costs is not ‘finding the negative’, it is approaching an investment with true expectations on the potential costs, and what actual number you will bring home. There will be months that house won’t be rented, or the furnace may break. These expenses need to be factored by any responsible investor.
        Approaching major investments with knowledge and realistic expectations does not mean you will be broke forever.

        • Hi Dave, all fair points. BUT, I purchased my first rental for $81,000 (in late-2015). Today, it is worth $160,000. I get $1,320 a month and have never had a vacant month. Total maintenance costs for the past 3 years have been somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000. Net net, I’m earning $1,250 a month not including taxes and insurance. After those, I’m at $950 a month. STILL incredible earnings on an $81,000 investment.

          If you want to become a millionaire, (1) find a deal on real estate property, (2) find quality renters, (3) be an awesome landlord. Then, watch the money flow in!

          It’s of course a little bit more complex than that…but we’ve done very well for ourselves with our rental properties.

  6. I stumbled onto your blog today and I LOVE this post. My husband and I bought our first home for $64,000 last summer. He fixed it up ($20,000) and it’s now worth $110K. We’re living in it for two years to avoid capital gains tax. How do you avoid that with your rental strategy?

    • Hi Crystalee! Thanks for reading and commenting! We just starting our 10 year plan and bought an $81,000 house. We’re currently fixing it up and project it’s value to be somewhere around $120k once we’re finished. The next step is finding a renter that will pay $1,200 a month, and then we hopefully hold onto the renter and the house forever! The house will continue to appreciate and we’ll keep getting the rental payments. We’ll have to pay tax on the earning, but have a huge number of deductions for maintenance, travel, depreciation, etc. I’m not worried at all about capital gains tax since we have no intention of selling this house.

      Also – be careful not to become house hoppers. I know it seems like you’re making money and getting better and better houses, but you’re really not.

  7. Hi Derek,

    I’m 31 years old and I’m planning to start investing with my wife next year, we currently make about 120K (gross income).

    We are big savers.. we currently have 10k in Emergency Fund, we have not debt other than our primary residence (117k balance), we are hoping to buy at least one property per year, the issue that we might have is finding good deals at such low prices (65k) in our area, since we live in Miami,FL and real estate prices in South Florida are on fire right now.

    Any recommendations on where we can start investing near our area? I will prefer to invest close home but it might not be possible due to high prices…

    • Hi Basilio. Thanks for the great question! I used to live in Boca Raton back in 2011, and even THEN the prices seemed high to me, so I definitely understand where you’re coming from.

      For Liz and I, we aren’t jumping on properties any time soon. There’s just too much demand right now which is making the prices skyrocket. As Warren Buffett says, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful. Right now, people are greedily buying houses, so I refuse to follow those lemmings. Right now, Liz and I are saving our cash, waiting for the next market crash – which should only be a year or two away. At that point, people will become fearful. And that’s when we plan to be greedy and buy up some property!

      In the meantime, I’ll be safely investing through our 3% checking account, money markets and some precious metals.

  8. Hi Derek,

    Nice meaty post ?

    My wife and are debt free now too but our approach was different in regards to earning more. We quit our jobs and became self employed. Not for some I know, but it worked.

    You’re a great writer but DAMN the viewing experience with an iPhone is painful. Have you considered the free WP plugin called MobilePress. Works great and Google will give you a pump ✊ for their mobile search.

    Anyhoo – good work!

  9. Strange – I refreshed and you’re all mobile friendly. Head scratcher ?

    • Ha…yeah, that happens once in a while. I’ll be looking into it again soon. I use WP Mobile, which seems a bit spotty.

      Congrats on becoming self-employed and earning MORE, Brent! You’re one of the few hard workers that’s willing to do whatever it takes! Great job!

  10. I want to be debt free but my ex wife left me in an under water
    Mortgage. Can you give me some advice on how to get out of my situation so I can start to invest

    • Hi John. That’s a tough situation for sure. If you’re only slightly under water and in a rising housing market, I’d encourage you to stick with the house and wait for it to work itself out.

      If it’s absolutely killing your budget and will be under water for years to come, then you might be forced into a short-sale (where you work with the bank to sell it for less than you owe…and they take the hit). It’s definitely a complex situation.

      Shoot me an email through my “Contact” tab at the top of the page if you want some more help.

  11. so, you have been working with this plan for almost 3 years, how are things going? Will you recommend to start this uptown at this point of time with the high the real estate market is now?

    • Hi Arturo! Things are going great! We bought our first property in 2015 for $81,000. Today, it’s worth $137,000. We bought our second property just last month for $75,000. We’ll probably put in $20,000, and then it will be worth $135,000. Together, they’ll earn us $20,000 in cash flow profits as well.

      Yes, it can still be done at this point, even with the rising costs of housing. You WILL need to get your hands dirty to get those deals though. If you’re willing to buy the homes that 99% of the population doesn’t want, you can get them at an extreme deal and then make a boat-load in rents once it’s the shining star of the neighborhood.

  12. Gracias,

    Wow, that first house has almost doble its price, that is great. Thank you for answering, I really appreciate your honest input in this blog. I’m staring my homework so I could find the right house to be our first rental. Good luck to you!

    • That’s awesome Arturo! Good luck to you too!

  13. I’m a realtor, mailman and landlord in Baltimore, Md. This sounds good on paper, but from experience you have to know the laws and tenants rights. I’ve been a landlord for over twenty years. Book knowledge and real world experience ain’t the same. Good luck to everyone wanting to be a landlord.

    • I’ve been a landlord now for 4 years, and I’ve had nothing but good luck! I can’t wait to get myself some more properties.

  14. While in principle this sounds great and there are certainly some smart recommendations, there are a lot of items not being considered:

    – To net $65K of savings, this would represent over $100K of earnings at work. Assume your living expenses are $2,000 a month for the household(utilities, property tax, phone, gas, insurance, internet, food, clothing, etc.), then really a household would need to bring in $150K annually, and still hope that there were no major expenses throughout the year (car breaks down, new furnace, child needs braces, etc.).
    – Derek clearly does not have children. Those things are expensive (diapers, clothes, day care, food), not to mention the time a parent might be off work after birth.
    – Just because you’re renting a property for $800/month, it doesn’t mean that you’ll clear $9,600 a year. Between property taxes, repairs, and possibly not having it rented every month, you should be more realistic about that number.
    – In my area an inexpensive home will run you about $350,000. This obviously changes things dramatically in real estate investment.
    – What checking account is giving you 3%? I’d love to know the name of that bank.

    Again, some great strategies for saving and investing here, but let’s be more honest and realistic about the numbers.

  15. I live in San Francisco, and this not even a pipe dream to do here without serious capital to enter into the market. Where are you looking when you find houses for 65k or even 100k. Here 1.2M is cheap, and you need about 20% down and cost of living is 33-38% higher than elsewhere. The pay doesn’t typically deliver on that difference. What market should we be looking into that is still manageable from a distance? All of the surrounding areas are also about the same. Any recommendations would be great to learn about.

    • Hi Hafez. I live in West Michigan, where homes can still be found for under $100,000. I wouldn’t recommend long-distance landlording though. It’s just too difficult and you start cutting into your profits with property management costs and mistakes in tenant selection.

      I would either recommend you move, or find a different way to make a passive income. Here’s a great resource to see what your options are!

  16. How do you run the numbers to see if it is a good deal? Are you going by cash on cash return? Are you using return on investment? What calculations do you use to make sure it’s a good deal?

    • Two ways.

      First is the 1% rule…where you figure you can get 1% back in rent each month vs. what you’ve got invested. So if I buy a place for $100,000 and don’t need to put any money into it, I should expect to get $1,000 a month in rent.

      Second is the “interest rate” of my investment. In other words, how much will I earn each year vs. the principle I invested? As a straight cash on cash return, I’d expect to net at least 10% on my investment. So again, if I bought that house for $100,000, after all taxes, repairs, insurance, and vacancies, I’d expect to net myself $10,000 a year on the investment. If I don’t get that, then it’s really not worth the investment.

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