In our story “At what age do people become millionaires in Charlotte?” we shared that on average, Charlotte millionaires hit $1 million in net worth at 41.5 years old, and the average net worth of those people today is $4.64 million. We also explored how people invest and spend that money.
Most survey participants accumulated their wealth by starting their own company or working a high-paying job, investing in real estate, taking advantage of stock options, 401(k) plans and living below their means.
Real estate was the respondents’ No. 1 investment, although nearly all said they invest in multiple ways to create a diverse portfolio.
“We have numerous plans. IRAs, SEP, two active 401ks, 529s for each of our three kids, and we just opened a stock plan,” one respondent said. “We max out everything we can on our 401ks and have monthly deposits into the others. We’ve tried to maintain our standard of life even when our income has jumped. We are also putting money into our house. We bought low in a good neighborhood and have been adding on (paying in cash). We have a low mortgage and a high home value because of it.”
Some people went more in-depth with their responses. A handful explained they started by investing in stocks, and as soon as they accumulated enough money they moved into real estate.
“Now, I have friends who run hedge funds and private equity shops who have given me smaller allocations than they would normally take,” one said.
This is important, they said, because you don’t have to have it all at once or make a giant investment to see a return; you can start slow and gradually build a more diverse portfolio (even if you don’t have friends who run hedge funds).
Sixty percent of Charlotte millionaires said they track their spending in some fashion.
“I don’t track them. My assistant does,” one said. Another said, “I have always tracked my money, starting with Quicken in the 90s, and now using Mint on-line as well as the personal finance hub through Fidelity.”
A few said they put all expenses on their credit cards and pay them off monthly, so they are aware of their spending and will look further into it if they feel they’re over-spending or need to make adjustments.
“Yes, all purchases are made on cash-back credit cards. I then export those transactions into Excel, which I then plug into a budgeting spreadsheet I made a long time ago. The spreadsheet automatically recognizes the transactions and puts them in the correct budget categories and months.”
Of those who said they don’t track now: “Not on an everyday basis, but taking the big-picture approach. I did track expenses in more detail when I was younger and trying to be more disciplined.”
There was also plenty of advice like this:
“Just because you have money, it doesn’t mean you have to put it all on display. If you saw us on the street, you’d never know what we make each year, and we like it that way.”
No one said they got to where they are by skipping lattes, but sacrifice was a theme of the responses.
“I obviously think it’s dumb to fund a luxury lifestyle with debt, but there’s nothing wrong with a luxury lifestyle itself. I drive a Tesla but I paid cash for it after eliminating debt and fully funding all tax advantaged accounts.”
Several people mentioned driving average cars they were able to pay for with cash or pay down quickly.
“Be smart in buying cars. We never had car debt and hold our cars for ten years or more. And, buying two- or three-year-old cars is a great way to get quality and technology without paying too much,” one person said.
“There is such a thing as saving too much. Life is for enjoying — we only get one shot at it.”
And a couple of people said they still find a lot of value in sales and penny pinching.
“My parents came from nothing,” one wrote. “We learned to save, use coupons we literally cut from the newspapers, wait for sales, share meals, and never overspend. Though I am more financially comfortable I find myself doing the same to this day. I will wait until that shirt goes on sale, I don’t find it necessary to stay at the five-star resorts when I travel, I still sit in the nose bleeds at sporting events, and I always give back what I can. Maybe that will change in the future but money doesn’t define a person.”
Do Charlotte millionaires have the same taste in restaurants as the rest of us?
We also asked our respondents a few lighter but still revealing questions, including their favorite restaurant.
Three of Bruce Moffett’s restaurants received the most mentions: Barrington’s, Good Food on Montford, and Stagioni.
Chick-fil-A also received an honorable mention from one respondent — illustrating the range of tastes within the upper echelon.
Raw responses: Okay, here are the most interesting answers to the question, “What’s the best purchase you’ve made under $100 and over $1,000?”
The number next to each response is their net worth.
Best purchase under $100:
“Spotify. Great music and podcasts help me to burn stress and relax.” — $20 million
“A good cup of coffee.” — $8.5 million
“Most recently my Roku so that I could cut the cord on cable and save $175 a month!” — $5.2 million
“A rescue dog.” — $2 million
“Gym membership. Stay healthy. Socialize with friends.” — $5 million
“The cushions to fit over the crevices in my car to keep crumbs from falling in hard to reach places. It’s a Shark Tank invention.” — $2.4 million
“Power wine aerator. Makes enjoying wine more enjoyable after a stressful day. Great conversation piece too.” — $2 million
“Notebooks. As much as I want to use digital lists, there’s something for me about a paper notebook. I create lists for work, home and the kids and it definitely helps me keep my sanity. That and paper calendars!” — $1 million (many people said notebooks)
“Good sunglasses, they are just fun.” — $4 million
“Omg. My Swiffer. I mean it’s awesome. $16.99. Lasts 10 years and makes life easier.” — $3 million
“Fresh fruit and vegetables each week. Money is worth less if you are not healthy.” — $3.5 million
“Griottine cocktail cherries: $20 for a big jar! They enhance any Manhattan.” — $1.7 million
“Lululemon sweat pants – they make me feel relaxed and appreciative. ” — $2.5 million
“Shares of Microsoft stock due to their increased value over time.” — $4.5 million
“My Fitbit. It motivates me in ways I never would have expected.” — $1.5 million
“The book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It totally changed my perspective on money.” — $2.5 million
“Sitters for Wednesday night date-night when the kids were little.” — $1.3 million
“Yoga mat — yoga is my therapy & one of my greatest joys.” — $3 million
“Amazon @ $30/share in 2000.” — $2 million
“A stay at the Disney World Camp Grounds in the 80s … you received all the same access as the fancy resorts and it was a great campground.” — $2.5 million
“Golf. Leisure.” — $2.2 million
“That 3-pack of Juicy Jay crowlers was pretty good.” — $1.5 million
“Locally roasted coffee, saves money compared to Starbucks and the coffee tastes better.” — $2.8 million
“Trayana Earbuds. Same performance as airpods, under $50.” — $1.3 million
“Monthly gym membership — mind and body need to be right for success.” — $1.5 million
“My first set of golf clubs. I’ve made a lot of friends on the golf course.” — $1.1 million
“Kate Spade bag at her outlet store in Palm Springs. I use that bag almost everyday for the last 1.5 years. Talk about return on investment!” — $1.6 million
“I buy a lot of my work clothes at Goodwill for $1-$5. Trust: I look good and no one knows. Brand names with perfect fit for a dollar, not kidding. I don’t waste hours looking, though. I’ll glance in a GW every now and again and if there’s a bunch of stuff in my style and size I’ll stay and try things. People donate in batches and when it rains it pours. I usually get about a dozen perfect items at once — or nothing. And I can’t even tell in my own closet what was full price (I do shop full price when convenience matters) and what was $1.” — $2 million
“My marriage license. My spouse and I generally work to prevent us from acting on our worst impulses.” — $1.7 million
“Milk frothier from Williams Sonoma. Makes early mornings less painful.” — $1.2 million
“WSJ subscription: pays dividends everyday.” — $5.2 million
“Electric toothbrush so I can have that million dollar smile.” — $2.83 million
“Date night (although it’s hard to stay under $100 these days). It’s important to invest in your marriage.” — $1.5 million
“Picnic basket. Encourages quality time with my wife.” — $1 million
“TSA Precheck, I cannot begin to put a value on the peace of mind being able to bypass most airport security lines. ” — $1.1 million
“A $3 box of Now & Later candy that I took to school separated to sell individually and came home with $9. My first business was born.” — $1.4 million
“Monthly deposits for children into their own mutual funds.” — $1.7 million
“Salads every night for dinner — it keeps me healthy and I don’t have to cook.” — $2 million
“Gave $100 to someone who needed it.” — $1.6 million
Best purchases over $1,000:
“My first hotel. ” — $125 million
“House because it appreciates.” — $20 million
“My condo. I love the view.” — $20 million
“Espresso machine. Other than my cars, the only item I use daily.” — $25 million
“Our mountain retreat. It’s our getaway where stress is not allowed.” — $16 million
“2011 Jaguar XJL Supercharged, ’cause I loved it!” — $8 million
“A business I bought in 1999 … it failed but it taught me that I could build something up.” — $10 million
“Sailing lessons.” — $8.5 million
“New business equipment. It extended the life of my employees and gave them a sense of pride.” — $7 million
“Therapy sessions (to help me overcome a traumatic experience).” — $5 million
“I would say travel with my family. Things are forgotten, but memories last a lifetime.” — $5.2 million
“Our dog.” — $2.4 million
“Rolex — timeless, lasts forever.” — $3.5 million
“Our home, we raised our family in a house that fit our lifestyle.” — $3.8 million
“Strategically located land in Charlotte when no one wanted to hold real estate (especially land).” — $1.6 million
“My golden retriever puppy — he’s an incredible companion and is almost certainly why those 25 year-olds are flirting with me!” — $7 million
“Tesla. It’s an amazing piece of engineering and technology.” — $3.45 million
“Oriental rugs because it is important to surround yourself with things you love…” — $6 million
“Trip to Europe for my husband’s 40th birthday. The memories are better than anything tangible I could have bought him.” — $2 million
“House in Plaza Midwood in the late 1990s. We love living here and it has appreciated with the growth of the neighborhood. To me the most important purchases are things you use every day.” — $3.4 million
“Custom suit — look good when you need to.” — $3.6 million
“My airplane. Besides being fun it allows us to travel and see family and friends we may not otherwise see. ” — $1.54 million
“Engagement ring ($10k). She is my everything and a big part of the reason we have financial wealth.” — $2.2 million
“My boat. It allows me to get away from the stress of everyday life.” — $1.5 million
“Probably our house. We purchased it at 24 and 26 in an area as close to Uptown as we wanted to spend (note, we set our own budget which was $150k under what we were qualified for). The neighborhood has steadily improved and now we have quite a bit of equity. ” — $1 million
“Help around the house … cleaning service, yard service, etc … you don’t want your home to feel like a to-do list after you’ve been at work all day.” — $1.3 million
“Husband’s golf clubs — same reason as my yoga mat! When you have a stressful job, find something that you love & brings you peace. ” — $3 million
“Every one of my top five vacations. Seeing the world expands your knowledge and awareness.” — $2.03 million
“Can’t think of anything I’ve bought for over $1,000, other than my car, special vacations, etc. We don’t purchase luxury items, we don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.” — $1.5 million
“Wedding ring, because marrying the right person is the best investment you can make in life.” — $8.3 million
“The Big Green Egg. The meats.” — $1.3 million
“I spend about $5k on travel every year. The big trips, not the weekends away or going home to visit friends and family. I don’t skimp on that stuff. That’s why I do what I do. To be able to travel like I do but even more. I guess also all of the house upgrades (and the house itself). I only make the changes I really want in my house/life so they are true value adds. But you live in it, so spend money on the places where you spend time. I didn’t upgrade my kitchen because honestly I don’t spend a lot of time there. But the living room and master bath feel like home, feel like extensions of me.” — $2 million
“My first car because it represented my complete financial independence from my parents .” — $1.7 million
“Backyard remodel (patio/fireplace).” — $1.5 million
“When I buy a car, I always buy a high-end car with low mileage and two or three years old. I can afford new, but why not let someone else take the depreciation.” — $3.5 million
“Rural property in SC. It now has a cell tower and generates monthly income.” — $1.4 million
“Golf cart. My husband and dog love riding on it.” — $1.3 million
“A Honda accord, practical, doesn’t breakdown and it gets me where i need to go.” — $2 million
“My boat on Lake Norman (brings family together).” — $1.6 million
Overall, our respondents are passionate about spending wisely and investing.
And when they do spend for fun, that spending is in line with their priorities; it’s not in excess (relative to their income) and it doesn’t hinder them from their big-picture goals.
“I am a single mom of two, and had zero support financially or parenting from my ex. Both kids now in college, which I support. So, it is possible to do this— have it all. It is hard but doable. Just have to be smart, disciplined, and follow your life plan. ”
A little more about our method: In our September 10 newsletter, sent to about 45,000 subscribers, we asked a simple question: “Do you have a net worth of over $1 million?” For those who do, we included a 15-question survey. Nearly 150 people responded.
We weeded out a handful of responses that were obviously phony. (It may not surprise you, but it’s not hard to tell who’s really a millionaire by asking a few questions.) Then we downloaded the answers and started analyzing the data.
We kept the survey anonymous to allow the respondents the freedom to share personal details. While we know not everyone’s a millionaire, or even close, we believe the people who participated in this survey offer useful answers about how they got there and what helped them along the way.