Mr. D. White
Who Wants To Be a Millionaire at Age 37?
By Jessica Flint Miami University of Ohio
How odd jobs and investing are pointing one student towards
For Miami University senior Ryan Thompson hard work has paid
off. In fact, he has $93,000 to show for it.
It all started when Thompson, 22, was 16 years old and wanted
the brand new 1987 Mustang that sat in his family's garage in
Westchester, Ohio. His dad made him a deal.
“My dad told me if I put $2,000 into an IRA, I could have the
car,” he said. “So I did all kinds of odd jobs around my
neighborhood to make money. I painted, cleaned, mowed lawns -
anything you can think of that is an odd job, I did it.”
Thompson eventually earned the funds, which in turn earned him
the prized set of wheels. But the coveted set of keys started more
than just the car-they ignited Thompson's interest in investing.
Over the past six years, he has diligently invested his life
savings into a now diversified portfolio consisting of a Vanguard
IRA, a taxable Vanguard 500 mutual fund, a Vanguard Health Care
Fund, savings accounts, and individual company stocks.
Thompson earns the money by working as a residence hall adviser
at Miami. He also frequently jaunts back home to manage his own
lawn service, Ryan Lawn and Landscape, an enterprise that now has
three employees, more than 30 customers and rakes in about $30,00
Most of the money Thompson earns, he saves and puts towards
“I've always had a thing for saving money,” he said. “I don't
know why. My dad also influenced me to put money away. It's just a
Thompson will graduate from Miami in December with an
Organizational Leadership degree, a fiancee, a project engineering
job with Messer Construction Co., and a path carved out to become
a millionaire by the time he is 37.
“Assuming my current rate of savings and interest rate, I
should hit my first goal of $1 million by the age of 36 or 37,” he
Here's our interview with Ryan Thompson, including his words of
advice for young investors.
Q: Why did you first start investing? What motivated you?
A: I was originally motivated because I wanted the brand new car
sitting in my garage. My dad made me an offer.
Q: Where was the first place you invested your money?
A: In an IRA (individual retirement account).
Q: How would you describe your investment style now, six years
A: I would say, ah...probably conservative to moderately
conservative. I don't hold many individual stocks. I invest in
more mutual funds, money market funds, CDs, and my IRA.
Q: You just accepted a job with Messer Construction Co. for
after graduation. Will having a full-time job change the way you
A: Yeah, only because I'll be making more money, so I'll have to
decide where to put it in the market. I'll have to search for some
Q: Speaking of which, how do you pick your stocks?
A: I look at qualitative measures, ratios, and the numbers that
show profitability. When I am picking individual stocks I think,
do I like the company? Is it something I know? Are they something
I use? I actually just got a few new stocks. I made a few
Q: How much time a week do you spend researching your
A: It's more of a lifestyle thing. When I turn on the TV, I'll
flip on a financial program or watch CNBC. I read Money magazine
and Forbes sometimes, but I do most of my research online - my
Internet homepage is set to money.com. I just try to stay current.
Q: So do you actually do your own investing, or does someone
else do it for you? A: I've done it all myself. My dad helped me
out at first, but yes, I make my own decisions.
Q: You've been investing since you were 16, but the economy had
been pretty good up until last year's recession. Being a
conservative investor, how did it feel when the market took a huge
A: It didn't really have an effect me. I'm in this for the long
haul. I have a strategy and I didn't sell or buy when the market
fell. I just stuck to the strategy and rode it out. Over the long
run my return stayed at around 8 or 9 percent.
Q: Is that the return you look for on your investments, around
A: Yes. I believe the stock market has achieved an average return
of roughly 8 percent since its inception. I just think that I can
get that kind of return on my money over the next 50 years,
Q: So what is your ultimate goal with investing? What is the
purpose? A: I have a goal of having between $2 and $3 million
dollars. This sounds extreme, but my father and grandfather are
self-made millionaires on the “net worth” scale. Eventually I will
be a millionaire, and I want to live in Indian Hill, a community
Q: What is your current net-worth?
A: Right now, it's about $93,000.
Q: Do you have any advice or tricks-of-the-trade for novice
A: My great-grandmother always used to say that pennies make
dollars, dollars make hundreds, hundreds make thousands, and
thousands make millions. So I guess the moral of the story is that
you don't have to make a lot. It's not how much money you make,
it's how much you keep. The end result is the most important. To
save money, you need discipline. Make goals and set aside money,
because once you start investing, you'll also start earning.