When you think “millionaire”, what image comes to mind? For many of us, it’s a flashy 1980s entrepreneur who flies a private jet, and lives the kind of decadent lifestyle that most of us can only dream about.
But many modern millionaires live in middle-class neighbourhoods, go to work and shop in discount stores like the rest of us. What motivates them isn’t material possessions but the choices that money can bring.
“For the rich, it’s not about getting more stuff. It’s about having the freedom to make almost any decision you want,” says T. Harv Eker, author of Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. Wealth means you can send your child to any school or leave a job you don’t like.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more people are living the good life than ever before: more than a million households boast a net value of more than $1 million. Most of our millionaires are self-made.
And the very rich are getting richer. According to the BRW rich list, our top 200 wealthiest people are worth on average $698 million apiece – up more than $10 million on the previous year. If more people are getting richer than ever, why shouldn’t you be one of them? Here, four people who have at least a million dollars in liquid assets share the secrets that helped them get there.
Tracy Harvey grew up on welfare and the cycle was repeating itself. A single mother of two children, one of whom was autistic, in 1996 she fled an abusive relationship in Adelaide, relocating to Brisbane, where she hit rock bottom.
She was living on a mattress on the floor of a rented property in a bad suburb. She couldn’t afford to get her abscessed tooth fixed and her car was not roadworthy, so she couldn’t take her little girl, Hayley, to school.
“I had taken a handful of pills and I wasn’t thinking properly,” says Harvey. “Hayley put her arms around me and gave me a hug and said ‘Mummy, I love you.’ It really was my turning point.” Realising that she was the only person who could fix her predicament, Harvey enrolled in a university course to study social work. She also started a small business making theatrical costumes to supplement her pension.
“I saved every penny and put it into a fixed managed fund and started to look for a place to buy,” she says. The banks knocked her back, but she found a finance firm prepared to loan her the money to buy her first unit, a run-down dump that had been on the market for a few years. Even though it had no kitchen and holes in the walls, moving in was the best day of her life. She paid as much on the mortgage as she could every week.
Gradually the unit was done up; its value doubled. As soon as she saw the market start to move, she knew it was time to buy again. Because she had made extra repayments and her first home had risen in value, Harvey managed to borrow the money for a second and, almost immediately, a third property.
“I was carrying a huge debt,” she says. She took out a line of credit and used that to fix up the properties, and rented them out for more than the mortgage repayments. Then she studied for a real-estate licence so that she could manage all of the properties herself.
Today, Harvey is up to her 14th property and is worth around $4 million. She lives in a beautiful house with a pool, but she’s still ultra-careful with her money: “We live within our means,” she says. “I drive an average car. My only goal is to get my daughter through uni and give both my children the skills and know-how to ensure a comfortable financial future.
“So many of us go through a divorce or lose a job – one minute we can have an income and the next minute we don’t. We have to know how to take care of our money.”