Success Stories: 6th-Grade Teacher Worth $500,000

Here’s another one I dug up, about a 6th-grade English and history teacher in Los Angeles—Hai Tieu. It’s a little stale—from a 2005 CNN/Money article—but it still helps remind me to keep at it: save, invest, repeat.

At the time of the article, Tieu was 35 years old with an annual salary of $60,000—and he had $200,000 in retirement and non-retirement investments. Add $300,000 equity in his house, and he’s worth $500,000. Especially in an area like Los Angeles, his home equity may have gone down by now—but it may not have. (For comparison, the value of our house has not really changed much—and actually has gone up slightly—between Fall 2005 and now.) And in any event, his savings have likely continued increasing; and having $200,000 in investments by age 35 is impressive.

How did he do it? Tieu earned scholarships and worked through college—and graduated debt-free. He saved and invested regularly, and he read books to increase his financial education—after which he stopped using a broker and stopped paying 1½% broker commissions. I extrapolate that the #1 factor was how much he was saving. Tieu set aside a portion of each paycheck to invest mostly in index funds. How big a portion? At the time of the article, about $1,400 a month—which comes out to $16,800 a year. That’s 28% of his gross income!

How much are you able to save these days (whether in $ or %), and how hard have you found it to do that?


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