Millionaire Interview 8. I have started a series called Millionaire Interviews. There is no better way to learn how to build wealth than from those who have already done so. Along those lines, I ask millionaire bloggers or even millionaires who are not bloggers a series of 11 questions that they answer. The questions are highlighted in bold and the answers are below each question. Hopefully, the answers are enlightening and will help you on your journey to build wealth and attain the $1,000,000 mark and beyond.
The millionaires in the Millionaire Interview series became millionaires at a younger age than the Secret Dividend Millionaires. This comes down to mostly having higher incomes. Second, they are not very frugal to the point of austerity as some of the Secret Dividend Millionaires but certainly save more than they earn and save more than the average person. Lastly, most have multiple sources of income.
Before we start with Millionaire Interview 8, if you are a millionaire blogger or even a millionaire who doesn’t blog and want to be a part of this series, just send me an e-mail or message me on Twitter.
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Millionaire Interview 8 – The Wolf Report
Millionaire interview 8 is with the anonymous author of the Wolf Report on Seeking Alpha. He is a native German who now lives in Sweden. He writes articles about equities on Seeking Alpha focused on dividend growth investing. He reached the $1 million mark at the age of 35 after nine years through saving a high percentage of his income and investing in dividend growth stocks. His current net worth is about $1.7 million including his primary house and a rental property and about $1.1 million not including real estate. Now let’s take a look at Millionaire Interview 8.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 35 years old. I’m originally German (quad-lingual), but I’ve lived in northern Sweden for most of my professional life and youth. I’m unmarried, have no kids, and no spouse. As odd as it may sound compared to what I’ve read, I’m a social worker by trade and education, with added-on education in welfare and national economics. I’m also an apprentice electrician (never finished the early stages). My current profession is running two companies, one of which is how I make my money, as a management and social work consultant. It’s a unique career that, to my knowledge, is only available in Sweden. What it means is that I essentially hire myself out to municipalities/counties and the state to fill gaps in personnel and handle difficult cases that the “regular” payroll employees don’t want to handle.
- What is your net worth? At what age did you become a millionaire? How many years did it take to become a millionaire? Do you have any debt?
I always considered my investable capital to be my rough net worth – but including things like my house and condo, my net worth would be around $1.7M, of which $1.056M is investable/invested cash in a dividend growth stock portfolio, with around $45k of that being cash and the rest invested. I also own a house in Central Sweden, as well as my condo. When it comes to debt, I consider debt to be an excellent way of leveraging your own finances. I have a mortgage of around $200k and intend to increase my use of margin to portfolio leverage of around 1.15X – 1.2X overall, meaning 20% leverage or margin.
The reason for this is record-low interest rates due to being a preferred/private banking customer in my bank and broker, giving me 10-year interest rates of around 0.86% for margin and 0.69% for mortgage. I don’t advocate the use of debt except in circumstances and situations when you can always de-lever, if need be, or if your life has the circumstances where thanks to your income, you don’t really need to be worried about quickly being able to pay it back down.
I don’t have a goal for being debt-free, because I view debt/margin/credit as an excellent tool when used correctly. In a scenario where interest rates would climb above 4-5%, closing the positive yield spread between theoretical and actual debt interest and portfolio yield, I would successively de-lever the portfolio, but outside of such a scenario, I don’t see the need for doing this. My view, which is the minority, and specific for my situation (which probably isn’t applicable to most people) is that working without the use of credit or debt is like me working with one hand tied behind my back – but again, this doesn’t mean others should view it the same way.
I became a millionaire at age 35, this year, about a few months ago, and it took me around 9 years.
- How did you become a millionaire?
I began with 9500 SEK (around $800) back when I was 25/26. I wasn’t unemployed, but I had just started my professional career and had a salary of 22500 SEK, around $2,400, which came to about $1,000 in possible savings per month. All of this was through investing, saving, and reinvesting mostly every penny I’ve made for the past 8 – 9 years. I’ve been extremely fortunate too, career-wise, essentially being able to make superb amounts of money through my consulting company for about 4 – 5 years now, allowing me to put several hundred thousand dollars into the portfolio. I don’t foresee this career or possibility disappearing for me, which means I will continue to do the same work for as long as I can.
I invest in a basket of dividend-paying stocks with a focus on potential upsides in terms of total returns or lack of valuation. This is the core of my strategy. I don’t hold any other sort of asset classes such as metals, commodities or real estate, and I view the market as “my” way of making my fortune.
I could see myself getting into real estate under the right circumstances, but the way this market works in Sweden is extremely low returns for small players, with most larger city properties netting no more than annual returns of 2% – 3% after interests and costs, and most rural properties being too much of a vacancy risk. The picking of the stock market was therefore a combination of national advantages, with Sweden literally having no capital gains tax in a specific account type (ISK and KF), as well as no dividend tax, which makes the market superior to every other type of investment out there.
Currently, as I reached my $1M mark, my monthly income, inclusive of dividends, is close to about $9,500 after taxes each month, which comes to about $8,000 savings each month, most of which goes back into the market on a fairly regular basis in the form of $500 – $1,500 investments weekly. I have multiple sources of income, those being:
- Dividends ($41,500 per year)
- Salary (around $4,500/month, though given that I run my company I can “choose” here. I take what salary I “need”.)
- Gigging/writing (varies)
- Various small consulting/tasks (again, varies)
- What is your investing philosophy, and do you use a particular strategy?
My investment philosophy is valuation. I screen the market, hundreds and thousands of stocks, and find stocks that are being undervalued on an earnings, revenue, book or sales multiple. I then check various data points, forecasts, fundamentals and other things to construct valuation models that give a decent picture of a potential upside. If that potential upside meets my requirements of 8% – 10% annual 3-year forward CAGR, the company could be interesting to invest in. If I could change anything about my investment approach, it is that I would have started with a focus on total returns as opposed to income investing (high yield) much earlier than I did, as this would have increased my portfolio value to $1.3M – $1.4M at today’s levels.
- What was your best investment? What was your worst investment?
My best investment is one of many dividend-paying stocks that I’ve invested in over the past 3 – 4 years. There are multiple choices, each having delivered total returns of around 200% – 220% in less than 1.5 – 2 years. Probably a good example of this is my investment in Thor Industries (THO), an RV company, which had appreciated nearly 195%, 210% including dividends at the time that I took profits. Equally impressive in a way was my investment in Norsk Hydro ASA (NHYDY), a Norwegian aluminum giant, with over 140% returns in less than 11 months at the time of taking profits. My best investments are companies where I went in deeply at times of extreme undervaluation and followed the company up its cycle. Albemarle (ALB) and ViacomCBS (VIAC) are two other examples with returns of 180% – 230% returns in such a timeframe, both of which are now rotated. The profits involved in these investments, in and out, is well above $150,000.
High-yielding stocks such as Medical Facilities Corp (MFCSF), which on the surface sounded like a great investment in hospital management, a Canadian monthly payer, was my worst investment ever. The company declined massively due to troubles, and COVID-19 saw the investment drop down massively. I’d made a 60% – 65% loss at the time of selling my relatively limited $2,000 position, but regardless of size, a loss like that still hurts. That was one of the companies that really changed my investment approach for the better, to never again include smaller, riskier businesses such as that.
All of my failures have stemmed from disregarding extremely basic rules due to being blinded by high, appealing yields or doing a lack of research.
- How much time per day or week do you spend reading financial news and going over your investments?
Around 10 – 25 hours per week are spent researching finance, looking over news, investing and/or calculating on my investments. I do monthly reviews of investments, and each of my investments have very specific targets as to what I expect of them, and what I will do if the stock reaches stock price X or Y. I don’t use financial advisors in any capacity, but I do turn to other, superb contributors on Seeking Alpha for inspiration and expertise in specific fields that I know less about, such as REITs and Energy.
- What habits helped you become a millionaire?
I think my tireless ambition and drive is probably my key personal habit or trait that’s made me successful in this field. I’ve always been a very goal-driven person, setting a goal and doing whatever is required to reach that goal. My initial goal was to be a millionaire before the age of 40, and I obviously beat this goal by about 5 years, in no small part thanks to my personality and these traits.
I would call myself frugal for what I own and what I earn. My monthly expenses are less than $1,400 – $1,600, and that includes everything. However, I also don’t have a spouse, kids or any of those responsibilities, which makes this a difficult comparison for some. I’ve been far more frugal in the past, living off budgets of less than $800 for extended periods of time, so from that perspective, I’m actually splurging quite a bit these days. I no longer deny myself anything basic such as food, good clothes and simple pleasures, such as a good wine. However, I’m not one to go out and buy a luxury car or a luxury house – that isn’t me, at least not at this time.
I spend around $350 – $400 on food, $800 on my condo/house in interest/loans and fees, with the remainder of the $300 – $400 being a mix of phone bills, gas, car costs, hygiene and other standard things. My private medical insurance, which isn’t necessary in Sweden, is paid through my company at $30/mo. rate, and in Sweden there is no need for anything beyond that.
Anything beyond these costs goes straight into saving/investing. I would say I’m able to save at least $60k – $90k per year at this point. I don’t mind spending money on travel if that were possible, and I intend to travel more when things open back up. I also don’t mind spending money on good food, on education for myself, and if I had kids, i would of course spend what was necessary on them. I currently don’t have an expensive splurge, but in the future I would like to get more seriously into collecting and owning mechanical timepieces, which is of course a potentially VERY costly hobby to get into.
- What are your three favorite books related to investing, personal finance, retirement, and financial freedom?
First, Warren Buffett Accounting, by Stig Brodersen and Preston Pysh. This is a no-nonsense, very simple intro to value investing. Everyone should read it.
Second The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham. Really a must-read as well.
After that, it’s time to specialize a bit more into various sub-fields. If asked to pick one of the books here, I would really have to say The Intelligent REIT Investor, By Brad Thomas and Stephanie Krewson.
- Why do you blog about your investing and journey to millionaire status and financial freedom?
I write about my investing journey on Seeking Alpha for a number of reasons. First of all, it allows me to learn and to grow as an investor, and to share that growth and those strategies with others. I’ve made many new contacts and friends from my ~18,500 followers.
Secondly, of course, there’s the money earned from writing such articles, which at times can be a nice bonus income on the side.
Third, however, I do it for the connections I’m able to make with other professional investors and contributors. It’s inspiring to learn from one another, to be able to use strategies that others use, and to compare notes with other investors.
In the end, perhaps it’s about the community and the connections we’re able to make.
- Besides investing what else do you like to do?
Outside of investing and working, I’m a very avid reader and gamer. I love sitting down with a good book, and I love immersing myself in another world through playing games like Warcraft, Baldur’s Gate, Divine Divinity and other RPG’s, MMO’s and team-based games such as Overwatch. I also play Warhammer 40k and own a massively large Imperial Fists army – my friends have a habit of calling me the “geek investor”.
In the same vein, I also like writing my own novellas, and I’m actually a published author in a small context. To relax sometimes, I actually sit down and just do some writing.
Aside from that, I love working out, which I do 3 – 5 times per week, and I try to be outside for as much as I can. One of the drawbacks of Sweden is the somewhat harsh climate, which is one of the things I seek to change by eventually moving from the country at least part-time, living 5 – 6 months elsewhere with a more welcoming climate.
Life is, after all, about quality of life.
- Anything else you would like to add?
The journey to your first million is bound to be a difficult one – but the rewards in terms of freedom and possibilities is well-worth it, if you’re single or if you’re a family. The interest on your principal at this level is enough to sustain an average family at a relatively comfortable level in most areas of the world without much else needed in income.
I argue that the journey made by me is entirely possible to be made by every single one reading this piece, as long as they use foresight and care to invest in the most qualitative and undervalued opportunities out there. In time, anyone can construct a dividend growth portfolio that can track, or even beat the market, granting the owner eventual financial freedom.
Final Thoughts on Millionaire Interview 8
I hope you enjoyed reading about the author of the Wolf Report in Millionaire Interview 8. Check out his articles at Seeking Alpha. The articles make for good reading on individual stocks and you can learn a lot from them. His story shows that by saving at a high rate and investing in dividend growth stocks you can make it to millionaire status. Note that the author of the Wolf Report does use margin (leverage) but his situation is unique. Dividend Power does not suggest using leverage for most small investors. The author of the Wolf Report has shown that it is possible to reach $1 million somewhere in your mid-30s.
In an earlier article I identified the three principles of dividend millionaires: spend less than you earn, invest your savings, and reinvest the dividends. Your odds of becoming a millionaire are about 3.6% in the U.S. Achieving FIRE is a process. But I would argue that through careful planning, high saving rates, and investing you can improve your odds. The author of the Wolf Report has showed us it is possible at a fairly young age of 35 in Millionaire Interview 8. Recall, in the U.S., the average net worth is about $728k in 2016 dollars for those between 35 and 44 years old. I have written previously on net worth targets by age.
As a final note, I have another series called Secret Dividend Millionaires. This one is about ordinary people who became millionaires by investing in dividend paying stocks for the most part. Most of these people were only discovered after they died and left their money to charities and other non-profit organizations. Often, they became millionaires through very frugal if not austere living, investing their savings in stocks that paid dividends, and reinvesting the dividends.
You can read Millionaire Interview 7 – Minafi as well.
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Prakash Kolli is the founder of the Dividend Power site. He is a self-taught investor, analyst, and writer on dividend growth stocks and financial independence. His writings can be found on Seeking Alpha, InvestorPlace, Business Insider, Nasdaq, TalkMarkets, ValueWalk, The Money Show, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, and leading financial sites. In addition, he is part of the Portfolio Insight and Sure Dividend teams. He was recently in the top 1.0% and 100 (73 out of over 13,450) financial bloggers, as tracked by TipRanks (an independent analyst tracking site) for his articles on Seeking Alpha.