Living like a millionaire on pennies a day

Last fall, I quit my job. As nice as it was to have a steady paycheck and the prestige of being known as a “portfolio analyst”, there was one key component that was missing from the job: I wasn't happy doing it.

Around the time I quit, I wrote a post here at Get Rich Slowly called “Budgeting for a Lifestyle Change”. The post recounted a few details of my story, and gave some pretty basic advice about how to financially prepare for a big change — in my case, this was a move to Thailand to do some freelance work and start my own business.

The response to that post was all over the map. Some loved the idea; some thought I was nothing more than a selfish twenty-something; still others thought I'd be back in a “real job” within months.

After re-reading and reflecting upon that post nearly eight months later, what I've come to realize is that much of what people said was true. I was selfish in the sense that I was going to do whatever I had to in order to make myself happy. I had a difficult time working hard for something I didn't believe in, and I set out to change that. Basically, I wanted something better.

That's about where the correct assumptions about me end.

Throughout my experience of living in Thailand and working on my own endeavors, I learned a very important lesson:

You don't need a million dollars to live like a millionaire.

It isn't the money, the job, or one's personal situation that keeps people from living a more exciting life. It's the fear of making a change.

Now, I'm not talking about racking up thousands of dollars in consumer debt, or buying fancy cars and houses. I'm talking about something more valuable than that: having time. The only pre-requisite to living like a millionaire is being able to overcome your fear of uncertainty.

When I first moved to Thailand, I made very little money but I lived like a king. Some will argue that it's the favorable exchange rates that made that kind of living possible. While that helped, it wasn't the primary reason I was living the high life. The difference was: I had time. Starting my own lifestyle business let me set my own hours, work on my schedule, and be solely responsible for my life.

Taking this path was scary — but it wasn't as scary as the thought of remaining for a decade in a situation that was making me unhappy.

Creating a lifestyle business was one of the best decisions I could have made in order to bring about the change I was looking for. This was a core component in my ability to free up time and live like a millionaire.

If this type of business sounds intriguing to you, there are a few things you need to realize that will make it much easier to start one yourself:

  • Working for yourself doesn't necessarily mean working for yourself. While I have a variety of personal businesses online where I'm the only one involved, I also have a couple of jobs. I get a monthly paycheck to do web services and work as an affiliate manager for a well-known blogger. Neither of these require me to be anywhere at any specific time, and most deadlines are of my own making. I still have the freedom of my time, yet the stability of a paycheck.
  • You don't need a million dollar idea — you just have to be able to improve upon one that's already out there. Much of the work I do puts a simple spin on utilizing a workforce in the Philippines. The people I work with are awesome, and by being willing to take a risk on work in the Philippines, we can get an entire web-development team rather than just one web designer back in the States. Our competitors don't have nearly the capabilities we do, allowing our business to thrive.
  • The only thing in the world people are afraid of is uncertainty. That's why more people don't pursue businesses doing stuff they really love — or at the very least something that will enable them the time to do more stuff that they love. They're more concerned with the negative aspects of uncertainty, rather than the positive. Get over that, and you're well on your way to success!

I realize that many of the people reading this will probably have a lot of arguments against what I've said:

  • “What about retirement?” I'm still putting money away each month.
  • “I can't do this because of my family” Yes you can.
  • “I have too much debt to take a risk” So did J.D.

I understand that this kind of business and lifestyle isn't the route for everyone, For many, cutting back on expenses and bootstrapping to start a business may seem unrealistic. However, if you aren't entirely happy in your current situation, putting some thought into what would make you happy is far from a waste of time.

You might be surprised at how little money it takes in order to make be truly happy.

I probably work more hours each week than most people I know. What makes it worth it is that I'm steadily growing my income, doing stuff I love — and can golf on a Tuesday morning if I need a break.

Do you feel as if you're living like a millionaire?

More about...Side Hustles, Career

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
41 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Trina
Trina
9 years ago

Am I supposed to applaud or take lessons from someone who is outsourcing U.S. jobs to the Phillipines? No thanks.

Ted Lehman
Ted Lehman
9 years ago

Who says the U.S. ‘owns’ those jobs, Trina?

Jeanette Glass
Jeanette Glass
9 years ago

Trina, I’ll assume that you mean “Thailand” not Phillipines, but yes. There are lessons to be learned from this post, and they aren’t “move to Thailand and screw America”. They are: “plan well and have faith in yourself”; “Actively persue change, don’t be afraid of it”; or “control over your own time is worth a million dollars”; or even “Take a leap of faith, even if other’s don’t believe you can make it”. As a single mother many people told me that I should keep my “(real) job” and not work for my self. But when my daughter was 10… Read more »

sayjack
sayjack
9 years ago

I think most people are better off staying with their current job and finding ways to make it work. In some cases, finding another job is a viable alternative but in other cases the employee should do some self reflecting in order to discover what is making him or her unhappy. This article capitalizes on most peoples’ fantasy of quieting their day job and starting their own business. But the reality is that most are unaware of the commitment and long hours it takes each and every day to be successful in a small start-up business. Can you wake up… Read more »

Brett Henley
Brett Henley
9 years ago

Fantastic insights Sean, Couldn’t agree more. I’m locked out in the stratosphere of the unconventional as we speak. Lost my job a few months ago and just became fed up with the resume regurgitation and job hunt game. I’ve consulted in the past (Web as well), so I’ve decided to give it my best while the iron is hot. AND I have a family to support. AND I have debt to consider. So I’ll find as many ways as possible to bring in income while I build and evolve my business. Best part? I helped my daughter tie-dye t-shirts today… Read more »

Marko -- Calm Growth
Marko -- Calm Growth
9 years ago

Interesting story Sean…

I plan to in a few days to quit my job, because makes me unhappy.

I look it this way – Millionaire live under his terms, he has the freedom that money gives him.

This is the main reason for becoming a millionaire. If you doing what you love, you have that freedom. If you can live on your own terms, you live like a millionaire…

Tara C
Tara C
9 years ago

I am trying to psych myself up to make a big change like you did, but as you say the fears of uncertainty are haunting me. I need to just get over it and go for it!

Matt
Matt
9 years ago

@ #1 Trina – Where did you get the idea that the jobs were “taken” from people in the U.S.? If he fired someone in the U.S. in order to hire people elsewhere I might understand your objection, but it doesn’t appear that was the case. @ Sean – I find your dismissive “yes you can” response to “I can’t do this because of my family” to be somewhat unsatisfying. This isn’t really a counter to the argument… it’s just a dismissing of the argument. I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but since you’re a single guy without a family,… Read more »

Troy
Troy
9 years ago

What’s with the “live like a millionaire” talk

Doesn’t sound like you live like a millionaire. Sounds like you live like a single young guy who travelled to a different country with an extrememly low cost of living and work on web-based activities.

You speak of how little money it takes, yet compare to living like a millionaire, without the “fancy cars and houses” and stuff.

None of that sounds like living like a millionaire to me

Roo
Roo
9 years ago

I don’t feel like a millionaire, but since I moved to the city for university I feel oddly rich. It’s partly because all my local food shops are used by the financial workers with cash to splash, so there’s quite often luxury goods going for less than half price in the bargain bin! Got a whole free range duck for £3 yesterday.

Vinny
Vinny
9 years ago

In defense of Sean, he is living in Thailand and hiring people in the Philippines. He is not “outsourcing US Jobs” – the jobs were never US to begin with.

Briana @ GBR
Briana @ GBR
9 years ago

This was a great post, and I sent some excerpts of it to a friend who really needed to hear these words. I’m on a mission to do the same thing. Of course I’d love to make a million dollars, but I also want to live life how I want to live it. You’re definitely an inspiration

Aleks
Aleks
9 years ago

What’s with the “live like a millionaire” talk Doesn’t sound like you live like a millionaire. Sounds like you live like a single young guy who travelled to a different country with an extrememly low cost of living and work on web-based activities. You speak of how little money it takes, yet compare to living like a millionaire, without the “fancy cars and houses” and stuff. None of that sounds like living like a millionaire to me I don’t really get this article either. He says he’s living like a millionaire, but never really defines what he means by that.… Read more »

Des
Des
9 years ago

I have to agree with others that this really does just sound like a young-childfree-singlton lifestyle, regardless of the country or job. I was RICH when I was 18, too. I brought home $1100 a month and my bills were less than $300 (phone, bus pass, my half of rent on a 1-bedroom apt). I lived like a king, from my perspective. I bought what I wanted, I ate what I wanted, and I traveled to Europe. And I would have said the same things as this author. “Anyone can do it.” “Lower your expectations” Etc. But truly, age and… Read more »

Angela of Neglected Princess
Angela of Neglected Princess
9 years ago

What are you doing about health care? That is a HUGE reason why millions of would-be entrepreneurs are still working for others. And, please don’t tell me that health care is not important because it is.

Million Dollar Journey
Million Dollar Journey
9 years ago

Great post Sean. I’m kinda in that situation where I have grown an online company to the point where it could be a full time gig. The only thing holding me back now is fear of uncertainty. What gave you the final nudge to take the plunge and work for yourself?

El Nerdo Loco
El Nerdo Loco
9 years ago

Congrats on your success. This seems like an application of the ideas from “The Four Hour Workweek”. Interesting book and interesting notions, I’ve read it several times and applied many of his ideas.

However, I haven’t found a way to put his business model to practical use, mainly because I like living in the USA and I like to stay put, plus I already have a business I love. As for the uncertainty– we eat it everyday for breakfast 😀

Was your move inspired by Timothy Ferris, or did you arrive to these conclusions on your own?

Sean
Sean
9 years ago

First off, thank you to everyone for the comments! It’s really interesting to see the different reactions and responses. First off, as for the giving away US jobs, these never were US jobs and never would be. It was either hire someone abroad or do the work ourselves. However, on that note, who is to say someone in the US is more important than someone in the Philippines? We pay them enough money to provide for their family and have a life that most people in their country would kill for. They are just like you and me. So US… Read more »

Kyle
Kyle
9 years ago

Why do so many of you care whether or not he is living a “selfish” lifestyle.

I travel constantly, am my own boss (wedding photographer) and best of all I work with my husband. We don’t have kids, if/when we decide to have them, we’ll find a way to incorporate them into our jet setting lifestyle. That’s not selfish, that’s just the way we choose to live.

Different families ...
Different families ...
9 years ago

‘Its all about priorities, it isn’t hard to start a business in your free time if you’ve decided that’s important to you.” That’s not true. There are plenty of people who work incredibly long hours to support their family. Who have children with special needs which take up a lot of time. Who have their own health issues which take up a lot of time. It’s easy to say “just prioritise better”, but for some people there are priorities that they cannot shift. In fact, for more people than you realise. You shouldn’t just ignore them because a generalisation is… Read more »

Mike Hunt
Mike Hunt
9 years ago

Sean, Which part of Thailand do you live in, and if you don’t mind me asking, about how much can you put away each month? I move to Thailand 4.5 years ago and have been working as Managing Director of two separate business- the first for 2 years, the second for 2+ years (still working there) with 5 months off in between jobs. I earn good money ($250K USD a year) but work very long and intense hours- 12 to 16 hour days are the norm. I am also living in Bangkok commuting to Ayutthaya each day, it’s 1 –… Read more »

CB
CB
9 years ago

@Different familiess… He didn’t say prioritize better. He said you have to choose what’s important to you. I’m not a parent yet but if I had kids and one or more had some sort of “special” needs that would probably be more important to me than whether or not my job was the fulfillment of what I think my life’s purpose should be. If you were in the same situation you may choose something different because that was more important to you. Neither choice is necessarily more right or wrong than the other.

Jason
Jason
9 years ago

I like the post and always enjoy stories from expats. My only negative comment about the story is that the information is all very subjective.. I would have liked to see more details about your current situation. What the cost of the “lifestyle” is, like rent/food/utilities/ did you have to get certain permits to run your business being from outside the country. Exactly the type of work you do. The story sounds like a flipping houses infomercial, they say it is great but don’t give you any real details.

Good story, but more details.

Brent
Brent
9 years ago

I agree with Jason (22). This all sounds very vague, just like Sean himself actually describes the 4 Hour Work Week in comment (18). I applaud Sean’s courage for getting out there and doing his thing. It takes cajones to move to a foreign land and start a business, no doubt. Nobody I know is doing that. I’ve been thinking about the whole lifestyle blogging thing lately, so this is not directed at Sean specifically, but his post triggered me to write some things down. I’ve been reading a lot of personal finance, lifestyle hacking, self improvement, entrepreneurial blogs these… Read more »

Meg
Meg
9 years ago

Sean,
I’ve been following you for almost a year now, and I am really impressed with what you’ve done! I aspire to be able to travel and work abroad one day as well. Great job! Keep up the good work!

Tony
Tony
9 years ago

@Brent:
If you are going to butcher the Spanish language please do it properly. The correct spelling for the word you used is “cojones”.

partgypsy
partgypsy
9 years ago

(caveat – grumpy post) Normally when someone nitpicks how one person’s successful solution would not work for them, I have the mental argument that the person is not telling them a specific road map, just an example of how one person did it. However in this case (40 something person with house, 2 kids, ties to community) the example requires me to both move to a non-English speaking country, and found a business which yes saves money by hiring people in developing countries for lower wages. I would not do the first because it is not a sacrifice I’m willing… Read more »

mumwhocooks
mumwhocooks
8 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

Just my POV: we need to take his story as an example and eventually find out our own “Thailand” and “Millionaire status”. We need not ask him if he can come up with solutions to “find a way to both do your dream and create jobs for Americans” so that we can feel sorry for him bec his story is “context dependent” and would not apply to everyone. I think the main reason that he posted this article is because he wants us to be inspired. He read the 4 hour workweek but accdg to him “the practices in that… Read more »

Kevin M
Kevin M
9 years ago

Catchy title, but actually, if you were living like most millionaires, you would own a home, own a “boring” business like plumbing or contracting, have a wife and drive a late model American car. (According to The Millionaire Next Door.) A better title might have been “Live on Your Own Terms for Less Than You Think”.

Also, I seriously doubt you are living for less than $365 a year, as the title suggests – because once you get over 99 pennies – it would be $ a day. Or maybe it should be “….on thousands of pennies per day”.

Nelly
Nelly
9 years ago

@Trina ~ I have a million dollar idea. Do you think I can find ANYWHERE in the US to make the product at a cost that will enable me to make a profit?? NO!! That’s why my product will be made in China. I would LOVE to do business with ‘the man down the street’ but it is economically impossible for me to do so. Whose fault is that?

Alexandra
Alexandra
9 years ago

Umm, I vacationed in Thailand and lived like a king while I was there….because their baht is worth nothing compared to the dollar. My husband and I would have drinks, dinner and leave a generous tip for less than $5.00 total at a restaurant.

Come back and write when you have a family to support and tell us how you live like a king. Until then, this is just some single guy lucky enough not to have any obligations which tie him to real life. Nothing to learn from here….

mumwhocooks
mumwhocooks
8 years ago
Reply to  Alexandra

I seriously doubt it. I have a kid, a stay at home mom. I earn more than I’m earning when I was single and working at a corporate firm. I have an online business, happy clients and plenty of time. What it took me to reach this situation is to actually SEE what the author just shared with us and hammered my brain to that idea like crazy. I couldn’t have been happier to take the plunge and follow my heart.

Heck, I could start a blog about it. lol 🙂

Allyson
Allyson
9 years ago

I love this. I quit my job I hated and am living the life I want to on a tiny income. I think what Sean is saying is that he is living like a millionaire because he is living the life he wants, doing everything he wants to be doing, without caring about money, like millionaires do. I know I’m living the life I want to be living WELL below the poverty line and couldn’t be happier. I love stories about people doing the same.

Brent
Brent
9 years ago

@ Tony (26) – please clarify, I have butchered the Spanish language by misspelling one word? Or, I have butchered the Spanish language by using a Spanish word in an otherwise English sentence?

Do you also correct Spanish-speakers who misspell, or butcher, English words? Or is that too non-politically correct? Seriously, I’m curious as to how bi-lingual spelling cops operate.

Comment
Comment
9 years ago

Why do some of you think that Sean “should” or “needs” to keep jobs or create jobs in America? Why do you think he has any control over that? Why is that his responsibility? Americans aren’t the only people in the world who need work, you know. Talk about being selfish.

Trina
Trina
9 years ago

@33 Comment: Why do I think we need jobs in America? Are you serious?? Do you have neighbors, friends, or family members that you care about? Do you know anyone who has lost their job? Do you know anyone who hasn’t been affected by the recession? Oh, wait, I’m sure you know some great entrepreneurs who are pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps, yada, yada, yada.

Janette
Janette
9 years ago

Sean, I enjoyed the post. I think the best time to do what you are doing is the stage in life you now are. When we lived in China (20 yrs ago) we met many people doing the same thing. Americans are always getting people to work for less. I have some fine china from “occupied Germany” and I know that John McCain was born in Panama- helping the US guard the sugar industry. I see nothing wrong with going out and enjoying life while discovering where most of the things in the US actually come from. You will, most… Read more »

Eddie
Eddie
9 years ago

It’s a great plan and a great attitude….provided ones choice of dream job doesn’t turn out to be the equivalent of, say, dotcoms in ’99, or construction a few years back.

Not that this should stop a person, but I think acknowledging and planning for the possibility of failure rather then ignoring for the sake of keeping positive.

Rob Ward
Rob Ward
9 years ago

For those asking how he is “living like a millionaire” his definition was TIME. People think that in order to have time you have to be a millionaire, but that is simply not the case. You can “live like a millionaire” for not much money because if you work for yourself, you can set your own hours. See more here:

http://johnnybtruant.com/my-so-called-rock-star-life/

Anthony
Anthony
9 years ago

I work as a consultant and for a traditional employer, so I get the double benefit of (perceived) safety of the full-time gig and the “freedom” of a consultant. The problem I have with Sean’s article is that it’s almost entirely dependent on employing others in the Philippines. He says he doesn’t take US jobs because he’d just do the work himself if he had to hire US employees…well, then he wouldn’t have the TIME which allows him to live like a millionaire. I do the same thing, I have employees from India working for a fraction of US employees.… Read more »

Walter
Walter
9 years ago

Man, all the hateful posts from people who basically just seem scared to take their own risks. I’ve been freelancing for nearly two decades and have a family of four. Yes, it can be scary, but happiness is worth a lot. Sticking with a job that makes you miserable just isn’t worth it. You don’t have to be single and you don’t have to move out of the country to take value from this article. To answer another commenter’s question about healthcare, it isn’t that hard. There are a couple of things you can do (assuming here that you don’t… Read more »

shares