Income Update – Escaping the Middle Class

Outgrowing The “Middle Class” Label 

Hello high-income earning friends! It’s been a few years since I’ve written about my income from a holistic point of view. So for the sake of transparency I thought I would give everyone an update on my income situation.

My salary is currently closer to $60,000 than it is to $50,000. I won’t disclose the exact figure because I work with people who read this blog. As for my side incomes, they have gone up as well. 🙂 I’m leaving out rental income below because I use the rent to pay my farmland mortgage so it’s basically a wash.

Gross side incomes per year.

  • Part time job – $10,000
  • Dividends – $8,000
  • Interest – $3,000
  • Freelance – $10,000

Total side incomes = $31,000/year

If we put all the numbers together we see that I am making in the rough range of $90,000. Sweet sassy molassy! I believe this means my income is no longer considered middle class anymore. I am now part of the trendy upper middle class. 😉

In any case, I’m earning more than $75K/yr, which is a very important psychological hurdle. According to the Wall Street Journal, the magic income level for maximum satisfaction is $75,000 a year. “As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until [they] hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.”

Retiring Early on a Modest Salary

It’s rare for graphic designers such as myself to ever earn a six figure salary. What this means is that I have to implement a different strategy for FI/RE than someone else who’s a doctor or engineer. To make up for a lower salary, I boost my earnings by moonlighting, and also by increasing my investment returns by taking on more calculated risks. The extra income streams essentially increase my income by $31,000 a year right now and should continue to grow over time. They should also make the eventual transition to retirement easier. And by using leverage to invest in growing companies and other profitable assets like farmland and high yield bonds, my total portfolio has continuously brought high returns since 2009.

This method of choosing individual investments is admittedly more risky than the passive, Boglehead market indexing strategy. But I’ve also been compensated with higher returns, at least so far. I can’t say this plan is guaranteed to work for everyone or that it’s sustainable long term. But I started investing in my early 20s. Today I’m almost 30 years old, and my passive income is about $1500 per month, while my expenses are about $3000. So it’s working out for me. The only issue is I don’t know how my leveraged portfolio will perform in a bear market or recession, which hasn’t been tested yet.

I believe in the next 12 to 24 months it’s very likely that I will be making $100,000 per year including all my income sources. Wow. Never in my wildest childhood dreams did I expect to earn so much. I know six figures isn’t what it used to be but it still feels like a huge amount of money to me.

Many other high income earners claim that they don’t feel $90K or $100K is a lot of money. I don’t know if they’re just being modest, but I certainly do feel much more privileged and happier now than many years ago when I earned only $40K.


I used to believe that you have to be smart to make a lot of money. But apparently I’m living proof that someone with an average intellect can do so as well. I modelled my financial plan based on the brilliant minds that have already figured out the formula for success. All of my investment ideas and strategies can be boiled down to one simple philosophy; Do what other successful people do. 🙂 That’s it!

Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Benjamin Franklin, Howard Marks, Elon Musk, David Schwartz, and many other great thinkers from the past and present have literally told us their formulas for success. I am able to make an upper middle class income in my late 20s all thanks to them. 😀 The only thing I had to do was keep an open mind. As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. 😉

Simple Techniques to Boost Income 😀

Here are 5 examples demonstrating how easy it is to mimic the success of others.

  • Multiple income sources: According to hedge fund manager and author James Altucher, the average millionaire has at least 7 income sources. I started out in 2008 with 1 job like most people do. Then I picked up a second job since I didn’t have anything better to do on the weekends. I used all the money from this new side hustle to buy dividend paying companies. So all of a sudden I went from having only 1 income stream to having 3. Then in 2012 I had 4 streams of income. 🙂
  • Work harder than average: Author Thomas Corley discovered that 86% of rich people work at least 50 hours a week. I have embodied this practice into my own life. I could certainly work even longer hours, but it’s not necessary to accomplish my freedom 35 goal. At one point in time entrepreneur Elon Musk spent years working 100 hours a week as the CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Good golly! I would go insane if I worked that hard, haha. But that’s probably why Elon is a respected multi-billionaire and I’m not.
  • Take Risks: Over 90% of millionaires admit to having made a major career or business decision that had lead to a negative outcome. Taking calculated risks isn’t the same as blindly jumping into something new without doing prior research. Most of my risky financial decisions like buying farmland or junk bonds have paid off so far.
  • Use credit strategically: According to a U.S. Trust survey, about 67% of high net worth individuals use credit to build their wealth. This is why I like to leverage low interest rates to boost my investment returns. If this works for the wealthy then it should work for me too. In hindsight, borrowing money to buy U.S. stocks over the last 8 years has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 🙂 I have managed to outperform the market every year thanks to this strategy.
  • Have a plan and stay focused: Not having a plan can very easily put us at the mercy of others who do. Once again, all I did was try to follow existing goal oriented people. I have chosen to focus on dividend investing because it is my primary tool to become financially independent. I have studied it. Set goals around it. I even made a list of dividend investors who are regular people like myself, but they’re already making 5 figures every year in dividend income! That gives me motivation to keep going. 🙂 Dividend investing is very popular because dividends are passive, stable, tax efficient, and usually grow over time.

Those are just a handful of reasons I’m making ~$90k a year. But there are literally hundreds of other methods, character traits, and actionable steps and ideas that can be learned and applied to maximize one’s earning potential.

It’s humbling to realize that I’m now making over twice as much money as I did when I started my career in 2008. Since my living expenses haven’t kept up with my growing income, I am now able to save $2,000 to $3,000 in a typical month. With a relatively high savings rate and a growing asset column worth $1 million, it’s no surprise that my net worth has been fervently growing this year. 😉 If a university dropout can get this far, then surely just about anyone can excel at personal finance.

It’s hard to believe just how lucky I am sometimes. But there are no tricks to making a six figure income. Anyone can pick up a book about rich people and learn what they do. “The Millionaire Next Door,” a bestseller, is probably one of my favorites. “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill is another classic. Even biographies of successful investors like Ray Dalio are filled with oodles of useful financial wisdom. 🙂 As the old saying goes – just follow the money. We don’t have to blindly search for the path towards prosperity because others who have already found it are more than willing to show us the way.

Random Useless Fact:

Here is a frugal Halloween costume idea

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12/22/2016 12:10 pm

I just worry that a female harpy who pretends to be in love with you will get you to marry her, will have your baby, and then she will divorce rape you forcing you to pay monthly child support and monthly alimony and thereby ruining everything you have achieved. Please visit the subreddit /r/MGTOW and /r/TheRedPill before committing – there are some many hard working men who got duped by gold diggers who pretended to love them. And by the way, do not overestimate how much a prenuptial agreement can protect you. A woman who cries and plays the victim in court can easily get the judge to vacate any prenup.

NZ Muse
12/22/2016 12:32 pm

I used to make 40k and now I am at a little over double. And life is wayyyyy better for it. Your dividend income is impressive!

12/22/2016 7:26 pm

Can you tell me a little bit about what your criteria is for “Freedom 35”. Maybe you have it documented somewhere else on your website and I just can’t find it. If you’re planning on ‘retiring’ at 35, what does that mean in terms of the income from your investments that you expect to live on. Your current post mentions you’re currently making ~90k/year. What is your expected ‘income’ equivalent at your retirement age of 35? I’d just like to understand your position better so that I can understand how it compares to mine.

12/23/2016 10:16 am

Welcome to the party fine sir! You’ll tire of it eventually and want more. It’s not so much to spend but more just a scorecard and the ability to be able to walk away without having to worry about your bills(provided you keep up with the savings, which I’m sure you will). One of my goals for this year is to break that 6 figure mark with my base salary at work. We’re coming off a stellar year so I’m hoping to get what I can from it!

12/26/2016 11:11 am

That’s the plan! Hopefully someday!

12/24/2016 5:21 am

Excellent post! I completely agree with your five ways to boost income. And congrats on upper middle class income!



[…] Congrats to Freedom 35 Blog who has officially moved from a middle-class income to upper middle class. Somebody better alert the […]

Financial Samurai
01/01/2017 4:25 pm

Congrats on making the big bucks now! Does this mean you’re buying drinks during the next meet up?!



[…] Liquid, the author of Freedom 35 Blog, said it nicely during his last income update: […]

02/03/2017 2:16 pm

[…] expected market return vs the cost to borrow. In my previous post from last year I explained how rich people create wealth. Using other people’s money to enhance investment gains proves to be a very effective method. […]

designer fellow
designer fellow
10/02/2021 6:40 pm

world is small, I am also a graphic designer, also teaching in local university and also working on rentable property. Its soooo good to see some designer thinking about future. Designers around me are clueless about their future / no planning.