A Million Bucks By 30: A Book Review

Photo: Amazon.com

I recently had the chance to read A Million Bucks by 30: How to Overcome a Crap Job, Stingy Parents, and a Useless Degree to Become a Millionaire Before (or after) Turning Thirty. I have to hand it to Alan Cory. He is like so many guys I know. Saddled with a crappy job, no trust-fund, a degree that didn't deliver, Mr. Corey decided early on to be the master of his own destiny. With colorful language, a clear-cut style, and the kind of honesty that you'd come to expect from a high-school buddy, Alan tells his story of “making it” to financial freedom in the same way you would talk with coworkers over a beer.

Alan starts early. The most brutal truth in this book (if there has to be one) is that it is best to begin your path to millionaire status as soon as you can. Mr. Corey stepped out into the big, big world a bit better off than many I know. A college scholarship and a savings habit born while in the 6th grade gave Alan the pocket change and zero debt liability that would put you at an advantage many don't have.

Alan is focused. Once it occurs to him that being a millionaire is his #1 goal, he never, ever forgets it. Chanting the “I'm going to be a millionaire” mantra at every bus stop and checkout line, Corey believes he will succeed. Nothing else is as important.

Alan is cheap. This is what makes for entertaining reading. Forget frugal, Alan is a straight-up cheap arse. But to tell him this would surely only make him grin – he is good at spending little to nothing on everything: dates, food, clothing, and vacations. A source of pride and a way to a better life, Mr. Corey knows that the sacrifice is great but the end will most certainly justify the means.

Alan is connected. At a few points in the book, Alan is obviously cash-strapped (although doing quite well with his equity.) He is somehow able to gain the trust of some friends and family and raise thousands upon thousands of dollars in investments for his real estate venture. This is key to his success.

Alan is lucky. There. I said it. Luck, timing, and the market play a huge role in hitting the million mark. Flipping properties the way Mr. Corey did was characteristic of his abilities, but also of the real estate landscape at the time.

Is it possible to follow Alan Corey's formula for success? Maybe if he had one. Alan's book is less of a “get-rich plan” and more of a “works for me” biography. And while I will have to disagree with some of the ethics regarding a few of Mr. Corey's cheapo tactics, he has the right idea.

Is it a worthwhile read? Sure. Whether you want to be entertained or just need a little inspiration for the long haul, Alan gains your trust early on and holds nothing back. If he's learned it, he'll share it. And while the most financially-savvy professionals might find the book “sophomoric,” there's more than a few unique money-saving tips that would more than pay for the price of the book. ( I found myself underlining a few passages and wondering why I didn't think of it.) If you don't share Alan's timing, focus, luck or networking skills, it's doubtful that you'll succeed in as short a time as he did. (In fact, his story shows just how difficult it is to get to a million these days.) But it can be done.

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Guest's picture
poor and broke

Wait a minute...if he had a crappy job, where did he get the equity?

I have discovered a proven business model which can make almost anyone wealthy but it requires owning a home.

Guest's picture

Would you care to share his money saving tips? You've got me curious!

Guest's picture

I also read his book. I really respect his determination and drive. I didn't think eating Ramon noodles all the time was healthy. I also thought he was in the right place when real estate started getting hot. But, the difference is he tried and made an incredible effort, otherwise none of it would have happened. Kudos!

Guest's picture

If nothing else, this book has a fantastic title. Knowing how I buy books, I bet 80% of this guys sales will come from the title alone!

Linsey Knerl's picture

I believe that his definition of "crappy job" is entirely relative.  I personally think any job making well above living wage that doesn't require you to do anything hazardous or illegal is a pretty good deal.  However, I understand what it's like to work a boring or unfufilling job, and in this book, Mr. Corey dreaded going to his job each day.  It did pay the bills, and it did get him a foot into the real estate business.  And in his case, it motivated him to strive for a life that didn't require your typical mind-numbing 9-5.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I agree that there were some cheapskate strategies that appeared a little short-sighted (the Ramen thing, for one.)  Being cheap at a detriment to your body, your morality, or your family and friends is something I could never advocate.  Eating a bit of Ramen from time to time is certainly something that won't kill anyone (especially if you're particularly down and out.)  Eating it daily for two months in order to stay well below your $2 a day food budget is another.  The book didn't talk much about things like health insurance, medical care, et, and I would have loved more insight into Mr. Corey's true monthly expenses (instead of just what he spent on investements and his return.)  We have to assume that he took as good of care of himself as anyone could in this situation.  I do know that he went to the gym (as he also has cheapskate tips for utilizing the 2-week free gym trials to his advantage.)

Linsey Knerl's picture

too many of his tips (that just wouldn't be fair, would it?)  But I can tell you he has learned how to get the most from apartment leasing, reality TV, cheap dating, and has a nifty oatmeal recipe.  Not chock full of stingy tips, but a nice amount of frugal to offset the basic financial wisdom and the very interesting story.

Guest's picture

I always enjoy the Wise Bread reviews because of my *slight* addiction to personal finance and business books. I think, however, that I'll skip this one. Thanks for the heads up!


Linsey Knerl's picture

No problem.  That's what a good review is for... we read em' so you can decide before you buy.  Nothing is more frustrating than spending money on a book that was not a good fit for you!

Guest's picture

I agree w,th frugal bt not cheap. I am in favor of being generous in terms of giving.

Guest's picture

Hey guys,

It's Alan Corey, author of "A Million Bucks by 30". I'll try to answer the questions some people had. Thanks for the review, Linsey - hope you don't mind me chiming in here.

Re: Crappy job - Yeah, my job paid more than more places do starting off ($40,000), but also NYC is one of the most expensive cities to live in, and starting salaries here reflect that. The thing to remember is that it's not how much you make, it's how much you do with what you make.

Re: Insurance/health care: The two reasons I stayed with my less than ideal job was for the health care/insurance it provided and because having steady employment helps you get loans/mortgages. In the book, you'll read that I eventually recognize my crappy job had silver linings - as yours probably does to.

I understand my book is not for everyone, and it's my story of how I accomplished what I did, and what it took for any average person like me to do it. They way I approach reading any book is that I try to take 3 things away from it and apply it to my life. I hope readers find more than 3 things from my book, but even if it's just 3 - you can significantly alter your financial outlook, and that should be the reason for reading any money book to begin with.

Thanks again, and I hope that answers the outstanding questions you guys had about my story. And lastly, best of luck on your own million dollar journeys!



Linsey Knerl's picture

Since Wise Bread readers tend to think in terms of "return on investment", many of them are wondering if this book (like all books) are worth the price. I think that most everyone will take away something of value from the book in terms of unique savings strategies, but unlike other frugal tips books, you also emphasize the discipline and creativity that made your journey successful.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and answer questions. Maybe we can invite you back for a formal Q & A sometime soon!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

So, the cheap/frugal discussion never ends, but for those people who tend towards the more extreme end of the spectrum, I have a question...

What's the plan/goal? Are you frugal/cheap until retirement and then suddenly become a spendthrift because that is what you've looked forward to your whole life? Or do you do it no matter what and then leave whatever is left over to your kids?

See, it seems like most people in the personal finance blogosphere are frugal/cheap "in order to" something. But what do you do when you get there? And how do you know you've arrived? *Then* what do you do?

By the way... I'm frugal and don't need convincing, I'd just like a nice discussion on the subject.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I guess it's the same as asking those that are eco-aware this question:

"How long do you strive to conserve resources?"  Money is a resource, one that isn't esteemed lightly in our family.  If it ever becomes more plentiful than any other resource, maybe I'll stop being frugal.  But I doubt it... I think that being good with your money is also good stewardship.  So, to answer your question, never

Guest's picture

Hey Alan again.

Linsey - thanks for asking if my book is a good ROI, I have a very biased answer for you, and that is YES, of course it is. However, it's ultimately left up for the readers decide, as I think you acheived really well in your review explaining your thoughts (both good and bad) on the book. People seem to enjoy the story, the humor, and even the advice in the book regardless of their age, their financial situation, or even their interest in finance. So I hope everyone finds it a great investment in one way or another.

To TK, great question! I was frugal as I had no choice. If I wanted to achieve my goals within my timeframe, I had to maximize my saving and investing power. However, I made each action fun - it was a challege to find better deals, better investments, and that excitement of the treasure hunt for a cheaper alternative or bigger payout was what kept me going.

Now that I achieved my big financial goal I have other goals - traveling, renovating my house, trying new career paths, etc. Some of these will require me to penny-pinch at times, and I welcome it if it calls for it. The security and freedom earned from being frugal for so many years is one that some will never experience, and it's a great feeling to finally "get to the end" so to speak, and it's also a feeling I hope to teach and inspire others to achieve themselves as it's something any ol' Joe can achieve (like me). But then again, what's so bad about being frugal in the first place? It's a great trait to have!

Guest's picture
poor and broke

Okay, Guest, you asked, so I'll spill ther beans. I have stumbled upon a way to make lots of money with your home, if you own one.

I'm renting a room in a house owned by a couple. They rent out 5 bedrooms at $150 per week. They sleep on couches in the living room. They provide three meals a day and control the kitchen (you don't get kitchen privileges when you rent a room).

Renting rooms by the week - with move-in costs far lower than monthly rentals - keeps the rooms rented. While the turnover is high, rooms fill up quickly with a free Craigslist post. Over several months, the vacancy rate does not exceed 5 percent.

The rental income is more than twice the mortgage payment. Sure it's extreme living but it is quite profitable.