earned $115,000 at age 26

How I Earned Over $115,000 at Age 26

Erik Financial Education, Thoughts of a Mastermind 14 Comments


Happy New Year’s!

2018 was a great year for me financially. It was my second year of making over $100,000, and I increased my total income by over $10,000 year over year.

At the beginning of 2017, I shared with you the details of how I made over $105,000 at the age of 25. This was accomplished through building a reputation as a high performer at work, adding a lucrative side hustle, and renting out multiple rooms in my house.

While making $100,000 in a year in a person’s 20’s is becoming more and more common, what sets my story apart is:

  • applying the concepts of personal development to achieve my goals over time
  • living in the Midwest (not in Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, or Washington D.C.)
  • my focus on multiple income streams

During 2018, I continued to show my skills at work and received a raise. In addition to a bump there, I continued house hacking, continued putting in hours on the side, added a new skill and hustle, and made gains in my businesses.

In this post, I want to highlight these different income streams, talk about how PROVIDING VALUE will lead to higher levels of income, point out how income doesn’t matter if you don’t use it right, and celebrate a great earning year.

How I Earned Over $115,000 at Age 26

Making money and increasing my income are 2 of my overarching goals at this stage in my life.

With more money, I can put more money to work via investments. With more money in investments, I will grow my net worth. Then, with a growing net worth, in the future, I’ll have more options. Finally, with more options, I’ll be able to do anything I want.

But that’s not why I want to share my successes with you. I want you to be able to achieve the same success as me – that’s why I write at The Mastermind Within.

How as I able to earn over $115,000 at the age of 26?

  • First, I created multiple income streams for myself, and earned over $5,000 from 3 different areas (and had 1 additional $1,000 income stream).
  • Second, I’ve been steadily increasing my income at my day job, and have grown my income over $37,000 in the last 4 years.
    • This has been a process of proving my worth, becoming a better communicator and problem solver, working for a growing company, and staying hungry and being patient for raises.

I hope that this inspires you to become better and grow your income in 2019. It’s great that I was able to accomplish this, but if I don’t share my knowledge with you and others, it’s worthless.

My 4 Income Streams

My income came from 4 income streams: my 9 to 5 job, my statistical consulting side hustle, house hacking, and my new web design hustle.

2018 earnings at age 26

Not included here are my two businesses – this blog and a subscription box, where revenues totaled over $10,000 but profits were negative. My hope is that I can turn these to positives in 2019.

Let’s discuss more in depth about each of these income streams.

Increasing Income at My Day Job

I’ve written about my increasing my salary at my day job a few times on this blog, so won’t go too in depth, but will touch on some big ideas in this post.

If you are in hopes of a bigger wage at a company, first, it’s important to join an organization which is well established, has room for new opportunities and growth in your field of study, and also, has the potential to grow over time.

Working for a company which is not growing, doesn’t have opportunities in your field, or is in a sinking industry will not be beneficial for your career (and consequently, your wage).

Provide More Value and You’ll Be Paid More

Second, there are three main points that I want to stress if you want to increase your income fast over a few years:

  1. Take on work and projects outside your “responsibilities”
  2. Work on ways to help make processes more efficient or automated
  3. Work on your communication

The first point here is obvious but needs to be said. Doing work outside of what you were hired for will lead to more value being produced, and with more value should bring more pay.

If you don’t have enough time to take on more work, then number two comes into play.

Many jobs have some level of busy work. If you work in an office, there are probably many hours spent mindlessly copy and pasting data, formatting data, documents or presentations, or doing other manual work.

Luckily, the Microsoft suite has the ability to automate processes with code (VBA) or with features (mail merge and Excel functions come to mind). You can learn how to use Microsoft Excel better with a site like Excel Easy, and learn pivot tables, VBA, or just basic functions to help make things more efficient.

Something I did this past quarter was automate reporting for a manager in our department who was spending 10 hours a month formatting charts and tables after manually copying and pasting in data. I added a few buttons to the Excel sheet, wrote a bunch of VBA code, and now the process takes less than 5 minutes once the data is right.

If you don’t use Microsoft products, then learning how to code might make sense. At my day job, I use SAS, Python and Javascript – these I either learned on the job, or at home by using sites such as Code Academy or learning from YouTube. R, Java, C, C++, Ruby, or C# might make sense to learn depending on your goals and wants.

Finally, written and verbal communication is so critical in a career. Being able to listen to instructions and ideas, and then go out and execute or instruct others effectively is part of almost every job out there.

I’ve worked on my written and verbal communication here on the blog and my podcast, and have seen gains through helping with presentation and documentation, where others struggle.

Networking and Putting in Work Consulting

In the beginning of 2017, an old co-worker of mine messaged me and offered me a side hustle: for $85 an hour, I could help dentists and veterinarians with statistical analysis.

Now, nearly 24 months later, I’ve been doing this work and it’s been both a headache and a blessing.

There are times where I really don’t want to do the work, and times where the data I receive is a mess and a headache to analyze.

At the same time, the list of things I wouldn’t do for $85 an hour is pretty short, so for now, this is a great gig.

I spend about 25 hours a quarter on this hustle, and in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that demanding time-wise. And for this 25 hours a quarter, this brings in roughly $8,000 a year, certainly significant.

Renting Out My House

During the summer of 2015, I purchased a three bedroom, two bathroom house, and have rented out the extra rooms in different combinations over the last 3.5 years.

This passive income stream has been a great addition to my life financially, and over the last 3.5 years, I’ve brought in over $42,000 in rental income. (and yes, I’ve paid taxes on this 😛 )

Throughout this year, I had an arrangement with my girlfriend (at the time) for $700 a month, and now, I’m renting out one room for $650 a month.

In the past, this rental income has been over $10,000 and helped me pay off my student loan and auto loan, but since I’ve increased my income at work (and also like my space and peace with less people), I’m content with only renting out one of the rooms.

If all goes to plan, this should result in roughly $7,500 of income in 2019.

Adding a New Skill and Helping Others

Starting this blog has been a blessing in disguise for forcing me to add a number of skills to my talent stack. One of those skills has been web design.

The Mastermind Within website looked horrible when it was first launched. Even a year in, it still didn’t look great.

However, through learning HTML and CSS on Code Academy, working on improving the overall layout and design of the site, and practicing on my other side businesses’ website, I soon honed my skills.

Now, over the past 6 months, I’ve offered my services to small business owners, bloggers and coaches who are don’t have web design skills or who don’t want to design their website.

I absolutely love building things and helping others, and this side hustle ties these two passions together.

While it wasn’t a huge source of income in 2018, it still was $1,000 I didn’t have before.

Now that I’ve added this skill to my tool belt, I’ve become more valuable and marketable. If needed, I am very confident I could do web design full time, and will look to continue to do more websites for people in 2019.

A High Income Doesn’t Matter if I Don’t Save These Earnings

With these 4 income streams, I made over $117,000 in 2018 and I’m very thankful for being able to be in this position.

However, a high income doesn’t mean much if you don’t put it to good use.

A common assumption is that high earners are better with money and are wealth.

While it’s certainly easier to save pay down debt, and invest a lot of money with a higher income, it’s also equally as easy to waste it, spend it on useless things, pay more taxes than you need to, and get into massive amount of debts.

Over the last year, I’ve used my income to make investments in my side businesses, retirement and taxable investments. I’ve also used it to go into debt to make improvements on my house.

During 2018, I maxed out my 401(k), Roth IRA, and HSA.

I have an emergency fund with a few months of expenses.

I added over $20,000 to different taxable investments and was able to comfortably manage my living expenses and cash flow throughout the year.

I could have just as easily not maxed out those tax advantaged account, and could have spent that money at the bar, on sporting events, on travel, on entertainment, or other stuff.

A high income doesn’t matter if the earner doesn’t use it to their advantage. A $100,000 income with $0 savings produces the same financial result as a $30,000 income with $0 savings.

Earning More Money Over Time is Possible, But Will Take Time

Over the past few years, there have certainly been many times where I was frustrated with my level of income, or lack of side income.

In 2013, 6 years ago, my income was $20,000 – high for still being in school, but not where I wanted it to be.

In 2015, 4 years ago, my income was $63,000 – high for 22 years old, but not where I wanted it to be.

I wanted more, and wanted it in those moments of frustration.

What I realized though is no matter how much I wanted something, unless I internalized those emotions and did something about it, nothing would happen.

I started focusing on what I could control: my thoughts and actions.

Reading books, reading blogs, watching videos, talking with successful people, learning, and then applying and trying things in the real world have been critical to my growth.

What did I learn about and then go out and apply? How to communicate more effectively, how to think a little bit bigger, and how to be consistent. I learned new programming languages, learned some marketing and web design, and joined different communities who needed help with different tasks.

Showing up is half the battle – I could have just as easily stayed at home, been content in my current role, and just met expectations. But, instead I made the choice to push the envelope and become better. But it wasn’t a one time choice; rather, a daily, weekly, and monthly choice.

Doing a little bit each and every day is so critical to working your way towards a higher income.

It will take time – patience will be required.

However, once you gain new skills, increase the level of your current skills, and provide value to the right people, the sky is the limit 🙂

Looking forward to making 2019 a great year 🙂


How I Made Over $115k Dollars at 25



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Comments 14

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      I can certainly ask my supervisor there, we are certainly lower than other people in the industry, but that is still a solid wage 🙂 Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      1. Sorry, didn’t mean to imply it wasn’t a very nice wage, it’s way higher than most dream of. It just made me think about when I started consulting I had no idea what to charge and when I met another consultant working on the same project I found out he was getting twice what I got! I just had guessed low when I set my fee even though it sounded high to me. It did like you did your homework better than me.

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          Oh 🙂 No worries, I didn’t mean to imply that you were stating it wasn’t good. It’s definitely possible I could get more, but also, there are existing relationships between clients and my co-worker/supervisor.

  1. Congrats on a great year, Erik! I wish I had your mindset at your age. Unfortunately much of my money did go to the bars at your age.

    SAS is such a great skill to have. When I was in grad school one of the main professors said that everyone would learn SAS because it was the best way to get a high paying job right away. That ended up being true for many of my classmates. I had the opportunity to manage an analytics team for a year about 7 years after graduating and I had officially lost any skills in that area by that time.

    Best wishes in 2019!

    1. Post

      Thank you FP for stopping by and the comment 🙂

      Programming and being able to efficiently analyze data will always be needed – that’s for sure. Though being a manager sounds like quite the lucrative position!!

      Hope that you achieve your dreams in 2019 as well!

  2. A great and powerful story. Shows how not only focusing on your career can pay off, but having a few side hustles can really move the needle on total earning power. Plus, the way you have improved your talent stack seems to be a synergy improving your value at your 9-5 job as well as the side hustles.

    I’m not quite at the six figure mark myself (hard to develop the side hustles with 3 young kids), but I’ve been able to grow my 9-5 job income pretty well. I’ll keep following along on your journey.

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      It’s the paradox of the side hustle 🙂 Working on improving your skills for things outside of the day job will inevitably lead to providing more value in all of the areas of your work!

      Thank you for the comment Jim! Looking forward to checking out your site and following your journey.

  3. We must work in the same field? I’m a web developer working for a website agency. I’ve had similar success in my field and have consistently made more over the years. It looks like you are killing it with your side hustles! Great job on pushing things forward in 2018. It motivates me to get better as well so we can pursue our dreams. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Post

      I work at a bank, and while yes, I do some web design, my education is in math and analytics. So not quite, but definitely similar 🙂

      2019 will be a fun year and trying new things, building new solutions, and continuing to build on the success of 2018.

      Thanks for commenting!!

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