The first $100,000 is the hardest

By Alain Guillot

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Here is a quote by Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s business partner.

“The first $100,000 is a bitch, but you gotta do it. I don’t care what you have to do — if it means walking everywhere and not eating anything that wasn’t purchased with a coupon, find a way to get your hands on $100,000. After that, you can ease off the gas a little bit.”

Right now, my portfolio is over $500,000 but the first $100,000 were the most difficult to get because, of course, I started with $0, in a foreign country (Canada), with no family connections, no intergenerational wealth, no nothing.

Since I arrived in Canada, I have been a janitor, a busboy, a waiter, an Uber driver, a cleaner, a dance teacher, an insurance salesman, a photographer, and a website designer.

If you are a low earner, like me, you can only save $100,000 through a lot of discipline, sacrifices, perseverance, and the right mindset.

Most people, even those earning $100K per year, will never accumulate this amount of money. I feel extremely privileged to have arrived and surpassed this milestone.

I am the kind of person who believes that wealth is available to all of us and if we want it, all you have to do is to reach out and get it.

My biggest teacher in almost any entrepreneurial endeavour has been YouTube. My college education was not a complete waste, I get to go around and tell people that I have a college education, but for any practical purpose, it was useless.

You don’t need a fancy degree from any college to build wealth. Even now, I am teaching myself website design via YouTube.

Having the goal of saving $100K

Goals can also help to look toward the future and keep saving efforts in check. The more money you can save, either from reduced expenses or increased income, the faster you can move toward accumulating your first $100,000. And once you do that, the way to the next $100,000 becomes easier.

Having the right mindset

To save $100K you need to train your mind. Keeping your particular goal in mind can help, but you also need to understand how to achieve your goal with a plan.

Getting to $100,000 requires three elements:

  • save more
  • earn more
  • invest in stocks

Tips to save more

  • Eliminate smoking. It costs a lot of money and it’s bad for your health
  • Reduce or eliminate drinking alcohol
  • For sure, don’t do drugs.
  • Take public transportation if you live in an area covered by public transportation
  • Get a bicycle and use it for transportation. It will save you money and it will keep you in shape
  • Limit your restaurant outings to once a week
  • Take advantage of public goods such as parks, and free entertainment. In Montreal we have the Jazz Festival and many others; I am sure there are many free events in your city
  • Consider eating less meat and more vegetables
  • Avoid eating junk food. Junk food is expensive and bad for your health
  • You don’t have to buy new clothes every season, specially if you are a man. I have a white shirts and black pants that are over 10 years old; they look no different from white shirts and black pants from today
  • Do your exercise at home. I do 100 pushups and 100 crunches every day and it costs me nothing
  • If you have debts, focus on paying them off and not incurring new ones
  • Take advantage of every tax savings alternative the government offers you.

How to earn more

  • Get a side gig: There are many things a person can do for extra income, from babysitting, to Ubering. Go for whatever its available to you
  • Continue learning, there are hundreds of free self improvement courses out there

How to invest your money

Go all in into stocks. Don’t buy bonds. Don’t buy real estate. The fastest and safest way to build wealth is buying stocks.

The next $100K

The next $100K
The next $100K

If I don’t do anything else to increase my wealth and if my investments grow at the rate of 8% per year, this is how long it will take me to get an additional $100K

To get from 100 to 200: 9 years
From 200 to 300: 5 years and 3 months
From 300 to 400: 3 years and 9 months
From 400 to 500: 2 years and 10 months
From 500 to 600: 2 years and 4 months (This is where I am)
From 600 to 700: 2 years and 4 months
From 700 to 800: 1 year and 8 months
From 800 to 900: 1 year and 6 months

These are not real numbers because I have not included the effect of taxes, but you get the idea – money can work harder for me than I can work for myself.


The first step to accumulate wealth is to have a true desire to do it. Saying to yourself “it would be nice to have $100K” is not enough. Don’t listen to advertisers. Fight the urge to buy gadgets and expensive clothes, get a bicycle instead of a car, spend less on housing and frequently less expensive restaurants. If you set your mind to it, you can do it.

Once you have accumulated the first $100,000 the next chunk is a lot easier and the chunk after even easier. It’s like a flywheel: once it gets some momentum, it’s difficult to stop.

Alain Guillot is a part time event photographer, part time Salsa teacher, and part time personal finance blogger. He came to Quebec as an immigrant from Colombia. Due to his mediocre French he was never able to find a suitable job, so he opened a Salsa/Tango dance school and started his entrepreneurship journey. Entrepreneurship got him started into personal finance and eventually into blogging. Now he lives a Lean FIRE lifestyle and shares his thoughts in his blog This blog originally appeared on his blog on Aug. 28, 2023 and is republished here with permission.

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