How I made my first million: Investment coach says being rich is within most people's reach


Stuff's series How I Made My First Million talks to millionaires about how they got there. This week, it's property investor and coach Steve Goodey.

How did you make your first $1m, how old were you?

Looking back it would have been in my mid-30s.

I started buying houses to keep them as rentals in my early-20s, well before I'd bought a house to live in myself. I think the first house I bought to live in myself was my fourth property purchased.

I sold that first owner-occupier home to buy the second, which I still own and I'm currently living in my third home.

In the last 20 years I think I've bought and sold, traded, or renovated about 3000 houses, some for myself but most for clients whom I've coached.

You never really wake up one day and say "Oh wow I'm a millionaire" it's more likely you do a lending application that asks you for your assets and liabilities and the number under the heading "Total Assets"  has the second comma in it for the first time.

I'm not going to lie that was a nice feeling.

Steve Goodey said he had been involved in the purchase and sale of about 3000 houses.
Steve Goodey said he had been involved in the purchase and sale of about 3000 houses.

Do you follow any personal finance rules?  

Yes, but I break most of them too.

I think that happens to a lot of people when they have rules so I prefer to look at it as having a set of very simple good financial habits because good habits are something you know you should do every day for your own well being like exercising.

I made it a habit as early as I could to "buy and keep good quality assets for a long time". I think if you can commit to doing that it's hard to not become a millionaire at some point.

Other than that, I've always tried to keep clear of consumer finance, out-of-control credit card debt, and buying things I can't afford.

What are two money tips you'd give to a 20-year-old who wants to become a millionaire? 

Tip one: Hardly anyone gets rich very quickly, most people who are wealthy develop good money habits then invest in assets that grow in value.

Take your time in your 20s finding your place in the world and deciding who you are as a person. If you can buy a cheap house or start a business then that's great.

In your 30s it's time to make a mark by getting seriously good at something. Master a job, business or skill that is coveted.

In your 40s it's time to invest and buy assets so that in your 50s onwards you enjoy the fruits of the growth of your assets. 

Tip two: Don't measure yourself on anyone else. Ever.

Steve Goodey said there were lots of myths about "rich" people/
Steve Goodey said there were lots of myths about "rich" people/

Any financial myths you think must be busted?

Rich people have heaps of money: Not always sometimes they just own a lot of non-cash assets like property but they often have a load of debt too.

Rich people are smart: Not really normally, they just have a work ethic and desire. Being smart in a traditional sense is, in my opinion, an advantage but not vital.

Most people will never be wealthy: This is the self-taught myth that we tell ourselves. It's entirely possible to create a passive income in property or several income streams or businesses that will make you wealthy over time.

Most people grossly overestimate what they can achieve in the short term and massively underestimate what they can do given a lifetime.

Do you weigh more importance to saving or investing?

Investing but I'm fully aware that you need the self-sacrifice of saving to be able to invest and I'm not just talking about saving actual money.

Sometimes you need to invest in yourself so that you have the knowledge to invest in other solid assets.

I came out of school with no idea how to apply for credit, buy a house, do tax returns or get a change of use application through council.

What was the worst financial decision you made?

I honestly would have to say I haven't made any massive errors that have cost me any more than I've learned from them.

But let's be honest, if I didn't make mistakes I wouldn't have learned much, either.

The biggest error I see other people make is accepting the status quo and not taking enough action.

We all need to accept that if we want an unusually good result we need to do and achieve things that are going to seem abnormal to others, we need to be okay with that.

Do you feel rich?

Some days I do yes, there's a level of comfort to not having to worry about money but I don't think that comfort is actually about "having" money.

Rather it's about knowing how to earn good amounts of money, the security of knowing that it's possible to work hard, and have your bank account grow from your efforts.

I also feel rich because I enjoy and have a passion for what I do. It would be awful to earn money by doing something I hate every day.

When I first started working I would work all week looking forward to the weekend, now I rest all weekend looking forward to Monday.

Can money buy happiness?

No, but you can afford to be comfortable and being wealthy is obviously more popular than the alternative.

To me, money buys me the ability to choose what I do with my time, and that's the most important commodity.

Money is also like being proud of having a fast car, every time you stop at the lights a quicker, flasher, or newer car might pull up next to you.

You have to find a point where you're happy with what you have.

Do you think there is such a thing as reaching optimum wealth?

Yes probably, I know I'm not there yet because I still have things I want to do and people I want to help.

Wealth isn't a number in a bank account and is unrelated to money for me.

Money is just one of four or five resources like time, experience, knowledge, and your circle of influence.

It's a useful tool and a measurement system. 

To me, like most Kiwi investors the idea of retiring is becoming more and more unlikely. Making the change from "needing" to make money to have the option to only take on projects that are your passion is the modern retirement.

What is your advice to people to stay wealthy - getting rich is one thing, is staying rich just as difficult?

For me at least it's always been to buy standard family homes in good suburbs of larger cities and aim for a loan-to-value ratio of under 50 per cent.

Repeat the thing that made you the most money and don't try to reinvent the wheel.

I find comfort in investing in things that I can touch, feel, control, and understand.


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