My full name is Nilus Lawrence Mattive III, so it’d be easy to assume I was born into wealth.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
My grandfather, the original Nilus Lawrence Mattive, never even graduated high school.
He lied about his age, joined the Army when he was just 15, and fought in World War II. When he got back to the States, he worked a bunch of random jobs and then settled into a long stint at the local post office.
My mom’s father didn’t do any better. He dropped out of elementary school to work in a Pennsylvania coal mine and spent most of his adult life as a handyman for his landlord.
Meanwhile, my dad was the first (and only) person who went to college on either side of the family.
He worked in the human resources department at a state mental health facility and had a second job at the local YMCA just to pay for our yearly vacation to the Jersey shore.
Now, here I am, writing to you from an oceanview house in Santa Barbara that’s worth more than the entire block I grew up on…
And that’s crazy when you think about it.
Because I hardly consider myself to be ultra-wealthy or anything like that… But just about anyone I grew up with would probably call me rich.
So how did I get to this point? And what can my journey teach someone else looking to build their own wealth or achieve their own dreams?
Building Wealth Takes Knowledge, Planning, and Discipline
When I look back, I realize that it all started with a childhood belief that I could get where I am today.
However, plenty of kids have dreams… It’s much harder to act on them.
I started learning about money right from the start – collecting coins, piling up cash in my dresser drawer, and looking at stock market quotes in our local newspaper.
And the more knowledge I gained, the more confident I was about taking another step forward. That’s why I asked my parents to help me open a brokerage account when I was still in grade school.
Despite zero experience of their own, they allowed me to take several hundred dollars from my savings and put it into the market.
I searched under “stockbroker” in the yellow pages and made a few phone calls. When I found someone who took me seriously, my dad stepped in to help me set up the account.
That was around 1987. The movie “Wall Street” had just come out. I watched shows like “Family Ties,” where the young Alex Keaton character was carrying his briefcase to school and talking about investing in blue chips.
Since personal computers were becoming all the rage, I decided to buy five shares of IBM… I didn’t make a killing, but it was a great first experience.
Later, I ended up buying some Disney stock that performed very nicely, and I continued to add more money into my account whenever I could. And by the time I was in college, I was trading actively in between classes.
My point is that ambition alone doesn’t do it and reading about something is only half the battle.
Even if you start small, you have to get involved to really understand something… Especially when it comes to making money.
In my case, all that practical experience didn’t just help me start investing early…
It also landed me a job writing investment research in Manhattan’s financial district right after I graduated.
Lessons I Learned on Wall Street
I started my career just as the tech wreck was playing out – and I was in the World Trade Center when the first plane hit.
Those events showed me just how quickly the entire landscape could change. And how suddenly new risks can appear.
Fortunately, I was also lucky enough to work with some terrific mentors – older guys who had already been around the markets for many decades.
They were all about income investments like dividend stocks. They lived within their means, they took calculated risks, and all of that reinforced the values I already had.
So, although I was enjoying my life in New York, I wasn’t spending money like most younger people on Wall Street. I was always saving for a rainy day and putting that money into very conservative investments.
Meanwhile, I was also watching in astonishment as plenty of very rich people continued to commute into the city every single day, only getting home in time to kiss their kids goodnight.
But that just didn’t make any sense to me… It wasn’t my definition of true wealth at all.
I could always make more money. But I couldn’t make more time.
So in 2006, my wife and I moved out of the city, and we had our daughter.
And ever since then, I’ve made my money by saving, investing, and writing to other Americans who are interested in doing the same.
I had a goal of becoming a millionaire before I turned 40, and I’m proud to say I achieved that… But I also believe real wealth is about a lot more than an expensive house or some arbitrary net worth.
So define your own goal, whether it’s just a higher balance in your bank account or a completely different life than the one you have right now.
Learn as much as you can, and just get going… Even if you start with just one little step.
Analyst, Palm Beach Daily
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