business

A 30-Year Plan to Make a Mil

The fifth of eight ways entrepreneurs, investors and savers have made a million. Find out how they did it and read all eight.

Millionaire Lesson No. 5

Plan for the very long term. Gary Gardelli waited two years to get the job he wanted and more than 30 years for the payoff.

Gary Gardelli chose his career path at age 4. "I had a little red fire engine with push pedals and a bell," says Gardelli, now 55, "and that’s pretty much when I decided what I wanted to do." In junior high school, he realized an added benefit to being a firefighter: the pension. And then there’s the job security. Economies boom and wane, but protection from fires is a basic, universal need.

At age 20, Gardelli studied fire departments in the Denver area, including their benefits and retirement plans. He picked suburban Bancroft as a place to live and work and attended college for two years while waiting to be accepted for training.

Then he stayed put for 31 years and seven months. "It was better than I ever thought it could be," says Gardelli, who turned down mana­gerial promotions so he could keep fighting fires. "I liked being one of the guys in the trenches. I made lieutenant, and that’s where I stayed."

For most of his working years, Gardelli knew exactly when he would retire—November 2006—because that’s when a lump-sum pension payout would amount to $1 million. He decided to take the lump sum because the lifetime-payment option offered skimpy survivor benefits to his wife, Cindy, in the event that he died first. "This way," he says, "it’s all hers."

Managing $1 million is a big responsibility, especially when you retire at age 54 and want the money to last for perhaps 40 years. Gardelli already had experience investing Cindy’s retirement-plan rollover when she left firefighting eight years ago. Plus, he amassed about $100,000 in his employer-matched 401(a) plan, a tax-deferred plan for public-sector employees.

Gardelli worked with a financial planner to invest the money, gradually putting it in a diversified portfolio, composed mostly of stock funds, and keeping some in a guaranteed account that earns about 5%. "I’m taking it slow and easy," he says.

Even as millionaires, he and Cindy still look for ways to save money. "We play lots of golf, ride the motorcycle, goof off," says Gary, who saves about $5,000 in annual golf-course fees by working six hours a week as a golf-course marshal. Cindy works two days a week in a veterinary clinic, which provides them with free care for their three fox terriers and Chihuahua. Says Gary, "We’re having so much fun."

EIGHT MILLIONAIRE PROFILES

1. The Video That Took on a Life of Its Own

2. Know When to Make the Call

3. Pounce When the Time Is Right

4. It Started Over Cocktails

5. A Thirty-Year Plan to Make a Mil

6. Breaking With Family Tradition

7. Accumulating A Fortune on $11 a Hour

8. Suddenly It Clicks

Most Popular

5 Beaten-Down Stocks to Buy on the Dip
stocks to buy

5 Beaten-Down Stocks to Buy on the Dip

The market has delivered some nauseating volatility of late. The good news? That has teed up a few great stocks to buy at a discount.
September 27, 2021
10 Best Stocks for Rising Interest Rates
stocks

10 Best Stocks for Rising Interest Rates

The 10-year Treasury yield is hovering near its highest level in months. Here are 10 of the best stocks to buy in a rising interest-rate environment.
September 30, 2021
13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits
social security

13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits

You may have dreamed of a tax-free retirement, but if you live in these 13 states, your Social Security benefits are subject to a state tax. That's on…
October 4, 2021

Recommended

Business Cost Outlooks for 2022: Eight Key Sectors
Economic Forecasts

Business Cost Outlooks for 2022: Eight Key Sectors

What’s in store for all sorts of business costs in 2022?
October 12, 2021
Ditch Your Dying Career for a Dirty Job Instead
careers

Ditch Your Dying Career for a Dirty Job Instead

How secure is your job in a world of artificial intelligence? Technology is putting many careers on the endangered list, but some jobs just can’t be d…
October 12, 2021
You May Get a Raise in 2022
Employee Benefits

You May Get a Raise in 2022

In a strengthening labor market, businesses are paying more to attract and retain employees.
October 4, 2021
Acting Entitled on the Job – and in Life – Is a Ticket to Nowhere
careers

Acting Entitled on the Job – and in Life – Is a Ticket to Nowhere

Spoiled kids grow into entitled adults, and that can be a big problem for them in their careers and personal lives.
October 4, 2021