Becoming A Middle Class Millionaire™: How to make it happen in Montgomery County

In Montgomery County, anyone can become a Middle Class Millionaire™. Really? Really!

Yes, Montgomery County is an expensive place to live. But, on the flip side, it’s a highly educated community with affluent people. According to the 2016 US Census Bureau data the median annual income in Montgomery County averaged $100,352.

Thanks to Montgomery County’s exceptional educational system and strong job market, there is no better place to become a millionaire. It’s probably not going to happen overnight, but it’s definitely possible in Montgomery County.

Get Educated For Less

Young people living in Montgomery County have a tremendous opportunity to become well educated at a cost that is inexpensive compared to private universities in the D.C. area where tuition and fees can total $65,000 or more per year. Lower tuition and fees means lower student loan debt, which often stymies entrepreneurship.

Currently, tuition and fees at Montgomery College add up to around $4,650 a year (based on 20 credit hours per year). That works out to about $12 a day. At the same time, financial aid opportunities abound at Montgomery College.  In addition to federal Pell Grants and Maryland State Grants, more than 300 foundation scholarship opportunities provided by businesses, organizations and individuals are available to Montgomery College students.

Typically, a student can complete a bachelor’s degree in four years by taking the first two years at a community college and then transferring to a four-year college or university. With the annual cost per student at a community college averaging about half the annual cost at local public and private universities (according to the American Association of Community Colleges), students who go the Montgomery College route can save $10,000 or more during the first two years.

When the time comes to transfer, Montgomery College students can take advantage of another higher educational opportunity that is unique to Montgomery County – The Universities at Shady Grove (USG), an innovative partnership of nine University System of Maryland (USM) universities on one campus in Rockville. Each of the partner universities provides its most highly sought academic programs and awards its own degrees. USG, in turn, provides centralized on-site student, academic and administrative services.

This unique integrated approach allows USG to offer easily accessible pathways to 80 upper-level undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, creating outstanding career opportunities for students while providing regional employers with a highly educated, skilled workforce.

As at Montgomery College, financial aid opportunities are plentiful at USG institutions.  In addition to federal and state grants awarded on the basis of financial need, various private scholarships provided by local businesses, foundations, community organizations and individual donors are available for students at USG.

Choose the Right Career

To become a Middle Class Millionaire™, a person needs to choose a career with high earning potential. That’s where Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees have a big advantage. Just look at the average salary ranges in Montgomery County in the following STEM fields:

  • Computers and Mathematics
    • Entry-level: $56,419
    • Experienced: $115,825
  • Architecture and Engineering
    • Entry-level: $57,928
    • Experienced: $118,274
  • Healthcare (Practitioners and Technical Occupations)
    • Entry-level: $47,717
    • Experienced: $127,091
  • Accounting
    • Entry-level: $53,432
    • Experienced: $105,962

Start Saving Money

Once a young person in Montgomery County has obtained an affordable four-year degree and found a good paying job that has solid opportunity for income growth, the third step on the path to becoming a millionaire is to start saving money. With a disciplined approach, a person can save a million dollars relatively quickly.

Let’s take the median income for Montgomery County ($100,352) as an example.  This is a realistic number for anyone in the STEM fields noted above.  By saving 10 percent ($10,035) per year in a 401(k) plan and realizing a stock market return of 9.8 % per year (the average return on stocks in the S&P 500 since 1923), this thrifty individual will become a millionaire in 26 years.

If this person is able to save the same 10% per year with a 50% employer match, then he or she would become a millionaire in 22 years.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, becoming a Middle Class Millionaire™ is up to the individual.  It takes the right education, hard work in a well-paying career and financial discipline over the long term.

It also takes the right launching pad – exactly the kind of progressive and affluent environment found in Montgomery County. Whether it’s affordable higher education, compassionate treatment of the underprivileged or access to well-paying careers with low unemployment, Montgomery County has it all.

For my money, there is no better place to work, play and live – and make the most of opportunities to become a Middle Class Millionaire™.