The key is high saving.

Here’s an amazing story about a worker on Wall Street making $40,000 a year and saving $10,500 a year in a 401(k) for 12 years. By the end, he was a millionaire.

Sam Dogen went to extremes to save that much money in such a short time. And I don’t condone his stealing food from his employer, although that “theft” [he puts it in quotation marks and so I don’t know if it was really theft] saved him only a small amount of money.

But what I always take from such stories is that if you really start to focus on what you spend and make some careful decisions, you can save a lot. Let’s say, for example, that you really do want your own room and you split a one-bedroom with a friend, paying $1,300 a month (remember that this was in 2000) rather than splitting a studio and paying $900 a month, your annual saving would have been about $4,500. (I’m also taking into account the reduced tax advantage from saving less in a 401(k)).

Here’s my version of what Sam did. Living in high-tax New York state in 1975-76 and making $20,000 gross at the University of Rochester over 12 months, I saved $9,300.