How We Went From Making $40,000 to More Than $500,000 A Year

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About 6.5 years ago, Mr. FAF and I were pulling in about $40,000/year in household income as two graduate students.

We got our income from the school in the form of stipend. Mr. FAF was doing a PhD in Computer Science, and I was pursuing a Master’s in a social science field. I also worked part-time during the school year and in the summer.

Our income has since changed with every new job that we’ve had and has increased more than 100%.  After Mr. FAF started a new job at a new company, our household income will be more than half a million dollar in the coming year.

In this post, I will share with you how we have gotten to this milestone and how you two can increase your household income.

As a caveat, I know some folks might argue that money is not everything, money can’t buy happiness, and having more money doesn’t make you a happier person. I will not argue with any of those points here.

People have different preferences, and I respect that. The purpose of this post is to share how we have increased our income and set our lives up financially for the future.


Below are the milestones of our journey so far:

2015: I got a new job working in the nonprofit sector as a researcher.

2017: Mr. FAF got a job as a software engineer at a big tech company.

2019: I decided to change careers and started working as a software engineer.

2021: Mr. FAF got a new job as a software engineer at another big tech company.

As you can see, the general theme of our income jumps boils down to two words: software engineering.

You might be thinking: how is that relevant to me? Let me explain.

How to get into tech

Mr. FAF and I follow two very different paths to get into tech. While Mr. FAF has followed the traditional route of getting a degree in Computer Science, I taught myself how to code and changed careers. The tech field is a lucrative industry with good pay and generally a good work life balance.

For example, both Mr. FAF and I make six figures in the base salary and also get stocks and benefits from our companies. We need to attend a daily standup that lasts less than 30 minutes. Other than that, we can choose to attend meetings or just spend the whole day doing our own thing. No one is there to monitor what we are doing or where we are. As long as we get things done, no one will ask any questions, including our managers.

If you are in college or about to attend college, I strongly encourage you to consider studying Computer Science or an engineering field. I followed my passion to study different things both in college and grad school. But at one point, I realized that a low pay and growth stagnation will ultimately result in unhappiness. I believe it’s a good idea to at least give hard sciences a try and research the job market before you pick your career.

If you have already graduated college with a non-technical field, there are a lot of free resources online for you to learn how to code. This is the route that I followed. In total, it cost me less than $500 before I landed my first developer job.

There are also bootcamps that can cost about $10,000-13,000 for three-six months of learning. If you Google phrases such as “free coding resources” or “good coding bootcamps,” you will find a myriad of materials online to research.

What if you don’t like coding?

The purpose of the post is not to convince you to only go into coding. The idea is that if you want to get a higher pay for a full-time job, changing careers or industries is one option. You don’t need to feel unhappy or frustrated with your current job or industry. There’s always a way out if you are desperate enough to try. I know because I was.

You can also start a new business or try to retire early. There are many ways to live a happy life. But if you feel like you still want to strive for a successful career so that you can have passive income in the future, there are professions out there that can pay more and offer more benefits. You just need to take action to make it happen.

What are we going to do with the money?

You can do a lot with more money. You can put more towards your retirement, travel more, build your real estate portfolio for passive income, help out family and the community. And that’s exactly what we are planning to do.

These days, I get little to no gratification from shopping or buying clothes. Money is a tool to build a more secure financial future for us if we decide to retire early, to send our kids to private school if we choose to, and to take care of our parents in case they need help.

We live a simple life. But we don’t want that to limit our earning and wealth building potential.


I know there are folks out there who feel stuck in their careers and want to make more money for various reasons.

Mr. FAF and I came here alone as immigrants and with little money. We even faced more challenges when looking for jobs due to our visa status. In a way, I think we got really lucky.

But one thing that we have been doing is working hard and pushing our boundaries. These past few years have been hard on us, and I’m sure for a lot of people. As the new year is starting, I hope you will find a way to be happier at your job, start a business that you love, or change into a new career you’ve been thinking about.

This is the story of how we went from being a low-income couple to making more than half a million in our 30s. And I hope you find it useful.

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12 thoughts on “How We Went From Making $40,000 to More Than $500,000 A Year”

  • I love this and have really appreciated watching your journey unfold. It’s ok to pick up and change careers if something isn’t working for you. It’s also good to have a skill, like coding, that is transferable and pandemic-proof.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. You say that you both were lucky. “Luck” may have played a small part in your life such as ending up in the US, but I just want to point out that you both have also worked very hard, you taught yourself things along the way, you’re very frugal, you did things that the average couple wouldn’t want to do, and you had goals for your life together. It may be “luck” in your opinion, but you should also be really proud of your hard work and dedication that brought you both to this amazing stage in life. Congratulations!!

    • Hi, first time on the blog – I was directed here by today’s POF Sunday Best blogpost. Congratulations on your accomplishment!

      I read myself into the second paragraph of the post. You mentioned your social sciences background. I have a similar educational background although I ended up going the non-traditional law background many years ago.

      During the pandemic I started taking an online course to teach myself Python coding. I actually took some computer science and advanced math classes many years ago in college but started thinking that computer engineering could be a good hobby or even a potential new career that would provide flexible work in a FI/RE scenario.

      Since I’m new to your blog, I wanted to ask whether you have any posts that address moving from a social sciences field to the technical field of software engineering? What was the appeal of software engineering (e.g., solving puzzles, autonomy, etc.)? I’m curious whether you have written about the career satisfaction aspect of software engineering compared to your formal education. If so, I’d enjoy reading any of those posts. I didn’t find anything right away when searching the blog website.


      • I haven’t written about those topics on this blog since this one is more related to personal finance. SE is challenging and rewarding. You solve new problems on a daily basis and you get paid pretty well for it. It solves the two problems I faced in my previous jobs: low pay and lack of challenges.

  • Ms. FAF,

    Just checking in…I’m nearing 50 and occasionally wonder if I should go or should have gone down the SW developer route. I stopped learntobegreat at the end of 2017 when I took my current job as project manager. No regrets because I never really intended to go the personal finance route.

    Kudos on your career change and best wishes to you and the family!


  • Nicely done! I love these sorts of success stories. I know lots of people who are pursuing the coding bootcamp route and it seems to work well. There’s such a shortage of coders in the world that even at lower levels, it’s pretty easy to get hired once you know what you are doing.

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