The 5 strategies a 24-year-old entrepreneur used to save $148,000 to start his own business after dropping out of college

  • Grant Mitterlehner started his first company at age 24. Just two years earlier, he was broke.
  • He saved $148,000, allowing him to give up a salary and live off of savings for a few months. 
  • He slept on his mom’s couch, saved 40% of his income, and invested every month until his money grew.
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Four years ago, Grant Mitterlehner was a broke college student living in Brooklyn, dreaming of starting his own business. Every day, he’d spend two to three hours in a Barnes & Noble reading self-help books off the shelf about finance, business, and personal development.

“When you’re living in a shoebox with three huge, grown football players and you see the struggle of just normal everyday life, it motivates you to get more,” Mitterlehner said.

After two years in Brooklyn, his money struggles forced him to drop out of school and move back to his hometown, Houston, where he lived on his mom’s couch.

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He was halfway through his degree and hoped to pick up where he left off at a more affordable local college. But when his credits were rejected and he was informed he’d have to start over as a freshman, he decided to change course.

“When I started reading and studying and seeing all the people that were really big world changers, it wasn’t necessarily that they were all in college,” he said. “The biggest difference was they were in control of their finances, they knew how to budget, they knew how to invest, and most of them were owning businesses and owning companies.” 

Just two years later, in January 2020, 24-year-old Mitterlehner had built a cash cushion of $148,000 between savings and investments that allowed him to leave his job and start MittGroup, a renewable energy firm. Last year, his company was named one of the 2020 Best Places to Work by the Houston Business Journal. He also has a podcast now where he helps others increase their income and optimize their careers.

Below, he shares the steps he took to achieve his goal. 

1. He found a job that would fit his needs 

First things first, Mitterlehner needed an income. He worked as an Uber driver until he was able to land a commission-based sales job selling solar panels. He had a goal of reaching a six-figure wage and felt that a sales job would give him the flexibility to increase his income. 

He focused on working his way up by developing his skills in sales, networking with his colleagues, and helping new sales reps learn the business. His efforts landed him a promotion. He got a management position a little over four months after he started, giving him a fixed salary on top of his commission. 

Mitterlehner’s job allowed him to begin building up his finances, collect knowledge about his industry, and learn how to manage people.

2. He didn’t increase his spending as his income increased

Throughout the first year at his job, his income increased by over 50%. But even as he made more money, he didn’t move out of his mom’s apartment. Instead, he spent a full year sleeping on her couch. This helped him save on rent and kept his expenses at $1,200 to $1,500 a month. Any money made above that would be saved.

This approach allowed him to save between 20% and 40% of his income each month. 

“The more I made, the more I saved,” Mitterlehner said. 

He used the budgeting app Mint to keep track of his daily spending and divided his expenses into sections that covered expenses such as gas, insurance, and food. 

3. He separated his money into different pots

Mitterlehner’s paycheck came in every two weeks. Once the money reached his account, he would immediately separate it into different pots.

First, he figured out what he may owe in taxes and put that estimated amount aside. Second, he left the amount he’d need for expenses in his checking account. Then, he moved the remainder into his savings account. His first savings goal was to build up a $10,000 pot for an emergency fund. Once he reached that target, he began allocating 50% of the money he saved into an investment account. 

“I do like to spend money. I do like nice things. So if I limit what’s actually in my checking account, then it kind of stops me psychologically from being able to go over that,” Mitterlehner said. “It’s almost as if I don’t have money. It’s like a mental block.”

4. He opened a brokerage account and began investing

He knew it would be hard to save his way to wealth, so he began learning how to invest and opened a Robinhood account. He began investing using the dollar-cost averaging approach by putting 50% of his savings amount every month into his brokerage account.

His main strategy was based on impact investing and focused on renewable energy; he understood the technology and policies surrounding the industry from working as a solar sales rep. Every day, he studied the markets and read news about the economy to give him the best tools to make the right decisions. 

“One thing readers need to know is the power they have in their hands because of their phone is unbelievable. They literally have access to all the questions they could ever have in the world, in the palm of their hands,” Mitterlehner told Insider. 

5. He saved enough to cover his expenses for three to four months

Mitterlehner was two years into his full-time sales job when he decided it was time to start his own solar company. He knew that the transition would mean he’d be without an income for at least three to four months, so he reviewed his finances and figured out what he’d need to survive for the next few months until revenue began to come in.

Once he felt comfortable he had enough in his savings account, Mitterlehner registered his company. That was in early 2020. Now, he’s working towards his next financial goal: to achieve a personal net worth of over $1 million.

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