Personal Finance > Millionaire in the Making  
Prioritizing financial independence
Dan Sandini wants to use his wealth for a future of travel, service and family.
March 19, 2002: 3:01 PM EST
By Annelena Lobb, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Occupation: Business/Internet Technology Consultant, Mitre Corp.

Residence: Heidelberg, Germany

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Bottom Line: $830,000. $332,000 of it in Fidelity accounts, including IRAs and his 401(k); $255,000 in TIAA-CREF funds, also part of his 401(k) plan; $171,000 in CDs; $51,000 in a Vanguard index fund portfolio; $10,800 in an Arthur Andersen 401(k); $4,300 in a Founders mutual fund; $2,000 in U.S. savings bonds; $4,800 in two checking accounts.

"I'm very careful about the bottom line," Sandini said. "What's really important is not how much you make, but how much you keep."

Aiming for financial freedom: "Financial independence is something I've prioritized for myself," he said. "I don't dislike work, but there are many things I want to do outside of work."

Since his graduation from UMass Lowell in 1984, Sandini, 39, has worked at Mitre Corp., a Massachusetts-based company that builds command and control systems for the U.S. government. He has worked at Mitre every year except one -- during that year, he worked at Arthur Andersen Consulting in New York, N.Y.

He has saved consistently in the Mitre 401(k) plan, dollar-cost averaging into TIAA-CREF fixed income and growth funds, as well as Fidelity mutual funds. Sandini no longer maxes out his 401(k), however. He adds $1,050 a month, the amount that qualifies for Mitre's employer match. But he is now putting more of his savings into a portfolio of Vanguard index funds.

"I don't want to dip into my 401(k) early. As I get closer to an early retirement, I want to pay taxes on my money before I invest, as I'll need more near-term available funds," he explained.

He adds between $5,000 and $6,000 a month to Vanguard's 500 Index Funds, Value Index fund, Small-Cap Index Fund, REIT Index Fund, and Total International Stock Index Fund. "I'm a set-it-then-forget-it, low-expense, index mutual fund type of guy," he explained.

He also makes sure he spends less. "I was always a saver. But until early last year, I was very much into consumerism -- changing cars every two years, that sort of thing," he said. "But now I try to differentiate between needs and wants. It's better for the environment, too. Before I buy something, I ask myself: how soon will this end up in a landfill?"

What's next: Sandini estimates he'll be able to retire within the next 2 years, though he's not sure if he will stop working that soon. But when retirement does come, Sandini's got big plans.

He plans to run more marathons - he's run the Boston Marathon twice, raising money for battered women's shelters and Big Brothers of Boston. He also likes snowboarding, hiking, and alpine mountaineering.

"I'd like to move back to the United States, maybe to Maine -- close to my family, but away from the Boston area rat race," he said. "I love my family and friends -- early retirement and security mean nothing without them."

He hopes to live in the U.S. for 6 months a year and travel for 6 months a year, doing charity work abroad.

"I'd love to do volunteer projects while I travel, such as building new housing, or working within corporations in third-world countries to help make businesses more profitable," Sandini said. "Sept. 11 made me want to do this even more. I'd like to help change the negative view many people abroad may have of Americans."

And he'd like to help others enter the ranks of the financially free. "People who are coming out of bad relationships, for example, may not have the knowledge they need to become financially steady on their own. I'd like to help people by doing some pro bono financial planning work," he said.  Top of page