Personal Finance > Millionaire in the Making
Tull Story
This couple is on the path to millions with a little help from a rock band.
May 14, 2004: 12:38 PM EDT
By Les Christie, CNN/Money contributing writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Dave Coursey and his wife Diana Patterson have good jobs: he's a college professor at Florida State and she's a government employee. But they manage to live a whole lot better than you might expect.

Dave Coursey and Diana Patterson  
Dave Coursey and Diana Patterson

The 41-year-olds own twin Porsche Boxsters, eat out four or five times a week, and occasionally hang out backstage with Ian Anderson and other members of the Jethro Tull band.

They live in a beautiful house in one of Tallahassee, Florida's best neighborhoods. (Interested readers can see what the house looks like.) The four-bedroom home has a separate den and a big screened-in lanai complete with pool and hot tub that Coursey describes as perfect for entertaining.

On vacation they often fly first class to Europe and Latin America, where they stay in fine hotels and shun cheap tours.

What's their secret?

Hosting for fun and profit

Coursey is a Florida State professor of public information management and Patterson is the information technology manager for Florida's Department of State. Paychecks from both jobs total about $100,000.

But Coursey also generates income from a Web-hosting company he created nearly 10 years ago called Renegade WebHeads. One of its clients is rock band Jethro Tull.

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A fan of Tull since he was a teenager, Coursey was able to follow its affairs online after keyboardist Andrew Giddings launched the band's Web site back in 1996.

He managed to help them out on one occasion. "The band would put up tour dates and fans were caching old pages that wouldn't refresh," Coursey says. "I wrote them, suggesting a change. It worked."

He continued to do various projects for Tull until Giddings decided he couldn't handle the Web site anymore (after it malfunctioned on a few critical occasions). The band then turned to Coursey to take over the site's hosting. As part of his duties he sometimes films the band's concerts for Web site reproduction.

Coursey, who says you can't beat the "cool factor" of working with the band, describes the Tull offstage style as business-like. "Ian Anderson has always had a strong work ethic," says Coursey. "He's very serious about what he does." Drug use is verboten and wild parties are out.

Tull is just a small percentage of WebHeads work; it creates sites for many of Florida's state agencies. The company provides practical experience for Coursey's FSU students, many of whom he hires.

In a good year the business has grossed as much as $80,000. Lately though, Coursey has been backing off a bit. "I only put in about three or four hours a week on the company," he says, and last year it produced sales of a mere $20,000.

Parsing their purchases

Coursey says that he and Diana are "frugal, without being cheap." That means they carefully analyze major purchases.

"I don't cut coupons," says Coursey, "but I'll use every discount I can."

To pay for travel, for example, Coursey uses credit cards to accumulate frequent flyer miles. That usually lands the pair free upgrades to first class, important "because I'm an 'aerophobe.' I hate flying," he says.

The couple patronizes Holiday Inn hotels whenever convenient because they're members of the chain's Priority Club. That gives them discounts, free upgrades, and late check-out privileges.

They often choose to buy expensive, high quality consumer goods, believing it saves money in the long run. For instance, their new vacuum, a Dyson, cost them $400. "I got tired of buying cheap ones that didn't work well and broke down quickly."

The couple has chosen not to have children and Tallahassee is a very reasonably priced part of the country. They can indulge themselves without busting their budget. High end dinners out, "cost only about $30 a person," says Coursey. "We usually pay less than $25."

They did spend nearly $380,000 for the house four years ago expensive for a town where the median house sale price hit $147,000 only this past quarter but they got a lot of value.

The developer used theirs as the model home for the development, so it was furnished and designed by a pro. Coursey and Patterson got the benefit of the designer's talents plus they paid a bit extra to get the furniture thrown in, making the deal even sweeter.

Coursey says they put down about $90,000 (saving the 2 percent private mortgage insurance charge) and figures his home equity amounts to about $160,000.

The couple put away $12,000 a year toward retirement and have amassed savings and other accounts of more than $250,000.

So they are well on their way to millionaire status. Their bottom line already totals $440,000, which does not include the value of their defined benefit retirement plans from work.

They keep about $60,000 liquid and their other investments consist mostly of stock funds.

Other than their mortgage, they live debt-free.

It's part of the discipline they employ to live well and wisely.  Top of page

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