‘It’s Not What You Make’

When everyone from the toll collector to the lumper has a hand in your wallet, life begins to feel like one big spending spree. Only there’s nothing fun to show for it.

Saving money begins to seem like a dream. Paying cash for major purchases? An exhaust-induced fantasy.

Then along comes someone like Ted Chapman. Our 2005 Trucker of the Year may be a big exception, but he’s living proof that disciplined savings and other smart business practices, combined with running your tail off from coast to coast, can pay off in a big way.

Granted, Chapman did borrow $600 to buy his first truck, a 1951 Chevrolet dump that was full of promise but missing the driver’s side door. As his business developed, at one point reaching a fleet of 12 trucks, he honed his personal discipline of saving money and shunning credit. He paid cash not only for the 2002 Peterbilt 379 he drives, but also for the $275,000 King, N.C., home that he enjoys with his wife, Bonnie.

Even though he’s downsized his fleet to his Pete and two other trucks, Chapman’s steady work has proved a point often preached at Overdrive Partners in Business workshops. That is, an owner-operator’s modest earnings and consistent savings over many years can produce a millionaire by retirement, if not before then.

Chapman’s path toward $1 million in assets started when he was a child, living around Kentucky’s coal mines. He would save half the 10 cents he earned for each bucket of berries he picked. “It’s not what you make,” he says. “It’s what you save.”
–Brad Holthaus