This story is part of CNBC Make It’s Millennial Money Series describing how people around the world make, spend and save their money.
In late 2018, Brian Jung, then 21, decided to drop out of college to pursue entrepreneurship full-time. His South Korean immigrant parents were baffled: Jung had some part-time e-commerce side jobs that made about $200 a day, but they didn’t offer the long-term financial security of a college degree.
Jung also had a YouTube channel, which was more of a hobby than a full-fledged business. But he was sure of his decision: “I had to say to my parents, ‘I know you’ve worked really hard and I know how scary this is going to be, but I’m not going to finish school,'” Jung tells CNBC makes it .
Despite the uncertainty, he was determined to make things work. And he did.
Jung, 25, has turned to YouTube full-time. He made around $3.7 million last year, mostly from his personal finance-focused channel, which has more than 1 million subscribers.
Looking back, he says the decision to drop out of college to become an entrepreneur was a “defining moment” in his life: It allowed him to invest more time in the channel and grow it into a business.
How Jung spends his money
This is how Jung budgeted his money in March 2022.
- Investments: $50,000
- Rent: $3,745
- Discretion: $3,350 for purchases, gifts, donations and laundry
- Meal: $2,534, with $1,645 spent on restaurant meals
- Support for his parents: $2,478
- Subscriptions: $223 spent on gym memberships, Disney+
- Pension insurance: $176
- Gas: $92
While the majority of his earnings go toward the company’s operating expenses and taxes, Jung invests around $50,000 each month in various investments, including cryptocurrencies, NFTs, collectibles, and angel investor ventures.
Jung says that his crypto assets are long-term investments and that he has no plans to change his investment strategy despite the recent downturn in crypto markets. He says he wants to further diversify his portfolio by investing in more cash-producing companies.
Aside from the investments, Jung pays out $400,000 a year, or about $33,000 a month, to cover living expenses, taxes, and gifts.
Jung’s main livelihood is a three-bedroom apartment in Rockville, Maryland that also serves as office space. His business covers the utility bills. He also put down a $145,000 down payment on a $1.8 million home he plans to move into in 2023. It is a new development currently under construction.
Jung drives an Audi RS7 that he bought with his YouTube earnings. He also owns a 2019 Toyota Tacoma that he recently gifted to his parents. He still pays $600 a month for the truck and his parents’ $1,878 monthly mortgage payments.
Jung recently bought a 2021 Lamborghini Huracan for $290,000. He deposited $100,000 for the car and will fund the rest.
In addition to the sumptuous meals, Jung gets glass bottles of quality spring water delivered for $249 a month. It’s worth it, he says: “It makes me better, clearer in my head.”
Jung has memberships in a gym and a climbing facility. Additionally, most of its subscriptions — including access to Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime — are covered by perks on its 14 credit cards.
Grew up when money was tight
Raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, Jung grew up in a low-income household. His mother cut hair at a salon and his father worked long hours as a contractor installing hardwood floors. Sometimes they struggled to make ends meet.
Saving mottos were the rule: “Don’t spend much. Don’t eat out that much. Don’t drive too fast or you’ll use more fuel. Maximize every possible coupon, every possible discount — that’s what I grew up with,” says Jung.
Jung says he didn’t feel disadvantaged. He had friends, liked to go fishing with his father on the weekends, and loved games and cars. But as one of the few Korean-Americans in his middle school, he also felt he didn’t belong. He became a self-proclaimed “troublemaker” who regularly disrupted classes and got into fights.
In the 10th grade, Jung was expelled from school. He attended an educational program that gave advice to misbehaving students—a turning point in his life. “I used to have this victim mentality,” he says. “I used to complain all the time.” But when he saw this version of himself in other students in the program, he decided the path he was on was a dead end.
“I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to live my life like this,'” says Jung.
He began to focus on self-improvement: working harder, playing sports, and doing better at school. After six months he had a 4.0 GPA and was allowed to return to his high school where he excelled at rugby.
Find success on YouTube
Jung started posting videos on YouTube in 2013. As a teenager, he created content about video games and fishing. He started his channel about personal finance and entrepreneurship while in college in 2018.
That same year, he earned a general studies associate’s degree from Montgomery College, a requirement for a career in law enforcement. From there, the plan was to transfer to the University of Maryland for a bachelor’s degree in criminology.
Instead, Jung decided to pursue his business full-time.
“In the beginning, YouTube didn’t pay me anything. But I have recognized the disadvantages of [the e-commerce] companies and saw the benefits of YouTube,” he says. “I didn’t have to rely on customers. I didn’t have to work with other people. I didn’t have to scale and buy an office and hire hundreds of people.”
By December 2019, Jung was fully focused on YouTube. His most successful videos were credit card reviews. At the time, the channel had about 6,000 subscribers and was making $200-$300 a day, he says.
In 2021, amid the retail investor craze and cryptocurrency bull market, the channel really took off. “It took me years to get my first 100,000 subscribers, but in less than a year I got 900,000 subscribers,” says Jung.
From affiliate marketing, Patreon subscribers, ads, and sponsorships, Jung’s business brings in just over $300,000 a month. He now has four full-time employees who help him produce videos.
Coupled with a recently acquired stake in a Japanese grill restaurant, which brings in another $5,500 a month, Jung made almost $3.7 million last year.
Jung says he hopes to keep growing his YouTube channel subscribers, pursue investment opportunities and build more wealth to ensure his financial independence.