YORK -- Jeff Harris is 49 years old. He lives outside York in a nice big house with his wife of 30 years, DeAnn. He owns an airplane he keeps at the Rock Hill/York County Airport and flies it anywhere he wants to go.
He sometimes takes the airplane to work. His office is in Virginia.
A long way from the Virginia junkyard where he worked and recycled scrap metal alongside convicts at age 19 -- a time when he left college and got married to his high school sweetheart so she could go to school, and lived in the apartment above his parents' garage. Far from the glamor job he had after that junkyard gig stocking shelves at night at a grocery store, where he advanced all the way to "pricing guy."
Jeff Harris is now the most humble, gracious guy worth more than a million bucks you could ever meet. But now people in 51 countries, in a bunch of languages, know him.
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He was one of five people featured in the December edition of Reader's Digest in a big splash titled "Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires," subtitled "They're just like you. But with lots of money."
Guys like Jeff Harris are what America should be all about. He's got money but doesn't flash it. He answers his own phone. He puts the dog out. He cooks. He even won a rib cook-off in 2005.
And when he and his wife eat out, it's likely a pizza joint or buffet.
He made his own money by making money for others. Investments.
But the road to riches was filled with potholes.
The junkyard "was not where I wanted to be," Harris said.
The supermarket "wasn't it, either," even as he was socking away $25 a month in a bank account.
Harris met a young stockbroker at a Christmas party all those years ago. He was told of "the miracle of compound interest."
He worked part time for two years selling financial products after he got his securities license. At age 24, he started full time. The first year, working on commission, he made a whopping $5,000.
DeAnn worked as a dental assistant. They had three daughters. She had to stay at home with the kids finally because, Harris said, "We couldn't afford child care."
Harris wore his one suit almost every day, bought off the rack.
"I drove a Chevette," Harris said. "It was like I was telling people, 'Invest with me, you too can drive a Chevette.'"
But, DeAnn Harris said, "You have faith, you overcome obstacles."
The couple tithed 10 percent at church and to other charities even when they had almost nothing to tithe.
Harris dreamed of becoming an independent financial adviser. He took more courses. He ended up teaching at a community college, handling radio and TV gigs. He made money and became "exhausted."
He then become an "investment advocate." He sold himself instead of products.
Business boomed. Yet he has only about 150 clients. They stick with him and retire on lakes, beside beaches they could own, and on top of mountains.
He has written one book called "Retire Rich and Happy" and another is coming out soon.
About four years ago, Harris and his wife moved to York County for the warmer climate. Without DeAnn, who works with him in the business, Harris said, "I'd still be in the grocery store."
They lived on Lake Wylie for a while but craved privacy so they built a dream house in the woods outside York.
He has a lot of secrets to making money. He shares them in his book, but the one he told me that struck me right in the face was "always live below your means."
Remember that airplane he owns? He takes sick people on that plane, for free, hundreds of miles on what is called Angel Flights.
Harris said the way he made money is treating people like you want to be treated.
Pretty good advice, in money and in life.
Coming from the junkyard man, the grocery pricer, the millionaire, the nice guy, may I suggest you follow it. It's done all right by Jeff Harris, one guy who has a million bucks and deserves every penny.
For more on Jeff Harris, go to www.retirerich-online.com.