Flipping Burgers to Flipping Millions

A Guide to Financial Freedom Whether You Have Your Dream Job, Own Your Own Business, or Just Started Your First Job


By Bernard Kelly

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An easy-to-read guide to the four stages of a successful financial life Bernard Kelly started his professional life cooking French fries at McDonald’s. While his first paychecks were modest, he hoped that the small amounts he set aside from each would one day lead to the financial freedom he desired. A few short years later, Kelly’s work ethic and dedication have fueled his rise from fry cook to Operations Consultant at McDonald’s. At the same time, those early savings have grown into the kind of personal wealth many of us dream of achieving one day. In Flipping Burgers to Flipping Millions, Kelly shares the easy-to-understand principles at the heart of his professional and financial success–ones influenced by his experience working for the most successful restaurant business in the world–and gives you a game plan for how to use them in your own life. Are you just starting your career Perfect. Kelly will introduce you to the the four stages of a successful financial life–Right Now, Quality of Life, Retirement, and Legacy–and explain how to navigate them. Starting a little bit later That’s OK too. Kelly will help you figure out how to get back on track on your path toward financial security. Presented in an engaging and jargon-free voice, this book will capture your imagination, change the way you think about money, and show you that financial freedom is possible–not just for other people, but for you.




Let’s be clear, I don’t own a string of McDonald’s stores. I don’t even own one. Plenty of people have made millions by owning and operating a business, but this book is not about that. Thirteen years ago, straight out of high school, I took a job working for McDonald’s. This book is about how you can become financially free, even if you work at McDonald’s.

Today, I am thirty years old. The average net worth of a thirty-year-old in the United States is $73,500. This number is distorted of course by those who have inherited millions from their parents or grandparents. The median net worth for a thirty-year-old is $14,200.

My net worth today is more than thirty times the median net worth of my peers. Now, that may not seem like an enormous amount of money, but by the time you get halfway through the next chapter you will understand why that is an incredible fortune.

It is also important to point out that I have accumulated these investable assets while working for McDonald’s. I’ve never had a second job on the side, I have not inherited a single dollar, and I have not won any money in the lottery. I did lose $40,000 in a bad property investment, but that was a valuable learning experience. What I have done is work hard at my job, using the system I am going to lay out for you in this book.

You may be tempted to say, “Well, Bernard Kelly is special.” That would be a mistake. You may be tempted to say, “Things must have come easy for him.” That would also be a mistake. Nothing has come easy for me in life. Things just seemed to come easily for many of my friends and for many of my brothers—but not for me.

I failed high school. Miserably. In fact, when I left high school at the end of my senior year I could not read or spell. To say that school was not my thing would be the understatement of the century. But, surprisingly, I liked going to school and I went every day. I wasn’t academically gifted, but I have always liked being around people and loved the social aspect of being at school.

Looking back on my years in school, failing class after class, I now realize that I was developing the character necessary for future success. It is difficult and uncomfortable to sit in class and not be able to follow along with the teacher and your classmates. Our natural instinct is to avoid difficult and uncomfortable situations. But it was school, and I had to go. So I learned to adapt and I never stopped trying. These two qualities have been at the center of any success I have enjoyed ever since.

When I left school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. All I knew was that I wanted to go to Europe. The only reason I went to work for McDonald’s in the first place was because I wanted money to go to Europe. I told myself, “Just do it for three months, save your money, and then you can get out of here and enjoy yourself!”

The first day the store manager put me on fries. I cooked fries all day, every day, for a week. At night I would go home and my wrists would be throbbing in pain. But I stuck at it. The next week I was flipping burgers.

As the weeks passed, I gradually became fascinated with all things McDonald’s. I started learning about the history of the company and studying what made a store successful.

I still remember the day I first discovered that McDonald’s was my thing. I was cooking burgers when a group of executives from corporate came into the store, wearing their suits and ties, and I thought to myself, “I could do what they do. I could be good at what they do. This is something I can really succeed at.”

The day you can say to yourself, “This is my thing,” is a great day.

My dream of going to Europe was on the back burner now. I wasn’t looking to delay the beginning of my adult life anymore. I was ready to immerse myself in it—and that was a fabulous feeling.

So I taught myself to read, asked a lot of questions of anyone in the business who would take the time to answer, and became an observer of the people, systems, and processes that made up the McDonald’s world.

It wasn’t long before my passion was recognized. Passion stands out in any environment, but the more mundane the environment or job, the more passion stands out. I worked hard and produced measureable results. I was promoted over and over again. By the time I was twenty-five, I was a store manager, and throughout the process the McDonald’s Corporation was educating me. I attended every course that was offered. I was hungry to learn everything I could about the business, and to grow as a person.

Today, I am an operations consultant for the McDonald’s Corporation. I oversee six stores, with 38 managers, 420 crew persons, and annual sales of more than $24 million.

McDonald’s was my first job and has been my only full-time job. Is it the most glamorous job in the world? No. But it is my thing. I am good at it, I enjoy it, and there are an awful lot of people who live their whole lives and can never say that about their work. So I feel incredibly fortunate to have found work that I can enjoy and succeed in at such a young age.

It is perhaps needless to say, but over the years a great many people have put me down and looked down on me because I work at McDonald’s. This is one of the universal negative stereotypes of our age. But consider the facts for a moment. . . .

• McDonald’s is one of the most ingenious business systems of all time. It has been studied and copied time and time again and is the founding father of both the franchise concept and the chain store concept that are now at the center of the world’s retail model.

• Millions of people get their first job at McDonald’s. It may be just a temporary thing while they are in school or a part-time job as a teenager. But whether they are aware of it or not, their McDonald’s experience provides incredible business education for those who are keen observers of what is happening around them.

• There are more than thirty-one thousand McDonald’s stores in the world, most of which are owned and operated by franchisees. Throughout the corporation’s history this model has provided hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to own and operate their own business. Few companies in the world give more entrepreneurs this opportunity than McDonald’s.

• McDonald’s employs 1.5 million people around the world, which in and of itself is an enormous contribution to society.

• McDonald’s stores are located in 119 countries.

• No two countries that have McDonald’s stores have ever gone to war against each other.

• McDonald’s feeds 47 million customers every day.

• The training and development available to those who commit themselves to a career at McDonald’s are world class.

• McDonald’s is committed to giving back to the local communities that have made them successful. The most obvious expression of this is the Ronald McDonald House charities, which provide somewhere for the parents and siblings of sick children to stay while their loved ones are in the hospital.

• McDonald’s has produced more millionaires than Warren Buffett.

You may not like the food, but it is indisputable that for more than fifty years McDonald’s has been making incredible contributions to the lives of millions of employees, shareholders, entrepreneurs, and communities. McDonald’s has made the fulfillment of millions of ordinary people’s dreams possible—including many of my own.

An entry level job with McDonald’s has been the beginning of great things for hundreds of thousands of people. Charlie Bell took a job with McDonald’s when he was fifteen, in suburban Sydney, Australia. At forty-four he was named CEO of McDonald’s worldwide. Other McDonald’s employees have gone on to dominate every field imaginable. A short list includes: musician extraordinaire Seal; actresses Sharon Stone and Rachel McAdams; Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis; comedian and legendary host of The Tonight Show Jay Leno; NASCAR sensation Tony Stewart; country music star Shania Twain; former White House chief of staff Andy Card; and Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com.

So it is important to affirm that McDonald’s is not just about cooking burgers. McDonald’s has helped millions of its employees to attain college degrees, pursue their dreams, and turn what they learned working for McDonald’s into rewarding careers in marketing, real estate, training and development, design, business management, and as entrepreneurs.

One of the dreams McDonald’s is helping me achieve is my own financial freedom. And in the process, another dream has emerged. For more than a decade now I have watched thousands of people work in dozens of roles at McDonald’s. Society tells them that this is a dead end job. Most of them have never even thought about being financially free, and if they did stumble upon the idea, they would immediately assume that it was an impossible goal. Witnessing this ignited within me a dream to help these people, and anyone else who is interested, to work toward and claim financial freedom.

I first decided to become financially free when I was seventeen. It wasn’t a “that would be nice” thought—it was a serious decision, although at the time I had no idea how I would achieve it. I’m not sure why I decided to be financially free. Perhaps it was my father exposing me to the nicer parts of the city and the finer things in life, even though we could not afford many of them. Or maybe it was the tension that seemed to surround money in so many relationships. Regardless, I decided that I wanted financial freedom in my future and have pursued it ever since.

I would like to invite you to make that decision now. Even if you think it is impossible for you, even if you don’t know how you are going to do it, and even if you have no money today. Decide now that you are going to be financially free someday in the future.

The genius of McDonald’s is the systems that drive the business.

There are systems for everything at McDonald’s. There is a system for cooking and preparing burgers, but way beyond that there is a system for every operation that has to take place with any regularity. One of the most ingenious examples is the ordering system. As a twenty-something I was able to do a simple stock check, answer certain computer-generated questions, and as a result hundreds of food and paper products would be ordered. In the same way I was able to schedule hundreds of crew members for their shifts each week. McDonald’s is a culture of systems.

The reason the systems are so important is because systems drive behavior—and success. Find the best way and then build a system to ensure that it gets done that way every time.

The beauty of the systems is that anyone willing to make an effort can succeed. The systems are not complex; in fact, their genius is found in their simplicity. The systems have been tried and tested, and are continually refined, to deliver the very best results. Stick to the systems and you will succeed. Stray from the systems and you will almost certainly fail.

In this book I will present to you a system designed to help you achieve financial freedom. Anyone willing to make an effort can follow the system. The system is not complex; in fact, in a world of ever-increasing complexity it contains a rare simplicity. Stick to the system and you will experience financial success beyond your wildest imaginings.



Money and the creation of wealth are not that difficult to understand. You save some money, invest it, and it multiplies. Save a little bit, often enough, for long enough, and it will become an enormous fortune. The problem is that most people cannot think beyond today and what they want to spend their money on right now. They do not have a vision for their life ten years from now, or twenty years from now, and nobody saves money for a future that they have not yet imagined.

Even more so, most people do not think about the next generation of their family. When faced with a decision, the American Indians asked themselves, “How will this decision affect the seventh generation of our people?” This ability to get beyond ourselves and to consider time horizons is an incredible skill that can be nurtured and will serve us well at work, in relationships, and in our quest for financial freedom.

Few families build a billion-dollar family name in one generation. Which means that somebody, generations before the family became billionaires, had a vision for their family to become super-wealthy. Now, you may not think it is possible for your family to become one of those billion-dollar families. I will be honest with you: In your lifetime it is not likely. But if you are willing to think beyond your lifetime and beyond your children’s lifetime, and follow the system I lay out for you in this book, you will live an incredible life, so will your children, and your grandchildren just might inherit a billion-dollar family name.

Let me show you how.

Accumulating Incredible Wealth Is Not That Difficult

Allow me to explain it another way. Think about the wealthiest family you know. Have you ever wondered how they became so wealthy? You may think they became wealthy because they own some car dealerships or a restaurant, but nobody gets wealthy by merely possessing a good business. They may make a lot of money this way, but being wealthy does not simply come from earning a lot of money. Becoming wealthy comes from saving and investing.

Now consider the wealthiest families in the world. People read about these families and salivate over their wealth and lifestyles. The wealthiest family in the world is the Walton family. Together they have $83.2 billion. How did they get it? They inherited it. How did their parents and grandparents amass such an incredible fortune? Most would say by founding Wal-Mart, but they would be wrong. The Walton family has an incredible fortune today because someone in their family tree saved and invested some of what they earned.

It is also important to note that most people consider this kind of wealth to be for other people and other families. Most people would never consider it possible for their family to possess that kind of wealth. But they are wrong. If you want your family to be one of the richest families in the world, simply follow the plan I will lay out in this book.

I can hear the doubts in your mind, so let’s cut to the chase.

If you invest $1 for forty years at 10 percent it will be worth $45 forty years from now.


On Sale
May 10, 2011
Page Count
208 pages
Hachette Books

Bernard Kelly

About the Author

Bernard Kelly serves as Operations Consultant for McDonald’s Australia and lives in Sydney with his family.

Learn more about this author