Many people look for wealth in the wrong places. Some mistakenly believe that in order to become financially independent, they have to be early investors in the next Google or Apple. Nothing could be more misguided. In fact, by watching your budget and saving money, you can be well on your way to wealth before you know it.
Over the last 25 years, I’ve worked with thousands of wealthy people—and none of them became rich by investing in “the next big thing.”
What I’ve learned from these people (and my own experience) is that there are five wealth-building rules anyone can use to create a financially independent future.
1. Master your budget without wasting time.
If your spending is out of whack, sooner or later you’ll invade your savings and investments, loot them, and turn them into a financial wasteland—no matter how well you invest. To ensure you don’t overspend, it’s important to track your spending.
But when it comes to budget tracking, most people go from one extreme to the other because they think it takes so much time. As a result, they either ignore this process completely or start out as tracking zealots only to give up after a few short months.
I suggested budgeting to some friends of mine, but they weren’t having any of it. According to them, the last thing they needed was another tedious assignment to deal with. I assured them that tracking their spending was really simple and fast and that they could do it in less than five minutes a month by just looking at their bank statements.
Bank statements summarize all of your withdrawals on a monthly basis in one number. And guess what? That’s how much you spend. I asked my friends to simply keep a spreadsheet with a running tally of total withdrawals for each month and to calculate an average. Problem solved.
2. Start now.
You don’t have to be a financial genius in order to start investing, and you don’t have to begin your investing career with a huge wad of cash. Even if you have only $25, get started saving and investing. Don’t be embarrassed by your limited funds or understanding. Build your knowledge slowly, and learn as you go.
3. Destroy your debt.
There are thousands of great posts that can tell you how to get out of debt and stay out of debt. But let me save you some time and summarize for you: Minimize your cost of debt, slash your spending, earn more, and kill your debt.
You don’t need any more information. What you need is massive action. If you want to build wealth, you must pay down credit card debt and student loans. Nobody ever got wealthy by sloshing around in a big debt pit.
I met Lisa 15 years ago. She was 48 years old and had $75,000 in credit card debt. She was disgusted and depressed. I told her she could turn this around, and I encouraged her to cut down on her spending, look for ways to make more money, and get serious about paying down her debt.
Lisa took that advice and turbocharged it. Within six years, she was out of debt and had $75,000 saved. She had to make painful cuts, and it wasn’t easy. In order to get out of debt, she had to take on a second job, but when she retired (last year) she had accumulated $400,000 and was completely debt free. She has a much better future because she was willing to pay the price, roll up her sleeves, and do the work to get out of debt.
4. Build up healthy reserves.
No matter how well you plan, life happens—and it usually has a price tag. Once you get out of debt, make sure you build up a chunky emergency reserve. By doing so, you won’t have to resort to expensive alternatives, such as taking out a loan, when the transmission falls out of your car, the fridge needs to be replaced, or your laptop drinks a cup of coffee it didn’t order.
5. It’s not complicated, but it is hard work.
If you want to build wealth, you are going to have to do the work. You must be willing to do things differently than you are currently. This might seem obvious, but my experience tells me that most people don’t really get it.
Harry is one person who didn’t, and he is someone I’ll never forget. He was a nurse who won a $1 million dollar lawsuit. He quit work at age 37 and increased his spending at the same time, which was a recipe for disaster. I explained to Harry that he needed to start working again and cut his spending—stat.
It took a while, but $500,000 later he woke up. Of course it was great that he got the message, but his life would have been far better had he been willing to do the work sooner.
Building wealth isn’t complicated. It just takes a lot of hard work and persistence. It’s simple, but it’s far from easy.
We live in the “now generation.” Few people are willing to put in the elbow grease and that’s why so few are wealthy. What other tips for wealth building have you found to be particularly helpful?