So You Want To Be Richer
It is probably one of the oldest questions in the world: “How can I make more money?” This is especially relevant now – in the age of 10% unemployment – when many people feel lucky just to have any source of income, no matter how modest. Of course, for many of the working 90%, the paycheck-to-paycheck 40-hour-grind can seem just as desperate a situation as not having any work at all.
Virtually everyone has advice to offer about financial stability and wealth building. Much of it is contradictory. Your grandfather built a nest egg over the course of his life by investing in slow-growing-but-safe stocks. He championed the turtle approach to getting rich (slow and steady wealth building that you can count on when retirement comes around). Others think that you can game the stock market or use the internet to make it to the top tax bracket right now. You hear about success stories all the time, but what you don’t hear is that everyone with a laptop has tried to make a business on the internet and has failed or, more likely, decided that it wasn’t worth the effort.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting richer, here are some tips worth considering.
1. Wherever you are right now, that is where you start from.
Wealth-building is not a feel good undertaking. Without any self-pity or manic hopes, the first step is to take stock of where you are right now. On unemployment? Stuck in a job you hate? Or doing something that you like but don’t make enough money doing? In order to decide where you want to go, you first have to decide where you are financially. This will help you deal with the financial problems that you’ll need to deal with if you want to get anywhere.
You’ll have to pay down your debt or cut back your spending (or whatever) before you can start earning that extra income. Once you know what issues you have to confront, you can start thinking about where you want to be in the future. Be specific. Saying you want to live in the Bahamas each winter and have enough to keep a condo in the states is better than simply saying: “I want to be rich.” If you dream in specifics, you’ll be more motivated to stick to a savings plan and put in the hours building your income.
2. Be prepared to take small steps.
Getting richer is usually not as easy as winning the lottery. It takes time, and getting to the next level (a promotion to a better paying position, a successful side business or a profitable investment portfolio) is almost always difficult. While you don’t necessarily have to plan for the worst case scenario (complete failure), giving yourself ample time to reach your financial goals can provide some leeway and keep you in a positive state of mind when things are moving forward slowly.
If you’ve been alive long enough, you know that many times, things simply don’t work out as you planned. Again, complete failure is rare, but complete success and fulfillment of all your goals is equally rare. You can hedge your bets by diversifying your financial plan. Starting a side business is one road to more money. It could be anything from designing t-shirts to freelancing to programming iPhone apps; wherever your talents lie. But developing a Plan B and even a Plan C is imperative.
These alternatives can include things like keeping yourself on course for a promotion at work, sending out a couple resumes per week trying to get a better paying job, and/or setting money aside for investment when you get a new paycheck. Depending on how much time you have, you can even start multiple side businesses and then focus on the one that turns out to be the most successful.
Creating a budget is usually the most difficult part of financial planning. Sometimes it seems like it takes almost zen-like discipline to reign in your spending and change your habits. If your friends are stepping out on Friday night and you have to choose between going with them and spending money that is earmarked for your investment account or actually putting that money where it belongs, sticking to your budget can seem almost impossible. Even though it takes discipline, you shouldn’t have to live a monk-like existence until you get rich.
Give yourself some beer money each month. Your wealth goals are important, but money isn’t the only thing that defines you. Being on a budget shouldn’t mean missing out on life. But it might mean sticking with beer instead of opting for cocktails or bottle service. If you stick to your plans and build wealth, there will be plenty of time in the future for sipping impressive scotches at expensive nightclubs.
5. Keep going.
Whether you are learning the stock market so that you can increase your investment gains or trying to figure out how to create a successful side business, the most important thing is to keep going when frustration sets in. Especially if you are trying something new, you have to accept that fact that you are probably going to suck at it for a while before you see any success. That’s just one of the facts of wealth-building (and life). As long as you don’t let that fact stop you from working on your goals, you’re bound to end up better off financially than you are now.
About Josh Lew Josh Lew lives in the Midwestern US when he is not traveling. He is a columnist for Gadling and has contributed to Hackwriters and Skive Magazine.