Even the most content person likes the idea of being wealthy. For some people its because they want a big house, a flashy car, and expensive clothes. For some people its because they want financial and personal freedom. Whatever your reason I am quite sure that at least once (and probably much more than once) you dreamed about being rich. Unfortunately, the harsh truth is that most people never will be, because they are doing things very wrong.
Below are some of the big mistakes that people who never will be rich make and then some things that wealthy people do instead. Take note that they are very, very different. Also for this discussion, we are going to call ‘rich’ as having $1,000,00 in net assets AND financial independence. Your idea of rich might be different, in fact, its probably considerably more, but I am going to use a low end amount just to further show how very wrong most peoples mindset actually is.
Most people work at a job: With the exception of a very few well-paid professionals working at a job is a sure-fire path to never being rich. For the moment we are going to set aside the fact that when you work at a job you by definition always get underpaid for your work and instead look at the nuts and bolts of why you can’t grind your way to wealth through employment.
The average hourly worker in the United States gets paid $24.57 per hour. This varies by location and field but we will use this in our discussion. Working 40 hours a week that’s $982.80 pre-tax per week, or about $51,000 per year. Someone who worked for 30 years at this income level would earn $1,500,000 per gross over their working lifetime. Assuming tax rates stay the same this means this person would have a net income over their entire life of about $1.1 million dollars. So that means they got rich right? Wrong. Because this same person had to live for those 30 years. They had to eat, buy clothes, pay a mortgage, get a car, care for the kids, pay for health care, and millions of other things. At this income level few people can save more than 10% of their income, which means (not accounting for the interest which I will cover later) they will have been lucky to save $5,000 per year or all of about $150,000 over their entire 30 years working life. Not good.
But can’t they just work more? Well, I guess they can. But here is the thing. Working 40 hours a week is already working 23% of your lifetime. Factor in 8 hours of sleeping a day (a 3rd of your life) and things like travel time, family obligations, and God willing an hour or two a day for some leisure and the truth is most people don’t have that much time left. If you really push it hard you might be able to get in an extra 15-20 hours a week of overtime work or extra employment, which could double your income (and double your taxes). What this means is if you kill yourself working 60 hours a week you might end up only 5 or 6 hundred thousand short of our one million dollar goal after 30 years of working like a mad man. Not to exciting.
The simple truth is that if you’re an average worker (as opposed to a very highly trained professional) you have almost zero chance of grinding your way to 7 figures, and really even if you could would you want to? Who wants to sell their life one hour at a time? I sure don’t.
Most people spend more than they should: Here is a staggering statistic. The average us household as a debt of just over $137,000 and the average credit card balance is $5,700. Some debt can make sense and some are unavoidable. Depending on where you live it might make sense to buy a house as opposed to renting. You might have an unexpected medical bill or car repair bill. Life happens and emergencies happen and sometimes there is nothing you can do about the debt. However, the general attitude should be to pay any debt as quickly as possible and avoid future debt like the plague.
Debt comes with the most evil of things (on the path to being rich), interest! The average card has an interest rate of 15.9%. At this rate a $5,000 balance has a minimum payment of around $200 (assuming a 4% minimum payment amount) and it will take over 10 years to pay the debt. Even worse over that 10 years, you will actually pay $7,374 (assuming you’re never late even once). What his means is that you just threw away $2,374. How are you going to get rich when you’re throwing money away?
The problem is that so many people want instant gratification, they want it now, and are willing to pay more to get it now. This is the wrong mindset and its a losing mindset. If you want to buy something that costs five grand for example, you can put it on a card, pay for it over 10 years, throw away over twenty-three hundred dollars (at least) or you can save the $200 a month you would have paid on the credit card debt for 2 years and buy that thing with cash. Its the desire for instant gratification that gets people down.
Now I know what you’re thinking, but what if I want a laptop or TV or cellphone or something. I don’t want to save a year or two to get it because by then it will be outdated anyway. Well here is the thing. If you can afford the credit card payment you can afford to save, once you save for a while you will have cash and then you will be able to live better in the future without ever having to pay interest. That is you give up a little at first, so you can live better later. Most people refuse to do this and this is one reason most people will never get to financial freedom.
Besides instant gratification spending, most people waste money in other ways as well. They buy a $1,000 iPhone because it has a fingerprint scanner to unlock it. Well, really who the fug cares about a fingerprint scanner. Are you a government worker? Do you make top-secret phone calls or store confidential documents on your phone? If not then its just a gimmick, a gimmick that just made you waste a grand on a phone that at its core does the same thing as a more basic one that costs 1/10th as much.
This is one example. From cable packages to $30 tee-shirts, to celebrity endorsed running shoes (made in China by the lowest bidder) people waste money all the time. Then wonder why they can’t seem to move forward on the path to financial freedom.
All of that being said, you can’t save your way to wealth: Well I guess you can, sort of. If you are 30 years old and save $10,000 per year at 4% compound interest then by the time you’re 70 you will have $1,036,275.57 .. so yay congratulations you broke the target million dollars! Except it took you 40 years of saving a large chunk of your income to do it, inflation made your money have half the buying power it use to, and statistically your likely to die in the next 5-10 years anyway. This might be a good tactic if you want to leave a chunk of money to your middle aged kids, but this article is not about how to leave a million bucks to your kid that you sacrificed your life for, its about how to get rich so we can go ahead and scrap the whole save to a million idea because while its possible, its just not productive or practical.
So what should you be doing?
With all of this in mind you might be asking yourself how can you get rich? Well there are a few things that people who become wealthy do that most people don’t, and as you might have guessed they are basically the opposite of the things that I listed above.
Wealthy people do not grind their life away at a job, the build assets that pay them even when they are not working: Examples of offline assets can be a business. Its no coincidence that something like 80% of millionaires are self employed. Another offline asset is real estate as is investments such as stocks or bonds. All of these things have one thing in common. Someone else is doing the work. Instead of selling your hours, you’re getting paid when someone else works. You’re leveraging other peoples time to make you money.
One of my favorite stories explains this: One day a young new hire was sitting with his co-workers at the outside lunch area when the owner of the company drives up in his brand new Lamborghini. “Hey that’s a great car” the kid said to the owner, who smiled and replied “Thanks! And let me tell you what, if you work hard, push yourself, and put in the long hours .. next year .. I can get another one!”
Examples of online assets are a software to sell, a popular website, a Facebook group, an email list.
Wealthy people do not waste money: At least not initially. Sure at some point the goal is to get enough so you can live a little large. But at least initially wealthy people don’t just blow cash for the sake of blowing it. They are willing to save a year to get that new TV instead of paying interest for 5 years. They are willing to use a older cellphone because it still makes phone calls just fine. They do not need the newest car with 500 horsepower that gets 11 miles to the gallon and costs a fortune to insure. They do not need 500 channels of TV because they know they will never watch most of them anyway:
Instead rich people invest their money into more assets: A big part of the mindset of people who become rich is that they can look forward. They give up the instant gratification in favor of investing money into building further assets. They do this because they know that at some point they are going to hit a ‘critical mass’ where they have enough income generating assets that they can then start living good while still maintaining financial stability and freedom. Its at that point that they are ‘rich’ and successful people do all they can to get to that point as quickly as possible, even if it means sacrificing now. They have the forward thing to realize that by giving up instant gratification they can have years and years of gratification later.
The underline themes of this article are simple. Rich people build assets that generate them income and their main initial goal is to build these assets as quickly as possible to reach that ‘critical mass’ where they can then start spending without jeopardizing their financial stability. Most people do the exact opposite. They think to much about ‘right now’. They grind their life away at a job and they spend money on things they really dont need before they have earned the financial freedom to do so. Most people will never be rich.