investing

How to become a millionaire in 7 easy (hah!) steps

2. Save, save, save 
The end result of your financial plan should be systematic investment. Get in the habit of saving money. Build an emergency fund in a money market account so you don't have to raid the rest of your savings and investments when there's an unexpected major expense. Make it a point to save at least half of every pay raise.

3. Live below your means 
Don't be a walking billboard for overpriced designer clothes, shoes, sunglasses or jewelry. Don't allow your house or car payments to be budget-busters.

4. Lay off the credit 
Some people say that if you can eat it or wear it, don't put it on your credit card. That's good advice, but take it further. Try not putting anything on your cards that you can't pay off in two or three months. You need only one or two credit cards. If you have a fistful, pay them off. Remember, debt holds you back.

"It reduces cash flow for other things, including investing," says Welch. "If no one gave you money to borrow, you'd be better off and the economy would be smaller. If they only let you borrow 75 percent of the value of your home, you'd be a heck of a lot better off."

5. Make your money work for you 
It takes money to make money, but that doesn't mean you need a lot to invest. Open an account with a mutual fund company that has no-load funds and low expense ratios. Build a diverse portfolio and you can reasonably expect to earn 8 percent to 10 percent annually on your investments over the long haul.

6. Start your own business 
In the 1996 book The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy, the authors state that two-thirds of the millionaires are self-employed, with 75 percent of them entrepreneurs, and the remainder professionals such as doctors and accountants.

"The idea that most people inherit wealth is outdated. A lot is built through businesses. Business creation is the No. 1 driver of wealth in this country," says Zultowski.

7. Get professional advice  
A good financial planner can help you fill your portfolio with the right investments and dump the wrong ones. You don't need to relinquish control, but you do need to form a good working relationship with someone who has expertise in this complicated area.

"About 76 percent of those surveyed are actively involved in the day-to-day management of their financial affairs," notes Zultowski. "They get involved; they learn about finances, they're not day traders. They work with advisers but ultimately make their own decisions."

If you can't afford to have a financial planner manage your money, many of them will review your portfolio and make recommendations for a one-time fee.

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