You may think you’ll never get rich unless you hit the lottery, win big in Las Vegas or come into a big chunk of family money.
But becoming a millionaire is within reach for those who start young and develop the right habits. And anyone at any age can develop the traits that increase wealth and decrease debt.
7 steps to becoming a millionaire:
- Develop a written financial plan.
- Save, save, save.
- Live below your means.
- Lay off the credit.
- Invest in ways that work for you.
- Start your own business.
- Get professional advice.
“Debt holds people back,” says Jason Flurry, certified financial planner and the founder and president of Legacy Partners Financial Group in Woodstock, Georgia. “They buy liabilities, and they make those payments forever.”
Here’s his quick advice for putting yourself on a path toward a seven-figure net worth: Spend less than you make, live a modest lifestyle and don’t let every raise push you up the lifestyle ladder.
It’s a matter of choices
That doesn’t mean you should decorate your home with cheap plastic lawn furniture, forgo cable TV and dine on mac and cheese every night. But do you really need to buy a car that’s so expensive, or do you have to have that 60-inch, high-definition TV right now?
Many people who choose wealth over stuff wouldn’t consider spending money on the “latest and greatest” because they know their money can be put to better use elsewhere.
Buying a “liability” would probably cause them stress because they’d rather buy an asset — something that will appreciate over time and give them a return on their investment.
Flurry says he has a hard time getting some of his older clients to spend their money.
“They’ve been savers all their lives and the thought of spending $5,000 or $10,000 on a vacation is ridiculous,” he says. “It doesn’t matter that they’re worth $3 million.”
With help from those who advise people already at or over the million mark, we’ve come up with these seven steps to becoming wealthy.
1. Develop a written financial plan
Saying you want to be wealthy isn’t good enough. You need to come up with a workable plan and put it on paper.
“The written plan forces you to do something,” says Stewart Welch of The Welch Group in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Calculate what you need to earn and how to invest. The plan isn’t just the goal, it’s the whole thing — the dream, the goals, the options.”
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 an unexpected major expense arises.
Make a point of saving at least half of every pay raise.
Look into your savings options so you are sure you’re getting the best return on what you put in. Open a savings account or CD with good rates. Think about your retirement fund. Work toward maxing out your 401(k) and then putting any additional funds into a traditional or Roth IRA.
Diversification of your savings can be the most important key in getting the most out of what you are able to save.
3. Live below your means
Living according to a “treat yourself” philosophy can quickly lead to debt and unnecessary liabilities.
Don’t be a walking billboard for overpriced designer clothes, shoes, sunglasses or jewelry.
And, don’t allow your house or car payments to be budget-busters. Use Bankrate’s mortgage calculator to determine how much house you can really afford.
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 to put 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,” Welch says. “If no one gave you money to borrow, you’d be better off.”
5. Invest in ways that 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 to 10 percent annually on your investments over the long haul.
If you have the initial cash to put into buying property, consider investing in real estate. You can create an additional revenue stream for yourself by renting, and earn long-term through appreciation.
If you want to increase your investments or diversify further, look into passive income opportunities. Side gigs like selling informational products or choosing dividend-yielding stocks that aren’t time-consuming can help you offset spending and dedicate more to saving and investing long-term.
6. Start your own business
In their book “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy,” authors Thomas Stanley and William Danko say that two-thirds of millionaires are self-employed, and that entrepreneurs represent the majority of that group. The rest are professionals, such as doctors and accountants.
Entrepreneurs create most of the country’s wealth. Most millionaires in the making — 8 out of 10 — earned or increased their assets on their own, a survey by Fidelity Investments found. That holds true for actual millionaires as well.
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 relationship with an expert in this complicated area.
According to another Fidelity survey, more than 6 out of 10 millionaire investors use financial advisers to help manage and protect their wealth.
Maybe finding the right adviser could tip the scales toward the seven-figure milestone. If you can’t afford to have a financial planner manage your money, many will review your portfolio and make recommendations for a one-time fee.
Bankrate’s “Save a million dollars calculator” can show how long it will take for you to reach your big goal.