If your plan to get rich involves dating eligible millionaires or regularly buying lottery tickets, you could be employing more effective wealth-building strategies. Though hanging out at polo matches and loitering in lucky convenience stores might be fun, there are better sure-fire ways to get rich.
Anyone can take steps to make themselves wealthier, no matter their income. In fact, working hard to build wealth and financial freedom is much more likely to pay off in the long run than trying to marry rich.
But first you have to define financial freedom. Are you likely to join the ranks of the superrich with a fleet of European sports cars at your disposal and a haute couture designer on speed dial? Probably not. Keep buying the lottery tickets for a chance to realize that dream.
But, can you achieve financial freedom and never need to worry about money? That dream is likely within the grasp of your hard-working mitts.
Take charge of your destiny by following these five simple steps.
1. Commit to your financial goals
Financial goals can’t be an afterthought, or your efforts are likely to fail.
To succeed at anything, “You have to make it a priority in your life,” says Todd R. Tresidder, founder of FinancialMentor.com.
“If you’re not clear on your commitment, other things will always get in the way,” he says.
According to Tresidder, making the commitment is crucial — and you’ll know when you’ve cemented it into your brain.
“A commitment is easy to judge. You know what you’re committed to financially. Simply look at your results,” he says.
Those who commit to being comfortable financially will have greater freedom in their lives. Those who commit to always looking great will have a wardrobe full of fabulous clothes.
As with everything, it’s all about the choices you make.
2. Make a budget or spending plan
Get a handle on your cash outflow by tracking expenses. That means writing down every single thing you spend money on for about three months.
“There are things that come up quarterly that wouldn’t be captured if you only did it for one month,” says Scott Bombeck, president of Acanthus Associates, a financial services firm in Holmes, Pa.
Call it a spending plan initially. After that you can frame it as traditional budgeting, in which you allow a certain amount of money for each of your spending categories, including long-term savings and emergency savings, for example. Or you can think of it as a reflection of your values.
“You ask yourself two questions: ‘Is this congruent with what I really want in life? Is it taking me to my highest and most important goals?’ And the second question is, ‘Am I getting the best value for this expense?'” says Tresidder.
3. Tackle debt
Trying to save money while paying down debt is like carrying water in a bucket that has a hole in it. You may end up with some water, but not very much.
Credit card debt is among the most expensive kind to carry from month to month, second to payday loans. To dig yourself out of debt, investigate options for getting your interest rates reduced, whether through negotiation with your current company or with a new card and an inexpensive balance transfer.
Though consumers aren’t bombarded by balance transfer offers as often as they once were, they haven’t ceased to exist. Do the math to see if paying a 3 percent balance transfer fee — likely with no cap — will save you money in the long run.
“Once you get rates negotiated as low as you can, really concentrate your payments on the highest interest debt you have first,” says Bombeck. “Pay minimums on everything else and (throw) every last cent at the biggest one or the highest interest rate one first.”
4. Save your money
You’ll never be rich if you spend all your money. Even if you don’t spend more than you make, if you don’t save a penny you’ll always be treading water.
“If a 20-year-old can just save $20 a week, they’ll end up with $1,000 a year from doing that. Invest in a mutual fund. If stocks continue to get what they have made historically, then by the time they hit 60, they’re a millionaire,” says J. Steve Miller, author of “Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It.”
To have money to save means living beneath your means or increasing your income. You can find innumerable ways to shave a few dollars off of expenses, such as buying generic, going with conventionally grown produce rather than organic or even eating a few vegetarian meals every week to save the extra dollars.
5. Know when to cut your losses
Once savings turn into investments, people become subject to all kinds of irrational investing psychology. One of those is throwing good money after bad.
“Everyone makes bad business decisions, but the wealthier people are able to admit their mistakes much earlier on rather than throwing up Hail Marys on a get-rich-quick scheme,” says Mike Gordon, co-founder of the pizzeria Pizza Fusion and SageIvy, a company that helps small businesses find investors.
Outside the realm of investing in the market, it’s possible to make mistakes just by following the crowd. For instance, tapping equity from your home became the thing to do during the refinancing boom of a few years ago. It’s a mistake that’s better recognized sooner than later.
Try to avoid mistakes in the first place by thoroughly investigating any investments, big financial transactions or advisers before jumping in.
Stick to your financial plan and you’ll achieve your goals in the long run.