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- Most people don’t get wealthy by accident, but through intentional habits and tried-and-true strategies.
- You’re probably not on the path to a rich future if you’re focusing only on saving money, if you live above your means, or if you haven’t started investing.
- You can course correct by creating multiple income streams, investing in a retirement account, and making clear financial goals with plans to achieve them.
Wealth requires building a foundation of good habits. And the earlier you start, the better.
Here are 9 signs you’re probably not yet on the path to a rich future.
1. You only work hard, not smart
In school, we learn that hard work will get us ahead in life. But “that’s only half the story,” says Ric Edelman, a top financial adviser.
“If all you do in life is work really hard, you’re never going to get wealthy,” he said. “Because it’s not enough that you work hard to make money to set some of it aside.”
Edelman says that to ensure future wealth, you must equally work smart. One way he suggests working smart is investing your money in the stock market or a retirement fund – that is, taking advantage of compound interest so that your money earns money.
“You can do this without taking a huge amount of risk. You can do this without a lot of effort. You can do this without a lot of time,” he said.
2. You put too much emphasis on saving and not enough on earning
Another way to work smart? Increase your earnings, not just your savings.
Saving is crucial to building wealth, but you don’t want to focus so much on saving that you start neglecting earning.
“In addition to saving money, we really focus on increasing our income,” Eric and Kali Roberge said on a recent episode of their podcast “Beyond Finances.” Cutting expenses, managing your cash flow, and not giving into lifestyle inflation is important, Kali said, but “if you can’t increase your income, I think it’s always going to be a struggle to get to where you want to go.”
In some cases, Eric said, spending less on everyday expenses is necessary, but if you’ve hit a limit and it’s possible to earn more money, the benefit will be much greater.
“The masses are so focused on clipping coupons and living frugally they miss major opportunities,” wrote Steve Siebold, a self-made millionaire, in an article for Business Insider.
There’s no need to abandon practical saving strategies. However, if you want to start thinking like the rich, “stop worrying about running out of money and focus on how to make more,” Siebold said.
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3. You buy things you can’t afford
If you live above your means, you won’t get rich.
Even if you start earning more or get a raise, don’t use that as justification to give yourself a lifestyle raise – especially when it comes to housing.
“If you live in a pricey home and neighborhood, you will act and buy like your neighbors. The more affluent the neighborhood, the more its residents spend on almost every conceivable product and service,” Thomas J. Stanley wrote in his book “Stop Acting Rich.”
That’s not to say you can’t buy nice things or meaningful experiences, but it’s difficult to keep building wealth when you keep spending more, too.
4. You’re content with a steady paycheck
Average people choose to get paid based on time – on a salary or hourly rate – while rich people choose to get paid based on results and are typically self-employed or have multiple income streams.
“It’s not that there aren’t world-class performers who punch a time clock for a paycheck, but for most, this is the slowest path to prosperity promoted as the safest,” Siebold said. “The great ones know self-employment is the fastest road to wealth.”
While the world-class continue starting businesses and building fortunes, “the masses almost guarantee themselves a life of financial mediocrity by staying in a job with a modest salary and yearly pay raises,” Siebold said.
5. You haven’t started investing
One of the most effective ways to earn more money over time is to invest it, and the earlier you start, the more money you’ll end up with.
“On average, millionaires invest 20% of their household income each year,” Ramit Sethi wrote in his New York Times best-seller, “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.” “Their wealth isn’t measured by the amount they make each year, but by how they’ve saved and invested over time.”
You don’t have to be an expert on finance or use fancy economic jargon to start investing in the stock market. You don’t have to come from an affluent family, and you don’t even have to earn a massive paycheck.
Start by investing in your retirement or a low-cost index fund, and you’ll see huge returns in the long run.
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6. You’re pursuing someone else’s dreams – not your own
If you want to be successful, you have to love what you do, and that means determining and pursuing your passion.
Too many people make the mistake of chasing someone else’s dream – such as their parents’ – says Thomas Corley, who spent five years researching self-made millionaires.
“When you pursue someone else’s dreams or goals, you may eventually become unhappy with your chosen profession,” he wrote in “Change Your Habits, Change Your Life.” “Your performance and compensation will reflect it. You will eke out a living, struggling financially. You simply won’t have the passion that is necessary for success to happen.”
Once you identify what it is you love to do, master it. Honing a skill is our “strongest weapon” when it comes to building wealth and career satisfaction, according to Cal Newport, an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University and a bestselling author.
“You could generate more money. You could generate much more autonomy and leverage over how you generate that money. You get much more flexibility about when and how you work,” Newport said.
7. You don’t have goals for your money
If you want to build wealth, the process will be easier and probably more enjoyable if you have a clear, specific goal in place.
Do you want to buy a house? Live abroad? Travel once a month? Enjoy a cushy retirement? Write down these goals and make a savings plan to achieve them.
Rich people choose to commit to attaining wealth. It takes focus, courage, knowledge, and a lot of effort – but it’s possible if you have precise goals and a clear vision, said T. Harv Eker, a self-made millionaire.
“The No. 1 reason most people don’t get what they want is that they don’t know what they want,” he said. “Rich people are totally clear that they want wealth.”
8. You spend first and save what’s left over
If you want to get rich, pay yourself first.
“What most people do when they earn a dollar is pay everyone else first,” David Bach, a self-made millionaire, wrote in “The Automatic Millionaire.” “They pay the landlord, the credit card company, the telephone company, the government, and on and on.”
Rather than spending and then saving whatever is left over, save first. Set aside an hour a day of your income – in an emergency fund, 401(k), or other savings account – and make the process automatic, Bach says.
This takes the effort out of manually saving and ensures your money will grow exponentially over time, thanks to compound interest.
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9. You believe getting rich is out of your reach
“The average person believes being rich is a privilege awarded only to lucky people,” Siebold wrote. “The truth is, in a capitalist country, you have every right to be rich if you’re willing to create massive value for others.”