10 Rules for Building Wealth

by Patrice A. Kelly

The person who wants to be rich saves a lot from an early age, chooses a mix of investments that suits his or her age, lifestyle, and attitude to risk and lets time and compound interest work its magic. There are steps you can take to make sure that you are maximizing and protecting your gains at the same time. Without these steps, you are destined to experience the gain-loss cycle, which in the end, is like spinning your wheels in the mud.

1 – Planning for the Long Haul

You are responsible for where you are in your life. Where you are today is determined by the choices you made in the past. So, if you want to be better off in ten, twenty or thirty years, start planning now. All successful people have a clear vision of what they are working towards. People who don’t, just bumble along.

If you are just starting out, put off getting married until you become financially independent, with little or no debt, and have your investments in place. Study and admire successful people and try to emulate them.

2 – Pick the Right Job and Career

Obviously, the more you earn the more you can salt away. When considering where you want to work, look at what the top executive makes to get an idea of your earnings potential with that employer. Investigate and understand how your employment circumstances affect your wealth building strategy. Identify your biggest expense and manage it without having to make more money.

Remember, these days you are not limited to making a living by your physical labor. The only limit you have on yourself now is your own imagination – your ideas are the most valuable thing you possess. Finally, pick a profession you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

3 – Change the Way You Think About Money

Realize that more money is not going to solve your problems. The problem isn’t the size of your checkbook, it is the way you were taught to use money. The gap between the rich and poor is getting wider because the rich understand money and how to use it.

Think of money as a seed; learn how to plant it to produce the best harvest. When you do this, you will rule your finances, not the other way around. Each dollar you save is a dollar working for you, not you working, for the dollar. Over the course of time, the goal is to make your money work hard and make more money for you.

4 – Debt Equals Bondage

Debt is very expensive. Every dollar spent paying interest on your debt is money lost. The average investment earns about 13 percent over time, that’s also just about what you pay out in debt interest! Pay off your debts as fast as you can – aim to increase your monthly payments by 10%. Start with your smallest debt. Once that debt is paid off you can turn the payments you were making toward a larger debt, sometimes doubling the rate at which you are able to pay off that bigger debt.

Living above your means – on the bank’s money – is foolish and is likely to set you firmly on the road to financial ruin. Pay cash whenever possible and use debt very sparingly.

5 – Make a Budget and Stick to It

Today you should sit down and find the monthly expenses that truly don’t mean as much to you as building wealth does. See how you can eliminate some of your spending to pay off your debt or put in savings in order to maximize your cash flow faster. Wealth building actually begins with debt reduction and strict management.

6 – Get into the Habit of Saving

The biggest single potential influence on wealth is what economists call the propensity to save. Obviously if you spend everything you earn, you build no wealth. But with the magic of time and compound interest, you increase your potential to become wealthy.

Many people suffer from the “not enough” mentality; namely that if they aren’t putting away large sums of money, they will never get rich. Develop a habit of saving and steering clear of debt; that’s all it takes to set you on the road to becoming a millionaire. Ideally, you should be saving 15% to 20% of your monthly income, and this percentage should increase, as you get older.

Become disciplined in your saving; save on a regular schedule. One of the least painful methods of regular saving is to authorize a monthly bank debit into a high-growth money-market account or growth fund.

7 – Think Before You Spend

Develop an understanding of the power of small amounts. Try this idea –– save all the receipts you get for everything you buy in a month, from dinners out right down to that latté you bought this morning. Figure what you can do without and put that money into a savings account.

Making more money doesn’t make a difference. Most people think an increase in income means they can spend more. Drawing up a monthly budget and sticking to it is a great deterrent against falling into the trap of willy-nilly spending. Remember, with each dollar you save, you are buying yourself freedom. When you think about it like that, you see how spending $20 here and $40 there can make a huge difference. Since money has the ability to work in your place, the more of it you employ, the faster and larger it will grow.

8 – Invest Wisely

A survey of America’s affluent (those who make over $225,000 a year or own $3,000,000 in assets) revealed that 27-30% of all the income the wealthy earned went into investments and savings. That isn’t a result of being rich––that is why they are rich.

True wisdom in investing is a difficult subject since investment wisdom is obvious mostly in hindsight. Some people invest in a single activity they know well. Often this is a recipe for financial success since deep knowledge and strong focus work pretty well. Just make sure the investment is in something that actually makes money. The standard approach to investing is to have a variety of investments like cash, bonds, equities, and real estate with a wide geographic dispersion. This is because different types of investments do well and badly at different times.

When choosing an adviser, be very careful to check credentials and to establish the basis on which the adviser is being paid. There is no reason to pay up-front fees (loads) on investments. The better advisers will charge an explicit fee and reveal any other basis of remuneration.

Even a small amount of money, wisely invested, can produce astonishing returns over time, but don’t be foolish and fall for a get-rich-quick scheme – they never work.

9 – Give Yourself a Tax Break

Aim to lower your taxable income and hence pay less tax. There are a few perks and plans that the taxman has not yet snuffed out. A qualified tax consultant can help you here.

You stand a better chance of achieving millionaire status from running your own business than by earning a salary. The business owner gets more tax breaks and reaps the income from hard work, but the greatest reward usually comes when the business is sold. If you aren’t keen to run your own business, there is another route to wealth: exercising the stock options given to you by your employer.

10 – Keep Things in Perspective and Enjoy Life

When you understand that any power money has over you is derived from your relationship with it, you suddenly become free from the constant pressures and stress of thinking about it. Once you have made the choice to take control back of your life by building up your net worth, don’t give a second thought to the “what ifs.”

Have fun. Earn a lot, save a lot, spread your risks, and don’t try to be too clever at picking individual investments or changes in market sentiment. The rules so far may seem rather old-fashioned, even boring. But it’s okay to take a small portion and invest in something fun or have an occasional small indulgence. Just don’t go overboard; those little luxuries add up.

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Patrice Kelly
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