Some of you voted on personal finances as a topic of discussion, so let's have a frank talk about that subject. So many times this is a subject that is taboo in our culture, yet is such a big part of life that we need to talk about it.
I want this summary article to be more of a discussion, which means I want your comments and I'll do some editing on the fly to answer questions and incorporate feedback. I intend this to be a live article.
So here's the elephant in the room that most budgeting books won't talk about. If you are only making $20,000 a year, short of some windfall, it will be nearly impossible for you to generate any meaningful amount of wealth.
You can budget, save, and invest in the stock market with every dime you make, and you are very unlikely to become a millionaire when you're barely at the poverty level income wise. That doesn't mean you can't build up to that level though!
Wealth in general is not a bad thing. It allows you to do things like helping those in poverty-stricken areas or launching initiatives for causes you believe in like the workout challenge which is helping people get healthy to combat the fact that one in five American deaths are related to the obesity epidemic.
Many people have mistaken beliefs that wealthy people are not generous, but I've found quite the opposite to be true. People like Bill and Melinda Gates created their wealth by supplying products that people wanted, and are now giving it away to help solve worldwide problems. The wealth they built is saving millions of lives through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. How many people can say that they have contributed something like that to the world?
Most wealthy people I know have gotten wealthy because they contributed something significant to society that people were willing to pay for.
It took me a long time to change my mindset after growing up poor with a mindset of scarcity and feeling like there was something wrong with earning money, but I eventually got there. Here are a few things I've learned.
1. Yes, budgeting is good
There are usually people in two camps on this subject. One side believes that you should out-earn your bad spending habits. The other group thinks you should scrimp and save every dollar.
I'm in the middle between those two camps. I believe you need to increase your income, yet watch your expenses. YNAB is the best way I know how to plan out what you're going to do with your money; it's what I use personally. There are other good programs such as Quicken or EveryDollar out there as well. The point is to find something that works for you.
Yes, I know it costs money to buy programs like these, but I can almost guarantee that you are losing more money in a month because you aren't tracking it than you'll spend in a year with them. And yes, the YNAB link is a referral link if you're wondering, both of us get a free month when you sign up using that.
You will want to automate as many things as possible. I write maybe one or two checks a month, the rest is on autopilot. Check with your bank, you can probably do online bill pay. Set your utilities up to be paid automatically, you can typically enroll in automatic payments through their sites, and many times get it set up for level pay which makes budgeting a breeze since the amount is the same each month.
This keeps you from getting hit with late charges, which can add up in a hurry, and makes things a lot easier. Be sure to also automate savings through your employer or bank, try to put at least 10% of your money into savings automatically each time you get paid. You can start with a lower percentage, but get started and increase it any time you get an increase in pay.
I realize that when you are first getting started you might have to juggle bills to make ends meet, but over time work towards automating everything, then review the bills regularly to see what you can cut. Call around too, you can often reduce bills simply by asking the company if there is any way to reduce the cost.
2. To get ahead, you may have to increase your income
I heard a question at the gas station this morning that had me shaking my head. A guy asked the cashier, "How much is the coffee?". Now I've gone through hard times before, by the age of 18 I was already $30,000 in debt, married, had no parental financial support, and was working a minimum wage job making $4.25/hr. I get where he's at. Here's the thing though.
If you have to ask how much a cup of coffee is at a convenience store, your finances are broken.
"How much is the coffee?" - some guy whose finances are broken or is way too into watching his pennies
Add up all your recurring monthly expenses, those things you have to have to live. Now take a look at your income. How do those compare? My guess is if you're reading this article, your income may not go very far after your base expenses. You'll have to find a way to get it up.
If you've got a good relationship with your boss, you could try asking what you could do to justify a substantial increase. Maybe you could take some classes to get your skills up or help in other areas. Don't assume that you "deserve" a raise just because you've been there for a long time, your pay should be tied to how much value you add to the company. Hopefully your company doesn't see you as merely a necessary expense but rather as an investment in their growth.
Ask yourself and your boss what you can do to add value to the company. When you make your company lots of money, good companies will reward you. Make sure you aren't entirely reliant upon your job as your only source of income though.
You could try doing some things on the side or picking up a second job. Try picking up some stuff at garage sales and reselling it on eBay or your local Facebook resale group, that's an easy way to make a few hundred extra each month, just be sure to research what the item is selling for before you buy.
If you're handy, help out around the neighborhood. Better yet, find someone to do the job and pay them less than what the customer pays you, that's how businesses are born without selling your time for money. What are you good at that you could do to get paid?
Better yet, is there something you can create that people will pay for without you having to recreate it every time or can you hire someone to do the work? Producing value for other people and convincing them to buy it is what you ultimately get paid for, not the time you spend. Most millionaires have several different streams of income, many of them off of things they spent time on only once.
Millionaires think this way. Create something that fixes a problem once, do a little maintenance, and get paid many times for the creation. I do this through stuff like workbooks in our store or affiliate relationships with products on my recommendations page for example.
Those help solve problems that people have, so it's a win-win for both of us when they buy. That's key, people buy from people they trust.
IT'S NOT ABOUT RIPPING PEOPLE OFF, IT'S ABOUT PROVIDING VALUE!
Then either reinvest that money into selling more of that product or into creating and marketing other things that make more money. Multi-millionaires or billionaires may not really need the money, but they keep doing it because they enjoy and believe in what they are doing, that's how some end up with an extremely high net worth.
If you are a content creator, you can also join Patreon as a creator by clicking here. Read more about how to get your first patrons with this article. When you use that referral link, we'll both get some bonuses on top of whatever pledges you have when you get your first 30 patrons. Ka-Ching!
What other income streams can you add? Here's an article I wrote on some other ideas for extra income: "150+ Ways to Make Extra Money".
3. Find mentors
I was lucky to have a tremendous mentor for a boss. He's taught me everything about running my primary business, and I'm getting ready to take over the reins there. Find some mentors, hire them if you must, but find them. If you'd like to have me work directly with you, send me a message and we can talk.
Toastmasters is an excellent source for developing leadership & communication skills which are critical in just about anything you do, they've got a fantastic program if you follow their educational paths. According to Toastmasters, 41% of members make more than $75k/yr; my guess is that's because they are investing in themselves.
Find mentors in books too, many of my best ideas were from books. Take some courses; you can use our course finder by clicking here. Grab a copy of 20 books you need to read and get started reading. Stick with us, and I'll recommend another one each month. Use this link to see all of the previous book recommendations.
4. It takes time, most of the time
Listen, I know that you don't want to hear this especially with everyone pitching you get rich schemes every five minutes, but it takes time to build up income streams. It took me three years of blogging to even break even on what I was spending. I might have been able to speed up that process by taking some classes, but quite frankly when I started, I sucked although I thought I was a decent writer. I also wasn't doing what I should have been doing if I really wanted to make money, which is creating and selling stuff.
It took me two decades working a regular job to build up my base income. It takes time! Don't get discouraged when you don't go from being broke to being a millionaire overnight. Give it time and focus on developing the right habits. Keep engaging in personal development and get out there and take action, try a few things, keep what works and get rid of what doesn't.
On a positive note, another thing I've seen is that when people finally make a breakthrough, circumstances can change very quickly.
I was just talking with a lady the other day who is thirty and is a millionaire even though she makes an average living at her day job. She went from virtually zero net worth at age twenty-five to a millionaire in five years by saving up and investing in real estate which she turned around and rented out for about 25% more than what she was paying on the mortgage each month. She used the rental income and equity to turn around and buy even more properties which of course generated more income.
Rentals are a great way to build wealth. Just be careful and build in plenty of margin. I watched a guy who owned about thirty properties declare bankruptcy when I was serving on a bank board. He used virtually every penny he had and leveraged all his equity to keep buying properties and then when a few of his properties needed repairs and a few others didn't have tenants, he couldn't make payments on anything. What was a multi-million dollar net worth on paper disappeared in a matter of months.
I've heard many similar stories especially with people who create their own businesses and it eventually takes off. It can take time and usually does take more time than we expect, but when things click, it can go rapidly.
5. Invest in assets that produce income
Invest in assets that generate more income for you like things you can rent out, businesses, index funds, target date funds (my favorite is Vanguard target date funds), stocks, bonds, or things you create.
Dump assets like that cost you money to maintain and those that rapidly lose value (depreciating assets like new cars) if you don't need them whenever possible.
I guarantee I could generate a million dollars in revenue this month if I wanted, if I spend ten million advertising and giving out prizes... Just like in your personal finances, it's what you KEEP that matters, not what you earn or spend. Here's the trick - if you can earn $2 for every $1 you spend in advertising, you can create virtually unlimited wealth. The trick is to figure out how to do that, which isn't nearly as easy as it sounds.
There are some resources you can get ideas from though, my favorite is the 30 day summit, where 30 people who have each made over a million dollars online talk about what they would do for the next thirty days to rebuild if they lost everything.
Building wealth is a journey, and it's all relative. Whatever you believe you are capable of earning enough to pursue, you can achieve.
Comments? Questions? Other Ideas?
I'm hoping this article will become a master thread on the subject. Comment below and I'll try to answer what I can. Feel free to add your own experiences and respond to other people's comments if you have other ideas.