Building wealth is a matter of working consistently and managing what money you do have well. A little luck is a big help.
President-elect Donald Trump was born into wealth. His first job was literally handed to him in the form of a lofty title and loan from his real estate tycoon father. Most of us aren’t that lucky. In fact, it’s incredibly far from the norm to spend day one of your life rich.
The path to wealth for most people is more nuanced, complicated, riddled with hurdles and unique to personal circumstances. While Trump had wealth handed to him, the rest of us have to do it the other way around. We have to make smart decisions with the money we do have and build wealth over time. Here is the swiftest way to do it:
1. Pay down high interest debt.
The first step to wealth is to settle outstanding debt. Holding significant debt inhibits people’s ability to make new investments and buy assets. Start with high interest loans and work backwards. Low cost debt can be okay — think under 3 percent — but high-interest loans, with rates between 5-20+ percent, should get paid off as fast as possible. In order to sustainably gain control of your finances, pay down debt until you have paid off all loans with higher interest rates.
2. Spend less than you make.
This step is perhaps the easiest to say and hardest to do. Get a handle on what your monthly expenses are and look to get that amount to be less than your monthly income. The key is lowering spending to less than your income so you can build a savings cushion. Start slow by putting away a certain amount every month that allows you to keep enough money on hand to pay bills, pay off debt and live somewhat comfortably.
3. Build a savings cushion.
You never know what could happen to your income. Maintaining a savings cushion to cover three to sixth months of expenses in savings is an important contingency plan. Small business owners take a similar approach. Many work to build a three to six month liquidity cushion so they can stay afloat while establishing their businesses and scaling their operations to meet growing consumer demand.
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4. Become an owner.
Start investing after your savings cushion is built. We have all been told “work hard and you will be rewarded,” but that doesn’t mean you will be wealthy. Wealth comes from ownership. Take savings above your cushion and buy a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds and other assets that will grow. Monitor the progress of your investments, and keep expanding your portfolio.
People don’t build wealth just by working hard. They build a nest egg by owning things that become more valuable over time and investing responsibly. In order to become an owner, you need to pay down debt, spend less than you earn, save enough to live for three to six months without an income — just in case — and invest in attainable assets. The jury is still out on whether we can still classify President-elect Trump as lucky to be hand-delivered wealth, but the door is open for everybody else to earnestly pursue it if they follow these steps.