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Get Rich(er)

Get Rich(er)

Get Rich(er)

    It is true that no one can serve two masters, and slavish devotion to unrighteous mammon is indeed a road to misery.  Ambition to produce and “be rich” is not necessarily a bad thing, though.  And if you’re reading this, you’re likely among the richest 1-2% of people who have ever lived.  Historically speaking, you’re not just rich.  You’re super-rich.

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    This means a couple of things.  First, it means that foregoing generations have left us with the capital, technology, and institutions we need to produce staggering amounts of wealth (which isn’t just “stuff;” wealth is whatever people value).  They have done this by establishing legal systems conducive to trade, by establishing an ethic of inquiry, and by refraining from consumption so as to leave us with plenty of resources that we can use to produce current and future output.  How, then, in this environment, should one grow wealthy?  And what are the social implications?  Here, I will relay some of the best advice I have gotten and discuss some of the social implicaitons of “getting rich.”  First, here’s how to do it:

    1.  Stop renting and buy a house. Homeowners build equity while renters line their landlords’ pockets.  This require a few important caveats.  First, don’t buy a house you can’t afford by agreeing to terms you can’t meet embedded in a mortgage you don’t understand.  Second, it is better to rent than to buy if you are only going to be somewhere for a very short period of time.  We bought our first house about a year ago, and we bought conservatively: we bought in a nice, semi-urban neighborhood based on the assumption that we would have to pay for the house on a single income.  We’re happy, we’re building equity, and we aren’t over-extended (yet–we have a six-week-old!!).

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    2.  Step away from the latte. The Automatic Millionaire author David Bach refers to what he calls “the latte factor,” which consists of the money we spend on small, incidental purchases: a $3 latte here, a $15 lunch there.  It all adds up.  Of course, there is something to be said for having your morning coffee, and for some of us, it is more efficient to get our fix from Starbucks.  A first step might be to size down–Starbucks does sell a “short,” though it isn’t on the menu–or to go with a regular coffee that costs $2 rather than a $4-5 specialty drink.

    3.  If you’re being paid $50,000, do $55,000 worth of work. One of the best ways to ensure job security is not to do the bare minimum necessary to get by, but to do enough that you are competitive for another job.  In academia, our brass ring is tenure, which gives us wide-ranging freedom to explore the world of ideas.  Last summer, I heard it put this way: “don’t worry about being competitive for tenure.  Worry about staying marketable.”  If you’re marketable–and you may be perfectly content wherever you are–then you shouldn’t have to worry too much about job security.

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    4.  Save. If you aren’t contributing to your 401k or your 403b and you don’t have an excellent reason not to (we didn’t during my first year at Rhodes because we were saving cash to buy a house), you’re throwing money away.  A Roth IRA is a fantastic deal if you’re young, and a 401k can reduce your tax liability considerably while giving you room to grow your capital in the future.

    5.  Bank the raises. What do you do with those little boosts to your income?  Do they go straight down the drain on a bunch of stuff you don’t need?  Or do you put them in the bank?  We have a system that has worked reasonably well in our house.  Whenever, we get unexpected shocks to our income, we split it four ways.  The bank gets 25%, the kids get 25%, my wife gets 25%, and I get 25%.  This has proven to be a somewhat reasonable and easy way to splurge every so often while making sure that we are wise stewards of what has been entrusted to us.

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    6.  Be a cheapskate. This is something we have some trouble with.  When your income goes up, it’s fine to splurge a little.  My wife and I both have iPods, and we have a nice TV.  However, we had one car for our first four years of marriage, and we bought a deeply-used second car last summer from a Rhodes graduate who was advertising it on Craigslist.  We’ve never had cable, we just switched from cable internet to AT&T (slightly slower, much cheaper), and we try to take advantage of cheap entertainment (our church library, for example, has a ton of stuff).

    7.  Go with equities if you’re young. The younger you are, the better it is to invest in stocks because you have plenty of time to take higher volatility in exchange for higher returns.  As you get older, you will want to make your portfolio more conservative, but now is the time to take on risk.  Even in the current crisis, there is reason for optimism because it’s a great time to buy.  After you’ve salted away two or three months’ income in order to deal with unanticipated emergencies–like the new kitchen floor we had to get last month–you should begin investing in equity-heavy mutual funds.  Many companies offer funds that rebalance toward greater conservatism over time, substituting bonds and safer securities as you approach retirement.

    8.  Get educated. The market is screaming “stay in school!”  Wages for low-skilled occupations have stayed flat while wages for high-skill, high-tech occupations have risen dramatically.  If you’re serious about it, college is a great investment.  Strange as it may sound, the increasing cost of college is another reason to be optimistic.  Higher costs for higher education suggest increasing productivity in other sectors as well as general expectations that there are great opportunities in the future for the educated.

    9.  Be generous. Finally, it is important to remember all the cliches about wealth.  All that glitters is not gold.  George Bailey was the richest man in Bedford Falls.  It doesn’t profit a man to gain the world and yet lose his soul.  Ebenezer Scrooge, for all his wealth (which produced higher incomes for many people, by the way), appears to have had a miserable and wretched life.  Money cannot buy happiness or love, but it can buy a lot of things that contribute to happiness–such as the ability to help people who truly need it.

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    Art Carden

    Art Carden is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Business at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    How to Develop a Millionaire Mindset in 6 Simple Steps

    How to Develop a Millionaire Mindset in 6 Simple Steps

    We all like to dream about being financially wealthy. For most people though, it remains a dream and nothing more. Why is that?

    It’s because most people don’t set their mind to achieving that goal. They might not be happy in their current situation but they’re comfortable – and comfort is one of the biggest enemies of growth.

    How do you go about developing that millionaire mindset? By following these simple steps:

    1. Focus On What You Want – And Take It!

    So many people are too timid to admit they want something and go for it. When there is something that you want to accomplish don’t think “I could never actually do that”, think “I could do that and I WILL do that”.

    Millionaires play to win, not to avoid defeat.

    This doesn’t mean to have to become a selfish jerk. What it means is becoming more assertive and honest with yourself. You don’t have to grab off other people. There is a big pot of unclaimed gold in the middle of the table — why shouldn’t you be the one to claim it? You deserve it!

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    2. Become Goal-Orientated

    It’s almost impossible to achieve anything if you don’t set firm goals. Only lottery winners become millionaires overnight. By setting yourself attainable goals, you will get there eventually. Don’t try to get rich quickly — get rich slowly.

    Let’s take the idea of making your first million dollars and expand on what kind of goals you might set to get there. Let’s also say you’re starting at a break-even position – you’re making enough to get by with a few luxuries, but nothing more.

    Your goal for the first year can be having $10,000 in the bank within a year. It won’t be easy but it is doable. Next, you need to figure out the steps you need to take to achieve that goal.

    Always look at ways to make growth before cutbacks. With that in mind, you might want to see if you can negotiate a pay rise with your boss, or if there’s another job out there that will pay better. You might be comfortable in your old job but remember, comfort stunts growth.

    You may also have other skills outside of your workplace that you can monetize to boost your bank balance. Maybe you can design websites for people, at a fee of course, or make alterations to clothes.

    If this is still not enough to make the money you need to save $10,000 in a year, then it’s time to look at cutbacks. Do you have a bunch of old junk that someone else might love? Sell it! Do you really need to spend $10 on your lunch everyday when you could make your own for a fraction of the cost?

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    If you are to become a millionaire, you need to start accumulating money.

    Here’re some tips to help you: How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

    3. Don’t Spend Your Money – Invest It

    The reason you need to accumulate money is for step three. Millionaires tend to be frugal people, and that’s because they know the true value of money is in investing. Being your own boss goes hand-in-hand with becoming a millionaire. You’ll want to quit your regular job at some point.

    Stop working for your money and make your money work for you.

    Rather than buying yourself a new iPad, that $500 could be used to invest in the stock market. Find the right shares (more on that later), and that money could easily double within a year.

    There’s not just the stock market — there’s also property, and your own education.

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    4. Never Stop Learning

    The best thing you can invest in is yourself.

    Once most people leave the education system, they think their learning days are over. Well theirs might be, but yours shouldn’t be. Successful people continually learn and adapt.

    Billionaire Warren Buffet estimates that he read at least 100 books on investing before he turned twenty. Most people never read another book after they’ve left school. Who would you rather be?

    Learn everything you can about how economics works, how the stocks markets work, how they trend.

    Learn new skills. If you have an interest in it, learn everything you can about it. You’d be surprised at how often, seemingly useless skills, can become extremely useful in the right situation.

    Start developing the habit of learning continuously: How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

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    5. Think Big

    While I advise to start off with small goals, you absolutely should have a big goal in mind. If you have a business idea, then that is your ultimate goal – to start that business and make a success of it. If you want to invest your way to millions of dollars and do little work other than research, then that is your big goal.

    There is no shame in not achieving a big goal. If you run a business and aim to make $1 million profit in a year and “only” make $200,000, then you’re still significantly ahead of most people.

    Aim for the stars, if you fail you’ll still be over the moon.

    6. Enjoy the Attention

    To be successful, you have to be willing to promote yourself and enjoy the attention to a certain extent. Now the attention doesn’t need to be on yourself, it could be on your brand, but attention definitely attracts money.

    Never be embarrassed to get your name out there. That means finding a spotlight and being brave enough to step right up underneath it.

    If you run a business, try contacting the local papers. You’d be surprised at how amenable they often are to running a story about you and your business, and it’s all free publicity.

    Above all, remember: You control your own destiny. Push hard enough for anything and you’ll get it.

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    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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