Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tips for building wealth

  • Eliminate your debt. A bit obvious, but the most important. Creating wealth is about maximizing the value of your money. Any debt you take on is a negative investment, and takes from one hand to feed the other. It will either reduce or, more likely, eliminate your returns on your positive investments.

  • Track your finances. I myself do not use a budget in the traditional 30% housing, 5% entertainment sense. I track all my spending, all my income, and keep it in a spreadsheet so I know exactly where my money is going. It helps me make financial decisions, because the worst thing that you can do with your money is not know what's happening to it.
  • Save 10% of your income. Right away, just start hacking 10% from your paycheck. That's how I started saving, and you will be surprised how quickly you adjust. If you aren't saving anything right now...just start with 10%, with your next paycheck. Like ripping off a band aid.
  • Start your retirement. Start saving now. The key to saving for retirement is time, not necessarily money. Even a little bit of regular contributions over 30-40 years adds up to a lot. A company 401k? They almost always have a match, and if you are not contributing at least up to the match you are just throwing money away. It's like walking into your bosses office and asking him to pay you less.
  • Think long term. Buying something like a car needs to be a long term decision. What mileage does it get? What maintenance will it require? Why am I buying this on credit instead of saving for it?
  • Watch less TV. Studies show that regular exposure to advertisements causes people to spend 15% more. Cut out commercials from your life, and you subconsciously increase your income.
  • Pay in cash. Before you have a firm understanding of where your money is going and how to maximize its potential, paying in cash will give you a real grasp of what you are spending. Cash just feels more real, and studies show that people will buy more if they are buying it with 'virtual' money, like a credit card.
  • Communicate your finances. Talk to your spouse about your finances. Even if one or the other is the primary financial planner, getting the other on board will give you a stronger outlook overall. Two heads are better than one.
  • Combine errands, shopping trips. Designate one day of the week to do all your errands and shopping (food, misc goods, etc). By restricting your outings, you not only save money on the transportation necessary to make those trips, you also decrease the time you have to spend money. Shopping should be as efficient as your financial plan.
  • Repeat to yourself: Money doesn't create wealth. It doesn't matter how much money you have, what matters is how you manage it. Money is as volatile as the gas you put in your tank. Its value changes with your behavior. A family making $100,000 is no better off than one making $30,000 if they are spending more than they earn and/or not saving for retirement.

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