Many of us aspire to reach a point where we're financially well off. For some, that means amassing $1 million. For others, it simply means having more than enough money to cover life's expenses, with a nice cushion left over for emergencies. Regardless of how you define being wealthy, if you're eager to get there, you'll want to avoid certain habits that will only derail your efforts. Here are a few in particular to steer clear of.
1. Not following a budget
Many people assume they don't need a budget, or don't want to be bothered with one. But if you're not tracking your spending, you'll miss out on key opportunities to save. Following a budget will help you realize where you're wasting money, so if you don't have one in place at present, carve out an hour or so to create one.
2. Living paycheck to paycheck
It's estimated that 75% of working adults live paycheck to paycheck, but that's a good way to ensure that you never manage to accumulate wealth. Not only will maxing out each paycheck you collect make it impossible to build savings, but it'll also put you at risk of racking up debt the second an unplanned expense comes your way. A better bet, therefore, is to comb through your budget, find ways to cut corners, and bank the difference. In fact, you should generally aim to sock away 15% to 20% of your earnings, so if you're currently saving nothing, you may need to drastically rethink your spending and make some serious lifestyle changes.
3. Giving in to impulse buys
If you've fallen victim to impulse purchases in the past, you're in good company. An estimated 84% of Americans buy things on a whim. The problem, however, is that impulse purchases tend to be unnecessary by nature, and the more money you blow on them, the less you'll have left over to stick in the bank. Going forward, when you get the urge to buy something unplanned, force yourself to wait 24 hours so you can think over that purchase. Chances are, you'll generally come to realize you can do without it.
4. Borrowing too much
The more debt you take on, the more you'll end up paying for it in the form of interest -- that's just the way loans and financing work. Additionally, the more debt you accrue, the harder it will be to keep up with your payments. If you really want a shot at becoming wealthy, do your best to kept your debt to a minimum -- even the good kind, like your mortgage. Also, be especially careful when using credit cards. It's OK to charge items you know you can pay off by the time your bills come due, but the moment you start to carry a balance, interest will quickly start accumulating against you.
5. Only choosing safe investments
Many people fear the stock market and therefore make a point of avoiding it. But if you play it too safe on the investment front, you'll only stunt your savings' growth, thereby wrecking your chances of becoming wealthy one day. Though stocks have historically proven to be more volatile than bonds (and they're certainly riskier than leaving your money in cash), they also have a strong history of rewarding investors who stay in the market long enough to ride out its ups and down. In other words, if you're willing to take a long-term approach to investing, you stand to come out ahead.
To give you an example of how avoiding stocks might prevent you from getting rich, imagine you're able to save $500 a month over a 30-year period. If you keep that money in cash earning 1% interest a year on average, you'll wind up with about $209,000. If you invest in bonds averaging 3% a year, you'll come away with roughly $285,000. But if you put your money in stocks and score an average annual 8% return, which is just below the market's average, you'll grow your savings to $567,000. And that's a sizable difference.
Whether your objective is to be rich or simply be comfortable, the habits you uphold during your working years will dictate whether you achieve your goals or ultimately fall short. Stay away from the above mistakes, and with any luck, you'll one day reach a place of financial stability, perhaps to the point where you dare to call yourself wealthy.
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