Published in: Banks | Oct. 14, 2019

These 4 Words Are the Key to Becoming Rich

By:  Kailey Hagen

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It's surprisingly simple advice, but it will have you on your way to an increased net worth.

Do an internet search on how to become wealthy and you get hundreds of millions of results that would take a lifetime to read. These well-meaning authors provide many different kinds of advice, but for those who don't have time to read through dozens of articles, here's the CliffsNotes version: Earn more. Spend less.

That might not be the profound financial secret you were hoping for, but it's the foundation that all other wealth-building advice is built upon. And it works. Here are a few strategies you can use to start tipping the scales in your favor today.

A young woman working on a laptop in a sunny cafe.

Image source: Getty Images

Earn more: Invest your money

Investing your money is arguably the best way to grow your long-term savings because there are good odds that your investment earnings will outpace inflation -- something that most high-yield savings accounts can't do. 

You don't need to know a lot about investing or have a lot of money to get started. Robo-advisors make it easy to invest without knowing anything about the stock market (which isn't to say you shouldn't try to educate yourself). You could also employ a financial advisor to manage your money for you if you're not confident in your ability to manage it on your own. 

Start slowly and make sure you keep your money diversified between many different assets and sectors. Index funds are a low-cost way to diversify your money quickly. They're mutual funds that passively track a market index like the S&P 500, and historically, they've earned pretty consistent returns. Don't try to time the market. You'll probably lose money that way. Practice dollar-cost averaging by investing a set dollar amount according to a regular schedule. Sometimes you'll buy when prices are high and sometimes you’ll buy when prices are low, and it'll all even out in the end.

Spend less: Create a budget

A budget enables you to track where your money is going and better plan for your long-term financial goals. Make a list of all your monthly expenses and subtract this from your monthly income. Then, decide what you're going to do with the rest. You should put some of this money toward your retirement and other financial goals, like a new car or a down payment on a home. If you have debt, budget some money for debt repayment as well. More on that below.

Stick to your plan once you've made one. Use a budgeting app if that helps you or create a spreadsheet on your own. You can set up automatic deposits to savings and automatic bill pay if that makes things easier for you. Check in with yourself once per month to see how well you did and whether you need to make any changes to your budget.

Earn more: Push yourself in your career

Many workers see substantial wage growth throughout their 20s and even into their 30s, but a recent PayScale study shows that wages begin to stagnate for women in their early 40s and for men in their early 50s. But you don't have to let this happen to you. 

Work overtime here and there if you're paid hourly or pursue promotions in your current job. Switch employers if you feel you're not getting paid as much as you should be or switch fields altogether. Never stop educating yourself, especially if you're in a fast-changing field like information technology. Learning new skills will make you a more valuable employee and will increase your odds of promotion.

Spend less: Stop wasting money on things you don't use or need

Look over your budget for areas where you can cut back. This might include dining out less, making your coffee at home instead of buying it at a coffee shop, or canceling cable or other subscriptions you don't use. 

It's OK to spend money on your wants from time to time, but wait a day or two before you go through with the purchase to avoid impulse spending. Another good strategy is to think about cost in terms of hours of work. If you want to buy a $100 item and you earn $20 per hour, ask yourself if it's worth five hours of work before you buy it. Set a monthly discretionary spending limit when you create your budget and don't allow yourself to exceed it.

Earn more: Start a side hustle

It's never been easier to start your own business. The internet can connect you with people in your area or around the globe who are interested in what you can offer, whether that's handmade items, a ride across town, or help fixing a broken computer. Side hustles don't have to require a lot of work from you either. If you have an extra room or property, you could rent that out each month for some easy cash.

Don't forget about taxes, though. Side hustles don't have regular paychecks the government can take money out of, so you must set aside these funds on your own. If you had a side hustle last year, your tax return should tell you how much you must pay quarterly to avoid penalties. Otherwise, you can use this worksheet to estimate how much you'll owe.

Spend less: Pay down credit card debt

Credit card debt is expensive and crippling. You don't earn rewards on money you pay in interest, so you're basically just flushing those dollars down the toilet. The sooner you pay it off, the less you'll pay overall, but this is easier said than done.

Allocate money for debt repayment in your budget and consider transferring your balance to a card with a 0% introductory APR to temporarily halt its growth. You could also take out a personal loan to cover the debt so you have a predictable monthly payment. And whenever you get any extra money like a year-end bonus or a tax refund, put that toward your debt first.

The above tips might not help you get rich quick, but they can help you get there eventually if you stick with them. Try incorporating a few of them (if you haven't already) so that you can see what kind of a difference they can make for you.

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