Contrary to popular belief, “everyone has the same opportunity to acquire wealth,” says Steve Siebold, a self-made millionaire.
But not everyone seizes the opportunity.
To find out if you’re doing all that it takes to set yourself up for a rich future, we’ve rounded up 10 signs that you’re not on the right path.
From living beyond your means to failing to establish financial goals, check out the 10 signs below.
Previous reporting by Kathleen Elkins.
You only work hard, not smart.
In school, we learn that hard work will get us ahead in life. But “that’s only half the story,” says Ric Edelman, a top financial adviser.
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“If all you do in life is work really hard, you’re never going to get wealthy,” he said. “Because it’s not enough that you work hard to make money to set some of it aside.”
Edelman says that to ensure future wealth, you must equally work smart. One way he suggests working smart is investing your money in the stock market or a retirement fund – that is, taking advantage of compound interest so that your money earns money.
“You can do this without taking a huge amount of risk. You can do this without a lot of effort. You can do this without a lot of time,” he said.
You put too much emphasis on saving – and not enough on earning.
Another way to work smart? Increase your earnings, not just your savings.
“The masses are so focused on clipping coupons and living frugally they miss major opportunities,” Siebold writes.
There’s no need to abandon practical saving strategies. However, if you want to start thinking like the rich, “Stop worrying about running out of money and focus on how to make more,” Siebold advises.
A common thread among millionaires is that they develop multiple streams of income and adopt smart savings habits.
You buy things you can’t afford.
If you live above your means, you won’t get rich.
Even if you start earning more or get a hefty raise, don’t use that as justification to give yourself a lifestyle raise.
“I didn’t buy my first luxury watch or car until my businesses and investments were producing multiple secure flows of income,” writes self-made millionaire Grant Cardone at Entrepreneur. “I was still driving a Toyota Camry when I had become a millionaire. Be known for your work ethic, not the trinkets that you buy.”
You’re content with a steady paycheck.
Average people choose to get paid based on time – on a steady salary or hourly rate – while rich people choose to get paid based on results and are typically self-employed.
“It’s not that there aren’t world-class performers who punch a time clock for a paycheck, but for most this is the slowest path to prosperity, promoted as the safest,” Siebold says. “The great ones know self-employment is the fastest road to wealth.”
While the world-class continue starting businesses and building fortunes, “The masses almost guarantee themselves a life of financial mediocrity by staying in a job with a modest salary and yearly pay raises,” Siebold explains.
You haven’t started investing.
One of the most effective ways to earn more money over time is to invest it, and the earlier you start, the better.
“On average, millionaires invest 20% of their household income each year. Their wealth isn’t measured by the amount they make each year, but by how they’ve saved and invested over time,” writes Ramit Sethi in his New York Times best seller, “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.”
You don’t have to be an expert about personal finance or use fancy economic jargon to start investing. You don’t have to come from an affluent family, and you don’t even have to earn a massive paycheck.
In fact, start by investing in your retirement savings or a low-cost target date fund and you’ll see huge returns in the long run.
You’re pursuing someone else’s dreams – not your own.
If you want to be successful, you have to love what you do – that means determining and pursuing your passion.
Too many people make the mistake of chasing someone else’s dream – such as their parents’ – explains Thomas C. Corley, who spent five years researching self-made millionaires.
“When you pursue someone else’s dreams or goals, you may eventually become unhappy with your chosen profession,” he writes in “Change Your Habits, Change Your Life.” “Your performance and compensation will reflect it. You will eke out a living, struggling financially. You simply won’t have the passion that is necessary for success to happen.”
You rarely step outside of your comfort zone.
If you want to build wealth, be successful, or get ahead in life, you’re going to have to get used to uncertainty or discomfort.
Rich people, in particular, find comfort in uncertainty.
“Physical, psychological, and emotional comfort is the primary goal of the middle class mindset,” Siebold writes. “World class thinkers learn early on that becoming a millionaire isn’t easy and the need for comfort can be devastating. They learn to be comfortable while operating in a state of ongoing uncertainty.”
Likewise, rich people have learned that overcoming fear and taking calculated risks is a key element to achieving success.
You don’t have goals for your money.
If you want to build wealth, it’ll make the process easier – and more enjoyable – if you have a clear, specific goal in place before forming a financial plan.
Do you want to buy a house? Live abroad? Travel once a month? Enjoy a cushy retirement? Write these goals down.
Rich people choose to commit to attaining wealth. It takes focus, courage, knowledge, and a lot of effort – but it’s possible if you have precise goals and a clear vision, emphasizes self-made millionaire T. Harv Eker.
“The number one reason most people don’t get what they want is that they don’t know what they want. Rich people are totally clear that they want wealth,” he said.
You spend first and save what’s left over.
If you want to get rich, pay yourself first.
“What most people do when they earn a dollar is pay everyone else first,” self-made millionaire David Bach writes in “The Automatic Millionaire.” “They pay the landlord, the credit card company, the telephone company, the government, and on and on.”
Rather than spending and then saving whatever is leftover, save first. Set aside an hour a day of your income – in an emergency fund, 401(k), or other savings account – and make the process automatic, Bach emphasizes. This takes the effort out of manually saving and ensures that your money will grow exponentially over time thanks to compound interest.
You believe getting rich is out of your reach.
“The average person believes being rich is a privilege awarded only to lucky people,” Siebold writes. “The truth is, in a capitalist country, you have every right to be rich if you’re willing to create massive value for others.”