Much has been written about the “great wealth transfer” now underway among retiring Baby Boomers and their grown children. But despite what you may have read, roughly 7 out of 10 Americans considered to have a high financial worth are self-made millionaires who didn’t inherit their money. That’s great news for anyone who is willing to take a disciplined, systematic, patient approach to wealth building.
Consider these factoids from The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of American’s Wealthy, co-authored by Thomas Stanley, Ph.D. and William Danko, Ph.D.:
- Only 19 percent of America’s wealthy receive any income or wealth of any kind from a trust fund or an estate
- More than half never received as much as $1 in inheritance
- Ninety-one percent never received, as a gift, as much as $1 of the ownership of a family business.
While there’s no shortage of how-to books offering recipes for attaining a high net worth, there’s wide agreement on at least three critical steps to getting there. Begin with these, experts suggest, and you’ll be off to a strong start.
Step 1: Cut Your Debt.
The impact of credit – another word for debt – on your overall financial health can’t be underestimated. Especially with college debt such a burden. Believe it or not, all debt isn’t necessarily bad. Financially savvy individuals know there’s a place for healthy debt. But they also know to identify and avoid “bad” debt that can drain the life out of your financial future.
Credit cards are a necessity today. But make sure that you can afford to pay your balance in full every month. If not, putting your money to better use will be seriously compromised under high interest rates. Lowering your debt balance will also raise your credit score. That will help when you’re shopping for a low-interest-rate loan such as a mortgage. Begin getting smart about debt by turning to a trusted online resource.
Step 2: Invest Your Money.
Achieving financial success requires a disciplined commitment to investing a meaningful portion of your realized income (income you’ve actually earned and received) each year. According to The Millionaire Next Door, successful investors over the long term invest at least 15 percent of realized income, with many investing upwards of 20 percent.
Investing most of your money in stocks (with some portion held in bond and/or mutual funds) is the best way to grow your personal net worth in your 20s and 30s. According to an article published by CapGemini, high-net-worth individuals invest most of their assets in equities, since stocks have the best historical record of growth.
Step 3: The Power of Time.
The single most powerful tool at every investor’s disposal is time. Even a modest approach to investing, as long as it’s consistently applied, will yield measurable results over time. (That is the power of compound interest.)
Whether building your retirement fund, initiating college funds for your kids or investing in your own continuing education (to facilitate higher compensation at work), the impact of time on suitably invested assets will make the biggest impact in growing your personal net worth.