This article was published in the New Haven Register on May 13, 2018.
If you are still relatively young, you can take steps today to ensure you are financially comfortable later in life. The secrets to building wealth are not really secrets – they have been written down in countless books by people who managed to accomplish the goal.
Some of the secrets to building wealth are the same as the secrets to any type of success. For instance, the first step is to put in some serious time simply thinking about your goals in life. You can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you are headed. Think about what you want for yourself and your family – and, more importantly, about what you are willing to give up to achieve it. Here are some steps to take after this initial introspection:
Create a Financial Plan. Defining your goals is great, but it’s an exercise in fantasy if you don’t then map out a logical strategy to actually reach those goals. That’s where a written, detailed financial plan comes in. Professional financial advisers always help their clients draft a financial plan. This blueprint for wealth building should include interrelated courses of action involving your retirement accounts, investment portfolio, tax planning, education funding, charitable giving and estate planning, and it should take a long-term approach.
Follow the Plan. Use your financial plan as a guide to help you make decisions on a daily, monthly and annual basis. If you don’t follow your plan there is little point in having one. Too often people fail to take actions laid out by the plan such as periodic rebalancing of their portfolio or following budget or savings schedules. Hiring a fiduciary, such as a Certified Financial Planner, is one way to make sure you stay on track.
Maximize Your Earnings Now. When you’re 30 years old it’s easy to assume you have all the time in the world, that you’ll be willing and able to continue working into your 60s and 70s. Unfortunately, after age 50 many people get sidelined by layoffs or health problems. The time to earn enough money to save and invest is now, when you have the energy for it. Consider working a second job, or starting a side business. Sure, it’s a big sacrifice. But in the second paragraph above I mentioned thinking about what you are willing to give up. Most millionaires gave up plenty of free time to get there.
Delay Gratification. Interviews with numerous high-net-worth individuals have revealed a fascinating fact: Most of them got there by driving modest cars, eating home-cooked meals and being careful not to overspend. Live below your means while you’re still young, and plow the money you save into investments. Make your money work for your future. Realize you don’t need the daily visit to the breakfast drive-through. Cut down on nights out.
Take Advantage of Free Money. If you work at a company that matches your contributions to a 401(k) plan or other retirement savings account, maximize your contributions. If you use a credit card, use one that offers you cash back on purchases (and pay it off every month to avoid interest charges). These types of incentives can yield big dividends over the long term.