10 MIN READ
You might think that learning how to become rich isn’t something you can learn at all. It’s luck, or it’s just for people who have specialized knowledge that most other people simply can’t access.
That isn’t quite true, though. You don’t have to be born into money to become wealthy, and you don’t have to get lucky somewhere down the line.
Like much else, growing wealth is a skill—and it’s something you can learn. You just need to know the right moves to make.
How to Become Rich: The Basic Actions to Take
Learning how to become rich isn’t actually all that hard. Really!
The basic steps are pretty easy to understand… and I might not even tell you anything you don’t already know when you read through this list.
(If you want the good, surprising stuff, we’ll get to that next — because there are some unexpected habits you need to practice, too.)
Here are the core actions you need to take to build wealth:
Control Your Cash Flow
Like I said, this is basic stuff. Wealthy people aren’t the ones who are blowing all their cash on whatever they want to buy.
(By the way: this is what separates people who are truly rich and wealthy from those who only look like it. If all your money flows right back out the door because you spent it on houses, cars, vacations, shopping, and big nights out but your bank and investment accounts are empty? You’re just talking the talk. The people who turn their income into appreciating assets that consistently grow in value, however, are actually walking the walk and building true freedom into their lives.)
Wealthy people know how to manage their expenses well. They keep that gap between money earned and money spent as large as possible (meaning, what they earn always amounts to far more than what they spend).
You don’t have to be super frugal (or miserly) to achieve this. Remember, this is all relative. If you earn $10,000,000 a year, spending $5,000,000 a year isn’t unreasonable. In fact, it’s only half your income.
But if you earn $300,000 per year and you spend $275,000 of it, that’s almost 92% of your income that goes right back out the door… living you with very little to use in achieving the goal of becoming truly rich.
You need to manage your expenses — but don’t make that your exclusive focus.
Self-made millionaires didn’t grow wealth by sitting around clipping coupons and hoping that would be enough. They considered the other side of the equation, too: earning more money.
Increasing your income is a huge part of learning how to become rich or wealthy. When you earn more, you have more resources available to deploy and your ability to grow wealth compounds.
We talked about a few avenues for increasing income in this episode of the Beyond Finances podcast if you need some ideas of what you can do to earn more.
Don’t Just Save: Invest in Various Ways
Saving money is good. At a minimum, you need to save up and create:
- A cash buffer in your checking account to avoid accidentally overdrawing it in the process of handling your month to month bills and spending.
- An emergency fund so unexpected expenses don’t throw off your financial plan; aiming to have 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses earnmarked for emergencies is a good place to start.
- An automatic contribution of funds you need to pay for or achieve shorter-term goals
Beyond that, you actually don’t need to stockpile cash to become wealthy. What you do need is to invest.
Saving alone is not sufficient because your money isn’t being used to purchase something — an asset, equity, securities, etc — that may appreciate in value over time while also providing a return on your initial contribution.
If you only save, your money will lose purchasing power over time thanks to inflation. When you invest, you take on more risks — but you also open yourself up to greater potential rewards.
People who are wealthy invest in a number of ways, depending on their strategy for growing that wealth. Here are just a few things you could consider investing in (noting that the best option for you depends on your specific situation, needs, and goals):
- Stocks, bonds, or other securities or commodities traded on financial markets
- Real estate (via actual property, or just REITs)
- Businesses, either as an employee (which might mean earning equity compensation), an entrepreneur starting their own business, or an investor buying into someone else’s business
- Various other assets, like art or collectables (although, for the record, most people are probably better off exploring other avenues)
- Other alternatives, like crowdfunding or peer-to-peer lending
Obviously, there are lots of options to consider here. For the most part, I believe in investing in financial markets and in businesses (in my case, my own) — but that doesn’t mean other investments don’t work.
What you should consider is that you need to pick an investment strategy that aligns with you who are and where you’re at; choose something you have the time, energy, knowledge, and wherewithall to understand deeply and manage well.
Avoid Bad (and Unnecessary Debt), and Consider “Good” Debt with Caution
I’m not going to sugarcoat this: Truly wealthy people do not walk around with credit card debt and think that’s normal or okay.
If you consistently spend more than you earn and rack up balances on credit cards or find yourself financing purchases because that’s the only way to buy the thing you want (even if that thing is a car), it’s time to check yourself. You are not on a path to wealth.
That’s not to say you won’t ever be. But you need to get your cash flow under control, spend far less than you make, and create a debt repayment plan to knock out balances and things you’re paying interest on first.
When I say “avoid debt” I generally mean debt that is bad and unnecessary. What qualifies? In general, that means debt that you take on to acquire a depreciating asset. Think things like consumer spending or personal loans that you use to finance your lifestyle (including trips).
Some debt might earn itself an exception from the “avoid it” rule here.
“Good” debt is leverage you apply to something that could appreciate in value or eventually provide a return down the road. This could be a loan you take out to start a business, or a mortage you use to buy a house, or student loans you borrow to get an advanced degree.
These debts could help you leverage yourself into a better financial situation, but you have to be careful. They can backfire, too.
Taking out a loan to help you pay for an advanced degree could help you earn more, but there may be other ways to fund your education or even other avenues to achieve the same career and earnings goals.
Using a mortgage to purchase a property could allow you to own an asset without requiring you to front huge sums of cash to do it, but you could also end up with a declining home value or a monthly cash flow that’s in a stranglehold if something unexpected happens (like a job loss).
Getting funding to start a business could be one of the best moves you make on the journey where you figure out how to become rich — or it could completely sink you if the business crashes and burns.
The point is with leverage comes risk. You need to not only acknowledge that risk, but evaluate it.
Have you calculated whether or not you have the tolerance and capacity for this specific risk? Do you understand how risky or not the particular kind of leverage you’re looking at might be?
These Actions Alone Aren’t Enough: You Have to Develop Habits
Again, that list of actions is relatively simple and straightforward. It doesn’t take a financial genius to understand and implement them.
And almost any other specific financial “to do” that could help you become rich is really some variation on these themes. It’s great that there really aren’t many secrets.
It’s more about being aware of the basics and implementing them well. And that’s why most people aren’t rich or on the path to wealth.
A lot of people can say they keep a budget, or spend less than they earn, or avoid credit card debt, or contribute to savings, retirement, and/or investment accounts…
But they still don’t know how to become rich. They still aren’t anywhere close to being (or even feeling) wealthy. So what’s going on? If it’s really so simple, why isn’t everyone a millionare?
It comes down to your habits. It’s about the actions you take not just once or when you think about it, but every single day. It’s about the time and energy you invest in making the right decisions over and over and over again.
This is where building wealth gets hard. This is what separates many people who have the potential to become wealthy from the people who are wealthy.
3 Unexpected Habits That Will Help You Become Wealthy
I’ve already told you there really are no secrets. But you may be surprised at the kinds of habits and behaviors you need to learn to successfully implement the action steps that will take you from where you are today to wealth tomorrow.
Here are some — although certainly not all — of the most important habits to cultivate:
I’ve already hinted at this, and I think it’s probably the most important thing on the list. It’s also one of the hardest.
It’s not enough to get something right once, or to make a smart money move on occasion. You have to make good decisions and stick to positive actions every day.
You don’t get to take time off from caring about your finances and doing the work to create your own wealth.
The more consistent you are with the financial chocies you make, the more likely you will be to succeed in your goals and go from wondering how to become rich to actually being rich.
How can you be more consistent? Try:
- Automating everything you can. Set up automatic contributions to savings and retirement plans. Dollar-cost average your investment contributions. You want to minimize the decisions you have to make on a regular basis… because if it’s not optional, you’re more likely to just do it.
- Setting your strategy and writing out your action steps: You need a plan. If you’re just winging it all the time, you’re going to be erratic and constantly changing lanes (even if you don’t mean to; it just takes too much thought and energy to maintain consistency when you have no idea where the lane you want to be in even is!).
- Taking your emotions out of it: If we were all robots, it would be so easy to program ourselves to make the best financial choices all the time. But we’re humans, we feel things, and we react to our emotions. We need systems that help us remove emotional thinking from financial conversations so that we can more consistently choose the best actions for us both when we can plan ahead and in the moment.
The other habit we need to cultivate in order to learn how to become rich is focusing. There is so much to focus on… and so often, we get distracted and give our attention to the wrong things.
Imagine you’re going for a jog. You look ahead of you and your body follows where your eyes are — which is why if you hear someone coming up beside you and you turn your head to look, your body will ever so slightly start curving toward where your line of sight is going.
The same thing happens to us in other areas of life, too… including our financial lives.
We see someone who has more than us, and we lose our focus on our own goals, wants, and happiness. We compare ourselves to them instead. This is a massive trap that can cause you to make bad financial choices.
Without focus, you will find you are constantly distracted from your own plans and strategies. You open yourself up to making money mistakes that can set you back years.
Learn to focus. Focus on what you can control. Focus on making rational decisions. Focus on your values and priorities. Tune out the noise of everything else.
If you don’t know something, ask questions. Seek out knowledge and information. Work with experts who can translate that information and apply context to provide you with true wisdom.
We live in a time where almost anything you want to know or learn is available for you to find within seconds. That’s amazing — and yet so many people simply don’t ask questions about what they don’t know (or aren’t sure about).
People just aren’t curious. But you should question everything if you want to make strides in your financial life.
Questioning things is how you uncover opportunities you might have otherwised missed. It’s how you optimize a strategy to really dial it in. It’s how you stay engaged, and how you spot big mistakes coming and course correct before you stumble into them.
So be curious. Question everthing (especially things you don’t know).
And in addition to questioning what you don’t know… consider that there may be things you don’t know you don’t know.
These are your blind spots, and you might not even know they exist. That’s why it’s helpful to seek out different perspectives and outside opinions, or a second set of eyeballs who can double-check you’re making the right moves.
This is why successful (and yes, wealthy!) people have coaches, advisors, mentors, and teams of experts who all contribute to their success.
These professionals don’t just provide guidance and wisdom, but they can also help you avoid stepping on a landmine you didn’t even know was there because you had no idea you were supposed to look for it.
Finally, you should question yourself. Challenge your beliefs and opinions; seek out your biases and ask “why do I think or feel this way?”
You don’t have to radically change yourself — but you should be open to making adjustments based on new information or perspectives. You should periodically examine your own beliefs and look at what no longer serves you (or what was never accurate in the first place).
Question everything, including yourself. Seek to learn, seek to improve, and seek out the wisdom of others to help you along the way.
About the Author
Eric Roberge is a CFP® and founder of Beyond Your Hammock, a fee-only financial planning firm that helps professionals in their 30s and 40s use their money as a tool to live well today while still planning responsibly for tomorrow.
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