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Things You Can Do to Build Wealth at Any Income Level

When you think about building wealth, you could conjure visions of late-night infomercials selling all manner of get rich quick schemes...strategies that claim “with just a small investment, you’ll quickly earn a huge return.” There’s usually a subscription or books and apps that teach their secret path to riches...but maybe getting people to buy books and apps was the real path? 

Regardless, the truth of building wealth at any income level is mostly about paying attention to how much comes in, how much goes out (and where it goes), and understanding that no matter where you are in your career, there is a strategy for growing what money you do have. The real secret is to start as early as you can, and be consistent.

For starters, consider these 3 steps from Investopedia. 

1 Make Money — It may seem super obvious, but you need money to start building wealth, you gotta’ start making some money, and that likely means getting a job. Here are 4 points to consider about your career: 

Enjoyment — If you’re going to spend 8 hours a day doing something, it should hopefully be something you enjoy doing.  

Skills — Think about what you’re good at, then turn it into a career. 

Big Bucks — You may enjoy it, and you may also be good at it, but make sure it pays well enough to support your dreams.  

The Path — Consider the educational level, necessary training, and experience you’ll need to turn your passion into a paying gig. 

2 Save, Save, Save — Nothing seems more exhilarating than to get paid on Friday, spend the night on the town, check out a concert on Saturday night, and spend Sunday shopping for your next big splurge. But if you blow your hard-earned pay on every whim, you won’t have anything saved. Here’s how you can start setting money aside to build wealth. 

Keep Track — The big expenses are easy to remember (rent, car payment, etc.), but it’s the small items that really add up. The best way to keep track of what you’re spending is to log it all for one month. Yes, every expense. If you’re old school, you may consider a little notebook where you write down every purchase. If you’re high tech, you may use an app that logs every purchase. If neither of those work for you, just use one debit or credit card to make every purchase, then monitor your account activity online.  

Want or Need — Now that you’re aware of every expense for a month, categorize your spending by “needs” (food, shelter, insurance, etc.) and “wants” (basically, everything else). You’ll see the big picture of where your money is going and where you can trim your spending.  

Set Goals — Next, create a budget so you know how much is required for your needs and wants, and determine how much you can put aside each month for savings. Then, stick to that savings goal. If you meet everything in your budget — including your savings goal — then reward yourself for staying on course. 

Autopilot — If you have trouble buying too much or not meeting your savings goal, then sign up for an automatic transfer from your paycheck. Some companies even match contributions to a 401(k) or other savings plans, so take full advantage where you can. 

3 Bankroll & Invest — Now that you’ve started to build savings, the next step can be to start investing it. Remember to save some for unexpected emergencies, plus, three to six months’ worth of living expenses in case you lose your source of income.  

A general rule of thumb about investments is, the safer the investment, the lower the potential return, and vice versa for riskier investments. While there are all kinds of new ways to invest, it might be wise to start with the basics of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. 

Stocks — Basically, you’re buying a portion of a corporation. As the price per share rises, so does its worth. When you go to sell your stock, ideally your money will have grown as a dividend. It’s always smart to fundamentally understand the ideas of risk and return

Bonds — A bond is more like an IOU from a company or even the government. When you purchase a bond, the issuer promises that they will pay you back with interest after a set period of time. Bonds are the safest and the returns are usually compatible with very low risk stocks. When deciding which bonds to buy, check out the letter grade assigned to them by bond rating agencies to see your potential risk and return. 

Mutual Funds — This investment is kind of a “combo platter” of all kinds of securities, including stocks and bonds. When you buy these, you’re diversifying your investments with a variety of risks and returns. 

Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg—building wealth is a lifelong endeavor. Just remember that it’s never too late to start, and it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Get lots of advice, weigh your options, and above all else...stay away from those late-night infomercials. 

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