What to do instead
Even the front door was impressive. I arrived at this guy’s house in the sunny south of Portugal and was greeted by the maid. Smiling, she let me in and took me to the back of the house, where he sat by the swimming pool with his wife.
I was there to interview him for the book I was writing about his family. He was a self-made millionaire, who had emigrated from Portugal to France as a child with his parents, and built an empire from the ground up.
Just a few months before, he had taken me to his childhood home. After an hour inside, we were relieved to come out, shivering because of the lack of heating and the house’s poor conditions.
How This Guy Got Rich
Sparing you the details of his life story, what you need to know is this: he spent all his 20s building the foundation of the life he has now.
Together, he and his wife had 3 jobs and lived in a tiny apartment in Paris. They had a broken old car and worked extra hours regularly. They saved every penny they could. They put off having kids just so they could focus on work and delay baby-related expenses. And even when they finally welcomed their first child, they continued living in that tiny apartment — even though they had the means to move and live a more comfortable life.
Then, in their early-mid 30s, they achieved two amazing things in just a couple of years: they built a big, comfortable family house, and he started his own company successfully. He did it using the money they had saved over the previous decade.
20 years later, he’s a millionaire. He has a few businesses and a few houses. He has the life many of us dream about but are too lazy to work for. We want it easy, but easy is rarely the way.
Your Job Will Not Make You Real Money
Most people I know have one full-time job and live an average life. They dream of a fat bank account and the lifestyle that comes with it, but they do absolutely nothing about it…
Going to work for 8 hours a day counts as nothing.
Even with career and salary progression and working in a well-paid area of activity, you will never get rich. You are likely to achieve a comfortable life, where you don’t need to worry much about money. You can live in a decent house, go on holiday a couple of times a year, buy new clothes when you need them, and give a good education to your children.
But if you want more than this, you need to do more.
You need to break the mold. And let go of all the bullshit you were told while growing up. Money doesn’t come to those who go the extra mile at work. It comes to those who walk the miles outside of work.
Let’s do some maths…
Data shows that, on average, US workers saved 13,7% of their salary in 2020 — an especially high number that can be explained by the pandemic. For example, the year before, the average savings stood way below, at only 7,6%.
But let’s be optimistic and consider a 13,7% savings rate. The average salary in the US is $48,516 per year. This means that after a whole year of savings, you will have $6,646 in your bank account. If you work for 40 years, by the time you retire, you will have saved $265,867. Not a bad figure, but when you consider that this is the result of a whole life of working and saving… it’s far from ideal.
If you are lucky enough to be one of the 9% of Americans who make a 6 figure salary, the calculations are naturally better but still far from being spectacular. With an annual salary of $100,000, you could save more, but lifestyle inflation is a real thing. The more you earn, the higher your average spendings go. So, let’s keep considering a 13,70% saving rate. After 40 years of work, you would retire with $548,000 in your savings account. A whole life working, and you’re only a half millionaire.
What To Do Instead
If you won’t reach your financial goals simply by working a full-time job, how can you achieve them? Start by taking the steps below.
1. Have a side hustle
Glorify them or vilify them; the truth is that, for most people, the income generated through side hustles is the only money that is left at the end of the month. Therefore, it’s crucial; this is your base to achieve everything else.
Side Hustle Nation shows that in 2021, out of all the US respondents who have a side hustle, 38% use the money to have more personal freedom, while 27% use the income to save, spend or invest.
It doesn’t mean you will have to balance a day job and a side hustle for the rest of your life. But money generates money, and you need to get the initial sum somewhere. This is where you start.
You don’t need to save a big amount before starting to invest it; it can even be as little as $100. But as soon as you have some extra money, it is time to take the next step: invest.
Read books and articles, watch videos, talk to people who have done it. Get informed before making any decision, but also don’t get paralyzed by fear. Start investing small amounts, and increase them as you gain more experience.
3. Use credit to your advantage
Once you reach a certain level with your personal finance, you will have easy access to credit. While this is a word that tends to scare people off, you can use it to your benefit. There are a couple of ways in which you can do it.
Credit cards give you access to discounts and perks, such as miles with airline companies. As long as you pay your credit in due time, you can use this mechanism to rip off benefits without compromising your financial health.
Another way to make the best out of credit is through real estate investment. Real estate is one of the most secure and profitable investments you can make. And if you buy to rent out, having credit will lower the amount of taxes you pay on your profits.
4. Spot opportunities and take chances
Most rich people I know had the courage to take a risky opportunity. They spotted a need in the market and created a product or a service to fulfill it. They accepted a low-paid job with amazing potential to establish connections in their field. Or maybe they took advantage of geoarbitrage. Whatever it was, they did something out of the ordinary. Cliché as it sounds, it is the only way to reach extraordinary results.
There is nothing wrong with having an average life and an average salary. You can be tremendously happy having just enough to get by because money doesn’t buy happiness.
What’s wrong is to have dreams and do nothing about them. To envy the lifestyle of the rich and yet not take one single step to earn that lifestyle for yourself. To be jealous of those who reached what you aim for, without stopping for a second to think about the sacrifices they made.
More often than not, behind a wealthy person, there are countless hours of work, many risks taken, financial and emotional instability for years, and a lot of courage and perseverance. It’s a tradeoff; everything in life is. You just need to realize this and make your choice. Having one thing means not having another. It’s that simple.