We all wish we could be wealthy. For most of us, it’s a far-off dream that someday, eventually, we might be able to turn ourselves into self-made millionaires. But the truth is, building wealth isn’t about putting all your hopes into “someday.” You’re never too old to start building wealth, but if you start when you’re young, you have far greater potential to amass a fortune—and more time to let that fortune compound itself as you grow older.
That being said, life in your 20s and 30s is not without its challenges; you might have student debt, a tenuous career and dozens of unknowns that keep you from doing everything you’d like to build your wealth faster. There’s no straightforward way to guarantee yourself a rich future, but these seven strategies can help you do it while you’re still young.
1. Stop procrastinating.
The folly of youth is believing that there’s always enough time for everything. Youngsters often believe that retirement, or wealth building, is something that comes later in life, and are more preoccupied with the concerns of the now. Unfortunately, this often leads to a cycle of “Oh, I should do that next month,” month after month, until before you know it, you’re 10 years older and you’ve missed out on a decade’s worth of compounding interest. The first step is to stop procrastinating; saving and investing is scary, but the longer you wait to do it, the fewer advantages you have.
2. Know that there is no magic.
My use of the word “secrets” in the title of this article might have brought you here hoping for a guaranteed, almost magical solution to make you wealthy. There isn’t one. The fundamental objectives are simple: Make more than you spend, and use the excess to invest wisely. How you invest is up to you (with a few caveats below), but the obvious goal is to make investments that have a high likelihood of making you more money in the future. That’s it. The ways to achieve this are by making more money, spending less and investing more wisely.
3. Invest in yourself.
Your next goal should be to invest in yourself; you are the best resource you have to accumulate wealth. Investing in yourself means spending more time on your education, refining your own skill sets and branching out to meet new people who might help you achieve your goals. The more educated, skilled, experienced and connected you are, the more valuable opportunities you’re going to get, which means higher salaries and more options for you down the road, both of which will help you build a stronger financial foundation.
4. Create a budget.
Remember the steps from point 2: Make more money, spend less and invest wisely. Point 3 covered making more money, and this one covers spending less. Make a detailed budget for yourself based on your projected income and your current expenses. Set firm limits for your expenses, and keep a close eye on where most of your money goes—you might be surprised at some of the areas where you waste the most money. Once identified, you can start refining your budget to spend as little as possible, and funnel the rest into a savings or investment program.
5. Pay down your debt.
Before you start regularly saving and investing money, it’s usually a good idea to pay down any debts you may have accumulated. Credit card debt, student debt, and even car loans can carry heavy interest rates that drag you down, demanding monthly installments that chip away at your revenue while racking up additional interest and penalties that take away even more money from your future self. Don’t let this eat away at your potential; make it a first-line priority to get rid of your debt as soon as possible.
6. Take risks.
You’re young. You have a lot of years ahead of you. Now is the time to take risks. Invest in higher-risk, higher-payoff stock opportunities. Consider quitting your job to start your own business. Jump on new ventures and new opportunities. If things go south, you’ll have plenty of time to make up for it. Most wealthy individuals will tell you one of their greatest keys to success has been taking calculated risks. The majority of the population sticks with the safe route, so if you want to break away from the pack, you have to try something new, possibly something uncomfortable.
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Even though risk-taking is a generally rewarding strategy in your 20s and 30s, it’s also a good idea to diversify your efforts. Don’t build up just one skill set, or one set of professional connections. Don’t rely on one type of investment, and don’t gamble all your savings on one venture. Instead, try to set up multiple income streams, generate several backup plans for your goals and businesses, and hedge your bets by looking for new opportunities everywhere. This will protect you from catastrophic losses, and increase your chances of striking it big in one of your ventures.
By applying these seven secrets in full swing, you’ll be able to start accumulating wealth no matter where you are in life. Yes, the first steps are hard—paying down your debt, establishing your credentials, building an investment portfolio, etc—but if you do it early and do it right, you’ll set yourself up for massive financial success later on.