Secret to Wealth

BLUF:

Everyone is always looking for the secret to wealth, but what is it? Inheritance from rich parents, picking that great stock, winning the lottery?

Actually the Secret to Wealth is simple: Spend less than you make, wisely invest the savings, and avoid significant debt. Yep, that’s it. Time is your friend and will do all the rest through compounding, so start as early as possible.

While the Secret to Wealth is quite “simple”, that doesn’t mean building wealth is easy. Each of the 3 pillars mentioned (1. spend les than you make, 2. wisely invest the savings, and 3. avoid significant debt) is a class on their own, and we will delve deep into each of these. I created the Roadmap to Wealth to help you get started immediately on the path to wealth. It provides a hierarchy of saving and investing for both military and non-military members. Note it doesn’t include a Health Savings Account (HSA) since I am assuming a military family where their health care is provided and they do not have the option for a high-deductible plan (requirement to use a HSA).

Your action for today is to download the file and read it and hopefully start working on it, or even better check off several you’ve already completed and more rapidly pursue the rest.

Early Personal Biases

I had different thoughts about how to build wealth when I was young and some of you may have shared the same misconceptions or biases. As a child, I grew up in a household that held an obvious disdain for the rich, and remember from listening to my parents over the years built up a similar negative attitude towards the rich. They just came from money, cheated others out of money, evaded taxes, etc. Maybe it was jealously, or personal disappoint, but that type of attitude definitely influences the children as all the siblings initially shared this misguided perspective. While there are definitely a great deal of inequities, dishonesty, and cheating in our society, wealth building is really just about your own choices and behaviors with money and doesn’t depend on others. Getting older, I realized coming from humble beginnings is in many ways much better for wealth building although it might seem initially counter-intuitive.

Questions About Millionaires and Wealth

Check Your Bias as I had to…

To reflect and evaluate our own biases, and how we grew up thinking about money, the rich, and how they achieved wealth below are a number of questions for you to quickly answer for yourselves.  Don’t search on Google or anything to find the answers, but just go with your gut instinct and feel free to answer in the comments. I’ll provide the answers in the next post.

  1. What percent of Americans could cover a $1000 emergency with savings (i.e., not requiring using credit/debt to pay for a bill like new car tires, etc.)?
  2. What percent of millionaires in US are first-generation, self-made millionaires (i.e., no inheritance, no lottery, etc.)?
  3. What was median household income of a family when they built their first $1M ($1 million) in net worth (i.e., Assets – Liabilities = $1 million)?
  4. On average, how long did it take these millionaires to build their first $1M in net worth?
  5. What is the average person’s age when they built their first $1M in net worth?
  6. What percent graduated from college (4 year bachelors)?
  7. What percent attended elite prestigious private school (i.e., highly expensive)?
  8. What percent attended public state schools (i.e., relatively affordable)?
  9. What percent of millionaires said single-stock investing was a significant factor in their financial success?

Resources

The above questions are common from a number of independent studies of the wealthy over the years, and the results are remarkably consistent. Some questions were even being studied before 1900. The following are great books to read that relate the details of these studies: The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley (1996) (my first and most important initial book I read on building wealth), The Millionaire Mind (2000) and Stop Acting Rich (2009) by Thomas Stanley, The Next Millionaire Next Door by Sarah Stanley Fallaw and Thomas Stanley (2018), and The National Study of Millionaires by Chris Hogan (2020).

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