As the title suggests, this article does not have some magical way of getting rich. Personally, there’s nothing easy or quick about getting rich. It also does not contain specific investment advice on what to invest in or what to buy. Rather, this article aims to provide you with a clear, objective and long-term mental model on how to view wealth and your finances.
I am not a financial advisor, nor am I some financial expert or guru. I’m just a guy on the internet passionate about personal finance. Anything written in this article should be taken as a stream of personal thoughts to aid you in making financial decisions, rather than financial advice.
That said, I believe that there are three main components to building wealth.
- Reducing liabilities
- Increasing earning power
I like to think of wealth as a pipeline system. Your liabilities affect the diameter or the size of your pipe(s). Your earning power affects the amount of water flowing through it. And finally, investing affects the number of pipes you own. Adding on to this analogy, there are many factors that affect the efficiency of a pipeline system. In essence, you need to have multiple huge pipes with lots of water flowing through them to accumulate wealth effectively.
The first step of building wealth is to reduce your liabilities—in other words, start saving. By this, I don’t mean pinching every penny you make or living like a monk and owning nothing. I’m referring to spending only on things that can sustainably bring you value.
We as humans are naturally attracted to shiny new things, but what we don’t realise is that we are often paying more for the “shine” rather than the actual value underneath it. This will mean different things for different people, but the key to saving is looking past the shiny parts and valuing items from a fundamental perspective. Do I really need this? What will I do with this? Where else can I better spend my money? With this conscious understanding of how you are spending your money, you’ll realise that most things are simply not worth it.
However, these things take time. It’s difficult to change your spending habits overnight. I see the ability to save money as an ever-improving process. To me it is better to slowly reduce your spending, rather than saving intensely for two weeks before relapsing back into your previous habits. It’s important to save sustainably, rather than in short pulses at a time.
Increasing earning power
Savings alone won’t make you rich; if you’re not making much money, there’s nothing to save. On the other hand, you could be earning a fortune, but if you don’t know how to keep it, it’s pointless as well.
Note that this step should be done in conjunction with the previous one, as both are useless without the other.
Once you find a sustainable way to save your money, you can now focus on increasing your earning power. Again, this could mean many things to different people. You could work another job or start a side hustle; all of these things work. More importantly, you need to be able to do it sustainably. What good is a high-paying side-hustle if it drains you out every single day?
Fundamentally, your earning power is proportional to the value you bring. To increase your earning power, you have to increase your value. And to increase your value, you need to keep learning. Therefore, by adopting a constantly learning mentality, your earning power will naturally and inevitably increase over time.
Of course, this process takes time as well. The key here is to be able to learn sustainably. However, it’s hard to tell whether you’ll be able to do something sustainably without trying it out. Or maybe what you are keen on learning doesn’t add value to other people’s lives. Many things can go wrong when trying to learn new things to increase your earning power. Learning, unlearning and relearning is all part of the long, tedious process. That’s why it’s important to reduce your liabilities first. With lesser liabilities and more savings, it gives you more security to keep learning and trying until you find a sustainable way of increasing your income.
By increasing your earning power and increasing your rate of saving, this means that your wealth should already be slowly increasing. Saving and earning is a largely linear process, however. While it is possible to become wealthy just by earning and saving, it’s not the most effective way.
Investing has the aspect of compounding. By investing in wealth-generating assets, you let your money work for you. But, of course, the more money you have, the more effective this will be. That’s why it’s so important to prioritise saving and earning.
There are also many investment instruments to choose from: Stocks, ETFs, bonds, real estate or even cryptocurrencies. While I am not going into each one of these instruments in detail, the key idea in managing your investments is to manage risk and reward. Investing can seem daunting. With so many different courses and products from a wealth of companies and “investment gurus”, it’s unsurprising how most people get overwhelmed by decision fatigue even before getting started. What worked for me is to start small with something that you understand.
ETFs and Unit trusts are what I started with—I consider these lower-risk investments. The idea is to take more risk with lesser money after having a solid base of lower-risk investments and a solid understanding of them. You can be exposed to a higher return on investments on riskier investments this way, while reducing your risk by owning lower-risk investments that generate returns.
If this sounds confusing, take a look at the example below. Imagine you have $200 dollars and you are deciding on where to invest it.
$200 in an ETF that gives you 10% a year
$200 in a stock that can either double or halve in a year
$150 in an ETF that gives you 10% a year
$50 in a stock that can either double or halve in a year
On one hand, Case A is a safe option with stable low returns, but it will probably take a long time to make any life-changing amount of money. On the other hand, Case B is probably too risky for most people as the point of investing is to be able to take your mind off your money while you focus on increasing your value. With a high risk like that, it’ll be hard not to check on it every single day. Thus, the idea is to split your money between low risk-low reward assets and high risk-high rewards assets like in Case C.
Of course, the strategy you adopt will depend on things like your time horizon and risk tolerance. But, as with everything mentioned so far, this process is ever-changing and takes time. As you learn more and grow as an investor, your risk tolerance and strategy will keep changing. But the key is to start as the longer you have to invest, the higher the chances that you will be successful.
Hopefully, you’ve gained a better insight into how to accumulate and build wealth. It’s easy to work on each of these things individually, but the ability to work on all three of these components of wealth building at the same time is what will make someone wealthy in the long term.
That said, I would also like to mention that money isn’t everything. As an energetic young adult myself, it’s so easy to get caught up with earning money that you unconsciously forsake everything else. Having more money doesn’t always mean that you are getting wealthier. You could be rich in relationships. You could be rich in happiness. At the end of the day, the money you earn won’t follow you to your grave.
My final advice is: As you embark on your journey to building wealth, it’s always useful to periodically check back on the many aspects of your life as well. As long as you adopt this constant balancing and readjusting approach to managing your life as a whole. You’ll be well on your way to becoming wealthy.
What is your strategy to become wealthy? Feel free to leave any thoughts or questions in the comments below!