Three years ago, I broke free from being broke. I was 26 at the time and was worth as much then as the day I was born back in 1984. I decided that 26 years was enough time to learn that I didn’t want to be broke anymore. I knew what I needed to know. I knew:
- Our culture wants me to be broke.
- No one else will look after my money but me.
- Friends and family will encourage me to spend my money and buy nice things.
- Life is packed full of unexpected, expensive things that I’ll have to pay for.
- If I have kids, their college will be expensive.
- My income is my biggest wealth building tool.
- I never want to borrow money again.
- Being broke brings me stress and anxiety.
- I won’t be at my job forever.
I had a PhD in Dave Ramsey back in 2010. I was ready to get myself out of debt, even though the hill looked steep. I wondered if I’d be able to keep my momentum once I got out of debt to continue saving and building wealth. Luckily, because of the points above and because I wanted to change my future so badly, I was able to keep the momentum. I now have reached a point where I could go 4-5 years without a dollar of income living the luxurious life I live today without charging anything to a credit card or borrowing any money. I have friends who are charging things on their credit cards this week because they can’t pay cash for their things. I’m 4-5 years away from that and I did it in three years.
Here’s what I did and what you can do too to start growing your wealth this week:
Action#1: Decide What Kind of Future You Want For Yourself
Give your closest friends or family members a call. Invite over that person in your life that you really look up to, who lives the life you want to live. Discuss your future and the direction that you want to take your life. What does your future look like if you continue down the path you’re currently on? Will you be able to have a family, spend time with your kids, travel, relax, enjoy your best years? What would it feel like to have a big hat and no cattle (a big house, two BMW’s in the garage, a lake home and all the latest tech gadgets) but no assets? What would it feel like to bring home 200k per year only to find yourself charging your gas on credit cards because your money is all tied up in loan payments? How stressed would you be knowing you were dead broke while looking so rich? What kind of future do you want for you and your family?
Take some time to decide, once and for all, what your future will look like. If the scene of being under financial stress isn’t appealing to you, you need to decide to run the other way. Do you want to be broke or do you want financial freedom? Choose. It’s a VERY important choice that you shouldn’t take lightly. I made the decision to build wealth to change my future for the better and I will NOT look back.
Action #2: Take a Good Hard Look at Your Financial Situation
From what I can tell, it’s normal to not know what’s going on with your finances. I only know of a few people in my life who really know their financial situation. When I say, “know your financial situation”, I mean:
- You know exactly how much debt you have and who you owe it to.
- You know all the cash, savings and investments you have and where it all is.
- You know all the assets you have and what they are worth.
- You know your net worth (assets minus liabilities).
- You know how your net worth has changed over the past several years.
- You know what your household income is.
- You know how much you earn and spend each month and what your net income is.
These are all things that someone who builds wealth knows. Warren Buffet knows these things. You don’t just get wealthy by accident. You decide to do it, you plan for it, you execute on your strategy and you stay at it. You need to know the things above. My best recommendation for you is to use Mint.com. If you don’t use it, go sign up immediately. It’s one of the biggest reasons for my progress these past few years.
The steps here are. Sign up for Mint.com, connect ALL of your financial accounts (savings account, checking account, brokerage account, retirement accounts, loans, credit cards, etc.). Then, categorize every transaction and continue to do so by logging in at least 3-4 times per week for the rest of your life. Done.
Action #3: Figure Out What You Want to Work Toward
What is it that you really want in your future? How important is financial security for your family? How important is lowering your stress and anxiety? Do you want to own a home someday or if you already have one, how important is paying off your mortgage? What about your children? Would you like to pay for their college so they don’t end up in trouble like many people today are? Maybe you’re like me and have a dream of starting a business someday and want to be able to do that.
No matter what you want your future to look like, now’s the time to write down everything that you want to make happen. What are you working toward? Why are you going to work everyday and earning income? Don’t tell me you’re doing it just to be able to eat out in the evenings and go to concerts or travel on your weekends. Life isn’t just about working to consume just so you can work some more and consume some more. What the heck are you doing all this for?
Action #4: Set Goals for Your Future with Specific Timelines
Now, take that list of things you want to do in your future and get serious with it. Which ones are you actually going to make happen and which ones will you leave up to chance? You likely can’t do them all, at least not right now. So take those that are non-negotiable and write them on a new list. Next, figure out when you will want/need to have them done by. This is somewhat arbitrary as you don’t 100% know what life will give you in the future but just pick dates.
Want to have your mortgage paid off in 10 years? Write it down. Want to start a business in 5 years, put it down. Personally, I have a financial goal of having at least $100,000 in investments on my 30th birthday, which is coming up quick in under a year. I’m going to make that goal happen. I am that serious about it.
We all need goals. I need them and you need them. They should be hard goals too. Don’t wimp out on yourself. Set some hard goals and tell other people about them so they can hold you accountable. Setting goals is probably the most important thing you can do to change your future. It has been in my life.
Action #5: Change your Present Direction to Point Toward Your Big Goals
Look, hopping on the freeway that’s going to take me to a $100,000 investment portfolio by the time I’m 30 is not the same road that I used to be on. I had a zero net worth at 26. What would my net worth have been if I had stayed on that path? Um, it would have been zero by 30. I know all kinds of people who have already turned 30 or will be soon that likely have a zero net worth. That would have been me. But instead, I’m planning to pass the 30 year old mark with a 6 figure investment portfolio and be well on my way to reaching financial independence.
Quick, put your blinker on, squeeze in between the two cars next to you, move over and take this next off-ramp if you need to. Get off of the road that’s taking you in the wrong direction. Once you set your goals and figure out where you want to be by when, get on the right path to get there. That means changing yourself, who you’re friends with (in some cases) and what you do. I used to watch TV almost every night. I now only turn my TV on once a week because I’m blogging so much. I used to smoke. I’m now riding my bike to work. I used to eat at Taco Johns several times a week. I now bring my own lunch to work 5 days a week. I used to buy toys all the time in Best Buy. Today, I don’t step foot in that place.
I changed my habits. In the process, I’ve made incredible progress in just 3 years, going from nothing to 4-5 times my annual expenses in savings/investments. I’m on track to make my goal by 30. I may have to make pretty big sacrifices still too. But, I’m ready and willing to make them. My goals are important to me and I set my date, which means I will do whatever I can to make it. Will you do all you can to make the things that matter most to you happen?