With all the legislative changes happening in Washington D.C., it’s as important as ever to focus on your financial future. The first step for most is earning as much as you can or figuring how to maximize income.
To generate a truly sizable income, however, you have to stay disciplined and be willing to make some big moves outside your comfort zone. Here’s what else you need to know to become rich and successful.
How to Become a Millionaire
There’s no secret solution for getting rich or a miracle formula for how to become a millionaire, especially in a short amount of time. Avoid spammy money-making websites and scams promising to teach you how to become rich overnight or how to become rich in one day.
You won’t find an alternative to hard work, but you can use these nine steps as an initial roadmap for getting rich:
1. Contribute the Maximum to an Employer-Matched Retirement Plan
You’re essentially throwing money away if you’re not contributing the maximum amount to your company’s employer-match retirement plan. The most common employer contribution for Vanguard defined-benefit plans, for example, is 50-cents per dollar on up to 6 percent of pay, according to the company’s “How America Saves” report for 2017.
Under this matching plan, employees earning $50,000 per year with an employer-matched 401k of up to 6 percent can earn an extra $1,500 annually simply by investing the maximum contribution toward their retirement. You’ll also save the money you contribute to your account, doubling your retirement savings at half the cost to you.
Find Out: Big 401k Questions to Ask Your Employer
2. Surround Yourself With Successful People
It’s only natural to emulate the behaviors of your peers, so the company you keep can either boost you up or drag you down. When you surround yourself with successful people, you feel inspired to reach your full potential.
Successful people also stick together and support one another, so when your network is filled with wealthy and driven contacts, it’s easy to connect with people who encourage self-motivation.
3. Pay Off Your Credit Card Balance in Full Each Month
Using a credit card to pay for purchases is safe and convenient, and might even help you earn reward points that save you money. Don’t spend more money than you have in the bank, however, as you’ll pay a hefty price to live above your means.
The national average for credit card annual percentage rates is over 16 percent. Charging $5,000 to a credit card with a 16 percent APR and paying the minimum payment of approximately $100 per month would cost $3,294 in interest over the 83 months it would take to pay off the debt.
Cover the Basics: What Is APR?
4. Invest More Than You Spend
As your income rises, it can be tempting to take on an increasingly lavish lifestyle. Resist the temptation to live in luxury and instead put money into your investments.
During high school, Warren Buffett and a friend purchased a pinball machine to put in a barbershop. They reinvested the money they earned into buying more machines to put in other shops. When they sold their business, Buffet invested the proceeds by purchasing stock options and starting another small business, and today he has an estimated net worth of $84.2 billion. That’s not to say you should go buy a pinball machine tomorrow, however, investing and reinvesting your money, rather than spending it on non-essentials, will have a positive impact on your net worth.
Related: How to Calculate Your Net Worth
5. Work Hard at What You Love
To get rich, you’re going to have to work for it. Everyone would be rich if it was easy, so you must be willing to earn your money the old-fashioned way — by putting in long hours.
One would think that the rich would use their wealth to reduce the number of hours they work. In fact, the wealthy work more. Choosing work that’s deeply meaningful to you is likely to make those long hours as pleasurable as they are lucrative.
6. Generate Multiple Forms of Income
Employment can be unstable, so rich people diversify their sources of income. In addition to wages or salary earned from their primary jobs, they also earn money from investments and profit-generating side ventures like rental properties. Solid money-making ideas can help them amass their wealth much more quickly and provide a sense of financial security if one form of income dries up.
7. Commit S.M.A.R.T. Goals to Writing
Writing down your financial goals increases your likelihood of achieving them, and sharing your goals and your progress with family and friends magnifies the effect. When those goals are S.M.A.R.T. — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound — there’s no limit to what you can achieve.
Start with a specific goal, such as saving $5,000 over the next 12 months, and evaluate it for the other S.M.A.R.T. criteria. Once you’ve got your S.M.A.R.T. goal outline, break the large goal into smaller tasks, and establish milestones for tracking your progress. Perhaps you’ll save a certain dollar amount from each paycheck and earmark windfall income for deposit or retirements.
8. Invest in Yourself
Whether you’re self-employed or work as an employee in someone else’s company, investing in yourself increases your value and your earnings.
Education is a key factor in an individual’s likelihood of achieving wealth, but acquiring and improving marketable skills is also important. Consider earning a professional certification in your field or working with a mentor. Workshops, webinars and industry events provide additional opportunities to advance your skills.
9. Set Aside Emergency Funds
An emergency fund can save you from paralyzing debt after a financial setback and keep you grounded on the pathway to reach your wealth-building goals. But you must get creative if you’re already struggling to make ends meet.
You’ll need three to six months of living expenses for your emergency fund. List unwanted items on social media sale sites, devote windfall income like tax refunds and cash gifts to emergency savings and moonlight, whether temporarily or for the longer term, to make money fast.
Stay Focused On Your Goals
No matter how many of these steps you use, your path to wealth is likely to take a detour or two. An undoubted secret of getting rich is to anticipate these setbacks. Plan for them. Learn from them. And then, refocus on hitting your goals to get rich.
Up Next: 18 Resolutions to Get Rich in 2018
Laura Woods contributed to the reporting for this article.