Building Wealth: The First Step Toward Gaining Your Financial Independence

by Alexander Green, Chief Investment Strategist
Monday, March 1, 2010: Issue #1206

My staff often forwards me letters from readers with the same general complaint about building wealth:

You give me all these great investment ideas, but where do I get the money to invest in them?

Ah, there’s the rub. It reminds me of the time a television interviewer asked Chinese billionaire Li Ka-shing to share “the secret of great wealth.”

“Great wealth, very easy,” he said in broken English with a toothy grin. Then frowning and shaking his head he added, “Little wealth, very difficult.”

How true. As Americans are fond of saying, “It takes money to make money.”

So how do you get started?

Most of us know the first two prerequisites:

  1. Get educated (or learn a specialized skill).
  2. Bust your butt.

But then what? How do you turn this generality into building real independent wealth?

The Seven Common Characteristics of Great Wealth-Builders

That’s where Dr. Thomas Stanley comes in.

As America’s foremost authority on the affluent, he’s conducted decades of research on the habits and characteristics of America’s wealthy.

He’s written several bestsellers including, Marketing to the Affluent and The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealth.

Dr. Stanley points out that the vast majority of millionaires do not have exceptional skills. Most of them do not have hit records. They do not play third base for the Yankees. They did not found a software company in their garage. Instead, they’re people who have worked and saved and invested their money prudently.

In The Millionaire Next Door, Stanley details seven common denominators among those who build wealth successfully:

  • They live well below their means.
  • They allocate their time, energy, and money efficiently, in ways conducive to building wealth.
  • They believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status.
  • Their parents did not provide economic outpatient care.
  • Their adult children are economically self-sufficient.
  • They are proficient in targeting market opportunities.
  • They chose the right occupation.

In short, your net worth is essentially a result of the choices you make…

Building Wealth: The Difference Between Acting Wealthy and Being Wealthy

To generate significant savings to invest, you need to make the right career decisions, the right lifestyle decisions and the right spending decisions. Building wealth takes forethought. It takes discipline. And it means making hard choices.

Dr. Stanley hammers this message home in his latest book. It’s called Stop Acting Rich… and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire. It’s not a book for debtors and spenders who want compassion and understanding. Rather, it’s a wake-up call for the millions of consumers out there who are living far beyond their means.

Most millionaires – folks with liquid assets of one million dollars or more – are not big spenders. Quite the opposite, in fact.

According to Stanley, the most productive accumulators of wealth spend far less than can afford on homes, cars, clothing, taxes, vacations, food, beverages and entertainment.

On the other hand, the wanna-be’s – people with higher-than-average incomes, but not much net worth) are merely “aspirational.” They buy expensive clothes, top-shelf wines and liquors, luxury cars, powerboats, all kinds of bling and more house than they can comfortably afford.

Their problem, in essence, is that they’re trying to look wealthy. And this prevents them from ever becoming wealthy.

Building Wealth With The “Millionaire Mindset”

The real irony is that most rich people don’t spend this way themselves. Sure, the “glittering rich” do. They have households with a net worth of $10 million or more, because they can comfortably afford it.

But the vast majority of millionaires in the United States:

  • Live in a house that cost less than $400,000.
  • Are more likely to wear a Timex than a Rolex.
  • Generally pay less than $15 for a bottle of wine.
  • Have never paid more than $400 for a suit.
  • Are more likely to drive a Nissan than a BMW.
  • Spend very little on prestige brands and luxury items.

Yes, they’re frugal. But they’re also happy, not to mention financially free. They’re not dependent on their families, employers, or the government. That’s a great feeling.

And they built wealth the old-fashioned way. They maximized their income, minimized their expenditure and religiously saved the difference.

In short, the first step toward building wealth and gaining financial independence is clear: Live beneath your means.

Or, as Dr. Stanley says, “Stop acting rich… and start living like a real millionaire.”

Good investing,

Alexander Green

Editor’s Note: With today being the first day of March, make it the day you get started (or continue) on the path towards generating true, independent wealth.

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