3 Obvious Ways to Build Wealth

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You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to build wealth. The wealthy understand that while being smart can certainly help you earn money, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll build wealth with your earnings.

Likewise, being famous doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to build wealth. Sure, it can help, but there are countless stories of those who earn a ton of money only to watch it disappear seemingly overnight.

So, what are the secrets to building wealth? And, once you build wealth, how do you keep it? The truth is that the “secrets” to building wealth really aren’t secrets at all.

They are simply common sense behaviors that, when practiced with purpose and over a long period of time, are likely to result in a pool full of cash. Let’s take a look at some of these behaviors.

1. Say “no” to debt.

Saying “no” to debt is truly a behavior at the heart of so many wealthy individuals. Why? It has something to do with interest rates.

Student loans, credit cards, personal loans, car loans, and many other types of debt all have interest rates. Some of these rates are higher than others, but one thing is guaranteed: you will pay a lot more money than necessary if you make minimum payments on a loan, and the interest rates will slowly drain any wealth you do have.

Unfortunately, that’s where many people get stuck. They are so used to debt, they think it’s normal and shrug it off as a way of life. Sure, it might be a way of life for some people, but it doesn’t have to be a way of life for you.

The way to get out of debt is to focus your energy on saying “no” to more debt. Make money fast, you might choose to attack your debt even faster than you might initially think possible.

2. Practice discipline and invest for the long-term.

It can be all too easy to get caught up in the hype of this stock or that stock. The media continually reports this or that “new hot stock.” Don’t fall for the trap. It is always better to diversify your investments and not get carried away by the allure of quick wealth.

The number one behavior that inevitably leads to more wealth is staying disciplined. Emotions are very real and very dangerous, and it’s hard to be objective about your money, especially when people around us are talking about doom and gloom as it relates to the economy. Most of your money is invested for the long-term – do not make short-term decisions about your long-term money.

The best way to get market-like returns is not to meddle with your investment mix. If you do, the probability of achieving your financial goals will most likely go down. Predicting where the stock market is headed and making decisions off the prediction is a fool’s game. It requires a crystal ball – and no one has a crystal ball. Stay disciplined.

3. Stay frugal.

It’s human nature for any increase in income to be immediately swallowed by lifestyle improvements, a phenomenon known as ‘lifestyle creep’. Avoid lifestyle creep and build guaranteed increases into your savings plan by changing the way you think about annual raises. The next time you are presented with a raise, challenge yourself to save half of the increase, and ‘creep’ with the other half. This strategy will allow you to pay yourself first, enjoy the fruits of your labor, and build wealth over time.

It’s better to stay frugal, build wealth, and have a firm financial position rather than squander your money on things that you really don’t need – especially over the long-term.

Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Money

cultivate moneyCultivating a healthy relationship with money is the foundation of a rich and happy life. Just like any other relationship, for your money to blossom, it needs attention and care. You don’t want to stifle it with worry and fear, but you also don’t want to be careless. You need to get to understand it, treasure it, and not be afraid to let it go. If you strike the right balance, it will always be there for you.

The first step to understanding money is to figure out how much you need to live the way you want. You can spend your whole life pursuing more money, or you can figure out what it takes to live and be happy. Money is a tool to fund your life – when you think about money as a tool, it’s easier to plan.

How much do you need to meet your necessary expenses?

The mortgage, the rent, your other fixed bills, your life & health insurance, your kid’s education? How much is an important number because you if you can’t afford your basic lifestyle, life becomes one big money worry.

The next hard step: Regular saving

This trips many people up. It usually involves delayed gratification, and we don’t like that. It also involves investing, which can seem scary and complicated. But we must save for the things or experiences we want soon and in the future, and we must invest to prevent our money from losing value due to inflation.

Retirement is the most daunting savings need of all because it involves big numbers and many assumptions – assumptions on our longevity, health, returns on investment, inflation rates, etc. For most of us, our CPF is the only source of income we will have in retirement besides our savings. For this reason, saving at least 10% of take-home income each year (or more if you start late) is critical.
After you understand how much money you need to meet your emergency fund, your necessary expenses and your retirement savings, then you can focus on what else you want to create a rich and happy life. A healthy relationship with money means knowing that you can’t have everything. Instead, you figure out what in life brings you the most joy and satisfaction, and you prioritize those things.

You will know you have achieved a healthy relationship with money when you worry less about it and start feeling good about how you are spending and saving it. Get started working on this most important relationship now for a happier future.

Money Advice that Don’t Grow Old

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Many recommendations I’ve made are as applicable today as they will be in future, and they bear repeating. Here are some of the best financial moves for you to consider:

1. Understanding and managing your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about money is as important as understanding how money works. Our brains are programmed to make poor financial decisions. Exploring your money history and learning to identify your unconscious beliefs about money can change your financial behaviours forever. It is important to gain control of your finances and become comfortable using money as the valuable tool it is.

2. Building an emergency reserve to cover living expenses for three to months if you lose your job or experience a business slump is a necessity. If you are retired, having one to three years of cash available to cover living expenses can help you avoid taking money out of investments when their value has declined.

3. Retirement will happen, sooner than you think. Start early — as in the day after university graduation — and be consistent in investing at least 20 percent of your paycheck.

4. Learn to appreciate the word “budget”. Creating a way to track and manage income and expenses is an essential skill to thrive financially. Numerous free or inexpensive tools, like Mint.com and Expensify, can help.

5. Run from consumer debt. Personally, I use credit cards for almost every purchase for convenience and cash back rewards. However, it’s of vital importance to pay the card off every month, without fail.

6. A house is a home, not an investment. Don’t buy more home than you can afford, and don’t buy without a down payment.

7. No asset goes up forever. Price declines, even crashes, are part and parcel of investing. It’s essential to understand that the value of your portfolio will fluctuate. Be prepared to ride out downturns. Selling in a down market is a big mistake that will cost you dearly.

8. The fundamental strategy for managing market ups and downs is asset class diversification. This doesn’t mean having money in different banks, with different brokers, or with different fund managers. It’s about having a good balance of mutual/exchange-traded funds that invest in SG and International stocks, SG and International government bonds, real estate investment trusts, commodities and junk bonds.

9. There are no free investments. Pay attention to the fees associated with any investment, as well as how the advisor recommending any investment is compensated.

10. Pay yourself first. The most successful savers and investors I know simply take all their fixed expenses, taxes, and retirement plan contributions off their income earned, then spend the rest. This means learning to live on 30% to 50% of how much you earn. Certainly, it isn’t easy, but one of the most valuable money habits to cultivate is to save something for the future, instead of spending everything that comes in.

You may have likely heard of these pieces of advice before. There’s a reason for that: it works, and never goes out of style.

Are You Ready to Invest?

In the midst of the recent anxiety and unpredictability of the global financial markets, many investors have been left wondering if this is still a good time to look for investment opportunities. As with everything in life, there are two sides to the same story. On the one hand, the economic turmoil could be taken as a clear sign to rush out and away from the market. On the other hand, an economic turmoil can be a signal for long-term investors to slowly work their way into the market, following the belief that crises are often opportunities in disguise. What most people forget, however, is to ask whether they are even in a position to invest. The basic questions: “Are you financially ready to invest?”, “How do you determine if you are financially ready to invest?” and “What have you done so far to gauge your financial readiness?” are furthest from their minds.

How To Assess If You Are Financially Ready

Determining your financial readiness is not simply estimating how much you have in your bank account. There are 3 barometers of financial health that you will have to check yourself against: Personal Income and Expenses Statement, Personal Net Worth Statement and Financial Ratios. Only when you systematically review your finances will you be aware of your readiness to invest in the future. Let us go through the 3 barometers so that you will be more aware of what they are and how they can give you an idea of where you are financially.

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Establish Your Current Financial Standing

Firstly, you should be able to keep a good track of the money entering and leaving your wallet. You can achieve this through a personal income and expenses statement, a tabulation of your monthly income and expenses. Someone who is financially sound will have greater money inflow than outflow.

The next step in determining your financial readiness is to identify your assets and liabilities and compile them in a Personal Net Worth Statement. This statement shows you whether you are a positive net worth individual with many assets or whether you are a negative net worth individual, one who is hung up with the many liabilities of life.

Finally, to really determine if you are financially ready, you must understand important financial ratios that will assist you in seeing the bigger picture of your financial health. Here are 3 financial ratios you need to be aware of:

1. Basic Liquidity Ratio = Cash or Cash Equivalents (Liquid Assets) / Monthly Expenses

This ratio provides an indication on the number of months a person could continue to meet his/her expenses from existing cash or cash equivalent assets after a total loss of income. We should have liquid assets equal to 3 to 6 months expenses in an emergency fund.

2. Savings Ratio = Savings / Gross Income

This ratio provides an indication of what percentage of gross income an individual is setting aside for future consumption. A ratio of 10% or more is healthy.

3. Investment Assets to Net Worth Ratio = Total Invested Assets / Net Worth

This ratio provides an indication of the value of investment assets as against net worth. This would show how well an individual is advancing towards wealth accumulation goals. A person should have a ratio of at least 50% and it should get higher as retirement approaches.