I am a 40 year old male with an approximate net worth of 2.2 million, which includes 700k of liquid assets. All of this was self-made. I have relatives who have died with net worths of upwards of 4–5 million but none of that was left to me. I did this through a combination of very hard work, disciplined investing, delayed gratification, and did I mention hard work (2800 hours per year from 1999 through about 2013).
Here are some of the characteristics that I see that i had at the age of 24 that led me to this point –
1 – Delayed gratification – I find it kind of funny that this is one of the factors I’ve managed to really master given that as a teenager I had very little impulse control but this really is key. In college many of my contemporaries would use student loan money to go on trips or buy vehicles whereas I was content with buying Taco Bell as a treat and driving a 15 year old car that belonged to my parents. In my mid to late 20s many of my friends moved into nicer houses and drove much nicer cars than I could have ever dreamed of affording. When I worked for a large firm downtown I would constantly feel embarrassed about driving a 20 year old dodge and parking it next to Mercedes and BMWs. However, this really was a key. As I prepared to start my own business I had learned how to live conservatively. People who are able to delay gratification are able to save more money than contemporaries because they are not pressured by society to spend their money in any certain way. Even now – I have 700k of liquid assets which means I could buy any kind of car or take any kind of vacation (and pay for it all in cash) but really, I still drive a lower-end toyota (although it is only 3 years old) and the cheapest base model Toyota mini van I could find (for my wife to haul the kids around). I see clients and contemporaries still allow the environment around them to impact their financial choices while we’re content to just spend the least amount of money possible on the large financial decisions that impact our lives – expensive travel, personal residence, vehicles, and clothing.
2 – Hard work and assumption of stress – most people out there see wealth as an abstract principal and only see the related consumption of it from doctors, dentists, business owners, etc. They don’t stop to think about the stress that goes into actually making the money. My income will exceed 450k this year (after expenses, etc.) and will likely top 500k next year. There are many many days I contemplate whether or not assuming the stress of a lot of employee and client needs really makes it worth it. I could live off of 1/4 of what I make with relative ease (especially now that I have a lot of $ saved up). So – if you are willing to work very hard on subjects/topics where there is a lot of risk there is a reward there in the end. This is in reference to owning a small business or having a professional license.
So back to the topic at hand – in college I was willing to work 25 hours per week and to also take 5–6 courses per semester. I was willing to take the maximum amount of summer school classes and “intersession classes” during winter break. This was a massive workload. I got a job at a lower end company to start my career but that work ethic carried forward – I worked immediately towards a professional certification in addition to a masters degree while working 2200 hours per year. So – if you are willing to put in an insane amount of work you will really start to master whatever profession you are looking to excel in. This starts young but really starts in college (in my experience). It wasn’t until I hit 23 years that the work ethic really kicked in.
Edit – one of the main points I failed to make originally was being willing to assume stress. You don’t get paid a lot of money and not have stress. If you are an executive of a large company you manage the shareholder’s interests (which could be worth millions of hundreds of millions) and a ton of employees. If you have a professional medical license people’s lives are in your hands every day. If you work in the financial industry people’s livelihoods, money, sense of security and well being are in your hands. If you’re an insurance agent, if you check one wrong box on an insurance application you could literally ruin the insured’s life. Higher compensated professions get paid more because they assume a lot of responsibility and the stress that goes along with it. If you’re unable to handle stress you will likely be unable to handle the stress and pressure that goes into earning more money.
3 – I have a couple of gifts that are really God given – I am an exceptional communicator and have been blessed with the ability to empathize with everyone I meet – clients, employees, etc. This all makes it easier to make a living and generate income and/or loyalty. The other gift is just an intrinsic brightness that not many people have that I know. I am able to remember a lot of things about a lot of people and circumstances that make it easy to identify useful opportunities for my clients.
4 – One of the main gifts I have and/or choices I make/or whatever is the inherent ability to emotionally separate myself from the decisions I’ve made and or will make. I can step back and really ask myself if the decisions are sound and to objectively analyze myself and freely admit mistakes that I’ve made. One of the harder parts is to fully assume responsibility for mistakes. This really is a big deal – can you extricate yourself and your emotions from your decision making process. If so, you’re ahead of everyone because you can more easily spot your weaknesses and will grow/improve and get better.
5 – Did I mention hard work? Literally, if you can’t imagine yourself working 2700 hours per year you really have no business even thinking about being wealthy. There are stories of the frat boys creating start ups that make billions while hiking in the mountains of Nepal, but those are one in a million. The vast majority of people with net worths between 500k and 10 million are worth that much because they really do work that hard. The worth is created from their own personal efforts.
6 – forgiveness – are you able to easily forgive the faults of others? As a small business owner people will constantly cost you money. If you are not able to forgive people of these mistakes they make that cost you money you will lose top performers. If you find that you can forgive and move on this will take you a long way in any professional environment.
7 – I am a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and find that the teachings conveyed in the beattitudes/sermon on the mount starting in Matthew 5 are really guidelines to successful living. Not a day doesn’t go by that I don’t try and evaluate myself against these standards. This started at a young age and I’ve tried to treat people as I would like to be treated, irrespective of whether or not it appears to cost me money/time or resources. This is hard but I believe this helps lead to success. Society would teach you to hold people to strict accountability whereas Jesus Christ will teach to forgive and treat others differently.
In all fairness there is some luck that goes into almost every scenario where there is creation of wealth. In my situation, here are a few breaks that have gone my way –
1 – I work in a profession where for every 10 people the profession needs there are 8 of us working. What this has meant is just way too much work to be done for those of us who have picked the profession. that is just plain luck. I could be in other professions for which for every 10 people needed there were 15 working or something but that’s not the case.
2 – I lucked my way into about 6–7 of the employees who work at the company I own that are truly indispensable. I found them all on craiglist of all places!
3 – I chose a profession that is literally recession proof so even during the 2007–2010 years I grew by 30–40% per year. This is likely why I found these people actually.
Anyway – best of luck. There is no one indicator about whether or not you’ll be wealthy but I believe that it really comes down to hard work and delayed gratification once you do achieve a measure of success.
(Anm.: Der Autor will anonym bleiben)