When it comes to building lifelong wealth, slow and steady usually does. However, there are a few quick shortcuts you can take to amass your riches faster.
One of the most valuable things I learned in my MBA was:
“Always have the laziest person do the hardest job, because they will find the easiest way to do it.”
Props to my Marketing professor for those words of wisdom, because I know he’s right. I wouldn’t describe myself as lazy, but if I can find a non-destructive shortcut, I’m all over it with more enthusiasm than a 4yro at a Power Rangers birthday party (the Power Rangers came back, right? Did that happen?). This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I would argue that it’s efficient. There is no reason to read, hear, speak, wait, pay, or work more than you have to.
Over time, information and actions become redundant and useless, at which point they become a waste of your time.
I don’t have time to waste. None of us do. I think the bulk of our hours should be spent nourishing our selves, our relationships, and our communities — but this is a luxury most of us can’t afford. However, there may be a “lazy” way to get there.
5 Shortcuts To Lifelong Wealth
Go without a car
The average cost of car ownership is over $5,000 per year — that’s $417 per month. It’s worthwhile to move closer to your workplace and pay a bit extra in rent if it means axing your car bill. Walking or biking work is good for your health, the environment, and your wallet. I haven’t owned a car in nearly 10 years, and I’ve managed by 1) living in a central location with good access to public transportation, 2) taking advantage of car-sharing programs like car2go and 3) renting a car for longer trips as needed. In 2013, I spent only $850 on transportation. Even if car ownership is inevitable in your lifetime, the longer you can put it off, the better.
Negotiate your salary
The bulk of financial success is determined by a series of disciplined practices day after day, year in year out, but every so often, there comes an opportunity that will make a HUGE difference with very minimal effort. One of those things is negotiating your salary. This is a way to get thousands of dollars by simply by asking. The most pivotal time is your starting salary at your first job out of college because this sets the baseline for the rest of your working career, but it’s worthwhile to negotiate if the opportunity is presented to you during a performance appraisal, promotion, or job change. Always ask for more money. The worst possible thing that can happen is you will be told no.
Start saving for retirement in your twenties
I know, you’ve heard it and you’re bored, but when the rest of the adult cohort is struggling to squirrel away 10% of their income throughout their working lifetime, the cool kids that only started in their 20’s will be way ahead of the game. The math is always shocking. Here, I did it for you:
As you can see, someone that begins saving $5,000 per year at age 25, will end up with nearly $200,000 more by age 65 than someone that began saving at age 30. They will end up with over $300,000 more than someone that began saving at age 35. Furthermore, the saver that started at 25 will earn tens of thousands of dollars more in interest — that’s free money. Moral of the story: start saving in your 20’s.
Reduce your income taxes and maximize your benefits
I felt this was worthwhile to include since ’tis the season, but one of the most straightforward ways to ensure you’re saving as much as you can is to keep as much as you can when it comes to take-home pay.
In your 20’s, this will be primarily about claiming items like student loan interest, moving expenses, public transit and medical costs, or any new homeowner benefits. As you get older, it will become more about putting your money in the right investment vehicles within the right accounts (TFSA vs. RRSP).
You should be comfortable doing your own taxes, but if you become self-employed or need to run a business, it might be worthwhile to get help from an accountant. The fact of the matter is the more money you earn and invest, the more complex managing it will become. It’s worthwhile to learn what you can do to minimize what you pay in taxes.
Live an alternate lifestyle
You want a real shortcut to wealth? Stop reading magazines. Don’t watch reality TV. Change the way you think about what you need and what you want, and the way you see the world. It’s easier to forego brand names when you understand how you’re being manipulated by advertising. It’s easier to shun cheap, disposable clothing when you decide you’d rather not be uncomfortable in cheap fabrics. You can opt to do your household cleaning with pantry items like vinegar and baking soda. You can choose to upgrade your phone or computer ever 2,3, or even 5+ years. Long-term accumulation of wealth will be as much about what you spend as it will be about what you earn. Some choices will matter more than others, but even a small change can add up to a big amount over a lifetime. If you want to go really extreme and live off the grid or on a hippie commune, then hey, I am behind you, but if you want to start a community garden, I’m behind that as well.
Be lazy, look for the easy way
If you have a shortcut to wealth, please share in the comments!
This article was first published on February 24, 2014 and has been updated.