Building Wealth: The Formula to Riches

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the millennial money woman blog post "BUILDING WEALTH"

Building Wealth

Key Takeaways

  • You don’t have to be earning $100,000 or $1 million to build your fortune
  • One of the most important parts of building wealth is to stay away from debt
  • You can start building wealth at any age – the key is discipline and consistency
  • Saving for your retirement should start today – even if you can save just $5 per week

Who doesn’t want to figure out the formula for building wealth?

I want to share a quick story with you about building wealth – and how virtually anyone from any social background can build wealth. 

It was a bleak Tuesday morning – and trust me, by bleak I mean we were hunkered down on the outskirts of the Miami area, in preparation for the tail-end of a hurricane to clobber our town.

It was not the best time – but thankfully no one was hurt, and we actually missed the brunt of the hurricane. 

That’s when I got the call from a local high school teacher who asked me if I had some time to chat with her juniors about personal finance

I was thrilled at the opportunity and of course, said yes – preparing my materials for the 1-hour class.

The following week, I drove to the school, which was located in a poorer part of town. 

In the first few minutes of the class, I asked the 20 kids in the class this question:

“How many of you believe you will be millionaires at some point in your life?”

Not a single hand went up. 

So, I started my lesson plan and illustrated how dollar cost averaging and a smart budgeting strategy can virtually help anyone accomplish their goals.

I went one step further: I showed the class a calculation where all they would have to do is save and invest less than $10 a day, consistently over their lifetimes and they’d have a 99% chance to become a millionaire.

At the end of the 1-hour class, I asked the juniors the same question again: How many of you believe you will be millionaires at some point in your life?

“This time, every single hand shot up.”

It was that moment where I realized that the reason why so many individuals don’t believe building wealth – especially to millionaire status – is easy, is because they simply aren’t taught financial basics.

“And that’s why I believe my formula for building wealth will help so many people who read this post.”

So, let’s get started and begin your journey to building wealth – over the long run.

the millennial money woman blog post "HOW TO BUILD WEALTH"

How to Build Wealth [9-Step Formula]


Before we actually head into the meat of this conversation, I do want to remind you of 2 things that will be necessary as you start your journey to building wealth:

  • Consistency 
  • Long-term mindset

Remember this: You likely won’t build wealth overnight. 

It will take time and will require discipline to stick to your investment strategy. 

Only then will you reach your financial goals.

step 1 pay yourself first

Building Wealth – Step #1: Switch your Thinking


One phrase that has stuck with me since I started my journey and path toward 
financial freedom was this:

“Pay yourself first.”

You might catch the famous Warren Buffet mentioning this phrase during his investment talks. 

You may have also heard of the famous Dave Ramsey mention this rule.

And now you’re hearing me talk about this rule: Paying yourself first

But what does “pay yourself first” mean?

First of all, “pay yourself first” refers to the money you make every month. 

Pay yourself first means that you:

  • First – before you do anything else with your paycheck – you save and/or invest 
  • Second – you pay your bills
  • Third – you spend the money that’s leftover from your paycheck on any discretionary or “fun” expenses
pay yourself first defined 1

Ultimately, this phrase is so important on your path to building wealth, because it highlights how you have to first allocate money toward your financial goals before anything else – before spending money on fun stuff.

Sadly, though, not many U.S. workers take this saying to heart.

“78% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck”

Source: Forbes 

And that percentage did not take into account the financial struggles many workers faced through the dawn of the COVID pandemic and many job lay-offs.

Are workers struggling because they don’t make enough money? No.

“Close to 10% of workers earning more than $100,000 live paycheck to paycheck”

As you can see, the fact that so many people spend exactly what they earn does not correlate with their incomes.

Rather, it’s a matter of mindset.

Let’s check out the difference below between 2 people:

  • Alex – Is another statistic, falling under the worker who lives paycheck to paycheck
  • Aria – Pays herself first to reach her financial goals

Below is the progression of how Alex and Aria use their monthly income:

the millennial money woman blog post "pay yourself first example"

Alex and Aria approach their paychecks very differently: Alex spends his income on bills, fun stuff first and then manages to save a small portion of his income in his savings account. 

On the other hand, Aria first uses a chunk of her money toward savings and investing, and only then does she use whatever is left over to pay for bills, and then she uses the leftover money to pay for fun stuff.

If you’re ready to move to the next step of “paying yourself first” then you know it’s time to start investing your money through M1 Finance.

M1 Finance builds a customized investment portfolio for you. 

It’s:

  •  A customized investment plan
  • A hands-off investment strategy
  • A visually friendly and easy-to-use application

Paying yourself first is a very different mentality: It’s a winning mentality for the long-term.

step 2 always look ahead

Building Wealth – Step #2: Always Look Ahead


If you ever drive a car, you’ll know that wherever your eyes go, your hands inadvertently will steer. 

So that means, if you are driving straight, but your eyes are looking to the right, you’ll notice your hands will slowly steer to the right as well.

How is driving a car and building wealth related?

“You always have to look ahead and keep your eyes on the prize”

Now that we explored switching your mindset to a “pay yourself first” mindset, you know that to start building wealth the first thing you need to do when you see that fat paycheck come in, is to save for your future financial goals.

And the second step toward building wealth encompasses 2 things:

Let’s take a closer look at what this means.

“You want to make sure you have an adequate emergency savings fund so unexpected expenses won’t side-swipe your path toward financial freedom”

As a quick reminder, I’ve defined them below:

Let’s say you’ve conquered the emergency savings fund goal.

Now, you want to take a look at your 5-year (short-term to medium-term) financial goals.

“What are your financial goals in a 5-year horizon?”

If some of the answers you provide include the following:

  • Buying a pet
  • Starting a family
  • Purchasing a car
  • Going back to grad school
  • Placing a down payment on a home

It might be time for you to build a budget to help make those short-term financial goals a reality.

“By asking yourself what you want to accomplish in 5-years, you’ll have the power to change your current lifestyle spending habits to make your future a reality.”

The most important thing is that you start asking yourself these questions today and start building your tomorrow as fast as possible.

If you want to make the first step toward building wealth, then start an emergency savings fund with CIT Bank.

CIT Bank is a high interest savings account with no monthly fees. The interest rates are competitive and will help add some cash into your wallet. 

step 3 create mind tricks

Building Wealth – Step #3: Create your own Mind Tricks


We all have our financial vices, right?

I mean, I’ll share a few of my financial vices that really get me, every time:

  • Spending on a grocery budget
  • Spending for my French Bulldog
  • Spending when it comes to traveling
  • Spending when it comes to a fun experience

Obviously, I have a lot of reasons to spend money.

And to be very honest with you – I would probably go overboard in making my Frenchie happy. I love that dog too much.

However – we need to keep our spending in check: And one of the best ways to keep the spending in check is by adopting our own mind tricks to slow down – or entirely stop – our excessive spending. 

Check out some of the proven mind trick strategies that have worked for me – and have helped me start building wealth:

  • Pay yourself first (see step 1)
  • Hot state rules
  • Eat before grocery shopping
  • Go to cash – and cut up the cards
  • Track (and review) your daily spending 
  • Physically imagine your wealthier future self
  • You spend your time not your money
  • Find an accountability partner
  • Give yourself a splurging allowance
  • Discover the underlying reason why you spend money
the millennial money woman blog post "mind tricks to stop spending money"

Let’s go into further depth about what these mind tricks actually mean:

Mind Trick What it does
Pay yourself first
Makes you move a set percentage of your monthly income immediately to your savings/investment account before making any purchases.
Hot state rules
Leave your wallet in your car for 30 min. before making the purchase.
Eat before grocery shopping
If you go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, you’ll spend a lot more money than if you were full.
Go to cash – and cut up the cards
It’s so much easier to pay using credit cards because you don’t see the cash physically leave your hands. Cut up the cards and withdraw cash, equal to your monthly spending amount. Seeing the cash leave your hands is more painful and you’ll likely spend less.
Track & review daily spending
Literally seeing every single cent spent from chewing gum to new shoes can be a rude awakening – and can help you decrease spending fast.
Physically imagine your wealthier future self
Close your eyes and physically imagine where you’ll live, what car you’ll drive, how much money you’ll have in the bank account in 5 to 10 years. If you’re a big dreamer, you’ll know that you can get there – but by making the short term sacrifices today. This is a great motivation.
You spend your time and not your money
You earn $20 per hour. You want to buy a $100 pair of shoes. Instead of spending $100, consider yourself spending 5 hours of your life on a pair of shoes. That changes perspective.
Find an accountability partner
Take a friend or family member with you shopping. Ask them for advice when you think it’s time to purchase something.
Give yourself a splurging allowance
There’s no way you can go from spending to not spending – ever. It’s not healthy. So give yourself a monthly splurging allowance (for me, it’s $100). Just don’t go over that threshold.
Discover the underlying reason why you spend money
Understand the trigger that could cause you to spend over budget. Start making adjustments to your environment to mitigate that trigger - and avoid spending

As you can see – there are SO many mind tricks out there for anyone to use. 

Some of these were super effective for me – and others not so much.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try these mind tricks out to help you curb your spending habits.

To improve my mindset, confidence and my habits, I use Mindvalley.

Mind Valley is what I would consider the classroom beyond the classroom.

You learn the essential things in life – like EQ (emotional intelligence) – and not just the normal subjects you would learn (and never use) in the regular classroom. 

Just remember this: The more you save and invest in the present (by slowing down those spending habits), the faster you’ll be building wealth. 

step 4 live like an undercover millionaire

Building Wealth – Step #4: Live like an Undercover Millionaire


Guys and gals, I think this step is SO underrated. 

We all want to show our status in society one way or another, right?

I mean, America is considered to be a consumer-driven society. 

We want to buy stuff to show off our wealth. 

“Stuff = Wealth, at least according to our society.”

But will stuff help support your goal of building wealth? 

I think not.

The best advice I learned from my millionaire mentor was this: Live like a wealthy person – in secret. 

In other words, don’t show-off and boast your wealth status. 

Tone your wealth and riches down a notch. 

Live like you’re incognito – or gone undercover.

Essentially, this is what my millionaire mentor meant:

  • Work as hard as you can
  • Stay away from “bad” debt
  • Save and invest as much as possible
  • Be as humble as you were in the beginning
  • Adopt the mindset of a millionaire: A growth mindset
  • Never show-off your wealth status through material possessions
the millennial money woman blog post "undercover millionaire traits"

Enjoy your wealth and of course, spend the money you need to live a decent life – but when you are at a happy point and are living comfortably, don’t increase your spending as your income increases.

In other words, don’t be a part of the lifestyle creep phenomenon. 

You want to keep your spending in-check – even as your income increases over the years.

There is never a need to keep up with the Joneses. 

Keeping up with the Joneses will not help your quest to build wealth. 

It will only deter you from accomplishing your financial goals.

step 5 tackle retirement now

Building Wealth – Step #5: Tackle Retirement Now 


How often have you heard about the terms YOLO and FOMO?

YOLO, or ‘you only life once,’ and FOMO, or ‘fear of missing out,’ are 2 terms I heard SO often in high school and college.

As I walked to my college classes, all my friends were talking about going to the latest concert or going to an awesome Spring Break vacation. 

Why? Because, duh, YOLO.

“I never understood the YOLO concept. But I was also always focused on my future goals.”

And I find that most people who follow YOLO and FOMO ideologies are not so much future-focused. 

In other words, they typically:

  • Don’t save for retirement at all
  • Save less for retirement than they should
  • Struggle to make sacrifices in the present for a better future
  • May have difficulty imagining their future and the long-term

How do combat an aggressive FOMO or YOLO mindset?

You simply do this: Start envisioning how you want your future lifestyle to look.

  • Where will you live?
  • Which car will you drive?
  • When will you retire (if ever)?
  • How much money will you spend per year?
  • How large (or small) will your future family be?

Take a long and hard thought about these questions – because in the end, the answers you have to these questions will serve as a guide to help you (hopefully) make better financial decisions today so that you can make these future financial goals a reality.

My point is this: The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you’ll be – and the less you’ll have to save overall because you have time and compounding interest on your side.

In other words: Start saving for retirement today. 

Even if it’s just $5 a week – do it now. 

Don’t wait for tomorrow. 

And please don’t spend all of your money, because YOLO. 

Even if you can’t invest $100 right now because the money is tight, you can invest your spare change – and that’s exactly what Acorns does for you.

Acorns is an investment app that automatically rounds up all of your expenses to the nearest dollar. 

The difference?

It’s automatically invested in your Acorns account.

So although a 56 cent investment into the S&P 500 index fund, for example, may not seem like a lot today – it will add up over the years. 

"Every investment starts small. It can only grow and compound from there."

Your bank accounts will seriously thank me later.

step 6 become the household cfo

Building Wealth – Step #6: Become the Household CFO


I have an awesome story behind this step to building wealth.

The second or third time my husband and I met with my financial planner, we decided to review my income and expenses. 

And by review, I mean a serious, in-depth review of literally every single cent that I made and that I spent.

We went through several documents, including:

  • My pay stubs
  • My tax returns
  • My bank statements
  • My credit card statements
  • The interest earned in my bank accounts
  • Any cash-back bonus points I received on credit cards
  • The dividends and interest paid to my brokerage accounts
documents recording income and

…And the list goes on.

We reviewed everything.

After an hour, my financial planner sat back in his chair, folded his hands, and looked me and my husband – square in the eye.

“I am promoting you to the Household CFO.”

I’ll never forget this phrase, because my husband and I were initially speechless – simply because we didn’t know what my financial planner meant.

After a few seconds of silence, our financial planner smiled and started walking us through his thought process, explaining what he meant by promoting us to the Household CFO.

The point here is this: Make sure you know everything possible about your household budget. 

The more you know about your family finances, the more likely you will stick to your budgeting plans – make sure you and/or your partner don’t spend more money than you earn.

This is where budgeting is literally the key to building wealth. 

I have 2 budgeting software systems I use: Simplifi and Quicken.

Simplifi is the budgeting app for the beginner who is ready to make a difference. It’s:

  • Easy to use
  • Costs $3,99 per month
  • Provides a visual and clear overview of your spending
  • Add value because you can see where you can make spending adjustments

If you are advanced at your budgeting game – and want to dive deep into the budgeting analysis, I would strongly suggest for you to look into the Quicken budgeting software. 

Quicken is very analytical, also is available in the form of a phone app.

With Quicken you can:

  • Access a debt reduction planner
  • Generate a balance sheet report
  • See your financial life all in one place
  • Create and customize your personal budgets
  • Get free phone support Monday through Friday

Quicken is basically the king of budgeting programs. 

And you know what?

Being “promoted” to the household CFO was the best thing that happened to us.

step 7 slash that debt

Building Wealth – Step #7: Slash that Debt


One of the first things I learned from my mentor at a very, very young age (I was probably 12 or 13) was to never, ever stay in debt.

My mentor engrained in my very being to stay debt-free, whenever possible.

But then he went a step further, and he said:

“Whatever you do, stay out of bad debt.”

And honestly, before I just heard my mentor talk about debt. Period. 

I always thought debt was bad. 

End of story. 

But that wasn’t the case: The debt that was considered “bad” was typically high-interest debt, while the debt that was considered “good” was the lower-interest debt.

Let’s take a look at some examples of “good” debt over “bad” debt:

"Good" Debt "Bad" Debt
Mortgage
Credit Cards
Student Loan Debt
Store Credit
Business Loan
Cash Advance Loans
Car Loan (could also be good debt)
Other Consumer Loans
Payday Loan

Furthermore, let’s take a look at some of the distinguishing characteristics between “good” debt and “bad” debt:

"Good" Debt "Bad" Debt
Interest Rate
Low
High
Backed by an Appreciating Asset
Yes
No
Contributes to Good Credit History
Yes
No
Typically falls within Budget Expenses
Yes
No

I did realize that I disagree with my mentor about 1 thing: My mentor always said to stay out of debt period. 

However, if you don’t have an unlimited supply of money, then you need to make sure you prioritize which debt you spend your money on.

“If you have a high-interest rate debt (typically over 5%), then dedicate your payments toward the high-interest rate debt first.”

There are so many benefits to remaining debt-free. 

Check out some of the benefits, below:

  • Less stress
  • Peace of mind
  • Potential to improve credit
  • Increased financial security
  • Increased flexibility to invest
the millennial money woman blog post "benefits of being debt free"

After you have paid off the high-interest rate debt, then you start paying off your lower interest debt. 

My suggestion? Make the same payments toward the lower interest debt as you did with the higher interest debt.

One way to slash your debt is by paying off your credit card debt in 1 easy swoop by using Tally.

Tally is an application that pays all of your credit card debt off for you – and then gives you 1 consolidated loan in return that’s much lower than your typical 20% to 25% credit card interest rate.

 With Tally:

  • Slash your late fees
  • Can save up to $5,300
  • Reduce your high-interest payments
  • You pay down your credit card debt faster

Bottom Line: Make it a point to start chipping off debt.

step 8 increase income

Building Wealth – Step #8: Increase Income


So many people are starving for extra money. 

If you remember from step 1 to building your wealth – 78% of Americans live on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis.

They need to increase their income: And they can.

"There are 2 ways to increase income: Spend less, earn more."

And although – in theory – this is a super simple concept, it’s not always easy to stick to this strategy to building wealth.

Why?

Because we are human. And we have emotions. 

Lots of them. Especially if you are a woman. 

However, this is the point where you need to practice self-discipline

Let’s take a look at some tips to spend less money to help your journey to building wealth:

Tips to Spend Less MMW Rating 1-10 (10 being the most effective way)
Meal prep & don’t eat out
10
Cut the cord
10
Review your spending & budget in-depth
10
Wear warm clothing during the winter months – keep the heater on a lower setting
9
Find a cheap cell phone plan
9
Avoid purchasing microwave meals
8
Cancel auto-pay subscriptions
7
Buy clothing from the thrift store
6
Create home-made gifts
6

Let’s also take a look at some tips to earn more money to expedite your journey to building wealth:

Tips to Earn More MMW Rating 1-10 (10 being the most effective way)
Negotiate for a higher salary
9
Request for a promotion
9
Consider switching to another, higher-paying job
9
Start a side hustle
9
Become an online tutor
7
Complete online surveys
7

There are some pretty nifty ways to earn money in your pajamas, at home.

Now it’s just a matter of starting your journey to increasing your earnings – and building your wealth.

One of the easiest ways to earn extra money is through InboxDollars.

InboxDollars is an easy way to put cash back in your pocket. 

You make money online by:

  • Taking online surveys
  • Watching videos
  • Reading Emails
  • Playing games

Today is the best day to make that start!

step 9 talk to a financial planner

Building Wealth – Step #9: Talk to a Financial Planner


The last piece of advice I would have for you when it comes to building your wealth – and preserving it – is to consult a financial planner.

“The key is to consult a fiduciary financial planner.”