Many people on the internet want to sell you the idea that there’s a magic formula for how to get rich quick.
In fact, this scam predates the internet by centuries.
People have always preyed on others who are seeking instant riches, ready and willing to take advantage of their eagerness and lack of knowledge about financial issues.
I’m sorry to tell you this, but the truth is that there’s no way to get rich quick — at least not without a good bit of luck or an extreme amount of risk involved.
If getting rich was easy, everyone who is trying to sell you a book or a system would have taken their own advice and would already be rich.
But what is possible is building wealth and becoming rich over time. And while the standard advice of saving 10% of your income, letting it compound and becoming a millionaire in 30 years works, this isn’t that type of guide.
Instead, in this article I’ll show you the most realistic path for growing your net worth quickly.
Think of this guide as a blueprint. You’ll learn the key concepts and strategies to grow your net worth, but the specific tactics will vary depending on where you’re at today.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Having the right mindset
- Defining what being “rich” means
- The formula you need to understand to grow your net worth
- How to increase your income fast
- Investing your income like a millionaire
The strategies outlined in this guide are effective even if you have very little money, assets or resources.
Developing the right mindset, learning how to manage your personal finances, making smart investments, and growing your income will help you overcome your financial obstacles and build a prosperous future — perhaps significantly faster than you would expect.
It may not be sexy, but it works.
And today I’ll talk about how to get started.
Who Am I?
Who am I to write a guide on how to get rich?
I’m a 30-something CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, dad, and entrepreneur.
I’ve spent the last 10 years getting my own financial house in order. I’ve learned how to make smart investments, how to save money, how to grow my income and how to build a business.
As a result, I no longer worry about money. I have plenty to support my family. And I have the freedom in my life to do what I want, where I want and when I want.
Looking back at my own journey, as well as studying how others have advanced far beyond where I am today, I’ve identified certain patterns in thinking and behavior when it comes to building wealth.
These are the core truths that can help you reduce the time it takes to go from where you are today to where you want to be.
- Wealth is a process. Stop seeking instant riches and instead focus on the process.
- Focus on freedom. Getting “rich” is impossible to define, but there’s one common motivation that fuels the drive to become rich — expanding the freedom you have in your life.
- The wealth equation. The two factors that allow you to increase your wealth are your ability to add value and your business acumen. Optimizing these two factors can allow you to grow your wealth fast.
Having the Right Money Mindset to Get Rich
“Wealth eludes most people because they are preoccupied with events while disregarding process. Without process, there is no event. All events of wealth are preceded by process, a backstory of trial, risk, hard work and sacrifice. If you try to skip process, you’ll never experience events.”— M. J. DeMarco
There are many products and systems that promise you the secret to instant riches.
The common thread among them is:
Buy The Product + Work The Step-By-Step System = Get Rich!
But I have never met someone — and I’m willing to bet you haven’t, either — who has gotten rich from buying into a day trading, Forex, MLM or other “system.”
These systems don’t work because building wealth is a process, not an event.
What’s the difference?
Events are the business owner selling their business, the investor who positioned himself or herself perfectly and is watching their portfolio quickly increase in value, or the seasoned freelancer who just sold their first $40,000 project.
A process? That’s the discipline, habits and work that came before those windfalls.
The excellent book and movie The Big Short tells the story of Michael Burry’s bet against the housing market in 2008 — a bet that personally netted him over $100 million.
The event for Burry was the time period between 2007 and 2008 where his bet finally started to pay off.
That’s the hours he spent reading and learning about investing. It’s the seven years he spent running his own private equity fund. And it’s the years before that he spent investing his own money, finding a strategy that worked and refining that strategy until he could actually sell it to other investors.
I bring up Burry’s story not because it’s replicable, but because it’s widely known.
And with any overnight millionaire story, what we tend to focus on is the event.
Because events are what triggers emotions like inspiration (with a touch of jealousy and regret). And since events trigger intense feelings, they’re what gets shared, talked about and remembered.
On the other hand, processes are boring. They don’t get attention. But they’re a necessary ingredient for getting rich quick.
And if you look closely, you’ll find that every story has them.
- Think about getting rich as a process and a journey, not an event.
What Does It Mean to Be Rich?
Being a millionaire is concrete. You can state with certainty whether you’re a millionaire based on your net worth.
But what it means to be “rich” depends on your values, desires and perspective.
Some people think having income of $10,000 per month makes them rich. Others need to have a $10 million portfolio to achieve that same level of financial satisfaction. Others want a few thousand dollars of passive income that can help them travel the world or stay at home with their kids.
While I can’t define what being rich means to you, I think we can all agree that there is a common motivation that fuels the drive to become rich: a desire for increased freedom.
This was confirmed in a recent study that appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which found that:
Autonomy, defined as “the feeling that your life, its activities and habits, are self-chosen and self-endorsed,” is the top contributing factor to happiness.
We want to have more control over our schedule.
We want to reduce our daily financial stress.
We want to have the freedom to buy nice things and enjoy all that life has to offer with fewer limitations.
And what that means for us depends on where we are financially at any given time.
For someone struggling to find consistent employment and pull themselves out of poverty, it might mean having a home they can afford, reliable transportation, and a little bit of disposable income to go to a concert or enjoy a nice dinner out.
For someone who already has all those things, the bar is higher.
That’s why we should think of wealth as a continuum rather than a specific destination.
On the far left of that continuum might be someone who is drowning in debt and can’t make decisions without stressing about money.
On the far right might be someone who has enough money to last a lifetime (and then some).
Your goal should be to consistently move from left to right.
In most cases, moving from left to right on the wealth continuum will increase your freedom. And in most cases, increasing your freedom will bring about increased happiness.
That’s why you should take steps to improve your situation, even if they seem small.
If your goal is to get rich but you have tons of credit card debt, all of your energy and resources will go into dealing with that debt.
And that means you can’t focus on the next step — whether that’s investing in the stock market, building a business, furthering your education, or anything else that might move you further to the right.
So you have to focus on the credit card debt first.
Note: When you look at building wealth this way, some of the biggest jumps you can make are those first big financial milestones. Paying off high-interest credit card debt doesn’t make you rich, but it does give you more freedom (the feeling you’re ultimately after).
Each step is part of the process of building wealth and becoming rich.
But isn’t the goal to get rich, not to be happy?
Harvard-trained researcher Shawn Achor — who wrote the best-selling book Happiness Advantage, and whose Ted Talk has over 19 million views — is one of the world’s experts on success and happiness. The major takeaway from his work is that we have the success equation backward; it’s not success that leads to happiness, but happiness that leads to success.
- To feel rich, strive to make decisions that increase your freedom.
- It’s happiness that leads to success — not the other way around.
The Get Rich Quick Formula You Need to Understand
Benjamin Franklin said:
“There are two ways to increase your wealth. Increase your means or decrease your wants. The best is to do both at the same time.”
Let’s call the difference between your income and expenses your gap.
Your goal is to widen your gap as far as possible, ideally putting the savings you achieve to the best possible use.
For some people, that may mean paying off high-interest debt. For others, it’s investing.
At first, to widen the gap, start by increasing your savings. In general, it’s easier to cut spending than to make more money.
And while there are hundreds of strategies for saving money, you need to understand that having high-interest debt (like credit card debt) makes it nearly impossible to get ahead.
Think about it: if you carry a balance on your credit card, you might be paying 20% or more per year for whatever you purchased. That’s 20% that you can’t set aside for some other more productive use.
Trying to get rich while carrying high-interest debt is like running on a hamster wheel; you’ll burn a lot of energy going nowhere.
And to further examine the negative side of high-interest debt, consider the fact that in Warren Buffett’s early investing days, he was growing Berkshire Hathaway at around 20% per year.
So by carrying high-interest debt, your net worth is declining at the same rate Buffett’s was growing!
That’s why your top priority should be finding ways to pay off your high-interest debt. If you have multiple small debts, research shows the best way to start paying them off is with the debt snowball method.
Another tip is to make your savings goals as specific as possible. Instead of trying to reduce your total spending by 20%, set a one-month goal to cut your grocery spending by 20%.
Even though that’s only a part of your overall budget, it’s one small actionable step that moves you to the right on the continuum.
Your goal should be to integrate more and more of these frugal habits into your life.
Beyond these habits, there are many one-time personal finance actions that can permanently reduce your future spending. Take advantage of every opportunity to reduce your spending. The more your expenses are today, the longer it will take you to get rich.
For their landmark book The Millionaire Next Door, authors Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko spent 20 years studying millionaires in America.
To their surprise, they found that the majority of millionaires are quite frugal.
As the authors explain about millionaires:
“They know that planning, budgeting, and being frugal are essential parts of building wealth, even for very high-income producers. Even high-income producers must live below their means if they intend to become financially independent. And if you’re not financially independent, you will spend an increasing amount of your time and energy worrying about your socioeconomic future.”
- Wealthy people consider proper money management — and specifically saving money — an essential part of becoming rich.
- Your top priority should be paying off high interest debt.
How to Increase Your Income Fast
Saving money allows you to quickly widen the gap between your income and expenses. But if you want to get rich, you need more than an average income.
You need to quickly become a high-earner. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
In this section on making money (which is by far the most important) we’ll cover:
- What is money?
- The second formula you need to understand.
- How to increase your value and business skills.
- A 10-year path to overnight success.
What Is Money?
If you want to make a lot of money, it’s first important to understand what money is and isn’t. This might sound simple, but many people get it wrong.
In its most basic form, money is a medium of exchange.
Imagine operating in a society without money. Say you were a potato farmer and you wanted eggs. To get eggs, you’d need to go find a chicken farmer and ask the farmer to trade his eggs for your potatoes.
Now, say that farmer doesn’t want potatoes; he wants wheat to bake bread. You’d then have to go find a wheat farmer to see if they’d exchange potatoes for wheat. If the answer is “yes,” you’d then have to go back to the chicken farmer and trade your wheat for eggs.
By the way, I hope you worked out an equivalent potato-eggs-bread exchange rate. After all, if the wheat farmer wasn’t in the market for potatoes that day, you might have to give up extra potatoes to convince him to take the deal. That means you’d end up paying a lot more than usual for your eggs.
As you can see, it would be a complicated and highly-inefficient way to do business. Yet, that’s what people actually did before money was invented.
Paul Graham, the founder of the seed capital firm Y-Combinator — who is known for his early-stage investments in companies like Stripe, Airbnb, and Dropbox — said in an essay on wealth:
“The solution societies find, as they get more specialized, is to make the trade into a two-step process. Instead of trading violins directly for potatoes, you trade violins for, say, silver, which you can then trade again for anything else you need. The intermediate stuff — the medium of exchange — can be anything that’s rare and portable. Historically, metals have been the most common, but recently we’ve been using a medium of exchange, called the dollar, that doesn’t physically exist. It works as a medium of exchange, however, because its rarity is guaranteed by the U.S. government.
The advantage of a medium of exchange is that it makes trade work. The disadvantage is that it tends to obscure what trade really means. People think that what a business does is make money. But money is just the intermediate stage — just a shorthand — for whatever people want. What most businesses really do is make wealth. They do something people want.”
- Money, in its most basic form, is a medium of exchange.
- You can make money by doing something people want.
The Second Get Rich Quick Formula You Need to Understand
With an understanding of what money actually is, it’s possible to put together a rough formula for how to acquire a lot of it.
We know that since money is a medium of exchange, the best way to make money is by doing something people want. But simply doing something people want, even if it provides them a lot of value, doesn’t make you money.
Most of us have heard of Vincent Van Gogh. He delivered amazing value to people all over the world.
What fewer people know is that Vincent Van Gogh died very poor. It wasn’t until after his death that his paintings become valuable, due to the work of his sister-in-law.
In contrast, Thomas Kinkade was a wildly-popular contemporary artist. During the 1980s and 90s, the self-proclaimed “painter of light” advertised his work through a series of ubiquitous TV ads, and he eventually opened a chain of shopping mall galleries to sell his paintings and prints to the masses.
Kinkade was universally loathed by art critics, and in recent years scientific research has found his work to be objectively “bad.” However, he made more money from his art than every other artist in the world combined. (He eventually lost it all, but you can’t deny his ability to make money. Check out the book Billion Dollar Painter.)
What Kinkade had that Van Gogh didn’t was the ability to turn value into money. The phrase we have that best describes this ability is business acumen.
So, now we have a rough formula for acquiring a lot of money:
Making Money = Value x Business Acumen
Your goal is to optimize for value and business acumen, which in turns leads to making a lot of money. Let’s start with how to increase the value you provide.
- To grow your wealth, increase both the value you provide and your skill at turning that value into money.
Increasing Your Value
Increasing your earning potential starts with increasing the value you provide. As Paul Graham put it in the quote from earlier, that means doing something people want.
For most entry-level jobs and gig economy jobs, the value that’s provided to an employer is time.
The higher your income, whether you’re an employee or entrepreneur, the more you’ll have to rely on skills and knowledge to provide enough value to justify your earnings.
Since your financial goal is to get rich fast, your best strategy is providing as much value as possible to as many people as possible.
It’s difficult to earn a lot of money when you’re providing value only to one person (such as an employer). The problem is that the value you provide is typically limited to the amount of time you have available.
Developing Your Business Acumen
The ability to turn value into money is a skill. Kinkade had this skill. Van Gogh didn’t.
Just as with most things in life, we aren’t born with this skill. It needs to be developed.
So, think of any new tactics and strategies you try — whether asking your boss for a higher wage or starting a side hustle — as practice.
Maybe you’ve never made more than $30,000 per year. In that case, develop a plan to make an extra $200 this month.
That particular financial goal might be accomplished by working more hours, by taking on a part-time job, or by launching a side hustle. It’s up to you to think about and decide what will work best in your particular situation.
The key is to pick something and start. Don’t worry about making the wrong decision. When it comes to making money, inaction is almost always worse than incorrect action.
And don’t worry if you fail. Didn’t make $200 this month? No sweat. Try something else. It’s never fun to fail, but building wealth is a process.
I started 13 websites before this one. Some failed, some did OK, and some were successful. But all were part of the process I had to go through to start The Ways To Wealth.
Many famous entrepreneurs have significant failures and setbacks in their past. Often, these people are celebrated as geniuses.
But when you read their autobiographies, you can connect the dots and see where they learned the skills that made them successful: it was their failures that gave them the knowledge and experience to learn, adapt and improve.
Henry Ford said:
“One who fears failure, limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again. There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail.”
So, start doing something — anything — to increase your income. If it doesn’t work, try something else.
Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, and don’t try to go from $0 to $100,000 overnight. Start where you are and take small steps to get to the next level.
That’s how skills and confidence (and wealth) are built.
My 10-Year Path to Overnight Success
Before I started The Ways to Wealth, I launched 13 other websites and freelanced in the marketing space, in addition to working full-time in financial services.
At first, I marketed myself similarly to everyone else. I was a freelance writer in the financial space, and I managed paid advertising on Google and Facebook for local businesses.
But things really took off when I specialized in Unbounce landing page design. The popular software had just come out, and it was the best on the market at the time.
For a while, I was the top freelancer on Upwork creating landing pages for the Unbounce platform. There weren’t a lot of people looking for this service, but when someone wanted the best, they went to me.
I was able to charge $180 per hour for my services and I rarely applied for jobs.
I only learned about this opportunity after I started gaining knowledge of the digital marketing industry. I couldn’t just enter this fast-growing niche on Day 1. I had to get inside an industry to learn about what people actually wanted. Then I was able to pivot when I found the right opportunity.
This goes back to something I mentioned earlier: making money is a skill. It’s not just about being able to do a particular job or perform a particular task; it’s also about knowing how to find and take advantage of the opportunities that exist.
In my case, I didn’t have the necessary insider knowledge to start making $180 hour until after I had spent time in the industry — time when I was working for a much lower hourly rate.
Sometimes you have to start exactly where you are. And that’s just fine. In fact, it’s part of the process.
I freelanced on the side while continuing to work full-time in financial services, so I kept adding new skills to my repertoire. I could manage ads, do the copywriting, design the landing pages and more.
All those skills combined are very useful in blogging. So, instead of working for other people, I started this website.
When you grow your own business, you’re not only growing your income but also your business’s value.
However, for business owners, there’s another factor that can contribute to the wealth equation: market growth.
Market growth is the increase or decrease in the size of your potential market. The great thing about market growth is that it takes no additional time to benefit from it. You simply have to choose the right market and then stay in it for the right amount of time.
So, for business owners, the formula for making money looks more like:
Making Money = Value x Business Acumen x Market Growth
When you add the natural market growth that you get from entering a high-growth sector, you end up with what’s called geometric growth.
Geometric growth is what allows business owners to get rich quick.
And while there’s a lot to be said about starting a business, I want to emphasize the process of how you actually get to this point:
- You have to grow your skills so that you can provide real value to others.
- You have to gain knowledge about a specific high-growth industry in order to make an informed and smart decision about what type of business to start.
I say this because it’s natural to want to skip ahead to the “start a business” stage of the wealth-building process.
In other words, it’s easy to…
- …forget about saving money so you can start thinking beyond where your next paycheck will come from.
- …forget about the work that’s required to increase your value to others.
- …forget about learning how customer demands are changing within your industry, and how you can position a new company to uniquely take advantage of those demands.
But you can’t forget about those things. They are all part of the process that’s required to start and grow a business that generates a lot of cash.
- Work in high-growth markets if at all possible.
- Get really good at what you do.
- Start a business in a high-growth market to take advantage of geometric growth.
Investing Your Income
In 2008, Tim Ferriss, author of the popular 4 Hour book franchise and host of the podcast “The Tim Ferriss Show,” got to ask Warren Buffett a question at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting.
As he writes on his blog, his question was:
“If you were 30 years old and had no dependents but a full-time job that precluded full-time investing, how would you invest your first million dollars, assuming that you can cover 18 months of expenses with other savings? Thank you in advance for being as specific as possible with asset classes and allocation percentage.”
“I’d put it all in a low-cost index fund that tracks the S&P 500 and get back to work.”
Even if you’re not in a position to invest a million dollars (or even thousands) like Ferriss was, Buffett’s message here is still pretty profound — and more for what it didn’t say than for what it did.
There was no mention of beating the market. No complicated strategies. No real estate methods. No individual stocks. No list of top mutual funds. Instead, Buffett said to track the market and get back to work.
Why such a simple strategy?
- Over a 15-year period, 95% of professional investors failed to beat the market.
- If you’re able to earn a high income, the best use of your time is increasing your income.
While investing in index funds isn’t sexy, it has worked and will continue to do so.
And when you have a high income, as well as a high savings rate, you get to take advantage of another level of geometric growth because not only is your income growing but so is your savings.
Keep in mind, the point of investing is to earn the highest possible return after taxes and fees. If your employer has a 401k match, that’s a great place to start. If not, set up a traditional or Roth IRA savings account with a low-cost provider like Vanguard or Betterment.
- Stay frugal, increase your income, and as you continue to widen the gap between your income and expenses, invest that money into index funds.
- You don’t need a lot of money to start investing. Take advantage of the power of compound interest by starting today — even if it’s just $50 a month. It will add up faster than you expect.
How to Get Rich Fast: Final Thoughts
There is no get rich quick scheme that works. There is no secret investment opportunity that will change your financial situation overnight. Sure, some people catch lighting in a bottle. You can find lottery winners all over. But that’s just luck. It’s not how wealth is built.
But what’s exciting to me is how fast a person can move from the far left of the financial freedom continuum to the far right — not necessarily obtaining enough money to last the rest of their lifetime, but certainly having enough freedom to do what they want, where they want, when they want.
And even more importantly, to have a career that provides immense fulfillment in their lives.
A three to five year time frame is certainly realistic for this type of financial success.
And while it’s important to have a long-term vision of where you want to go, it’s even more important to focus on the journey itself.
Yes, it’s hard work. But the time will pass either way, so make the most of it.
What to read next: How to build generational wealth.