The key to growing wealth isn’t always simply to make more money. Sometimes, it’s about using what you have to your advantage — maybe it’s as easy as moving your savings into an account with higher interest rates, or taking advantage of an employer’s 401(k) match.
Most importantly, experts say one of the most important elements to building wealth is to simply give it time. Here are the best ways to start building wealth today, according to financial planners.
1. Figure out your net worth
Financial planner Michael Pappis says those looking to grow their wealth should start by understanding what they already have
The best way to do this is by calculating your net worth. “Most people have never visually seen their net worth on paper, and it’s usually an eye-opening exercise,” he says.
It’s a fairly straightforward: simply add up your home’s value, any investment accounts you have, bank account balances, and any other assets. Then, subtract any loans or debt you might have, including student loans, mortgages, and credit card debts.
If your net worth is a negative number, it just means you have a little further to go.
2. Start saving automatically
Financial planner Christine Centino says that one of the easiest ways to build long term wealth is to save without thinking about it.
“A lot of places out there right now, like Betterment, they let you automate savings into your brokerage accounts every month,” Centino says. “I think that’s a great way to do it.”
She says that having savings automatically drawn from your checking account, or automatically deducted from your paycheck if you’re saving in a 401(k), is a helpful way to save. “You forget about it, and then it starts to accumulate,” she says.
It’s a no-effort way to start accumulating wealth, and you won’t have to think about it every month.
3. Take advantage of your employer’s 401(k) program
A 401(k) match is a program where your employer “matches” a percentage of your retirement contributions to your 401(k). Not every company offers this perk, but if yours does, you’ll want to take advantage.
“If your employer matches 100% of your contribution up to 4% of your salary, I’d contribute at least 4% to the plan,” Pappis says. “For an easy example, if you’re making $100,000, you will contribute 4% of your salary, $4,000, to your plan, and then your employer will contribute $4,000 to your plan. You’ll save as much as $8,000,” he says.
Pappis says that the younger you start, the more time your money will have to grow. “As a young professional, this annual match year after year could prove to be very beneficial in building your wealth in the long run,” he says.
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4. Look at your cash flow
Don’t know where your money is going? There’s one sure way to find out, and that’s by looking at your cash flow.
Pappis recommends looking at your bank accounts or credit card statements “to gain a better understanding of what you’re spending on a weekly or monthly basis.” From there, you can highlight the places you don’t want to be spending money, and start curbing your spending there.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a budget,” he says. “Just see if you can cut back in those areas.”
5. Don’t just let money sit — keep it growing
If you’ve got cash just sitting in bank accounts that earn .01% interest each year, it’s not actually growing.
And if that’s the case, you’re missing out. Pappis suggests finding a way to make your money grow, especially for accounts and savings that you’ll keep long term.
Accounts with large balances could really benefit from this move. “That could be a brokerage account for a down payment on a home or a high yield online savings account like Ally Bank for your emergency fund,” he says.
There are several high-yield savings account options where your money could earn 2% interest — 200 times more than that .01%. These options are liquid, so they allow you to have your savings at your disposal, but growing while you don’t need them.
6. Make your savings a priority
For financial planner Colin Moynahan, it’s all about getting people to see just how important their saving really is.
He sees people treating saving like a purchase instead of a habit, and that’s where he says things start to go wrong.
“They make the transfer that makes the ‘purchase,’ if you will, but they’re not changing their habits and they’re still spending outside,” he says.
“So now what happens,” he continues, “is they get in about four or five months and they actually want to go on a trip and they say, ‘well, instead of saving this month, we’ll just go do this.’ Then, the next month, it goes to replacing the refrigerator. The month after that, they make up some other excuse. And they never get back in the habit of doing it because they never changed their habits in the first place.”
The best way to get into the habit of savings? Automate them.