How did you get rich?
January 22, 2008 10:39 PM   Subscribe

What did you do to change from poor to rich?

Assuming at some point in your life, you were earning less than $1000 a month, what did you do to start earning more than $5000 a month? Get a job? Get promoted? Start your business? Read a book?
posted by markovich to Work & Money (53 answers total) 135 users marked this as a favorite
Went back to school. Got a better job.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 PM on January 22, 2008 [4 favorites]

A bit off the question but perhaps useful information: increased income often does not always mean increased wealth. You become rich by spending significantly less than you earn. Many people with high incomes do not do this.
posted by winston at 10:45 PM on January 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's a bit chatfilterish, isn't it?

Post-secondary education is a big factor in getting a better job, especially in the low-labour, high-tech age. Specialized education is required for a lot, and I mean a LOT of higher paying jobs, and a high school diploma really doesn't cut it anymore.

Also, minimum wage full time in Canada gets you over 1300$ a month. But that's just snark.
posted by Phire at 10:55 PM on January 22, 2008

How to get rich: an hour long lecture from one of my college Professors in bullet points.

- Rich = enough resources to be free and to be able to live life as you wish
- Stop wasting money. No smoking, no gambling, and drink in moderation
- Get term life insurance, it is not advertised anywhere because it is too good a deal for the consumer
- Get a job (any job) and put aside 10% of your income after taxes.
- Start early -> maximum benefit is derived from compounded interest
- Get married to live cheaply. It will make life a lot more comfortable
- Stay healthy. Check your blood pressure and cholesterol. Walk a lot. Get a colonoscopy in your 40's (95% chance you can prevent colon cancer)
- Avoid debt... Pay off credit cards (this is the best investment you can make) Don't invest in stocks unless your credit card is paid off otherwise you are effectively losing money
- Buy a condo/house in order to not throw away money on apartments
- Take full advantage of 401K every year
- With the 10% you are saving after each paycheck open two accounts. Put half in a treasury bills (money market, only keep around a years worth of salary in this one) Put the other in mutual funds that invest in the entire market

Remember that the point of being rich is to live the life you want to live.
posted by pwally at 10:56 PM on January 22, 2008 [88 favorites]

switched to freelance.
posted by nitsuj at 10:59 PM on January 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you want to become "rich" as you have put it, then you need to become ambishes and pursue this goal. Evaluate what you are good at and exploit that aspect of yourself onto the world.

What did I do? I'm interested in programming and electronics. Got a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering, and then got a little lucky landing a good job. I don't make than $5000 a month, mind you. But for my area of the world I made a decent wage. I'm definitely middle class, anyway.
posted by nickerbocker at 11:01 PM on January 22, 2008

Nice post pwally. About this point:

Buy a condo/house in order to not throw away money on apartments

In some areas and situations it makes more sense to pay cheap rent and save/invest the difference in what mortgage payment would be. You need to run the numbers to see what's up where you're at. It's honestly a real nit pick but to me that line stands out in blaring contrast to the timeless semi-absolute quality of the other bullet points.

2nd Blazecock and nitsuj on advice to the actual question.
posted by oblio_one at 11:09 PM on January 22, 2008

Sort of along the lines of what pwally wrote, Scott Adams has a "Unified Theory of Everything Financial". Simple and brilliant advice.
posted by boeing82 at 11:21 PM on January 22, 2008 [5 favorites]

1. Stopped switching jobs/careers and dug in to the one I'd disliked least.
2. Accepted that I wasn't a unique snowflake/future rock star just biding my time in this gig, but that I'm a pretty good middle manager.
3. Stepped back and looked at reasons why I might not have been chosen for promotion (mostly, this turned out to be not taking initiative enough).
4. Looked at why I didn't make more money (mostly, this turned out to be that I hadn't asked for enough and because I lived in an area with lower than average wages).
5. Made changes to #'s 3 and 4 and stuck to it.
6. Stuck to it some more.
7. Even when it sucked sometimes and I thought for a minute that I'd be better off switching jobs/careers or that I could've been a rock star.
8. Got to be a better than average middle manager.
9. Got a promotion.
10. Got a raise.
posted by cali at 11:55 PM on January 22, 2008 [5 favorites]

Fell in love with a tight-arse aspie, decided to pool our money.
posted by goo at 1:02 AM on January 23, 2008

Buy property at the right time. Save. Avoid debt like the plague. Sell at the right time. Save. Avoid debt like the plague. Spend quite a few years getting very good at something, and always lobby hard for a raise. Save. Avoid debt like the plague. Marry. Save. Avoid debt like the plague. Go freelance. Save. Avoid debt like the plague...
posted by dowcrag at 1:15 AM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Metafilter's own jscalzi has a really comprehensive post about this.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:36 AM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Can someone explain, briefly, why getting married is oft repeated as a way of living cheaper? It intuitively seems to make sense but I'd like it broken down. I suppose it's all related to tax breaks, right?
posted by Zé Pequeno at 2:26 AM on January 23, 2008

Response by poster: Sorry to derail here, but I'd like to mention that "Unified Theory of Everything Financial" seems to be geared towards people who want money AFTER retirement. What's up with that?
posted by markovich at 3:05 AM on January 23, 2008

I read The Richest Man In Babylon, and basically did everything it recommended. Then I read Wealth 101. Now I realise just how "rich" I am, on only slightly more money than before.
posted by Solomon at 3:42 AM on January 23, 2008

Can someone explain, briefly, why getting married is oft repeated as a way of living cheaper?

Most of the world (governmentally speaking) is strongly hetero-normative and societally in favour of marriage as a social institution. In most countries (the US and the UK are two strong examples), being married allows you to claim tax relief of various kinds, as well as lowering interest rates on loans and other kinds of credit.

The rationale that sits behind this is the idea that married couples are bound together financially in law, and are a better bet, both for the state and private institutions, to spend money on or extend credit to. For the state, they're potentially producing the next generation of productive citizens that the whole edifice rests on, and for private industry (healthcare, banks, insurance), there's the belief that they will, on balance, have more to spend, and if you need to reclaim the debt, you can go after both people.

Marriage is a social institution, but it's also inextricably bound up in our systems of governments and finance. Hence why it is coveted by people that heteronormative society implicitly assume are a worse bet, such as gay male couples who can't have children without a surrogate, or lesbian couples that banks and healthcare firms (wrongly) assume somehow don't have the kinds of relationship that can weather mutual financial hardship.

As with most societal assumptions, it's largely bolllocks.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:56 AM on January 23, 2008 [7 favorites]

College was the first step, but it was far from easy.

When I graduated from high school, I was considered "gifted", but surprisingly had no plans to attend college. I just didn't know anything about it. Very few of my classmates were attending, and none of my relatives had degrees, and the high school seemed to reserve their support to those students who had parents who were motivated and/or of sufficient financial means.

It's not that I didn't want to go to college - I really had no idea it was a possibility.

Over the summer after high school I worked at a book store full time. One of the part-time workers was a retired chemist who was working to escape retirement boredom. I suppose he saw some sort of potential in me, because he encouraged me to submit the FAFSA and apply to regional colleges. Although my grades were mediocre, my SAT scores were somehow very good, and that helped to get me into one of the best state universities.

But, the university was more difficult than I can describe, and absolutely for different reasons that one would expect. The college experience was overwhelming - the financial aid registration hurdles, the missed deadlines, the culture shock, the lack of a clear academic path. There are so many variables that made me almost drop out of college in my second year. But, somehow in my third year the puzzle clicked; I was good at math. I immediately changed my major from liberal arts to computer science and finance. I finished both degrees, and the rest is history.

I kicked butt once I graduated, lucked out with the right opportunities, and most importantly met the right people.

The strangest thing to me (to this day), is how very few people escape poverty. Even with my supposed talents, I believe my transition from poor to rich was mostly luck. Of my colleagues, most of them were rich to begin with, and a few were middle class. I've only met a small handful of people who started poor and ended up wealthy. The odds are against that transition (in the US at least).
posted by brandnew at 4:08 AM on January 23, 2008 [7 favorites]

Some of the times when I have felt richest in my life have actually been those when I was spending comparatively little money. Instead I simply re-jigged my life to put me in an environment where there were fewer opportunities to spend. I am thinking of times where I gave up work to travel or study for example.
posted by rongorongo at 4:11 AM on January 23, 2008

While making for a lengthy read, the jscalzi post was informative. However, the real gems are in the comments of that post. That is, if you want to delve into the finer points of the poor life in America. Hmm, it seems to me that you might get different answers depending on who you ask. Pwally made a great comment, nonetheless it wasn't the answer to the question you asked. He attempted to re-frame the question for you. Basically imploring you the change your definition of "rich". I agree that's what you need to do, but that wasn't what you asked. If you want to jump from $1000 to $5000, you should get smart. Educate yourself about how money works in this society. I wish I could give you more but, you have to take the initiative and get some fire in your belly to learn.

Also I had the same suspicion about the marriage advice Ze, (that it's related to tax breaks). Think in terms of how it affects your financial transactions. Additionally, maybe a marriage gives you some credibility to businesses. It reassures them that you are in a period of building or stability so that they are more welcome to doing business with you.
posted by Student of Man at 4:25 AM on January 23, 2008

Economic benefits of marriage (The Economist). American men work harder when they get married and drink less. Economies of scale. Efficient division of labor.

Also, from the BBC, so UK:
If you are thinking of getting married do it for love, not for any tax benefit - you would have to really scratch your head to try and find any big tax advantages to being married.
posted by alasdair at 4:49 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Happy dave, you made a good point, and I agree on the whole. But, I heard (in the American states where homosexual partnerships are legal, the financial benefits are the same. I raise this because I reason that the children of gay couples can also be productive citizens, provided that the caretakers are a healthy gay couple.

Upon thinking about this, I always thought the legal question of gay marriage and the cultural question were mutually exclusive. When Hetero-Marriage is framed as a cultural institution that even the economy depends on, It's not hard to see that the legal question of gay marriage is implicitly a cultural question.
posted by Student of Man at 4:57 AM on January 23, 2008

You never know you are talking to. Just remember you can meet anyone anywhere anytime. A lot of opportunities present themselves when you are not actually in work. Even while you are at working networking the right way helps.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 4:59 AM on January 23, 2008

I quoted marriage because:

- I halved most living expenses
- I found cheaper ways to socialise
- My insurance got a bit cheaper
- I stopped buying crap because rightly, I got nagged for wasting money and filling the house with junk

This shouldn't be a reason, really, but I also married someone who'd also done well out of the property market, so for the home we own and also compared to pretty much everyone we know, our mortgage is small.

But I suspect I grew up, got a bit more responsible and looked to the future more. It's hard to say this without sounding smug, but marriage makes me happy, and so I think I'm less inclined to spend money to make me feel good.
posted by dowcrag at 5:03 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

As a poster above pointed out, the question is about income rather than wealth, and I certainly wouldn't call $5000 a month a high income - in the more expensive cities, it really won't buy all that much.

That said, the biggest thing seems to be ambition. Not just to make money, but to do the practical things that result in more income: get jobs with potential for growth, not just the ones that pay more right off the bat; be good at your job, and be willing to cut your losses and change jobs if you're not; point out how good you are and ask for more money, take on more responsibility, repeat.

Another big thing is putting off childbearing until you're on solid footing financially and your career is established. Or at least until you have a spouse/partner/other solid support system to help you with the kids while you focus on work and bringing in more money.

Most of it is really the attitude and ambition, though.

Another couple of blog posts from a much-read LJ-er: 1, 2.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 5:07 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

But, I heard (in the American states where homosexual partnerships are legal, the financial benefits are the same. I raise this because I reason that the children of gay couples can also be productive citizens, provided that the caretakers are a healthy gay couple.

Absolutely agreed, my point was that the division over using the word 'marriage' to describe legal partnerships between same-sex couples has roots in more than just religious, socially conservative or personal revulsion at the concept of same-sex relationships - the idea of marriage between child-bearing heterosexual couples is deeply embedded in government as finance as the ideal 'basic unit' of society, as it is perceived as stable likely to create future stability.

Personally I think sexuality shouldn't come into it, love and mutual trust should be the measure of a stable relationship, and hence a stable society.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:24 AM on January 23, 2008

Can someone explain, briefly, why getting married is oft repeated as a way of living cheaper?

What Happy Dave says- plus you're not going out chasing tottie every second night.
posted by mattoxic at 5:50 AM on January 23, 2008

This wasn't a bad read.
posted by mattoxic at 5:51 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Per the very first response, when did I ever make less than $1,000 a month? Get a professional degree. Begin amazement at how quickly you spend $5,000 a month and have nothing to show for it.
posted by GuyZero at 6:08 AM on January 23, 2008

Can someone explain, briefly, why getting married is oft repeated as a way of living cheaper?

I have NEVER understood this. If you want to live more cheaply, get a roommate (and/or some self-discipline), NOT a spouse. Getting married put a significant dent in our finances, compared to when we lived together as singles: The Marriage Penalty.
posted by somanyamys at 6:15 AM on January 23, 2008

The big change for me was that one day, I decided I was better than the life I was living.

Essentially, I was born and raised poor white trash, and grew up to be miserable poor white trash, until I woke up one day and decided that I no longer wanted to live like that.

I did many of the things listed here, but really, those guidelines are useless unless you are committed to actually changing the way you live your life. Like most things, you get out what you put in.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:29 AM on January 23, 2008

Both statistically and anecdotally, the answer is "go to school."

Here is a chart showing incomes by education level in the US over a ten year period. (Other countries may have a more or less extreme spread, but I would expect the pattern to hold.) And we aren't just talking about going and getting a phd -- don't forget how much someone with a technical degree and an apprenticeship in the trades (eg plumbing or wiring) can earn. (For perspective, the median household income in the US was $48,201 in 2006, according to the infallible Wikipedia -- that is the combined number for all the earners in the household; that page also has a graph of income by education that is more extreme than the previous link. Go to school!)

The "get married" advice is probably pretty good if you are heterosexual (or live in a place where gays can marry, too). Certainly my life became materially and otherwise much more comfortable after marriage -- a combined household is often much less expensive than two separate households (but this depends on the specifics of how you live, of course). From watching people I know, the real advice here might be "don't get divorced" -- that can be a phenomenally expensive process that reduces a comfortable situation to a difficult one.

And having some perspective really helps. I've lived with and worked with people in extreme poverty, and I have seen how the working poor live in my city. I have a pretty middle of the road US middle-class lifestyle -- modest house, older car, few luxury goods -- and to be honest I feel really rich. I have colleagues, some of whom earn a fair bit more than I, who are always going on about how poor they feel. So simply moving from $1000 to $5000/month won't automatically make you feel rich. Feeling rich has more to do with your expectations and desires, and little to do with your actual income.

In the US, having benefits (meaning getting medical insurance) makes all the difference between an economically marginal situation and a more stable one, but in more civilized countries where health care is more widely available that is not a factor.
posted by Forktine at 6:34 AM on January 23, 2008

My dad once told me that the more money you make, the poorer you are. Not because of some "the things you own start to own you" buddhist bullshit, but because every time you get a 5% raise, you ratchet up your expenses 10%. That means that after ten raises, you are spending 50% more than you are earning. You want to be rich? Maximize your earning and minimize your spending. Just doing one of those won't help you.
posted by ND¢ at 6:36 AM on January 23, 2008

So, the first step would be to increase your income. Charles Jones said, "You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read." I think this quote is very appropriate with the job market today. Sure, there are a many fields where your degree and your certifications make all the difference. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. But more and more, a degree is just a piece of paper if you can't back it up. I would say that networking is much more important than anything else out there in most positions. Anyone who's halfway charismatic can work their way into most fields with little trouble if they know the right people.

The next step would be the obvious "spend less than you make." Most people say, "Well, oh, that's easy. I can manage that with no trouble." But you will slip up. Trust me, you will. Everyone does. The best thing to remedy this is to make a zero-based budget and stick to it. Also, don't fall into other traps that most of America does. For example, credit cards and car debt.

Lastly, going back to Jones' quote, you have to really deeply change yourself. Mr. Jones recommends reading as a method of doing this, which is a good one. The simple fact is, though, that you need to alter your outlook on life and on yourself. Really look at yourself and figure out what it is you would love to do for a living. Likely you will do much better in a career you enjoy than one you have just to make money. Once you figure out what you want to do, read and teach yourself as much as you can. You should learn something new about your profession every single day until you're an expert in the field.

It's a long process. Good luck.
posted by joshrholloway at 7:18 AM on January 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

And now that I'm done with my motivational speech, I'll also offer you some more practical advice:

* Don't buy a house until you're ready. Like, being able to pay 10 or 20 percent down with a 15-year mortgage where the monthly payment is no more than a quarter of your income ready. There are a lot of people that will tell you you're throwing money away by renting forever, but if you get a huge mortgage before you're ready, it will crush you.
* When you're ready to invest, never EVER invest in a regular savings account, single stocks, or bonds. A savings account will barely keep up with inflation if at all. Single stocks are way too risky. Bonds, again, will not even keep up with the inflation rate, and the tax penalties are high. You want to invest in mutual funds. This is something a lot of people miss when trying to build wealth and become "rich."
* For the love of Pete, don't play the lottery. The average American who plays the lottery puts $33 a month into the thing. Invest that money instead and you have a guaranteed win at the end.
posted by joshrholloway at 7:30 AM on January 23, 2008 [5 favorites]

A big way people get rich and increase their income: inheritance.
posted by mattbucher at 7:43 AM on January 23, 2008

Stop undervaluing yourself. When I switched from one job to another, I asked for 40% more at the new job than I had been getting at the old one. I got it and have been "rich" (not really, but I'll be all right) ever since.
posted by kindall at 9:23 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

1. Took an intensive college program and studied really hard during that time. Accumulated student debt at same time.
2. Thanks to my performance in college got a decent job in a small company where I could do a lot more than you can in a compartmentalized large company.
3. Switched jobs after 3 years as a consultant, this was my first big increase, about 10K a year more than I was making before.
4. Got hired by one of the firms I was consulting for, this increased my salary by another 20K (which was still a lot cheaper than what they were paying for me as a consultant). With bonuses and overtime I was making double what I did in step 2, in less than two years time.

My secret to being rich during that time? I still live in the same place I did when I was making half as much, my expenses have never really gone up (I did spring for cable tv, then got rid of it later), I don't use a car (I rent when I need one) and rely on public transportation. And I've been paying off my student debt like a mad man in between.

The biggest tool for helping me was making my own budget. I started simple, obvious things like rent and bills, then with time added details like savings, holidays, clothing. The only thing I still don't budget in detail is my weekly allowance which covers food and going out. If I go out more, I buy less food, if I go out less, I have more money left over. Takes away a lot of the work doing a budget when you don't have to follow those tiny details of minutia and avoid having pockets full of cash register receipts.

Having a savings (yay ING!) account(s) and automatic deposits into them also helped me save as much cash as I was paying off on my student debts. I'm not rich, but I am financially sound.
posted by furtive at 9:43 AM on January 23, 2008

I've started to get rich when I started to read this blog.
posted by racingjs at 9:55 AM on January 23, 2008

Went to law school in the 1990s. I'm decidedly not rich, but I make about 5 times as much as I used to in desktop publishing.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:38 AM on January 23, 2008

Go to school. From reading your past questions about internships, knowing C++, but clearly not knowing databases I am assuming that you either don't have a college education or don't have one in IT. You've now spent time as a developer so you need the chops to

a) Beat out other people for jobs. One of the major gateways, whether it's reasonable or not, is being degreed.
b) Be useful as a designer and/or project manager. People who can make code when given quality specs and sufficient guidance are easy to find. Finding people who can write quality designs that developers can work from is harder. Finding people who can give that guidance well is also harder.

B also has the advantage of making you more resistant to having your position offshored.

If you've already got an undergrad degree and masters level work isn't doable for some reason then you'd do well to pursue some formal training in those more marketable areas, possibly project management. In any major city you can't swing a stick without hitting training in that area.
posted by phearlez at 11:34 AM on January 23, 2008

I kicked butt once I graduated, lucked out with the right opportunities, and most importantly met the right people.

The strangest thing to me (to this day), is how very few people escape poverty. Even with my supposed talents, I believe my transition from poor to rich was mostly luck. Of my colleagues, most of them were rich to begin with, and a few were middle class. I've only met a small handful of people who started poor and ended up wealthy. The odds are against that transition (in the US at least).

I'm just quoting this previous response so I can second it. Some redefinitions are in order, though. I know plenty of people who came from poor families and ended up wealthy. But the point is that it was clear they were going to do well in life by the time they hit high school.

I am I guess an example of this. I came from a dirt-poor family. But once I showed in school that I could kick-ass academically that led to a prestigious college. After that it was all connections. After I graduated I was being asked by some friends to go join them at their investment banks in NY and *wink-wink* they'd put in a good word for me. I didn't go there, opting for Silicon Valley instead, but I am not exaggerating when I say that every single job or opportunity I've had since then has been connections. And it is these opportunities that led quickly to six-figure salaries for me a few years out of college. (I blew much of it funding my own company in the late 90's but thats another story...)

The only exception I can think of is one guy who wasn't very smart or talented or ambitious but got a low-level job with a company that skyrocketed in the early 90's. In his case, it really was all luck. I suppose there are more people like him but that stuff is hard to plan for. But as a general rule, I'd say getting in with the right company is key. One that is growing and expanding. And then prove your worth.

Reading some of the answers above they almost all seem to provide how to make a transition in the long-term rather than short-term. The best advice I think is kindall's. In one of my early jobs they offered me $X to start and X was a large sum for me! I said: "I think I'm worth 1.5X actually." And they replied: "OK. 1.5X. Done!" The quickness with which they accepted it made it obvious that I could have asked for even more... Don't undervalue yourself.
posted by vacapinta at 12:28 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

vacapinta's story about connections can be depressing to those of us without them, so here's one from the other end of the spectrum . . .

I came from an utterly disastrous family, was a complete fuckup in high school, got waitlisted for a decent state school, got in, was a moderate fuckup there, dropped out, got married, dicked around for five years, went back to school but at a truly obscure state school, both of us applied to obscure state law school, started our own practice on a shoestring in a tiny, rural town, and now, a few years later, and defying all logic, earn a household income in the top 4 or 5% of the country. The only explanation is that we bet on ourselves and worked hard, because we're not brilliant, started with almost no money (our startup costs for our first office were less than $1000), and have zero connections.
posted by Enroute at 5:08 PM on January 23, 2008

Keep your first wife and your first house. Live below your means. Invest wisely and safely.
posted by snowjoe at 1:03 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

vacapinta's story about connections can be depressing to those of us without them

People assume that "connections" means "connections made at an elite school." But really, there's no telling when and where you'll make your most important connections. I made my first important connection (which landed me my first job after college) online, in the late '80s. At that job, I made the contacts that landed me my first freelance gig when I decided to strike out on my own.

(Another place where I think vacapinta and I will agree: trying to run your own business is a good way to lose a lot of money. I ended up $50K in the hole, and it took me years to dig myself out. My credit is only now mostly recovered.)

On my first freelance gig, I made a contact that led to several more gigs. Volunteering at MacHack, I made another contact who has been hugely influential in my career -- he's the reason I'm in Seattle now. Another contact I made online got me involved in Mac journalism for a while, through which I met a guy who introduced me to a guy who ended up hiring me a few years later (that job and its successor, the getting of which is a lengthy and improbable story in itself, made up five years of my career).

Now some would chalk all these contacts up to "luck" -- but nobody is as consistently "lucky" as I've been in my career. It's knowing people. If you're looking for a job at a specific firm, then knowing the right people is important, but if you just want to be employed all the time, it doesn't really matter who your contacts are, as long as they are respected at their jobs -- it matters that they know who you are and what you can do. And you will make these sorts of contacts all through your career; by starting out with none, you are actually only a little behind someone who went to a leet school and can catch up. Once you have a few, in my experience, the rest kind of falls into place.

Also, it is important that you be Googleable. If you have a very common name, I'd actually recommend that you seriously consider using a more distinctive name professionally (no need for a full legal change, though) so you can be found more easily! It should be easy to associate you with companies you've worked for as well.
posted by kindall at 7:04 PM on January 24, 2008

Wealth is the ratio of what you have to what you want. If your needs are modest or minimal, you'll feel much wealthier, even if you don't have a lot of money in absolute terms. Of course, it's not always so easy to moderate your wants, but it is doable.
posted by dylan20 at 7:03 AM on January 25, 2008

I went to graduate school, worked hard for 8 years in research, and then realized that working in business was much better for me.

Two positions later broke the $5K/month barrier. Moving on to another employer (after four good years) at a 20% bump in salary, and two years after that changed positions with the same employer, salary now 20% higher again, with commissions coming in at 40% higher than that.

So I got a new job, worked hard at that job, and moved up several times across two different employers. The last move was by far the most lucrative, but it involved moving to a different locale (across the country) and going into sales, which isn't for everyone.

Holding onto the first house purchased - check. Getting married and staying married - check. 10% or better into 401K no matter what the income - check. Living below your means - check. Avoided credit card debt - check.

We're well on our way, no regrets at all.
posted by scooterdog at 7:45 PM on January 27, 2008

Yeah, college was a big one for me. But so was figuring out that I needed to go there.

I was 17 and working at a grocery store full time. I had an old beat-up Honda Civic, rented a small room in a house with people that I hated, and didn't really like my work or the people there for that matter anyway. I worked extra shifts, maybe 50-55 hours a week to make overtime and have more money to blow on skiing.

I didn't realize it at the time, but that was important - having the crappy <>
I wasn't living at home (I had been given the boot, which is another story altogether), so I didn't have any external pressure to get my shit together and go to school. For me, it was the job, and seeing those people, that did it.

So I applied, and went.

I didn't go back to that store very often during college but when I've been back in my hometown I always try to go by there. There's still some of the same sad old faces, but I'm wearing a baseball cap and they wouldn't remember me as much as I remember them anyway. I don't go there to look down on them or to feel good about myself - they've made their decisions and I've made mine and I have a personal philosophy that no one on the planet is intrinsically "better" than anyone else, anyway. I just go there to remind myself of why I did what I did, and where I don't want to be, and where I didn't end up.

Now I'm in a job that makes >$5,000 / month. Tons more than that, actually. I recently took a 50% pay cut to do some charity work for the better part of a year, and I'm still making my student loan payments and my transfers to savings and I have enough left over to have some fun while I'm here in Africa. I try not to think of it as so much accredited to my hard work as to just being responsible and incredibly blessed.

Here's the thing, though. I used to think that I need to keep looking at my current situation, no matter how good it is, the same way I looked at the grocery store people. I treated every job for the first few years out of school the same way. I would look around me, hate my surroundings, and decide that I was going to be the one to "get out." I had done it before, I could do it again. This was how I moved onto better paying, more high-profile jobs, faster than many of my friends did.

Then one day I realized that your whole life will turn into one big fucking chase if that's how you treat it. I had friends on Wall Street making 3-10 times as much as me, working every waking minute, and THESE guys had people that they idolized, people they wanted to be like, because they didn't feel THEY were making enough. They were looking around at each OTHER and thinking the same thing I was thinking in the grocery store at 17 disgruntled years of age.

That's about when I decided that there's something wrong with it - the golden handcuffs. That's the thing about money - no matter how much you make, its never going to be enough. There's got to be more out there.

So, I've answered your question - get yourself in a situation where you're making the former, decide you hate it, and use the motivation to move towards the latter. College is a huge tool for this.

But it won't make you happy. You're asking the wrong question.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:27 AM on January 28, 2008

what did you do to start earning more than $5000 a month?

I got a better job, based on my previous job, which was based on previous jobs, which were based on my higher education.

Regardless of the educational value of higher education (which we can debate), it's a pretty good investment in financial terms, if you plan on going into most sectors. There are a few places where you can do equally well with or without a college degree, but they're few and far between. I did it for the experience and the education as well as the diploma, but there are places you can go to and not spend too much money if you're only interested in the latter.

Then, work your personal network to get jobs. That's how I've gotten all of mine. I work (and enjoy working in) a relatively mercenary sector, consulting, where it's not considered odd to jump companies every few years.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:05 AM on January 29, 2008

I am not in any way rich, but here is how I got a little money in the bank......

1. I moved to Bermuda. Depending on who you ask, it is the richest country in the world. The mail carrier in my office makes 60k without income tax. I saw a waiter here the other day rocking a Rolex. The expatriate network runs far deeper than any elite school as far as I am concerned. If I need a contact or a place to stay in Dubai, Sydney, Croatia, or Geneva, Bermuda has provided it.

2. I bought Google at 110 and sold at 650. If I had only bought on margin.

3. After I got an undergrad in Psych, I slapped myself and went back for a degree is Information Systems.

4. I refused to buy anything on credit that ordinarily does not appreciate.
posted by jasondigitized at 10:40 AM on January 30, 2008

(the story of a woman at my last place of work)

Graduated high school, skipped college, got married, had a kid, got divorced. So, at 24 she was in a pretty tough place. She tried a few random jobs just to make ends meet (fast food, online travel agent, temp work, generally making probably 20,000/year with no benefits). But these were really not enough to support her and her kid. So she started working on marketable skills in her free time, specifically typing and office suite applications (word, excel, access, etc). Got a job as a secretary in a good business that's growing and that employs fairly wealthy people. Now she was making 35,000/year plus benefits. So she was able to save a little for retirement with the 401k, get her kid some health insurance, AND use the tuition reimbursement program to go to college part time. Worked really, super hard, putting in time and really trying her best. New CEO came in, saw how great she was and how hard she worked, and asked her to be his PA.

Now's she's making $60,000/year, finishing her degree courtesy of the company, and has a promise that after two years of working as CEO's PA she can choose any department in the company to work for. She wants to get into marketing, so in a year and a half she has a job as ready and waiting for her in the field of her choice.

Moral of the story: improve your marketable skills, work in a job/industry that has money and rich people in it, work really hard, take advantage of opportunities.
posted by mosessis at 1:46 PM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Went to school from 1989 to 2002 and got a teaching job. I have four kids, a mortgage, and am married, so I feel fortunate but we basically have no discretionary income. One 1999 minivan, no payments.
posted by mecran01 at 9:41 PM on May 10, 2008

Connections, connections, connections. Surround yourself with people that are interesting and smart and pursue careers that are interesting and smart. Talk to your parents' and grandparents' friends. You can make it otherwise but it is much, much harder. The connections will help you find jobs, recommend you for jobs, and even come work for or with you once you find a good job. I did not attend an elite school, but I have a big social circle, both in my hometown and in LA.

As an example, I recently went to visit some friends at their pool in a very tony zip code here in LA. During that visit, one friend mentioned that they knew a business owner here in LA that was looking to retire and needed someone to come in and learn his business, presumably to eventually take it over. The friend had thought of me, and was I interested? I have no idea if it will work out, but that kind of opportunity does not come your way in all situations.

(I am not saying I chose this friend because he lives in a tony zip code. He would be a friend no matter what).

Also, convert to Judaism. Contrary to popular belief, you will not suddenly become good with money, but you will suddenly have a lot of co-religionists that are doctors, lawyers and businessmen.
posted by charlesv at 8:21 AM on August 27, 2008


Be born to the right family. Failing that, get lucky, either because you were in the right place at the right time of because you maintained contacts with friends who did and you tagged along. Failing that, do what is needed to marry someone with wealth and either manage to stay married or ensure that the prenup is either easily broken or ensured you a settlement that resulted in personal wealth.

I know a lot of rich people. ALL of them, across the board, fit into the above three categories. Many of them are exceptionally smart, most of them worked extremely hard, almost all of them are exceptionally talented and had, at the time, inredible work ethics and worked 10x as hard as the people around them. They still got rich because of luck.

I do not know any [actual] lottery winners or people who benefited from a lawsuit, settlement, but I imagine that works to.

If you mean "financially stable" this has mostly been covered, but:

1. keep in touch with friends and associates FOREVER. Email them once a year asking how they're doing. Have dinner with them when they're in town. This is what "born to the right family" rich kids do and it is what "networked to the right friends" rich people did.

2. don't buy stuff you don't need

3. don't make any purchase over $500 without a 1 week cooling off period where you spend some time reading reviews and comparisons (this obviously helps with (1))

4. don't spend a lot on things you buy over and over (expensive food, etc.)

5. always take the job that pays the most money. Always. It doesn't matter if you'd be happier at a non-profit or teaching villagers to speak basic English. Take the job that pays the most money.

6. always take the university degree that pays the most money. Always. Do not be like those idiots who keep showing up in the new york times who got masters in Philosophy or Creative Writing and are crying about how they owe $100k in student loans and can't get a job better than Starbucks. It doesn't matter if you are not thrilled with the subject, do it anyway.

7. always negotiate the first offer

8. change jobs every 3.5 ("about 4 years") to 5 years. staying loyal = getting dicked over.
posted by rr at 11:19 AM on January 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

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