There are literally 1,000s of different ways to get rich, but there are probably a few dozen generalized paths. Most of those paths are not available to most people, but you very likely have access to more than one route.
Routes that are 99% outside of your control:
- Being born with a trust fund
- Inheritance from a dead relative
- Winning the lottery
- Finding a hidden treasure
- Overhearing two people in a hotel lobby talk about their next greatest stock pick, which you go all-in on
Those first two are just about 100% outside of your control. The bottom three require you to have some effort and will—but are still mostly outside of your control. Unless you are brilliant and know how to systematically win the lottery or overhear stock tips, these are “pretty much” outside of your control.
Then there are ways to get rich within your control, but very, very hard to accomplish
- Write a song that charts at #1
- Research a stock for a year, put all your life savings into OTM options, and win big
- Build a cutting-edge technology, get made fun of for 10 years, and then IPO as a billionaire
These require both a massive amount of talent and will (also called faith) to carry out. They probably also require luck, but you’ll need much of the first two (people who blame most of it on luck are either trying to downplay their success out of humility, or to avoid the eat-the-rich mob, or to avoid having to field annoying questions about how they did it).
What can a normal person do to get rich?
How do you get rich without these hard-to-accomplish ways? Depends on what you mean by rich.
If rich means the ability to live off the interest of your investments and not have to work a 9–5, then there are still 1000s of ways left for “normal” people. They’re all still quite hard compared to a 9–5 (especially in terms of willpower) so most people don’t bother.
But hard ≠ impossible.
Here’s a Realistic Plan to Get Rich
This is the plan I’m following.
1. Start Saving
I used to work at a non-profit. I loved the work and mission, but I was not going to get rich making $42,000/year. Nevertheless, I saved aggressively—not to get rich, but to use the money for my next thing.
Normal people save 10%. If you want to not just pay the bills, but end up rich, commit to saving 50% from every paycheck. It’s not retirement money, it’s your “war chest”, the thing you’re going to deploy against your next endeavor.
Saving aggressively is easier when you decide ahead of time what’s worth spending money on. For me, that was eating out with friends, because it meant spending time with friends. Eating out by yourself? Maybe as a special treat, but a TERRIBLE idea as a habit. When restaurants shut down for corona, I obviously wasn’t eating out as much. So then I allowed myself to spend money on other things, like Krav Maga or a nice digital camera. I still had an outlet, but changed my other spending habits to compensate.
It’s easier to work with $50,000 than $25,000 a year, and it’s even easier to work with $100,000 than $50,000. Save aggressively, even if you’re starting small. Every dollar you save is another opportunity to earn more in the future.
2. Get a Decent-Paying Job.
I took my savings from my job after a couple of years and went to a 12-week program to get skills to get a better-paying job. Did I have to go through this program to get a better-paying job? No, but I knew it would work for me, so I chose to. This is what I mean by 1000s of ways to get rich—even the same path has 20 routes to it. The program cost me $14,000. After the program, I got a job three months later making $63,000. 63 – 42 = 21. $21 > $14. I already made back the investment of $14,000, even though it was a “high-risk” move since it represented two years of savings.
After a year in this job, I got another job in the same industry at a different company making $85,000. Still not loads of money, but more than double what I was making a few years prior. When it comes to year-on-year growth, this was a solid improvement.
3. Invest Aggressively
While the new industry (software development) is good, the future earnings potential is not fantastic. One can quickly go from $80,000 to $120,000 in a few years, but it tends to cap around that—unless you move to SF and work at Facebook, in which case you’ll make closer to $500,000/year. Yes, that’s a realistic number for a senior developer there.
As an aside: top sales earners can net around half a million/year as well from B2B SaaS (as friends in those industries have told me what they make themselves) and top doctors at top hospitals can make around that level, too, plus or minus 100,000.
Nevertheless, most people run into a rough ceiling on your income potential, even if that ceiling is quite high relatively speaking.
You will hit a point at which the main source of your income potential will switch from W-2 employment (AKA a normal job) to investment income.
Old-school companies try to address the gap in income potential by offering stock options. It’s a clean method because it keeps top performers around (as stock options vest over time), aligns their performance with that of the company, and increases their long-term income potential.
The two most common routes to increase your investment income potential are through starting a business or investing in new businesses.
If you’ve got guts, business know-how, and time, then you should probably start a business. Got money but no time? You should invest. If you have money but lack guts or business know-how, then give your money to someone else to invest (but unless you have a stupid amount of money, you probably won’t be rich, unless you continue to get lucky).
RELATED: Learn. Own. Scale. Repeat.
4. Start a Business
This is my next step. I got lucky with a couple of stock investment moves which moved me ahead a few years in my savings. I didn’t go out and blow the cash on fun stuff. It’s getting reinvested to become even more money so that when the time comes for me to take it out and invest it into a business, it’ll be an even bigger war chest.
Realistically, I can’t write a few paragraphs about starting a business or investing in them. They would be too high-level to probably be helpful. Not only would those warrant blog posts of their own, some people make their entire career talking about niches within those categories. Garry Tan is someone who does that really well.
Starting a business is the best way to change the world for the better, and get lots of money while you’re at it. But it’s so risky and scary (for mostly artificial reasons) that no one wants to try it.
You Are Unusually Lucky
In America, you can start a business and fail and you won’t starve. That’s a historical rarity. It’s a better time than ever to take risks, yet fewer people than ever are trying. Seriously, fewer people than ever are starting businesses (Inc.com). Yes there are economic factors that play into this, but the biggest one that no one will ever say outright is shame. You don’t want to start and fail or else you’ll be really embarrassed.
We’re in the most image-conscious moment of history thus far, so only the shameless have the guts to go for something big, fail publicly, and try again.
If you’re reading this, you probably want to get rich. Use this plan as inspiration, but make your own. No one else can think or live your life for you. I hope you get everything you work for.