If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a real estate entrepreneur, investor, and wealth creation evangelist, it’s this: To build a life worth living, you need to plan for a life well-lived. Purposefulness is the key to achieving your goals, especially financial ones.
Wealth creation isn’t just about getting rich. A robust financial life provides security, options, and peace of mind, all of which outweigh the material benefits of smart money management. When your financial house is in order, you’re better equipped to focus on what matters most to you in your personal and professional lives.
Building that house requires establishing the foundation and structure necessary to make it stand the test of time. Financial planning needs to be built pillar by pillar, ones I lay out in my book, “Wealth Can’t Wait.” In my experience, there are seven crucial steps that set up the investor for the future.
These steps will transform your life if you approach them with the right mindset. I’m a big believer that “you reap what you sow.” Most problems can be traced back to how we did or didn’t prepare ourselves to handle potential crises. So that’s the first thing: Be prepared to take responsibility for your financial well-being.
The second commitment you’ll need to make is to act now. Do not skim these principles and file them away for someday. As the title of my book suggests, you cannot put off financial planning and expect to generate a fortune at some point down the road, so make “someday” start now. Once you do, here’s how you can work the pillars into your own wealth-building philosophy:
1. Design your life.
Some things are beyond our control — war, taxes, natural disasters. But we have the power to shape most of what happens to us, especially when it comes to our finances.
Determine your money goals for different phases in your life, and then devise plans for how to reach them. Be specific and realistic, and build in contingencies for the unexpected.
2. Fall back on the fundamentals.
When choosing investments, stick to proven strategies. Don’t chase the hottest companies or the next unicorn. The thrill lasts only if those gambles pay off, and most of the time, they don’t. Wealth building depends on stable, long-term tactics that generate returns over time.
3. Trust your expertise.
Don’t go too broad when diversifying your portfolio. Choose investments you understand and know will generate revenue. In my case, that’s real estate. I know the industry well and can diversify with different products in this area. Pursuing opportunities that sound exciting but that are largely unfamiliar to you may cause you to misjudge the risks.
4. Don’t stop learning.
In our fast-changing economy, you must always be sharpening your existing abilities and cultivating new ones. You want to be an attractive candidate for increasingly complex and well-paying jobs so that your income matches the goals you established under the first pillar.
5. Work with an accountability partner.
The secret to achieving your goals is breaking them into manageable chunks. “Have $50,000 in savings within five years” is a worthwhile ambition, but it’s too vague on its own. How will you achieve that? What steps are needed to reach that mark?
List them out, and find an accountability partner who will hold you to the plan. This person should know you well and be unafraid to push back if you shirk responsibility or fall behind.
6. Prioritize investing over spending.
It’s easy to get caught up in the spending rat race when you see friends posting their new cars and gadgets on social media or when you’re inundated with ads for cool products. But resist the temptation to spend impulsively.
If you burn through your disposable income purchasing depreciating assets, you’ll have nothing to invest. Set aside emergency savings, budget for items you want, and then invest what’s left.
7. Unhook from minor stresses.
When you’re focused on building wealth, it’s easy to get hung up on small losses or mistakes. But don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. If you have a sound strategy in place, a few missteps will not derail you. Rather than spiral down into stress and angst, unhook from the problem.
Shut down your computer, put away your phone, and have dinner with your family and friends. Being around loved ones helps you refocus on why you started the wealth creation journey in the first place, and it will put the current hiccup into perspective.
If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of implementing all seven pillars at once, don’t be. Taking just one of these actions will put you ahead of where you are now, and you can grow sustainably from there. Just as a building requires a firm foundation to stand tall, wealth creation strategies need strong pillars to help them rise.
David Osborn is an entrepreneur, public speaker, and author. He is a principal franchisee of Keller Williams, the 19th-largest real estate company in the U.S., which grossed more than $5.2 billion in sales in 2015. A firm believer in the principles of knowledge sharing and giving back, he regularly speaks and teaches on entrepreneurial accountability and contributes to causes such as cancer prevention and clean-water well building with nonprofit organizations. A father of three, David and his wife, Traci, live in Austin, Texas.