In the Deep South, Oseola McCarty spent her working years as a washerwoman. To say she earned a meager income washing and ironing clothes for the local residents would be an understatement.
But Ms. McCarty amassed enough wealth to donate $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi, establishing a scholarship fund for deserving students.
Earl Crawley works as a parking-lot attendant. He makes but $20,000 a year. Yet he’s created a stock portfolio worth more than half a million dollars.
Both McCarty and Crawley are proof positive that even those of us with low-paying jobs are capable of creating extraordinary wealth. The fundamental rules of wealth are universal””pay yourself first, save, and invest.
If they could build wealth on such meager salaries, then most of us can as well, even in today’s economy. But where does a family find the money?
Cut the waste
We’re literally surrounded by wasteful spending. Most of it goes unnoticed. The average family of four, for instance, throws out nearly $1,350 worth of food each year.
Discarded purchases and unused memberships lay waste to the best wealth-building plans. Small amounts here and there add up. An unused gym membership at $65 per month creates a $780 year end money pit. The extra $45 for premium cable channels that are rarely watched saps $540 from your pocket annually.
What’s the difference between those that struggle financially and the financially secure? The financial superstars track their spending so they can eliminate the money drains in their lives.
Determine what truly makes you happy
Madison Ave tells us we can have everything we desire. And they’re right, if we’re willing to deal with mountains of debt that come along with it.
As with anything in life, it’s all about balance. As kids we were told we couldn’t have everything we wanted, but as adults we act as if the rules have changed.
Now, I’m not advocating living like Ebenezer Scrooge. I simply believe you should prioritize your spending. Indulge in what you makes you and your family happiest and slash with a vengeance those expenses that bring your family less satisfaction.
If family vacations bring the greatest amount of pleasure to your family, then by all means enjoy. But consider cutting back on the new automobiles or the latest fashions.
Like kids in a candy store, sound money management requires us to make choices and prioritize. Is dining out more important than the latest electronics? Is private school for the kids more important than a large house?
Spend money on your priorities; ignore the shiny distractions.
Watch out for the great loan wealth drain
Consider this for a second. Most of us have one type of loan or another during the majority of our lives, whether it be a car loan, student loan, personal loan, or mortgage.
The difference of just a few percentage points can mean hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of a car loan. The same difference in a mortgage can translate into tens of thousands of dollars wasted over the life of the loan.
A 3.75% mortgage on a $200,000 home over 30 years will cost $926.23 a month. With a 5.75% mortgage, however, you’re looking at a monthly payment nearly $240 higher.
Paying higher interest rates than we should represents one of life’s biggest money pits and greatest obstacles to building wealth.
So what can we do to make sure less of our money goes into the pockets of our banks and more is used to build wealth?
Shop for your loan as carefully as you shop for your car or home. This includes knowing your credit score so that you won’t be forced to pay more for a loan than your credit score warrants, something that frequently happens to minorities.
Wells Fargo was recently fined a record $85 million for pushing credit worthy borrowers into more expensive subprime housing loans.
Automobile loans are even worse. Dealers routinely inflate the interest rates on poor and minority borrowers. They also pack loans with useless or artificially inflated add-ons like credit insurance. Your best bet, shop around and obtain your auto loan from a bank or your credit union before even setting foot in a dealership.
We’re blessed to live in a country where even those living on meager incomes can build wealth. The question we have to ask ourselves, are we doing all we can to make wealth building a reality?
BMWK, what are some of the ways you’ve cut costs or increased your savings in order to build your family’s wealth?