Neither magic nor alchemy is required to take blue-collar wages and become a millionaire.
Perhaps there’s nothing more condescending or ill-informed than the questions directed at teens who are looking to pursue blue-collar careers. “If you’re just gonna be a construction worker how are you ever gonna get rich?” The answer is simple. The same way anyone else does: financial discipline, planning, and hard work.
However, one important caveat is necessary… it’s easier to become a millionaire in the blue-collar trades than anywhere else. Most blue-collar careers require no or limited secondary education resulting in earlier earnings, less college debt, and subsequently significant earlier savings. Because of the power of compound interest, early savings can be the most important in terms of your long-term financial health.
According to US News, federal repayment plans put borrowers on a 10-year plan to pay back their loans, but the average bachelor’s degree holder takes 21 years to pay off their debt. That means blue-collar workers can have a 14 to 25-year savings head start! In addition, the demand for some blue-collar positions is so high that their earnings vastly exceed those of positions “requiring” college degrees.
So, how do you intend on becoming a millionaire? Hopefully by pursuing a blue-collar career that interests you.
With those myths busted we can turn our attention to the financial advice that will help everyone iron out their finances and establish comfort, peace, and freedom. If you feel like you’ve been sent up a creek without a paddle when it comes to managing money, I am here to help you find some peace.
Step 1. Understand Your Money Mindset
The first thing I think every single person needs to understand is his or her own mindset when it comes to money. A lot of people buy things they think they need because of what their friends have or because they’ve seen a commercial or an ad in a magazine; however, they don’t really want or need it, and they usually feel miserable or full of regret after making the purchase—especially when the bill arrives. I believe all your purchases should be screened on the effect the purchase will have on you psychologically.
Ask yourself this question whenever you’re about to purchase something: Will buying this cause me stress or make me feel free?
Notice I didn’t ask if it made you feel: beautiful, rich, confident, popular, smart, elegant, worthy, sporty, athletic, better than your peers. You see, when you watch a lot of the commercials on television they’re making you a sort of promise—if you buy their makeup, their clothes, their car, their home goods, their appliances, their whatever, you’ll feel better in some way. This implies that you’re not enough as you are. You need the extra-whipped face cream that cost ninety bucks to be more beautiful. You need the truck with more horsepower to be more tough-looking and cool. You need the refrigerator that creates your grocery list for you, because you’ll be lost without it. But here are the questions that we don’t ask ourselves when we buy things:
Will this make me free?
Will having XYZ, whatever it is, improve my life in some way?
Will it allow me peace of mind today, tomorrow, the next five years?
Freedom feels differently for everyone. And freedom is the goal.
If you’re buying things to make yourself feel better—prettier, skinnier, richer, younger—nothing you buy will actually do that because you need to fix what’s going on inside first. Once you believe you’re enough—pretty enough, smart enough, healthy enough, etc., you’re not going to look for external validation or a purchase to prove it.
When you have a better idea of your goals and a realistic perspective you can invest that money in things that will get you closer to your goals and really bring you happiness
Step 2. Establish Credit, but Don’t Get Buried in It
Notice the word ‘establish’. They use the word establish because credit is actually built by the individual, not just given to them. You begin to build a documentable reputation for paying your bills and paying them on time and as promised. And you should start young and proceed slowly and surely.
One of the things I tell every young person who comes to me for financial coaching is to get a credit card. Bear with me. I know I just told you not to spend beyond your means or buy things you can’t afford in Step 1, and that’s all still true. But, the reality is, if you ever want to finance a car or buy a house with a mortgage, you’re going to need to have a credit history. Until our world figures out another way to measure a buyer’s trustworthiness, establishing credit is the only way to do it.
Now it seems counterintuitive, but you need credit to establish credit. So how do you do it? I recommend opening up a retail card, because they are easy to get. You go to a store where you want to buy something and—even though you have the cash in hand—you open a credit card.
Sometimes the store will give you the option to pay the bill that same day, and I recommend doing that; others make you wait for the bill to come in the mail. When that bill comes, pay it all off at once. Do that a few times, and voila, you have credit. Then apply for a low-interest credit card. Only use it for purchases you know you can pay off right away, so you’re never paying interest.
By the time you are ready to buy a house and car, your credit rating is stellar. The higher your credit score is, 700–800, the lower your interest rates will be when you go to make a major purchase like a home or a car. Never, ever waver from this. If you can’t afford something, put it through the psychological test. If it will give you freedom, save for it.
Step 3. Pay Yourself First
When eighteen, nineteen, twenty, and twenty-one-year-olds come to work for me, I tell them all the same thing I am going to tell you now: Pay yourself first. Here is a statistic that you are not going to believe. And it is one that needs much more air time than it currently gets. If you as a young guy or gal can put away just $50 a week for a ten-year period of time, you’ll end up with 1.2 million dollars by the time you’re sixty-two with the historic rate of market return!
Most companies offer a 401k or another type of retirement saving opportunity that allows you to easily deduct from your pay. Inquire about them. If your workplace doesn’t offer one, go to your bank and see if you can have a portion of your paycheck invested each week in an account you can’t access. Become relentless about this. Make it automatic. Every time your present-day self goes to spend money, I want you to think of your future-self—will he or she have the money needed to retire? Go on vacations? Live comfortably, peacefully, and freely? Could that money be saved? The answer is probably yes.
Start investing the money you can afford to set aside as soon as possible (preferably in a matched 401K) and let the power of compound interest work for you.
Looking for more advice? Join the email list.