Last Updated on January 23, 2022 by Rebecca Lake
How to Get Rich From Nothing
Want to know the secret for how to get rich from nothing?
So do a lot of people. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people are not born rich.
Most Americans believe it takes a net worth of around $2 million to join the ranks of the wealthy.
Meanwhile, the median net worth of American households is approximately $121,000.
So how do you close the gap to become rich, especially if you’re starting from nothing?
A get rich quick scheme is not the answer, nor is counting on lottery luck or an inheritance.
Instead, most of the options for how to get rich from nothing involve some hard work–and some smart financial decision-making. And of course, you can learn from wealthy people who’ve managed to reach millionaire status (or higher).
The good news is, plenty of everyday people (including yourself) have the tools they need to become rich. They just need to learn how to use them to start building wealth.
So today, I’m sharing a closer look at what being rich means and how to get rich from nothing.
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What Does It Mean to Be Rich?
When discussing how to get rich from nothing, it’s important to understand that there’s no single definition of what being rich means.
For example, a rich person to you may be someone who has $1 million in the bank or more. But among the richest people, you may need $10 million, $50 million, $100 million or more to make the cut.
That’s if you’re measuring what it means to be rich in terms of wealth creation and net worth.
Net worth and building wealth
Net worth is a measure of your debts or liabilities (what you owe) relative to your assets (what you own).
A positive net worth means that you have more assets than debts. A negative net worth means that you owe more than you own.
So, say that you add up the value of all your assets and it comes to $1 million. But you owe $300,000 to your mortgage, student loans and a car loan.
Your net worth would be $700,000, which is close to the average net worth in the U.S.
Now, say you owe $300,000 in debts and have $250,000 in assets. In that case, your net worth would be in the negative by $50,000.
The higher your net worth, the closer you are to becoming a rich person.
Of course, there are other ways to look at what it means to be rich that have nothing to do with your net worth or financial success.
Having close friends, a loving family, good health and a sense of belonging and purpose can make you feel rich, regardless of how much money is in your bank account.
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How to get rich from nothing (famous people who did it)
If you need some examples of wealthy people who got where they are through sheer hard work, there are plenty to choose from.
Here are just a few people who figured out how to get rich from nothing as proof that you can do it too.
Oprah is a billionaire, entrepreneur and philanthropist. But she grew up poor in rural Mississippi and it took her a solid decade of hard work to establish herself as a household name in media entertainment.
Dolly Parton was the fourth of 12 children and growing up in rural Appalachia, money was always tight. But after six decades in the country music industry, she’s earned her millionaire status.
Ralph Lauren is best known as the head of a billion-dollar fashion empire. But before he became rich, he grew up the son of impoverished immigrants in the Bronx.
Stephen King is arguably one of the most popular horror and fiction writers of all time. Before achieving fame, he grew up in Indiana, Connecticut and Maine under the care of a struggling single mother.
(And in case you’re wondering who some of the richest people on the planet are, that honor belongs to the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett.)
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How to Get Rich From Nothing
Getting rich from nothing is not about reinventing the wheel; instead, it’s about applying tried-and-true strategies and tactics that have been proven to help everyday people build wealth.
So what does the typical rich person who’s managed to become a millionaire look like?
According to the authors of The Millionaire Next Door, they may not be all that different from yourself.
Instead, the typical millionaire:
- Is first-generation wealthy, meaning they built their wealth rather than inheriting it
- Has been to college to earn a bachelor’s degree, an advanced degree or both
- Saves more than 15% of their income regularly
- Lives below their means, buying modestly-priced homes and driving reliable but not overly pricey cars
You might be thinking, “Sure, but they also probably make a lot of money.” But you might be surprised to learn that most millionaires built their seven-figure net worth earning an average salary.
So what’s the lesson?
Simply that you probably have a better chance of becoming a millionaire and getting rich than you might think.
1. Get the right money mindset
Money mindset means the way that you look at money and how that perspective influences the relationship you have with it.
Research has shown that adopting a positive money mindset can help to relieve financial stress.
That’s a good thing because when you avoid financial stress sets in you’re more likely to:
- Plan your spending
- Save money
- Shop with a list
- Be prepared for unexpected expenses
Being able to do those things matters for improving your financial situation.
If you want to know how to get rich from nothing, adopting the right mindset is the first step.
That means believing that you have the things necessary to get rich, then committing to the plan. Because it won’t happen overnight and you’ll need plenty of patience to stay the course.
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2. Take a financial inventory
Getting rich from nothing means knowing where you’re starting from. Creating a financial inventory can give you an idea of whether you’re truly starting from $0 (or in the negative) with wealth creation.
What is a personal financial inventory?
It’s simply a list of your assets and liabilities. So on one side, you might list all the things you own, including:
- A home
- Cars or other vehicles
- Bank accounts
- Investment accounts
- Collectibles, antiques or other heirlooms
- Life insurance policies
On the other side, you’d list what you owe, including:
- A mortgage
- Car loans
- Student loans
- Credit cards
- Personal loans
- Medical bills
- Business loans
Once you total up the numbers on both sides, you can plug them into a net worth calculator. This can tell you how close (or how far away) you are to reaching your long-term goals for becoming rich.
3. Set clear financial goals
Wanting to know how to get rich from nothing is kind of a vague goal unless you make up your own mind about what it means to be wealthy.
Setting clear, actionable goals can give you a roadmap to follow on your financial journey. The best way to set money goals is to make them S.M.A.R.T.:
For example, instead of saying, “I want to get rich from nothing”, you could set a goal of achieving a $2 million net worth by age 60 instead.
This goal is specific, as you’re naming a set amount of wealth you want to accumulate. It’s measurable since you can track your progress toward your goal over time. And it’s time-bound since you want to achieve it by a certain age.
Now, is this goal achievable and realistic?
It could be, but that depends on your current life and financial situation and what steps you take next to pursue your goal.
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4. Develop a realistic budget
A budget is one of the most basic financial tools you need to have if you want to know how to get rich from nothing. (And yes, even millionaires live on a budget.)
The key is choosing the right budgeting method. One of the easiest ways to do it involves using budgeting percentages.
When you budget by percentages, you divide your budget categories up, then assign part of your income to each one.
So, if you’re using the 50/30/20 budget method, for example, your budget would look like this:
- 50% of income to needs
- 30% of income to wants
- 20% of income to financial goals (i.e. saving, investing, debt repayment)
This type of budget ensures that your needs are covered each month and that you’re also able to have some fun while pursuing your short-term or long-term goals.
There are other ways to budget by percentages as well. Here are a few more ways to budget you might try:
You can grab a free budget template to help you get started with any of these budgeting methods.
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5. Get spending under control
Tracking your spending is one of the most important things you can do if you want to get rich from nothing.
When you don’t track spending, you don’t know where your money is going. And that means you don’t have control of your finances.
Surprisingly, this is a problem 65% of Americans have. But the good news is there’s an easy solution.
You can download an expense tracking app like Personal Capital to keep tabs on spending for you.
Personal Capital is a free budgeting app that you can use to track your spending and review your finances at a glance. Once you start using it to get in the habit of tracking your spending, you can start finding the money you need to save to build wealth.
6. Pay off high-interest debt
Debt can be a barrier to getting rich from nothing if you’re not able to save or invest anything because of it.
So eliminating high-interest debt or other debts should be a priority if you want to get rich. That includes paying off:
- High interest rate credit card debt
- Student loan debt
- Car loan debt
- Personal loans
- Lines of credit
It also means refraining from taking out new types of debt.
It may be tempting, for example, to take out a home equity loan to use for debt consolidation or home improvements. But you’re just shuffling debt around, rather than getting rid of it.
One of the best ways to get out of debt faster is to reduce the interest rates you’re paying.
So if you have credit card debt, you might try a 0% APR balance transfer. You could also use the Tally app to lower credit card interest rates.
Tally monitors your credit card balances, interest rates and payments to help you save money.
It’s an alternative way to manage credit cards and according to Tally, you could get out of debt twice as fast.
7. Commit to saving and investing on a regular basis
Saving money and investing are two different things but both are important if you want to know how to get rich from nothing.
When you save money, you put it in a savings account, money market or certificate of deposit account. The bank pays an interest rate on your savings and you can withdraw it as needed.
Investing money means putting it into the stock market or using it to buy real estate and other assets that can appreciate in value over time.
Between the two, investing tends to be riskier than saving. But if you want to grow rich over the long term and have a healthy retirement account, you’ll need to invest something along the way.
The easiest way to invest is to contribute to your 401(k) at work. But if you don’t have a 401(k), you can open a traditional or Roth IRA instead.
Saving money in an IRA or 401(k) on a regular basis can pay off. Let’s assume, for example, that you put $500 into an IRA at the end of the month, every month.
That’s $6,000 a year. Do that for 35 years, with an average return of 8% each year, and you’d have $1.12 million saved in your retirement account. And if you’re saving in a Roth IRA, every penny of it would be tax-free.
Remember that getting rich takes time and the more time you have, the better. Waiting just 10 years to start saving, for example, could cost you $600,000 in growth.
Start small if you have to. Even $25 per paycheck is enough to get the ball rolling. But commit to saving that amount each month so you don’t miss out on the power of compounding interest.
8. Automate your finances
Automating your finances can put you on the right track to financial freedom. When you automate savings, investments and bill payments you’re in charge of your own money.
You’re more likely to stick to your savings and investing plans. And you’re less likely to forget about bills or pay them late, which could hurt your credit score.
Automating can also help you build wealth and grow rich with just pennies a day.
Using the Acorns app, you can invest your spare change in a portfolio of low-cost ETFs.
Acorns lets you link your debit card from your bank account, tracks your purchases, then rounds up the difference. Those round-ups are invested for you.
It’s a simple way to start building wealth without a lot of money. And anything you can do to start investing automatically is a good idea when you’re trying to get rich from nothing.
9. Take advantage of free money
Here’s a tip: If you want to know how to get rich from nothing, you don’t necessarily have to use your own money to do it.
There are plenty of ways to get free money that you can use to build wealth.
For example, if you have a 401(k) at work your company may offer to match the money you put in, up to a certain amount. This is essentially free money you can add to your retirement funds without having to do anything extra to get it.
If you’re not sure what you’re saving, you can ask your plan administrator or benefits coordinator. They can help you determine if you’re putting in enough to get the full company match.
Aside from 401(k) matching contributions, you can also take advantage of free money from things like:
- Tax refunds
- Stimulus checks
Here’s another way to get free money: Negotiate savings on your bills.
Truebill and Trim are two financial apps that will find savings for you so you can pay less for cell phone bills, cable and subscription services. They negotiate with your billers to save you money that you can use to build wealth or pay off debt.
Those are both good things, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to negotiate bills yourself.
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10. Find ways to increase your income
Becoming a millionaire typically means relying on more than one source of income. In fact, the average millionaire has 7 streams of income altogether.
There are different ways to increase your income and earn more money. Some of the possibilities include:
- Negotiating a salary increase at work
- Taking on a part-time job on top of your day job
- Increasing hours at your regular job (a great way to grow income if you’re paid hourly)
- Starting a side hustle that puts your money making skills to work
- Developing an online business idea
- Investing in real estate rental property for rental income
- Creating passive income streams
Successful people know that it can be risky to put all of your income streams in one basket. But what is the best way to make extra money for you?
That can depend on your skills and the amount of time you have to put into growing your income.
For example, it’s possible to create passive sources of income by investing. You can open a brokerage account with M1 Finance for as little as $100, buy some exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or stocks and collect dividends from those investments.
On the other hand, you may have a great idea for your own business. Or you may want to start a profitable side hustle in addition to your day job.
The point is, there are plenty of ways to make extra money in your free time. Some don’t require much time or money to start; others do.
So as a final step in learning how to get rich from nothing, think about what you can do now to give your income a boost.
How to Get Rich From Nothing (Lessons From Rich People)
If you want to know how to get rich from nothing, the habits of millionaires and billionaires can be a great example of how to do it.
So what do rich people do that others don’t which allows them to build wealth?
Here are some of the top habits of wealthy people you may want to try:
1. Think long-term
A common trait of millionaires is patience. Depending on your approach, it can take anywhere from 12 years to 32 years on average to become a millionaire.
In other words, wealthy people aren’t in a hurry to get rich fast. Instead, they’re willing to put in hard work and a lot of time to get there, rather than looking for instant gratification.
2. Do work that you love
Getting rich from nothing is a lot more enjoyable when you’re doing work that excites or interests you.
Millionaires don’t necessarily rely on a 9 to 5 job as their main source of income. Instead, they’re pursuing financial freedom by starting online businesses or launching companies.
So consider what you truly love to do, then think about how you could turn that into extra income.
3. Live frugally
Millionaires don’t always live in big houses or drive fancy cars. Instead, they build wealth and save or invest it, always knowing how to live below their means.
They don’t waste money on unnecessary things or rack up high-interest debt. Instead, they use their money wisely to save more, live better.
So before you buy a new car or blow money on shopping, ask yourself what it’s really worth to you in the long run. Indulging in “good things” too often now may mean not having enough money for the best things later.
4. Save intentionally
Rich people have a plan for earning money and saving it. They set goals for saving money or investing it and follow through with them. And they know how to make their money work.
They also spread their money around, keeping some cash in an emergency fund while investing in retirement accounts and investment accounts. Every dollar they bring in is put to work with a clear purpose in mind.
5. Plan ahead
Wealthy people don’t jump without a parachute when it comes to their money. They build contingencies into their financial plans for emergencies and other unexpected situations.
If you’re hoping to get rich and build wealth, consider what your contingency plan includes.
For example, if you don’t have an emergency fund in place it may be time to focus on building one. And if you’re married or have kids, life insurance may be an essential part of your financial plan.
6. Never stop learning
Millionaires know that learning never ends. They’re constantly looking for ways to expand their financial knowledge.
That includes developing new money-making skills to help them grow their income. So if you want to become rich, ask yourself what you need to learn to do it. Then start developing those skills.
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7. Look for expert advice
Someone may have millionaire status but not be a money expert. Instead, they may work with a financial planner or financial advisors to make the best decisions for their money.
As you start to build wealth, don’t panic if you feel like you don’t know everything. It can take a long time to get comfortable with the ins and outs of wealth creation.
Reading personal finance books like The Millionaire Next Door can help. And don’t be afraid to look for a low-cost financial planner to help you make the most of your money.
The bottom line on how to get rich from nothing
Can you get rich from nothing? And Is it possible to get rich even if you aren’t making a six-figure income?
Yes, but you’ll need a plan to do it.
And that means following some of the most fundamental personal finance rules on a daily basis:
- Spend less than you earn
- Keep debt to a minimum
- Make saving a priority
- Invest early and often
Getting rich takes time but it can be well worth the effort if it means having full retirement accounts and zero debt down the road.
The important thing is to get started. This may be the hardest part but at the end of the day, it’s the only way to make your financial journey a reality.
Before you go, be sure to check out my favorite tools for making and saving money.
And if you need some money-making inspiration, here’s an ultimate list of extra income ideas!