You’ll find a lot of blogs on people getting out of debt. Perhaps they start out with a student loan balance of $150,000 and pay it off over a period of three years. If they are persistent, and particularly if they see their income rise, perhaps because they get a lot of revenue from their blog and affiliate advertising, they will make their way out of debt. But what then?
What happens after you pay off that last student loan? After you close that last credit card account? You make your last car payment? You make your last mortgage payment? And what if you never got into debt in the first place? Often that’s where the blog stops.
If you want to move from just being debt-free to being financially independent – being able to pay for things without needing to depend on a paycheck – you need a way to make money efficiently. There is only so much time in the day. Even if you get a second job, unless you have a phenomenal salary, it is really difficult to simply work and save enough money to reach financial independence. Plus, your income level is usually limited and it will top out at some point in your career. If you make an average of $60,000 during your working career and save 10% per year, you’ll have $240,000 over your entire career. If you save 20%, you’ll still only have about half a million dollars at age 60. To sustain yourself, you’ll probably need something north of $2 M unless you live a very meager existence.
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One way to attain financial independence is to start a business. If you start a business and run it well, your potential income is theoretically limitless. If you open a store and do well, you can open a whole chain. The same thing goes for a lawn care business, or a manufacturing business, or a restaurant. Because you can hire people to work for you, and take a small percentage of the amount of money they generate, you can expand your income. But many businesses fail, and you often need to take a big risk to start a business, possibly borrowing a lot of money. Starting a business when you already have a family that depends on your income is also risky. Is there another way?
The answer is investing.
When you invest, it is like you are buying an ownership stake in a business, which means that, just like starting a business, your theoretical income is limitless. There are people who bought a $5,000 stake in Home Depot or Wal-Mart who are now millionaires. The beauty of investing is that you get to enjoy the possibility of growth that you get from starting a business, but don’t have all of the headaches that come from actually running a business. You don’t need to check inventory, order supplies, or manage employees.
Not only that, but you get to benefit from other people’s good ideas. You probably didn’t get the idea to build a search engine that everyone would use, let alone go through the hassle of coding it, getting servers set up, and getting the word out. But you can buy shares of Alphabet and benefit from the efforts of people who did. You can buy shares of Walgreen’s and have drug stores on all of the best corners in every city in America. You can buy into a successful restaurant, a successful credit card issuer, or a successful tobacco company. If it trades publicly, you can get a stake in the company and take advantage of other people’s good ideas, execution, and hard work.
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There are some people who will become rich by working really hard and saving every dime. There are others who will become doctors or lawyers, get hired by the right firm or practice or start their own practice, and live on little enough to build up their savings and become wealthy. There are still others who will start a business and work hard to grow it into a huge company and become wealthy. For the rest of us, investing is the way to wealth. If you’re interested in learning how, pick up a copy of The SmallIvy Book of Investing and keep reading The Small Investor Blog.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.