I often hear people say they can’t get rich because they are not blessed with the brain Bill Gates is blessed with. But do you really need to be “super smart”?
Rich is a relative term, and one certainly doesn’t need to be the next Bill Gates to be rich, so let’s get past that for now.
Let’s also get past the semantics between rich and wealthy. I understand that many differentiate between being rich and wealthy, and sure there are differences, semantics and otherwise, but for the sake of this discussion I will use them interchangeably.
What triggered this post is a reconnection with an old friend who I had not seen in years prior to just recently when he was in town to visit. We caught up over dinner and drinks. He was in town on a project. He works for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and rakes in a healthy $175,000 in his early thirties.
“I’ve been working like a dog in consulting, and the more I make the more I pay in taxes” he said. But isn’t that what your goal always was I asked? I knew him college. We both attended a top 10 business school. Few years after his initial job he went back to another top 10 business school to get an MBA before joining BCG.
“Yes, and I am getting richer, but it’s taking too long” he replied. “I have a couple ideas going on the side but just can’t seem to get any momentum because of work demands” he added. Well what’s the guarantee that your ideas will make you rich I asked? We both smiled and continued popping in those fried, oily corn chips dipped in guacamole. Eeeks.
Moral of the conversation? There are many ways to get to the end goal of becoming rich and building wealth. My friend can continue on the path that he is on and live a comfortable life with his paycheck and retire well with his savings. Or, he can go the entrepreneurial route and strike gold there. He can also fail miserably. Or, he can switch to a less demanding and less paying career but free up time to work on his pet projects.
Although there are many ways to get to the end goal, the mediums we choose tend to vary. Each one of us has a different style or way of doing things, and we all have unique preferences. For me, it has always been about choosing what gives me the most satisfaction which also gets me to my goal by the time I want to get there. I suspect it is the same for many who are in the same general boat as my friend and I.
When I worked in mergers and acquisitions, I used to observe the lifestyle of one of the partners of the firm and how he was always striving for that next promotion to an office partner, and then to a national partner and so forth.
When I moved to private industry, I used to observe my CFO in meetings and get togethers and how he always spoke about the chairman of the board having it made at 60+ raking in millions each year on a part time schedule (yes it was a big bank). The CFO was in his 40s.
I used to listen to him thinking to myself that I too will get there, except in a different way, perhaps much faster because I won’t be restricted by an income ceiling, and I will be much happier, healthier and have much less stress in the process.
I may or may not make the same amount of money as he did and will in the future, but how much is enough to classify one as rich / wealthy? Like I said, these terms are relative. Sure I may not make $6 Million a year like he did, but I am sure I will have plenty enough to consider myself rich.
I think for most individuals, after reaching a certain point in the income scale, incremental growth doesn’t matter as much anymore as it once did. Apparently for my CFO, $6M wasn’t enough. He wanted the $14M the chairman made.
I would have totally stayed on the partner track, or pursued my career to become a CFO or even a CEO someday, but the common traits amongst the individuals in these titles / positions seemed to turn me off. What are some of these characteristics?
They seem overworked 99% of the time. They seem moody / bipolar, perhaps because of the initial fact. Many are divorced multiple times over. One of my CFOs in one company had only seen his daughter 3 times in a 4 year span! They are all round shaped, only one had hair, perhaps because of the stress and pressure? Their diets are horrible (from what I can tell), and I don’t want to know what is going on inside their biological systems.
But all these individuals had / have one thing in common. They have money, and a lot of it. Their salaries were in the millions, and if I were to guess they had / have multi-millions stashed aside to feed the next 14 generations of their lineage.
In case you are wondering, I am speaking about a sample size of approximately 70 top level positions here. I am not saying all are like that, but most all of the 70 in my sample universe are. You might be one of these as you are reading this and may very well not fit the bill. If so, hats off to you. There are always exceptions to a general rule, or outliers to a trend.
However, in my experience, most in such positions share a lot of these traits. When I ask my wife (she has a full time job), she tends to agree. When I ask my friends in corporate America, they too agree (many of them are exactly on that path – some are now realizing it while others are still oblivious to the fact).
Switching gears over to the mid level society, I am acquainted with several individuals who are self made millionaires through their self started businesses. Many others are not millionaires, but I’d considered them rich because they make solid income, have a solid set of investments and savings, and have more than enough to worry about it even when business is not doing all that well.
These folks work in careers with above average salaries (the average household salary in the USA is sub $50,000 the last I checked), some have side businesses while others are simply frugal and invest their money well. Education wise, most of those running their businesses are not formally educated, while most of those working for a paycheck are.
The common trait between folks in these categories is that each one has picked a system and has stayed with it for a long period of time. Some of these guys have made their money in real estate, others running big name franchises, others through investing in the stock market and small businesses, and a handful who are doing well making money online.
None of these folks are founders of a ground breaking idea. Sure, some have franchised out their business concepts and have struck gold doing so, but the concept of franchising is nothing new either. They sell soups and salads for Heavens’ sake.
This just further reinforces the fact that one doesn’t need to be super smart or highly educated to do well financially. In fact, the smart ones of the bunch don’t even have to be super hard working if they choose not to.
There are business models perfectly conducive to this type of personality. I know some folks making mid six figures running lead generation / referral businesses online from home. I guess what I am trying to convey is that there are alternatives to a high paying job to become rich, and you don’t have to be a genius to get in the game.
Although a good education and a high paying profession certainly helps getting to the end goal of becoming rich, and can significantly expedite one’s progress to reach that goal, it is not a prerequisite by any means.
I am acquainted with several self made multimillionaire entrepreneurs who are not formally educated in a classroom, some who worked for just a few years in average paying professions and others who have never worked for a paycheck. Everyone is doing just fine. The smart ones of this bunch are doing extra fine, reaping high dollars without putting in high number of hours and stress.
There are many average folks who are living above average lifestyles all around us today. We may not see them because we don’t hang out in their circles, but they do exist and they are everywhere, trust me.
There is no secret formula either to live the life they are living. Each one got to where they are today by following a system that has worked for someone else in the past. There are business models that are proven, that have been studied, replicated and refined over the years.
Not every successful business has to be a new idea or invention. In fact, the best chance for success is to take a proven model and replicate it. It is absurd to recreate the wheel from scratch each time around. There are always opportunities to enhance, improvise and implement changes in existing models to fit the current consumer taste and environment.
So No, you don’t have to be a born genius to become rich. You simply need to pick a proven system, believe in it and persevere working it, in it and on it over a long period of time.
Sure there are chances that it may not work. But you run similar risks working in a career don’t you? Your company can fold. Your job can be eliminated. You just have to bounce back up and start marching on once again.
What route or routes are you pursuing? Why? How is it going for you? Do you agree or disagree with having to be super smart?