For most of my career, I’ve been working with rich people from all over the world – entrepreneurs, investors, investment bankers, business angels, managers, lawyers and others.
When I was in my 20s, working with successful business people was really fascinating and a big honor to me, and not to mention the best learning experience ever. Many of those people were my mentors who taught me a lot about business and life.
Now in my 30s, many of my friends are getting rich or are at least financially very well-off. In general, I could say that they achieved financial prosperity on their own with a smart strategy, hard work, dedication, persistence and stamina.
But there’s always also strong support from the environment present – family, ecosystem, market trends, investors, best schools, luck, and so on. You need both. Nobody can succeed alone.
On top of that, I always liked studying successful people from all over the world, who are most often also rich (people on Forbes’ list of billionaires, of course). As analytical as I am, I absolutely had to analyze what are the drivers of wealth creation and which career paths lead to a rich life.
I identified only 10 ways to get rich the self-made way, meaning you don’t inherit the wealth. If getting rich is really important to you, you’ll have to follow one of these 10 options.
Here they are:
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- Start your own business
- Join a fast-growing company
- Become a “rock star” specialist
- Secure a management position in a big or highly profitable company
- The frugal and slow way to wealth
- Get into the financial industry or become an investor
- Start with real-estate trading
- Get famous
- “Broken moral compass” ways
- Count on your luck
Now let's explore each of these options.
1. Start your own business
The vast majority of rich people are entrepreneurs. There’s a very limited amount of jobs that can get you rich, but everyone can start a business.
Not many businesses succeed, but in capitalism owning an equity of successful companies is what creates and drives wealth. Ownership and profits are the name of the game in capitalism. And the best way to own a fat share of a successful business is to start one.
The problem is that most businesses fail in the first five years. Only some businesses are successful enough to bring founders enough money for a decent life. Even fewer among many hit fast growth and bring founders real wealth.
Businesses that get founders rich are usually the businesses with disruptive innovation or with a new business model that reinvents or refreshes established industries. And when those businesses go public (IPO), are sold or pay out dividends, they make founders really rich.
When it comes to starting a business, there are three important factors that define the potential. The innovative idea, executive team and markets. Markets have an especially big impact, because only businesses that operate on big markets, preferably in fast-growing industries, can become big and profitable. You must never forget that markets always win.
My favorite letters are I, P and O. Every entrepreneur
People who get rich by owning a business usually operate in industries that have an impact on big masses of people (IT, telecommunications, oil etc.). These are the products that we use in our lives every day.
A special branch of businesses that must be mentioned are online businesses. Today you have the chance to reach millions of customers from your home office.
Something like that was never possible in the history of humankind and that’s why many solo entrepreneurs get rich. If you’re interested in starting your own business, stop reading this article and read the ultimate guide to lean startup instead.
2. Join a fast-growing company
Starting a successful new company is extremely hard with terrible odds of success, and only a few people have the energy, determination, stamina, creativity, people skills, seed capital and other resources needed to start a business. The next option you have to get rich is to join a fast-growing company.
In a young fast-growth company, there is usually a stock option plan and you can be promoted really quickly if your values and skillset (value you provide) are in line with the company’s strategy. When a startup company is sold, it can make many people rich, including employees outside the scope of the founders.
When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on. – Sheryl Sandberg
Joining a fast-growing company is probably one of the most attractive options if you are an ambitious person, with a good skillset and the right attitude.
The only problem is finding the right company, of course. From a statistical point of view, since your company will probably fail (I hope not, if you start one), you only have slightly higher chances of joining a company early on that will become ultra‑successful.
In general, you want to find companies out of the seeds stages, companies which have already found their product market fit.
If this is the way you want to get rich, get educated about one chosen industry, study industry rules and already successful companies, read forecasts and reports, start collaborating with accelerators, develop the right skillset that startup companies value, and so on.
Only some are lucky enough to find themselves in the right place at the right time, but maybe you can position yourself strategically in the right startup company. Employ your analytical skills or ask yourself – which company is currently growing the fastest in your environment and how you can join them?
3. Become a specialist
Capitalism is all about supply and demand. If you develop a skillset that is in great demand and short supply, you can get paid well. Really well.
If you become a specialist, possessing a rare, but highly valuable skill, you can get rich with time. Maybe not as quickly as by starting your own company, but your chances of accumulating wealth are definitely much higher, because of a lower failure rate.
Besides the supply and demand on the market, you also have to consider the median salary of the occupation to calculate how quickly you can get rich. Logically, more intellectual demanding jobs with higher responsibility are paid better.
In most cases, to do a specialist job, you need formal education. Usually a really good one (there are exceptions, like programmers and creative directors).
Examples of specialists are doctors, IT scientists, lawyers, pharmacists, data scientists, creative directors, dentists, psychiatrists, salespeople, and so on. Air traffic controllers and pilots can also be paid very well, but the demand has negative projections for the future. As I said, you have to mind the supply, demand and median salary.
Unfortunately, when it comes to being a specialist (or entrepreneur or a famous person, as we will see later), there is no normal distribution on the supply side of the market. I don’t know why, but money tends to concentrate to the hands of a few.
There is a usually a very small percentage (1 – 4%) of suppliers (specialists, service providers or workers) who get paid extremely well. Enough to be rich. They are usually considered “rock stars” of their profession and they are extremely talented and sought after.
Then there is around 16 – 20 % of service providers who are paid above the average and are financially well off. They can live a nice, comfortable life, but have a hard time getting rich if they’re not very handy with money.
The last category is the vast majority of service providers, who earn the median salary or even less. How well off they are depends on the median salary.
In summary, no matter which path to riches you choose, you must become a rock star at what you do to get rich. You must excel in your line of work and provide a special value to the markets. If you do something that brings value to people’s lives, then money tends to concentrate in your hands.
Money tends to flow from those who don't know how to do things, to those who do.
4. Secure a management position in a big or highly profitable company
Managing people and organizations is hard. That’s why managers are usually paid very well, especially in blue-chip and highly profitable companies. Besides entrepreneurship and highly specialized intellectual work, management is one of the most frequent ways to wealth.
Although there are a few challenges with securing a good management position. Usually it takes years to be promoted to senior management.
Most managers of big companies have grey hair. Joining a fast-growing startup can accelerate this process, which is why it’s usually a more attractive option.
The second problem is that the competition is hard for good management positions, and the higher you are in the ranks, the more politics come into play.
That means it’s hard to be promoted to the top, if your political skills suck. But becoming a manager is absolutely one of the ways to get rich.
5. The frugal and slow way to wealth
A saying in the financial industry goes that there is only one greater miracle than love. It’s compound interests. Compound interest is interest on interest.
The result of compound interest can be exponential growth of your wealth. The idea sounds very nice, but it’s extremely hard to achieve.
- You must start investing as soon as possible. Time is a big factor in exponential growth.
- Every month, you need to save part of your salary, with minimum or no exceptions.
- Everything you save, including interest, must be reinvested.
- You need to meet a decent annual yield, which can be hard to do for years in a row
- Your investing period mustn’t end in a downside economic cycle
In realistic scenario you can start saving your money in your early 30s. That gives you 30 years until retirement. The average yearly return rate you can realistically achieve is around 6 %. To have a million at these assumptions, you need to save $1, 000 every month to have a million dollars at your retirement. Interestingly, if you start saving 5 years earlier, you only need to put aside $700 each month.
Unfortunately, I don’t know many people who would follow this route. It takes a really strong and disciplined character. You must also become financially literate and understand very well where you’re putting your money. It’s not a secret that you can quickly get ripped off by shady financial advisors.
Very valuable financial skills in this case, but also in general when it comes to money, are:
- Increase your earning potential: First, you want to maximize your earning potential by developing new highly sought after skills, properly negotiating, targeting the right markets etc. The more you earn, the more you can save, if you keep your spending under control.
- Save at least 10 % of your income: Some people say that if you can’t save money, the seeds of greatness are not in you. Probably one of the best life skills is saving money, because it’s so easy to spend $100 and so hard to earn it. As calculations show, if you want to become a millionaire, you’ll have to save much more than $100 every month. Probably 30 % or more of your income for years.
- Become financially literate: Before you start investing, you must financially educate yourself. The financial industry wants to sell you thousands of different products, on which they’re making money in the end, not you. If you don’t understand 1,000 % in what kind of a product you’re investing your money, you’re probably going to lose it. So, if you want to get rich, you must understand financial products, taxes, legal aspects and other investment issues really well.
- Invest your savings smartly: You have full control over your spending, at least if you can control your emotions and avoid stupid purchases. It’s a lot different when it comes to investments. There are many factors beyond your control, from market trends to other people involved. That’s why the most frequent way of going from rich to poor is not lavish spending (except for lottery winners), but bad investments. Putting your money in a mutual fund is very far from smart investing. You don’t have to be a full‑time investor (since you have a daily job), but you have to be extremely smart about who you trust to manage your money. As we said, you must become financially literate.
- Protect yourself: In the end, you also need to protect yourself and your wealth, from yourself (doing something stupid with your savings) and others. Insurance, legal corporations, rainy day savings funds, tax shields and so on, there are many ways how you can protect yourself and your wealth. If you’re asking from what? From accidents, the government, market melts, sneaky salesmen and even from yourself is the answer.
Remember, only one thing grows when handled by other people. It’s not your money. It’s a penis, no matter how stupid it sounds.
6. Get into the financial industry or become an investor
If we go to the other side of the table, one of the fastest ways to get rich is to get yourself into the financial industry, and convince other people to trust you to manage their money.
Fund managers, investment bankers, brokerage firm, wealth management firms, they’re all dealing with large sums of money and consequently people working there can earn a lot of money.
There’s special earning protection when it comes to money management of other people. Markets go up, markets go down, clients make and lose money, but as a money manager, you always get your management fee.
If you’re successful you also get a carry (profit sharing), and if you lose the client’s money, well, it’s the client’s loss. But the management still gets the management fee. It’s a smart form of risk, you can’t lose much, but you can earn a lot of profits.
I don’t want to be unfair. If you want to stay in the money management game in the long-term, you must absolutely make money to investors. And it’s extremely hard and stressful to be a successful investor.
Investing is an extremely competitive field and it takes a very strong character to succeed in the financial industry. But you can definitely make a lot of money, very quickly, if you’re good.
Similarly to working for the financial industry, you can become an investor on your own. I have a few friends who got rich by day trading. One of them even as an afternoon hobby.
It’s not a simple thing to do, but many people proved that it can be done. You need some seed capital, you must be madly educated about markets and specific investments, it takes a lot of daily effort and a strong patient character, but it’s definitely one of the most beautiful paths to wealth.
7. Start with real-estate trading
Real estate is an industry as attractive as financial services when it comes to getting rich. Everybody needs a place to live, and usually a home is the biggest expense in people’s lives. The average transaction goes into thousands of dollars. That also means an opportunity for earning thousands of dollars in commission on every sale.
That’s the beauty of real estate. And there are many ways to get involved. If you have some seed money, you can buy, renovate and sell homes as a developer or become a landlord. If you don’t have any seed money, you can become an agent, join a real-estate fund as a manager, and so on.
Thousands of quality books are written on how to make money with real estate.
8. Get famous
Another thing very valuable in today’s society is attention. Luckily, with social media attention is not in the captivity of a few big production houses anymore. If you manage to attract the attention of millions, you can also earn millions.
Movie stars, athletes, reality show winners, musicians, writers, YouTube stars, Instagram influencers and other famous people have the power to impact millions and consequently earn very decent money. Fame, if large enough, can definitely make you rich.
Although there is one big problem with the fame game. Much like money, fame is also very concentrated. Ridiculously concentrated. You have only a few people (1 – 4%) who take the majority of the market share. Out of millions of people who want to become stars, there are only a few who are really successful and famous.
Then 15 – 20 % earn decent money, they are not superstars, only local celebrities, but what is more interesting is that the rest earn zero. Zero. Nada. There is the same big gap in fame as there is between the rich and the poor on the global scale.
It’s no different with blogging. Less than 1 % earn really good money out of it. Ramit Sethi, for example. Then there are some people who are making a decent living out of it. But the vast majority of bloggers earn zero dollars. The statistics suck, but that’s the name of the game, if you want to earn money with fame. You must get in the top 10 %, or even better in the top 1%.
Fame has another challenge. If you want to become famous it's often not about doing quality work. It's more about what people like and that are most often not highly intellectual and the most quality creations.
9. “Broken moral compass” ways
Unfortunately, I know several people who got rich in a very shady way. By hijacking companies (transition from socialism to capitalism in eastern Europe), internet scams, Ponzi schemes, government corruption, and so on.
There are many gray areas where you can make money, not illegally, but in way that’s morally highly questionable. I would absolutely discourage you from making money in such a way.
Life is much more than just money. Legacy is always greater than currency. And the world needs more good, not evil. Why go to the dark side if you can make money by creating real and valuable products and services from which you and the whole society benefits?
Sometimes it might be attractive to take shortcuts, but is it really worth it? Nobody respects evildoers. Everyone respects people who innovate, work hard, develop a valuable set of skills and work in favor of the whole society. Everyone respects self-made people with high morals. Elon Musk is a great example of that.
10. Count on your luck
Last but not least, you can count on your luck to get rich. It’s not the self-made way, but still worth mentioning. You can play the lottery, go to a casino, make sports bets or try your luck in many different ways.
But once you know the statistics and know that there’s a greater chance that lightning will strike you on a sunny day than you winning the lottery, you quickly realize that other options are much more attractive; except the “broken moral compass” way.
Interestingly, I know many people who inherited wealth, but not a single person who got rich by playing the lottery or spending time in a casino. Invest in your knowledge rather than in a lottery ticket.
In summary, here is how to get rich:
Now you know the 10 ways to get rich. Well, 8 ways actually. A wise concluding thought would be that all eight options of getting rich are based on achieving one or several of the following facts:
- Be a producer – Rather be a producer than a consumer. Create a product or service that people buy like crazy. Become an entrepreneur, online entrepreneur, or provide valuable skills in high demand and short supply.
- Follow the money – Get engaged with an industry and institution where money is already in abundance (or will be soon). Big companies, profitable companies, the financial or real-estate sector, or big investment projects.
- Become really good with money – Maximize your earning potential, save like crazy, invest smart or become a full-time investor on your own.
- Get enough attention – With enough attention come advertisers and with advertisers comes money. But fame is only for a small percentage of people, otherwise fame wouldn’t be fame anymore.
Becoming wealthy is usually a lifetime project that requires a lot of knowledge, many smart strategic decisions, a set of carefully developed competences, ironclad self-management and some luck. But it can be done, many people have proven it.
Choose one of the ways, start reading biographies of people who created wealth in your chosen way, get educated, and work smart and hard as hell. And most importantly, build the right environment for yourself, because nobody can succeed alone, we all need help.
Just don’t get obsessed with money. Money definitely is important, but it’s only one of the life areas you have to take care of, and you don’t want to forfeit your soul by feeding greed.