Use the law of supply and demand to your advantage. Most of us are familiar with the law of supply and demand–the more there is of something, the cheaper it is; conversely, the rarer the product or service, the more expensive it is. However, other than when we get to a toy store before sunrise to get on line for the latest fad toy that kids can’t get enough of, we don’t really apply the law of supply and demand to our own lives–particularly our careers. For example, if you’re aspiring to do something that many, many other people want to do (so much so that they do it for free, as a hobby) then it will be far more challenging for you to make money doing it. On the other hand, if you do something that most people don’t want to do, or if you get very good at doing something most people don’t do all that well, then you can make a whole lot more money. In other words, choose a career in pharmacy over photography.
If your career path is going nowhere, resign gracefully and switch careers. Research occupations to find out how much they pay and what their future outlook is (in the U.S., you can find this information in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook). Find an occupation that pays well, and invest in the education and/or training to get you that job. Look for employers that offer competitive salaries and ample opportunity for advancement.
If your goal is to make enough money to retire early, prioritize earning potential over job satisfaction, since you plan on getting out of the rat race early, anyway. Consider the types of jobs that pay extraordinarily well in exchange for hard work, little psychological satisfaction, and a punishing lifestyle, such as investment banking, sales, and engineering. If you can keep your expenses low and do this for about 10 years, you can save a nest egg for a modest but youthful retirement, or to supplement your income while you do something you really love doing but doesn’t pay much. But keep in mind that delayed gratification requires clear goal-setting and strong willpower.
Recognize that time is money. This critical piece of advice is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who was an accomplished American inventor, journalist, printer, diplomat, and statesman–the ultimate multitasker. Your ability to manage your time (and stop procrastinating) is a critical ingredient in your ability to make money. Whether you have a job or are self-employed, keep track of what you’re spending your time on. Ask yourself “Which of these activities make the most money, and which of them are a waste of time?” Do more of the former and less of the latter, simple as that. When you’re focusing on high-priority tasks, get the job done well, and get the job done fast. By working efficiently, you’re giving your employer or clients more time, and they’ll appreciate you for it. Remember that time is a limited resource that you’re always investing. Will your investments pay off?
Jack up your prices. If you’re providing a skill, service or product that is in high demand and low supply, and you’re making the most of your time, you should be making good money. Unfortunately, there are many people who are too humble or fearful to demand that they get paid accordingly. It’s the pushovers in life who get taken advantage of and exploited, so if you think you might be one of them, learn how to stop being a people pleaser. If you work for someone else, ask for a pay raise or get a promotion, and if none of that pans out, revisit your career options as described previously. If you’re self-employed, the first thing to do is to make sure your customers and clients pay up on time–this alone can substantially improve your income. Check your prices and rates against those of your competitors–are you undercutting them? Why? If you’re providing a superior product or service, you should be getting at least the average, unless your profitability depends on mass production, in which case you’re probably making a lot of money and wouldn’t be reading this article anyway!
Be proactive. Remember Murphy’s Law: “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.” Make plans, complete with as many calculations as possible, then anticipate everything that can go wrong. Then make contingency or backup plans for each scenario. Don’t leave anything to luck. If you’re writing a business plan, for example, do your best to estimate when you’ll break even, then multiply that time frame by three to get a more realistic date; and after you’ve identified all the costs, add 20% to that for costs that will come up that you didn’t anticipate. Your best defense against Murphy’s law is to assume the worst, and brace yourself. An appropriate amount of insurance may be something worth considering. Don’t forget the advice of Louis Pasteur, a French chemist who made several incredible breakthroughs in the causes and prevention of disease: “Luck favors the prepared mind.”
Redefine wealth. In studies of millionaires, people are surprised to learn that most millionaires aren’t doctors, lawyers, and corporate leaders with big houses and fancy cars; they’re people who religiously live below their means and invest the surplus into assets, rather than liabilities. As you’re taking the above steps to make more money, keep in mind that increased income does not necessarily equal increased wealth. Most people who flaunt their wealth actually have a low net worth because their debt to asset ratio is high–in other words, they owe a whole lot more money than they actually have. All of the previous steps have outlined aggressive strategies for making money, but you’ll never get anywhere if you have a hole in your pocket.
They say that a penny saved is a penny earned. Actually, when you consider that you pay taxes on every penny you earn, you really do make more money by saving than by increasing your income, especially if the extra income will increase your tax rate dramatically. For example, let’s say you have a choice between saving $100 or earning an extra $100. If you pay 15% taxes, then when you earn an $100, you only get $85. But when you save $100 off of your existing budget, you keep it all. To sweeten the deal further, if you take advantage of compound interest as found in most savings accounts, over time you’ll start making money on the amount saved plus previous interest paid on that amount saved. It’ll be pennies at first, but eventually the amount will multiply exponentially.
Take advantage of tax laws if you’re self-employed. Money saved on taxes is still money saved. You may be able to deduct many of your business expenses (use of your home, use of your car, office supplies, etc.) if you keep good records. You may also qualify for tax breaks, such as deducting your health insurance premiums on your tax return. These laws are in place to encourage commerce and business growth, so don’t neglect their benefits especially if you want to make money.
If you’re not self-employed and work for a company, find out if they have a retirement plan. If you’re lucky, employers will sometimes match contributions you make into a retirement fund. Retirement plans also often have the benefit of being tax-deferred. The longer you get to keep your money (and make interest on it) the better. It’s never too early to start planning for retirement.
Know the difference between an asset and a liability. The dividing line is whether it puts money in your pocket, or takes it out. As much as you love your home, for instance, it is a liability rather than an asset because you put more money into it than you get out of it (unless you’re flipping it or renting it out). Whatever money you save, invest it in assets such as stocks, mutual funds, patents, copyrighted works–anything that generates interest or royalties. Eventually, you might get to the point where your assets are doing the work for you, and all you have to do is sit there and make money!
Watch out for inflation chipping away at your assets. We’ve all heard an elderly person describe the purchasing power of a coin in their day. Inflation continues to make today’s money worth less in the future. To win the race against time and inflation, learn to invest your money in the right places. A savings account might help you to keep up with inflation; however, to stay ahead of the game you’ll want to invest in bonds, stocks, or some other investment that returns above the average rate of inflation (currently 3%-4%).