Growing up, I remember watching cartoons where the main character would go out into his backyard and get money from a money tree. I was fascinated by this idea so much that I wondered if we had a money tree in our backyard.
I set out one summer afternoon looking at all of the trees we had in our backyard. Unfortunately, I did not find a money tree.
As I’ve grown, I’ve come to realize that a money tree was more of a metaphor than an actual thing. But then I got to thinking, could you really create your own money tree?
The answer is yes, you can! With a little bit of work, you can plant your own money tree and instead of it bearing fruit, it will bear money! How great is this?
Now, you might think I’ve lost my marbles, but hear me out. I will grant you that you won’t have a physical tree in your backyard that you can go out to and pluck a few $100’s off of whenever the mood strikes you.
But you can create a system in which you grow your wealth and money will not be an issue or a stress in your life. To understand how this is possible, we need a quick lesson on how a tree grows.
For a tree to grow, seeds need to be planted. These seeds take root and with sunlight and water, they slowly grow into a sapling. From there, the roots grow deeper into the ground and become stronger, and the tree responds by growing to its full potential.
So what does the life cycle of a tree have to do with becoming wealthy? Just like with a tree, it takes time for you to grow your wealth. You don’t just start out with $5 million, just like that huge tree in the backyard didn’t start off that size either.
Planting The Seeds of Your Money Tree
In order for you to grow your wealth, you have to plant the right seeds. In other words, you need to create and follow the habits that will lead you to wealth. After all, you can plant as many seeds as you want, but a tree will not grow if the seeds are not given water and sunlight. You have to make sure you make good habits a routine if you want to achieve wealth.
So what are the money tree seeds of growing your wealth? They include:
- Creating a budget: I said the B-word. A budget is your key to wealth. Most people ignore a budget because they look at it as a bad thing. They see it as something painful that will restrict their spending. This is not the case at all. Look at a budget as your tool to grow your wealth. It isn’t stopping you from spending, it is helping you to spend smarter so that you can save and grow your wealth.
- Having 8-12 months worth of cash in an emergency fund: things happen. It is a part of life. To make sure that when life happens you aren’t put in a worse financial situation, you have to have a stash of cash in the bank. Yes I know that interest rates stink right now, but the goal of this money isn’t to grow into a trillion dollars. It is to be there if you should ever need it. Stop focusing on the interest rate and start focusing on making sure you have enough in that account to cover you should something happen.
- Having no credit card debt/living within your means: you will never grow your wealth if you are spending more than you make. You have to learn to live within your means and this means not having credit card debt. You can still use a credit card all you want, you just have to be certain you pay it off in full each month.
- Saving at least up to the match in your 401k: if you have a 401k plan at work and your company offers you a match, you HAVE to invest at least this amount. They are giving you money!
- Saving 20% per month: if you want to grow your money tree, you have to save a decent amount of money each month. Work on reaching the goal of saving 20% of your income each month.
All of these things are great in theory, but what about actually putting them into practice? How do you go about that?
When it comes to budgeting, there are some choices you need to make. Mainly, what type of person are you? I ask this because it will determine the best budget for you. If you like a hands on, manual approach, then an excel based budget is for you. In this post, I share with you 9 great free budgets. You can use them as-is or modify them as you see fit.
Alternatively, if you like a more automated approach, then software like You Need A Budget (YNAB) or Power Wallet is for you. While Power Wallet is free, YNAB costs money. Luckily the link I provide above gives you a 10% discount!
As for an emergency fund, all that matters is that you are adding to it each month to get it fully funded. When is it fully funded? When you have between 8-12 months worth of living expenses.
To figure this amount out, look at your monthly bills, total them and then multiply that number by 8 or 12. Yes this will be a lot of money, but you will be thankful you have it on hand should you ever need it.
As for the bank to use, I like to use online banks. They are safe and they do pay a decent amount of interest. (I know I told you not to worry about this and it shouldn’t be your main focus, but it is nice to earn a little bit on your savings.)
Personally, I use Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct). They are super easy to work with and I haven’t had any issues in the years I’ve been with them. You can open an account through this link. If you open your account with $250 or more, they will give you a $25 bonus!
Ridding Yourself of Debt
Debt is a wealth killer and when it comes to a money tree, it is a deadly disease. You will never reach your financial goals or be wealthy if you are in debt. It just can’t be done. Once you learn to live within your means by using a budget, then you can take the steps to start to slash your debt.
What is the best way to accomplish this? There are a few options and like budgeting, the tool you use depends on the type of person you are. I detail all of the options to get out of debt in this post.
Saving Some Money
I am combining saving 20% and investing in your 401k up to the match into one. In order to grow your wealth, you need to save some of it from the start. Most people save what is left at the end of the month.
As it stands right now, most Americans are saving nothing. This means they are spending everything (and in some cases more) than they bring home. You have to flip this and start to save first and spend what is left over.
I realize that 20% is a decent chunk of change, so don’t think you need to be there tomorrow. Start out by saving 10%. This should be doable by most people.
First, you save up to your employers match in your 401k plan. That should be between 3-5% each month. All you have to do then is to save another 5-7%.
If you don’t have an emergency fund, your savings should go there first. If you do have your emergency fund set, then you can either save this amount in your 401k plan or in a general savings account to be used for something else like investing or even a house down payment.
Lastly, if you really need help with saving, check out Digit. It’s a free app that will transfer money from your checking account to your savings account automatically for you. They analyze your income and spending and then transfer about $5 at a time.
It’s such a small amount, you never realize it was moved from your checking account. In almost a year with them, I’ve saved an additional $900 by using Digit.
While these are some important money tree seeds to plant, there are a couple more seeds that I want to mention because they are very important to growing your wealth over time.
Go without: related to the point above, is to go without. Take a no-spend challenge where you spend no money for a week. But don’t just do it because I said to. Do it and learn from it. How does it feel to not buy things? When is your urge to buy the strongest? Learn from this and you will become a smarter shopper and keep more of your money.
Buy quality: you have to buy quality items. They will cost more upfront, but they will last you longer making them a smarter buy in the long run. That is the key to this point – the long term. If you want to grow a money tree and your wealth, you need to focus on the long term.
By ensuring you make these habits routine, you increase your chances of growing a strong healthy money tree that will last many years. Without this foundation, you may see success in the short term, but over the long term, your money tree and your wealth will not survive.
Growing Your Money Tree
Now that you have the seeds to your money tree planted, the goal is for it to grow into a large tree. In order to do that, it needs nutrients – namely water and sunlight. When growing your money tree, there are four easy things I want you to do that will act as the water and sunlight for growing your wealth:
- Be patient
- Save and invest
- Think through purchases
- Be resourceful
- Become invaluable at work
It Takes Money To Make Money
I bet you have heard of this one before. To make money, you need to start with something. To apply this to your money tree, you need to simply save and invest. If you do this, over time you will create wealth.
The key word here is time. You won’t become wealthy in a week or 6 months or even 2 years by saving and investing. But in time, you will create loads of wealth. This is because of the power compounding.
I’ve talked about compounding before, and encourage you to read that post. But in a nutshell, as you save money, you earn interest on that money. As time passes, you start earning interest on both the money you save AND the interest you earn.
How long are we talking? It all depends on how much money you save in the first place. The more you save, the faster compounding will work in your favor. Here is a chart showing you both a savings amount and the interest earned, assuming a 5% return:
As you can see, when you don’t have much in savings, you won’t earn a whole lot in interest. But look further down the list and you start seeing some big interest numbers. That has to be exciting! Of course we all have to start at the beginning, so that means small interest earnings at first.
But this chart should give you the motivation to save as much as you can so that you can start earning nice amounts of interest.
Saving and Investing
When saving your money, you have a few options, namely just saving – meaning putting your money into a savings account/keeping it as cash – or investing it in the stock market. You should be using both avenues to your advantage. Keep some savings in cash and invest more for the long-term.
If you understand investing and stick with it over the long-term, you can earn on average 8% annually. This doesn’t mean each year you will earn 8%, but over time, you will average 8%. Some years will see you earn more, some years you will earn less or even lose money. But over the long-term, if you stick with it, you can realistically see 8%. If you need help sticking to investing for the long-term, check out this post.
One great simple formula will help you to see how quickly you will be creating wealth in the stock market. It is called the rule of 72. Simply take the interest rate you expect to earn and divide that by 72. So in our case we would take 72 divided by 8. The answer is 9 and this means we can expect our money to double in roughly 9 years. If you have $10,000 invested, you can estimate it will be worth $20,000 in 9 years.
Want more than $20,000? Simply save and invest more money. While it will still take roughly 9 years to double, if you have saved $20,000 this means you will have $40,000 in 9 years. Don’t fall for the trap of trying to earn a higher return. You add too much risk to the equation and instead of creating wealth you will be destroying wealth.
Where do you invest? There are a lot of options. If you are a seasoned investor, you can check out my online broker chart that will help you pick the right broker for your needs. If you are new to investing, the key for you is to keep things simple.
Don’t fall for a complicated investing plan or trying to time the market for buying stocks. Simply stick to low cost index mutual funds and ETFs. They will earn you the return you need.
I encourage you to read my post on becoming a stock market millionaire to fully understand the steps for success when investing. But if you just want to invest, then I encourage you to start with Betterment. They will do everything for you. All you have to do is take 10 minutes to set up an account and a monthly transfer. I use them and love them.
Finally, you should use a free tool like Personal Capital to track your investments. With this tool you can see your allocation, return and how much you are paying in fees. As with Betterment, I use it and it has made me a smarter investor.
Think About Every Purchase
The next tip for growing your money tree and your wealth is all about spending and it is easy to do. All I want you to do is to question any purchase before you make it. Simply ask yourself if buying the item is going to get you closer or farther away from your goal, in this case, creating wealth.
This little trick works magic. The reason is because we have 2 sides to our brain – the emotional side and the rational side. When we buy on impulse, this is the emotional side working. Unfortunately for us, this is the part that works first and the fastest. Advertisers know this and attempt to get us emotionally connected to the product so we buy.
After a few days pass and you regret the purchase, this is your rational side kicking in. By taking a moment to think about the purchase first, you can calm the emotional side down and help the rational side fire up.
To prove this, try this little test. Next time you are watching TV or shopping and see something you want, write it down on a piece of paper. Then put the paper in a drawer. A week later look at the piece of paper. Chances are you forgot about the item completely. This shows you that the advertisers were able to connect with you emotionally and you never really needed the product.
So the next time you are looking at buying something, stop and simply ask if it will help you to create wealth or not. Will you use the item once or twice and never again? Or will it become a staple item you use all of the time? Will it help you to save time or cause you to waste time?
By answering these questions you will get a good idea if it is a good buy or not.
There is a simple way we can create more wealth (meaning we can save more money) that many of us overlook. This is being resourceful. If something breaks, we toss it and buy new. In some cases we might hire someone to do the work for us.
Before we go down either of these roads, take a minute to see if you can fix or repair the item yourself. While it might sound overwhelming at first, many things are easy to do yourself. In fact, YouTube has a video for how to do just about anything.
For me, I learned how to turn my yellowed car headlights clear again by simply buying a kit to buff them. This saved me a couple hundred bucks. Another time, our pull down attic stairs weren’t closing all the way. The springs were giving out. I watched a video and replaced the stairs myself. That saved me another couple of hundred bucks by not hiring a handyman.
Learn to fix things yourself and give yourself more credit than usual. You can do a lot more than you think. With the money you save, just add it to your saving/investing accounts and let compound interest take over.
Did you know you are your greatest asset? Most of us will generate more wealth from our careers than we will from investing. Because of this, it is critical that you earn the most money over the life of your career.
How do you do this? You have to find a way to become invaluable at work. You have to stand out from the crowd so that you can earn a healthy raise each year. You may be wondering why a healthy raise is important.
It’s all because of our friend compounding. Let’s assume you are making $40,000 a year. What is the difference between earning a 3% raise each year and a 5% raise each year?
As you can see, the difference is huge over time. This is because of compounding. When you have a larger base (your salary) your raises have a greater impact. The greater your raise, the greater your base for the upcoming year.
Now, I realize that you can’t stay in the same position your entire career and expect to earn the top end of the chart above. All jobs have limits to salary. But you can move up in the company and earn promotions and thus a higher salary.
So how do you become invaluable at work? I lay out the entire plan in this post. But in a nutshell, you have to make it so that your manager can’t live without you. Take tasks from them that they don’t want to do. Develop a new process that is more efficient than the current way of doing things. Find ways to cut costs.
The more things you do to stand out, the greater the chance you will become invaluable and increase your chances for larger raises each year.
On the off chance you work in an industry where you can’t get raises each year, you still have an option for growing your money tree. Understand that I still want you to be invaluable at work so that you lessen the odds of suddenly losing your job.
But for you to grow your money tree, you need to work on the side. No, this isn’t some boring part time job that pays virtually nothing. You need to find something you enjoy doing and do it on the side.
If you can do this, you can increase your earnings greatly. How do you start? Make a list of the things you enjoy doing and then see if there is a way to earn an income from that. This will take some time and research, but if you put in the effort, you should be able to find something you enjoy doing to generate a side income.
I’ll use myself as an example here. I enjoy personal finance. I ended up writing about them here on this blog. The funny thing is that in high school and college, I never enjoyed English class. But I now love writing because I get to write about a topic I am passionate about.
My point is, don’t be too quick to dismiss something because you don’t like a part of it. If I did that, I never would have started this blog. And when I got laid off in 2013, I probably would have found another full time job. Instead I turned my side income into my main income.
While there are all sorts of options out there, the internet is a good place to turn for ideas. You can read my write up on how to make money online for a complete guide to online income. While it isn’t for everyone, it is a good place to get the wheels turning as they say.
So those are the steps for growing your money tree over time. By earning more, you can save and invest more. When you do this, you have more money to compound over time, which speeds up the compounding process and grows your wealth at a faster pace.
So now you have the steps you need to take in order to grow your money tree. Remember, you cannot just skip the first steps and work on growing your money tree. While you may succeed in the short term at growing it, your tree and your wealth will never last because you ignored the key first steps of budgeting and living within your means.
If you want the biggest and strongest tree and the greatest wealth and chance of keeping that wealth over time, you have to start at the beginning. It will take time to grow your wealth, but it will be worth it in the end.
Don’t fall for the con artists that sell you on getting rich tomorrow. If it was that easy, we all would be billionaires. It takes time and work and this is why so many don’t have money trees. They don’t want to wait. Be patient and wealth and your money tree will exceed your expectations.