The boring 'secret' to being rich

The boring 'secret' to being rich

SINGAPORE - "What is the secret to getting rich?"

That is a question many young adults ask themselves - and I too was grappling with it about a year ago as I pondered my financial future.

There had to be a difference between the haves and have-nots in society, I thought, as I pored over books, essays and websites to look for the Holy Grail of personal finance.

I also started asking well-to-do newsmakers, colleagues and friends if they knew the secret to riches.

One of the benefits of being a financial journalist is that you get to speak to some of the richer people in society. And a few of them will open up more when their minders are not around.

"The first way is to be born to rich parents," said one wildly successful businessman, when I posed him the question. "The second way is to marry someone rich."

That is certainly true, especially in countries such as Singapore, which has very low taxes on the rich and zero estate duty. But unfortunately it does not apply to the vast majority of us.

"The third way is through starting your own business, the fourth way is through climbing the corporate ladder and the fifth way is through investments," the businessman continued.

"There are one or two more ways, but I'm still trying to find out what they are. Maybe you can tell me when you find out."

That was a decent start, but it didn't provide the clarity I needed to change my life.

Another answer hit closer to home, though in an unexpected way.

"There is no secret, lah," said this respondent, whom I judge to be very comfortable financially.

"First you need a job that pays you decently - better if it pays you more. Then you need to spend less than your salary," he said.

"Then you invest your savings. It's your investments that will make you rich."

That caught me off-guard as I was expecting something really secretive and majestic that would change my life forever. Instead, this guy was offering me a path... that I was already on.

But when I mused further over it, it seemed that this "boring" method was a workable one for many average folk.

It certainly has helped thousands of baby boomers accumulate comfortable amounts of wealth. Many of them are now looking ahead to a comfortable retirement.

They may never make it to the Forbes rich list or be able to buy companies in billion-dollar deals. But these people do not have to worry much about their finances - this makes them rich enough, in my book.

I get the point that the older generation benefited from Singapore's rapid economic growth, helping them in their wealth accumulation.

My peers will find it harder doing things the old-fashioned way as growth inevitably slows down. Bonuses will get lower, investments will not rise as rapidly.

But I see numerous examples - at my workplace and elsewhere - of those who have become rich through working and investing. This gives me hope that we can still do this, with some adjustments.

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