Becoming Wealthy: It's Up to You
1.Critics often speak of “the rich” with none-too-subtle disdain, as if those at the very top of the income ladder are all dishonest people or as if becoming rich is difficult and means others must become poorer. While we would be the first to admit that some rich people are dishonest, we must add that achieving the status of “the rich” （defined, say, by having a net worth of $1,000,000） is not particularly difficult, contrary to popular wisdom. The rules for acquiring substantial wealth are few, simple. This fact suggests that becoming rich for most Americans is a matter of choice.
2. One of the rules for being rich is to avoid frivolous temptations. That is easier said than done, and we do not necessarily recommend that all people should lead a pure and joyless life. We mean only to point out that the great majority of those four percent of Americans who have $1,000,000 in net worth get to where they are because they control their pleasures. For example, rich Americans buy cars that are on average only slightly more expensive than those less wealthy Americans buy.
3. Being able to save and accumulate considerable wealth is not automatic. People must have a reasonable income in order to save amounts that will make for wealth, which requires several auxiliary rules for achieving an income level that will allow for a minimum saving level. For most—those without the requisite luck, inheritance, special talents, or good ideas—becoming rich means getting an education. Few people who drop out of high school will be rich. The income of high school dropouts is about two-thirds that of Americans with a high school diploma.
4. To have a good chance at being rich, though, most individuals （aside for the lucky ones） will need at least a college education, which just about will double their incomes over what they would have earned with only a high school diploma. A professional degree will result in an average annual income of about twice that of college graduates （or six times the income of a high school dropout）. This means that those who invest in education do not have to save as high a percentage of income to become rich at retirement. However, in all probability, educated Americans Will be richer at retirement simply because they will be able to save more along the way and because they are likely to be smarter and can achieve a higher rate of return on their savings.
5. The first auxiliary rule for becoming rich is to stay in school or, if out of school, go back to it. Of course, to stay in school is not enough and they will learn something worth the time and effort. It never has been easier to get an education. Public schools are free for the taking. College costs have been rising steadily relative to family income level for more than a decade. However, the rate of return on a college education has been rising as well, making the investment a good deal. Meanwhile, the cost of self-education has fallen with the multitude of sources of knowledge and information available on CD-ROMs and the Internet.
6. The second auxiliary rule for becoming rich is to pick your education carefully. Teachers will find getting rich tougher than engineers, given that the former can expect to earn half as much over their careers. History and music professors can expect to earn less than accounting professors. For that matter, history and music professors can expect to earn a lot less than their students who major in business.
7. The third auxiliary rule for becoming rich is to marry someone with an equal or higher education, and then stay married. By itself, marriage seems to provide a stable institutional setting that promotes greater earnings, which affords greater savings. Married couples not only earn more than non-married people, they tend to economize on the costs of running their households, allowing them to save and invest at higher rate. Moreover, the binding legal contracts at the foundation of marriages, which reflect their personal commitments to each other, give the couple an added economic incentive to invest in the joint assets of the union.
8. The fourth auxiliary rule is to be able to work and save for a long time. Alcoholics and drug addicts who are not yet rich are unlikely candidates for becoming so. They will be unable to work long and hard enough to earn the requisite incomes, and their careers will be full of instability, if they can even have careers. Most will drink, inject, or smoke up whatever incomes they earn; their suppliers undoubtedly will get rich at the expense of their customers—the addicts.
9. From our perspective, becoming rich is really a matter of choice. Opportunity to do so abound. Of course, recognizing that you can choose to become rich does not mean that you should. As we have noted, choosing to become rich requires sacrifices that many people quite rationally have chosen not to make. One can lead a life rich in satisfaction and accomplishment without becoming rich financially, and nothing we have written here is meant to suggest otherwise.