Do you really want to be rich?

Not to burst your bubble, but the odds of being very rich aren't that good. However, there is a satisfying alternative.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 18, 2012 10:07AM

This post comes from Tara Struyk at partner blog Wise Bread.


Wise Bread on MSN MoneyHere's a statistic for you: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 57% of adults play the lottery in a given year. That suggests there are a whole lot of people out there who are angling to be rich -- or at least richer.


Image: Money (© Grove Pashley/Corbis)Maybe it's only human nature to dream about wanting more out of life, whether that means a bigger house, a better car, more time off, or real financial security. But here's the thing: While I'd venture to guess that most people would like a little extra padding in their finances, very few actually take any steps to make it happen.


To me, that's a bit like wishing for washboard abs while watching the "The Biggest Loser" workout videos -- and scarfing down a family-sized bag of potato chips. What I mean to say is that it just doesn't make sense.


It makes me wonder: How many of us are actually willing to do the real work that's most often involved in raking in the big bucks? And if we aren't willing to get our hands dirty, are we really interested in being rich at all? (See also: "5 money lessons from millionaires.")


What it takes to be rich

Take a look at the Forbes list of the richest people in America, and it becomes very clear that there are really only a few key ways to become filthy, stinking rich (because, let's face it, moderation just doesn't factor into our dreams):

  • Inherit.
  • Found a successful company.
  • Invest.

Unless you're the heir to a major fortune, you can scratch the first one off your list. Now you're left with two solid options. And by solid, I mean possible, not easy. (Post continues below.)

Building a business is a huge commitment of time, effort, money and risk. In the end, a lot of startups fail despite the heroic efforts of their founders. But when your own business pays off, you get to enjoy a lot more of the spoils than if you were simply an employee.


Investing your way to wealth may be even more difficult. Even with high returns, you'll need a fairly large amount of money to work with. That means you have to either earn more or save more. Plus, scoring a huge win (often called a "tenbagger") in investing is very rare and tends to be a once-in-a-lifetime deal, even for many of the best investors out there.


A practical option

I don't mean to burst your bubble but, all in all, the odds of being very rich aren't very good, at least not in the near future. So do you have any chance of being richer? The answer is yes -- if you can muster a little patience.


Let's go back to the people who play the lottery. According to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, about 20% of players spend more than $1,300 per year on lottery tickets. That's a lot of money, especially when you consider that those regular players tend to be on the lower end of the income spectrum.


Now, I can totally understand the lure of dreaming about winning the jackpot, but based on the odds, I think I can safely say that it won't happen to you. What I can say with all certainty is that if you were to invest that $1,300 per year at a modest 5% rate, you'd have $70,000 at the end of 25 years. Kick in a little extra here and there, and you'll have yourself a respectable retirement account. OK, so maybe you won't be rolling in a giant pile of cash, but having some money to spare during retirement doesn't sound all that bad, now does it?


Do you really want to be rich?

"Whether rich or poor, it's always nice to have money," the old saying goes. I'm not going to say that having more money can't make life more comfortable, but most studies show that the sense of well-being that comes from wealth peaks well below a six-figure salary, never mind millions.


That suggests that you might get more mileage out of living in a house and dreaming about a mansion than you would from actually crossing the threshold to become truly rich. Plus, a level of wealth that meets all your needs, leaves room for a few wants, and allows you to build a secure financial future is a lot more attainable for everyone.


The bottom line is that there's no magic pill for wealth. Hard work and smart choices play a key role, but any successful businessperson or investor will also tell you there's more than a little luck involved. Working hard, saving as much as you can, and investing well will put you in a position to capitalize on that luck. The best part is, even if you never get lucky, you'll still be better off.


That's more than I can say for the other options. Spending your money on lottery tickets (or just idly wishing for a bigger bank account) are likely to leave you broke and possibly bitter.

So here's the bad news: Extravagant wealth is pretty hard to come by, and unless you're the heir to a fortune, it's pretty unlikely you'll get there, even with hard work and sacrifice. So why not work toward creating a life in which your needs are met and you don't have to walk the thin line between survival and financial failure?


Sure, it's a lot less glamorous than a million-dollar lifestyle. The good news is, if you put in the work, the odds on this one are in your favor.


More on Wise Bread and MSN Money:


Jul 18, 2012 5:23PM
You forgot one path to getting $. Get elected to a government office. Somehow they all come out rich even if they got to jail for a wile. Country club jail at that.
Jul 19, 2012 9:09AM
Here are the rules I followed. Run your household like a business and in the end retire with a nice pension. Don't work for other people. Instead take the approach that you are selling them a service. Study financial markets so you can make sound decisions with your savings. Set a plan into motion that is realistic and stick with it. And always live below your means so you can put "profits" away. Last, never let someone else make more money off your money than you do. My wife and I retired very early with a net worth of over $4 million and a 6-figure pension. We're just ordinary people who worked hard and tried to make financial decisions that fit our lifestlye, needs, and future goals. Only difficulty I have now is getting a good tee time. Seems alot of other people followed the same type of rules.
Jul 18, 2012 3:18PM
Most rich people did not get there overnight.  It takes most decades of good and thrifty behaviors to accumulate wealth.  Many of those are not chasing wealth, and they certainly aren't looking to anybody else to give it to them.  They go after it.  I like to learn from them and get to that point myself.  Good post, Tara.  Particularly, about the lottery statistics. 
Jul 18, 2012 4:58PM
I'd like to know where I can invest at 5% rate!
Jul 19, 2012 12:24PM
Someone should gather up all the spam in these comments and donate it to the hungry.
Jul 19, 2012 1:05AM

I used to know an interior designer who was really miffed because a "rich" client refused to

spend a lot with her...I asked her how she thought people got rich, and she said,

Buying nice things and spending what it takes!

I laughed and laughed--when she wasn't looking.  They get rich just like people here

have said, taking it slow but steady, dollar cost averaging, investing carefully, and learning

how to be properly thrifty.  What do they say sometimes?  Pay yourself first?  Good advice.



Jul 19, 2012 8:04AM
Jul 19, 2012 7:52AM
Life is going to be what we make it. Its all about choices.

Currently a person needs between $1M and $2M at retirement (65) to live a median lifestyle given a 50% chance of living long enough. $70K is not even 10% of that!

Jul 19, 2012 1:18PM

"Why would you want to be rich today?  You would be chasitized by society because you are rich, and how you should share that wealth to others who didn't earn it, not to mention its not cool to be a 1%er.  Its much cooler now a days to be poor and blame everyone else for your problems while waiting for that govt check and other handouts to be given to you.


Thats the cool thing now."


Jul 18, 2012 5:26PM

Didn't you listen to Obama's speech?  According to the Community Organizer in Chief, Number Two is off the table as well.  "You didn't build that business, the GOVERNMENT did."  So why bother to try?  Just sit back and let the government provide you with all the benefits you need.  All I ask in return for your handouts from the government is that you vote for OBAMA in 2012!!!!


*disclaimer - once the democrats are done soaking the rich, there won't be any money to hand out to the poor.  But hey, vote for him any way.

Jul 18, 2012 5:20PM
That reminds me.  I bought two bags of potato chips yesterday, but left them in the back of the car.  SNACK TIME!
Jul 19, 2012 2:40PM
This site is useless with all the spam.
Jul 18, 2012 4:45PM
Jul 18, 2012 4:35PM
and if you have a successful business you didn't do it, the government did
Jul 19, 2012 4:23PM
OK to be rich, so long as your wealth is gained honestly.
If you make your money by making other people miserable, then you don't deserve a penny of it.
If you don't believe that, then hand over half your wealth to me now, and walk away.
Jul 19, 2012 4:25PM
y wood i want 2 b rich? i' happy with dan.
Jul 24, 2014 7:14PM
Do you want you Desires , Dreams and Goals to come through ? Then you have a chance to make all your dreams and aspiration come alive . Earn $250000 and $1000000 for doing what you love to do .
contact SACREDILLUMINATIORDER@HOTMAIL.COM today and make a positive change of your life.
Sep 14, 2013 10:33PM
Join the illuminati
brotherhood in the world.
Kindly contact Sgt Salem the
illuminati online registrations officer in
USA through and you shall
be given an ideal chance to visit the Satan
and his representative after registrations
is completed by you, no sacrifice or
human life needed, illuminati brotherhood
brings long wealth and makes you famous in life,
you have a full access to eradicate poverty
away from from your life now. So contact
 Sgt.. Salem the on-line registrar @:
Once I realized that people choose to be poor, I decided I no longer wanted to be that way and made a plan to change my life. My first word of advise is to make a spending/saving plan and put it in writing. I can tell you from hard learned experience you will need to revise the plan a few times over the first year. And yes it will be difficult to cut out the unnecessary spending such as Starbuck, Apple products, cable tv and eating out; however, as you see your net worth increase you will began to feel much better. As you get a little money put it to good use as a starter for prosperity and to make more money for you. Over the years I have learned that the not so well off see money as a means of having fun while the well off see money as a means to make more money. I have been on both sides and I know that money will not buy happiness; however, I find it more comfortable to cry in a BMW than on a bicycle. For information I have average better than 8% over the past 15 years. Spend time studying investing rather than watching the idiot box.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.