The No. 1 way to grow your wealth, according to a self-made millionaire: It’s ‘deceptively simple’

Building wealth might not be as difficult as you think, says self-made millionaire and author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” Ramit Sethi.

Having spent 20 years of his career writing about money and psychology, Sethi knows what it takes to grow your money. The No. 1 way to get rich: keep it boring, he tells CNBC Make It.

“The top ways to grow your wealth are really simple, almost deceptively so,” he says. “And they seem boring, but they are the ones that actually work.”

If you do these three basic things, “you will have a considerable amount of money in the long term,” Sethi says.

1. Start investing and gradually increase the amount

The first — and most important — way to grow your wealth is by investing, Sethi says: “Invest a percentage of your income every year automatically and increase that percentage 1%.” 

Investing in a low-cost index fun, like the S&P 500, will allow your money to grow just as well as “secret investments” accessed by the rich, Sethi says.

“We often believe that rich people have access to secret investments, and that’s how they make a ton of money,” he says. “Listen, I have access to those investments, and I can tell you right now, they typically do not perform better than a simple S&P index fund.” 

The S&P has performed well historically; between January 1926 and June 2023, the index posted an annualized total return of 10.34%, according to Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst for S&P Dow Jones Indices.

“The ordinary truth is that you can get great returns with a simple low-cost long-term index fund,” Sethi says. 

2. Push for the salary you deserve 

After learning how to invest your money, the next step to growing wealth is pushing for a fair salary, Sethi says: “Learn the skills of negotiating your salary and getting paid what you’re worth.”

Companies may still be deflating their public salary ranges, so it is important to continue negotiating for your top dollar. Pay experts say that the high end of a compensation range should be 40% to 60% more than the minimum. In reality, however, the average job listing salary range is around 28%, according to Bloomberg reporting.

Doing your research and seeking out information about what others in similar positions are making is an important step to ensuring fair compensation, Sethi says. 

When it comes to actually negotiating your salary, you can ask recruiters in the know about salary ranges for their candidates. Recruiters will likely have more up-to-date and personalized information than online databases.

Then, when offered a salary, take that number and add $20,000, Madelyn Machado, a reverse recruiter in Tampa, Florida, previously told CNBC Make It. Don’t accept the first offer you are given, she added.

3. Pursue a side hustle 

If the steps are so easy, why aren’t people doing them? 

These three steps are easy and attainable, Sethi says. Yet, they are not steps people are generally taking. 

“You know why people don’t do that? Because we are taught that in order to get rich, we’ve got to have 30 screens with all these PE ratios running down the screen and we need to pick stocks. And we are told that investing is like gambling,” Sethi says. “None of that is true.” 

Investing, unlike gambling, is not — and should not be — a form of entertainment Sethi says. Investing and managing finances are mundane tasks, he adds. Sethi spends “less than one hour per month” on all of his finances. 

“Real investing is boring. It’s like watching paint dry,” he says. “People talk about investing like it’s entertainment: I got to buy GameStop, I got to do this,” he says. “You want to be entertained? Get a dog. You want to be entertained? Watch my Netflix show.” 

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