I’m sure each one of us at some point has dreamed of becoming a millionaire. But how does one make a million dollars?
It’s been searched millions of times in search engines, and the search results direct you to books, seminars, tutorials, and many more instructional materials.
But how about asking those who weren’t born millionaires and had to claw their way to their first million and beyond?
In this article, I’ll share some insights from self-made millionaires to inspire you to earn your first million dollars and continue building your savings while you’re in the prime of your life.
How to Make a Million Dollars, According to Modern-day Millionaires
There is no single blueprint to reaching your first million dollars, but these guidelines have been used by many self-made millionaires, so they’re a good starting point.
Depending on your financial standing or unique situation, you can skip some steps, or mix-and-match to reach your goals.
1. Get out of debt.
Ask any financial advisor how you can begin your journey to your first million dollars and this step is always a must.
You can’t save, invest, or grow your money through any means if you’re deep in debt.
Doing so will be discouraging since every time you go forward, you need to go backward to pay off some debt.
That said, you need to know the difference between good debt and bad debt.
Good debt is borrowing money to buy a home or getting a student loan to get a degree in a lucrative field. It’s essentially an investment to get a property or an asset that increases in value over time.
On top of that, the interest rates for these debts are relatively low.
Bad debt is borrowing money off your credit cards for shopping sprees for stuff you don’t need or getting an expensive student loan to get a degree in a dead-end, low-paying field.
These are the ones that you want to pay off first, and quickly.
But good or bad, know that whenever you get a paycheck or a windfall, the first item on your list to pay is your debt.
2. Own your home.
Speaking of good debt, owning your home is a good way to get on track to making a million dollars.
Over the long term, even when housing prices fluctuate and even if you have to borrow to own it, you’re more likely to reach your financial goals when you buy your own home instead of renting.
This is especially true if you buy a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, allowing you to lock in your monthly housing payment. When your wages increase, the percentage of it that goes to your housing payment decreases, leaving you more money to save, invest, and grow.
3. Create an emergency fund.
One of the easiest and most common ways of going into debt is being unprepared for accidents, hospitalizations, and other unplanned expenses you didn’t account for.
Having an emergency fund gives you a buffer for unemployment, car repair, appliance replacement, or other unexpected expenses.
Experts recommend building an emergency fund starting with at least three times your monthly expense amount. So if you need about $2,000/month for bills, food, and other day-to-day expenses, then you should try to have at least $6,000 in your emergency fund.
This is aside from your long-term savings account.
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To make it simpler for you to build your emergency fund, automate transfers from your payroll account. This way, you’ll forget about your savings as part of your spending budget and you’ll train yourself to spend only what’s left.
Speaking of automating transfers, it’s better if you apply this to all your necessary spending: payments to your debt, bills, savings, and investment accounts if you have them.
4. Develop multiple streams of income.
Having a regular job that pays you more than minimum wage and lets you afford your day-to-day expenses with a little towards your savings may seem like enough.
Unfortunately, relying solely on your salary won’t get you any inch closer to becoming a millionaire (unless, of course, your job is the CEO of a multinational company).
Becoming an entrepreneur and creating multiple streams of income will get you closer to making a million dollars.
In fact, most of the world’s millionaires and billionaires are business owners and self-made millionaires (as opposed to heirs of already-wealthy families).
Business doesn’t have to mean a brick-and-mortar business. You can start an online business.
Your time is valuable, so set up a business (or multiple businesses) once, perform minimal upkeep, and basically wait for them to earn while you sleep. The revenue you collect from these sources is considered passive income.
When choosing among many money-generating businesses, pick the business(es) that can bring in passive income. For example:
- Sell your own brand with private label products
- Have an idea for an app? Build an app!
- Don’t have the time to launch a business, but have funds to finance one? Become a silent partner.
- Build an ecommerce website and sell products online.
- Become an expert at affiliate marketing.
- Turn a vacant apartment into an Airbnb rental.
- Write an eBook, convert it into an audiobook, and collect double royalties.
- You an artist? Earn money from your creativity
There are plenty of other passive income-generating business ideas out there. Find which ones would fit your personality, commitment level, and fund availability.
5. Become an expert in your craft.
Aim to be one of the best in your industry, whether you’re a doctor, graphic designer, copywriter, lawyer, or any other profession.
When you’re at the top of your game, you can command higher salaries and land promotions to higher positions.
CEOs earn somewhere between $10 to $20 million annually depending on how big the company is.
Investing in your skills also doubles your salary, so earn an MBA, learn new technology, take up another specialization, and so on.
Your hard work will pay off in the long run.
Here are several things you can do to master your craft:
- Polish your communication and negotiation skills (no matter your profession). Comedian Melissa McCarthy talks about how these skills can help you reach your million-dollar goal)
- Completing an MBA or Ph. D. degrees automatically increases your value as an employee
- Outsource administrative or repetitive tasks. Know the value of your time by only using it for tasks no one else can perform but you. Hire an assistant for general tasks like email correspondence, phone calls, bookkeeping, etc.
As an expert in your field, you can even turn your career into a business and get closer to making a million dollars.
For example, you can offer consultation services, build a blog, write a book about everything you know, become an influencer, and so on.
6. Invest your money.
When it comes to investing your money, self-made millionaire and best-selling author David Bach recommends “diversifying investment, but keeping it boring.”
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You invest the money you already have so it could work for you. You don’t need to dig deep into trading stocks or investing in startups, you just have to stick to a solid strategy.
Examples of this include:
- Investing in real estate. If you have extensive knowledge about real estate and construction, you can even flip it for profit.
- Rent out unused homes, apartments, condo units, or rooms via Airbnb
- Invest in the stock market (learn about index funds and how it could bring in passive income)
- Build a portfolio of high-dividend stocks and real estate investment trusts (REITs)
- Buy an established blog and resell it 24 times its monthly income.
7. Protect the wealth you do earn.
Insuring yourself won’t add to your earnings, but will protect it from being wiped out if you get in an accident and need medical care or you’re found liable for something.
Liability insurance should protect your assets as well as your future income in case you get sued and required to pay damages.
Another way to protect your wealth is to get long-term care insurance. There’s no sense in building your wealth only to lose it all when you retire to a nursing home.
3 Tips from Millionaires
Earning a million dollars won’t come overnight. It will involve a lot of hard work, so you better buckle up.
To increase your chances of reaching your goal, I cherry-picked three of the most common advice given by millionaires:
1. Build a daily routine
Millionaires value their time and make sure that every minute counts. Sticking to a routine allows rich people from living their lives as balanced as possible.
Key routines millionaires follow include:
- Waking up early to meditate, exercise, walk, stretch, and do other stress-relief activities
- Reading (Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and other highly successful people read every day)
- Working smart (delegate, outsource, and focus only on priority work)
- Leaving work at the office
- Sleeping at least 7 hours a day
Building a routine takes practice and some trial and error. When you find a routine that works for you and lets you become the most productive, then stick to it.
2. Find a mentor
There’s a reason why millionaires spare time for reading. Advice from other people who have done it better than you is probably the most valuable resource you can find.
You don’t need to hire a mentor during your journey to earn your first million dollars (but if you can afford it, there’s no reason not to hire one).
Just make sure the mentor you choose is the best resource person in the industry you’re trying to climb up to.
- Mark Zuckerberg asked Apple founder Steve Jobs for help during the early days of Facebook.
- Virgin Group founder Richard Branson sought guidance from asked British airline entrepreneur, Sir Freddie Laker.
- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban credits Paul Terhorst’s book “Cashing in on the American Dream: How to Retire at 35” for helping him earn his first million
- Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates may be good at computers but had Warren Buffet as his mentor on investments.
If you don’t have the funds for world-class mentors like these, you can try the next best thing: check out their books, videos, seminars, online courses, and other resources.
3. Spend well
It wouldn’t matter if you’re halfway through your million-dollar goal if you don’t know how to spend your money properly.
Unfortunately, spending is easier than earning, which is why you should follow these personal finance tips:
- Automate savings, bill payments, investments, and debt payments — If you automate paying for monthly expenses and transferring savings between your accounts, you’ll be able to get out of debt and only spend the necessary cash.
- Buy in bulk. — Heck, even billionaire Mark Cuban reportedly buys 2 years’ worth of toothpaste if he encounters 50% off promos.
- Audit expenses and track spending. — These things can change over time, so if you’re not using your Hulu or HBO subscription, you can strip it from your expenses and allocate that cash for other more important things.
- Use coupons. — Make couponing into a habit. It’s like free cash! Most coupons are available for items we use every day, from shampoo to laundry detergent, pet food to clothes, and a whole lot more.
- Follow a meal plan. — Eating out is one of the most common drains on your budget. Prep your week’s meals during weekends, so you can avoid eating out and spending extra on a whim.
- Be vigilant with your energy consumption. — Consume less energy so your gas and electric bills go down.
Most importantly, don’t fall for the lifestyle creep.
Earning thousands of dollars doesn’t mean you have to start wearing luxury clothing or drive a sports car.
Remember how Steve Jobs only wore his trademark black long-sleeved shirts and jeans for most of his career?
Keep your spending simple.
Ready to make your first million dollars?
Making a million dollars seems like an impossible dream, but hopefully, this article has convinced you that it’s an attainable goal.
Not only is it a goal, it’s now a necessity.
If you want to retire comfortably by the time you’re 60 or even younger, you’ll need to save a million dollars by then.
But even before you retire, you can aim to make your first million dollars so you can make that money work for you, make you even more money, and get a taste of financial freedom.
As you’ve seen, there isn’t one single path to making that first million; there are many different ways that require mental and financial discipline.