Student to Millionaire: The ultimate guide
There's not a student alive who hasn't thought what it would be like to have a bottomless bank balance. Here's how you can increase your chances!
While we've all dreamt of countless jaunts to far-away destinations and splashing cash on luxuries we've always wanted, chances are you've ruled this out as a daydream (despite continuing to buy a scratch card every time you go out to buy milk).
But becoming a millionaire isn't really as difficult and unachievable as you might think. Lots of people prove each and every year that you don't have to be a banker, lottery winner or be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to build up your wealth to seven figures.
So, here's our ultimate guide to getting your hands on that million. Let's get rich!
What's on this page?
Ok, so lets start with a bit of a disclaimer: a million quid just ain't what it used to be.
It's getting easier to become a millionaire with every day that passes thanks to things like inflation. And for many budding rich-listers, being wealthy is more a question of lifestyle and not having to worry about your finances, than how much you've got in the bank.
To live like a millionaire, you don't actually need to have a million pounds in the bank – 99% of 'millionaires' don't. To actually be a millionaire, you will most definitely have to be right on top of your finances and investments!
Being a millionaire can mean all sorts of things, but in this guide we're essentially going to look at a realistic path in which you can build up your wealth to a target beyond £1,000,000.
Let's quickly walk through the rest of your life, taking a look at the steps you can take to become a millionaire (or even a billionaire!).
Most students have to scrimp just to get by, and can expect to leave university with a hefty amount of student debt (if you're feeling brave today, here's just how much).
So, becoming a millionaire at this stage in your life is a little out of reach. However, if you have serious aspirations to become rich later down the line, now's the time to get your act together.
The money game is a long slog – cash doesn't grow on trees. Before you embark on your millionaire challenge, it's vital that you have a clear life plan.
You need to work out a feasible and realistic route to making your millions that draws on your past skills, experience and ambitions.
We'll touch on setting income goals later on, but if you're serious about this then you need to know how to achieve it, not just dream it!
Sort out your spending habits
Most millionaires don't run around buying Lamborghini's all the time while cracking open the champagne at breakfast.
In fact, that's part of the reason why they're millionaires in the first place – instead of splashing the cash at every given opportunity, they've allowed their money to grow.
They say that 'a fool and his cash are soon parted', and that's a fairly decent motto to live by if you want to join the super-rich.
Hone in on your money skills
If you haven't already got it, download our free book: The Essential Student Guide to Finance – there are loads of great tips in there to get you started.
Sorry for stating the obvious here, but to be wealthy you need to have income. Use any spare time you have (aside from studying and partying) to earn some cash. It's a good idea to land a part-time job, but it can also pay off to be more creative.
Check out our quick ways to make money guide, or why not start-up a small business of your own if you have something to offer? Not only will this pull in some additional cash, but you'll be testing out your entrepreneurial skills before you've even graduated.
There's no getting away from the fact that you will have student debt, but because you don't have to pay it all back right away (if ever), it's not like other debt and won't affect your future goals of raking in the big bucks.
You might find that sometimes you do have a few quid to spare, especially when the loans come in. Get into the habit of putting this into a savings account (easy access is best at this stage) – you'll be surprised how much interest you can earn on it during your time at uni.
At the same time, remember to cut down on spending. Avoid having a car and think carefully before splashing out on big-ticket items if you don't really need them.
Going from a life of education into the world of work can be a daunting prospect. There's a lot to adjust to, and you might still be worrying about what you actually want to do with your life, never mind the challenge of becoming a millionaire in the next few years!
Our advice is don't worry about the unknown, things always work out and there are lots of things you can do to boost your chances of reaching the high-life…
Get a job
Your first priority to maximise your income at this stage is to secure a well-paid graduate job. Having said that, think carefully about the career you want to embark on: one you will enjoy and can progress quickly in.
It's worth knowing that graduate schemes are normally the best way to kick off your career on a high earner early on, as many companies offer graduate salaries of around £40,000 a year!
If you're finding it hard to get on to the career ladder, pick up a part-time job for the time being whilst you job hunt. And if you're really struggling to find any paid work then don't be afraid to sign on at the Job Centre for a short period.
Start a business
The fast-track method of becoming super wealthy in your twenties is to start a high growth, high return business with a plan to exit within 5 years or so.
But, of course there is absolutely no guarantee you'll even make a penny, and the risk can often outweigh your other options of building a longer term income.
It's important to have a well researched idea and a solid business plan before you start, and a clear picture of how you'll support yourself when there's no money coming in.
Having said all this, there may never be a better time to start in business than as a graduate. You're responsibilities are minimal and even if it all goes Pete Tong, you've got a wealth of experience to build on and take forward.
Start with our own list of business ideas.
Take advantage of tax-free ISAs
One of the reasons why people will never become millionaires is simply because they don't know how.
There are lots of competing options out there fighting for you to invest in, but you need to think smart and do your homework on what's available to you and what will give you the best return.
Tax free cash ISAs are one of the best ways to consistently build up your savings. If you don't yet have an ISA, get one now!
Every year, each person in the UK over the age of 16 has an allowance of money (£20,000 maximum from April 2017) they can put in a tax-free savings account, called an ISA. Once your money's in the account, it stays tax-free, FOREVER.
If you don't use up your ISA allowance in a particular year you lose that opportunity.
So if you've got a little bit of spare money lying around, you should absolutely, definitely, 100%, put it in an ISA. After all, why pay tax (currently 20% on normal (non-ISA) savings interest above £1,000 a year) when you don't have to?
You can move to a different ISA provider every year if you want to, so shop around for the best rate. The top interest rate you can expect right now is around 2%. If you deposit £20,000 (the max. allowance for 2017/18) in one of the best ISAs, you'll earn £400 over the year in tax-free interest.
If you chose to invest the £20,000 in a normal savings account (of 2% as well) instead of an ISA, you'd still receive £400. However, this is where you need to be clever, as you'd miss out on that year's ISA allowance.
For more on ISAs, read our guide on the best ISA accounts.
A few years on from graduating, you'll hopefully have a decent amount of cash coming in on a regular basis.
Now's the time to start getting serious – being smart with your spare cash is what makes the difference between your Average Joe and your millionaire.
Get on the property ladder
When renting a property, it's easy to feel like you're throwing cash down the drain every month.
Of course there are lots of benefits to renting, but by this point you should be a little more settled both in terms of where you want to live long term and also financially – so why continue filling a landlord's pockets with your hard earned cash when you could be paying monthly towards your own place?
You may be quite happy living with your parents for a few years after you graduate (even if they're not over the moon about it!) and building up your cash reserves (check out the LISA too), but once you've gathered enough to foot a deposit (the minimum is 5% of a property value), it's time to start house hunting!
Once you've bought your own house or flat, you'll probably be paying much less every month in mortgage repayments than you had been forking out on rent, and you actually have a place of your very own at the end of it. Historically, property prices follow a strong upward trend so you really are investing in your future.
If you're in a good financial position, then considering a buy-to let investment is the next step to financial freedom. So long as you can get the initial deposit down, and get a good mortgage deal which is less than the rental income, you're on the fast track to being rather rich.
Again, you're also likely to benefit from a rise in overall property prices meaning you can bring in big bucks by selling up at the peak of the market and buying at the bottom.
Of course, there is the whole issue of getting a deposit together, and that's a lot easier said than done.
But going back to those budgeting skills you honed as a student, you can put a plan in place to save up the necessary amount. You'd typically be looking at needing 10% of the property value.
Invest in stock markets using index-trackers
If you're not familiar with the stock market, it can all seem a little bit daunting. Index-tracking stocks are fairly straightforward though, and more to the point consistently beat the vast majority of managed and hedge funds.
In simple terms, these funds are a collective investment scheme that replicates the movements of one particular financial market (eg. the FTSE 100).
There are 6 big advantages over other stock market investments:
• Very low-cost, with long-term returns of up to 10% pa
• Don't require much knowledge or professional help
• Avoid the classic issues of following greed and making stock choices
• Easy to manage
• Can be wrapped in a Shares ISA for tax-free returns
• Maximizes the magic of compound interest (where interest income is reinvested)
This sort of investment works best when it's given several years to appreciate and mature, so think of it as a long-term venture rather than a get rich quick scheme. But be assured, over time your wealth portfolio will swell nicely.
Read our guide on index-tracking investments, and if you really want to learn how to make your millions using this strategy then definitely read Andrew Hallam's Millionaire Teacher. Highly recommended.
Get to grips with your pension
Retirement might seem like a long way off yet, but sorting out a pension fund before you hit 30 is a very wise move.
The benefits of pensions in growing your wealth are on a par with index-tracking investments. Even a modest amount put into a pension fund now can make a big difference in the future.
As with many of the other tips on this page, the key thing is to grow your knowledge of these major types of investment products available to you.
You might be able to get a good pension through your employer, who often match every pound you put in, but don't forget to look at other providers too.
Try to pick a flexible one, that allows you to pay in as much or as little as you can afford, with a low annual fee.
When you retire, you'll still require an income to cover not only basic living essentials (like rent and food) but to sustain the lifestyle you have worked so hard to achieve.
To be a millionaire OAP requires some planning years before you reach retirement age.
Set an income goal
Most retirees are 'pensioners' because, well, they are living off of their pension which at least covers living costs. But you want to live like a millionaire, right?
To get to this level of income without working requires a fairly sizeable pension plus a good number of other streams of income being earned every month on your capital assets.
If you want to really live it up post-work, it's important to set an income goal before you retire that doesn't require you to work anymore. This number will vary for everyone, but whatever it is, pick one and work to it. Instead of retiring at 70 you might find you're able to retire at 58 if you wanted to, because you've reached your goal.
By the time you give up work, your investment portfolio becomes your income portfolio. To protect your nest egg you need to diversify…
Diversify your interests
Don't keep all your eggs in one basket. Over the years, you should aim to build up a portfolio of wise investments that will get you set for when you retire.
A good income portfolio would ideally include a mix of:
• Cash and stock ISAs
• Government bonds
• A pension (private or state)
• Index-tracking funds
• Buy-to-let property (UK or overseas)
All of these are sources of sustained income. This kind of balanced portfolio will leave you in a position to enjoy your retirement, rather than wondering how you'll afford it.
And with the UK's state pension getting worse each and every year, that's a very good position to be in.
Write a Will
Remember, whatever happens, you can't take it all with you when you're in the ground. After a life of saving and building up your wealth, you want it to fall into the right hands when you're gone.
It can be worth seeking professional legal and tax advice to make sure you have a strategy that maximizes the beneficiaries of your Will. And don't wait until you've gone grey, the earlier the better!
If the long but fool-proof road to becoming a millionaire (that is, scrimping and saving as a graduate and building a well-balanced and sustained investment portfolio in your 30s onwards) doesn't appeal to you, then there are other more creative ways to becoming filthy rich in a shorter time-frame.
Try these for size:
- Move abroad – with a healthy bank balance you can live like a king in exotic countries such as India, Mexico and Thailand
- Lotteries, game shows & competitions – this method of course all comes down to luck, but for a (very) small group of people a punt has paid off big time
- Career choice – this guide has mostly focused on investing, but get into a high-paying industry or job and you might be driving the flash car quicker than you think
- Sell a business – we touched on this, but there's still lots more to be said for starting up a company, adding value, generating sales and flogging it on
- Gambling – not one to recommend since the majority of gamblers get into bad debt, but nonetheless it can be a quick way to big bucks for some. Check our guide to Matched Betting to profit without risk
- Property developing – you've seen the daytime TV shows, and adding value to houses is without doubt a great way to build wealth relatively quickly
- Inheritance – you probably haven't got much choice in this one, but you can always send a Christmas card to distant wealthy relatives, just in case.
A million isn't what it used to be, but it's still more than enough to give you a very comfortable lifestyle. Making wise investment choices will help your cash to stand the test of time – AKA inflation, your biggest wealth enemy.
Whether you've got a couple of tenners spare or perhaps a couple of thousand, give some really serious thought to what you should do with it.
But remember, if you want to be a millionaire, you'd much rather stash it away to earn more money than spend it now.
For more about becoming a millionaire in the 21st century, check out these great books:
Have you considered making your money work harder for you? We'd love to hear about your adventures in making a million!