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When it comes to financial uncertainties, the list of current possibilities may seem endless.
From high inflation to a possible looming recession and geopolitical turmoil, there are plenty of curve balls that may shift the U.S. economy and financial markets.
But for individual investors who employ some tried-and-true money strategies, getting wealthy and staying that way is well within their reach, according to financial experts who landed on CNBC’s Financial Advisor 100 list for 2022.
“The biggest takeaway is just discipline,” said Kaleialoha “Kalei” Cadinha-Pua’a, president and CEO of Cadinha & Co., a Honolulu, Hawaii-based registered investment advisor that ranked No. 16 on this year’s FA 100 list.
“You see subtle changes that people can make in either retaining or accumulating wealth, and it’s changing just a little discipline,” she said.
Over time, living a humble lifestyle can help build sizable assets, in what Mike Conner, a chartered financial analyst and managing partner at Berwyn, Pennsylvania-based Kistler-Tiffany Advisors (No. 14 on the FA 100 list) calls the “neighbor next door philosophy.” That diligence, combined with taking risks by being entrepreneurial, has the power to catapult people to high levels of wealth.
“You go in a nondescript house and they’re worth $15 million and you would never know,” Conner said.
‘Sooner is better’ with investing
When it comes to investing, the best way to set yourself up to achieve your goals is to start as soon as possible.
That’s due to the power of compounding, where the earnings on the money you invest are reinvested and generate additional earnings.
“It’s super critical to start early,” said Kenneth Ligon, vice president and portfolio manager at Professional Advisory Services, a Vero Beach, Florida, investment management company that is No. 15 on the 2022 FA 100 list.
Take two investors, one who starts investing in their early 20s and the other who doesn’t start until 30, Ligon said. Even if the first investor stops investing when they reach 30, they will still stay ahead of the other investor who starts later, due to the power of compounding with an estimated 7% to 8% annual return.
That said, even getting started in your 30s isn’t bad. “Just, sooner is better,” Ligon said.
Importantly, the power of compounding also applies to debt, Cadinha-Pua’a noted.
That’s especially important to pay attention to now, as Federal Reserve rate hikes will make the interest on those debt balances more expensive than it has been in years, she said.
Live within your means
If you’re over levered with debt, that will take a huge bite out of your savings, Cadinha-Pua’a said.
The best way to avoid that is to live within your means. Some “super savers” pride themselves on socking as much as they can toward retirement, regardless of the size of their incomes, a recent study from Principal found. To get there, they often forego pricey purchases. The survey found 49% drive an older car, 40% don’t travel as much as they would like and 39% own a modest home.
“It’s such a simple concept to say; it’s such a difficult concept to execute,” she said. “It requires discipline.”
Chances are, savings can be found by trimming back on one lifestyle category everyone spends money on: food.
Guests enjoy outdoor dining in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., May 23, 2021.
Caitlin Ochs | Reuters
Admittedly, higher food costs at grocery stores and restaurants are unavoidable now, due to historic high inflation.
But paring back that spending can be done by thinking ahead and planning meals ahead of time, and opting to cook at home instead of regularly dining out and ordering takeout.
“I haven’t come across anyone yet who couldn’t pinch a little bit on the spending on that side,” Cadinha-Pua’a said.
Delaying gratification can be the hardest part of building wealth, Conner said. “For must of us, it’s a really long path,” he said.
Be willing to fail — and keep going
Because building wealth is a long game, there are sure to be stumbling blocks along the way.
The key is to realize mistakes are going to happen and all you can do is review what you could have done differently and use that to plan for the future, Conner said.
“It’s very, very unlikely that you’re going to have an immense amount of upside with no downside,” Conner said.
To that end, it’s also important to take selective risks, he said.
When it comes to cryptocurrencies, investors should play it safe and only invest an amount of money they’re willing to lose, Conner said.
But when it comes to stocks, investors may generally benefit from a diversified portfolio. The right allocation will depend on factors including your timeline and risk tolerance, but Conner said people may benefit from keeping at least 50% in stocks. That’s because the market has generally trended higher over time, and big market drops tend to precede large gains.
“Sometimes you have to take some risk to make meaningful sums of money,” Conner said.