Become a Millionaire... Overnight?

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Today, everyone's obsessed with instant gratification. Same-day delivery; websites loading in one-second flat; speedy answers to all questions; and a few taps on a keypad to stay in touch with family and friends. What about personal finances - is it realistic to expect instant results?

My Lottery Experiment

I’m not immune to the allure of becoming an instant millionaire. I spent part of a recent road trip fantasizing about winning the lottery. I even planned how I’d spend my multi-millions. These road-trip inspired daydreams evolved into an experiment.

I withdrew $40 out of an ATM to play the scratch-offs. What I wanted to know was how long it would take me to either strike it rich or lose all my cash. I spent $19 on the first day and won back $2. The next day I bought two $10 scratch-offs and won $110!  Not exactly big bucks, but enough to keep me hooked! I decided to pocket my original $40 investment and continue to play with the winnings, hoping I could purchase enough tickets to eventually land a big winner.

Several trips to the gas station and sixteen scratch-offs later, my lucky streak ended and my "fun money" was gone! No surprise. Very few people find the lottery to be a successful mechanism for becoming an overnight millionaire.

Other Ways to Make a Million

Some people just get lucky! In case you haven't scrolled through social media lately, Kylie Jenner took the Internet by storm after Forbes published this feature story: "How 20-Year-Old Kylie Jenner Built a $900 Million Fortune in Less Than 3 Years." And Indianapolis resident, John Cynn, recently rocked headlines for taking home the $8.8 million prize at the World Series of Poker Championship. But most people don't have enough fame to leverage a business like Jenner. As for Cynn, the World Series of Poker Championship only comes around once a year - and who knows how much money he lost before winning big.

So what other avenues are available to double your money and get rich quick? Many people turn to non-traditional measures. One common technique is to invest in real estate. This can take shape as flipping homes, purchasing rental properties, or loaning money to developers for (hopefully) a big return on your investment. Outside influences that you can’t control can make this an unpredictable ride.

Another potential way to achieve big returns is to invest in options. In simple terms, options involve placing a bet on whether a security will move up or down within a certain period of time. If you bet right, trading options can be extremely lucrative. Unfortunately, being consistently right is rarely accomplished.

These avenues appeal to people comfortable with high risk. But here’s the thing: One small mistake could cost you your entire investment. If you consider one of these options, beware of the risks involved, do your research, and proceed with caution.

Two Realistic Ways to Get Rich

Let's face it. The odds of winning Hoosier Lottery’s Powerball jackpot (1 in 292,201,339) aren’t great. Why take your chances when there’s a more reliable way to grow your wealth? Building wealth boils down to two simple rules. The first rule is to live below your means. Here are some pointers for that:

  • Create a budget.
  • Reassess your budget periodically and look for new saving opportunities.
  • Don’t get sucked into keeping up with the Joneses.
  • Avoid lifestyle creep when you receive a raise.
  • Purchase higher-priced goods, such as a car, for the long-term.

The other rule is simple: save and invest. Put your money to work and watch it grow over time. Want some strategies for investing?

  • Aim to max out contributions to your retirement plan.
  • Review your asset allocation.
  • Diversify.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help from a trustworthy professional.

Hopefully one day your portfolio will reach a point where its growth far outweighs your contributions. As my mother always says, patience is a virtue. Stay the course during the ups and downs and don't be tempted by offers that sound too good to be true. Finally, know when to seek help.

Conclusion

There will always be people who expect instant financial results. Some of them win, but most of them lose. If there were a stable and practical way to become a millionaire overnight, trust me, everyone would be doing it. Realistically, it’s a long, slow process that involves making many smart lifestyle and investment choices along the way.

Kate Arndt is a Financial Planner with Bedel Financial Consulting, Inc., a wealth management firm located in Indianapolis. For more information, visit their website at bedelfinancial.com or email Kate.

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