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Here are three words you rarely hear: “Get rich slowly”.

The fact is that very, very few people get rich quickly. It simply doesn’t happen. If it did, we’d all be rich and the world would be a lovely place. It isn’t, sadly. I tell you this not to burst your bubble, but to help you understand the practical reality of how money works.

Lottery winners are among the few who get rich quickly, and statistics show that within 18 months, most of them get poor quickly. Never having had much money, people generally don’t know how to handle it when they win big, and they tend to spend their way to the poorhouse at great speed.

Enough bad news. It is possible to “get rich”, highly possible. The catch, if you choose to look at it that way, is that it takes both time and effort. You can get rich slowly, which doesn’t sound like fun, but is in fact enormously satisfying when you pull it off. All it takes is the application of common sense and an adult attitude. You are capable of both.

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Financial behaviour is a two-sided coin. There’s getting and there’s spending. You might think that one is more important than the other, but both have equal parts to play in the accumulation of wealth. To get rich at any speed, you must take charge of both sides of the equation.

Much financial advice concentrates on the earning side of the equation. Increased salaries or earnings, better investments, more balanced spreads of investments, exploiting temporary opportunities – if you are really interested, a host of concepts can be mastered and made part of your everyday thinking. It takes work, which is why most people are not rich. Hardly anyone these days wants to make the effort, yet everyone wants the rewards. Odd, huh?

On the spending side, one simple rule covers the whole thing. It is: spend a little less. Whenever people ask for financial advice, they almost always want to hear about how to make more money. Hardly anyone – in fact no one, now that I come to think about it – has ever asked me whether they should control their spending. People assume, I guess, that they would need to cut out all the things they like to do, and live like monks or nuns, and no one wants to hear that. The good news is that no one has to hear that. It would be bad advice.

The secret to financial mastery – which need not involve “getting rich” at any speed – is to spend less than you earn. A hair less, or a lot less: that’s up to you. In the weeks ahead, we’ll look at ways of taking control of your financial affairs and one of the first lessons will be to control your appetite for things you do not need. Try keeping up with your own needs instead, and make one of your needs saving a little money each month.

You can have a positive financial future, but you’re going to have to make an effort.

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