Strategies for getting rich: savings vs. skills

We all want to be rich. But few of us are ready to work at it.

You know how some people say “I don’t want to be rich?” Haha! Does that mean that if they won the lottary, they would just give the money away because they “don’t want to be rich?” Of course not.

What these people mean is they DO want to be rich (or at least won’t mind being rich), but they don’t want it bad enough to put in the effort. And they don’t want to  put in the effort because they think it’s TOO MUCH effort.

It’s not. No it’s not. Many people think that being rich is suuuuper hard, but that’s just because they are working at it the wrong way: by working. Try this instead:

WORKING to get rich? Nah...

Okay, kidding.

There is a saying in Bulgaria that hard work can only turn you into a hunchback and never into a rich person. I think this saying came from the time when common (poor) people in the villages used to work the lands of the rich people for a small wage, while the rich kept the reapings – the real profits. The common people, if they worked really hard at this, would likely get a hunchback from all the extra work; they would probably get a slightly higher wage, too, but the raise would be too insignificant to make them rich. Thus the saying.

And just like in those times, many people today are trying to get rich with a flawed strategy: simply working hard and putting in more hours. Yeah, good luck with that.

Since so many people think that getting rich is too much hard work, they adopt the only alternative strategy: saving.

Now, saving is not bad. It’s good to save money (as long as you don’t go overboard). Saving is a great strategy for being in a good financial shape… but that’s about as far as it will get you. If there is a rope you need to climb to riches, that rope is not called saving. Saving is just a safety net. The rope is called SKILLS.

Saving is not a viable strategy for getting rich, because there is only so much you can save. Saving is limited.

Suppose you earn 1000 € a month. Suppose you put aside 200 € for savings. You will need to work 5 months to have 1 month worth of savings. And even if you have 3 months’ worth of savings – 3000 € – how long will that last you if you lose your job? It will last you 3 months if you keep spending as usual or maybe 6 months if you cut your spending in half. Then what?

Or, what if you are moving to another town (or country!) without a secured job lined up for you? All you can rely on is your savings but again, they won’t last you forever. They might not last you enough until you find your dream job.

Which is why, if you want to keep your options open, saving alone won’t be enough. You will need SKILLS.

Here’s a visual on the difference between having savings and having skills. Imagine two people – one very skinny and weak, the other in a great physical shape and strong. The two are walking through a forest. The skinny one has a sleeping bag and a meduim backpack full of food, the strong one has a smaller pack of food and no sleeping bag.  Now the skinny one is totally dependant on the food in his backpack and can only last as long as his food will last. But the fit one can survive longer because he has better skills – he moves faster, he has better endurance, and so he can GET food no matter where he is. He might not have a sleeping bag but he has the skills to build an improvized shed.

That’s why having SKILLS makes a huge difference. When you have skills, you can get yourself the resourses you need, whereas if you don’t have skills, you are completely dependent on what you have saved.

If you are relocating from one place to another, having a financial fund to back you up helps, but it will only sustain you so far. You can have 6 months’ worth of savings but if you don’t have the necessary skills to interview well and negotiate for a higher salary, your savings could run out before you are able to find a job. And even if they don’t, they will be pretty depleted by month six.

Imagine you are a web designer with good social skills. You’d have a pretty easy time finding a job anywhere. You won’t have to rely on your savings so much because you know you’ll land a good job in no more than a month. Two months, tops.

And now imagine you’re a graduate fresh out of college. You don’t have much skills yet. You’d need much more time to find a good job, and to buy that time, you’d have to rely on your savings a lot.

Savings are hard to gather yet so easy to fritter away. You might spend a year struggling to save 30% of your income and then one unfortunate event could eat up your savings in just a month or two.

Skills on the other hand are with you for keeps. And by skills I don’t just mean strictly work-related skills like working with PowerPoint or knowing Excel inside and out. While these are valuable skills, there are other skills which could also be a great help to you – social skills as we already said, or the skills to easily adapt to change, or the skill to control your willpower.

I didn’t realize it when I was little, but I was pretty good with Word. It wasn’t an effort for me to get to know the program – I had so much fun using it (and sometimes going a little overboard with Text Effects or Font Size. Do you know what’s the biggest font size a capital letter can be and still fit on one page?).

I got so used to Word that soon I knew it all by heart. However, I never realized this was a skill until  years after that, when I started my first office job and someone asked me to help them with formatting. It turned out that not everyone knew Word that well.

And let’s not forget Word’s cousing, Excel. Excel is a great piece of software but it could  be a little intimidating at first. A little… mathematical. Too mathematical for most people. I’m not so good with Excel as I am with Word, but still it turnes out I was better than most of my older colleagues. So that was a skill and I didn’t even realize it was a skill! (Now that I’m using the newer versions of Microsoft office, I’m having a hard time locating the buttons and menus I need. It slows me down! NOW I see how knowing MS Office could be a skill.)

What else? Oooh, time-management! Time-management is definitely a skill. A very valuable one. If you can handle answering the phone, preparing a report for your boss, smiling at the visitor in the office and handing your colleage the ruler all at the same time without getting stressed, good for you. I can’t. I really suck and multi-tasking.

I could be great if I focus on one thing, but I need to get deeply focused. Get “in the zone” or something. In order to do that, I can’t do more than one thing at a time, right? Yeah, well, good luck explaining this to my boss! Or my manager! Or my supervisor! I love it when they do a conspiracy against me and call at the same time and demand three different reports at once, all of which are super-mega-hyper urgent. This freaks me out! And I make mistakes when I’m freaked out.

So I can’t multi-task, and when I try to, I make mistakes. But I can’t just tell my boss, my supervisor and my manager to all just LEAVE ME ALONE CUZ YOU FREAK ME OUT!! Lolz :))) Instead, I had to grow some time-management skills.

I remember these first few days on my new job and something like the above happened – I had five or six different tasks to do. And I paniced (a little bit). Later I thought about it – why did I panic (a little)? That’s not like me at all. Then I realized that I had paniced (a little) because I had no idea which of the five tasks was the most important. I had no idea what I should do first. So I worked on #1 a little bit, then I’d feel stressed for leaving #5 behind and work a little on it, then someone would call and ask what’s going on with #4 and I kept feeling stressed. It was like I had to deliver five different letters to five different addresses and I kept going back and forth, not sure which one was top priority. It sucks!

Yeah, I used to be one of those people who’d say that “time-management” or “problem-solving” skills were just fancy words for nothing. That these skills were made-up and not really “real” skills.

But they are! And actually, such skills are rare. Everything rare is valuable and so employers appreciate people with such skills. They are willing to pay good money for them. Employers value people that can work in “silent efficient mode” and don’t bother them with questions every five minutes.

So, bottom line is, skills trump savings on the way to riches. While saving is definitely a good thing to do, it’s not enough to make you rich by itself. You need to nurture your skillset. It’s your skill set that will help you “work SMART, not hard.”

And it’s not even that expensive to develop some neat cool skills – often some curiousity and a little thorough thinking will do the trick.

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11 thoughts on “Strategies for getting rich: savings vs. skills”

  1. “Saving is just a safety net. The rope is called SKILLS” Very well said, it made me think. :)

  2. @Angel – thank you! When it occurred to me to phrase it like that, I thought – hey, that’s a pretty awesome metaphore :)

    @Petar – oopsie :) And there I was, bragging about how good I am with *Exel* haha :))

  3. If you are good in investing money, this skill + saving could help you climb to the financial success. So saving is sometimes the first thing you should do.

  4. @Teodora – saving is definitely the first thing to do! My point is that it’s neither the ONLY one nor the BEST one. As for skills, you don’t necessarily need *financial* skills. You could be great at cooking and earn money with that skill. Or you could be great at writing and earn money with that skill.

    The only catch is you have to find a way to make money with the skills you have :)

  5. „As for skills, you don’t necessarily need *financial* skills. You could be great at cooking and earn money with that skill. Or you could be great at writing and earn money with that skill. The only catch is you have to find a way to make money with the skills you have :)”.

    This sounds great, but if you don’t have at least basic “financial” knowledge, you will spend all your earned money on stupid stuff, and eventually you will not have enough money to pay even your monthly facility bills (e.g. lottery millionaires).

  6. I think that if you want to get rich you can’t do it without “financial” skills, even if you need them only for finding the right person to manage your money. So as to be rich, you need your money to work for you.

  7. Okay guys, yes, you need to have at least some basic knowledge in personal finance. But that’s different from “skills in investing”, is it not? :)

    Also, how exactly do you get investment skills?

  8. “Also, how exactly do you get investment skills?”

    From americans, they breathe that :) Find “Shark Tank” in youtube – this is a 4 season reality and it’s all about money and investing.

  9. Wow!!! I would like to know better about saving,I mean knowing the exactly percentage on saving,because you’re right, saving money is not bad,but is not enough if you don’t have the skills,I love this article so much,I’m studying business economic financial (just started ) and I’m very interested about this

  10. Thanks, David! :) Well there is no right or wrong number when it comes to savings. More so because people have different goals (some want to save 5k and other want 55k) and different salaries (if you make 3000/month and save 10% that’s 300 in savings. But if you make 9000/month and save just 5% that’s 450 in savings).

    So it’s really personal. Try different numbers and see what works best for you – in real life, not just on the budget spreadsheet ;)

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