In terms of building wealth, we don’t have a level playing field.  Two seemingly identical college graduates starting out with the same salary may have a very different wealth building experience if one has $100,000 in student loans and the other has none.  A pharmacology major or engineering student may immediately find a well paying job even in today’s economy while journalism majors may have more of a challenge finding a job in his or her field. 

While some may have more income to start with and some may have additional challenges, wealth building principals can be applied across the board.  The debt-burdened graduate could easily end up wealthier than the graduate with no debt even starting from behind.   The journalist could end up retiring well before the engineer, depending on the financial decisions they make along the way.

Since I came up with 24 ways anyone can build wealth (with the help of the think tank of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals at Financial Finesse), you’ll get the tips over a series of three blog posts, starting with these tips on attitude, frequent mistakes people make and some things you may have not considered.

Here are 8 ways to build your wealth:

1.    Be stingy. This may sound trite but watching your pennies makes a difference in building long term wealth. Use a budget tracker such as or to see where your money is going and only part with a dollar when you are getting value from it.

2.    Be charitable. Helping others makes you feel better – I know it does for me but it also helps on your taxes. When you file the long form, you are able to write off charitable donations of clothing as well as cash.  Be sure to save your receipts.

3.    Be skeptical – don’t be so trusting.  Learn financial basics yourself and never rely on someone you think knows more about money than you do (even if you happen to be married to them).  They may not know as much as you think – work together instead.  Never give control of your money to any advisors – work in partnership with your advisors. Even if you don’t think you are a financial person, become one.

4.    Only refinance once and don’t take any money out.  Continuously refinancing can end up costing more than it is worth if there are fees involved. It can take up to two years to re-coop the cost of refinancing when interest rates are so low.  Also watch out for a common mistake to pull out cash when you refinance – seems like a little thing but many people do it and end up never paying off their home. Click here for a refinance calculator.

5.    When you refinance, don’t extend the life of the loan. Refinancing can be a trap if you are five years into a loan and then refinance again for a thirty year mortgage. You may have reduced your payment with a lower rate but you also just increased your term by five years. This seems really obvious but it is a common mistake.

6.    Buy a relatively small house – don’t get a “McMansion.” A less expensive smaller home has lower overall costs, including lower property taxes and utilities.  You also have fewer rooms to furnish (and much less to clean). You don’t have to live in a tiny postage stamp house (though some extreme savers might like that) but be careful before you go too big.

7.    Buy long term care insurance. This insurance will not make you wealthy but it might protect your wealth.  Pre-retirees usually buy long term care in their late fifties and early sixties before the premiums get too high and/or their health deteriorates so they can’t qualify.  Check to see if you have a group plan through your employer.

8.    Buy long term care insurance for your parents.  If you anticipate having to care for your elderly parents or pay out-of-pocket for their care, it might make sense for you and your siblings to purchase a long term care policy for your parents.  Some group plans will cover family members also, including your parents.

Who would have thought being stingy, charitable and skeptical at the same time could have a major impact on your wealth?  It can.  Watch for 16 more tips coming up in the next couple of weeks.