Look at the most popular New Year's resolutions. In addition to spending time with family, living life to the fullest, and getting healthy, people want to stop being broke. It's understandable -- and also one of
the most frequently broken resolutions.
Don't get discouraged. You really can make more money, lower your debts, and improve your financial future. There are no easy and magic solutions and many of these may seem obvious, but there's a difference between hearing about a solution to a problem and actually taking action. With some regular effort you can improve your lot in a lot of ways.
1. Ask for a raise.
Whether you're an employee or have a business, there are people who pay you. When's the last time you asked for more? It may be that you ultimately aren't successful, but if you don't ask, you can't get.
2. Research your field.
As part of looking for improved salary or wages or setting better pricing, you need to know what your occupation and industry typically pay. Do the research to see how you fit into the bigger picture so you know how much room there might be for someone to offer more.
3. Improve your negotiation.
You negotiate much more than a raise or higher prices for your work. Practically everything in life has an element of negotiation. The better you are at the science and art, the more effectively you move through the world, and that includes making money.
4. Sharpen your skills.
Another aspect of getting paid more is boosting what you bring to the table. No matter how long you've done what you do, there are possible improvements in how you do it. Improve your skills and make yourself more valuable.
5. Brag (though action).
If you've been improving your capabilities, that's great. But you have to let people know. Do so by showing the improvement and not talking about it. Become the expert people rely on and build your value in their eyes.
6. Change careers or jobs.
Sometimes you get to the end of what's possible doing what you do where you currently are. You might need a significant shift in the type of work you do, or to find someplace that will value you more highly. As the job market has been picking up, that should become easier.
7. Start a business.
The real way people get rich is by creating businesses that build value. Start doing that part time (if you aren't already running a business).
There are many occupations that people want to learn, whether through evening classes, workshops, or direct tutelage. Get out there and start teaching what you know.
9. Get more sleep.
Economics have found a connection between lack of sleep and diminished income. If you're short on rest, you'll also suffer from muddy thinking and poorer health, which affects your ability to make money.
10. Spend less.
Here's one of those obvious points, but one that's within your control to address now: Keep more of what you make to have the capital you'll need.
11. Create intellectual property.
Whether in the form of writing, inventions, images, know-how, or other forms of intangibles, intellectual property is the driving force behind many business successes. Create something you can own that can make money over and over again.
12. Be helpful.
I'm not one for complex metaphysical speculation about everyday occurrences, but I have noticed that the more you help people, the more comes back to you. In perhaps the most bottom-line practical interpretation, if you help people make money, you can generally earn a portion. But the bigger idea of not always looking for how some generosity will benefit you is the bigger one.
13. Start investing.
If you're not investing, start today. Compound interest has power.
14. Study the habits of people who make money.
If you want to know how to play basketball, you want good basketball players. To learn to paint, you study the work of great artists. To make more money, observe what rich people tend to do.
15. Do something on the side.
Early in my life, I remember being shocked by the simple idea that if you do additional work on the side, you made more money. Take time you'd otherwise waste and build your bank account.
16. Advance your education.
Higher levels of education generally correlate with higher incomes. Go back to school for a first degree or an advanced one.
17. Get all your tax deductions.
Talk to accountants and CPAs and you'll be surprised at the number of commonly available tax deductions and credits that people fail to take. That effectively means people send money off that could be in their pocket instead. Make sure you keep what you can.
About Erik Sherman
Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.