If you come from a lower or middle-class background in America, you’ve probably heard someone say that the key to success in life is working hard. That’s not to say that wealthy people don’t want their children to work hard – they just know the formula isn’t that simple.
I recently read an excerpt from “The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income is Our Future” by Andrew Yang on Business Insider, and I couldn’t disagree with his main points:
- Americans think that regardless of their background or hometown, hard work will help them get ahead in today’s competitive job climate
- Yang, a graduate of Columbia and Brown, says many of his opportunities come from being a good test taker, not hard work
- Intelligence and efficiency now determine a human’s worth in America
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that hard work is no longer the gold standard. In America, we commonly say things like “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” or “work smarter, not harder”. The problem is that capitalism is built to favor those in power. It’s much easier to work smarter when you have money that can work for you.
So here’s the million-dollar question: what can lower and middle-class Americans do to start climbing the financial ladder?
How to Start Getting Ahead These Days
There’s never going to be one solution for turning around your financial life, but let’s take an honest look at the future of the economy. As technology advances, the greatest efficiencies will come from artificial intelligence replacing workers. No matter how hard you work, you won’t out-produce or out-think a machine that’s programmed for optimal performance.
If I know anything about people, it’s that they like things they can control and they’re often resistant to change. We like routines and familiarity. This is why I think people rely on the “work hard and everything will take care of itself” mentality and don’t explore other options to get what they want.
If you’re looking for ways to get ahead in our fast-paced and competitive economy, here’s what you need to do.
Learn how to ‘play the game’
Ever met someone who never seemed to work hard, yet they still came out ahead anyway? Like the person who barely showed up for class, never studied, and still finished the semester with one of the best grades in the class?
Andrew Yang was right: we value talent, not hard work. In a capitalistic society, we want results. We could care less how you get there.
So play the game. Stop suffering in silence, thinking that someone will notice your hard work and reward you accordingly. You may not like it, but in my experience, I’ve found that working smarter (not harder) and knowing the right people can make all the difference in the world.
If you want to become wealthier, spend more time around wealthier people. Learn what makes them successful and how they behave. Yes, it’ll feel uncomfortable at first, and no, you aren’t betraying “who you really are”.
Do you really think you can make a significant change to your financial life without changing any of your behavior?
Research the jobs of the future
Don’t put all your eggs in a dying industry’s basket. To maximize your chances of staying employed and having a successful career, you need to know which jobs will provide the safest platform. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the 20 fastest growing occupations for 2016-2026.
Once you understand what jobs are set to grow the most, you can target one or two and come up with a plan. Thankfully, that list provides the median salaries for those jobs. If you click on the title of the role, you’ll also find information on the education and training, licenses or certifications, and personal qualities generally needed for fulfilling that role.
That’s all the information you’ll need to start developing skills the economy will demand in the future. That’s more than enough to make an informed decision about how you’re going to get ahead.
Educate yourself about money
It’s funny to me how badly people want more money, yet won’t put any time or effort into learning about it. No matter how much money you have, you need to learn how to protect it and keep it growing.
As of 2017, while the median household income in America was just $59,039, the average household debt was $137,063. Not exactly a winning combination. Debt is such a normal part of our lives that we barely think twice about swiping a credit card or taking out student loans for college. But how many ]people have a complete understanding of their financial picture?
The Money Master Intro Course is designed with these people in mind, to teach the foundations of wealth, step-by-step. The best part? It assumes you know nothing about money.
If you have any doubts about money whatsoever, it’s time to invest in your future. Let’s be honest – you can’t afford not to.
Leave Your Excuses Behind
If you’re looking for different results, you need to change your habits and behavior. Believe me – no one wants to hear the sob story about how you worked the same job for 45 years, or how you got laid off and couldn’t find work again.
The world is constantly changing. It’s up to you to keep up with the times.
All opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of Home at 30 and are in no way affiliated with any other organization or institution. The purpose of this blog is to give general education and information about investing, wealth, careers, and college; It is not intended to be professional advice.
Author: Josh Ramos
Josh has paid off $130k in student loan debt in 4 years. By founding Home at 30, he wants to help end the student debt crisis by helping students and young professionals make decisions that will reward them for a lifetime.