At this point in your life, you are (or at least should be) contemplating how you want your life to turn out.
There are a lot of options out there: Do you want kids? Do you want to buy a house in the country or live in the city? What's your career? Is community service a big deal? Do you give to charity? Are you going to be religious? Are you going to be rich?
I can't help you with a lot of these questions, but I can help you with the last one.
If you exempt the "1 percent" (the Zuckerbergs, Musks and Cubans of the world), there are two ways to become rich: 1) Earn money, save it and invest it, or 2) borrow money.
Taking the first route is a lot tougher. First, you have to earn the money. You can work for someone else, work for yourself or invest in other people's ideas. This takes a lot of time and hard work, and you need to have a specific set of skills.
After you earn the money, you have to fight the urge to spend it. Saving money isn't fun.
Before you can save money, you have to pay off old debts; student loans, car loans and credit card debt all must be zero before you can even start to save. Once you can save, you'll want to start investing.
Investing is like putting your savings on steroids; without you doing anything differently, your savings will grow faster. All this takes a lot of discipline, time, energy, sacrifice and planning.
This is the hardest way to get rich. Let's call this way the American Dream.
If you want to go the second route, it's easy. All you have to do is convince someone, or a bank, that you will pay them back. Then, they will give you money. You can use this money for whatever you want.
However, there is a caveat on the second route: You have to give it all back, and then some. Let's call this way the Borrowed Dream.
Just as there are two ways to get rich, there are two types of rich people: 1) people you know are rich, and 2) people you don't know are rich.
If someone took the American Dream route to riches, he or she could flaunt it or adhere to the new phenomenon called "Stealth Wealth."
I'm all for enjoying what you've worked for. I drive a nice sports car; I wear tailored suits, and I have a few nice watches. My fiancée loves vacations, so I have to spend a little bit of money every once and a while.
There are hundreds of people out there who drive the $100k car, wear the $50k watch and live in the $10M mansion and worked their asses off for it all. They can flaunt it all they want; they live the expected lifestyle of the rich.
But, you'll find more millionaires driving a 10-year-old car, wearing blue jeans and living in the house next door. Working hard and saving your money over a long period of time drives in certain traits and habits. Frugality and being content with what you have leads to the quiet millionaire.
You may never know the gas store clerk down the road has a $5M net worth, but he doesn't care if you do or don't. These people live the expected lifestyles of the middle class.
If someone took the Borrowed Dream route to riches, he or she would flaunt it. Why? Because who would borrow money just to sit on the money? You borrow money to do things and buy stuff.
Big homes, fancy suits, nice cars, and extravagant vacations come from borrowed money. These people live the expected lifestyle of the rich.
So, why does this matter to you? You have two options: 1) Follow the American Dream route to riches (work hard, pay off debt, save, invest, buy a lifestyle, die, pass along what's left to your family), or 2) follow the Borrowed Dream route to riches (prove you earn money, convince the bank to give you more, buy a lifestyle, pay off your lifestyle every year you are alive, die, let your family pay off the rest).
If you go down the Borrowed Dream route, you'll find out you are a slave to your lifestyle. Your car payment, mortgage, boat payment, credit card payment and personal loan will eat your money, your mind and your health.
You aren't truly rich because you don't have the freedom to do what you would like to do. Instead, you must keep working to keep paying off your debts to keep living your lifestyle.
If you go down the American Dream route, it will take a while before you have any lifestyle. You'll work a lot to begin with, but when you do reach your goal, you'll be truly rich. You'll be able to quit your job, travel and do whatever you want.
The decision is yours. What kind of life do you want to live? How do you want to get there? How do you want to be perceived in your community? What do you want to leave behind when you die?