According to self-made millionaire David Bach, getting rich boils down to paying yourself first.
More specifically, he advises you save the equivalent of one hour's worth of income each day, he writes in "The Automatic Millionaire": "If you're not saving that much of your income right now, you are working too much for others and not enough for yourself."
How many hours are you actually working for yourself? Fill in the blanks of Bach's formula to find out:
Last week, I worked a total of ____ hours.
I earn $____ an hour (before taxes).
Last week, I put aside $____ for my retirement.
So last week, I worked ____ hours for myself.
Bach breaks down his formula: "To figure out how many hours you worked for yourself last week, you first need to ask yourself how much money you saved last week. If your answer is zero, then you worked zero hours for yourself last week.
"If, however, you did save something last week, then divide the amount of money you put aside for your retirement last week by your hourly income."
Let's say you earn $50,000 a year. That's about $1,000 a week, if you take two weeks off for vacation, or $25 a hour, if you work 40 hours a week. If you put aside $50 for retirement last week, you worked two hours for yourself last week. (That's $50 divided by $25.)
According to Bach, this person should be saving $25 a day, or $125 a week.
"The answer you got can tell you a lot about the kind of future you can expect to have," the self-made millionaire says. "Most people work less than one hour a week for themselves. And that's not nearly enough."
If you'd rather think about savings as a percentage, one hour's worth of income comes out to roughly 10% of your gross income, Bach says.
He provides another "pay yourself first formula" to give you an idea of what your financial standing will look like depending on how much you save. Of course, "everyone's life is different," he notes, "but this should give you a benchmark to shoot for or plan around."
TO BE ...
Dead broke: "Don't pay yourself first," writes Bach. "Spend more than you make. Borrow money on credit cards and carry debt you can't pay off."
Poor: "Think about paying yourself first, but don't actually do it," he writes. "Spend everything you make each month and save nothing. Keep telling yourself, 'Someday…'"
Middle class: Save 5% to 10% of your pretax income in a tax-advantaged retirement account.
Upper middle class: Save 10% to 15% of your pretax income in a tax-advantaged retirement account.
Rich: Save 15% to 20% of your pretax income in a tax-advantaged retirement account.
Rich enough to retire early: Save 20% or more of your pretax income in a tax-advantaged retirement account.
How much will you choose to pay yourself first?