The Occupy movement has raised awareness of what they call "the 1%"; the wealthiest people in North America. As of 2009, if you earned more than $343,927 you were a member of the 1%; your group earned 17% of the income and paid 37% of the income tax in the United States, according to CNN. Only 14% of your group was making their six or seven figures on Wall Street.
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Although you may never make it into the 1%, improving your quality of life isn't as difficult as you think. Most of the 1% may have lucrative jobs, but it's what they did with the money they made, that put them into the top 1%. According to the United States Census Bureau, the median household income was $49,445 in 2010. What would you need to do to make it to the median or even a little bit above that? Here are some ideas.
Pay Down Debt
You've heard it before, but paying down any debt, regardless of how small, saves you money and makes you feel a little better about your finances. Start with a small debt and use the money you saved to pay down another debt.
Cut Out a Luxury
Cut out your Starbucks twice per week and you've saved $416 a year. Put that $416 towards debt, or put it in your Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Over 20 years, that $416 invested that you saved each year, would turn into $15,500.
We live in a world where saving is like flossing. We know we should, but we don't do it enough. The top 1% have made saving a habit. Some of the 1% still report that they shop with coupons.
Live Within Your Means
Billionaire Warren Buffett still lives in the modest home he purchased in 1958 for $31,500. Are you living within your means? If you do it now, your "means" will rise as you save more.
Don't Play the Lottery
There's a reason the lottery is often referred to as a tax on the poor. You won't get rich playing the lottery or gambling on anything. (For additional reading, check out: Is The Lottery Ever Worth Your Money?)
Don't Day Trade
An Australian study followed a group of day traders and found that 70% lost money and the other 30% had a high risk of ruin. They were only able to make a small profit, because they had one or two great trades, among a long list of bad choices. The top 1% invest for the long term.
Buy at a Discount
Never pay full price for anything. Be patient with all purchases and wait for the sale. You can buy everything cheaper than the sticker price, somehow. Figure out how to do that.
Use Your Talents
Regardless of what you do for a living, you have talents that are untapped in your life. Use your hobby as an income source or use your day job skills to moonlight as an independent worker.
Nobody likes an ego, but the 1% got ahead because of their contacts. Use your relationships to get some face time with other people.
Believe in Yourself
Winners are winners, because they do what winners do. Winners know that they're not victims of circumstances, because those circumstances are new opportunities. Winners know that they have value and they know that often, the difference between the winner and the loser was not intelligence, but drive and initiative. Go after what you want and don't look at economic headwinds. You may not make it to the 1%, but to live a prosperous life you don't have to be remotely close.
The Bottom Line
It may be a challenge for the average American to reach the top 1%, but these tips, if followed properly, are a step in the right direction. They are certain to help the average family get above the median household income.