top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichael Pietrzak

The Complete Guide to Money: How to Create the Wealth You’ve Been Seeking Your Whole Life

Originally published at on September 1, 2020.

“Hey, I want to make $10,000 over the Labor Day weekend.”

It was my business partner calling with an idea for a new online writing course.

He laid out his plan and my first thought was, This will be a challenge, but we can do it.

My second thought was, Wow, this guy has a great attitude about money. I was fascinated by the idea of creating money out of nothing, the only motivation being, “I want to make $10,000.”

When I hung up the phone I knew we would reach our goal. Then it hit me: This money mindset is the thin green line between infinite riches and poverty.

But it’s a mindset lacking in 99% of the population. Let’s fix that.

What’s in This Guide?

This is a (mostly) complete guide to installing the mindsets and habits that will help you redefine your shaky relationship with money so you can finally enjoy the financial abundance you’ve been seeking your whole life.

It’s a roadmap for:

  • Rooting out your negative beliefs about money and replacing them with a rich person’s mindset.

  • Paying off your consumer debt and inoculating yourself against the Mastercard chokehold.

  • Practicing the habits that the rich use for creating and growing money, and…

  • Putting your money to work for you, instead of working for money, which is the only true path to wealth.

This is not a casual four-minute read, but it IS the distillation of wisdom from the world’s wealthiest, written by a serial entrepreneur.

When you practice what you learn here, your net worth is guaranteed to grow.

Part I: Abundance Mindset

“If you do not see great riches in your imagination, you will never see them in your bank balance.” —Napoleon Hill

Why do most intelligent, capable people never get rich? We all (yes, you too) have the potential to create Scrooge McDuck-sized vaults of wealth that can let us become our best selves and experience a life that we can hardly imagine now.

But the vast multitude falls far short of their prosperity potential because a low level “money panic” is always buzzing in our semi-conscious mind, like a penniless devil on our shoulder.

If you want to change your financial outcomes, then you must start in the mind—by rooting out beliefs that are holding you back and replacing them with… the Abundance Mindset.

The Money Panic

“It’s more work to not succeed than it is to succeed.” —Grant Cardone

Anyone raised with a scarcity mindset knows that creeping feeling. It slinks out of its burrow in the small hours of the night, rooting around, sniffing out a way to pay this month’s rent.

It comes calling in the form a routine oil change that turns into a $1,000 suspension overhaul. It invades every cell in your body when your child has another impossible growth spurt and you realize that she needs new clothes, shoes and a big-kid bed.

That feeling is the Money Panic, and it’s the Great Wall of China between you and wealth.

One of life’s obnoxious ironies is that we often have nothing to fear but fear itself. It’s the fear of scarcity that creates scarcity. It’s the hand-wringing over lack that breeds lack. The Money Panic is a lot like chronic depression—a dead end with no visible exit; a self-perpetuating disease.

And much like depression, the only way out of the Money Panic is to rewire your brain and its childhood programming.

Thanks, Mom and Dad

“We tend to be identical to one or a combination of our parents in the arena of money.” —T. Harv Eker

If you struggle with money, it’s not entirely fair to “blame” your parents for your unhelpful money beliefs (they meant well), but it’s probably accurate to say that they are the “explanation” for them.

Growing up, most of us are hammered with the “greatest hits” of negative money beliefs:

“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

“We can’t afford it.”

“The rich cause all the world’s problems.”

Now, imagine going through life being told that bathing is the root of all evil but wanting desperately to have a shower. No matter how bad you want to feel clean, you’re never going to scrub down because everything in your childhood programming is telling you not to.

How can we become wealthy if we believe at our core that wealth is some combination of: a) evil, b) difficult to create, or c) unimportant?

Overcoming the lies you were told growing up is the first step in cleaning up your money act.

Change Your Thinking, Change Your Bank Balance

“Identity is this incredible invisible force that controls your whole life. It’s invisible, like gravity is invisible, but it controls your whole life.” —Tony Robbins

One of the most powerful forces over us is our identity. Identify as someone who is fit and healthy? You’ll prove it by working out daily. Believe that you’re great at math? Then you ace those tests.

And when you identify as someone who is “just not good with money,” you will prove that to yourself over and again by quitting a good job, spending recklessly or losing your wallet every few months.

Humans are incapable of acting out of line with our identity and our subconscious works tirelessly to make us consistent—for better or worse.

If you want to get rich, then, the solution is to change your identity. And THAT starts with changing your thinking. Here are some questions you can ask that will do the trick.

1. What negative beliefs do you have about money?

Dig deep for your own greatest hits. What do you believe about money that’s preventing you from having it? Do you have a rich uncle with horrifying political views and think all wealthy people must be like that?

Money is only a tool, and wealth is not correlated to a person’s character or political views.

How can you discover your beliefs about money? Pay close attention to the language you use. “I can’t afford it” is a mantra that shuts off your brain. Yes, you can afford it in some future state—you just need to get creative. A healthier replacement belief might be, “How can I afford it?”

2. Why do you deserve money?

The most common block about making money is the feeling that we don’t deserve it. We tell ourselves in myriad ways that we’re not smart, kind, attractive, capable, experienced or fill-in-the-blank enough.

Challenge that thinking. Make a list right now (yes, right now!) of all the reasons you deserve money. You might write down, like I did, that I deserve money because I’m a kind, ethical man with an abundance of integrity and that the money will be put to use for humanity’s good.

Maybe you deserve it because you work especially hard, or take care of a sick loved one, are incredibly intelligent and capable, because you’ve paid your dues—or, because everyone deserves wealth and abundance, including you.

3. Who could I become with money?

I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing that formative life lesson that is being broke. I’m grateful for the lessons it taught me, but I’d never want to go back there.

As a broke person I was always stressed, which erased my sense of humor. I stopped seeing friends. I stopped buying new clothes and having a beer on a patio in the summer, which made me happy. I lost my self-confidence and self-esteem, and because of that, couldn’t possibly do great work.

Learning how to create and grow wealth changed all of that and helped me become a more vibrant, generous, less uptight person—my real self. I like myself much more as a prosperous person.

Who would you become without the guillotine of poverty hanging over your head?

4. Who could I help with money?

A sole focus on yourself is a good recipe for ending up alone and miserable. The secret to a happy life is to constantly be contributing. We all want to be useful and that happens because of what we give, not what we get.

If you had all the money you want now, who could you help? Could you pay off your parents’ mortgage? Send your daughter to the best school in the world? Be less stressed and a better partner at home? Give to charity?

Find a reason outside of yourself for creating wealth, and the dollars will flow.

5. What has money already given you?

There’s a psychological effect called “disqualifying the positive,” and it happens when we ignore good experiences and focus only on the bad. People do this often with money: We forget how much that money already does and has done for us and see only what’s lacking.

We can combat this by literally counting our blessings. On a piece of paper, write down the amazing things you have or had in your life because of money—your home, car, education, life saving surgery or medication, vacations, toys, food, or gym membership. Thanks, money!

When we remind ourselves of what money is capable of giving us, we appreciate it. And when money feels appreciated? Well it comes to visit more often.

There Is Plenty to Go Around

“The truth is that there’s more than enough good to go around.” —Michael Beckwith

There’s one specific money belief that’s probably more important than all the others, and it’s the complete opposite of what most people believe:

There is plenty of wealth to go around.

No, we’re not talking about printing money, we’re still on the subject of beliefs. If you think that wealth creation is a zero-sum game, i.e. that someone has to lose for you to gain, then you will always struggle with money. That’s the scarcity mindset.

The truth is, wealth can be created out of nothing—just put an industrious pioneer in the middle of a forest and you’ll see. The economy grows not because of clever tricks by central banks, but because real people are creating real value for other people through a product or service.

The pie is constantly growing, and when one person gets a slice, they don’t deprive someone else of theirs. Adopt this belief with full faith, and you’ll stop competing for wealth and start creating it.

Part II: Defeating Debt

“The fact is, none of us really has a choice: We are all playing the money game whether we want to or not. The only question is: Are we winning?” —David Bach

“You owe me one.”

There’s an uncomfortable feeling, right? That’s because humans evolved in social tribes, where our best chance of survival was to help our kin through you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours reciprocity.

When someone does us a favor, we feel the nagging need not just to repay them, but to give back more than we received. And in the case of financial debt, a repayment with interest is not just the custom—it’s legally binding.

Being in debt is stressful. It leads us into the Money Panic, where we can’t do great work. It robs us of a huge chunk of our hard-earned wealth—dollars that could be invested to create more dollars.

If you have debt, make clearing it your first priority.

Good Debt/Bad Debt

“He who is quick to borrow is slow to pay.” —German Proverb

Not all debt is created equal. Consumer debt is that shiny toy you put on your credit card, the payments on your new Lexus and any balance on a credit card that’s not paid off in full each month, before it costs you interest. This is BAD DEBT.

But there’s also the debt we incur that will create more wealth. Let’s just call this good debt. A mortgage is a huge loan, but one that we gladly take on because we expect that our home will grow in value and let us live there without paying rent that lines someone else’s pockets.

A business loan is another form of good debt: It allows us to invest in a venture that will (in theory) let us repay the debt and create loads more wealth.

Investing in yourself is another good debt strategy. Books, courses, a degree or diploma. You should be happy to go into debt for these reasons as long as you expect a positive return on investment.

Why We Get Into Bad Debt

“Whatever your income, always live below your means.” —Thomas J. Stanley

The formula for being overweight is uncomplicated: Eat more calories than you burn.

The path to debt is also dead simple: Spend more than you earn.

Our voracious economy and advertisers encourage spending money we don’t have. We finance our cars, TV, cell phone and cosmetic procedures so that we can enjoy a lifestyle we haven’t earned yet.

But this “be rich now” approach is a faulty mindset that slows down our progress toward our fortune.

Sure, we’re often careful to spend only what we earn, which is called living paycheck to paycheck, but let’s be honest—unexpected expenses come up regularly. Learn to expect the unexpected, budget a safety buffer for these “rainy day items,” and you’ll avoid slipping into the red.

Don’t Invest Until You’re Debt Free

“Whatever interest rate you have — it might be a student loan with a 7 percent interest rate — if you pay off that loan, you’re making 7 percent. That’s your immediate return, which is a lot safer than trying to pick a stock or trying to pick real estate, or whatever it may be.” —Mark Cuban

Everyone tells you to invest your money. Mutual funds, pensions, ETFs, GICs, real estate; there are exceptional opportunities out there to grow your wealth at 5, 8, even 12% returns—wow!

But what if you’re paying 18% interest on your credit card? If you have $1,000 to allocate, what should you do with it? If you invest it at 8%, you can earn $80. Sweet! But in the meantime, that same $1,000 could have saved you $180 in credit card interest. You’re $100 poorer because you neglected to see the tyranny of consumer debt.

Does that mean you should pay off your mortgage in full before you invest? Well, since mortgage interest rates are around 3-4% in North America right now, it probably makes sense for you to make only your minimum payments and put the dollars left over into any investment that can earn more than 3-4% interest (any index fund, basically).

The rule of thumb is this: Follow the highest interest rate. If the rate on your consumer debt is higher than what you can earn in the market (and it usually is), then don’t invest until you pay off your debt.

The 70-20-10 Rule

“A part of all I earn is mine to keep.” —George S. Clason

Having said all that, we know that humans are not purely rational creatures. The best policy might be to crush your debt first, but when you’re $10,000 or $50,000 in the hole, the idea of spending a year or five years ONLY paying debt while stashing away nothing for yourself is depressing.

If you feel this way, then try the 70-20-10 rule:

  • Live on 70% of your income.

  • Allocate 20% of your income to paying your debts.

  • Save 10% for yourself—preferably in stable growth investments.

This system will allow you to clear your debt while creating a modest nest egg that can eventually create more wealth.

Part III: Practices for Creating Money

“Wealth beyond your wildest dreams is possible if you follow the golden rule: Invest ten percent of all you make for long-term growth.” —David Chilton, The Wealthy Barber

Wealth starts with the Abundance Mindset and continues with practical actions you can repeat, aka habits. Think of mindset as the fertile ground for wealth and these practices described here as the seeds we plant, which in time grow and bear fruit.

The #1 Secret to Wealth

There is one cardinal rule for creating wealth, and it’s this: Pay Yourself First.

Each month you receive your X dollars of income. Part of that goes to pay your landlord or the mortgage lender. This much goes to the grocery store owner. This much to the cell phone corporation shareholders, and this much to the restaurant owner down the street.

What percentage of your hard-earned dollars go to you? No, I don’t mean how much are you splurging on nice toys and self-care at the spa. I mean, how much money are you keeping for you?

Paying yourself first means taking the first 10% (minimum) of your paycheck and tucking it safely away into an investment account, preferably one that’s earning a high rate of return.

Do this with discipline for enough years, and eventually your nest egg will start to throw off more interest than your salary pays. It’s the get-rich-slow strategy.

Start paying yourself first now, today, even if you think you can’t afford it. No matter how poor you think you are, you probably won’t even notice a 10% reduction in your income. But after a few years, you will certainly notice the significant source of new income.

Get Clear on Your Why

“RICH: Able to afford all the things and experiences required to fully experience your most authentic life.” —Jen Sincero

Ninety-nine out of 100 people want more wealth than they have. Maybe half of those know exactly how much more they want. But perhaps only five of those know, at an emotional level, why they want this money.

What would you do with a 10% raise—blow it on more junk you probably don’t need? Be honest with yourself.

Or can you think of a truly compelling reason? Would you take that trip to Paris you’ve been dreaming about; get a dog; finally pay off your student loan; help your parents out?

Until you have a reason for making more money that gets you emotionally charged up, how can you possibly have the drive to go out and do what it takes to create your fortune?

Here’s a great way to light the fire that will cook up your why: Go get a taste of what you want. Lusting after a new car? Great, go take that Tesla for a test drive. Want to finally move your family into that dream house? Go to viewings for houses you can’t afford (yet). Try on the clothes that would make you feel like a million bucks. Create a Pinterest board to inspire that trip to Rome, or the tattoo you want, or the lifestyle of your best self.

Get a taste of what you want before you can afford it, and your subconscious will chase it like a ravenous wolf.

Tally Up the Cost

“Money often costs too much.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I want to make a billion dollars!”

Cool dream, but are you aware of how much hassle comes with vast wealth? You can’t just stick those nine zeroes into your checking account, you need to carefully manage it if you don’t want to lose it.

Chances are you don’t need even a small fraction of a billion to live your wildest dreams.

One percent of that is still $10 million, and at a modest 5% return, that gives you $500,000 to live on each year for the rest of your life.

So do the math—what does your dream life cost? Think about:

  • The down payment and mortgage on your mansion.

  • A few thousand for your new wardrobe.

  • Three epic vacations a year. (Hint: don’t buy a private jet or a mansion—rent them.)

  • The best restaurants three times a week.

  • An exciting car.

  • The top education for your kids.

I guarantee that the total figure will not nearly approach a billion.

When you see that this level of income is a realistic five, 10 or 15-year goal, your motivation to earn will be a lot higher than if you’re chasing some arbitrary, astronomical and unnecessary amount.

The Elevator List

“If you want to change your life you have to raise your standards.” —Tony Robbins

James Clear tells a great story about elevating your lifestyle. I’ll paraphrase…

As a philosopher, art critic and writer, Denis Diderot was the master of his domain. But a wealthy man, he was not. In fact, he was so poor into his 50s that he couldn’t afford to pay for his daughter’s wedding.

So he did what any of us would do and got in touch with the Empress of Russia and asked for some cash. Well, she loved the encyclopedia he wrote so much that she was happy to crack open her coin purse. Diderot’s daughter got her fantasy wedding, and Denis bought himself a nice red robe for the heck of it.

All of a sudden Diderot’s digs looked like a trash heap by comparison. He absolutely HAD to buy a new rug. And a table. And a few sculptures to ease his loneliness.

And just like that he birthed the term “The Diderot Effect”—the need to buy new things to accompany your other new things.

Sure, this could lead to rampant materialism if we’re not careful. But it’s also an excellent tool we can leverage to spike our motivation to become prosperous.

The specific tool I use is the Elevator List: a written list of items, posted on the fridge, that would really improve my lifestyle: a new couch and bed sheets; burning all my old clothes and going on a shopping spree; a new laptop.

This isn’t a bucket list or goals list, but a list of tangible perks that would truly fancy-up your life. Why do this? Because when you get a taste of the good life, you want more. And when you upgrade your environment, you’re happier and do better work.

Upgrade Your Friends Circle

“Never contract friendship with a man that is not better than thyself.” —Confucius

I hammer this Jim Rohn quote often because it’s so ridiculously powerful: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Now maybe you don’t sit around with your friends comparing bank balances or salaries, but you can probably guesstimate how each of them are doing financially.

Ross, Monica and Chandler didn’t even break a sweat in the face of a $62 dinner bill, but for Rachel, Phoebe and Joey that would practically break the bank. (Hey, remember when we all watched that show Friends for an entire decade?)

I’m not knocking Rachel or Joey, but if you hung out with them all the time, you’d start to match their financial results. This is because our peers help us set our standards for ourselves.

When your friend insists on going to the $3.99 burrito place on 2-for-1 night every time you meet, you’re going to live a burrito lifestyle (not to mention one of gastrointestinal distress).

But if your friend picks you up in his convertible to drive you to his boat at the marina for a night drinking Veuve with successful entrepreneurs, you’ll start to feel a bit uneasy about your own results, but also inspired after seeing what your life could look like.

A friend circle of achievers will help you aim higher, hold you accountable, and show you what’s possible, not to mention have you rubbing shoulders with contacts and opportunities that can accelerate your success. Choose your new friends and let them give you a hand up to the next level.

Part IV: Making Money While You Sleep

“If I have to work there, it’s not a business. It becomes my job.” —Robert Kiyosaki, Rich Dad Poor Dad

Most people work for money, but the wealthy let money work for them. That’s a cute soundbite, but what does it mean?

It means that by harnessing the magical forces that you’re about to learn, like compound interest, you can let the money that you have start to multiply.