How Much Do You Want to Make? Here’s How to Do It

I’ve said many times that to become wealthy you need to learn and practice a financially valuable skill — and most such skills have something to do with helping a business make money. There is virtually no limit to the amount of money you can make if you become skillful at one of these trades. CEO profit-center manager marketer copywriter consultant salesperson Another category of financially valuable skills has to do with professions that are focused on certain specific areas of law.

Notice that I said “specific areas” of law. Why? Because, in general, law doesn’t pay as much as you might think. Most people are shocked to discover that the average attorney makes less than $60,000 per year. But certain fields of law pay very well. Estate-planning lawyers, for example, make a half-million or more. The point is: If you want to make lots and lots of money (I’m talking about $200,000, $500,000, or $1 million plus), you’d best know how to produce profits. That begs the question, “But what if I can’t stand that kind of work? How much can I expect to make practicing other skills?”

The short answer: a good deal less. Most architects, engineers, plumbers, technicians, and other highly trained professionals make about $70,000 or $80,000 a year. Some of them make more than that — often twice as much. But then some make less — sometimes half as much. Teachers make less than that. As do pastors. And rabbis. And artists. And philosophers. There is, ironically, an inverse relationship between the value of the work you do and what people are willing to pay you for doing it. It may not be fair, but it is true.

So if you want a realistic chance of getting rich, you need to be realistic about what lines of work will get you there. I bring this up because one of the most common problems I encounter when counseling people on their wealth-building goals is a completely whacky idea about what they can make for doing what. GT, a friend I’ve been working with recently, has given me the following ideas about how he’d like to get rich: run a bar captain a fishing boat be my personal assistant manage an oceanfront resort.

All of these jobs have their benefits. But if you had to place them on a list of professions arranged according to compensation, they would fall pretty far down the line. None of them would break into the six figures. That doesn’t mean you can’t get rich doing something you like. FD, another protégé, wants to make a living working with animals. I’ve given her several suggestions as to how she can make six figures or more offering products or services related to pets.

But I warned her that to make the big money, she wouldn’t be able to spend most of her time cuddling with furry creatures. Most of her hours would be devoted to selling her business. That was OK with FD, because she was happy making less. But GT still dreams of sailing around the Caribbean, piloting someone’s million-dollar yacht, and getting paid a king’s ransom for doing so. Dream on, GT.