Why You Won’t Get Rich Quick

Get rich quick schemes are everywhere.

From late night informercials touting real estate success to the coffee shop barista that wants to sell you on the magical pyramid scheme he’s caught up in, it just seems so tempting.

You see everyone else has it better than you.  They’ve figured out the trick, and they’ll let you in on the secret for only 17 easy payments of $42.71.

Deep down we know better.

We know that getting rich quick schemes won’t work, but we’re still drawn to them because… well… being rich sounds great.

We live in an immediate gratification society and if we could all snap our fingers to be rich the resulting sound of the cumulative snaps would be a sonic boom.

Unfortunately, getting rich quick just doesn’t work.

Why Getting Rich Quick Doesn’t Work

We know in our hearts it probably won’t work, but here are some specific reasons why chasing get rich ideas won’t work.

Get Rich Quick Schemes Prey on Your Wallet

Those that think up get rich quick schemes know you will be tempted.

If you can do two things and get rich plus pay some money to a third party, that sounds a lot better than a lifetime of hard work.  So we snap up the scheme offers, only to find them fizzling out in the end leaving us with nothing more than a lighter wallet. It’s one of the only things that promises to make you rich and ends up doing the exact opposite every single time.

The old adage holds true: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Success is Based on Hard Work

dreaming of hundreds in a get rich quick scheme won't get you richWe see celebrities idolized in our society and it seems like one minute they weren’t on the scene, the next they are millionaires in the making.  What we don’t see are the years or decades toiling away at their craft, waiting for the big break.

The discipline and consistency they put forth can’t be seen, just the fame and fortune.

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.  Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.” – Vince Lombardi

Again this ties into our desire for the shortcut and immediate gratification.  When faced with the opportunity to do hard work or sleep on the couch, we often choose the latter.

Sample Size Bias

Here’s another issue: when we see successful people, even ones that somehow managed to make money through getting in on a get rich quick scheme early, we are seeing a disproportionate sample of success.

We only see the few people that make it big and miss out on the hundreds or thousands that ended up with absolutely nothing.  This further encourages our brains to trick us that everyone else has made it so easy, why not me?

The Devil is in the Details

Most get rich quick ideas are based on emotional decisions rather than rational thought.  We don’t sit back to look at the specifics of the claims that are being made; we skip over that because, hey, we might be getting rich here!

Who cares about details?

The problem is of course that if you dissect some of the claims you will find many flaws.  If someone tries to sell you on a pyramid scheme where you sell products, do the math on how much product you would have to sell to make any money.  Then sit back and think about how much of that product you and your friends and family buy.

Are the sale goals realistic?  Or if someone claims you can get crazy returns on your money (100% per year; 12% per month) guaranteed, ask yourself if that is truly possible without doing something illegal.  (Considering the stock market has averaged about 9-10% per year in returns over the last several decades, you are probably looking at a ponzi scheme.)

How Do You Get Rich?

If getting rich quick doesn’t work, what does?

Discipline in Finances

This is the answer everyone hates because it requires effort.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison

A successful financial life that leads to building wealth over time really is simple:

  • spend less than you earn
  • earn more where you can
  • save for a rainy day
  • avoid debt

If you do these things, over time, you will come out ahead.  But it takes time, and energy, and discipline to do this for decades.

Sometimes it isn’t fun because your mind if bombarded with the images of people who, unbeknownst to you, are living so far above their means that they will be bankrupt in 5 years.  Stay the course and you will eventually be wealthy.

Compounding Interest in Your Favor

Compound interest is one of the most fascinating financial functions I know of.

It is dangerous when deployed against you in the form of credit card, car loan, and mortgage interest.  But when it is on your side you come out smelling like roses.

A couple that only maxes out a Roth IRA at $5,500 per person (starting in 2013) and generates only a 7% return on that investment will have a $1,000,000 nest egg 29 years and 6 months.  During that time they will have only contributed $324,500 toward that goal.  The remaining $675,500 comes in the form of compound growth on those periodic investments.

Final Thoughts

Get rich quick just doesn’t work.

Discipline, hard work, and smart decisions do result in building wealth.  Fight your internal itch to be immediately wealthy and find contentment in where you are while you work to build up your riches the right way.

What do you think? Can you get rich quick?

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Published or updated February 14, 2013.


  1. The only people who get rich quick are lottery winners and in most cases they lose or spend all of it way too soon. The other ones are professional athletes who sign for major money right out of college, but they worked for it for many years. Too many of them run through their money because they are unprepared for the sudden wealth. They make poor choices and spend too much of it. There much more respect for money when you work hard to earn it.

  2. Julie @ Freedom 48 says:

    I think the “get rich quick” lure is akin to the “drop 10lbs in a week” diets. It’s something we want soooo desperately, it’s hard to resist. However, the rational side of us needs to realize that it’s just not possible. Plus, if these schemes worked, then everybody would be thin and rich!

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