I Asked Experts How Non-Rich People Can Build Generational Wealth, And It's So Important

    It's possible, even when the cards are stacked against you.

    When my grandma passed away, my dad and his brothers and sisters pooled their money together to purchase a funeral plot at the cemetery near her home.

    For my parents, who both came from Vietnam, the notion of receiving an inheritance from relatives after someone dies can be a totally foreign concept.

    Here's the thing: it's not just the lack of an inheritance that makes it super hard to build generational wealth.

    Case in point: A recent report from Pew Research reveals that first-generation college graduates have lower incomes, and in turn, less wealth than those whose parents had a bachelor's degree. We're talking a difference of $152,000 for the median wealth of households with a first-generation college graduate, while second-generation college graduates have a median wealth of $244,500.

    So for us folx who are less privileged and need to make a go of our own, are we just out of luck? Not quite. While for most of us, it will be a lot more work to grow our money and build generational wealth, there are ways to go about it.

    First, let's talk about some ways we can help our family members and put our own financial oxygen mask on first. (Yes, it can be done). And no, it's not about cutting off funds to your brother, who you've been helping out with bills. Some of us not only have an obligation and expectation to help our family members, but a desire to offer some financial assistance, points out Capalad.

    woman with calculator looking over financials

    Another very major thing that gets in the way of generational wealth building? Talking to your parents about their retirement plans and estate plan, says Capalad. If your parents do indeed have some cash in savings, property, or assets that they want to pass on to you and other family members after they die, no estate plan means their assets go to probate.

    Helping out your family doesn't have to just be about giving them money. You can also help them organize their finances. Ask them where they keep their important documents and help them reset passwords.

    Now that we've covered some ways you can help your family financially, and protect your own financial goals, let's take a look at the wealth-building side of the equation:

    The key to wealth is having ownership of a valuable asset, says de Leon. "Once you understand that, you can solve for what makes sense for you," she says. "One person might start a business, while another person might invest a significant percentage of their income into the market."

    To have money to invest, income is important and you need to have enough to be able to use some of it to invest, adds de Leon. "So try to orient your lens to emphasize the importance of ownership," she says. "Hopefully, that will allow you to spot opportunities to own assets that will potentially appreciate in the future, or that can generate their own income stream."

    "Aside from having some wealth to start with, time is the next important factor when it comes to building wealth, especially with investments in the market and real estate," says De Leon. "Time allows for the value of something to appreciate over time. But, with investing in particular, compounding is most impressive when given a lot of time."

    Aside from the oh-so-very practical nuts and bolts of building wealth, you might also need to unpack your beliefs and narratives around money, says de Leon.

    Building generational wealth certainly isn't easy, especially when you don't have the financial boost that others might. But by coming up with a way to incorporate helping your family and protecting your own money goals, while looking for ways to save, invest, and build assets, can help you get there.

    Are you working to build generational wealth? Share your tips, tricks, and stories in the comments!

    For more stories about work and money, like how people are finding jobs on TikTok or millennials sharing how they actually bought their homes, check out the rest of our personal finance posts