Getting rich is simple, and the key ingredient is discipline.

Only three ingredients are needed: income, discipline and time. Chances are, you already have two of them, income and time. All you need to do is add the third, discipline. And armed with the following knowledge, that key third ingredient may be a lot easier to find.

Here's how it works: Say you start with nothing, invest $500 (of your income) a month (a healthy discipline), and let your money ride (over time) in diversified investments. Long term, the stock market returns at least 10% annually. Assuming a 10% return, you'd have $102,000 after 10 years, $380,000 after 20 years, and $1.1 million in 30 years.

Alas, it seems that Americans are spending more than we earn, illustrating that "simple" doesn't always mean "easy".

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the savings rate for all of 2006 was a negative 1 percent, meaning that not only did people spend all the money they earned but they also dipped into savings or increased borrowing to finance purchases. The 2006 figure was lower than a negative 0.4 percent in 2005 and was the poorest showing since a negative 1.5 percent savings rate in 1933 during the Depression.

The savings rate, as reported, leaves out some important factors. For instance, it includes contributions to a 401(k) but not the interest an existing account accumulates. Still, spending more than you earn is one of the best ways to get poor, quick.

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