How To Get Rich In Advertising

A few years ago, I achieved an unexpected level of financial security. For a decade I had worked in media planning, an industry not known for its exorbitant salaries. But through some basic techniques I was able to secure a decent nest egg. Here’s what I learned along the way:

Keep saving. It may sound boring, but saving money is the surest path the financial security. For example, when I worked for WPP, I socked away the maximum amount in my 401K plan. With the tax-deferred nature of these plans, plus compounding interest, 401Ks can be surprisingly effective.

Stay employed. A job is like a bond that produces a guaranteed return every month. You need a consistent income to keep saving, so do whatever you can to keep a paycheck coming in.

Be frugal. Don’t listen to real estate brokers who tell you to buy the largest home you can afford. Buy one that’s reasonably sized so you can keep things manageable. If you work in media planning, you probably won’t be spending much time there anyhow.



Pay off debt. Pay off all your debt — including your mortgage—as quickly as you can, so you can plow more money into savings. If you own a car, keep it for as long as you can and try not to take out an auto loan if you need to buy a new one.

Go public. If you have kids, commute a couple of hours each day so they can go to a good public school. This can save tens of thousands of dollars each year in private school expenses.

Hustle. Have you ever noticed that not many people over the age of 40 work in media planning? There’s typically a brief window of time where you can make your money in this industry. Hustle as hard as you can and then make a transition to another kind of business when the time is right.

Enjoy the perks. There’s an old joke about how media planners can’t afford to pay their rent but dine at high-end restaurants multiple times a week thanks to sales reps and their expense accounts. Take advantage of the free drinks, lunches and the occasional boondoggle if they come your way.

Charge it. Use a personal credit card for business travel (later expensed) so you can save money in the process. For example, some cards allow you to automatically put 2% of all charges into a 529 college savings plan.

Share risk. If you’re going to start an advertising-related business, try to find some people to invest in your company. Putting your entire life savings into a single idea can be very risky.

While it’s not easy, getting rich (or at least financially secure) in media planning is possible. The key is to keep the money coming in, save aggressively, and pivot your career when necessary.

2 comments about "How To Get Rich In Advertising".
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  1. Rick Monihan from None, October 28, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.

    All good tips. But saving is the key.

    When I was a newly minted employee in NYC, earning only $14,000 a year, I saved 10% of my gross paycheck. On top of my 401(k) and health insurance (neither of which my other employee counterparts had). I was considered 'stupid' for not keeping as much money to spend or for not taking lavish (for a 22 year old) vacations to the Caribbean.
    Nope, I went to visit family on my vacations, or spent time in the library working on papers for grad school (which I was doing in my spare time).

    It paid off when I bought my first apartment at 27, which allowed me to buy a house (and rent the apartment) at 32. Passive income is always a plus.

    Savings is ridiculously important, particularly at the beginning of a career.

    One fellow worker, in my first job, took my advice and saved 10% of her paycheck. 9 years later my sister-in-law was purchasing something when the person in line saw her name and asked "Do you know Rick?" The affirmative reply brought "Well, his advice to save 10% of my paycheck is why I have my own graphic arts company today. Tell him I said Hi and thanks."

    I honestly don't remember who that person was or whether I gave the advice, but it sounds like me, and compliments are hard to come by in life, so I'll take it.

    It's also worth remembering that debt, properly applied, is useful. I did not have a credit card the first 4 years I worked in NYC. I didn't want to get stuck with revolving credit. However, once I got a card, I paid it off at the end of each month and still do. Never, ever, pay interest on a credit card. If you are, then you are either doing something wrong, or you had better have put the money into something generating revenue.

    Also, don't use debt to do unproductive things like go on vacation or buy a TV. Debt is for productive activity or asset accumulation. Homes, cars, businesses.

    A good friend of mine took out a loan to buy some stocks. I hate tell anyone how that ended.

  2. Matt Straz from Namely, October 28, 2013 at 3:13 p.m.

    Thanks, Rick. Great advice regarding savings, credit cards, and debt.

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