40% or more of our daily activities, thinking and the choices we make are habits (Duke study 2006). Most of the habits we take with us into our adults lives, we learned from our parents, our teachers or our environment. This is a good thing if kids are learning good success habits, what I call Rich Habits, but this is a very bad thing if kids are learning bad failure habits, what I call Poor Habits. Unfortunately, most kids are not being taught good habits at home. Worse, our schools are not stepping up to the plate to teach in school what is not being taught at home.
Not only is there no formal education on how to be successful in life, there are no structured courses teaching basic financial literacy. We are raising our children to be financially illiterate and to fail in life. Is it any wonder that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck? That most Americans accumulate more debt than assets? That many Americans lose their homes when they lose their job? Is it any wonder that most Americans cannot afford college for their children and that student loan debt is now the largest type of consumer debt?
What’s worse, is what our children are being taught by their parents, the school system, politicians and the media. They are teaching our children that the wealthy are corrupt, greedy, have too much wealth and that this wealth needs to be redistributed. What kind of a message do you think that sends to America’s future generation? It is teaching them that seeking financial success by pursuing the American Dreams is a bad thing. The Occupy Wall Street movement was a manifestation of this “pursuing wealth is bad and wealth needs to be redistributed “mindset. .
I spent five years tracking the daily habits of 233 self-made millionaires and 128 poor people. I uncovered over 300 habits that separate the rich from the poor. This study opened my eyes to habits that self-made millionaires learned from their parents vs. habits the poor learned from their parents. Below is a snapshot of some of these habits:
- Gambling Habits – 6% of self-made millionaires played the lottery vs. 77% of the poor. 16% of self-made millionaires gambled at least once a week on sports vs. 52% of the poor.
- Dream-Setting Habits – 64% of the millionaires in my study were pursuing a dream vs. 9% of the poor.
- Goal-Setting Habits – 62% of self-made millionaires were focused on achieving goals every day vs. 6% of the poor.
- Health Habits -21% of self-made millionaires were overweight by 30 pounds or more vs. 66% of the poor. 76% of these millionaires exercised aerobically 30 minutes or more each day vs. 23% of the poor. 25% of these millionaires ate less than 300 junk food calories each day vs. 5% of the poor. 25% of these millionaires ate at fast food restaurants each week vs. 69% of the poor. 13% of these millionaires got drunk at least once a month vs. 60% of the poor.
- Time Habits – 63% of self-made millionaires spent less than 1 hour per day on recreational Internet use vs. 26% of the poor. 67% of self-made millionaires watched 1 hour or less of T.V. per day vs 23% of the parents of the poor. 67% of these millionaires maintained a daily “to-do” list vs. 6% of the poor. 44% of these millionaires got up 3 hours or more before they actually started their work day vs. 3% of the poor.
- Living Below Your Means Habits – 73% of self-made millionaires were taught the 80/20 rule vs. 5% of the poor (live off 80% save 20%).
- Relationship Management Habits – 6% of self-made millionaires gossip vs. 79% of the poor. 75% of these millionaires were taught to send thank you cards vs. 13% of the poor. 6% of these millionaires say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of the poor. 68% of these millionaires pursue relationships with success-minded people vs. 11% of the poor
- Learning Habits – 88% of self-made millionaires read for learning every day vs. 2% of the poor. 86% of these millionaires love to read vs. 26% of the poor. 11% of these millionaires read for entertainment vs. 79% of the poor.
- Positive Mental Outlook – 54% of the millionaires believed optimism was a driving force in their success vs. 22% of the poor. 43% believed they would one day be rich vs. 13% of the poor. 79% believed they were the cause of their circumstances in life vs. 18% of the poor.
- Emotions Habits – 19% of the millionaires lost their temper in the past month vs 43% of the poor.
The fact is, the poor are poor because they have too many Poor Habits and too few Rich Habits. Poor parents teach their children the Poor Habits and wealthy parents teach their children the Rich Habits. We don’t have a wealth gap in this country we have a parent gap. We don’t have income inequality, we have parent inequality.
Parents and our schools need to work together to instill good daily success habits as follows:
- Limit T.V., social media and cell phone use to no more than one hour a day.
- Require that children to read one to two educational books a month.
- Require children to aerobically exercise 20 – 30 minutes a day.
- Limit junk food to no more than 300 calories a day.
- Require that children set monthly, annual and 5-year goals.
- Require working age children to work or volunteer at least ten hours a week.
- Require that children save at least 25% of their earnings or gifts they receive.
- Teach children the importance of relationship building by requiring them to call friends, family, teachers, coaches etc. on their birthdays and to send thank you cards for gifts or help they received from anyone.
- Reassure children that mistakes are good not bad. Children need to understand that the very foundation of success in life is built on learning from our mistakes.
- Punish children when they lose their tempers so they understand the importance of controlling this very costly emotion.
- Teach children that seeking financial success in life is good and is a worthwhile goal. Children need to learn what the American Dream is and that it is something to be pursued in life.
- Children need to learn how to manage money. Open up a checking account or savings account for children and force them to use their savings to buy the things they want. They need to learn that they are not entitled to things like cell phones, computers, fashionable clothes, flat screen T.V.s etc.
- Require children to participate in at least two non-sports-related extracurricular activities at school or outside of school.
- Parents and children need to set aside at least an hour a day to talk to one another. Not on Facebook, or on the cell phone, but face to face. The only quality time is quantity time
- Teach children how to manage their time. They should be required to create daily “to do” lists and these lists need to be monitored by parents. The goal should be to accomplish at least 70% of their tasks on their daily “to do” list.
Wealthy people do certain things every single day that sets them apart from everyone else in life. Wealthy people have good daily success habits that they learned from their parents. These daily habits are the real reason for the wealth gap in our country and the real reason why the rich get richer. Unless we teach our children good daily success habits, and level the playing field, the rich will continue to get richer and the poor will continue to get poorer.