Thomas C. Corley

About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
Email Tom
| Download Media Kit

Survive Until You Thrive


Tom Corley boats - crop

“Luck favors the persistent.” – Jim Collins

Thirty-three percent of the self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits study had accumulated $4 million or more during their lifetime. Ten percent had accumulated more than $5 million.

What I found interesting, however, was that 93% of the self-made millionaires in my study did not accumulate that wealth until after age 50. And 79% did not ring the bell until after age 55.

That’s a long time pursuing a dream.

In describing these millionaires, I often like to say – They survived until they thrived.

Literally every month these future millionaires battled just to stay in the game. In fact, some were tossed out of the game – 34% of the self-made millionaires in my study failed at least once in business.

But they were in my study because they got up off the ground and went at it again.

Failure teaches a lot of lessons. Hard lessons. Lessons that are like scar tissue on the brain. Those lessons are only learned, however, if you keep trying. You figure out what to do only after you figure out what not to do.

For those who did pick themselves up after failing, there’s another very interesting little factoid I discovered in my research – the persistent eventually get lucky.

Eighty-seven percent of the self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits study said they would never have become rich if not for luck. At some point during their very long march towards success, luck found them. And boy did it transform their lives.

They went from struggling to pay their bills and fighting to make payroll, to a financial windfall that seemed to come out of the blue. But that windfall did not come out of the blue. It was something each self-made millionaire in my study was building up to year after year.

Success is a process. A big part of that process is persistence. You never get lucky if you quit. You get lucky when you persist. Luck is the reward for persistence.

Never quit on your dream. Luck does not visit quitters.

America’s First Billionaire


Tom Corley boats - crop

I love researching self-made millionaires, especially those who rise from the bottom. These individuals are unique because the circumstances of their lives are often dire and set against them, more so than the average poor person.

That’s why I’ve spent some months researching and studying the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt, or Commodore, as he was often called, was raised in Port Richmond, a primarily Dutch village on Staten Island, New York. His parents, Cornelius and Phebe Vanderbilt, came from nothing. “Low Dutch”, is what many called them.

Vanderbilt made his millions by controlling two burgeoning industries: the steamboat industry and the railroad industry.

When he died, Vanderbilt’s estate was estimated to be worth $100,000,000. That was back in 1877. In today’s dollars, that would be approximately $2.3 billion, making him the richest man in America, at the time.

But, in the early 1830’s there were many very talented people who were building a prosperous nation. So, what made Vanderbilt so unique?

Cornelius Vanderbilt possessed many of the Rich Habits:

  • Love of Competition – Vanderbilt continuously kept his eye on the competition. He battled them as if at war, slashing fares and doing what he could to drive them out of business.
  • Put Money to Work – Vanderbilt invested his profits in steamboats, he lent his money to other businessmen, he bought real estate and he purchased stock in private corporations. He personally invested millions in building Grand Central Station, one of the largest train depots in the world.
  • Frugality – Vanderbilt controlled his money. He invested and spent it wisely. He looked for value in every dollar he spent.
  • Entrepreneurial – Vanderbilt was not afraid to take calculated risks. Toward the end of his life, he even put his entire estate at risk in an effort to save one of his many investments – The Union Trust.
  • Forward Thinker – Vanderbilt embraced new technologies, such as the steamboat, and a new form of business, such as the corporation.
  • Desire to be Rich – Vanderbilt inherited from his mother his desire for riches.
  • Live Below Your Means – Vanderbilt inherited from his mother another trait – spending less than you earn and then saving and investing the difference.
  • Find a Success Mentor – Vanderbilt sought out Thomas Gibbons, a very wealthy, successful individual in the steamboat industry and then spent the first decade of his life as his employee. He learned everything about business from Gibbons, who mentored and molded him. Gibbons was the only employer he would ever have.
  • Rich Relationships – Vanderbilt spent his lifetime building relationships with other success-minded individuals – individuals who would be able to open doors for him that were closed.
  • Partner With Others – Vanderbilt understood that in order to succeed you must build a team of disciples. To this end, he enlisted, as partners, Daniel Drew, his son-in-law, Horace Clark and his own son, William. He then mentored them for many decades. Together, they helped him build his empire.
  • Creativity – Vanderbilt came up with novel ways of controlling his steamboat companies, later called Vertical Integration – controlling every aspect of steamboat manufacturing from design through the operation of his steamboats.
  • Never Quit – Vanderbilt never quit on his dreams. Several times, this would put him on the brink of personal bankruptcy.
  • Truthful & Honest – Vanderbilt’s word was considered as good as gold. He never went back on his word. Everyone who did business with him found him to be a man of high integrity.
  • Unpretentious – Vanderbilt, almost until the day he died, was never accepted by the wealthy class because he never flaunted his money.
  • Avoid Debt – Vanderbilt grew his empire without debt. He never borrowed money.
  • Healthy – Vanderbilt was a light eater, did not drink alcohol and was physically very active all of his life.
  • Control Emotions – Vanderbilt was often described as the calm in the storm. He never panicked and was always in complete control of his emotions during turbulent times.
  • Impervious to Criticism – Vanderbilt never allowed the negative words of others to affect him.
  • Listener – Vanderbilt was considered to be a man of few words. He rarely talked. He let others do the talking and listened to what they had to say.
  • Not a Workaholic – Vanderbilt would often vacation or relax in Saratoga Springs. It helped him to clear his head and recharge.
  • Good Judge of Character – Vanderbilt was considered a very good judge of character. He embraced individuals of high character and went to war with those who were dishonest and untrustworthy.

The Rich Are Frugal – The Poor Are Cheap


Tom Corley boats - crop

Cornelius Vanderbilt, the richest man in the world in the late 1800’s, controlled much of America’s transportation in two sectors – the steamships and the railroads.

He was revered for his ability to minimize costs. His attention to financial details was unsurpassed during his reign.

For example, when he took over the New York Central Railroad, one of the first things he did was remove all of the brass from all of the trains. This cost him a lot of money in removing all of the brass from his rail cars. People thought he was crazy.

Why did he do it?

Brass needed to be polished every day. No brass, meant no more need to pay people to polish it every day.

Eliminating the expense of polishing the brass far and away exceeded the cost of its removal, saving his railroad companies an enormous amount of money in the long run.

Rich people find novel ways to stretch their money.

Poor people, on the other hand, spend their money foolishly. They focus on the short term – the cost of the product always comes first. Quality rarely enters their mind.

They will buy a cheap product, just to have it, despite the fact that the quality of the product is suspect. After a few years, the product wears down and they are forced to buy another cheap product or do without.

Be frugal, not cheap. Being frugal is a Rich Habit. Being cheap is a Poor Habit.

Self-Awareness is a Superpower


Tom Corley boats - crop

The unaware are all around you.

The person who walks through a door, oblivious that you are right behind them, letting the door slam in your face.

The driver who cuts you off on the highway.

Or the overweight person, eating junk food, watching TV, oblivious to the fact that they are destroying their health.

It’s not selfishness that drives these people. It’s not even an entitlement or elite mindset.

It’s a lack of self-awareness.

The fact is, most people lack self-awareness. They are completely unaware of what is going on internally – their thoughts, emotions and behavior. They are also unaware of what is going on externally – their environment.

There are plenty of studies that support this. There are even videos of people completely unaware of their external environment. Here’s one I like called the bear on the porch.

Self-awareness, however, is a real superpower for the few who possess it.

Self-awareness allows you to recognize your own thoughts, emotions and behavior. Self-awareness also allows you to see what is going on all around you in your environment. Self-awareness enables you to pivot in order to avoid obstacles, pitfalls, mistakes and toxic people who get in the way of your success.

Self-made millionaires make a daily habit of developing this Self-Awareness Superpower Habit. And it’s one of the reasons they become self-made millionaires.

Self-awareness helps you do many things:

  • Self-awareness enables you to see your strengths and weaknesses. This helps you to focus on what you are good at and find others who are happy to do what you are bad at.
  • Self-awareness enables you to identify your good and bad habits. This helps you to identify habits that help you succeed and eliminate habits that get in the way of success.
  • Self-awareness enables you to identify toxic people. This helps you to avoid being used, abused or dragged into other peoples troubled lives. Toxic people are like potholes along your path to success. They make the journey bumpy and difficult.
  • Self-awareness enables you to see dangers, obstacles and pitfalls that are oblivious to others. This saves you time, money and emotional anguish.
  • Self-awareness enables you to identify the lessons found in mistakes. This helps you grow and improve.
  • Self-awareness enables you to step into the shoes of others and see what they see. This helps you empathize with others. This also helps you when you are negotiating with others.

Self-awareness is a Superpower Rich Habit that is critical to success. Without it, success is virtually impossible.

Everyone Wants to be on Top of the Mountain But Few Are Willing to Make the Climb


Tom Corley boats - crop

When things don’t go as planned, most people quit the struggle and move on to greener (meaning – easier) pastures.

And the world is filled with quitters.

Without pursuing success, life is a struggle. Even for the vast majority who are content with just coasting along, life is still filled with problems. Most people want to minimize their problems. They don’t want to add more problems to their lives.

That’s why self-made millionaires are so rare.

According to my Rich Habits research, only 3% who pursue a dream, stick with it until they succeed. At some point, 97% quit.

Here’s why. The pursuit of a dream, big goal or major initiative means – more problems. More obstacles to overcome. More pitfalls to crawl out of. More conflict. More stress. More emotional heartache, especially when things don’t go as planned. And when you’re pursuing a dream, big goal or major initiative, nothing ever goes as planned.

The pursuit of success is all about facing problems. And realizing success is all about solving those problems you face along the journey.

Not surprisingly, most avoid pursuing their dreams. They look at the mountain they must climb and say to themselves – “too many problems”.

For the courageous few who throw caution to the wind and take action on their dreams, their life becomes a seemingly never ending battle to overcome problems.

There’s just no sugar coating it – the pursuit of success is an uphill climb that requires many years of problem solving.

But, for the 3% who refuse to quit on their dreams, success is inevitable. Those 3% learn an enormous amount during their journey as a result of solving problems.

Plus, when you persist, eventually you get lucky. Luck favors the persistent. That unexpected luck, like a ski-lift, carries you effortlessly up the rest of the mountain.

The key, therefore, is to persist until luck finds you.

When you get to the top of your mountain, the first thing you will notice is that there are not that many people. That’s because all of the people are at the bottom of the mountain looking up at you.

Everyone want to be on top of the mountain. It’s just, not that many people are willing to climb it.

Consistent Success


Tom Corley boats - crop

Everyone wants to be successful, but few know how or where to begin.

Success is a process. Just like failure is a process.

The struggle to become successful, I learned from my Rich Habits study, is figuring out that process.

Most pursue success the hard way – Trial and Error.

After years of taking action on their dreams, they learn what to do and what not to do. They learn from their mistakes and failures.

According to my Rich Habits research, this Dream path takes about 12 years. Twelve years of trial and error.

Unfortunately, this long time horizon causes most to quit long before they ever realize their dreams.

But there is a better, easier way.

Consistency, I discovered is the key to success.

The self-made millionaires in my Rich Habit study pursued success every day by forging good daily habits that automated success.

Forging good daily habits, or Rich Habits, is the way you gain that consistency.

Good habits put you on autopilot for success because they automatically imbue you with consistency.

When you have good habits, you don’t need passion. You don’t need motivation. You don’t need willpower. You don’t need confidence.

Success doesn’t require any of those things.

In fact, most of the self-made millionaires in my study succeeded because they did not rely on passion, motivation, willpower or confidence. Instead, they relied on habits.

When you forge good daily habits, your path to success is virtually guaranteed because, every day, you are consistently doing what it takes to succeed. Consistency is the path to success and good daily habits are the key that opens the door to that path.

Passion, motivation, willpower and confidence, come and go. Good habits, however, are there to stay. Once forged, they never come and go. They just go. Every day.

Good daily habits overpower everything that stops success in its tracks: loss of passion, loss of motivation, loss of willpower, uncertainty and doubt.

Focus on forging good daily habits and the pursuit of success becomes a consistent daily habit.

Three Cs To Avoid


Tom Corley boats - crop

I’m not a big fan of affirmations but there is one affirmation I use every day and it’s this:

Never Criticize, Condemn or Complain

Each one of these Poor Habits drags you down, creating a negative mindset.

You want to avoid them like the plague.

They have the opposite effect of a magnet – pushing people away from you.

You want to be a magnet for people, not a deflector beam that pushes people away from you.

Those who constantly criticize, condemn and complain are negative, toxic people who must be avoided at all costs. They will drag you down with their negativity.

Plus, because they are constantly offending others, if you are associated with these toxic people, you too will be labeled as toxic and that will negatively affect your ability to build relationships with others.

Toxic people spread their negativity like a virus throughout their social network. And they are very easy to identify because they – Criticize, Condemn and Complain.

Rich Habits Poor Habits Episode 55 | The Thinking Actions of the Rich

One of the big separators between the rich and the non-rich is the rich have developed the Rich Habit of taking action.

Action is really two things:

    1. Thinking Action
    2. Physical Action

Thinking Action

We all think.

According to Psychology Today, the average person has 50,000 thoughts a day.

According to my research, the Thinking Actions of the rich are very different from the poor:

  • The Rich Are Positive Thinkers – 67% of the self-made millionaires in my study forged the habit of being positive and upbeat. A positive, mental outlook is critical to overcoming  problems, obstacles, pitfalls, mistakes and failures. Staying positive is a critical component to becoming wealthy. Positivity is like a radar in search of solutions to intractable problems. Thus, positive thinkers are able to see opportunities, where others see only negative consequences. 42794377_l
  • The Poor Are Negative Thinkers – 70% of the thoughts of the average person are negative (Psychology Today). Negative thinkers are unable to see solutions to problems. Thus, they are unable to overcome obstacles, pitfalls, their mistakes and their failures. Opportunities pass them by because they are not looking for opportunities. They are too focused on the negative consequences.
  • The Rich Are Decision-Makers – 91% of the rich in my study were decision-makers. Forging the habit of making decisions is critical to success. Those who develop the habit of making decisions are sought after as leaders, by others. Decision-makers have forged the habit of overcoming the fear of making decisions along with the paralysis of analysis associated with those unable to make decisions. The rich do not over think, which is a form of procrastination. It is impossible to know everything you need to know before making a decision. The rich forge the habit of being comfortable being uncomfortable about making decisions.
  • The Poor Let Others Make Decisions – 98% of the poor in my study were not decision-makers. They succumb to the fear of making a decision. They get lost in analysis and over thinking, which is a form of procrastination. The poor feel uncomfortable about making decisions, so they defer to others.

Good Habits – Friends With Benefits


Tom Corley boats - crop

The more you peel the onion of success, the more confusing it becomes.

One book tells you – Success Requires Grit.

Another tells you – Success Requires Passion.

Yet another tells you – Success Requires Daily Self-Improvement.

It can be so overwhelming, you just want to quit on success.

But, here’s a little secret:

Good habits automatically come with success traits built in.

Good daily habits are like a freight train engine. Behind that engine are all of these railroad cars that each good daily habit pulls along with it:

  • Persistence
  • Focus
  • Grit
  • Self-Improvement
  • Work Ethic
  • Passion
  • Patience

Because habits are automatic, so too are all of the benefits that are attached to them.

For example, when you have the Rich Habit of Daily Deliberate Practice, maintaining and improving your skill or craft, this one daily habit automatically imbues you with: Persistence, Focus, Grit, Self-Improvement, Work Ethic and Patience.

Another Rich Habit, such as Dream-Setting, comes with all the same benefits plus another success trait –  Passion.

By focusing on forging good habits, you don’t need to worry about having acquiring success traits, because everything you need to succeed is already attached to each Rich Habit. All of the success traits required for success are automatically integrated into every good habit.

So, all you need to succeed are good habits. You don’t need anything else. That’s because good habits come with benefits.

Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 14 Habits Every Child Needs to Succeed in Life

Tom Corley boats - cropWhen I travel the country speaking to high school and college students about exactly what they need to do to become financially successful in life, I always begin my presentation by asking the same three questions:

“How many want to be financially successful in life?”

“How many think they will be financially successful in life?”

Almost every time I ask the first two questions, every hand rises in the air. Then I ask the magic third question: [Read more…]