Top 9 Money Habits of Self-Made Millionaires

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My Rich Habits research has been covered by the media in twenty-seven countries. I’ve done my best to share that research with over thirty million people around the world through my books (Rich Habits, Rich Kids, Change Your Habits Change Your Life and Rich Habits Poor Habits) my blog and through my TV, radio and various other media outlet interviews. In my books, I go into greater detail on this topic, but below are some of the key points I cover in those books on this topic.

Self-made millionaires fall into two categories:

  1. Savers
  2. Risk Takers

Savers

Self-made millionaire Savers accumulate their wealth by living below their means, saving money and then investing that money prudently. According to my Rich Habits research, this path to multi-millionaire status takes about thirty-two years. Savers typically are risk averse, employed most of their lives and have a low or moderate standard of living. Self-made millionaire Savers were among the least wealthy in my study, with an average net worth of $3.4 million. Being a Saver is the risk-free way to building wealth. It’s the safe path to wealth accumulation. It requires discipline, diligence and adhering to a low to modest lifestyle.

Risk Takers

Self-made millionaire Risk Takers are individuals who take some risk in the pursuit of wealth. They are typically business owners, entrepreneurs, aggressive-savvy investors in stocks or real estate or they create some product or service that is so unique they are able to demand a significant premium in return for the purchase or use of their product or service. Self-made millionaire Risk Takers were among the wealthiest in my study, with an average net worth of $7.4 million. Being a Risk Taker is only for the bold and courageous. It’s the high-risk path to wealth accumulation. It requires courage, persistence, cunning and a hard core work ethic.

This article is devoted to the Savers out there – those who wish to become millionaires with little to no risk.

In my study, I found that all Savers have a specific money mindset. Below are some of the top money strategies of self-made millionaire Savers:

#1 Self-Made Millionaires Establish Savings Goals Early in Their Lives

Ninety-four percent of the self-made millionaires, who became rich by saving money, saved 20% or more of their net pay or their net income. They did this early in their work lives, long before they accumulated their millions. With your first paycheck get into the habit of saving something – 10% or 5% or even just 1%. The point is to set some savings goal and stick with it. This creates the savings habit. The ultimate goal, if you want to become a self-made millionaire, is to save 20% or more or your net pay and prudently invest those savings. Through the power of compounding, your savings and investments will grow over time.

#2 Self-Made Millionaires Avoid Want Spending

According to Census Bureau data, there are approximately 30 million other people who make more than they need but who are, nonetheless, one paycheck away from poverty. These individuals engage in something called Want Spending. Want Spenders spend more money than they make on their wants.

  • Want Spenders surrender to instant gratification, eschewing saving in order to buy things they want now: 60 inch TVs, nice vacations, expensive cars, bigger homes and jewelry.
  • Want Spenders routinely gamble away part of their income.
  • Want Spenders spend too much money at bars and restaurants.
  • Want Spenders incur debt in order to finance their standard of living.

Want Spenders create their own poverty. They are undisciplined with their money.They have been brainwashed by advertisers and a consumerist society into buying things they do not need.

When Want Spenders are no longer able to work due to old age, they live out the remainder of their lives in poverty. They become dependent on family, friends, the government or the charity of others.

Want Spenders rationalize their Want Spending in a number of ways:

  • I’ll make more money in the future
  • I’ll get a better paying job
  • I’ll get a second job
  • I’ll get a raise
  • I’ll get a bonus
  • The economy will improve and I’ll make more money
  • I’ll get more clients or customers
  • My children will take care of me in retirement
  • I’ll move to Florida, or some inexpensive place, and live off Social Security

 #3 Self-Made Millionaires are Frugal

I’ve been studying the daily habits of the rich and poor since 2004. I’ve gathered an enormous amount of data on both groups. Sixty-seven percent of the rich in my study said they were frugal. To them, frugal meant spending their money wisely. It meant buying quality items or services at bargain prices. Most of the wealthy in my study were raised by poor parents or middle-class parents who made a point of instilling in them good habits. Being frugal was one of those good habits they learned from their parents and that they took with them into their adult lives. Looking for value and quality makes you frugal.

Below is a small sampling from my Rich Habits books of some of the frugal spending habits of the rich:

  • 8% shopped at Goodwill stores
  • 37% used coupons
  • 64% said they lived in a modest, middle-class home
  • 28% mowed their own lawn to save money
  • 44% only purchased high-quality used cars. Typically, these were cars coming off two or three year leases. According to Kelly Blue Book, new cars lose as much as 25-30% of their value in the first two years. That’s a big discount for a quality vehicle purchase.
  • 19% managed their investments themselves – they did not use financial advisors in order to save money
  • 41% never spent more than $3,000 on a vacation
  • 16%,chose credit unions over traditional banks. Why? They were frugal and credit unions, to them, offered superior personalized service at a bargain price. They liked the fact that the banking personnel seemed more committed to helping them with their banking needs, that there was little turnover and this meant they were able to develop long-term relationships with the tellers and bankers. Seeing the same faces, year after year, was comforting. Relationships, after all, are the currency of the wealthy.
  • Be Frugal, not cheap – 66% of the poor in my study admitted to being cheap. Cheap to them meant spending their money on the cheapest product or service available. Being cheap is a Poor Habit because quality is very rarely given any consideration at all. They need X, so they look for the cheapest X they can find. Being cheap is one of those taxes the poor pay that the rich don’t. Cheap products break or deteriorate at a much quicker rate than quality products. Quality products can last for a lifetime. Those offering cheap services are often inexperienced or not very good at what they do. If they were good, they would be able to command higher prices. Cheap service providers can get you in a lot of trouble, especially when it comes to taxes, legal representation or even just getting your car fixed. Cheap service providers are able to keep their fees down by paying their staff lower wages. This means they are not getting the best staff or are settling for inexperienced staff. Being frugal will not make you rich, but it does mean you will keep more of your money as your purchases are driven by quality and price. Being cheap will not make your poor, but it does mean you will keep less of your money due to the low quality you receive in exchange for your money.

#4 Self-Made Millionaires Avoid Lifestyle Creep

Definition of Lifestyle Creep – Increasing your standard of living in order to match your increased income. It’s a common Poor Habit among many who suddenly find themselves making more money.The Rich Habit is to forgo the desire to spend your money today and, instead, sock it away into savings and investments that grow in value and provide financial resources that can be used in the future to maintain your standard of living.

Once you spend your money, it’s gone. When you hit a bump in the road, such as a job loss, you are then forced to sell your stuff. If the stuff you purchased depreciated in value, you get pennies on the dollar.

One of my older and wealthier friends explained to me his rule for financial success:

“Same house, same spouse, same car.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in these words. What they really mean is that no matter what good fortune visits you in life, do not change your standard of living. Don’t supersize your life by buying things you really do not need. Live a modest life and forge the Rich Habit of Delayed Gratification – putting off what you want today so that you can have something to fall back on in the future.

#5 Self-Made Millionaires Make Their Money Invisible

Open up a savings account. Every time you get paid, immediately move a specific amount of your net pay into the savings account. This will force you to spend only what you have in your main checking account. This has three psychological effects.

  • The first, is that the simple act of moving money into a savings account makes you feel good about yourself. Feeling good about yourself makes you happy.
  • The second effect is that you will be forced to limit your spending to what is available in your main checking account. This forces discipline, which also makes you feel good about yourself.
  • The third effect is the psychological impact of caving into your wants. Every time you move money from your savings account back to your main checking account, in order to spend money on something you want, you will feel like you are cheating. This makes you feel bad about yourself, which leads to unhappiness.

People naturally gravitate to things that make them feel happy and avoid things that make them feel unhappy. The Invisible Money Strategy plays into that natural human tendency. Over time you will develop the habit of spending money only on your needs in order to prevent the unhappiness that results when you give into your wants.

Give it a try for a at least four months. It takes about four months to forge good money habits.

#6 Self-Made Millionaires are Smart Spenders

The self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits Study were smart in spending their money. Here are some of the smart spending strategies I discovered in my research:

  • Buy in Bulk – If done properly, and with the right items, buying in bulk can save your household money and reduce waste. Nonperishables, such as toilet paper, soap, laundry detergent, paper towel, and shampoo, can be enormously cheaper if you buy them in bulk. Even some food items bought in bulk, such as applesauce, canned goods, or yogurt, can be portioned into glass jars and/or saved for future use.
  • Plan Your Meals in Advance – Food is one of the largest expenses in a household, after housing, transportation, and personal insurance, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The easiest way to fastidiously enforce your food budget is to plan your meals in advance. If you can sketch out a menu for the week that utilizes similar ingredients, you’ll have a more focused trip to the grocery store and you’ll end up throwing less away weeks after it’s been shoved to the back recesses of the refrigerator. Instead of running to the store and perusing potential ingredients, look in your refrigerator first and use that information to decide your next meal. Making a conscious effort here saves you money and it keeps food waste out of landfills.
  • Reduce Energy Costs – Lowering your energy consumption is a low-hanging fruit when it comes to cutting monthly expenses. The small changes of swapping incandescent bulbs for CFLs or LEDs can save you money on your utility bill, plus LEDs last roughly 25 times longer than traditional bulbs, dramatically cutting replacement costs. Even while they’re turned off, plugged in electronics continue to pull energy. To stop the drain, plug your TVs, computers, and other devices into power strips that can be easily unplugged when not in use. Cut back on water usage by taking shorter showers, washing only full loads of laundry, and using your dishwasher if you have one — doing dishes the old-fashioned way can use 6 to 12 gallons more.

#7 Self-Made Millionaires Keep Their Expenses Low

Self-made millionaires who made their millions by saving money, were fanatics when it came to keeping their expenses as low as possible. Here are some of the strategies to follow:

  • Don’t spend more than 25% of your monthly net pay on housing. It doesn’t matter if you own or rent. Stick to this 25% rule.
  • Don’t spend more than 15% of your net monthly pay on food.
  • Don’t spend more than 10% of your monthly net pay on entertainment. This includes bars, movies, restaurants etc.
  • Don’t spend more than 5% of your monthly net pay on auto loans and never lease. Leasing is something I call a Poverty Habit. Buy your cars and take good care of them.
  • Don’t spend more than 5% of your net annual pay on vacations.
  • Never gamble. If you’re going to gamble on the lottery, it comes out of your entertainment budget.
  • Stay away from accumulating credit card debt. If you are doing this it means you are living beyond your means and you need to cut back on something.
  • Always invest your savings prudently. Never gamble your savings on get rich quick schemes. There’s no such thing. The power of compounding can grow your savings and make you wealthy. Saving just $250 a month over 40 years will produce $500,362 at a 5% return. Savings and investment are two completely different things. You should never lose money on your savings. Investments represent a portion of your savings you are putting at risk. When you invest you accept the risk that you could lose some or all of that investment.
  • Max out your contributions to the company retirement plan. If the company matches your contributions, great. That’s free money. Always take free money when you can get it.
  • Know what you spend every month. Create a monthly budget and track what you spend.

#8 Self-Made Millionaires Avoid Spendthrift Friends

One of the hallmarks of the self-made millionaires is the conscious effort they make to associate with like-minded individuals. If a close relationship is a spendthrift, they avoid them like the plague. If a close relationship is conscientious with their money, they increase the amount of time they spend with them.

If you want to adopt good money habits, you need to associate with individuals who possess those habits and you need to disassociate yourself from those who do not. If all of the close associations you make in life share your desire to live below your means, it is highly probable their good money habits will become your good money habits.

#9 Self-Made Millionaires Marry Well

One of the reasons self-made millionaires are millionaires is they marry well. They find a spouse who shares their money values and money habits. Because they are on the same page when it comes to money, they function as a very efficient team when it comes to saving money, spending money and investing their money.

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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, and hold a master’s degree in taxation. As president of Cerefice and Company, CPAs, Tom heads one of the premier financial firms in New Jersey.
 
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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