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:

“How many have taken a course in school on how to be financially successful in life?”

Not one hand rises in the air, ever.

Clearly every student wants to be successful and thinks they will be successful, but none have been taught how. Not by their parents and not by their teachers.

Not only are there no courses on basic financial success principles, but there are no structured courses teaching basic financial literacy.

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? 

We are raising our children to be financially illiterate and to fail in life.

Parents who are success mentors to their children, teach them specific good daily habits. And these habits put them on autopilot for financial success later in life.

In my five-year study of the daily habits of self-made millionaires vs. those struggling with poverty, I uncovered specific habits that separate the rich from the poor. I’d like to share some of what I found:

  1. Read to Learn – 63% of self-made millionaires in my study were required by their parents to read to learn. Their parents made them read two or more books every month on topics such as: history, biographies of successful people, science, self-improvement, etc. Only 3% of the poor said their parents made them do this.
  2. Don’t Gamble – 6% of the wealthy in my study played the lottery vs. 77% of the poor. Worse, the poor admitted to playing the lottery every week. 
  3. Follow Your Dreams – 82% of the self-made millionaires in my study pursued a dream vs. 3% of the poor. By far, the wealthiest in my study were individuals who pursued a dream. On average, they accumulated $7.4 million in net assets during their lives.
  4. Eat Healthy – 21% of the wealthy in my study were overweight by 30 pounds or more vs. 66% of the poor. 78% of self-made millionaires ate less than 300 junk food calories a day. 97% of the poor ate more than 300 junk food calories a day.
  5. Avoid Time Wasters – 63% of the wealthy in my study spent less than 1 hour per day on recreational Internet use. 74% of the poor spent more than an hour a day in the Internet. 67% of the wealthy watched less than 1 hour of TV per day vs 23% of the poor. 9% of the wealthy watched reality TV shows vs. 78% of the poor.
  6. Invest Your Time in Your Kids Education – 83% of the wealthy in my study attended back to school night for their kids vs. 13% of the poor. 29% of the wealthy had one or more children who made the honor roll vs. 4% of the poor.
  7. Engage in Daily Self-Improvement – 63% of wealthy in my study listened to audio books during their commute vs. 5% of the poor. Kids have smart phones and this makes it easy for them to download audio books to listen to.
  8. Spend Less Than You Make – 73% of the wealthy in my study forged the habit of spending less than they earned, long before they were rich. 95% of the poor were never taught this habit by their parents, by their teachers or by any other mentor in life.
  9. Forge Relationships With Other Success-Minded People – 79% of the wealthy in my study networked with other success-minded people, 5 hours or more per month vs. 16% of the poor said they did this.
  10. Hard Work Creates Good Luck – 92% of the wealthy in my study said they created their own good luck through hard work, persistence, daily practice, determination and goal achievement. 79% of the poor believed the rich were rich due to dumb luck.
  11. Take Personal Responsibility For Your Circumstances – 79% of the wealthy in my study indicated that they believed they were individually responsible for their financial circumstances. 82% of the poor believed they were poor because they were born and raised in a poor household.  FYI, 41% of the self-made millionaires in my study were born and raised in a poor household.
  12. Exercise Aerobically – 95% of self-made millionaires in my study exercised aerobically 30 minutes or more per day, four days a week. Only 23% of poor did the same. Studies have shown that daily aerobic exercise improves brain health, brain efficiency and IQ.
  13. Seek Out Success Mentors – 100% of self-made millionaires in my study had a success mentor in life. Success mentors put you on the fast track for success. They teach you what to do and what not to do. They also teach you the habits you’ll need in order to succeed in life. Typically, these mentors were one of their parents or a mentor that took an interest in them at work. None of the poor in my study said they had any success mentors in their lives.
  14. Negativity Leads to Poverty – 63% of the wealthy in my study had a positive, optimistic mindset. 94% of the poor had a negative, pessimistic mindset. Studies have shown that a negative mental outlook inhibits and depresses brain function.

The fact is, the poor are poor because they have far too many bad habits and not enough good habits.

And parents are to blame.

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.

According to a Brown University Study, in which the habits of 50,000 families were analyzed, the author of the study, Dr. Pressman, found that most of our adult habits were forged by the age of nine.

In another study by Nicholas Christakis, he found that habits spread throughout our social network.

Since children spend most of their early lives with their parents, these two studies show the critical role parents play in the habits all of us forge in life.

And my Rich Habits study corroborates this.

Sixty-eight percent of the self-made millionaires in my study said that they picked up most of their good habits from their parents.

Ninety-four percent of those in my study who struggled with poverty said they also picked up most of their habits from their parents.

But if parents fail to teach their children good daily success habits, what are we to do?

Teachers need to step in and teach children these Rich Habits. Habit education must become a structured part of our education system.  

From my research, I learned that all it takes is one or two Rich Habits to completely transform a life.

  • The reading habit, on its own, can set your children up for career success.
  • The savings habit, on its own, can set your children up to be financially independent.
  • The exercise habit, on its own, can set your children up for a long, healthy life.
  • The happy birthday or life event calls, on their own, can set your children up to forge strong relationships.

Lastly, high schools should be teaching specific financial education courses to their students beginning in freshman year. It needs to be a multi-prong curriculum that includes the following courses:

  • How to Pay Bills and Balance a Checkbook (freshman year)
  • How to Save and Invest Your Savings (sophomore year)
  • How Insurance Works – Auto Insurance, Home Owners Insurance, Health Insurance (junior year)
  • Understanding Student Loans (junior year)
  • Personal Income Tax Fundamentals (senior year)

Schools teach what they are required to teach. It’s unfortunate, but none of these financial education courses are a requirement in most schools.


If you want to find out if you are teaching your kids the right habits take this short test: RICH HABITS TEST PARENTS

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