What We Can Learn from the Habits of Wealthy People

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I grew up thinking my family was poor. We lived on a farm and drove nice vehicles; however, any time I wanted to do something that cost money, my father said “NO”! I naturally concluded this was because we didn’t have money. Later in life I realized we were not poor. My parents still remembered the Depression and spending money was something you did only as the last resort.

Not wanting to be poor when I grew up, I decided the best course of action was to study people who had money. Thurston Howell III, the character from the TV show Gilligan’s Island, fascinated me. The opening credits of the show said he was “The Millionaire.” Forbes magazine named him to the list of the “15 Richest Fictional Characters” in 2006; however, we don’t know how rich he was supposed to be. This fascination set me on a lifelong course of studying wealthy and successful people.

How Wealthy People Spend Their Time

According to Dr. Thomas Stanley, author of the Millionaire Next Door, most people become rich by spending less than they earn. His research found the average millionaire saves 20% of their income and has done so long before they were a millionaire. They live on a budget, which is how they are able to control their spending to the point that they could save 20%.

Dr. Sarah Stanley Fallaw, Thomas Stanley’s daughter, recently published a follow-up book1 where she shares her research on more than 600 millionaires. She found they spend their time differently than typical Americans in these specific areas:

  • Reading: Millionaires spend roughly 5.5 hours a week reading for pleasure, compared to the average American’s two hours.
  • Exercising: Millionaires spend nearly six hours a week compared to the average American’s weekly 2.5 hours.
  • Social Media: The average American spends 14 hours a week on social media compared with the average millionaire’s 2.5 hours a week.
  • Sleeping: They sleep nearly eight hours less a week than the average American.
  • Working: They work 6 hours per week longer.

Dr. Fallaw believes that how millionaires occupy their minds and time can influence how much wealth they build.

Habits of the Wealthy

Thomas Corley is the author of a book called Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals2. Mr. Corley approached this issue a little differently by interviewing both rich and poor3. The book points out a few notable characteristics of the wealthy:

  • Live within their means: Most wealthy people save 20% of their net income and live on the remaining 80%.
  • Read every day: 88% of wealthy people interviewed read 30 minutes or more every day.
  • Turn off the TV: Two-thirds of wealthy people watch less than an hour of TV a day. Nearly the same percentage spend less than an hour a day on the Internet.
  • Help others: Nearly three-quarters of wealthy people volunteer a minimum of five hours a month.
  • Goals setting: 70% percent of the wealthy pursue at least one major goal.
  • Find a mentor: Finding such a teacher is one of the best and least painful ways to become rich.

The book concludes by pointing out that wealthy people know their main purpose. “It’s the last Rich Habit, but it might be the most important. Those people who pursue a dream or a main purpose in life are by far the wealthiest and happiest among us.”

The Millionaire Mindset

T. Harv Eker believes that having the right mindset is a core part of what it takes to become wealthy4. Our mindset comes through money messages we are exposed to from our family and friends, and mass media. Having the wrong mindset can prevent us from building wealth. His book lists some of the ways the wealthy get the right mindset:

  • Wealthy associate with positive, successful people.
  • Wealthy focus on their net worth rather than their working income.
  • The wealthy make their money work hard for them instead of working hard for money.
  • Wealthy admire other rich and successful people. Being resentful of others who may be more successful is the wrong mindset.

Keith Cameron Smith draws similar conclusions in his research of the wealthy5. Among his 10 “distinctions” are:

  • Millionaires think long-term. The middle class thinks short-term.
  • Millionaires continually learn and grow. The middle class thinks learning ended with school.
  • Millionaires work for profits. The middle class works for wages.
  • Millionaires believe they must be generous. The middle class believes it can’t afford to give.
  • Millionaires focus on increasing their wealth. The middle class focuses on increasing its paychecks.

I realize there are poor people who have the right mindset but continue to struggle because of external factors. There are also wealthy people who do not have these attitudes but have obtained wealth anyhow. Yogi Berra might have said it best, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

By examining the habits of the wealthy and successful, I think we can all find ways to change direction, so we can reach a better future.

Rick’s Tips:

  • Millionaires spend roughly 5.5 hours a week reading for pleasure, compared to the average American’s two hours.
  • Most wealthy people save 20% of their net income and live on the remaining 80%.
  • Millionaires believe they must be generous. The middle class believes it can’t afford to give.

1 The Next Millionaire Next Door: Enduring Strategies for Building Wealth, by Thomas J. Stanley Ph.D. & Sarah Stanley Fallaw, Ph. D – October 1, 2018

2 Rich Habits – The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, by Thomas C. Corley – March 1, 2010

3 Tom Corley defined “rich” as an income over $160,000 per year and net liquid assets of more than $3.2 million. “Poor” had a gross income of $35,000 or less and no more than $50,000 in liquid assets.

4 Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth, by T. Harv Eker – February 15, 2005.

5 The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class, Keith Cameron Smith – August 28, 2007.

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