When it comes to the wealthy, there’s often a belief that they’re rich because they were born into money. While that’s certainly true for some, it isn’t the case across the board.
Many of the wealthy have had to work their way up to it and to do so they’ve had to adopt a different set of habits from most other people.
We can learn a lot from the wealthy, at least those among them who had to create the wealth they now enjoy. More precisely, it’s the habits that got them to where they are that we need to focus on and learn from.
What are those habits and practices? Here are five of them . . . .
1. Delayed gratification
One of the hallmark traits of the self-made wealthy is their willingness to do without today for a more prosperous tomorrow, also known as delayed gratification. That means a willingness to live beneath their means for as long as it takes to reach their financial goals. While their peers are showing a tendency toward embracing the good life at the first sign of prosperity, the would-be wealthy take a pass on all of that.
While others are saving 6-10% of their annual incomes—usually for retirement—people who want to be wealthy often save 20, 30, 40 or even 50% or more of their income.
Imagine how much money you’d have saved in 10 years if you saved half of your income during that time? The fact that no one ever sees this happen is one of the reasons that people believe that the wealthy somehow “come into money.”
True wealth accumulation tends to be a very quiet affair.
2. Frugal spending habits
Part of the reason that the wealthy are able to accumulate vast fortunes is because of their obsession with getting a deal. The self made wealthy learn early in life that you never pay full price. The combination of this habit with delayed gratification is a powerful force when it comes to growing wealth. Not only do you spend as little money as possible, but you buy at a discount when you do.
While most people are buying the most expensive house they can afford, the rich-in-progress buy beneath their means, and buy the cheapest house in the neighborhood to boot. They first ask themselves, “how much house can we afford?”
The same is true of buying cars, if one wants to be rich someday, he buys a conservative car and may buy it used as well.
3. Avoiding consumer debt—or any debt at all
One of the advantages of frugal spending habits is that by always spending less, there’s also less need to go into debt. If you plan to be wealthy, that’s as it should be. Debt represents a reduction of future cash flow and the wealthy will avoid it. By paying cash on the barrel, there are no strings attached to what you buy that might compromise your ability to continue saving money at a high rate.
Notice how the drive to save large amounts of money causes frugal spending habits, which then enables the ability to make purchases without using debt; the three habits combine to form a pattern that brings the aspiring rich to the point of great wealth earlier than an outsider might expect.
4. Favoring low risk/high yield investments
If you want to be wealthy, the first rule of investing is not to lose money. If you have a small amount of money to invest you might be tempted to put it all into high risk growth stocks in the hope that a big run up in value will make you rich. But if you have—or hope to have—a large portfolio to invest, you might not take that kind of risk. Your investments will be in assets that are unlikely to collapse in price, reasonably likely to grow in value over time, and able to provide a steady cash flow while you wait for them to grow.
A perfect investment asset might be an undervalued (and therefore very likely to grow) blue chip stock (not likely to collapse) with a history of above average dividend yields (steady cash flow).
5. Majoring on the majors
This attribute is part good habit and part talent—or perhaps it’s an outgrowth of having a financial life that’s cash rich, frugal, debt-free and filled with low risk/high yield investments. Whatever drives it, it’s a powerful force that enables the rich to multiply their wealth over time.
The wealthy tend to be able to identify and concentrate on the areas of their lives that are most likely to earn them the most money. Call it majoring on the majors or whatever you like, but they have the ability to center on the most profitable ventures and to let go of nearly everything else. They often do this by delegating non-profitable activities to others or maybe even to make them somehow go away.
This is easier to do when you have money to pay others to handle them for you or when your finances are relatively uncomplicated. If, for example, the wealthy person has a business, he might pay someone to handle specific aspects of the operation that are necessary but produce little or no revenue. That frees him to concentrate all of his efforts to generating more income for his business. As a result, his business and his income grow much more quickly, making him wealthier still.
Considering all of the habits above, it seems that becoming wealthy is really a lifestyle as much as anything else. Once you adopt it—by living beneath your means, staying out of debt, and saving large amounts of money constantly – you have capital to invest (conservatively) and to pay others to free you up to make even more money. It’s not so hard to see why the wealth of the self-made rich seems to spring out one day as if there’s a winning lottery ticket in the mix.
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