4 Habits of Self-Made Millionaires: Insights From a Man Who Studies The Rich

Thomas Oppong


Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash

There’s no “secret formula” to amassing wealth. But there are principles you can follow irrespective of how much you earn.

Growth mindset, good money habits, positive outlook and strategic financing decisions are a few of the fundamental things you need to prepare yourself for financial independence.

86% of people who have a net worth of $1 million or more did it without a trust fund or inheritance, according to a Fidelity Investments survey.

Most millionaires are self-made. They all started from the bottom, build their wealth and continue to take actions that maintain or grow their assets.

Habits are the building blocks of financial success — they define you as a person. The right habits can help you accumulate wealth.

Habit is probably the most powerful tool in your brain’s toolbox. In his book, Million Dollar Habits: Practical, Proven, Power Practices to Double and Triple Your Income, Brian Tracy writes:

“You are where you are and what you are because of yourself. Everything you are today, or ever will be in the future, is up to you. Your life today is the sum total result of your choices, decisions and actions up to this point.”

The good news is, you can build better habits to improve your finances.Even if you don’t become a millionaire, you will be better off financially.

“Your habits are the reason why you’re rich or poor,”says Tom Corley, author of Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals. “In fact, it’s often two or three habits that separate the wealthy from those who are financially challenged,” he says.

“From my research, I discovered that daily habits dictate how successful or unsuccessful you will be in life,” he wrote in his book Change Your Habits, Change Your Life.

Tom Corley has studied millionaires for over 12 years and says many of them share the same habits. These are a few overlooked habits of self-made millionaires you can adopt.

1. Self-made millionaires are life-long learners

Your brain is your greatest asset. Self-education cannot be overemphasized, so keep expanding your knowledge.

According to Tom Corley, 85% of self-made millionaires read at least two books each month.

Not only do these men and women read, but their choice of reading material is also strategic. Wealthy people read biographies of successful people, personal and money growth books and books about how the world works.

Biographies of successful people are important reads because you can glean from their personal experiences and avoid making the mistakes they’ve already learned from.

Biographies also give you an insight into their personal lives, the challenges they’ve overcome, and their success secrets.

Personal growth books can help you uncover strengths you didn’t know you had, learn to recognise and manage your personal limitations, and help you hone the skills you need to work toward success in your chosen field.

More than anything else, personal development books help you overcome habits, mistakes and weaknesses that might be in the way of your success.

Corley wrote that 88 per cent of rich people “devote 30 minutes or more each day to self-education or self-improvement reading” and that “most did not read for entertainment”.

2. Self-made millionaires actively plan for their “future selves”

Bite-sized chunks. That’s how most truly workable plans are made — in bite-sized chunks. Self-made millionaires take actionable steps towards the life they want.

A goal to earn $100,000 this year seems daunting until you realize its only a matter of earning $8,333 each month, $1,923 each week, $273 each day, 10 clients who each spend $10,000, 20 clients who each spend $5,000 or 50 clients who each spend $2,000.

Those bite-sized chunks are much easier to swallow than the entire $100,000 pie, aren’t they? Self-made millionaires set realistic goals.

They define their future selves and work towards what they want.

“Dream-setting involves scripting your ideal future life,” Corley said. “In this process, you define your future life, the future you, by imagining all your dreams coming true; then you put it to paper in 500 to 1000 words.”

In his study, 61 per cent of the self-made millionaires reported practising this planning strategy.

Financial planner Scott D. Hedgcock once said, “In my experience, the biggest difference between those on the right path vs. those on the wrong path was the amount of time and effort they put into devising a plan for their finances.”

But taking the time to create a plan and see it through “is the one thing all financially successful people have in common.”

3. Self-Made Millionaires don’t just save, they prudently invest

Wealthy people allocate their money with great deliberation.

They know that, as the English saying goes, “If you take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves.”

Self-made millionaires didn’t become wealthy by simply making money. They became millionaires by strategically investing their money.

After all, acquiring income from multiple income streams (another self-made millionaire habit) will never lead to wealth without the discipline to invest and watch your money grow.

By investing in especially in income-generating ideas and investment products you slowly but surely become financially independent over time.

You safeguard your future with an emergency fund. You bolster your future — including your retirement years. You live outside the constant worry of financial failure, and you limit, eliminate, or greatly reduce unnecessary debt.

The key to financial success is to “pay yourself first,” argues George Clason, in his bestseller The Richest Man in Babylon.

He recommends that you save at least 10 percent of your income off the top, before any other expenditure, for the entirety of your working life.

What’s the path to wealth for self-made millionaires? “Of those who are self-made, their top sources of assets included investments/capital appreciation, compensation and employee stock options/profit sharing,” writes Fidelity Investments.

“When it comes to investment strategies, those who are self-made were more likely to add equity investments,” according to the survey.

You can also try to save at least 20% of your after-tax income every year, no matter what. Make it practially impossible to get access to that money. And keep adding to it.

4. Self-made millionaires prioritise self-care

Ray Dalio, an American billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthropist wrote in his book, Principles:

“Having the basics — a good bed to sleep in, good relationships, good food, and good sex — is most important, and those things don’t get much better when you have a lot of money or much worse when you have less. And the people one meets at the top aren’t necessarily more special than those one meets at the bottom or in between.”

The speedy, ever-efficient, and output-based work has only one consequence: burnout. Self-made millionaires know that — so they take time to take a break from their busy schedules every now and then.

Self-care isn’t just important, your personal preservation depends on it. Health professionals typically recommend the average adult should get as many as eight hours of sleep every night. If we’re honest, though, most of us don’t.

In today’s hurried modern society, slowing down is not attractive for a lot of professionals. It is important, though, and has its merits.

The elements of life that improve our total well-being include focusing on high-value work, declining low-impact tasks, managing attention, prioritising exercise, getting quality sleep and making time for meaningful social connections.

Self-made millionaires know how important it is to stop, rest, and recharge. Not only can rest help restore your inner focus, it can increase your creativity and can also lead to a diminished risk of burnout.

Self-care as a tool allows you to take responsibility for your own physical, emotional, psychological and social needs.

Read, save, invest, plan and rest as self-made millionaires do. Build wealthy habits and commit to them. You’re the best person to create big changes in your financial life. But those shifts will happen only if you can commit to wealth-building habits

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I write on science-based answers to problems in life and career, mostly about business, productivity, and self-improvement. My goal is to help you master the best of what the experts, top performers, and behavioural scientists have already figured out.


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