Most millionaires aren’t born; they’re self-made. In a survey by Fidelity Investments, approximately 80% of people who have a net worth of $1 million or more did it without a trust fund or inheritance. As the classic Smith Barney commercial from the ‘70s used to say, "They make money the old-fashioned way . . . they earn it."
They also have habits that help them accumulate wealth: "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."
Corley has studied millionaires for 12 years, and says many of them share the same daily practices and beliefs. Here are seven habits of self-made millionaires:
Self-made millionaires are readers, and Corley says this is the number one habit to adopt if you want to become wealthy. According to his study, 85% of millionaires read two or more books a month, and they choose books that help them grow, including topics like careers, biographies of successful people, self-help, health, current events, psychology, and leadership.
"The key to success in life is growing your knowledge base and skills," says Corley. "Devote 30 minutes or more each day to learning by reading books. If you do, it will set you apart from the competition, as most people do not read."
People often enter careers for the stability factor, but wealthy people pursue their interests. "They put their ladder on their own wall," says Corley. "When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you work harder. "
Ninety-three percent of self-made millionaires in Corley’s study attribute their wealth to having mentors.
"Finding a success mentor in life is one of the least painful ways to become rich," says Corley. "It can put you on the fast track to success."
Corley says there are five types of success mentors:
Parents. Parenting is very important when it comes to being a millionaire. Parents are your first mentors. If they teach children good daily success habits, they’ll struggle less in life.
Teachers. Teachers can reinforce the mentoring children receive at home from their parents, or step in to provide the success mentoring absent at home.
Career Mentors. Finding a mentor at work you admire, trust, and respect can lead to success in life. Choose someone at least two levels above your rank.
Book Mentors. Mentors don’t have to be real relationships. Sometimes the best source are found in books, particularly books about successful people, says Corley.
Yourself. Also called "the school of hard knocks," you can mentor yourself by learning from your own mistakes. "This is the hard path to success, because those mistakes and failures carry significant costs in both time and money," says Corley. "But this is also the most powerful type of mentoring you can get, because the lessons you learn are infused with intense emotion and never forgotten."
Before millionaires identify goals, they do something that Corley calls "dream setting"—they write down what their ideal life would look like, then use this script to create a bullet-point list of dreams. Goals are then built around each dream.
"Think of dreams as a ladder, and the rungs are your goals," he says. "Ask yourself, ‘What would I need to do in order for each wish or dream to come true? Am I capable of performing those activities? And do I have the necessary skills and knowledge? Then take action."
Goals are only goals when they have two things: 100% achievability and physical activity, says Corley. Millionaires break down goals into physical action steps that make up their to-do list, and many have lists that follow a habit.
"Millionaires process success," says Corley. "When you create processes, you don’t have to think, which takes energy and contributes to decision fatigue. Habits are valuable because they brain fuel that can be used doing something else."
Self-made millionaires do not rely on only a single source of income, says Corley. Instead, they develop multiple streams, and most have at least three.
"Sixty-five percent had three or more streams of income that they created over time," he says. "Diversifying your sources of income allows you to weather the economic downturns that always occur in life."
Revenue streams include real estate rentals, stock market investments, annuities, private equity investments, part ownership in side businesses, ancillary products, or services, and royalties.
Millionaires believe money can be recouped, but the bigger risk is wasting time.
"When we invest our time in anything, it’s lost forever," says Corley. "Yet, because we are all given what seems to be an abundance of time, it has very little value to us."
Sixty-seven percent of the self-made millionaires in Corley’s study watch less than an hour of TV each day, and 63% spent less than an hour a day on the Internet in activities such as Facebook or watching YouTube videos.
"This freed up time for them to pursue their dreams, goals, read, learn, exercise, volunteer, and network," he says.