Throughout my five-year “Rich Habits” study, I got to know 233 millionaires with an average net worth of $4.3 million. I learned about their origin stories, value systems, career trajectories, and how they approach their money.
Even though many of them had different backgrounds and experiences and started from various places with their finances — for example, 24% had inherited wealth, while 76% were self-made — I was surprised to find how much they all had in common, particularly the self-made millionaires.
One of the most significant traits they all shared was a positive outlook on life. The majority of the millionaires in my study describe themselves as optimists and have a deeply held belief that anything is possible.
And looking at their overall success as a group, I was struck by how accessible their habits are for many people who want to build their wealth. Here are some of the most valuable takeaways I learned from my research.
1. Millionaires take their time:
I found that the millionaires fell into four categories regarding their approach to money: Saver-Investors, Big Company Climbers, Virtuosos, and Entrepreneurs. More than three-quarters, 80%, of the participants in my study were 50 or older, and they accumulated their wealth over time.
For Saver-Investors, it took them an average of 32 years to become millionaires. For the Big Company Climbers, it took them 22 years. And it took 21 years for Virtuosos and 12 years for the Entrepreneurs.
2. Millionaires love what they do:-
Most of the millionaires, 86% of my study subjects, reported that they enjoyed what they did for a living. About 6 in 10 pursued what they described as a dream or passion for their work. Those entrepreneurs who channeled that passion into a successful business idea had an average net worth of $7.4 million.
3. Millionaires are always learning:-
Most millionaires expressed a goal never to stop learning, growing, and improving. Almost 9 out of 10, 88%, shared that they read daily to increase their knowledge about their job and industry. More than three-quarters, 85%, reported reading at least two books a month, and 63% said that they enjoyed listening to audiobooks or podcasts while commuting to work, exercising, or doing housework.
This mindset would come from a long-held value of education, even if they weren’t necessarily the most vital students early on. Over three-quarters, 77%, of the millionaires said they were B or C students in school, while 68% went to college and 25% went to graduate school. Over half, 56%, worked their way through school.
4. Millionaires prioritize their health:-
Many of the millionaires expressed a love of athletic pursuits: More than half, 63%, reported that they played sports in high school and continued playing competitive sports as adults.
Over three-quarters, 76%, shared that they exercised at least 30 minutes a day, four days a week. Jogging, running, and biking was famous among all the study participants. And 93% shared that they slept at least seven hours a night.
5. Millionaires invest in their communities and mentor others:-
Philanthropy was a big focus for the millionaires in my study: Almost three-quarters, 72%, reported volunteering five hours or more a month at local nonprofits. And 27% were on the board of directors of local, community-based charities, helping them run their organizations. Another way the millionaires got involved in their communities was by participating in the electoral process. 83% said they regularly voted in federal, state, and local elections.
The majority of self-made millionaires were passionate about mentoring others. About three-quarters, 73%, said they wanted to pay it forward and be mentors, inspired by the people who championed and supported them in their wealth-building and career goals. The majority of self-made millionaires were passionate about mentoring others. About three-quarters, 73%, said they wanted to pay it forward.
6. Millionaires are frugal:-
A big part of building wealth is focusing on frugality and avoiding lifestyle creep. To that end, 64% of the millionaires described the homes they own as “modest.” All the millionaires I interviewed owned their homes, and 56% owned their homes for at least 20 years. Over half, 55%, buy used cars. And this frugal mindset also extends to their off time. 96% said they spent less than $6,000 a year on vacations, and 41% spent less than $3,000 a year. And 84% shared that they never gamble.
7. Millionaires like to plan:-
The study participants all shared dedication to their work. About three-quarters, 73%, of the millionaires reported working an average of 58 hours a week. And 44% said waking up at least three hours before their workday begins.
Once that day starts, it’s often organized: More than three-quarters, 81%, shared that they keep a to-do list. About a quarter, 24%, of self-made millionaires held a to-don’t list to help them avoid time-wasters and focus on the things that matter most to them.
8. Millionaires build strong teams:-
Most of the millionaires in my study shared that creating a community of positive, goal-oriented people was a big part of their success. Over 8 in 10 shared that they had hired a team of intelligent, dedicated individuals that they relied on to help achieve their visions, including attorneys, CPAs, marketing professionals, and financial advisors.
9. Millionaires are intentional with their money:-
Nearly half, 49%, of the self-made millionaires were saver-investors who saved 20% or more of their income from the first day they started working. All of the millionaires I interviewed have some form of retirement savings. Most millionaires have more than one source of income: Almost two-thirds, 65%, have three streams of income, 45% have four streams, and 29% have five streams.
10. Millionaires embrace failure:-
Almost two-thirds, 63%, of the millionaires in my study shared with me that they took calculated risks as they built their wealth. And 27% said that they had failed at least once in business.
They didn’t let that deter them: More than three-quarters, 80%, reported that they are actively working toward one primary goal at any given time, and nearly all of them attributed their success to staying positive and having a clear vision of their future, especially when times are tough.