There are just a few basic things you will need: 1) at least a middle-class income—it’s hard to save when you have to scrape by to cover the bills; 2) Discipline; 3) Consistency; and 4) Time—the typical Saver-Investor in my Rich Habits study was at it for 32 years but accumulated north of $3.2 million.
Those are the traits of a Saver-Investor millionaire. But they’re just the starting point. To leverage those traits, you’ll need to cultivate the eight everyday habits I observed the most during my study. Here are The 8 Most Common Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires
1. Be frugal, not cheap.
Being frugal means spending your money wisely. Frugal spenders habitually buy the highest quality product or service at the lowest price possible. They focus on quality first and cost later. Cheap spending means buying the most affordable product or service with little regard for quality. Cheap products break down after just a few years, forcing you to replace them repeatedly.
Cheap services are typically provided by those who are either inexperienced in their field or who are not very good at what they do. This can result in mistakes that cost you money down the road.
2. Keep your spending in check.
The Saver-Investor self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits study accumulated their savings by sticking to the following guidelines for spending their net, or take-home, pay each month:
Housing – 25 percent or less. Side note: The wealthy tend to buy, not rent. Cars – 5 percent or less. This includes not just the monthly payment but also insurance, gas, tolls, registration fees, and maintenance. Clothing – 5 percent or less. Refer to the frugality habit here: Invest in quality, not quantity.
Vacations – 5 percent or less. The Saver-Investor Millionaires in my study took modest, inexpensive vacations and found bargain travel deals for their families. Entertainment – 10 percent or less. This category includes bars, restaurants, movies, music, books, gifts, and so on.
Getting control of your spending is not easy, and it might challenge your vanity—many of the wealthy are not afraid to bargain shop or use coupons. Once smart spending becomes a daily habit. However, it gets much more accessible.
3. Surround yourself with fellow Saver-Investors.
The Saver-Investors in my Rich Habits study intentionally surrounded themselves with friends who shared their savings mindset. Why is this important? Habits spread like a virus throughout your social network. If your inner circle includes too many spenders, you will eventually become infected by their spending habits and will be unable to save.
4. Understand need vs. want.
People who overvalue their wants will surrender to instant gratification, eschewing saving to buy things they crave right now: 8K TVs, glamorous vacations, expensive cars, bigger homes, and flashy jewelry.
Want-Spenders routinely incur debt to finance their standard of living. They are undisciplined with their money and create poverty. Advertisers and a consumerist society have brainwashed them to think buying more than their needs is perfectly normal. When Want-Spenders can no longer work due to old age, they live out the remainder of their lives in abject poverty, becoming dependent on others.
5. Avoid emotional purchases.
When you feel overly optimistic about your future income, you can fall into the trap of spending money you have or spending future money you expect to receive by incurring debt.
When you feel sad or depressed, emotional purchases can act as a quick fix, temporarily lifting you out of sadness. The remedy is to be constantly vigilant regarding your emotions and look for healthier ways to address them.
6. Eliminate spontaneous spending.
Everyone has about three hours of willpower energy, which is the greatest after a good night’s sleep. When willpower is high, your prefrontal cortex controls your brain. You make good decisions. When the will is low, you lose discipline over spending and other things.
This is why supermarkets place products at the checkout lines. Their hope is, in your weakened state, you’ll make a spontaneous purchase of a sugary soda, a bag of chips, or a tawdry tabloid. The remedy is to do your shopping immediately upon waking up from a night’s sleep, after a nap, or after a light meal. These three things restore your willpower reserves.
7. Avoid lifestyle creep.
When you increase your spending to match your income, you fall victim to lifestyle creep. It explains why so many people continue to live paycheck to paycheck even as they make more money. Lifestyle creeps are typically incremental. It happens over many years without you consciously realizing it.
The remedy is to fix your savings rate, taking a certain—perhaps climbing—percentage off the top regardless of how much you make. This acts as a buffer, preventing you from spending too much and keeping you on track with growing your wealth.
8. Don’t supersize your life.
When Connor McGregor boxed Floyd Mayweather in 2017, he received a $30 million guarantee for the bout. Upon receipt of his guaranteed money, he purchased a $17 million yacht. Because he didn’t have enough money left over from the guaranteed money to pay his income taxes, he had to withdraw cash from existing wealth to pay the tax man—talk about a punch to the gut.
Supersizing your life is driven by excessive optimism about a sudden increase in income or wealth, such as a large bonus, significant raise, inheritance, or another windfall.
The remedy? Same house, same spouse, same car. Refuse to upgrade your lifestyle when your income or wealth rises significantly. Have a plan and stick to it. Becoming wealthy as a Saver-Investor is not an event. It’s a process. By adopting financial growth habits, building wealth is put on autopilot.