The 7 Best Lessons Successful People Have Taught Us About Money This Year

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UJA-Federation Leadership Awards Dinner

By Kathleen Elkins

If you want to be successful and grow your wealth, start by learning from those who have already done it.

"Successful people look at other successful people as a means to motivate themselves," writes T. Harv Eker in "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind." "They see other successful people as models to learn from. They say to themselves, 'If they can do it, I can do it.'"

To help you out, we rounded up seven of the best money lessons we heard this year from self-made millionaires, CEOs, and bestselling authors.

If you want 2016 to be a year of building wealth, take notes on what they had to say:

Focus on the skills you build, not your paycheck.

Tim Ferriss, angel investor, best-selling author of "The 4-Hour Workweek":

Optimize for learning, not earning. Work directly under or with master dealmakers and acquire skills. This is particularly true for negotiating and hard skills, like coding.

What would you rather have: $20,000 more per year in your 20s, leading to making $100,000 to $200,000 a year in your 30s, or a lower-paying job from 20 to 25 — but one like a real-world MBA you're paid for — leading to making millions in your 30s?

It often comes down to prioritizing skill acquisition over immediate, post-college earning. McKinsey or Goldman can be seductive, but it's easy to get trapped in a 20-plus-year path of paying for a bloated lifestyle that is always a bit more expensive than the year before. Serfs can become self-made kings, but consultants tend to remain consultants. The only true job security is a superior skill set.

Investing from a young age can give you a huge advantage.

Kevin Cleary, CEO, Clif Bar & Company:

In my 20s, I wish I better understood the power of investing. At the time, I had fewer expenses, more free time, and a long investment horizon — it would have been the perfect time to learn about investing.

While I was disciplined about saving money, I missed the opportunity to leverage my money over the long haul.

It's better to do something you love than chase money.

Blake Mycoskie, founder, chief shoe giver of TOMS:

In my 20s I wish I knew that the best advice for any person is to follow their passion as opposed to chasing money. I've seen time and time again that the people who foster their true passions and true callings are the ones that end up the most successful.

It's hard in your 20s not to worry about money, but to focus on making sure you do something you love. Today, I feel like every time I've made a decision at TOMS that I'm passionate about and improves someone's life, the company grows and makes more money.

The most powerful asset we have when it comes to getting rich is our mind.

Steve Siebold, self-made millionaire, author of "How Rich People Think":

Getting rich begins with the way you think and what you believe about making money. If your parents were broke or in the middle class, you will end up the same if you adopt their beliefs and philosophies about money. The only reason people settle for a mediocre, middle-class existence is because they are unaware of how to move beyond it.

The secret has always been the same: thinking. While the masses believe becoming wealthy is out of their control, rich people know that making money is really an inside job. It's a cause and effect relationship. The cause of our behavior is our belief system, and the effect of our behavior is the result we get. Change the cause, and by default, you automatically change the behavior and bottom line result.

Let's set the record straight once and for all: Anyone can become wealthy ... Start by telling yourself that you deserve to be rich, have every right to be rich, and that being rich is an inside job. It's up to you and only you.

Helping others is a smart habit to build.

Tony Robbins, life and business strategist, best-selling author:

You can get rich by screwing someone, but if you're going to stay rich, you have to be constantly helping people.

Find your passion and find a way to use it to do more for others than anyone else does and add value. And proximity is power. If you want to get the job done, you have to get in the environment of the best of the best.

My own growth has always been about challenging myself to be around people who play the game of life at a higher level. In order to stay on the court with them, you need to lift your game, you need to grow. If you're around them and you're adding value, you'll find opportunity. Proximity is power.

Spend on the things you love ... and save on the things you don't.

Jim Cramer, cofounder of financial site and host of CNBC's "Mad Money":

I am a big believer in finding something that you really like that's expensive. You can put your money on that, and then be frugal besides that.

I am a Stanley Frugal except for my box at the Philadelphia Eagles games.
"My wife and I are of the same ilk: We're not crazy about spending, but when we do it, we do it big.

Retirement is a reality — and so is the need to save.

Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of, New York Times bestselling author of "Financially Fearless":

Start saving for retirement! It's never too early to put money away towards an IRA. Teens can even contribute money earned from baby-sitting or other jobs, and doing so can go a long way towards building up a sizable nest egg.

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