Author Thomas C. Corley spent five years studying the lives of both rich people (defined as having an annual income of $160,000 or more and a liquid net worth of $3.2 million or more) and poor people (defined as having an annual income of $35,000 or less and a liquid net worth of $5,000 or less).
He then differentiated what he calls "rich habits" and "poverty habits" — essentially, the tendencies of both groups — which he details in his new book, "Change Your Habits, Change Your Life."
"From my research, I discovered that daily habits dictate how successful or unsuccessful you will be in life," Corley writes.
No predictions of the future or guarantees of riches here. But if you want to be successful and build wealth, it won't hurt to start by nixing these 11 common, yet costly, habits:
"There is no such thing as getting rich quick," Corley writes. "Financial success takes time, takes initiative, and requires relentless effort. Those who gamble are deluded into thinking there is a shortcut to success."
In his study, 52% of poor people gambled on sports at least once a week and 77% played the lottery every week. Conversely, 84% of rich people did not bet on sports and 94% did not play the lottery.
"Self-made millionaires don't pursue any get-rich quick schemes. Instead, they make a habit of pursuing their dreams and their goals."
2. Eating an unhealthy diet
"Poor health habits create detrimental luck," Corley writes.
In his study, 97% of poor people ate over three hundred junk food calories each day, 69% ate fast food three or more times a week, 69% ate candy more than twice a week, and 66% were overweight by at least 30 pounds.
Wealthy people value their health, says Corley. In addition to eating healthy, they exercise consistently, sleep seven or more hours every night, and make a daily habit out of flossing.
3. Drinking too much alcohol
While the occasional glass of wine or beer is fine, drinking too much could impede your chances of financial success.
"Fifty-four percent of the poor in my study drank more than two glasses of beer, wine, or alcohol each day," Corley reports. "Eighty-four percent of the self-made millionaires in my study drank less than that."
Drinking too much could affect your memory and ability to think clearly, Corley explains. Plus, it's a lot of extra calories and isn't part of a healthy diet.
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Include taxes in your tally.
Withdrawing money from retirement accounts is, of course, not a free ride, so $1 million gross is not $1 million net. “If the $1 million were in a traditional 401(k) or IRA, all withdrawals would be taxable,” says Christine Pavel, vice president of wealth management at GCG Financial in Deerfield, Illinois. “You also have to consider how much the investor will withdrawal from the portfolio, and for how long.” Assuming 3 percent inflation, looking forward 30 years and accounting for retirement account taxes, “An investor would be lucky to be able to withdraw $20,000 or less from the account for 30 years,” she says.
If you're in your 20s and start investing now, you’re in luck, says Joe Jennings, wealth director for PNC Wealth Management in Baltimore. “Due to the power of compounding, the first dollar saved is the most important, as it has the most growth potential over time,” he says. As an example, Jennings compares $10,000 saved at age 25 versus age 60. “The 25-year-old has 40 years of growth potential at the average retirement age of 65, whereas $10,000 saved at age 60 only has five years of growth potential,” he says.
Consider annuities as a building block.
Annuities, which people purchase to get an expected payout once they reach maturity – usually at or after retirement age – also have a rough reputation, particularly indexed annuities. But last year’s Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract regulation by the IRS set guidelines for investors to create their own pensions. “You can invest and put money in a retirement account, and with annuity guarantees that you will never outlive your money,” says Stan “The Annuity Man” Haithcock, an annuities expert and author of the book, "The Annuity Stanifesto," based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
It may seem sexier to get in on the latest initial public offering or that new stock your Uncle Mortimer promises will take off. But that’s no way to build a nest egg through the years, says Jim Merklinghaus, founder and president of JBM Financial in Rutherford, New Jersey. “My philosophy has been a conservative approach to retirement, investing consistently over a 30-year period of time. If your principal is 100 percent safe, you have already accounted for 12 years of a normal 30-year retirement. The plan that avoids the loss of principal far exceeds the joy of temporary returns,” he says.
Diversify between companies large and small.
Risk tolerance and portfolio mix are major factors in getting to $1 million, and they’ll differ depending on the investor. But if there’s one universal that applies, ”The portfolio should be diversified among large- and small-company stocks, domestically as well as in established foreign countries and emerging markets,” says Kenneth Moraif, senior advisor at Money Matters in Plano, Texas. “The appropriate allocation in each of these asset classes will be determined by the investor’s time horizon, their current assets, age and tax bracket.”
Use that 401(k) all the way.
Since retirement is the major savings goal with most nest eggs, make sure you maximize your retirement savings, says Andy Saeger, vice president and senior financial consultant at Charles Schwab in Naperville, Illinois. “Max out your 401(k) or other employer retirement plan, especially if you receive matching contributions. If you're age 50 or older, make catch-up contributions. If you can afford to save more, you may be eligible to open and contribute to an IRA, where your money can grow tax-deferred or tax-free until retirement,” Saeger says.
Thou shalt pay thyself first.
What used to be simple, sound advice is more of a commandment when $1 million or more is the goal. “If you make the financial plan first and then build your life around it, the outcomes are typically very positive,” says Mike Chadwick, CEO of Chadwick Financial Advisors in Unionville, Connecticut. “Most people do the opposite: They set up their life and then try to save after the fact, when it’s painful to do so. When something is paid off, save the extra money and you won’t feel the pain. And when you get raises, save the money until you’re on target.”
Avoid the temptation to spend first.
Most investors, especially in their younger years, think they can easily make up for copious spending and shopping. “This is certainly possible, but will require a potentially difficult, if not impossible, return on the investment or a significant increase in savings,” says Bellaria Jimenez, managing partner with MetLife Premier Client Group, based in Cranford, New Jersey. ”Investors must ignore temptations to spend and instead save.”
Patience, patience, patience.
Just as it takes years to get to retirement age, you’ll want to stick it out, as some investments hit expected bumps. “Over a typical working career, an investor can expect to experience at least eight to 12 poor market years,” says Jakob Loescher, a financial advisor with Savant Capital Management and based in Rockford, Illinois. “During these years, it’s important that the individual remain patient and not make any large market-timing mistakes.”
And finally, answer the $2.3 million question.
That’s how much money you’d need in 2045 to have the same purchasing power as $1 million today, assuming a 3 percent annual inflation figure. So how do you get to $2.3 million? “Assuming a starting account value of $50,000 and an 8 percent return on assets, an investor would need to deposit $13,500 at the beginning of each year over the next 30 years to achieve that result,” says Andrew Gluck, managing director of wealth management at GCG Financial.
Eighty-six percent of the rich people in Corley's study made a habit out of associating with other success-minded individuals. "They also make a point to limit their exposure to toxic, negative people," he explains.
On the flip side, "Only four percent of the poor in my study associated with success-minded individuals. Ninety-six percent associated with negative, toxic individuals. You are only going to succeed in life if you surround yourself with the right type of people."
5. Watching too much TV
"Seventy-seven percent of the poor in my study watched more than an hour of TV every day," Corley writes. "Sixty-seven percent of the self-made millionaires in my study watched less than an hour of TV every day."
"Making productive use of time is a hallmark of self-made millionaires," Corley says. "Wasting time is a hallmark of poor people."
6. Negative thinking
"Long-term success is only possible when you have a positive mental outlook," Corley states.
The problem for most people is that they're completely unaware of their thoughts, positive or negative, he explains: "If you stop to listen to your thoughts, to be aware of them, you'd find most of them are negative. But you only realize you are having these negative thoughts when you force yourself to be aware of them. Awareness is the key."
Procrastination "prevents even the most talented individuals from realizing success in life," Corley writes.
"Fear of criticism is the reason we do not seek feedback from others," Corley writes. "But feedback is essential to learning what is working and what isn't working. Feedback helps you understand if you are on the right track. Seeking criticism, good or bad, is a crucial element for learning and growth."
Additionally, it allows you to change course and experiment with a new career or business. As Corley says, "Feedback provides you with the information you will need in order to succeed in any venture."
Spending more than you make is a surefire road to financial stress.
"Ninety-five percent of the poor in my study did not save and most accumulated debt to subsidize their standard of living," Corley reports. "Consequently, they have no money for retirement, for their kids' college, or for pursuing opportunities that present themselves."
Spending more than you make and putting saving on the back burner "creates long-term poverty, with no hope of escape," he writes.
10. Keeping a job you hate
Toiling away at a job you hate will not only leave you stressed out and dissatisfied with life, it could affect your chances at getting rich.
"Passion makes work fun. Passion gives you the energy, persistence, and focus needed to overcome failures, mistakes, and rejection. It infuses you with a fanatical tenacity that makes it possible to overcome obstacles and pitfalls that block your path."
11. Sticking to your comfort zone
"We so desire to blend in, to acclimate to society, to be a part of the herd, that we will do almost anything to avoid standing out in a crowd," Corley writes. Yet "failure to separate yourself from the herd is why most people never achieve success."
"The pursuit of wealth requires that you take risks. Most don't, and that's why most are not wealthy."
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