If you think America's wealthy don't know what it's like for the average person, think again.
In fact, 77 percent of people with at least $3 million in investable assets came from middle class or lower backgrounds while 19 percent surveyed reported growing up poor, according to a new survey. As part of an annual report, U.S. Trust surveyed 684 high net worth people to hear more about how they grew so wealthy.
"Perceptions of the wealthy in history and popular culture have been painted with a broad brush that doesn't reflect the majority of financially successful people in society," said Keith Banks, president of U.S. Trust, in a release.
"Their advantage in life is not rare financial privilege but rather basic values, discipline and sense of potential shaped by family from an early age, which equipped them to make the most of every opportunity," he added.
So what do America's wealthy have in common? U.S. Trust crunched its data to find 10 similar traits the wealthy share:
1. They built wealth for the long haul: Most of their sizable accounts came from earned income and investing.
2. They've nailed the basics: This group didn't realize their biggest wins by taking big risks. Instead, 86 percent said the biggest gains came through buying and holding investments while 89 percent attributed their biggest wins to traditional stocks and bonds.
3. They're optimistic (and opportunistic): The group's opinion on investment return potential over the next year skews more optimistic than pessimistic, and they're ready to invest when they see an opportunity. One in five surveyed kept more than 25 percent of their assets in cash, in large part to pounce when they see buying opportunities.
4. They use credit strategically: Nearly two in three use credit to build their wealth.
5. They keep a close eye on the Tax Man: They are very attuned to potential tax implications of their decisions, with 55 percent saying investment moves that factor these in are better to pursue than high returns.
6. They diversify in valuable tangible assets: Almost half invest in these assets, including timber properties, investment real estate and farmland. About 20 percent collect fine art.
7. They're disciplined: About four out of five surveyed said investing to meet long-term goals is more important than making money for short-term wants and needs.
8. They had strong examples growing up: While the wealthy do not typically come from wealthy backgrounds, the majority were raised by parents who encouraged them to pursue their interests but set firm boundaries. About four out of five said this was true about their childhood. These five values were stressed more while the wealthy were growing up: "academic achievement, financial discipline, work participation, family loyalty and civic duty."
9. They love giving back: About two-thirds said their family had a strong tradition of philanthropy.
10. They're committed at home: This group is far from single and ready to mingle. A full 86 percent of the HNW investors surveyed are married or in long-term relationships.