Author who studies millionaires: How to get rich and then stay rich

Luxury mega yacht
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Being rich, or becoming financially independent, boils down to a two-step process:

  1. Accumulate wealth
  2. Keep the wealth you've accumulated

In my book "Change Your Habits, Change Your Life," I share some of the stories about what self-made millionaires did, first, to get rich and then to make their money work for them.

Getting Rich

Getting rich requires that you focus on:

Daily growth. You must make a daily habit of acquiring knowledge. You must also, on a daily basis, hone your skills, perfecting them until you become an expert.

Rich relationships. Forging relationships with other success-minded people is critical to success. These people open closed doors.

Dream-setting. Building goals around each one of your dreams makes it possible for you to realize each dream. You climb the ladder of success one rung at a time. Every dream realized is a rung on the ladder. Of the self-made millionaires in my study, 80 percent pursued some dream or vision.

Persistence. The rich know that the persistent eventually get lucky.

Developing a niche. Those in my study who had a unique expertise in a particular area were paid the most by their company or were able to charge more to customers or clients than their competition. You can develop your niche on the side, in the mornings, at night or over the weekend through self-study or by taking classes.

Creating multiple streams of income. About 65 percent of the millionaires in my study had at least three streams of income. This creates a hedge against failure and poverty. When one stream suffers, the others come to the rescue.

Being patient. An overwhelming majority, 80 percent, of the rich in my study did not become rich until age 50. It takes a long time to create wealth. You have to learn to be patient.

Taking calculated risks. Success requires calculated risk, which require you do your homework in order to gain working knowledge in some area and then take action on that knowledge. It might be real estate, investing in some private business, starting your own business, etc. Roughly half, 51 percent, of the self-made millionaires in my study invested their savings in a start-up or private businesses or they made investments in specific areas such as real estate.

Being optimistic and enthusiastic. Almost three-quarters, or 71 percent, of the self-made millionaires in my study were positive about life. They believed in themselves. Their optimism affected those around them and they became magnets for other success-minded people. This helped them in creating teams that would eventually help lead them to success.

Controlling your thoughts, emotions and words. Over three-quarters, or 81 percent, of the rich made a habit of controlling their thoughts, emotions and the words they used.

Community. No one succeeds on their own. The rich build teams. They find apostles for their cause – individuals devoted to them and who share their vision and purpose.

Staying open-minded. You can't learn anything if you are closed-off to the world. Being open to new ideas, new ways of doing things and the opinions of others is critical to learning and growth.

Giving first and getting later. In order to get, you must first give. You must give value to others to help build your brand.

Finishing what you start. The rich don't quit. They stick to something until they succeed, go bankrupt or die. About 80 percent were focused on achieving some goal and 55 percent spent one year or more on one singular goal. They do not leave projects uncompleted before starting other projects.

Staying healthy. "You can't make money from a hospital bed," is how one millionaire put it to me during my research. The rich exercise every day and they moderate their consumption of junk food and alcohol. A whopping 82 percent of the rich in my study said they had no health issues.

Taking responsibility. The rich believe they are the architects of their lives. They don't make excuses, they don't rationalize failures and they don't blame anyone but themselves for their circumstances in life.

But accumulating wealth is only one part of the equation. In my book "Rich Habits Poor Habits," I share another equally important part of being rich: holding on to the wealth you've accumulated.

Staying Rich

Keeping your wealth requires that you do certain things:

Put your wealth to work. Putting your wealth to work means investing it wisely in stocks, bonds, real estate and other business opportunities. This helps multiply your wealth.

Watch what you spend. Do you know where your money goes? You should. Tracking what you spend opens your eyes so you know exactly where your money goes and allows you to make key adjustments. If you don't track your spending, it can get out of control. Lifestyle creep can cause your wealth to disappear over time.

Avoid spontaneous or emotional purchases. Never buy anything on impulse. It is almost always the wrong thing to do. That spontaneous or emotional purchase will lose its luster after only a few weeks, and then you're stuck with something you don't need and that does not generate any income.

Live below your means. Living below your means keeps you from falling into the trap of lifestyle creep. No matter what good fortune visits you in life, do not change your standard of living. Don't supersize your life by buying things you only want in the moment and you'll find you'll be able to afford everything you need.

Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner and author of "Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life."

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