Money

The No. 1 thing millionaires know about money that the average person doesn't

I used to scoff at those people who flew first-class because it just seemed extravagant. But now I get it. If you have a problem that money can solve, you don't have a problem.

In my experience, high-earners tend to be extremely disciplined about using their money to solve their problems. That's because they understand something average people generally don't.

Here's what I mean.

They focus on the big picture

High-earners spend money to save time. They might do this by hiring an expert like a personal trainer to make sure they get the most out of their workouts, or by outsourcing chores like grocery shopping and food preparation.

Some people are born lucky. Others work extremely hard, toiling away for a big break, while others save and invest consistently until they have more time than money. Regardless of how they become financially successful, high-earners tend to think differently about time. They know it's the most valuable commodity.

For example, when it comes to flying first class, the convenience and opportunity for actual rest can mean more energy and, if they run a business, more focus and more dollars in return. In other words, sometimes, treating yourself is worth it, both in the moment and in the long run.

The biggest lesson I would give to my 23-year-old self is to ask why someone who has more money would spend it on a certain suit, or food delivery, or on first-class travel. Sometimes the answers are not obvious. But what they're doing, usually, is using their money to prioritize, and thinking long term. Embracing that can change your outlook, your budget and even your future.

"They're spending so that they can save the most important commodity: time."

Here's what they don't do

The internet is built for people who want to cut back on the amount of grapes they buy to save $0.72 per year. It drives me crazy.

Focusing on minutiae is not the way to build wealth. Getting your habits in order, like putting money in savings and investment funds, is.

What we need, and what we're not used to reading, is advice on how to spend money properly. The reality is: Millionaires know when it makes sense to spend the energy and time to do or fix something themselves, and when it makes sense to outsource because it makes them happier and less stressed.

How to spend wisely

I figure out which splurges are worth it for me because they may help me rest, save time, or do something meaningful for myself and the people I care about. Chances are, you make similar choices. I bet that there's an area in your life that you truly love and would use money to have world-class experiences in it. That may be relationships, travel, or health.

My area is convenience, and I've used money to hire a personal chef, an executive assistant, a personal trainer and more.

But just because I spend when it counts doesn't mean I don't save money, or that I get into debt. I spend smart.

I talk a lot about automating my finances. Every month the money I earn gets automatically put toward my bills, savings, and investments. Afterward, the rest of my money is left up to me to determine how I want to spend it — guilt-free. And one of my favorite things to spend money on is $4 bottles of hot sauce.

This is the beauty of having a conscious spending strategy. When you're intentional about the few areas of life that you truly enjoy and want to develop, you would happily spend to enhance them. And if something doesn't matter to you, forget it.

How you spend your money is up to you. I don't wait until some arbitrary condition that gives me permission to spend my money, like, "I'll go on vacation only if I get a $10,000 raise." I do it when my conditions are met.

Ultimately, what this all means is that: Millionaires understand that the money they earn, beyond what they need to save and invest, is meant to be spent to help them in ways that really matter, like by buying themselves more time.

Once you have your finances in order — paying off debt and automatically putting money in your savings and investments — it's OK to get something if you want and can afford it, especially if it makes life more convenient, or unforgettable, or builds connection to other people, or teaches you something. Do what the millionaires do and focus on the big picture.

Bestselling author Ramit Sethi has been featured in ABC News, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal.

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