There are a handful of things that separate the ultra rich from everyone else: research has shown they tend to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet, save 10% or more of their income, read books and manage their time wisely.
But the most important — and most overlooked — habit they share that helped them grow their wealth, in large part, is their commitment to forge valuable relationships with individuals they aspire to be: positive, success-minded folks.
That's what I discovered through my "Rich Habits" study, in which I spent five years interviewing and researching the daily activities, habits and traits of 233 wealthy individuals (with at least $160,000 in annual gross income and $3.2 million in net assets) and 128 low-income individuals (with at least $35,000 in annual gross income and $5,000 in liquid assets).
It's human nature to associate ourselves with like-minded people with whom we feel the most comfortable.
The ultra wealthy and successful, however, are a lot more selective when it comes to who they allow into their inner circle. Nearly all of the self-made millionaires I interviewed said one of their top priorities was cultivating "rich relationships" and avoiding the "toxic" ones.
It's important to note that a "rich relationship" is defined by mindset, rather than wealth.
In other words, individuals who contribute to rich relationships don't necessarily have big bank accounts (though they do know how to save money and don't spend recklessly), but they all have lofty goals and aspirations — and they spend much of their time trying to achieve them.
"I limit my exposure to toxic, negative people," one individual in the wealthy group of my study told me. "Some of them may bring you down and infect you with their negativity, which can undermine your ability to creatively find solutions to problems and overcome obstacles."
And it makes sense, doesn't it? Those with a positive attitude are better able to stay focused on seeking and finding solutions to their problems. Positivity can make you a problem-solver, whereas negativity can make you a problem-finder.
Based on my research, individuals who contribute to rich relationships have at least one or several of the following traits:
As for the people who often contribute to "toxic relationships," they usually have a very pessimistic view on everything and a "poor, poor me" attitude. They rarely take any sort of responsibility for the circumstances in life.
Those in the wealthy group essentially see their relationships as trees: in order for their roots to grow, they must be nurtured.
Even billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett agree that by choosing the right group of friends, you can push yourself to achieve bigger professional goals. "You will move in the direction of the people that you associate with," Buffett once said.
Making sure the relationship thrives and continues to do so over time takes a lot of work and commitment. Here are the four most common things the self-made millionaires in my study did every day to deepen and maintain their rich relationships:
We are only as successful as the people we spend the most time with. If you want to create and grow your wealth, you have to evaluate each of your relationships and determine whether it's rich or toxic.
Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner and author of "Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life" and "Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals."
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