It took me 20 years of trial and error before I achieved a multimillion-dollar net worth. Now, at 64, I draw income from the 18 companies I started and the 12,000 apartment units I own.
But I wish I had known sooner how ultra wealthy people think about money. I've built relationships with many millionaires over the course of my investing career, and have spent years observing their habits.
Here are eight money secrets they know that most of us don't:
1. They don't diversify their investments right away.
It's generally good practice to diversify your portfolio by investing in a mix of different stocks, funds and other investments.
But as the wealthiest people build their net worth, they often go all-in on their own projects, and then diversify as they start earning more.
Elon Musk, for example, bet the $22 million he made selling his first company, an online business directory called Zip2, entirely on his next business, an online banking service called X.com.
After X.com merged with PayPal, he made $180 million off PayPal's sale to eBay. That gave him the cash to invest in Tesla, SpaceX and other ventures.
2. They know that debt is for businesses, not people.
As I built my net worth, I did not accumulate debt on non-essential purchases like designer clothes or luxurious homes.
Even if I could afford the bills, I didn't want to waste money paying interest. Instead, I wanted to put everything I was earning into generating more money. For me, that putting my income into my business.
I also paid cash for my homes, and I have never accumulated interest on a credit card.
In some cases, if you're trying to build a business, debt can help you earn money by giving you access to income-generating assets sooner rather than later.
3. Homeownership isn't always their first investment.
You might think that buying a primary residence is The American Dream, but it is rarely what you see the wealthy go for first.
In my opinion, homeownership doesn't always see the same return on investment as other places you can put your money. I own three homes, but I didn't purchase them until I was able to buy them in cash.
4. Instead, cash-flow real estate is the place to protect and grow money.
On the flip side, cash-flow real estate — commercial real estate where you are making a monthly profit off of rent after your mortgage payments, property taxes and maintenance — is a great way to grow your money.
You can make passive income off ownership of these properties, and it is often easier to sell them than a primary residence. When you sell a primary residence, you have to find a buyer who can envision themselves living there. When you sell a profitable rental property, you only have to find a buyer who wants to make a profit.
5. They always buy in bulk.
The wealthy are willing to spend more on each purchase in order to get a better price per unit and save time spent on repeating useless activities.
This can apply to a business — the rich may contract to buy bulk supplies or equipment — or to you personal life. When I can, I buy everything without an expiration date in bulk.
6. They invest in their network.
I have never had someone invest in me that didn't know me. And most of the real estate I own today was purchased from sellers who picked me over other qualified buyers because we had existing relationships, and they had confidence in my ability to close.
The more someone gets to know you, the more they will trust you and believe in your talents and skills. This leads to better opportunities, speedier decision-making and higher margins.
So invest time and resources into making and maintaining the right connections.
7. They are never content.
One of my friends, a serial CEO, has worked with some of the wealthiest people in the world.
I once asked him what they had in common, and he said: "None of them were ever satisfied with what they had already accomplished, but instead focused on the next thing that could be accomplished."
The wealthy are never satisfied with their previous achievements. They believe they can always achieve more. This helps them think big about future business ideas, inventions, investments and other wealth multipliers.
8. They don't waste time trying to do everything themselves.
The wealthy know that time is the only truly scarce resource. You can't buy more of it.
So they maximize their time by letting go of the need for control every small detail of their business or portfolio, and learn to effectively outsource and delegate to good, smart people who will trade their time for money.
Grant Cardone is the CEO of Cardone Capital, bestselling author of "The 10X Rule" and founder of The 10X Movement and The 10X Growth Conference. He owns and operates seven privately held companies and an over $4 billion portfolio of multifamily projects. Follow him on Twitter @GrantCardone.
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