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20 habits of millionaires.

Author: Kirsty O’Hara

Written: 06 10 2022

9 min read

With it being World Investor Week we’ve thought long and hard, about how we celebrate and stay on track with our long game investing strategies; which is the theme for 2022.

Aside from traditional long game investing dogma, we’ve pondered how some people work hard - yet don’t have as much to show for it as others. Which leads us to believe that effort, without equally awesome long-term habits, is a pitfall we all want to bypass.

If we think of the compounding effects of habits, in the same we think of the compounding effects of financial returns, it’s easy to see how micro-habits may slowly snowball to build wealth over time.

Rich Habits

Thomas Corley, a certified accountant and financial planner and the author of Rich Habits, would back us up here. Tom was kind enough to study 233 millionaires, over a 5 year time window, and sum up his findings for the world. He comments: "From my research, I discovered that daily habits dictate how successful or unsuccessful you will be in life,".

He promotes the thinking that "There is a cause and effect associated with habits. Habits are the cause of wealth, poverty, happiness, sadness, stress, good relationships, bad relationships, good health, or bad health."

And he’s not the first to make this correlation. Einstein is famous for stating: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit”.

Of all the habits Corley observed, being an investor-saver seemed to be the easiest starting point, so we’ve used that to kick start the habit list below. We then go on to share additional habits, commonly observed across the millionaire’s studied.

Corley comments that “88% of the millionaires I interviewed said that saving in particular was critical to their long-term financial success”.

These findings nod to the fact that getting rich quick, is often unlikely and based more on luck. In most instances daily habits, and investing for the long-term, is a more likely pathway towards generating wealth over time.

Key to note

Before we jump into it, and you enthusiastically decide to adopt all 20 habits this week, we do want to caution that introducing new habits takes (and sometimes drains) willpower. James Clear, of Atomic Habits, points out that it can take time to make a new habit stick. For best results when introducing a new habit, we suggest just introducing one or two at a time. In doing it this way, you can reduce the drain on your willpower and increase your chance of success. Making a habit stick will build confidence, and you can then move on to introducing the next new habit.

So, if you’re curious about some long-game improvements you can adopt, enjoy a browse of the following 20 habits:


Habit 1. Automate savings (save 20% of net pay)

Thomas Corley comments in his book: “Every Saver-Investor in my study consistently saved 20% or more of their net pay, each paycheck.” And went on to note that “Once a month, the Saver-Investors would then transfer their accumulated 10% monthly savings into an investment account”.

Please note: if saving 20% is not an option for you right now, don’t be deterred. Even saving as little as $5 a day can make a huge difference towards your long-term financial outcomes. Sean Potter, an economic blogger that goes by the pen name ‘The Money Wizard’ shares how he started by saving $5 a day, and built on this habit to create a nest egg over time.

Habit 2. Invest a portion of savings

Here’s where regular savings, regular investing, and time can create some staggering results.

Corley comments that “Because Saver-Investors consistently invested their savings, their money compounded over time. When they started, this compound interest was not very significant. But after 10 years, they began to accumulate significant wealth. Towards the final years of their working lives, the Saver-Investors’ [in Corley’s study] wealth grew to an average of $3.3 million.”

Habit 3. Be extremely frugal

One of the common denominators for all of the participants in Corley’s self-made millionaire cohort, was they were all really good at being frugal.

To become more frugal, he suggests you are aware of how you spend money, focus on quality products and services, and where possible shop around for the lowest price.

It goes without saying that frugality alone will not make you rich, It is just one habit in the matrix of wealth building. Frugal habits will however allow you to free up small amounts of money you can then save and invest. The more you save, the more money you can invest.


Habit 4. Aim for multiple sources of income

Thomas Corley noticed that of the self-made millionaires studied there was a tendency to develop multiple income streams, and not just rely on one single source of income.

Corley states "three seemed to be the magic number in my study," adding that 65% "had at least three streams of income that they created prior to making their first million dollars."

Examples of secondary income streams include but are not limited to: rental property income, investments, second part-time job, and part-ownership in a side business.

Habit 5. Have an emergency fund

When observing the habits of the rich, compared with those of the poor, Corley identified what he refers to as "the bucket system,". Self-made millionaire’s with rich habits allocated their savings into four general categories: retirement savings, specific expenses, unexpected expenses, and cyclical expenses.

While all four of these categories are part of long-game investing frameworks, the saving and budgeting for any unexpected expenses is a common reminder tip in the Investor Week literature.

When Corley talks about this “bucket system” he elaborates on the buckets as:

  • BUCKET 1 : RETIREMENT SAVINGS: to be invested in growth areas, to be spent later in life.
  • BUCKET 2: FUTURE EXPENSES: is the bucket for future ‘yet known’ things like weddings, home deposits etc.
  • BUCKET 3: EMERGENCY FUNDS: this is the bucket you never want to use, but want to have. It means there is cash tucked aside you can access for a medical emergency, unexpected car purchase, job loss, or other unforeseen circumstances. Without it, you have to look to debt to service situations that usually requie immediate cashflow.
  • BUCKET 4: CYCLICAL EXPENSES: this is the nice to have’s for regular predicted expenses like birthdays, vacations, gifts and celebrations.

While we realise that none of these habits lead directly to investment habits, they are all pillars of financial wellbeing that support investors to be able to invest for the long term without having to pull money out of investments earlier than originally intended. Getting in the habit of not touching your investments (for emergency’s) will be much easier with the above savings “buckets” in place.


Habit 6. Read daily

Corley observed that across those with rich habits, there was a preference to be educated rather than entertained; with 88% of the Corley’s participants devoting thirty minutes or more each day to self-education or self-improvement reading.

Three types of books proved most popular: biographies of successful people, personal development books, and history books.

Habit 7. Dedicate time to thinking

It might not seem like much, but Corley noticed that the rich give themselves at least 15 minutes a day to think. He comments that "Thinking is key to their success," and observed that the rich tend to think in isolation and in the mornings.

Thomas Corley also observed that "They spent time every day brainstorming with themselves about numerous things," he said, from careers and finances to health and charity.

Questions the rich mused included, but were not limited to:

  • What can I do to make more money?
  • Does my job make me happy?
  • Am I exercising enough?
  • What other charities can I get involved in?

Habit 8. Find good mentors

"Finding a mentor puts you on the fast track to wealth accumulation," Corley wrote. He acknowledges that mentors "regularly and actively participate in your success by teaching you what to do and what not to do. They share with you valuable life lessons they learned either from their own mentors or from the school of hard knocks."

If you’re a fan of learning from others, and avoiding un-necessary hard knocks, then have a think about who inspires you. Remember, mentors don’t always have to be people you meet with in person - sometimes mentors can also be people you follow online, or books you read.


Habit 9. Rise early

This one will make you smile, or frown, or maybe even groan at this screen.

According to Corley, close to 50% of the self-made millionaires in Corley's study confessed that they woke up at least three hours before their workday actually began.

While three hours might not seem like that much, it allows uninterrupted bandwidth to think - and more importantly provides time free from daily interruptions, unexpected traffic, or meetings that ran long.

Thomas Corley comments that "disruptions have a psychological effect on us. They can drip into our subconscious and eventually form the belief that we have no control over our life," Instead by "Getting up at five in the morning to tackle the top three things you want to accomplish in your day allows you to regain control of your life. It gives you a sense of confidence that you, indeed, direct your life."

So dust off the alarm clock … or if you are using a smart phone, consider including a simple action prompt in the alarm name - such as ‘put feet on floor’ – as this simple instruction can really help to get an early rising habit in motion.

Habit 10. Exercise

Up to 60 minutes of exercise in the morning, has been scientifically linked with increased brain performance and focus across the day.

In relation to this Corley comments that "Seventy-six percent of the rich aerobically exercise 30 minutes or more every day," This might include walking, jogging, biking, running – you name it. The most important way to select exercise, is to choose something you actually kind of enjoy, because that way you will be more likely to stick with it.

If you’re still not yet convinced, Corley highlights that "Cardio is not only good for the body, but it's good for the brain," also writing "It grows the neurons (brain cells) in the brain."

So if exercise has fallen on the backburner, we suggest you look for 10-20 minute windows to reintroduce it, and build from there.

Habit 11. Sleep 7+ hours a night

If you read habit four, about multiple income streams, and thought moonlighting was the answer - we caution against burning too much midnight oil. Corley suggests we keep sleep as a priority.

He points out that in his study, 89% of the self-made millionaires reported sleeping seven or more hours every night. He adds that: "Sleep accomplishes so many things behind the scenes," and it’s helpful for memory formation. "Sleep is critical to success," writes Corley.

Ariana Huffington would support this motion, as she learnt this the hard way with a bad accident linked to sleep deprivation. Huffington is now is a key thought leader on the importance of sleep for all people, not just the wealthy.


Habit 12. Hang out with other successful people

You may have heard the saying, “you are the company you keep”.

Meanwhile Thomas Corley states: “Relationships are the currency of the wealthy.”

His study validated the observation that "The rich are always on the lookout for individuals who are goal-oriented, optimistic, enthusiastic, and who have an overall positive mental outlook."

He comments that “When they [the rich] stumble onto someone who fits the bill, they then devote an enormous amount of their time and energy into building a strong relationship. They grow the relationship from a sapling into a redwood.”

Corley promotes that "You are only as successful as those you frequently associate with," and avoiding negative derailing influences can be just as important as spending time with positive, motivated people. Take some time to think about the company you keep, and how that fuels your zest and motivation towards life.

Habit 13. Help others succeed

We loved to see that a key habit of the rich is to help other succeed. At Flint we are big fans of a ‘rising tide floats all boats’ ethos.

Corley points out that "No one realizes success without a team of other success-minded people. The best way to create your team is to offer help to other success-minded people first."

That said, Corley cautions that you won’t be able to help everyone – so instead "focus on helping only those who are pursuing success, are optimistic, goal-oriented, positive, and uplifting."

Habit 14. Volunteer

This one might seem counter intuitive, however it makes sense when you think about it. Corley found that 72% of participants studied volunteered five hours a week or more every month, and in doing so connected with other motivated people via charitable initiatives. Through volunteering their time and skills they surround themselves with other good people, with a like minded pursuit toward achieving a common community-oriented goal.

According to Thomas Corley "wealthy people volunteer for charitable organizations, civic groups, or trade groups. It helps them expand their network of other success-minded people,".

The other great thing about volunteering, is it can provide cost-effective activities for those with big hearts but frugal wallets. It can also create opportunities to connect with goals outside of career and wealth. A very simple example of this would be connecting with others to organise a beach clean-up; or plan a planting initiative.


Habit 15. Practice "dream-setting"

For those who love vision boards, journaling, or just plain day-dreaming this one is for you.

Corley reminds us that it’s never too late to dream.

He explains that "Dream-setting involves scripting your ideal future life," with the goal to define and give direction to your future life "by imagining all your dreams coming true; then you put it to paper in five hundred to a thousand words." He suggests we all “Take 30 minutes out of your life today and script out your ideal life” with the intention to paint a picture, with words, of the ideal, perfect life you desire ten years from now.

In his study, 61% of the self-made millionaires reported practicing this planning strategy.

Habit 16. Pursue goals with Passion

If you read our Grit article last week, you’re going to like this habit. Corley encourages people to know their passion, set their own goals, and make sure you’re chasing your own dreams (and not those set for you by others – aka parents).

His Rich Habits study observed that rich people define their own goals and pursue them relentlessly and passionately. Corley believes that "Passion gives you the energy, persistence, and focus needed to overcome failures, mistakes, and rejection."

According to Corley’s results "Pursuing your own dreams and goals creates the greatest long-term happiness and results in the greatest accumulation of wealth,".

Habit 17. Stay positive

Corley found “positivity was a hallmark of all the self-made millionaires." And elaborates that "Long-term success is only possible when you have a positive mental outlook,"

"If you stop to listen to your thoughts, to be aware of them, you'd find most of them are negative," he wrote. "But you only realize you are having these negative thoughts when you force yourself to be aware of them. Awareness is the key."


Habit 18. Create a herd

Not blindly following the herd is essential when it comes to investing. We’ve written about it recently, when cautioning against hype. On the flipside of not following a herd, is the thinking you could create your own herd (which may seem a bit hypocritical).

Thomas Corley states "You want to separate yourself from the herd, create your own herd, and then get others to join it," he suggests that "failure to separate yourself from the herd is why most people never achieve success." He instead champions the idea that successful people create their own forward thinking herd and pull others into it.

Habit 19. Find feedback.

Of the millionaires studied, an appreciation of feedback was consistent. Many would agree that well delivered constructive criticism, whether it’s good or bad, is a crucial element for learning and growth.

"Feedback provides you with the information you will need in order to succeed in any venture." Yet a fear of criticism often stops the average person from seeking feedback. Corley writes that " feedback is essential to learning what is working and what isn't working. Feedback helps you understand if you are on the right track."

Feedback can also give you permission to change course, or even industries, as and when required.

The catch with feedback, is always be selective as to which feedback you value and take to heart.

Habit 20. Never just give up.

In the Rich Habits study, more than 25% of participants admitted to failing at least once in their business, to then pick themselves back up again. Corley identified that "Self-made millionaires are persistent. They never quit on their dream. They would rather go down with the ship than quit,"

Leading Corley to believe that "If you want to be successful in life, you have to persist in the face of seemingly unending adversity".

In Conclusion

Hopefully when reading the above there was a lot of head nodding, and ideally some moments of thinking ‘I already do that’. Habit, tick. Next … ?

If you’re looking for more than just habits to form your long game strategy, we’ve summarised lots of the Financial Market Authority’s key tips in a “Long game investing D.O.G.M.A” article (watch this space, it will be live here on the blog soon).

As the Investor Week resources likes to point out – aside from good habits, it is common for resilient long-game investors to prioritise the following:

  • Understand that risk exists when investing.
  • Recognise the importance of holding a diversified mix of investments.
  • Budget to manage risk, buffer against inflation, and avoid high interest debts.
  • Understand the impact of inflation relating to purchasing power; and use the real rate of return to assess asset performance.
  • Conduct research to protect against financial scams.
  • Save emergency funds, to help weather any unforeseen financial shocks.

Which leads us on to one final bonus habit – compliments of Flint:

Bonus: Annually review your financial situation.

You would have likely heard us say this before, however it remains more important than ever. As we move through the various ages and stages of life, and the economy shifts around us, it’s always a good idea to set up an annual habit to review your financial trajectory. If you’re a DIY investor, please be sure to diarise this annually.

Whether you are 25 or 55 it’s worth reviewing your investor profile (tools here), and double checking that plans you put in place are still servicing your long-term financial goals.

If you’re yet to give Sorted’s retirement planner a go, that in itself can be a valuable tool to plan for the long-term. We’ve shared our thoughts on it before here.

With willpower, good habits and a bit of investment intel we hope to support you all towards a great investing experience across the decades to come.

Happy long-game investing!



All content shared is of a general nature, current to the time it was penned, and is not financial advice. Before making any investment decisions, please be sure you have completed full due diligence. This should include reading the product disclosure statement (PDS), considering fees and taxation, identifying your time horizons, and understanding the performance history and reputation of the investments you are considering.

Please note: When investing you are not guaranteed to make money (and on occasion you may lose some or all of the money you began with). Seek independent advice to establish if an investment is suitable for your financial situation and long-term wealth generation goals.

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