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By Tom Corley

15 habits that transformed 177 average people into self-made millionaires in just 12 years

Your daily habits are the reason you are rich, poor or stuck in the middle class.

They are the reason you live in the house of your dreams or a shack.

40% of all of your daily activities are habits

This means that 40% of the time you’re on auto pilot, every day.

habit routine success business

Habits save brain work and conserve brain fuel.

There is very little processing power involved with respect to habits.

When a habit is formed, you unconsciously engage in a specific behaviour.

This is intended to be a good thing, however, if you have more bad habits than good habits you are unconsciously on a path toward failure and poverty.

I studied 177 self-made millionaires and uncovered certain unique good habits that made it possible for them to automatically process success on a daily basis.

Let me share fifteen of the top habits of self-made millionaires that helped them accumulate an average of $7.4 million in twelve years:

#1 - They do work that they love

Just how important is it to love what you do for a living?

Answer: Very important when it comes to happiness and wealth.

Those who love their jobs make more money, accumulate more wealth and are happier than those who don’t love what they do for a living.

When I analyzed the data I gathered in my study on the habits of the rich and poor, there was a direct correlation between job satisfaction and wealth accumulation.

Here’s some of that data:

  • 96% of the poor did not like what they did for a living.
  • 86% of the rich liked what they did for a living.
  • 7% of the rich loved what they did for a living.

What interested me more about the data I gathered on the rich was how much wealth they were able to accumulate and how long it took them to accumulate that wealth:

Rich People Who Liked Their Job

Eighty-Six per cent of the rich people in my Rich Habits study liked what they did for a living.

It’s clear, from my data, that in order to become wealthy you must at least like what you do for a living.


Those rich people who at least liked what they did for a living accumulated an average of $3.4 million.

It took them thirty-two years to accumulate their wealth.

Rich People Who Loved Their Job

Only 7% of the rich people in my study loved what they did for a living.

But what shocked me was how important loving what you do for a living is to wealth accumulation.

Those rich people who loved what they did for a living accumulated an average of $7.4 million or $4 million more than the wealthy who liked their jobs.

It took this group of rich people twelve years to accumulate their wealth or twenty fewer years than the first group.

#2 - They set good goals vs. bad goals

You hardly ever hear anyone talk about goals in a negative context.

Goals are almost always perceived to be good.


But there are goals that add no real value to your life when achieved yet consume valuable resources.

So, how do you know when a goal is good or bad?

Good goals create long-term benefits and long-term happiness when achieved.

They allow you to grow as an individual and alter your behaviour in a positive way.

Good goals get you from point A to point B.

Point B is a better place, such as more wealth, a better job, higher income, a better school system for your kids, etc.

An example of a good goal would be to lose 20 pounds.

Setting a weight loss goal often involves a daily regimen of exercise, and healthy eating and encourages a healthy lifestyle.

Good health results from exercising and eating right.

It may also motivate you to moderate your consumption of alcohol or to quit smoking.

When the weight eventually comes off you enjoy the compliments, and feel healthier and all of this creates lasting happiness.

Bad goals create short-term happiness and no long-term benefits when achieved.

An example of a bad goal would be to own a Ferrari.

In order to own a Ferrari, you must make more money.

Making more money will likely involve either more work or taking excessive financial risks (i.e. gambling).

There’s a cost-benefit to working more – you invest time that you will never recoup.

Don’t misunderstand me here.

Working more to make more money can be a good thing.

But where the goal goes south is when you then use that money to buy stuff, like a Ferrari.

The happiness you derive from owning more or better stuff will fade over time since happiness derived from buying stuff is always short-term.

You will eventually revert back to your genetic happiness baseline and, after a few weeks, the Ferrari will no longer create lasting happiness.

The lost time with the family, however, can never be recouped.

The benefits of achieving a goal should create long-term benefits: a stronger business, more time with the family, more personal growth, financial independence, improved health, etc.

money coin

If the goal, instead, was to judiciously invest that extra money you earned into a calculated risk, such as a side business, an investment or a vacation home that would enable you to spend more time with your family, then it transforms the “work more/earn more” goal into a good goal.

When the achievement of a goal does not improve your life in the long term, it’s a bad goal.

Goals pursued to own more stuff or to create some momentary pleasure are a wasted investment.

Be careful of the goals you pursue. Not all goals are created equal.

#3 They make living below their means a daily process

The following money habits were instrumental in helping transform 177 ordinary individuals into self-made millionaires.

The Bucket System Savings Strategy

There are three steps to the Bucket System:

Step #1 – Allocating Savings by Category

  • Bucket #1 = Retirement Savings Bucket – This includes 401(k) plans, IRAs and other retirement plans or retirement-specific products (i.e. annuities).
  • Bucket #2 = Specific Expense Bucket – This includes a separate checking account, savings account, money market account or education savings account (i.e. 529 Plan) for major future expenses such as education costs for you or a child, wedding costs, costs associated with the birth of a child, home down payment, etc.


  • Bucket #3 = Unexpected Expense Bucket – This includes a separate checking account, savings account or money market account for expenses such as wedding gifts, medical costs, sudden loss of income (unemployment, medical issues or birth of a child), etc.
  • Bucket #4 = Cyclical Expense Bucket – This includes a separate checking account, savings account or money market account for birthday gifts, holiday expenses (Christmas, New Year’s), vacation costs, back-to-school costs, etc.

This Bucket System Savings Strategy will require that you set up at least one retirement account and three different bank accounts (one for each bucket).

If you’re saving for education costs for yourself or your child, you will need to set up one 529 plan for you or your child.

Step #2 – Establishing Savings Goals

In order to make the Bucket System work, you need to establish the overall amount of savings you are able to set aside for each pay period.

For example, 10% of your net paycheck.

Then you need to allocate this 10% into each bucket as follows:

• 5% (50% of overall savings) into Bucket #1
• 2% (20% of overall savings) into Bucket #2
• 1.5% (15% of overall savings ) into Bucket #3 and
• 1.5% (15% of overall savings) into Bucket #4

Step #3 – Automating the Savings Process

This is where the rubber meets the road – implementation.

Automatically direct each of the above savings amounts into each bucket’s separate account via automatic withdrawal from your net pay.


You will need to instruct your payroll company to set up automatic funding for each of the four bucket accounts.

The payroll company will then automatically send each specific savings bucket amount to the custodial account or bank account that will be accumulating these amounts for you.

The Expense Minimization Strategy

You may be wondering how on earth you’ll be able to set aside money to implement the Bucket System when you are struggling to simply pay your bills every month.

Not to worry, I uncovered some unique strategies in my research that will help you reduce your spending:

  1. Track Your Spending – Knowing where your money is going gives you control over your finances.
    You may find you are paying for things you are not using, such as club memberships or subscriptions.
  2. Periodically Audit Expenses – Many expenses can change over time. Insurance costs often change. They can go up or down over time.
    Make sure you are paying the lowest insurance rates for homeowners, auto and life insurance.

    Cable and Internet costs can increase without you being aware of them. Calling your cable or Internet provider to secure the lowest fees available should be an annual process.
    Periodically shop cell phone plans. Increased competition in the cell phone industry is driving down monthly rates. Make sure you are not paying more than you have to.

  3. Purchase Good Quality Used Cars – New cars lose value as soon as they come off the lot.
    Buying good quality used cars allows you to take advantage of this loss in value anomaly prevalent in the auto industry. 44% of the rich in my study purchased good quality used cars.
    Typically these are cars coming off a lease. They may be two or three years old. At 125,000 miles most cars will require some annual repairs.
    Expect to incur about $1,500 a year in repair costs when you hold on to cars beyond this 125,000-mileage mark.
    That is still significantly less than you would spend on a loan or lease for a new car.
  4. Use Coupons – Even the wealthy in my study engaged in this money savings habit. 30% of the rich used coupons to buy food.
    Why pay more than you have to on groceries or other expenses?
  5. Shop at Goodwill Stores – Many goodwill stores carry high-quality clothing. You may have to spend a few extra bucks on tailoring, but it is well worth the additional cost.
    Don’t let your ego get in the way. 30% of the rich people in my study didn’t.
  6. Bargain Shop – Far too many make spontaneous purchases, paying much more than they otherwise would.
    That’s a Poverty Habit. Shopping for bargains and taking advantage of sales events is a smart money habit.
  7. Stick to BYOBs – There are many restaurants that do not sell alcohol, beer or wine and allow you to bring your own spirit of choice into their restaurant. Restaurants mark up liquor sales by as much as 100%.

Saving money is a process.

Accumulating wealth is a process.

It’s all one big process, this thing we call financial success.

But if you don’t have a process or adopt good money habits you will never be able to save. It just won’t happen.

When you develop good money habits you feel like you are finally in control of your life. It’s empowering.

#4 - They don’t gamble

Seventy-seven per cent of those who struggle financially play the lottery weekly. ninety-four per cent of the wealthy do not.

Wealthy people do not rely on random good luck for their wealth.

golden dice

They create their own good luck.

They are not risk-averse by any means.

Instead, they take calculated risks that require focus, persistence and patience in order to make their risks pay off.

#5 - They read to learn every day

Reading information that will increase your knowledge for your job or career will make you more valuable to your employer, colleagues, customers or clients.


Wealthy people have good reading habits:

  • 88% of wealthy individuals read thirty minutes or more every day.
  • 63% listen to audiobooks during their commute.
  • 79% read educational, career-related material.
  • 55% read self-help books, articles etc.
  • 58% read biographies of successful people.
  • 94% read current events.
  • 51% read history.
  • Only 11% read for purely entertainment purposes.

The reason wealthy, successful people read is that they understand that knowledge increases their value to those they serve.

By increasing your knowledge, you’ll be able to see more opportunities, which translates into more money.

Wealthy, successful people understand that self-improvement reading separates them from their competition.

Only 2% of those struggling financially in life, engage in daily self-improvement reading and, as a result, they are among the first to get fired or downsized.

# 6 - They avoid time wasters

Sixty-seven per cent of wealthy people watch less than an hour of T.V. a day and 63% spend less than an hour a day on the Internet unless it is job-related.

They utilize their free time, instead, engaged in self-improvement, networking, volunteering, working side jobs or side businesses, or pursuing some goal or dream that will lead to financial rewards down the road.

Seventy-seven per cent of those struggling financially spend an hour or more a day watching T.V. and 74% spend an hour or more a day using the Internet recreationally.

#7 - They control their words and emotions

Not every thought needs to come out of your mouth.

Not every emotion needs to be expressed.


When you say what’s on your mind or express every emotion you have, you risk hurting others and damaging relationships.

Sixty-nine per cent of those who struggle financially have the Poverty Habit of saying what’s on their mind and expressing their emotions.

Conversely, 94% of wealthy people filter the words that come out of their mouths and reign in their emotions.

They understand that saying what’s on your mind or letting emotions control you can destroy relationships, negatively affect business and cost money.

#8 - They dream-set before they goal-set

You must Dream-Set before you Goal-Set.

Dream-Setting provides you with the destination; Goal-Setting is the transportation to get you to your destination.

Dreams represent a vision of some future, ideal state or reality.27497990_l

Dreams are the springboard for goals.

You can’t achieve goals that actually dream in disguise.

Most who set goals, mistake a dream for a goal, and that is why most fail to achieve their goals.

For example, making an additional $100,000 a year is a dream, not a goal.

Becoming an Olympic athlete is a dream, not a goal.

Owning a house on the beach is a dream, not a goal (unless you have the money already).

Dream-Setting is the act of clearly defining a dream.

It’s a two-step process:

  1. Ask yourself what you want your ideal life to be ten, fifteen or twenty years out.
    Then write down every detail of your ideal future life.
    Be very specific in the details: the income you earn, the house you live in, the boat you own, the car you drive, the money you’ve accumulated etc.
  2. Using this detailed description of your ideal future life, make a bullet point list of each one of the details that represent your ideal life.
    These would be the income you earn, the house you live in, the boat your own, etc.
    These details represent your wishes or dreams.

Goal-Setting requires you to build goals around each one of your wishes or dreams.

In order to build goals around each wish or dream you need to ask yourself two questions:

  1. What would I need to do, and what activities would I need to engage in, in order for each wish or dream to come true?
  2. Can I perform those activities?

If the answer to Question #2 is yes, then those activities represent your goals.

Goals are only goals when they involve physical action and you have the capability to successfully take action.

Let’s summarize this Dream-Setting / Goal-Setting process:

  1. Paint a picture with words of your ideal life.
  2. Define each wish or dream that must be realized in order to have your ideal future life.
  3. Establish specific goals around each one of your wishes or dreams.
  4. Take action. Pursue and achieve each of the specific goals that will make each wish or dream come true.

You then repeat this process for every other wish or dream.

When you realize each one of your wishes or dreams, your ideal future life will then become your actual real life.

#9 - They develop relationships with other success-minded individuals

We are only as successful as the people we spend the most time with.

86% of wealthy, successful people associate with other success-minded people.

Ninety-six per cent of those struggling financially associate with others struggling financially.

If you want to end your financial struggles you need to change who you associate with.

You need to evaluate each one of your relationships and determine if they are a Rich Relationship (positive and success-minded types) or a Toxic Relationship (negative types who see themselves as victims).


You should spend less than an hour a week with your Toxic Relationships and more than an hour a week with your Rich Relationships.

Rich Relationships can help improve your financial life.

They can help you find a new job, find a higher paying job, loan you money, refer business to you and they can help open doors of opportunity for you, your family, your friends and your business relationships.

#10 - They never quit on a dream

Self-made millionaires are persistent. They never quit on their dream.

They would rather go down with the ship than quit.

Twenty-seven per cent of the self-made millionaires in my study failed at least once in business.

And then they picked themselves up and went on to try again.

They persisted.

Persistence requires doing certain things every day that move you forward in achieving your goals or life dream.

Persistence makes you unstoppable.

No obstacle, mistake or momentary failure can stop you from moving forward if you keep at it.

These millionaires learned to pivot and change course, growing in the process.

Persistence allowed them to learn what didn’t work and continuously experiment until they found what did work.

Persistence is the single greatest contributor to manifesting good luck.

Those who persist, eventually get lucky.


Some unintended consequence emerges, something unexpected and unanticipated happens to those who persist.

Sometimes, those closest to you will urge you on and encourage you.

But more often, those closest to you, those directly impacted by the obstacles, mistakes and failures that are part of the success journey, will try to stop you from persisting.

It takes superhuman effort to continue to pursue success when there are so many forces fighting you.

That’s what makes successful people so special and also, so rare.

If you want to be successful in life, you must persist in the face of unrelenting adversity.

Successful people are successful because they never quit on their dream!

#11 - They seek out and find a success mentor

The average net liquid wealth of the 233 rich people in my research was $4.3 million.

If you do the math, finding a mentor in life is like someone depositing $4.3 million into your bank account.

So, finding a mentor in life is like having someone deposit $4 million into your bank account.


Ninety-three per cent of the self-made millionaires in my study, who had a mentor in life, attributed their wealth to their mentors.

68% said that the mentoring they received from others was the critical factor in achieving success.

Success Mentors do more than simply influence your life in some positive way.

They regularly and actively contribute to your success by teaching you what to do and what not to do.

They share with you their mistakes and valuable life lessons that they learned either from their own mentors or from the school of hard knocks.

Finding a successful mentor in life is one of the least painful ways to become rich. It puts you on the fast track to success.

In my research I discovered five types of success mentors:

  1. Parents – Parents are often the only shot any of us have at having a mentor in life. This is why parenting is so important. Parents need to be successful mentors to their children. They need to teach their children good daily success habits. If they don’t, it is likely their children will struggle in life.
  2. Teachers – Good teachers = good mentors. Teachers can reinforce the mentoring children receive at home from their parents or step in to provide the success mentoring absent at home.
  3. Career Mentors – For those not fortunate enough to have had parents or teachers who provided successful mentoring, finding a mentor at work will virtually guarantee success in life. Find someone at work who you admire, trust and respect and ask them to be your mentor. This person will be at least two or three levels above you, in the pecking order at work.
  4. Book Mentors – Books can take the place of actual mentors. Sometimes the best source for mentors is found in books, particularly books about successful people.
    58% of the self-made millionaires in my study read biographies of other successful people.
  5. Mentored by the School of Hard Knocks – When you learn success habits through the school of hard knocks, you essentially become your own mentor.
    You teach yourself what works and what doesn’t work. You learn from your mistakes and failures.
    This is the hard path to success because those mistakes and failures carry significant costs in both time and money.
    But this is also the most powerful type of mentoring you can get because the lessons you learn are infused with intense emotion and, thus, never forgotten.

#12 - They create multiple streams of income

Self-made millionaires do not rely on one singular source of income. They develop multiple streams.

Three seemed to be the magic number in my study.

Sixty-five per cent had three or more streams of income that they created over time.

Diversifying your sources of income allows you to weather the economic downturns that always occur in life.

These downturns are not as severe to the rich as they are to the poor.

pay salary

The poor put “one pole in one pond” and when that single income stream is negatively impacted in some way, the poor suffer financially.

Conversely, the rich have “several poles in several ponds” and are able to draw income from other sources when one source is temporarily impaired.

Some of the additional streams might include real estate rentals (each rental unit = a stream of income), REITs (each one = a stream of income), Tenants-in-common real estate investments (each one = a stream of income), triple net leases, stock market investments, annuities (each one = a stream of income), seasonal real estate rentals (beach rentals, ski rentals, lakefront rentals), private equity investments, part ownership in side businesses (each one = a stream of income), financing investments, ancillary products or services and royalties (patents, books, oil, timber, etc.).

#13 - They are open-minded and positive

Everyone inherits from their parents, environment and upbringing certain beliefs that direct your behaviour, thinking and the choices you make in life.

Our daily habits are directly associated with our beliefs. If we have bad daily habits, it is because we have limiting beliefs driving those bad habits.

If we have good daily habits it is because we have strong positive beliefs driving those good habits.

When beliefs close your mind to new ideas, new knowledge and new ways of thinking, they inhibit your ability to grow as an individual.

Keeping an open mind and having a positive optimistic outlook fosters the creation of good growth habits that are a prerequisite for success.

#14 - They don’t give in to their fears and doubts

Fear and doubt sabotage your life.

Everyone experiences fear and doubt, but those who give in to their fears and doubts allow negative emotions to control their behaviour.

Any change, even positive changes like marriage or a promotion, can prompt feelings of fear and allow doubt to take root.

Wealthy people have conditioned their minds to overcome their fears and doubts, while those who struggle financially give in to their fears and doubts.

Some of the fears that will hold you back in life are:

  • Fear of change.
  • Fear of making mistakes.
  • Fear of taking risks.

Those rich, successful individuals in my study played something I call The What If Game.

The What If Game silences the voice of fear and doubt inside your head.

It is like battery acid, melting away doubt, fear, anxiety and worry.

In his book Think Like a Champion, Donald Trump explains how he shuts down his demon voices by playing The What If Game.

money income

When Trump is considering a new project, he confesses in his book that those demon voices come charging in like an army.

Many of the demon voices come from inside his head, but many of them also come from individuals who work with Trump.

In the early phases of pursuing a new project, these voices warn him of all sorts of potential dangers.

When he was in the evaluation phase of what became his award-winning T.V. show, The Apprentice, Trump was confronted with an overwhelming number of demon voices advising him to stop:

  • The show might fail. If the show is a flop, it will damage the Trump brand.
  • It will distract me from my current business. My core businesses would suffer financially.
  • What if the show turns people against me?
  • What if I hate doing the show?

But Trump played The What If Game:

  • What if the show is a success?
  • What if the show helps improve my brand?
  • What if I love doing the show?
  • What if it helps me make more money?
  • What if it helps me find apprentices who are outstanding and can add value to my business?
  • What if millions of people around the world fall in love with me and my Trump organization?

The What If Game stops fear and doubt in its tracks and replaces it with optimism.

It reprograms your thinking, allowing you to keep moving forward.

#15 They create their own good luck

Only 8% of the self-made millionaires in my study said they accumulated their wealth because of random good luck.

Ninety-two per cent said random good luck had nothing at all to do with their wealth.


While this 92% acknowledged that luck was a factor in the accumulation of their wealth it was a different type of luck that they called “Opportunity Good Luck”.

This is a unique type of luck that is the byproduct of their hard work, persistence and habits.

This 92% never quit.

They never gave up.

We Did It!

Even when they failed, and 27% failed at least once in business, they picked themselves up, figured out what went wrong and tried again.

Good habits and persistence create good luck.

I discovered many more habits that transformed ordinary individuals into self-made millionaires.

To date, I have tracked over 300 such habits.

These fifteen are among the most powerful and will give you a solid foundation for transforming your life from ordinary to extraordinary.

ALSO READ: Temporary Wealth – 6 Common Blunders of the Rich That Vaporize Their Wealth

About Tom Corley Tom is a CPA, CFP and heads one of the top financial firms in New Jersey. For 5 years, Tom observed and documented the daily activities of wealthy people and people living in poverty and his research he identified over 200 daily activities that separated the “haves” from the “have nots” which culminated in his #1 bestselling book, Rich Habits – The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals. Visit the website:
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