When I travel the country speaking to high school and college students about exactly what they need to do to become financially successful in life, I like to begin my presentation by asking the same three questions:
“How many want to be financially successful in life?”
“How many think they will be financially successful in life?”
Almost every time I ask the first two questions, every hand rises in the air. Then I ask the magic third question:
“How many have taken a course in school on how to be financially successful in life?”
Not one hand rises in the air, ever.
Clearly, every student wants to be successful and thinks they will be successful, but none have been taught how.
Not by their parents and not by their teachers.
Not only are there no courses on basic financial success principles, but there are no structured courses teaching basic financial literacy.
Is it any wonder that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck?
That most Americans accumulate more debt than assets?
That many Americans lose their homes when they lose their job?
Is it any wonder that most Americans cannot afford college for their children and that student loan debt is now the largest type of consumer debt?
We are raising our children to be financially illiterate and that leads to financial struggles later in life.
Parents who are successful mentors to their children, teach them specific good daily habits.
And these habits put them on autopilot for financial success as adults.
In my five-year study of the daily habits of the rich and the poor, I uncovered specific habits that were common among the poor:
- Not Reading to Learn – 63% of self-made millionaires in my study were required by their parents to read to learn.
Their parents made them read two or more books every month on topics such as history, biographies of successful people, science, self-improvement, etc.
97% of the poor in my study were not required by their parents to read to learn and thus never forged this habit.
- Gambling – 6% of the wealthy in my study played the lottery vs 77% of the poor.
Worse, the poor admitted to playing the lottery every week.
According to Nicolas Christakas Habits (Yale University researcher), habits spread like a virus within your social network.
Children are constantly observing what their parents do.
If parents gamble, their children will very likely gamble as adults.
- Failure to Experiment – 82% of the self-made millionaires in my study pursued a dream or something they loved vs. 3% of the poor.
By far, the wealthiest in my study were individuals who pursued a dream or something they were good at and enjoyed doing.
On average, these millionaires accumulated $7.4 million in net assets in an average of 12 years.
Parents who push their children to experiment with different activities during childhood, increase the likelihood that their children will discover an innate talent or something they enjoy doing, which could lead to a lifelong vocation.
The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts institutionalize experimentation through their badge system.
This enables scouts to explore things that interest them so that they can learn valuable marketable skills.
- Eating Unhealthy Food – 21% of the wealthy in my study were overweight by 30 pounds or more vs. 66% of the poor.
78% of self-made millionaires ate less than 300 junk food calories a day.
97% of the poor ate more than 300 junk food calories a day.
Children eat what their parents eat.
Parents can set the table for a healthy lifestyle, so to speak, by feeding their family nutritious, healthy food and eschewing junk food.
- Too Many Time Wasters – 63% of the wealthy in my study spent less than 1 hour per day on recreational Internet use.
74% of the poor spent more than an hour a day on the Internet.
67% of the wealthy watched less than 1 hour of TV per day vs 23% of the poor.
9% of the wealthy watched reality TV shows vs. 78% of the poor.
Besides, TV and the Internet, time-wasting habits also include Snapchat, Instagram, video games, etc.
Parents need to proactively monitor what their children are doing and become a bulwark against time-wasting activities.
- Absentee School Parents – 83% of the wealthy in my study attended back-to-school nights for their kids vs. 13% of the poor.
29% of the wealthy had one or more children who made the honor roll vs. 4% of the poor.
When parents are engaged with teachers and the school and when they act as accountability partners with respect to school work, their children take notice of that time investment.
- Lack of Growth – 63% of the wealthy in my study listened to audiobooks during their commute vs. 5% of the poor.
Kids have smartphones and this makes it easy for them to download audiobooks to listen to and learn from.
Is daily self-improvement a growth habit you are instilling in your children?
- Spending 100% of Your Money – 73% of the wealthy in my study forged the habit of spending less than they earned, long before they became wealthy.
95% of the poor were never taught this habit by their parents, by their teachers, or by any other mentor in life.
Not understanding this critical smart money habit at an early age is why so many fall into the credit debt trap as young adults.
- Toxic Friends – 79% of the wealthy in my study devoted time to building relationships with other like-minded, upbeat, optimistic, people.
Only 16% of the poor said they did this.
How well do you know the friends of your children? Do they possess the positive success traits you are trying to instill in your children? Are they like-minded in the habits you want to instill in your children?
- Poor Work Ethic – 92% of the wealthy in my study said they created their own good luck through hard work, persistence, daily practice, determination, and goal achievement.
79% of the poor believed the rich were rich due to random luck.
Do your children have a hard work ethic? Are they required to have part-time jobs? Part-time work helps kids develop a good work ethic.
- Victim Mindset – 79% of the wealthy in my study indicated that they believed they were individually responsible for their financial circumstances.
82% of the poor believed they were poor because of factors outside their control.
FYI, 41% of the self-made millionaires in my study came from poor households.
Are you indoctrinating your children with a victim mindset?
Do you, as a parent, constantly blame rich people, employers, the government, Wall Street or society for your poverty?
Do your children see poverty as determined by fate, which leads to a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness?
- Lack of Consistent Exercise – 95% of self-made millionaires in my study exercised aerobically 30 minutes or more per day, four days a week.
Only 23% of the poor did the same.
Studies have shown that daily aerobic exercise improves brain health, brain efficiency and IQ.
Children mimic the habits of their parents.
Do you, as a parent, exercise daily? Do you make your children exercise daily?
- No Success Mentors – Many of the self-made millionaires in my study had some success-mentors in life.
Success mentors put you on the fast track for success.
They teach you what to do and what not to do.
They also teach you the habits you’ll need in order to succeed in life.
Typically, these mentors of my millionaires were one of their parents or a mentor who took an interest in them at work.
None of the poor in my study said they had any successful mentors in their lives, which is one of the reasons they remained in poverty as adults.
You can find successful mentors in the Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, Big Brothers, and other similar organizations.
Are your children part of any mentoring organizations within your community?
- Negative Mindset – 63% of the wealthy in my study had a positive, optimistic mindset.
94% of the poor had a negative, pessimistic mindset.
Studies, such as the Broaden and Build Study, have shown that a negative mental outlook inhibits and depresses certain brain functions.
The expression of emotions and your positive or negative outlook on life are habits.
Children pick up the habits of their parents.
Are your Parent’s emotions and mindset negative or positive?
Your habits dictate your life circumstances.
Many of the poor are poor because they have far too many bad habits and not enough good habits.
Parents are to blame because children mimic the habits of their parents.
We don’t have a wealth gap in this country, we have a parent gap.
We don’t have income inequality, we have parent inequality.
According to a Brown University Study, in which the habits of 50,000 families were analyzed, the author of the study, Dr. Pressman, found that most of our adult habits were forged by the age of nine.
In another study by Nicholas Christakis, he found that habits spread throughout our social network.
Parents are a big part of that social network.
Since children spend most of their early lives with their parents, these two studies show the critical role parents play in the habits all of us forge in life.
These, and many other studies, corroborate the findings in my Rich Habits Study.
Sixty-eight percent of the self-made millionaires in my study said that they picked up most of their good habits from their parents.
Ninety-four percent of the poor in my study said they picked up most of their bad habits from their parents.
If parents fail in their duty to teach their children good daily success habits, what are we to do as a society?
When parents fail, the white night is often a teacher.
Teachers need to step in and teach children Rich Habits. Habit education must become a structured part of our education system.
From my research, I learned that all it takes is one or two Rich Habits to completely transform a life.
- The reading habit, on its own, can set your children up for career success.
- The savings habit, on its own, can set your children up to be financially independent.
- The exercise habit, on its own, can set your children up for a long and healthy life.
- The happy birthday or life event calls, on their own, can set your children up to forge strong relationships.
Lastly, high schools should be teaching specific financial education courses to their students beginning in freshman year.
It needs to be a multi-prong curriculum that includes the following courses:
- How to Pay Bills and Balance a Checkbook (freshman year)
- How to Save and Invest Your Savings (sophomore year)
- How Insurance Works – Auto Insurance, Home Owners Insurance, Health Insurance (junior year)
- Understanding Student Loans (junior year)
- Personal Income Tax Fundamentals (senior year)
Schools teach what they are required to teach and nothing more.
It’s unfortunate, but few financial education courses are a requirement in most schools.
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