Self-made millionaires are a rare & special breed!
The best way to become a millionaire is to adopt their habits. In this epic guide, I’m going to introduce you to 46 habits of self-made millionaires.
Consider this your personal checklist of the best behaviors to become a millionaire.
And I’m going to tell you right now that there are no secrets to becoming a millionaire. There are just well known good habits. And here they all are put together just for you.
But let’s set our foundation first and answer a couple of basic questions. First, what is a self-made millionaire? And second, how old are self-made millionaires?
What Is A Self-Made Millionaire?
To better understand, let’s unpack our definition into 2 parts: self-made, and millionaire.
What Is Self-Made?
Merriam Webster dictionary defines self-made as follows:
Made such by one’s own actions; especially having achieved success or prominence by one’s own efforts.
What Is A Millionaire?
According to The Balance,
A “millionaire” is a person (or household) with a net worth greater than $1 million U.S. dollars (or equal currency). Furthermore, net worth represents a person’s assets minus their liabilities.
Finally, net worth is described as “what you own minus what you owe.”
Then A Self-Made Millionaire is…
A self-made millionaire is an individual or household that has accumulated at least $1 million dollars net worth through their own actions and efforts.
It is important to note that a self-made millionaire was not given their money. And they did not inherit their money. They earned it and accumulated it based on their own actions and efforts.
How old are Self-Made Millionaires?
So you may be asking how fast can I become a self-made millionaire?
The Data Show It Takes Time
I hate to burst your bubble, but research shows it takes time. There are a few who may be able to get rich quick. But for most of us, it takes quite a few years.
Here is data from a study done by Thomas Corely:
|Percentage of self-made millionaires under|
|40 years old||1%|
|45 years old||4%|
|50 years old||20%|
|55 years old||48%|
|60 years old||79%|
And the final 21% of self-made millionaires do not make it until after they turn 60! On the other end of the age spectrum, there are very few self-made millionaires under 30 years of age.
To put it another way, only 5% of the millionaire population is less than 45 years of age.
But The Good News Is…
There is good news for those of you under the age of 30. You have the benefit of time. Do not be discouraged. Use your youth as an asset. It takes time to become a self-made millionaire and you have it!
Time is your most precious asset when you are young.
Becoming A Millionaire Is A Big Deal
Finally, I want to make sure you know that becoming a millionaire is a BIG ACCOMPLISHMENT.
According to the Credit Suisse 2018 Global Wealth Report, here are a few facts about millionaire demographics:
- There are 42 million millionaires in the world
- This group comprises less than 1% of the adult population
- But own 45% of household wealth
If becoming a millionaire is a big deal, let’s not waste any more time. And move on to the habits of self-made millionaires.
Incorporate these habits into your life now. And you will be on your way to your first $1 million.
Self-Made Millionaires Have A Long Term View
Given the data I just presented, it should come as no surprise that self-made millionaires have a long term perspective. They view wealth creation as a marathon, not a sprint.
I think this quote by novelist Robert Louis Stevenson sums it up well:
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
But how do we plant those seeds today so we can enjoy our harvest in the future? We do it through the habits we form and the actions we take each day.
Self-Made Millionaires Have a Vision
When you take a trip, do you have a destination in mind? Of course, you do. Few of us get in our car without a clear idea of where we want to go. Becoming a self-made millionaire is no different.
Self-made millionaires develop a good idea of what they want to become. And what their life will look like when they arrive at their destination. Some of the questions they answer for themselves are:
- What kind of job will I have?
- How much money will I make?
- Where will I live?
- What kind of house will I live in?
- Who will be my life partner?
- What will my friends do?
They start their journey to $1 million with the destination in mind. They think big and believe if they can envision it, they can achieve it.
Listen to Joe…
I will sum it up with a quote I remember from a man I used to work for. His name was Joe. Joe was in his 70’s. He retired in his 60’s, but hated retirement and came back to work.
Ironically, it was my last job in the corporate world. Shortly after working for Joe, I retired early to go into the teaching profession. And I have never once considered going back to the corporate world like Joe.
At the time, Joe and I were in charge of establishing a new business unit for a multi-billion dollar company.
One day Joe was addressing the employees at a group meeting and said:
“Think big, we are only limited by our thoughts.”
And that quote applies to both you and me. We are only limited by our thoughts.
So follow Joe’s advice. Daydream, think big and establish your vision for future success. Don’t be limited by your thoughts.
Self-Made Millionaires Set Goals
Now that we have a vision for the future, we need to start our journey.
Achieve Your Vision By Setting Goals
Let’s say we are getting into our car to take that long journey to a far-away destination. We probably will set some interim milestones for the trip. For example, tomorrow I will make it to town X and the day after I will arrive at town Y.
Self-made millionaires do exactly the same in pursuit of their vision. They break down their vision into attainable goals. I like the saying “How Do You Eat an Elephant?” And the answer is “One Bite at a Time.”
And so it is the same with goal setting. You will only achieve your vision by pursuing it one goal at a time.
Goal Setting Example
Let’s say you are in college studying business. And your vision is to be a Corporate Vice President at XYZ Company making $250,000 per year.
You know you won’t get that job offer after graduation. So you will have to go after it step by step. Here is an example of some possible goals you could set to achieve your vision.
- Study hard and good grades this semester
- Get a summer internship at XYZ Company
- Graduate at the top of the class
- Get a full-time entry-level job at XYZ Company
- Move through a series of developmental jobs during the first 5 years at XYZ Company
- Get promoted to Corporate Vice President
Hopefully, you get the idea. Break that big vision down into a series of attainable goals.
And here are a couple of other thoughts on goal setting…
It’s Your Vision – And Your Goals
Make sure the vision and goals you set are yours and no one else’s. You won’t be successful following someone else’s vision.
For example, your mother may want you to become a doctor. But you want to be an executive at XYZ Company. Don’t listen to your mother! And don’t tell her I said that.
Cut Your Own Path
Listen and learn from others, but cut your own path. Just because everybody is “doing it one way”, doesn’t mean you should. Maybe your way is better. Maybe it’s not. Think your course of action over and be intentional about the path you take.
Self-Made Millionaires Earn Their Way Everyday
We have a vision and set our goals. Now the real work begins. It is time to get our hands dirty. It is the only way for you and me to become self-made millionaires.
Get Up Early
Self-made millionaires get up early. Usually, before 6 am. Some get up even earlier.
It’s easy for me to say. I’ve always been a morning person. That’s when my thoughts are the clearest. And I can set my priorities for the day before the normal daily distractions arise.
In my corporate working days, I liked to get to the office by 7 am. Early arrival accomplished 3 things.
- I avoided wasting time in rush-hour traffic
- The office was quiet and I could plan my day
- I could start my day by accomplishing one thing
Accomplishing one task early in the day sets the tone for a productive day.
Work Hard & Hustle
If it were easy to become a self-made millionaire, everyone would do it. If you aren’t working hard to achieve your vision, I bet there is someone else with a similar vision that will out hustle you.
I’m sorry to tell you that long work days and work weeks will be required to accomplish your goals. The reference to working 24/7 is an unfortunate reality. We are always connected to work, clients, associates, and employees through our smartphones and computers.
Now, I have to add that it’s not just about working hard. You have to work smart too.
If becoming a self-made millionaire was just about working hard, there would be more of them. And as we know, less than 1% of the adult population is a millionaire.
A quick story…
When I was in my 30’s, I worked as a controller for a mid-sized food manufacturing company. I really liked the company President and enjoyed learning from him.
His name was Bill and he had a saying that I remember very well. It sums up the term working smart. Bill used to say…
“Always ask yourself if you are working on the right things and if you are doing those things the right way.”
That phrase has stuck with me for a long time. And I often ask myself those 2 questions no matter what I’m doing.
So, follow Bill’s advice and work smart. Make sure you are working on the right things and doing them the right way.
As the old saying goes, the only constant, is change itself. Self-made millionaires embrace change. They see it as an opportunity. And that is exactly what change is. It is an opportunity.
Look for change. It’s everywhere. When you see it, ask yourself how you can capitalize on the change to achieve your goals and vision.
Ask For What You Want
Sometimes, all we have to do is ask. Want a raise? Ask for it. Want a promotion? Ask for it. Want to make a sale to a new customer? Ask them for an order. Want a date with best looking guy or girl in school? Ask them.
It’s easier said than done. Asking for things puts us in an awkward position. We are beholden to someone who has what we want. We fear rejection. And that’s not a good feeling.
But in reality, the worst thing that can happen is we are told no. And I say, so what. If you never ask, you will never know. And sometimes the answer you get will be YES.
Self-Made Millionaires Manage Stress
Now all of this hard work creates stress. Self-made millionaires know how to manage stress.
Stress can break us down. It can create health issues. It can freeze us up and keep us from achieving our vision and our goals.
I know it all too well. I am a pretty high-stress person. And have had periods in my life where stress practically crippled me.
One of the best resources I have come across to learn about stress and how to control it is the book How To Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. I have read it several times and referred to it time and time again.
To give you a sense for the book, it has 8 major parts:
- Fundamental facts you should know about worry
- Basic techniques in analyzing worry
- How to break the worry habit before it breaks you
- Seven ways to cultivate a positive mental attitude
- The perfect way to conquer worry
- How to keep from worrying about criticism
- 6 ways to prevent fatigue and worry
- Examples on how others conquered worry
I encourage you to read the book. If not, I will leave you with one point that Mr. Carnegie makes. I have found it to be true in my life as well.
Mr. Carnegie found that “90% of the things he worried about never happened”.
So the next time you are stressed out about something, think about what Mr. Carnegie discovered. Move your thoughts on to something more positive. Because whatever you are worried about probably won’t happen.
Self-Made Millionaires Invest In Their Well-Being
Let’s face it. This sounds like a lot of exhausting and hard work to become a self-made millionaire.
So we have to keep our energy high. We have to take care of ourselves to feel good. And that takes investment in oneself.
Otherwise, we won’t be able to get up early and start accomplishing our goals every day. Here are a few tips to keep you on track to $1 million.
Exercise regularly, at least 3 times per week. A brisk 20 minute walk around the neighborhood counts. There are no workout clothes or health club memberships required. Every little bit of exercise helps and every step counts.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated during the day.
Eat well and maintain a healthy weight. Avoid fast foods. Don’t over eat.
Eating properly is a tough one for me. When I am stressed out and exhausted from a tough day, I love to have a couple of beers and overeat in the evening. That’s not a good habit and I try to improve upon it all the time.
Get enough sleep. Everyone is a little different. Shoot for 7 hours at night and adjust up or down as necessary. A night of good sleep is so important. You can’t be at your best if you are tired.
Get a good bed. I practically took out a second mortgage to buy a “Sleep Number” bed. But it was one of the best investments in myself that I have ever made.
Self-Made Millionaires Learn Continuously
Learn from failure. I’ve probably learned more from my mistakes and failures than anything else in life.
Failing hurts. So it is a powerful motivator for learning. Ask yourself what went wrong and what could you have done differently. And never make the same mistake twice if you can help it.
Learn from success. It’s easy to sit back and rest on our accomplishments.
Examine your successes. Ask yourself what did right. And how can you leverage that success to achieve another goal? One success gives us momentum and can lead to a breakthrough on another goal.
Self-made millionaires are life-long learners. They go to seminars and conferences. They read; and reflect, and they adapt.
Self-made millionaires ask questions. Then they listen, listen and listen some more.
I can’t remember where I heard this expression, but I think it is very true:
“We learn very little when we are talking”
So think before you open your mouth to express your views. Maybe it’s better to just listen. You might learn something new.
Self-Made Millionaires Think
Make time to think. I do some of my best thinking when I’m exercising. Make use of your commute time to think. Think while you are mowing the lawn. Think while you are taking a shower and getting ready for work.
During these times, I will catch myself whispering to myself. I’m just thinking out loud and talking things out.
Here are some topics to think about and some questions you might ask yourself.
Think about your career. How can I get that next client? How can I add more value at work?
Think about your finances. How can I make more money? Am I spending too much money?
Think about your relationships. Do I spend enough time with my family? Do I have enough friends? Are they the right friends? Am I happy?
You will find that your subconscious will work on these questions. Have you ever heard the expression, “I want to sleep on it” when someone is faced with a decision?
What they are doing is letting their subconscious work on the question overnight. In the morning, the decision often seems clear.
By making a practice of thinking on a regular basis, you will eventually come up with solutions to your most pressing problems.
Self-Made Millionaires Have Mentors
I have had countless mentors over the years. They have been invaluable to my success. And I’m not saying they were all self-made millionaires.
What I am saying, is that I identified people that I liked, respected and who had experience in an area where I did not. And so I talked to them, observed them and listened to them. And sometimes I emulated them.
Let me list a few of my mentors that I can think of right off the top of my head:
- College professors
- Executive recruiters
- Professionals in networking groups
- Work colleagues
Just look around and be aware. There are potential mentors everywhere. They do not have to be formal mentoring arrangements.
Mentors just need to be people that have successfully traveled a path that you are trying to take. Ask them questions and see what you can learn.
Most people are happy to talk about what they have accomplished and how they went about it.
Self-Made Millionaires Keep Good Company
Self-made millionaires surround themselves with others that practice the habits we are talking about today.
In contrast, they avoid the non-believers. As we progress toward our vision, the last thing we need is people telling us we can’t achieve our goals. Or we aren’t good enough.
A Personal Confession…
This last point was a big failure of mine. I stayed way too long in a job with a boss that always told me I wasn’t good enough. No one needs that.
The best day of my career was the day he fired me. I found a similar job in 6 weeks and enjoyed the double compensation from the one-year severance package that was part of my employment agreement.
Now don’t get me wrong. Criticism can be fine. In fact, it is necessary to grow and be your best. But seek out those who provide constructive criticism. Be open to it, listen and grow from it.
And by all means, avoid anyone who tries to tear you down. Believe me, they are out there.
Self-Made Millionaires Write Things Down
Our thoughts are fleeting. And our memories can be incredibly short. So, self-made millionaires make a habit of writing things down.
Here are some examples of some of the things they document:
- Daily to-do lists
- Notes from meetings at work
- Things to remember
My Personal Experience
During my years in the corporate world, I trained many new staff members and associates. I was always concerned when a trainee didn’t come prepared with a note pad. And take notes during our meeting. Those who took notes performed consistently better in their jobs than those who did not.
Take It From Professor Linda
One of my college professors in graduate school made a good point one night in class. Her name was Professor Linda.
Linda always used the whiteboard to present material and illustrate concepts. She encouraged us to take written notes of her lecture. This is what Linda told the class…
“Taking written notes helps you learn. It forces you to listen closely and synthesize what you hear and see and put it into your own written words. And that is an important part of the learning process.”
So if you do not believe me then listen to Professor Linda. Keep a note pad at your side and take notes!
Self-Made Millionaires Value Their Time
They guard their time like a watchdog. We are trained at a young age to say yes. When your Mom or Dad asks you to do something, you learn to say yes and do it.
When asked to take on more responsibility at work, the expected answer is “yes”. But at some point, we can’t say yes to every request.
Self-made millionaires are skilled at identifying who to say yes to and what to say yes to.
This isn’t always easy. Most of us are wired to please others. So it takes good judgment on when to say no.
No Time to Waste
Self-made millionaires do not waste time. And neither should you.
Look for ways to be more efficient in your daily tasks.
Cut out mindless time spent watching television, surfing the internet, and playing around on social media. These activities can be worthless time wasters that get in the way of accomplishing our goals.
Self-Made Millionaires Make Decisions
When confronted with a choice, gather the facts and make a decision. That’s exactly what self-made millionaires do.
Indecision creates stress and wastes energy. Now I don’t mean make snap, reckless decisions. Take your time to gather the facts and consider the alternatives, and then decide.
Once a decision is made, self-made millionaires avoid procrastination. They get busy and get the necessary tasks done to make the decision a success. They don’t look back and second guess themselves.
Self-Made Millionaires Take Risks
You and I won’t accomplish our vision if we never take a risk.
For example, you can stay in that job getting your 2% raise every year because you are comfortable. On the other hand, you may be able to get a much bigger salary by changing employers.
I’m not talking about “risking it all”. Self-made millionaires take calculated risks and manage those risks every step of the way to accomplish their goals.
Self-Made Millionaires Make Active Income
Wealth comes first from making an active income. And that should be your primary focus in route to $1 million.
One of the following 4 areas should be a primary component of your vision. Here are the 4 main options to make the most of your active income.
Marketing, finance, accounting, operations are all areas where businesses need skills. Build your skills and climb the corporate ladder.
Not the Corporate type? Have a business idea?
Then start your own business and be your own boss. But be ready for a bumpy road. Most businesses fail in the early stages.
Doctors, lawyers, CPAs, electricians, and plumbers fall into this category. They provide essential services that we all need.
If you can sell, you can find good paying work. Every business needs to make sales and that’s what sales professionals and sales consultants are good at.
Listen to Peter…
A former colleague and sales executive I used to work with had an interesting saying. His name was Peter. And Peter used to say,
“Nothing starts in business until a sale is made.”
Now I don’t totally agree with Peter on this. There are a lot of activities that businesses engage in before they start selling a product or service, but there is wisdom to Peter’s thought.
Self-Made Millionaires Make Passive Income
Now you have your active income on the rise. Or at least have a vision and the goals to do so, start working on your passive income streams. This involves putting excess cash to work in income generating assets.
Here are some examples for you to consider:
- Certificates of Deposit
- High Yield Savings Accounts
- Money Market Accounts
- Preferred Stocks
- Dividend Growth Stocks
- Real Estate Rentals
The most important thing to remember is to first maximize your active income. And with any excess funds, put that money in passive income generating assets.
Your own unique combination of active income and passive income will be the fuel for your wealth engine.
Self-Made Millionaires Manage Their Spending
Research shows that most millionaires prepare a spending plan and stick to it. This is commonly referred to as budgeting.
If they don’t have a written budget, they have a solid understanding of where and what they spend their money on.
Most importantly, millionaires spend less money than they make. Said another way, they live below their means.
I don’t care how much money you make. If you don’t live below your means, you will never become a self-made millionaire.
Self-Made Millionaires Have a Plan For Every Extra Dollar
Our active and passive income is on the rise. Expenses are less than income. That creates excess cash. Millionaires are adept at putting excess cash to work in intelligent places.
Here are a few examples:
- Eliminate all consumer debt
- Maximize contributions to tax-advantaged accounts
- Invest the rest in taxable accounts
And don’t forget those passive income generating assets we just talked about. They are all a great place for excess cash.
Self-Made Millionaires Have A Productive Mindset
When it comes right down to it, everything happens between our own two ears. And self-made millionaires know how to manage that very important space in their heads.
I will quote the famous philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. He said,
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”
What types of thoughts should we have? Well, that’s easy, positive ones. Have a positive attitude.
Self-Made Millionaires Practice Positive Self-Talk
Psychology Today says this about positive self-talk.
When negative events or mistakes happen, positive self-talk seeks to bring the positive out of the negative to help you do better, go further, or just keep moving forward. The practice of positive self-talk is often the process that allows you to discover the obscured optimism, hope, and joy in any given situation.
And by all means, believe in yourself and what you are trying to accomplish. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?
Self-Made Millionaires Are Persistent
Learn, change adapt, but never, ever give up. You are going to hit bumps and setbacks on the road to $1 million, so you have to persist. I remember this saying when I was growing up. And I find it to be true…
“Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
Enough said! Let’s keep moving.
Self-Made Millionaires Know Their Strengths & Weaknesses
Know your strengths. Maximize them. Play to them.
And understand your weaknesses. We all have them. Either work on your weaknesses to make them strengths. Or find others whose strengths are your weaknesses. And engage them to help you.
Here’s an example from my own experience…
I was a finance and accounting professional during my career. I made a habit of taking jobs and moving to companies where the finance and accounting systems were broken.
Managers didn’t trust the numbers. There was no financial information on what was wrong in the business and needed fixing to produce profits.
My strength was identifying the problems, setting a structure and creating processes to turn useless data into actionable financial information that managers could act on to improve the business.
My weakness was executing the day to day after the problems were identified; the structure was set, and the processes designed. So I surrounded myself with people that were good at that and could do that for me.
Some people are good at identifying problems and creating solutions. Other people are good at executing the processes that come from the solutions.
Some people are their best working in a team. Other people work better independently.
My point is this. Know your strengths and use them to your advantage. Identify your weaknesses and find ways to overcome them.
Self-Made Millionaires Have Excellent Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills may be the single biggest problem we face in route to $1 million.
It is the problem of getting along with and influencing people in our everyday business and social lives.
Everything gets done through people. You need to get along well with people.
I’m not talking about manipulating people. Nor am I talking about being false or insincere in your dealings with people.
I’m talking about winning others to your side.
So here is my recommendation for you. My favorite resource in this area is the book How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
The book consists of 4 parts:
- Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
- Six Ways To Make People Like You
- How To Win People To Your Way of Thinking
- How To Be a Good Leader
I hope you read the book. But in case you don’t, I’d like to leave you with one of its timeless thoughts. I will paraphrase it for you.
Never criticize, condemn or complain. Give honest and sincere appreciation to others. And when necessary be constructive in finding fault.
Unfortunately, my parents never sent me to “charm school”. So this book saved me at an early age.
Self-Made Millionaires Help Others Succeed
As time passes you will find yourself in a different position. Your good habits will lead you to success in whatever area you choose.
Others will look to you for guidance, just like you looked to others in the past. Be a mentor, share your experiences. Helping others succeed and find their way is very rewarding. And a great way to give back.
Self-Made Millionaires Love What They Do
Do what you love and love what you do. We should all strive for that.
But it’s not always possible. You may have to settle for doing what you’re good at.
There were many times in my career that I didn’t love what I was doing. But I was good at it. And even more, those activities were linked to my vision.
Sometimes doing the hard work to become a self-made millionaire isn’t fun. But make sure you have a purpose and are on a path to achieving your vision and your goals.
Ultimately, you will find your way to something you love.
Self-Made Millionaires Enjoy Their Journey
I doubt that a person’s life satisfaction changes the day they reach $1 million in net worth. So it’s important to enjoy the journey.
What is the journey? It is the process, the learning, and the satisfaction of improving your life and financial security every day.
My Friend Rhett
One of the companies I worked for hired a performance improvement consultant. His name was Rhett.
And Rhett’s job was to help us organize for success and maximize the company’s potential. And profits!
Rhett had a saying that he used over an over. He said…
We want to be better today than we were yesterday. And better tomorrow than we are today.
That, my friends, is the very essence of continuous improvement. And the foundation for forming good habits.
References: Self-Made Millionaire Books
If you are ready to learn, learn, learn here are 5 books to help you on your journey to becoming a self-made millionaire. I have already mentioned several throughout this article.
It’s a diverse group to help you round out all of your skills and habits. The first three are timeless classics. I read each many years ago and refer to them often.
I read the last 2 recently. And found them to be very insightful.
Each book has been a valuable resource to me both in life and in writing this article. Read them. They will improve your habits too!
- The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko
- How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- How To Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
- The Millionaire Master Plan by Roger James Hamilton
- Change Your Habits Change Your Life by Tom Corely
Good luck on your journey to becoming a self-made millionaire! Here is a recap of the habits discussed in this article.
- Have a long term perspective
- Develop a vision
- Set goals
- Cut their own path
- Get up early
- Work hard
- Work smart
- Embrace change
- Ask for what they want
- Manage stress
- Drink alcohol in moderating
- Eat a healthy diet
- Have a comfortable bed
- Get enough sleep
- Learn from failure
- Learn from success
- Are life-long learners
- Ask questions
- Listen effectively
- Have mentors
- Keep good company
- Avoid bad company
- Write things down
- Value their time
- Make decisions
- Do not procrastinate
- Take risks
- Manage those risks
- Make active income
- Make passive income
- Manage their spending
- Plan for every extra dollar
- Have a productive mindset
- Practice positive self-talk
- Are persistent
- Know their strengths
- Know their weaknesses
- Overcome their weaknesses
- Practice sound interpersonal skills
- Help others succeed
- Love what they do
- Are good at what they do
- Enjoy their journey
Related: The new class of millionaires