There’s no surefire way to become a millionaire. But there are definitely things that are holding you back from achieving that elusive multi-millionaire status.
Over my 32 years of being alive (yes, I’m 32), I have been a millionaire three times, with over $1 million in my bank account after taxes. Seems pretty cool, right? Not really. I’ve lost everything twice in my life. Luckily, over the years, I’ve learned a few things.
Here are 15 habits and mistakes that took me from millionaire to being broke and prevented me from earning it back till I learned to fix them. Once I did, I was free to start saving and living the real life I wanted to live.
1. Living above your means.
“Ninety-five percent of the poor in my study did not save, and most accumulated debt to subsidize their standard of living,” writes Tom Corley in Change Your Habits, Change Your Life. “Consequently, they have no money for retirement, for their kids’ college, or for pursuing opportunities that present themselves.”
And he adds, “Not saving and spending more than you make creates long-term poverty, with no hope of escape.”
The wealthy, on the other hand, avoid overspending by living within their means and investing in the future. And they accomplish this by making their spending and budgeting a habit. The wealthy don’t just spend their money, they spend it purposefully.
A great place to start is by following the 50/20/30 Guideline.
“The 50/20/30 guideline can be easy to follow because instead of telling you how to break down your budget across 20 or more different categories (who could possibly keep track of that?), it splits everything into three main categories,” writes Laura Shin for LearnVest.
These categories include:
- Fixed costs, like rent and utilities. It’s suggested “that you aim to keep your monthly total no more than 50 percent of your take-home pay,” Shin says.
- Financial goals, such as saving towards retirement or an emergency fund. Shin recommends that you put 20 percent of your take-home pay towards these contributions.
- Flexible spending, like grocery shopping, entertainment, and hobbies. You should budget no more than 30 percent towards flexible spending.
According to Shin, “The 50/20/30 guideline is just that–a guide. It can be a helpful benchmark when you’re assessing where your money is going, but it can also be adjusted to your specific lifestyle and goals.”
2. Lack of determination.
“Most people get stuck as soon as the first problems come up. They are not connected enough to the goal of becoming a millionaire and give up as soon as things get tough,” says life coach, speaker, and author Lukas Schwekendiek. “But this determination comes in different forms. It is not as simple as to say that they do not want it bad enough, or that they aren’t willing to work hard for it. Most of it boils down to the internal struggle.”
And he adds, “Becoming a millionaire isn’t about collecting $1 million from some place or through hard work. Becoming a millionaire means you go on a journey to change yourself into a person that can handle a million dollars.”
3. Neglecting your health.
There’s a reason why the wealthy make their health a priority. Being healthier makes you more successful.
Research has found that exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting a good night’s rest can make you more productive, decreases stress, boosts your memory, helps you make smarter decisions more quickly, and prevents health concerns like heart disease and cancer. So instead of being tired, stressed, or constantly sick, you can put your energy towards building your wealth.
4. Purchasing a home.
“Let’s say someone tells you to do this: Get all of your money, leverage it up 400 percent, put it all in one investment,” writes author and entrepreneur James Altucher.
Do you get a dividend on that investment? No! The reverse. You have to pay money every year in maintenance and property taxes, both of which go up randomly.
Can you get out of the investment? Not really. It’s hard.
And when you most need the money, it’s impossible.
And that’s the situation you’re in when purchasing a home. He continues:
Instead of putting all of your money into a house, put a fraction of your money into rent each month and use the rest to figure out how to generate either your own business or (even better) multiple streams of income.
A home will destroy you right at the worst moment.
If you do want to become a homeowner, only do so if you have a stable job, aren’t under a mountain of debt, have a good credit score, and have some money stashed away in a savings account.
5. Relying on one source of income.
Even if you have a six-figure salary, never rely on one stream of income. It’s a practice that the wealthy have followed for years, because you never know when that cushy job could come to a halt. Additionally, having multiple streams of income allows you to pay off any debt faster and put more money into your investments and retirement.
Thanks to the freelancer generation, you can side-hustle whenever you want, like driving for Uber or Lyft on the weekends, or even start your own business from the comfort of your home.
6. Wasting valuable time.
As Corley says:
How much of your valuable time do you lose parked in front of a screen? Two-thirds of wealthy people watch less than an hour of TV a day and almost that many–63 percent–spend less than an hour a day on the internet unless it is job-related.
Instead, these successful people use their free time engaged in personal development, networking, volunteering, working side jobs or side businesses, or pursuing some goal that will lead to rewards down the road. But 77 percent of those struggling financially spend an hour or more a day watching TV, and 74 percent spend an hour or more a day using the internet recreationally.
7. Not acting on your ideas.
“It’s one thing to come up with million-dollar ideas, but a completely different thing to act on them,” says marketing expert Bruce Cross. “You will never get rich if you are more of a dreamer who never puts his money where his mouth is. In addition, millionaires do not sit around and watch others advance in life. Millionaires take action to help themselves reach their goals.”
As Mark Cuban once said, “Ideas are worthless until you do something with them.”
8. Not reading.
The rich are known for wanting to expand their knowledge, stay up-to-date on current events and industry trends, and learn lessons from inspirational figures. In fact, 88 percent of the wealthy read 30 minutes or more every day. As Will Lipovsky notes, reading also brings in various and opposing perspectives and points of view, motivates you to dream bigger, and inspires you to never give up.
9. Fear and negativity.
Emotions, particularly fear and negativity, are two of the biggest obstacles to overcome if you want to become a millionaire. And there’s research that backs this up.
According to Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, negative thoughts, like fear, narrow your mind and focus. Positive thoughts, however, are able to open your mind to more possibilities and options. Furthermore, positive emotions also enhance your ability to build skills, as well as develop resources you can use later in life.
Millionaires aren’t afraid to step out of their comfort zone and take calculated risks. If they fail, they’ll learn from that failure so that they won’t repeat the same mistakes again.
10. Not setting goals.
“You cannot control the outcome of a wish, but you can control the outcome of a goal,” says Corley.
“Every year, 70 percent of the wealthy pursue at least one major goal. Only 3 percent of those struggling to make ends meet do this,” he adds.
Personally, I’ve found that setting daily goals first thing in the morning guides me in setting priorities and pushes me to achieve those goals.
11. Avoiding routine.
The most successful people in the world–including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Barack Obama, and Arianna Huffington–are known for sticking to a routine. Why? Because a routine eliminates energy draining tasks and decision fatigue.
“It’s not about copying Richard Branson or Steve Jobs’s daily routine, it’s about creating and sticking to your own,” says author Saul Kropman. “Wake up at 4 a.m. if you’re capable of it, but most importantly, create a routine that is plausible and stick with it.”
12. Not collecting assets.
“A job will never make you rich. Neither will saving all your cash in a coffee can,” says Brandon Turner, vice president of growth at BiggerPockets.com. “So how can you build that wealth?”
Assets–such as a profitable business, growing stock portfolio, or investing in the right piece of real estate.
Remember, your car and all those shiny toys that you enjoy are “liabilities that are robbing you of future wealth,” Turner says. So he recommends focusing on “collecting things that will make you money in the long term.”
13. Spending time with toxic people.
“The toxic people in your life will drag you down. The good people in your life will love you and inspire you. It’s push-pull. Let the good people win. Try to improve this every day,” says Altucher.
“You can’t become successful with toxic people pulling you down. This has nothing to do with your responsibilities in life. This has everything to do with saving your life,” he adds. Replace those toxic people with individuals who are positive, supportive, and driven.
14. Failing to follow the 70/30 rule.
Jim Rohn, one of the county’s leading authority figures in business, has a simple formula for accumulating wealth: “After you pay your fair share of taxes, learn to live on 70 percent of your after-tax income. These are the necessities and luxuries you spend money on.”
Rohn goes on to say that it’s then “important to look at how you allocate your remaining 30 percent.”
He suggests giving a third to charity, a third toward capital investments, with the final third being placed in a savings account. You probably won’t notice much in the beginning, but “let five years lapse and the differences become pronounced. At the end of 10 years, the differences are dramatic,” he says.
15. Not having a mentor.
“Finding a mentor puts you on the fast track to wealth accumulation,” Corley writes in Change Your Habits, Change Your Life.
“Success mentors do more than simply influence your life in some positive way,” he continues. “They 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.”
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