🌼7 Habits That Made Me A Millionaire
And 2 that I’m still working on to do better.
Like many of you, I grew up in a middle-class family. We weren’t poor, but we certainly weren’t rich either.
I attended public schools, rode in my parent’s used cars, and lived in modest houses.
For fun, I looked up the current estimated values of my three childhood homes on Zillow.
The average current value? $250,000.
That is 43% less than the median price of houses sold in the US in Q2 2022 as per the Federal Reserve of St. Louis ($440,000).
Of course, we had a lot that many do not. I attended good schools, lived in safe neighborhoods, had both educated parents around, had health insurance, went to college, etc.
But my life today is significantly different.
Today I own seven houses, each one more expensive than any of the houses I lived in as a child.
I also own a commercial building (50/50 with a partner), a sizable stock portfolio, and hold investments in several private companies and partnerships.
These investments have made me far wealthier today than I was growing up.
I don’t share this to brag, but rather to demonstrate that building wealth in America today is definitely still possible.
While there are many factors at work (luck certainly plays a role), there are certain habits that have helped me on my path toward wealth.
I want to share these with you today in the hopes that they help you get there too.
Many of you who have read my previous stories know that I learned a lot from Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad.
One area where I disagree is frugality.
Kiyosaki says you can’t save your way to wealth, and while that is true, spending certainly doesn’t help either.
For working professionals looking to build wealth, the simple truth is you need to spend less than you earn and invest the rest.
I was fortunate to grow up in a frugal household.
We only ate out once per week, regardless of what we might be able to afford (and at affordable restaurants, no luxury).
Vacations were typically road trips for family reunions.
Clothes and food were nothing fancy.
This was a blessing.
I didn’t know I was missing out on anything, and I built up a fantastic habit of not throwing away all my money on silly stuff.
I grew up not realizing that most people think fancy stuff makes you look cool.
Because of that, I’ve never had expensive tastes, which has allowed me to invest much more money than people with similar incomes who like to live in million-dollar houses and drive luxury cars.
Have simple tastes, and your money will go further.
The second habit I developed while young that has served me well is a love of reading.
As a child, I read countless fiction and fantasy books, locked away in my room for hours.
As I grew older, I turned to non-fiction and eventually books on how to build wealth.
It was through reading that my beliefs about money were challenged and eventually replaced.
Books like “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Kiyosaki and “Creating Wealth” by Robert G. Allen gave me a new perspective.
It was through reading that I learned about investing in real estate, which has helped me to create most of my wealth.
I still read as much as I can about a variety of topics, always working on the education that I didn’t get in school.
Read every day, and you will expand your mind.
3) Being practical
The third habit/mindset that has served me well is always trying to be pragmatic.
Even though I love to read, my focus is not on gaining some useless knowledge to show off how smart I am.
My goal is to gain knowledge that interests me or is useful in the real world.
I don’t like ideologies because they get in the way of success in the real world.
One person can say “the stock market is the best investment”. Another will argue that it is real estate.
One person may say “you should always own your house”, while another will be adamant that renting is best.
I have very few fixed positions.
Real estate has been great for me, but if you don’t like real estate or don’t “get it” deep down, then it may not work well for you.
If you can’t control your emotions as the stock market goes up and down, equities may not be the best place to put your money.
In some cases, owning a house is better than renting, in others renting is better.
My fundamental belief is that everyone needs a financial education so that they can make educated decisions in life.
There are just too many variables to have these types of dogmatic beliefs, and I think it holds a lot of people back.
Keep an open mind and focus on results, and you will see more progress than being pig-headed in your beliefs.
Remember, no one is so smart that they can’t be wrong.
4) Trying new things
Some people only stick to what they know, but to me that is boring.
I love trying new things.
New food to eat, new countries to visit, etc.
My first investment was in an index fund. Vanguard S&P 500.
Absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is the perfect investment for people who don’t know anything about investing.
However, if I had only stuck to index investing, I would be significantly poorer than I am today.
Investing in single-family rental houses has allowed me to earn significantly higher returns than index funds over the past decade as you can see in the table below (from March 2022):
table of results of author’s real estate investments compared to S&P500 performance
As you can see, my worst-performing house has still returned some 3% more per year than the S&P500 over the past 15 years.
For that one house (the worth performer), that equates to almost $100,000 extra in my pocket after paying commissions than index fund investing.
I never would have realized this without being willing to learn and try something new.
If you are too comfortable with your wealth-building strategy, you may be missing out on some opportunities.
Life is never a cakewalk.
The going will always get tough.
If you give up before you get started, then you will never find success or even learn if you were on the right track.
Take Medium, for example. The vast majority of authors come to the platform and write a few stories then disappear.
They quit because they didn’t get immediate gratification.
But there is no significant success that happens overnight.
Success in any discipline takes time, effort, and persistence.
If you give up too early, you will never know if you could have made it or not because you didn’t really give it a solid try.
Giving up on Medium because you’ve had a dozen articles not go viral? I’ve had hundreds of articles not go viral, and yet I’ve managed to build a decent little following with some success.
If I had given up the first month, where would I be?
It is the same with real estate, your job, your family, your health, etc.
You have to put in the work every day for years before you will see the results.
But then, the results will likely amaze you.
6) Knowing when to quit.
It is ironic that right after talking about not giving up, I’m going to now talk about quitting as a key to success, but it is true.
Some things you try will work, and some will not.
You have to have the wisdom and experience to understand when you can see if what you are doing is working.
For writing on Medium, it might take a year or two to get it up and running. But if after one year you still have 200 followers, pennies earned, and nothing chosen for further distribution, you are doing something wrong.
You either need to pivot and change what you are doing, or you need to quit and try something else.
It doesn’t do any good to spend 10 years learning what you could have learned in one.
My first business attempt, a website to sell my photography as wall art, was a spectacular failure.
I worked on it for three years with no progress, so I finally decided to quit.
I learned a lot, but I had to admit it was a failure and move on.
That is when I started Building Arks and writing on Medium. Here I have done quite a bit better, though it has taken me two years to get to this point.
Sometimes it is better to quit, lick your wounds, learn your lessons, and start over.
Never give up on the goal, but it makes sense to give up on some strategies that aren’t working for you (assuming you’ve given them a solid go).
My whole life I have lived by the motto:
“If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.”
My father used to say that to me growing up, and I continue to use it in all my endeavors.
It is OK to dabble in a hobby for fun, but if you want success, you must be serious.
You won’t start a successful business in 4 hours per week.
You won’t build an audience on Medium writing twice a month.
You won’t get rich in real estate by buying 1 rental house.
You have to hustle and make your own success.
This is true with your job too. The best way to get promoted (if you want that kind of thing) is to over-deliver.
You won’t find wealth by sitting on the sidelines of life. You have to grab it by the horns and hang on for the ride!
Two more that I still work on
While I still have to focus on working on all of the above habits, there are two more that I wish I had more ingrained:
#1 — selectivity: I’m still not selective enough in my investments; sometimes I get excited by an opportunity and get the dreaded fear of missing out (FOMO), resulting in less than stellar returns
#2 — patience: hand in hand with selectivity is the ability to be patient until a better opportunity comes along, or to be patient in holding an investment until it has added much more wealth to your portfolio
Where I really struggle with these two habits is in the stock market. I would love to be able to invest like Warren Buffett, but without infinite amounts of selectivity and patience, you are not likely to match his results.
That is another reason why I prefer real estate. I know my limitations, and real estate forces me to be a better investor precisely because it is not overly liquid.
I’m forced to be more selective and more patient, which as you can see in the table above has led to better results.
While everyone starts in a different place, we can all improve our financial lives by taking on certain habits.
The above habits are the ones that I have used to find financial success, and I believe they can serve you well too.
Being able to put the following to use in your life will have powerful results:
frugality rather than spending
love of reading rather than idle activities
being practical rather than dogmatic
trying new things instead of sticking to only what you know
being persistent rather than quitting too soon
quitting when needed rather than dragging things out forever
over-achieving rather than dabbling
being selective rather than indiscriminate
being patient rather than hurried
Most of these are behaviors, so you will not learn them in a book.
You have to believe in the idea and the benefit, then try it out in your life to prove to yourself how powerful they are.
Give it a try and share how it goes.
Best of luck and let me know how I can help!
New e-book: “The Insider’s Guide To Building Wealth”
Have you been running on a treadmill of bills and debt with little to show for it?
Do you want to achieve financial independence, but don’t know where to start?
After struggling to build wealth early in my career while following traditional financial advice, I set out on a path to learn about investing. Over a decade later, I’m financially secure and working towards full financial independence through real estate and the stock market. I have succeeded in building my financial ark to help me weather whatever storms may come.
Contributed by Building Arks with Jason Clendenen
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