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9 Smart Money Habits Multi-Millionaires Do Differently

Contrary to popular belief, most wealthy people don’t become rich from one brilliant money move. Instead, most multi-millionaires build wealth over time through healthy money habits. Affluent Americans often share these 9 habits — and the good news is that people of almost any income level can apply them to their own financial lives.

Published by Motley Fool Wealth Management Originally posted on Tue, Dec 19, 2023 Last updated on January 10, 2024

read time 5 min read

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There is no magic formula for becoming a multi-millionaire — well, other than to inherit millions of dollars. But one smart way to set yourself up for success is to learn what has worked for wealthy Americans, and apply some of those lessons to your own life.

With that in mind, here are nine habits that many millionaires share that could help set you up for financial success in your own life. 

num-1   They avoid debt

This probably won’t come as a big surprise, but the bulk of millionaires are very reluctant to take on debt. In fact, 73% of millionaires surveyed in the US have never carried a credit card balance,1 while 56% of active credit card accounts in the United States currently have a balance.2

One big exception is mortgages, and even some of the super-rich use mortgages when buying their homes. Legendary investor and mega-billionaire Warren Buffett has called the 30-year fixed mortgage “the best instrument in the world,” mainly because they have relatively low interest rates compared to other forms of consumer debt and because they can be refinanced rather easily if rates fall.3

num-2   They own their homes — but keep it modest

As mentioned, millionaires aren't debt-averse when it comes to buying their homes. While there are certainly plenty of millionaire renters, the wealthy are far more likely to own their homes than the average American. According to one study, 90% of millionaires own their primary residences.4

Now, this is likely because owning real estate can at least partially be responsible for why wealthy families got that way. According to the National Association of Realtors, the typical homeowner is 40 times wealthier than if they had never bought a home and rented instead.5

While millionaires are more likely than the average American to own their homes, they don't all live in the flashy mega-mansions you might be picturing. In fact, six out of 10 millionaires live in homes worth less than $500,000.6

num-3   They have lots of emergency savings

It's very difficult to build wealth if you have to sell your investments every time an unexpected expense comes up — or worse, to have to use a credit card in those situations. So, one thing wealthy Americans do very well is establish and maintain an emergency fund.

Many financial planners use the target of six months' worth of expenses in a readily-accessible place like a savings account. But many millionaires take it a step further. In fact, studies have shown that millionaires often keep as much as 25% of their money in cash and equivalents like Treasury bills.7

num-4   They buy modest cars, and drive them for a long time

If I were to ask you what the most popular brand of car was among the wealthy, you might guess something like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Cadillac. But you'd be wrong. Toyota, Ford, and Honda are most common among high-income households, and one recent study found that the top vehicle in the U.S. for people earning over $200,000 is the Ford F-150 pickup truck.8

Wealthy individuals don't get or stay that way by spending excessive amounts of money on depreciating assets like vehicles. Ninety percent of millionaires drive cars that cost less than $75,000, and 86% of people who drive the traditional "prestigious" brands are not millionaires.9

num-5   They take care of their health

One thing most millionaires do is take great care of their health, especially when it comes to finding time to exercise. According to the "Rich Habits" study by Tom Corley, author of "Change Your Habits, Change Your Life", 76% of the wealthy exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.10 Many billionaires, including Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Dorsey credit regular exercise for a lot of their success.11

Furthermore, according to the study, 93% of wealthy people sleep at least seven hours a night, and over 60% play some form of competitive sports as adults.

num-6   They never stop learning

How would you think billionaire investor Warren Buffett spends his typical day? Many would think he spends it in board meetings, or analyzing which stocks to buy next. But you might be surprised to learn that Buffett spends as much as 80% of his typical day sitting alone and reading.12

Buffett isn't unique in this regard. One self-made millionaire, Thomas Crowley, interviewed 1,200 wealthy people and found that reading regularly is a habit almost all of them had in common. And, Corley's research found that 85% of self-made millionaires read two or more books per month.13

num-7   They get up early

Not only do the wealthy get plenty of sleep, but they also get out of bed early to get their day started. In an Inc. Magazine survey of more than 1,000 CEOs, 64% reported that they wake up by 6 a.m. or earlier.14

num-8   They’re tax-savvy

You don't get or stay rich by giving away lots of money. If you don't take advantage of the tax breaks available to you, that's exactly what you're doing.

Wealthy people as a group are generally very good at keeping their taxes low. They tend to max out their retirement contributions, keep track of all their charitable contributions, and also tend to have assets like businesses and rental properties, which get favorable tax treatment. Plus, they tend to get more income from capital gains and dividends, which are taxed at lower rates than earned income, and also take steps to lower the eventual tax burden on their heirs.

The top income tax rate in the United States is currently 37%, but the top 5% of U.S. households pay an average income tax rate of just 22.4%.15 Keep in mind, this is a percentage of their income – wealthy households are far more likely to have substantial amounts of unrealized investment gains. In fact, when including income from unsold investments, the White House found that the average federal income tax rate for the 400 wealthiest U.S. households is just 8.2%.16

num-9   They stick to smart habits

To be perfectly clear, even if you adopt all nine of these habits in your own life, there’s no guarantee that you’ll join the ranks of the ultra-rich. But, it could help put you in a position to maximize your wealth-building potential. These are some of the ways that the rich become rich, stay rich, and grow even richer, and there are some valuable lessons to be learned from their habits.


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1Ramsey Solutions, The National Study of Millionaires, April 12, 2023.

2LendingTree, 2023 Credit Card Debt Statistics, Oct. 6, 2023.

3CNBC, "Here's why Warren Buffett Thinks You Should Buy a Home," Mar. 6, 2017

4Advisorpedia, Millionaire Real Estate Ownership, Aug. 2, 2022.

5USA Today, "Why It Pays to Buy a House," April 18, 2023.

6Ramsey Solutions, The National Study of Millionaires, April 12, 2023.

7Yahoo! Finance, The Sneaky (But Smart) Place Millionaires Keep Their Money, Sep. 6, 2023.

8Kunes Auto Group, What the Rich Really Drive: Uncovering the Truth About Wealthy Car Owners, Apr. 12, 2023.

9The Millionaire Next Door Blog, Rich or Drive Rich?, accessed Oct. 13, 2023. 

10Corley, Tom. "10 Common Millionaire Habits," Aug. 25, 2022.

11CNBC, "Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and Mark Cuban all agree that this one habit is key to success," May 28, 2017.

12CNBC, "Warren Buffett’s reading routine could make you smarter, science suggests," Nov. 16, 2016.

13Entrepreneur, "9 Everyday Habits of the Average Millionaire," Nov. 7, 2017.

14Inc. Magazine, CEO Survey: What Drives the Leaders of Inc. 5000 Companies – and What Keeps Them Up at Night?", Sep. 2022

15Tax Foundation, Summary of the Latest Federal Income Tax Data, Jan. 26, 2023.

16The White House, What Is the Average Federal Individual Income Tax Rate on the Wealthiest Americans?," Sep. 23, 2021.

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