What are the odds of a low-to-middle-class kid growing into a successful, wealthy adult? This may come as a surprise to those who believe that most wealthy people were born into money, but apparently, they are quite high. A recent study performed by the U.S. Trust revealed that 77 percent of the high-net-worth individuals surveyed (three million or more in investable assets) come from low-to-moderate income families.
This is an interesting fact, but what these families have in common is even more so. It seems that very specific values were introduced to the study's participants during childhood. These values may have created the foundation for them to grow into the successful adults they are today.
"Perceptions of the wealthy in history and popular culture have been painted with a broad brush that doesn't reflect the majority of financially successful people in society," says Keith Banks, president of U.S. Trust. Banks says their study shows that today's multimillionaires come from an increasingly diverse group of men and women of all ages and backgrounds. "Their advantage in life is not rare financial privilege, but rather basic values, discipline, and sense of potential shaped by family from an early age, which equipped them to make the most of every opportunity."
Here's what the parents of those surveyed taught them. Adapt or continue to re-enforce these values and it may just give your children a head start to wealth.
Failure is not a bad thing.
Four in five wealthy people came from families that encouraged them to pursue their own talents and interests, but set firm disciplinary boundaries and, for the most part, were tolerant of failures and mistakes along the way.
Some things are more important than money.
The five family values most strongly stressed during the formative years of the participants were: Academic achievement, financial discipline, work participation, family loyalty, and civic duty.
Be a disciplined saver and an opportunistic buyer.
Eighty-one percent of high-net-worth investors say that investing to reach long-term goals is more important than funding current wants and needs. This disciplined approach to saving and investing was instilled at an early age and becomes easier with the financial freedom that wealth affords.
Patience is, indeed, a virtue.
These high-net-worth individuals built wealth over time: 77 percent of those surveyed came from middle class or lower backgrounds, including 19 percent who grew up poor. They earned wealth over time, most of it through income from work and investing.
Be generous to those in need.
Many of the study's participants come from a strong family tradition of helping others: 65 percent say there is a strong tradition of philanthropy and giving back to society within their family.
Marriage is a life-long partnership.
Eighty-six percent of the wealthy surveyed are married or are in a long-term relationship. Most stayed married to the same person, avoiding the financial setback that divorce often creates. They tend to divide, rather than share, roles and responsibilities at home, including financial and nonfinancial contributions to family wealth, such as caretaking for children. Almost all discuss important goals and values about the use of money.
It's good to see that good old family values are still at the core of success. "It is noteworthy that while the survey uncovered several examples of generational differences, the one common thread that cut across all generations was the importance and impact of family values as key contributors to success," says Chris Heilmann, chief fiduciary executive of U.S. Trust.
Teach your children to contribute meaningfully to society, show loyalty to those they love, and work hard, and perhaps they will take part in such a survey one day.