A lot of people assume that the rich live in mansions, take lavish vacations, and dine in fancy restaurants every night. Nothing could be further from the truth. A small percentage of the well-to-do may live that way, but as Thomas Stanley and William Danko pointed out in the best-selling Millionaire Next Door, most of the people in the nation's highest tax brackets live modestly and look no different from the less affluent.
Below are five money habits that separate the rich from the poor, and most may surprise you.
1. They live beneath their means.
They own moderately priced used cars and drive them until they're on a first-name basis with their mechanic. They live in modest homes in average, middle-class neighborhoods. They clip coupons. They cook and eat at home. They buy their clothes off the rack and on sale. They drink beer rather than champagne. Most importantly, they don't spend more than they earn--they live well below their means and invest the surplus in things that are important to them and will provide for their long-term well-being.
2. They don't try to keep up with the Jones'.
They don't try to impress anyone. They don't belong to exclusive clubs or host lavish parties. If they belong to a social or sports club, it's usually to network or further their business interests. When they engage in such activities, they usually get a return on their investment. They understand that lifestyle creep--buying a more impressive home, driving a pricier car, or wearing fancier clothes--is a danger to their pocketbook.
3. They work for themselves.
The rich tend to be entrepreneurs in boring but stable industries. They understand that it's difficult to increase their own fortunes if they spend their days working to pad someone else's bank account. They know that when you own your own business and can supply a product or service for which there's a steady need, you will likely do well and never want for an income.
4. They don't provide financial life support to others.
They worked hard to earn their money--they didn't inherit it or win it in the lottery--and because it wasn't handed to them they believe that it shouldn't simply be handed to others. When family or friends ask for a loan, they may say yes but there will likely be conditions and it will likely be for something that empowers the recipient (i.e., money for education or a business venture).
5. They make sure their money works as hard as they do.
They save religiously. They invest in their retirement (and non-retirement accounts) without fail. They educate themselves about their money by tracking how much is coming in, how much is going out, and how to get the best return on their money.
Ultimately, the rich achieve that status not through their earnings but through their day-to-day habits--habits all of us can try to emulate.