Everyone wants to achieve wealth and financial freedom, but very few actually go on to rack up the seven-figure bank accounts they dream about. In fact, it's commonly suggested that Americans don't identify as poor; instead, they see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

So what gives? How can it be that so many people list "being wealthy" as a goal, when American consumers owe more than $11.85 trillion in household debt (up 1.7 percent from last year)?

It turns out, becoming wealthy may be less about your inherent intelligence (or, for that matter, about your inheritance), and more about the habits you practice and the mindset you maintain. Want to know how the wealthy got ahead? Check out the following 12 traits of the super rich:

1. Play the money game to win.

So many people dream of having enough money to "become financially comfortable." Unfortunately, this is too vague to work in most cases. Wealthy people have a specific endgame in mind -- to become rich and stay rich. They take on projects and tangible ventures that result in real-life wealth. You have to think like a rich person to become one.

2. Always know their net worth.

At any given time, a person with substantial amounts of money can tell you exactly how much they have. Most of us know how much is in the bank, give or take a few dollars. The super rich, however, know the ins and outs of every part of their wealth; and if there is something they aren't sure of, one phone call separates them from an immediate answer.

The real difference here isn't the knowledge itself -- it's the amount of time the super rich spend working with their money. Financial speaker Brian Tracy argues this distinction, claiming, "The average adult spends two to three hours each month studying and thinking about their money, usually at bill-paying time. The average self-made millionaire, by contrast, spends 20 to 30 hours per month thinking about, studying, and planning his finances."

3. Broaden the bookshelf instead of a buying a bigger television.

According to Thomas Corley, 78 percent of poor people veg out on reality TV, while only 6 percent of rich people spend their time on this type of programming. What do they do instead? Read books. Whether they're increasing their financial knowledge or studying another subject that'll increase their earning power, wealthy people know that education is the key to a successful financial future.

4. Hang out with people they want to become.

As the saying goes, you become the average of the five people you associate with most often. Wealthy people don't hang around people who make poor financial choices. It's not because they look down on others of less net worth, rather that they realize they will become more like the people they spend time around, so they choose their friends and acquaintances wisely.

5. Focus on the big picture.

Good things will happen and bad things will happen, and you won't know when either is coming. But wealthy people take advantage of this fact. They celebrate the amazing opportunities life has to offer, yet they waste little time being upset about things they can't change. Rather, those with substantial wealth choose to set their gaze on the long run and work toward creating an enjoyable future for themselves.

6. Face their problems.

Many people run from their problems, especially financial ones. They bury their heads in the sand, hoping issues such as bad debt or an underwater mortgage will disappear. Wealthy people face their problems head on. While it may sting in the short run, rich people recognize that your overall loss of money and time can be diminished if you face up to the problem sooner.

7. Constantly develop new skills and techniques.

Last year's methods and tricks are outdated. The only thing that remains the same year after year is this: everything changes, and it changes quickly. Those in the bracket of high net worth educate themselves and learn the newest techniques and breakthroughs. This allows them to build their wealth even further by generating a sustainable competitive edge.

8. Step outside their comfort zone.

You can only go so far and make so much money within a certain arena. Every situation has a ceiling -- and it's usually padded with a comfort zone. In order to build their fortune, wealthy people know they'll have to expand their horizons and step beyond what they've known thus far. But they don't just think about it -- they do it, taking the uncomfortable steps and entering a world of new opportunities.

9. Say "no" when it's appropriate.

Not every deal is a good deal. Those who are serious about their money, even when the stakes are high, have the confidence to walk away from poor investments -- and will walk away alone if no one agrees with them.

10. Set goals and visualize.

Goals that are never set are rarely achieved. Rich people document their goals and follow through by tracking their progress. They know exactly what they want to achieve and what they must do to get there.

11. Network, network, network.

It's no secret that most great deals come from those you know. Rich people take advantage of this and network like crazy. It has been said many times -- and I completely agree -- if you want to become rich, never each lunch alone.

12. Take risks, but never gamble.

You can't make money by playing it safe, but you need to exercise caution as well. The wealthy aren't afraid to take calculated risks that have the potential to pay huge dividends -- but not before spending a lot of time researching and looking into the deal. Rich people are all about investing, but only if the risk and potential return validates it.

Do you share any of these traits with the rich? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below:

Published on: Sep 21, 2015