Building wealth has little to do with your job title. Some of the richest people I know are college dropouts, teachers, and unassuming professionals who lead modest lives. But one look at their bank accounts, and it’s clear they’re doing something right.
What’s confusing is that many of the people you assume to be rich — doctors, lawyers, and executives — spend their money and go into debt playing the comparison game with peers.
So, what is the secret to building wealth?
Your habits. All of my richest clients share five money-making habits.
1. They set clear financial goals
The mind is a powerful tool. When you get clear about what you want, when you want it, and have a strong “why” behind your goal — your brain can’t resist. You’ve given it a clear target to optimize your actions around.
And for my wealthiest clients, the goal is just a starting point. After deciding what they want, they set up repeatable systems that align their actions with their goals. This is what drives real progress.
So, next time you set a financial goal — like saving $50,000 for a home down payment, for example — don’t stop at setting it. Outline the weekly or monthly actions it will take to reach your goal. In this case, it could be a monthly transfer of $1,000 into a high-yield savings account you’ve labeled “Future Home Purchase.”
2. They invest each month without fail
There’s no building wealth without investing. Rich people know this, which is why they use their income to buy appreciating assets like stocks and real estate.
They also know that investing isn’t about timing the market. That’s proven to be a fool’s errand for long-term investors with a horizon of a decade or more, which happens to be the majority of us who want to retire someday.
Instead, my richest clients know that investing is about spending a lot of time in the market. Rather than catch the market’s random highs and lows at the perfect moment, they simply invest the same dollar amount on a set schedule. Just like clockwork.
By turning investing into a habit (with the help of automatic transfers each month), my clients avoid costly mistakes, like missing the best-performing days in the stock market and losing out on years of compounded returns. This savvy move is called dollar-cost-averaging, and it’s something anyone can do.
3. They plan for the bad times
Building wealth is one thing. Holding onto it is another ball game. My richest clients never leave the latter up to chance. Instead, they proactively plan for when the bad stuff happens.
Whether it’s a medical emergency, market crash, taking fluffy to the vet, or replacing some ungodly expensive piece of your home — there are ways to protect yourself from financial ruin.
Here are the most common disaster-proof strategies my clients use:
- Having a cash emergency fund equal to six months of income
- Researching and choosing the right health insurance plan
- Protecting their income with disability insurance
- Protecting their family with life insurance
- Protecting their legacy with an estate plan
Without the “protection” part of your plan, it’s all too easy to blow up your financial goals when an inevitable surprise comes along.
4. They diversify their income
Speaking of protection, my wealthiest clients understand the power of diversification. Yes, with their investments, but more so with their income.
Think about it: If you only have one source of income, which is a salary for most of us, then your entire financial future rests on your ability to maintain that income. The second you lose your paycheck, you’ve gone from boom to bust.
This isn’t a fear for rich people, though. If they lose one income stream due to a surprise event, like a recession, they have four or five others to help them pay the bills, continue saving for retirement, and avoid going backwards with their goals.
The most common additional income streams among my clients include:
- Owning income-producing assets like stocks, bonds, and real estate
- Turning their expertise into a consulting or coaching business
- Building a scalable side hustle through writing, e-books, and courses
- Leveraging their network to find great businesses to invest in
5. They invest in professional help
The last habit my richest clients share will not be a surprise. When they need help, or simply lack the time to do something themselves, they invest in professional advice. This rings especially true for their personal finances.
Instead of DIY-ing things like investing, taxes, insurance, and major financial decisions, they understand the value of partnering with a financial advisor to put all the pieces in place.
Anthony Carlton, CFP, is an advisor at Farther Finance, the first digital family office.