Have you heard the one about the billionaire who lives in a modest home?
Probably not, but we bet you know his name.
It’s Warren Buffett. Yes, we said Warren Buffett—the stock market guy who Forbes estimates has a $106 billion net worth.1 His house? It’s not a sprawling 30,000-square-foot beachfront mansion. Not even close. He lives in a quiet Omaha, Nebraska, neighborhood in an $850,000 home that he bought for $31,500 in 1958.2
Let’s be real—living in an $850,000 home is a pipe dream for most of us. But if you think about a house like that being home to the fifth richest man in the world, it’s kind of amazing, right?
Warren Buffett could buy any house in the world (with cash!), but he chooses to live in a modest, relatively small home in Omaha. Why is that?
And what other surprising things can you learn from millionaires (and even billionaires like Buffett) who don’t live the average millionaire life? Let’s explore 10 simple habits of millionaires. Some might surprise you, but the best thing about this list? It’s 10 things that you can start doing today, no matter where you are in your financial journey.
And who knows? Adding some of these habits into your daily routine might help you get on track to becoming an everyday millionaire yourself!
1. They’re avid readers.
President Harry Truman once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” One of the reasons millionaires become millionaires is because of their constant desire to learn. To them, leadership books and biographies are much more important than the latest reality show or TikTok trend. When they have free time, they use it wisely—by reading.
2. They understand delayed gratification.
Millionaires spend most of their lives sacrificing temporary pleasures for long-term success. They have no problem buying an older used car, living in a modest neighborhood, and wearing inexpensive clothes. They don’t care about keeping up with the Joneses.
Millionaires spend most of their lives sacrificing temporary pleasures for long-term success.
These decisions allow them to do things like save for retirement and college, and build up a large down payment for their dream home. They realize that instant gratification is fun—but delayed gratification is so much better. Today’s sacrifices set them up for tomorrow’s successes.
3. They choose their relationships wisely.
When they say you become who you hang around with, they (whoever that is!) aren’t kidding. Friends and family are some of our biggest influencers, for better or worse.
If you hang out with a group of like-minded people who are committed to the same basic personal, relational and financial goals you are, then you’re all headed in the same direction. And you’re more likely to find encouragement, trust and accountability in a group of friends who align with your values and goals.
Building a network of supportive friends and mentors can make all the difference when it comes to growing in your career or building wealth. No one walks the path of success alone, so make sure you have the right people to speak truth and cheer you on as you work to become a millionaire!
4. They stay away from debt.
One of the biggest myths out there is that average millionaires see debt as a tool. Not true. If they want something they can’t afford, they save and pay cash for it later.
Car payments, student loans, same-as-cash financing plans—these just aren’t part of their vocabulary. That’s why they win with money. They don’t owe anything to the bank, so every dollar they earn stays with them to spend, save and give!
Debt is the biggest obstacle to building wealth. We tell that to everyone. You need to avoid it like the plague. Your dreams are too important!
5. They budget.
Your budget is your plan. And you can’t build a million-dollar net worth without a plan, people. Success isn’t an accident. You are in charge of your own wealth-building.
You can’t build a million-dollar net worth without a plan.
Just like you build a house by starting with the foundation, you build wealth by starting with the budgeting basics. And then you keep following them. When you’re making a lot of money, you don’t stop managing it, right?
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Average millionaires have made a habit of budgeting every month. They know what’s coming in and what’s leaving their bank accounts. If you only remember one thing, it should be this: Budgeting is the key to winning with money. It’s telling each dollar where to go at the beginning of the month instead of wondering where it all went.
6. They live below their means and have an emergency fund.
A lot of people hear millionaire and think of an over-the-top, uber-modern mansion in the Malibu hills with exotic cars to match lining the driveway. But let’s face it—a million bucks doesn’t go as far as it used to. Most millionaires will never own a 30,000-square-foot house with a helipad and a lazy river meandering through the backyard. In fact, the majority reach millionaire status by deliberately not keeping up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians, in this case).
A huge part of building wealth is limiting your lifestyle so you actually have money to invest and save for a rainy day. Nearly half of the millionaires we questioned in The National Study of Millionaires said they save at least 16% of their monthly income, whether for an emergency fund or just to keep a little liquid cash set aside.
Listen, folks. No one is immune to emergencies. As any good country music star will croon: It’s gonna rain! Cars break down. Roofs leak. Companies lay employees off. That’s why you need a dedicated emergency fund of 3–6 months of expenses saved up so that when you face those rainy days, you have an emergency-fund–sized cash umbrella ready to go. It helps turn a full-blown emergency into an inconvenience.
Living below your means and saving for a rainy day isn’t just for people trying to get out of debt. It’s for you if you want to be smart and intentional with your money so you can become a millionaire.
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7. They avoid “luxury” vehicles and drive their vehicle long-term.
We studied 10,000 U.S. millionaires —the largest study on millionaires ever conducted—and found that most of them avoided driving expensive luxury brands. Instead, nearly one-third of all millionaires (31%) drove Toyotas and Hondas. The top American brand was Ford, placing third on the list and tying with Lexus (the first luxury model listed) at only 8%.
It’s hard to build wealth when your paycheck is tied up in a $725 car payment. Yep, you read that right. The average new car payment is $725 at 6.58% interest.3 That’s crazy-land, folks! Especially when you could put that hard-earned money to work for you by investing it. It’s no wonder that a lot of millionaires pay for their car in cash and drive it until the wheels fall off. Okay, maybe not that long, but you get the idea.
If you really want to build wealth, you’ve got to stop putting money into things that go down in value, including cars. That brand new SUV in the driveway? Take a good, hard look. It could be costing you millionaire status by the time you retire. Hope you like that tricked-out Jeep.
8. They invest in their employer-sponsored retirement plan.
Ahhh . . . the good ole 401(k). Investing in your employer-sponsored retirement plan may sound like a simple way to build wealth, but that’s kind of the point.
In fact, in The National Study of Millionaires, we found that 8 out of 10 millionaires listed investing in their employer-sponsored plan as a primary vehicle for reaching millionaire status.
And 3 out of 4 millionaires said that regular, consistent investing over a long period of time is the reason they built wealth. No get-rich-quick schemes. No cryptocurrency, single stocks, or day-trading. Just slow and steady, month-after-month contributions into good growth-stock mutual funds.
Now, if your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan or you’re self-employed, don’t worry. You can always open a Roth IRA. Your money will grow tax-free, and with a Roth IRA—or a Roth 401(k), for that matter—your withdrawals at retirement will be tax-free, too. Now that’s a sweet deal!
9. They look for more ways to earn money.
There’s no getting around it—millionaires are hustlers. They have that entrepreneurial drive and are constantly on the lookout for ways to create more income. Many are business owners or take on side gigs that allow them to save or invest more money each month.
A lot of millionaires invest in real estate to provide so-called passive income. Maybe they buy a residential property and rent it out long-term. Or maybe they go the short-term rental route, especially if their property is near a vacation hotspot.
But keep in mind there’s nothing passive about being a landlord, and you don’t want to buy a rental property unless it’s with cash. If your goal is to become a millionaire, the last thing you want is to go into debt for rental property. Debt always equals risk—and the riskier your investment, the more likely you are to lose everything. Then it’s back to square one, and your chances of reaching millionaire status take a nose dive.
10. They give.
Sure, some rich people can be selfish jerks—just like anyone else. But the millionaires who live down the street, the ones you don’t even realize are wealthy, are some of the most giving people you’ll ever meet. We know because we’ve met a lot of them. They work hard, save, and respect the ability of others to do the same.
Whether it’s tithing at church, donating to a charity, or just giving to friends and family, these people have generous spirits. They realize that the most important thing you can do with wealth is help others.
That’s actually why they continue building their wealth. They realize they can’t take it with them when they die. Instead of spending it all on the latest toys, they choose to be a blessing to others by giving generously. Trust us, it’s the most fun you can have with money!
Let’s be clear: This idea that wealthy people always live in mega-mansions and wear $500 jeans is a myth. Being successful with money is as simple as living a modest lifestyle that follows a few basic principles. The more of these habits you follow, the more successful you’ll be with money. Just ask Warren Buffett.
We’re here to tell you, building wealth has almost nothing to do with your income or background. In our study of millionaires, we found that most of them don’t look the part. The majority live in normal, middle-class neighborhoods and drive modest cars. They’ve sacrificed, saved and invested. And we bet they’d tell you it wasn’t easy. But it’s worth it.
Reach Out to an Investing Pro
If you’re ready to get serious about working toward your financial goals, talk with the investing professionals in our SmartVestor program. They can help you build a clear, personalized plan so you can stay focused on your journey to achieving your retirement goals. It’s up to you!
- Get out of debt and stay out of debt. When your paycheck is consumed by credit card interest and car payments, it’s nearly impossible to reach your investing potential! Check out the 7 Baby Steps for step-by-step guidance.
- When you’re ready to start investing, check out our investment calculator to get an idea of how much you could have at retirement age if you start investing today.
- Navigating all your investing options can be a lot easier when you have an investing pro in your corner. The SmartVestor program can connect you with one who understands the financial journey you’re on and can help you form a plan for your goals.
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