Before you build wealth, you need to build the mental framework for it. That’s one of the many valuable takeaways we walked away with from Episode 147 of the HerMoney podcast featuring Chris Hogan, retirement expert and author of, “Everyday Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth—and How You Can Too.”
Hogan surveyed over 10,000 U.S. millionaires to discover how they reached seven-figure status. For many, it was as straightforward as making habitual contributions into a retirement plan while keeping debt relatively low. “If what you own minus what you owe puts you at a million dollars, then that puts you as an everyday millionaire,” says Hogan.
“If what you own minus what you owe puts you at a million dollars, then that puts you as an everyday millionaire,” says Hogan.
“It’s good for people to have that mindset, because a lot of people think to be a millionaire I’ve got to make a million dollars a year, right?”
And get this: A third of the people surveyed never had a six-figure household income in a working year. They’re people who stayed focused on building their net worth, he says.
Here’s how you can do the same on your way to your first (or next) seven-figure goal.
Looking Like A Million Bucks Is Different Than Having A Million Bucks
Of the millionaires Hogan surveyed, 94% live below—not within—their means. That leaves them with money to save, invest and grow. Doing that means being more conscious about your consumption.
“I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me in the most amazing new car—a Mercedes, Tesla, Porsche—and they’re dressed to the nines—the quality and cut of their clothes is impeccable,” says Manisha Thakor, vice president of Financial Wellbeing at Brighton Jones. “And I can’t tell you how many times that person can’t meet our minimum, which is seven figures in assets.”
It’s often the people who aren’t flashy who are amassing real wealth.
Aim To Sync Up Your Spending With Your Values
“Budgeting isn’t denying ourselves of things, it’s … trying to squeeze as much joy out of [our resources] as we can,” says Thakor. That means a millionaire mindset is one where our resources are being used wisely, without leaks. To accomplish that, Thakor suggests her highlighter test: Write down everything you spend money on for as long as you can. A month is ideal, but a week, weekend or even a day could be powerful. Round the numbers up—you don’t need to be precise and you don’t need to add it up. All you do is highlight what you spend money on that doesn’t bring you joy.
Those expensive drinks with people you don’t even want to spend time? The piano lessons your daughter dreads and you dread driving to? The mortgage that isn’t making as much sense with the empty nest? All of a sudden you know what you can trim.
Value Experiences Over Things
If some of that misguided money is going to clothing, electronics or other products (i.e., “things”), then you could be even further on your way to millionaire status. Among her high net worth clients, Thakor notices the majority value experiences (e.g., vacations, hobbies or time with family) over things. “They’re not into a collector mindset—they have an experience and living life mindset,” she says.
Don’t Do It For The ‘Gram
According to a recent survey from Chase Slate, 77% of millennials owned up to overspending so they could post it on Instagram. In some cases, they were willing to spend nearly twice as much as the general population—$137 versus $70—to achieve a like-worthy picture of travel, food or clothing. Social media can be great for connecting, networking and keeping in touch, but it can also be dangerous for your wallet because it presents infinite opportunities to compare yourself to others.
77% of millennials owned up to overspending so they could post it on Instagram.
“When you look at someone who has more—or a life you admire or envy in some ways financially—it’s not aspirational, it’s valuative,” says Sarah Newcomb, senior behavioral scientist at Morningstar. “Right here, right now, do I measure up to this person? No, you don’t. And you walk away feeling, ‘ugh.’” Or you spend to keep up.
Choose A Financial Role Model
The advice isn’t to stop comparing yourself—that’d be inhuman, says Newcomb. Instead, it’s to change who you’re comparing yourself to. Newcomb found that rather than a neighbor, family member or celebrity—people who compared themselves to financial mentors or models—whether those mentors had more or less—that group felt great financially,” says Newcomb. Just note: The person you choose has to be within reach. Less Warren Buffett. More your mom.
Be Accountable For Yourself And Your Financial Future
Nearly 100% of the millionaires Hogan surveyed said that they believe they control their destiny.
“That means they’re not looking to blame other people for their results,” says Hogan. “They know where they are and where they’re going.” In addition to taking personal responsibility, he found these people to be hard-working and goal-oriented, knowing how to create benchmarks for themselves and “how to put their heads down, avoid distractions and keep moving.” There’s a good chance one of those goals is financial independence. Thakor finds the notion of not being beholden to anyone else a common motivator among millionaires.
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