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You’re Wasting Your Time: 20 Things Millionaires Never Do

Business, Career, Lifestyle
You’re Wasting Your Time: 20 Things Millionaires Never Do

What’s the key to becoming a millionaire, and staying there? While there isn’t a guaranteed guide to wealth—despite the massive number of get-rich-quick websites and programs for sale out in the wild—you can look to the best examples of how to get there: millionaires themselves. And the most important thing to look at is not simply what millionaires do to make their money—it’s what they don’t do.

So, study as much as you want to. Read all of the 4-hour guides that have been written so far. Think about investing in Uncle Bill’s surefire, can’t miss triple-your-money scheme. Or, find out what self-made millionaires avoided doing in order to stay on the best path to financial success and a debt-free life, in a guide that is blissfully Tim Ferris-free. Here are 20 things millionaires never, ever do.

20. Fail to set goals

via theplanetsocial

The goal list is the golden ticket to a wealthier life, and best of all, it’s as easy to get ahold of as a pen and paper. Those who’ve crossed the million-dollar net worth mark know this well. Writing down long-term goals, making a daily or weekly to-do list of smaller tasks to reach those goals, and then committing to those tasks is key to achieving what you want in life. Now, some argue that millionaires don’t make to-do lists, but that’s not true. What they do is commit to those tasks, filling them into their daily calendar. Doing that gives them a realistic assessment of when and how they can complete those tasks.

19. Wake up late

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Not only do millionaires wake up an average of three hours earlier than others, they also make productive use of that time. No emptying their email inboxes over coffee: instead, they’re chipping away at larger-scale projects, or getting in their morning workout. Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example, is up at 4:30 a.m. and in the gym by 5:00 a.m. Jack Dorsey, Square’s CEO, is up by 5:30 a.m. to meditate and go for a six-mile jog.

18. Watch TV

via optimisman

Most millionaires surveyed by Business Insider admit to watching just one hour of TV per day. And many of them log that hour first thing in the morning, usually watching a business-reporting network like CNBC. Other millionaires aren’t quite so strict, however. Some will keep the television on in the background as they work, providing a steady buzz of activity behind them. Others practice “destination viewing,” or watching just the programs that are important or interesting to them. That could be a Cubs game, Antiques Roadshow or Game of Thrones—whatever their choice, it usually reflects a desire for complex and engaging topics or events, rather than just passive viewing. No word on how much time they spend streaming video on their phones, though.

17. Read for fun

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Millionaires see reading time as an opportunity to learn, so they’ll pick books or listen to audiobooks that help them build their knowledge base—whether in their career field or on managing their money. That includes biographies or autobiographies of other wealthy people—books that can provide inspiration on how to keep earning money—and books about solving financial problems (on a personal or global scale) or investing wisely. If they do read fiction, it’s generally award-winning stuff like, “The Rosie Project.” And the more money they have, the more likely they are to read: billionaire Mark Cuban reads more than three hours daily, and Bill Gates plows through 50 books a year.

16. Do only what’s required

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Going above and beyond is important to most millionaires. That’s different from going over the top, which is what happens when you cover your Manhattan penthouse in gold filigree to match your tawdry gold furniture. No, doing more than what’s required is important to millionaires who know their reputation is their most important business asset. “There is a spirit to rise above and beyond the commonplace. Instead of sitting back and saying I wonder if I can do it or I wonder if it’s appropriate for me to do it, you thrust yourself forward,” said Cambridge professor Dr. Brian Little, who studies the personalities of successful people. “And it’s the capacity to use that passion that leads to awesome accomplishment.”

15. Play the lottery

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Millionaires get where they are by making educated investments and taking calculated risks. A Powerball ticket is neither of these: it’s a shot in the dark with astronomical odds of winning. While a millionaire may occasionally buy a single lottery ticket—because who knows, lightning is known to strike in the same place twice, and as Han Solo says, “Never tell me the odds”—they already know how much farther those two dollars would go in an investment account. Here’s an example from Dividend Life: Schwab offers a low-cost, low-yield mutual fund that you can enter for as little as $100 (really low in mutual-fund terms, where it’s more typical to cough up $1,000 to $3,000 to buy in). In theory, purchasing this fund twice weekly at $2 each time (or $4 a week) over 18.5 years can lead to a fund value of $7,632.

14. Eat junk food, skip brushing, or avoid the gym

via Coma Niddy / YouTube

Millionaires by and large take good care of themselves, because there’s only so much that a cosmetic dentist and plastic surgeon can do (and they charge a lot of money for that work). They hit the gym at least four times a week on average, watch what they eat, and floss daily. But even if they’re not dedicated gym rats, millionaires do make sure to stock their fridge with good-quality food. And breakfast is a big part of a productive day: Richard Branson has a bowl of muesli every morning, while Birchbox’s Brad Lande downs a cup of hot water with lemon and a fruit smoothie.

13. Stop believing in themselves


Hey, millionaires get nervous about money from time to time—it’s a very human thing to do. What they don’t do is give in to that fear. Instead, they keep thinking big. They don’t worry that they may lose all that they’ve earned, and they don’t push away big dreams and goals just because it might be difficult to achieve. They’re not afraid to tackle fundraising—a scary mountain for first-time entrepreneurs—just because it involves a bit of hard work. And once they’ve decided to accomplish something, they don’t second-guess themselves and don’t allow discouragement to stop them. As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

12. Ignore other people


Wealthy people make it a point to form new relationships and cultivate existing ones. Beyond the clichéd golf outing, millionaires engage with other people in all walks of life and at as many different events as possible. Stroll around any community event this summer: it’s a guarantee that more than one millionaire is walking around as well, helping out in a fundraising booth, or emceeing for the musical acts on the main stage. To the wealthy, building strong relationships is as important as putting money in the bank—perhaps more so.

11. Fail to save money

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Speaking of money in the bank, savings are a key part of a millionaire’s plan. You won’t find anyone truly worth seven figures who doesn’t have savings—and usually, multiple savings accounts, whether those are money market or other accounts with a better return than simple savings accounts. In fact, they’ll cultivate multiple income sources, and try to build as much passive income as possible—such as higher-interest investments, income from renting out assets like real estate, capital gains income or royalties from others using your product or process.

10. Let fate determine their life’s path

via YouBeauty

Millionaires in a Business Insider survey overwhelmingly said they don’t believe in fate when it comes to success. They create their own path to wealth–starting with that eponymous pen and paper goal-setting listed above, and building from there. A 2013 report by the Melbourne Institute found that households that have a “strong sense of shaping one’s destiny” are better off on average by AUD $150,000, and save 7.7 percent more of their income. That is bolstered by the fact that few millionaires play the lottery, or at least don’t play it frequently. What’s also interesting is that those parents who don’t rely on fate to bring wealth pass that on to their kids, who are also able to shape their own success.

9. Devalue creativity

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Truly successful people are always generating new ideas. Whether it’s putting a new spin on an old idea in order to get it to sell—gourmet popcorn, for instance—or figuring out how to solve a problem for as many people as possible—like Pet Butler, a dog poo removal service—they’re scribbling thoughts on paper as often as possible. Sometimes those ideas are so brilliant they almost have to work: crowd-sharing rides? Hello, Uber! And sometimes it’s a mystery as to why they become hot businesses at all: the Pet Rock is a classic example from the incredibly weird ’70s, along with plaid pantsuits.

8. Hate their jobs

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Very few millionaires will be found doing a job they hate. If they do, you can bet that they’ll move on as soon as possible. Millionaires focus on finding what they really love to do, and then finding a way to do what they love—usually as the boss. Author Thomas Corley in 2015 analyzed data from surveys of wealthy people who either liked or loved their jobs. The 86 percent who liked their jobs had an average worth of $3.6 million, and accumulated that wealth in about 32 years. The 7 percent who loved their jobs were worth an average of $7.4 million each, and took only about 12 years to accumulate that wealth.

7. Avoid risks

via Ethos3

Taking a risk is important to getting ahead and achieving that millionaire status. Still, they don’t go into situations blindly: wealthy people take calculated risks when it comes to new ventures and big investments Research is a big part of it; remember that millionaires read, read, read, but always material that helps them in life. Is it the right time to sink a bunch of money into a specific stock? If they’ve done their research, they can make an educated guess. In 2011, Netflix’s stock tumbled to just $11 a share after a poor business decision. (Quikster? Really?) However, those who had done their homework either hung onto their shares, or bought into Netflix. Because what they knew that others didn’t was that Netflix was the only marketable online video service in town at that time—no one else had figured out how to make money directly from viewers yet. Netflix’s share valued doubled quickly, then tripled, and within five years reached more than $700.

Millionaires also make sure that they’re able to absorb small hiccups or mistakes that are bound to occur in any venture. And they try to see as far along the path ahead as possible, setting checkpoints that they feel they must reach in order to progress well with a venture.

6. Act stingy


Millionaires tend to be generous, either sharing their time and advice or directly contributing money to causes they feel are important. Bill Gates, of course, now spends most of his time focusing on philanthropic causes. J.K. Rowling, the first author to crack the billionaires’ list in 2004, jumped willingly off that list in 2012 because she was giving so much money to causes that she cared deeply about. While it can be argued that wealthy people sometimes use charitable giving simply to lower their taxes, many millionaires give generously to causes that they believe in.

5. Stay passive

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Rather than pointing fingers when things go wrong, or shrugging their shoulders when confronted with societal problems, millionaires believe in being producers, trying to solve problems rather than playing the victim or complaining. Most take an active role in trying to make the world better—partly because it creates that much more opportunity to make money, but also because they get to be front and center as the world changes.

4. Get into heavy debt

Getty Images via thebalance

Just as the slowest path to becoming a millionaire is to be saddled with debt, the fastest way to stop being a millionaire is to take on significant debt. A 2015 poll by MaritzCX found that 1 in 10 people with investable assets between $1 million and $10 million feel they are already in too much debt and are living pay check to pay check. Almost half of those it surveyed worried they wouldn’t have enough income to make it through their entire retirement. The other half of millionaires who aren’t worried about retirement know the secret: prepare against pitfalls like having to borrow heavily to maintain their standard of living. Instead, they aim to live off of the income generated by their retirement assets, rather than dipping into the principal amount.

3. Retire


More than half of millionaires above retirement age who own their own businesses are still working every day. Why? They say it keeps them mentally active and provides a constant challenge. And the reward? Money, of course. That’s a heck of a drug when it comes to staying youthful well into old age. There’s usually one key difference, however. They choose work that they consider to be relaxing, fun, fulfilling or otherwise lower-key than the old dog-eat-dog world they may once have worked in. Many become mentors or career coaches. Others become angel investors—continuing to take calculated risks on up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

2. Live large

via Alabama Today

Millionaires who intend to hang onto their money avoid spending it unnecessarily. That means driving a sensible (but reliable) car, dressing in off-the-rack clothes on most days, and basically living as if they don’t have a million bucks stashed away. It’s really true that most of us have a millionaire living next door, or in the neighborhood, and we don’t even know it.

1. Do what they want, when they want

via Crain’s New York

Hand in hand with living sensibly, millionaires are careful about the life choices they make. Take a trip to Vegas for the weekend? No problem. Drop $500,000 at the high rollers’ table? Not so much. For one thing, millionaires aren’t at the top of the heap financially, and those who worked hard to get there generally want to keep climbing. “The reality of being a millionaire is that you still have to go to work,” Ryan Stewman wrote. Millionaires are kind of like the first-degree black belts of the economic world: they’ve achieved a significant goal, but they’ve got a long way to go yet.


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