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  • Writer's pictureDarragh O'Connor


Rich people have rich habits. It’s a big part of the reason they’re so rich. They set themselves apart through their behaviour – and it is as much about what they do as what they don’t do. Successful people don’t watch TV marathons of the Bachelor in Paradise; they don’t eat Big Macs for breakfast; and they aren’t late for work because their “alarm didn’t go off”. Rich people do get up early and go for a run; they do read lots of non-fiction books; and they do believe that their good habits will create opportunities for them to become even richer.

And here’s the thing: None of these “rich habits” are reserved for the rich. There’s nothing about being rich that makes it easier to rid one’s life of reality TV. That’s one step that everyone, rich or poor, can take today. And there are plenty more. I scoured the web for the richest of rich habits, all backed by hard evidence, and all easily put into practice.

1. Dump the junk food and take care of the temple.

Businessman Dave Ramsey has done pioneering research into “rich habits”, and he found that 70% of wealthy people eat less than 300 junk food calories per day, [whereas] 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day.”

Now, junk calories are cheap calories, so perhaps this makes sense. But a good diet, in this case, might also point to something else: discipline and self-control – key attributes of successful people. In the same vein, 76% of rich people exercise “aerobically” four days a week. There is nothing rich about going for a brisk walk, but it seems aerobic activity is a discipline of the wealthy. Some people might complain that there are not enough hours in the day for regular exercise. I suppose that’s why 44% of wealthy people get up three hours before work. Do you?

2. Do you really need to watch Game of Thrones?

Ramsey found that two thirds of wealthy people watch an hour or less of TV a day. As Candice Elliot at Listen Money Matters wrote,

“I have not watched Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Wire, Game of Thrones, all of those shows that people talk about at whatever the modern equivalent of the water cooler is… If you watched all of those, you would have spent dozens of hours sitting in front of the TV. Just never start watching them and you won’t know what you’re missing.”

If you feel that you need more than an hour a day of TV, fine. But please don’t spend that time keeping up with the Kardashians – for your own good. Here’s a stark contrast: only 6% of wealthy people watch reality TV, compared to almost 80% of poor people. Don’t let that be you.

Browsing the web isn’t a great way to spend the day, either. That’s why rich people don’t do it as much as the rest of us. Tom Corley, who wrote a book on “rich habits” and runs an institute of the same name, found that almost three quarters of “those struggling financially spend an hour or more a day using the internet recreationally,” whereas the corresponding figure for the wealthy is only 37%.

Screen-time is too often wasted-time, and since time is money, as the cliché-with-more-than-a-grain-of-truth goes, your screen-time is losing you money.

3. Keep hitting the books.

Continuing Professional Development is almost a buzzword among young professionals today. If you are interested in career progression, you better be taking advantage all the CPD opportunities that come your way, both formally and informally. One particularly noteworthy characteristic of the wealthy is their inclination to read. In fact, 86% of wealthy people say they “love to read” – and not only that, they love to read things that improve their minds and prepare them for what’s ahead: 80% of the wealthy read educational or career-related material for 30 minutes every day. But the wealthy also read history, politics, biographies – in a word, non-fiction. Only 11% read purely for entertainment purposes, whereas 94% read to keep up with current events.

On the other hand, only 2% of those struggling financially read with the intention of self-improvement or increasing their knowledge. There are many reasons why those who struggle financially do not pick up a book nearly as often as the wealthy do, but there is no doubt that it is to their great disadvantage.

4. Make friends and hold your tongue

As the saying goes: It’s not about what you know but who you know. Networking is a major part of climbing the career (and wealth) ladder. A helping hand here, an interview there – maintaining a network of friends and work acquaintances can help you secure the job of your dreams. And it isn’t all about you, either. Corley found that nearly three quarters of wealthy people network or volunteer for 5 hours or more a month, and Ramsey found that 80% of rich people make happy birthday calls to their friends and acquaintances. The wealthy are maintaining their networks simply by being there for people.

But in order to maintain a wide social network, sometimes you must simply bite your tongue rather than jeopardize a friendship over some trifling difference of political opinions. That’s why only 6% of the wealthy report that they regularly “say what’s on their minds” compared to over two thirds of the poor. Jobs are lost because of loose tongues – mouthing off to the boss, telling a client he’s wrong – and friendships are broken. The wealthy know how to pick their battles.

5. Don’t play Russian Roulette with your bank account.

It should be unsurprising that the wealthy are generally good with money. Plenty of people in Ireland (and beyond) live paycheque-to-paycheque – a stressful and unstable way to live. Wealthy people tend to save 20% of their paycheque and live on the remaining 80%. In other words, they live well within their means. As Tom Corley writes: “Wealthy people avoid overspending by paying their future selves first.” The rest of us tend to overpay ourselves today without a thought for tomorrow – credit card debt racks up, bills go unpaid, but the pints keep on coming. And when reality strikes and we find ourselves in a financial pit, what do we do? We gamble: “Every week,” writes Corley, “77 percent of those who struggle financially play the lottery”. Even more troubling, Ramsey found that people making less than $13,000 a year (€11,400) spend 9% of their income on lottery tickets. Gambling is an act of desperation, which is why the wealthy don’t play game.

6. Less talk, more action.

Procrastination wasn’t a good idea in grade school, and it’s not a good idea now. It’s not enough to talk about what you are going to do, or even how you are going to do it – anybody can do that. Until there is action and results, it’s all just talk. Corley and Ramsey offer some concrete examples of how the wealthy go about achieving their goals. Ramsey, for example, found that “80% of the wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal”. They are singular in their focus – their energy is not dispersed and wasted on doomed pipe dreams. And they take practical steps to accomplish this singular aim: 80% of the wealthy also use simple but effective to-do lists to get them through the day, to prioritise their work and organize their work lives. Corley suggests that the wealthy achieve their desired outcomes because they “set goals, not wishes” and they eliminate “bad luck” from their vocabularies. They make their own luck.

7. Don’t be a yes-man.

Success is about picking out the good investments from the bad – investments of time, effort, attention, and, occasionally, money. But perhaps the billionaire said it best:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” - Warren Buffett

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