The Three Paths to Becoming Rich


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Wealth comes in many shapes and sizes. In my Rich Habits research, I discovered that there were essentially three paths individuals took in order to intentionally become rich:

  1. Save & Invest
  2. Become a Virtuoso
  3. Pursue a Dream

Save & Invest
Less than 22% of the rich people in my Rich Habits study fell into this category. The Savers/Investors in my study took an average of thirty-two years to accumulate an average of $3.4 million. They had zero debt and the passive income generated by their wealth was enough to meet or exceed their standard of living.

Under this strategy, you would need to save a minimum of 10% of your income and invest those savings prudently.

In order to save, however, you must first figure out a way to live below your means. The figuring out part is actually pretty easy – you reduce your standard of living so the costs to live are 90% of your income.

This is easy when you are 22 years of age and single. It’s a much harder thing to do, however, if you are in you mid-40’s and have three kids to support. As any parent with kids knows, kids cost money. And that need for money, often comes out of the blue and only grows over time – think collge.

What makes this path so purposeful is that it is within the reach of just about everyone. Unlike the two other paths (Becoming a Virtuoso or Pursuing a Dream), it does not require any special skills, innate talents, excessive risk or some outrageous work ethic. The only requirements are saving at least 10% of your income and prudently investing those savings. In short, it requires discipline.

Become a Virtuoso
Approximately 27% of the rich people in my study were Virtuosos in their career, industry or profession. They were among the best at what they did. These individuals either worked for large, publicly-held corporations, in which a significant portion of their compensation was stock-based compensation or they ran small businesses that were highly profitable. It took the average Virtuoso in my Rich Habits study about 20 years to accumulate an average of $4 million.

A Virtuoso is someone who has unique, advanced skills and/or knowledge. Society will pay a premium to Virtuosos because they perceive the product or service Virtuosos provide to be superior, adding more value to their lives.

So, how do you become a Virtuoso?

Virtuosos do the following things:

  • Knowledge-based Virtuosos constantly maintain or acquire knowledge. They do this primarily by reading but also employ other means to acquire knowledge (listening to audiobooks/podcasts, watching videos to learn something, seeking feedback, etc).
  • Skill-based Virtuosos engage in deliberate and analytical practice on a daily basis. Deliberate practice requires that you practice several hours a day to improve and perfect a skill. Analytical practice requires that you dissect and analyze every component of the actions involved in a particular skill. Analytical practice typically requires third party feedback, such as from a coach or mentor.
  • Virtuosos communicate what they know either by writing articles, books or blogs or by standing in front of people and sharing their knowledge as a speaker. This communication forces them to better understand what they know.

Pursue a Dream
Approximately 51% of the rich people in my study were individuals who pursued some big dream and were able to turn that dream into a reality. Their dream eventually provided them with an enormous amount of income, profit or gain. Dreamers, in my study, accumulated the most wealth in the shortest period of time – an average of $7.4 million over and average of 12 years

Pursuing a dream was the hardest path to riches, according to my data. The beginning part in the pursuit of any dream requires an enormous investment in time, meaning you have to put in long hours. It was also the path that required the most risk. This risk was in both time and money. In the pursuit of a dream there is no guarantee that the time and money invested will pay any dividends down the road.

The point in all this is that there is more than one way to skin a cat. If you’re risk averse, it does not disqualify you from becoming rich. If you have no dream or you’re not interested in saving your way to wealth, become a virtuoso in what you do for a living. If you are not a saver or a virtuoso, pursue some dream that makes your heart sing.

If you want to be rich, the only important thing is to pick one path and stick with it for many years. The one common denominator all paths towards wealth share, is time. It takes many years to become rich.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. Hi Tom,
    This is really excellent summary of your research. Thank you for sharing.
    Can you share the sample size and time period covered?
    Did you come across cases which lied in between Virtuoso and Pursuing a Dream? I am mean pursuing a dream often requires become a virtuoso in some way, more in knowledge than in skill. Let me know your thoughts.
    thanks so much.

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