My Story

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I grew up in a family of eleven. There were 8 kids in our family, my Aunt Peg and my Mom and Dad.

My Dad had been a very successful entrepreneur. He was the #1 distributor of tools along the east coast. Sears, Woolworth’s and many other big-brand companies were my Dad’s customers.

We lived in a big house on Todt Hill, the most affluent area on Staten Island, a suburb of New York City. We all attended St. Joseph Hill Academy, the most prestigious primary school Staten Island had to offer and among the best primary schools in New York City.

It’s a much more complicated story, but in 1970 my Dad’s warehouse burned to the ground and his business soon went under and, almost overnight, everything about our lived changed forever.

I was nine years old when we became poor. I don’t remember much about being rich, but I remember almost everything about being poor.

My family had no money for college, so I had to work 20 hours a week as a Janitor at Curtis High School, while going to college full-time at St. John’s Universtiy. I graduated college in four years in 1983 and, after a few minor bumps, began my CPA career working for Arthur Andersen, at the time the largest Accounting firm in the world.

I muddled along in my career as a Tax Accountant and then, in 2004, I took over the helm of a CPA firm I had just acquired. Two months into my tenure I received an urgent call from an owner of one of the firm’s long-time business clients. I met with my client late that night. His bank had just termed his $300,000 line of credit and shut it down. He didn’t have enough money to meet payroll at the end of the week and he was desperately looking to me to help him get a line of credit, asap.

I told my client it would be impossible to secure a new line of credit so quickly. I told him it took years to build relationships with bankers. My client broke down and started crying. In between his sobs, he asked me what my successful clients were doing that he wasn’t doing and he also wanted to know what he was doing wrong.

I had several meetings with my client, in an effort to figure out what he was doing wrong. At one of our lunch meetings, several months later, I confessed that I could not diagnose the cause of my client’s financial problems. I told my client that they only thing I saw that was different was the fact that he paid himself about $40,000 more per year than my other clients were paying themselves in the same business.

My client was not happy. I was not happy. We sat in silence at our table for a few long minutes. In an effort to break the uncomfortable silence I asked my client what he did when he went home at night, after work. There was an immediate shift in my client’s demeanor. An almost impish look took hold and he asked me, “Which night?”

“Pick your favorite night,” I replied.

My client told me that would be Wednesday.

“What do you do on Wednesday nights?” I pressed my client.

My client leaned in, eyeing the restaurant and said ever so quietly, “I get a couple of ladies of the night, a few bottles of wine and…”

My client, in response to my obvious look of shock, stopped mid-sentence. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I should not have shared that with you. I talk way too much sometimes. I started doing it after my divorce about seven years ago. I was lonely.”

I told him that I was an Irish Catholic New York boy from a family of eleven and that there was very little I had not seen in my life. My shock was not from moral indignation, but from the realization that I had been asking my client all the wrong questions these past months. The epiphany I had was that there was much more to financial problems than meets the eye and that I needed to ask the right questions.

I asked my client how much he paid for those Wednesday night trysts. He said about $600 a night. When I did the math, that Wednesday night habit worked bout to a little more than $30,000 a year or about $300,000 over a seven-year period. I then realized why my client needed to pay himself that extra $40,000  a year.

That aha moment spurred me on. Over the next several months of 2004, I came up with a list of 144 questions in 20 categories that I asked 361 rich and poor people over a five-year period. I called it my “20 Question List”. The purpose of my 20 Question List was to find out what the rich and poor did from the time the put their feet on the floor in the morning, to the time they put their head on the pillow at night.

The data I gathered from those 144 questions seemed to be predominantly habit-related.

After I was done compiling the data, I formatted it into something I called my “Research Summary”. This “Research Summary” gave me the ability to easily compare the various data points from my “Rich Group” to the data points from my “Poor Group”. I was astonished by the differences between the habits of both groups and realized that there was a difference the size of the Grand Canyon in the way rich people and poor people in my study lived their daily lives.

This one client unknowingly took me down a path toward the discovery of the secret to financial success – your daily habits.

I documented over 340 of these habit differences and wrote several books about my findings. Due to the success of my books, my Rich Habits have received international attention in the media, newspapers, magazines, online sites, nation-wide and international TV and podcasts in 27 countries.

I now travel the world speaking to audiences, sharing my precious Rich Habits research. I have become a mentor to millions and I owe it all to a failing business owner-client.

My mission is to share my unique research in order to help others realize their dreams and achieve their goals. If you find value in these articles, please share them with your inner circle and encourage them to Subscribe. Thank You!

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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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