I Spent 5 Years Studying Rich and Poor People and I Would Like to Share What Separates The Rich From the Poor

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When I began my study of the rich and the poor I wanted to know the answer to one question: why are some people rich and other people poor? Five years later and over 350 interviews later, I finished my research. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. I had grouped 144 questions into 20 categories, and asked over 350 millionaires and poor people these questions. It took me five years because this wasn’t a survey I mailed out. I either met with these people or spoke with them over the phone. If you do the math, I asked 51,984 questions of the rich and the poor. That’s a lot of questions!

But it was worth it. What I discovered is beginning to catch the attention of the world and I am confident my discoveries will help change the lives of millions living in poverty and help those stuck in the middle-class improve their financial lives. I’d like to share two ideologies that I uncovered in my research that separate the rich from the poor and which are responsible for creating wealth or causing poverty. I’d like to share those two ideologies with you.

Can-Do Ideology

I uncovered certain attributes that millionaires had. These attributes forged a foundation of success, upon which they built their fortunes. Here they are:

  • Have a Defined Purpose in Life – Eighty percent of the self-made millionaires pursued some major purpose in life. This was some dream or vision they were chasing. They built goals around their dreams and never quit. Many said that they would never quit on their dream even if it meant bankruptcy or divorce. Twenty-seven percent actually failed at least once in pursuing their dream. But they did not quit. They regrouped, got back up and went at it again. Having a main purpose in life, I discovered, creates persistence. Persistence, I found, eventually results in good luck. Good luck usually pays dividends in the form of wealth.
  • Create Multiple Streams of Income – Sixty-five percent of the millionaires in my study had at least three streams of income. This creates a hedge against failure and poverty. When one stream suffers, the others come to the rescue.
  • Be Patient – Eighty percent of the rich in my study did not become rich until age 50. Fifty-two percent did not become rich until age 56. It takes a long time to create wealth.
  • Save Money – Ninety-four percent of the rich saved 20% or more of their income. They began saving long before they became rich. They used their savings to make more money by taking certain calculated risks.
  • Take Calculated Risks – The millionaires took risks with their savings when opportunities came up. Fifty-one percent invested their savings to start or invest in private businesses that they controlled. Ninety-four percent of the rich don’t gamble because gambling is requires random good luck. The rich rely on a different type of good luck – opportunity luck. This is a type of luck they create through their habits, hard work and by pursuing their dreams and goals.
  • Be Optimistic and Enthusiastic About Life – Seventy-one percent of the self-made millionaires in my study were optimistic about life. They believed in themselves. They enthusiastically pursued their dreams and goals. Their optimism infected everyone around them. They became magnets for other success-minded people.
  • Control Your Thoughts and Emotions – Eighty-one percent of the rich made a habit of controlling their thoughts and emotions. Not every thought needs to come out of your mouth and not every emotion needs to be expressed. Doing so damages relationships; relationships that could otherwise open important doors for you and members of your family.
  • Offer Opinions Backed by Facts – Rich people do their homework. When they express an opinion it is usually backed by facts. Facts that they accumulated through years of self-education and experience.
  • Become a Niche Expert – The rich in my study were experts in some niche. This expertise was gained through self-education and the school of hard knocks in a specific area. They were by no means a jack of all trades.
  • You Can’t Succeed on Your Own – The rich build teams. They find apostles for their cause – individuals devoted to them and who share their vision and purpose. Their team players benefited financially from their success. You need the cooperation of others to help you succeed in life. The rich are good at forming teams of people who cooperate together, focused on pursuing a singular dream or purpose. No one does it on their own.
  • Mistakes Have Value – Mistakes are the byproduct of taking calculated risks. The rich see mistakes as nothing other than learning experiences. Mistakes teach you what not to do. They learn from their mistakes and they don’t repeat them.
  • Be Open-Minded – You can’t learn anything if you are closed minded. Being open to new ideas, new ways of doing things and the opinions of others is critical to growth. Success requires growth. You must grow into the person you need to be in order for success to visit you. You must be open and tolerant to the opinions of others.
  • Give First – In order to get you must give. You must give value to others either in the form of service or through some product. Giving comes first. It was no surprise that 79% of the rich in my study volunteered for charities or non-profit groups. They made a habit out of giving their time, money and expertise.
  • Finish What You Start – The rich don’t quit. They stick to something until they succeed, go bankrupt or die. Eighty-percent were focused on achieving some goal and 55% spent one year or more on one goal.
  • You can’t Get Rich if You’re Unhealthy – “You can’t make money from a hospital bed.” That’s what one millionaire told me during my research. The rich exercise every day, they moderate their consumption of junk food, they drink alcohol in moderation, they avoid fast food restaurants, they floss every day and most don’t smoke cigarettes. Consequently, 82% of the rich had no health issues. Zero.
  • Don’t Be Cheap – The rich are generous with their time and money. Because they operate from an abundance mindset they are not afraid to donate their time and money. There is a difference between being cheap and being frugal. Many of the rich in my study were frugal with their money but were still generous to others.
  • Fear Nothing – The rich have made a habit of overcoming their fears. They are not superstitious and believe they can overcome any obstacle that is put in their way.
  • No Excuses – The rich believe they are the architects of their lives. They don’t give excuses, they don’t rationalize failures and they don’t blame anyone but themselves for their circumstances in life. They take individual responsibility for their lives.
  • Don’t Gossip – Most gossip is negative. It damages relationships and keeps doors closed. The rich make a habit of not saying anything behind the backs of others. If they have a problem with someone they go to that person to remove the problem.
  • Encourage Others – Rich, successful people are great cheerleaders. They encourage other success-minded people who are pursuing a dream or some purpose in life. Their own success makes them understand that all things are possible in life.

Can’t-Do Ideology

It was sad to see so many poor individuals in my study who had just given up on life. Their mindsets were so polluted by their upbringing that they could not get out of their own way. I uncovered certain attributes that the poor in my study possessed and which were responsible for forging a life of want and unhappiness. Here they are:

  • Lack of Purpose – The poor had nothing they were pursuing in life. No purpose, no dream, no goals. I should qualify that last sentence. They had dreams but they were not taking any action on their dreams. As a result they felt stuck. Only 3% of the poor in my study were pursuing some dream.
  • Live Beyond Their Means – Most of the self-made millionaires in my study came from poor or middle-class backgrounds. Somehow they were able to overcome adversity in life. One way they did this was they got into the habit of saving money. They were blessed, in a sense, because they had parents who taught them to save 20% of their income when they were very young. The poor in my study were not so lucky. They were never taught by their parents, and never learned in life, the importance of saving money. Ninety-five percent saved less than 10% of their income. Many not only didn’t save, they went into credit card debt just to meet their living expenses. Eighty-eight percent had more than $5,000 in credit card debt.
  • Pessimistic – Another attribute of the poor that really dragged me down was how negative and pessimistic they were. I asked them if they thought optimism was important in life and 78% said no. Seventy-one percent of the self-made millionaires in my study said yes to this question and that optimism was critical to their success. What a world of difference between these two groups in terms of thinking.
  • Negative Emotions Not Controlled – The poor had no control over their emotions. Anger, sadness, worry, fear, unhappiness and mistrust ran rampant in this poor group. They made a habit of expressing every emotion to whoever was in earshot. Anger is perhaps the most costly emotion. Almost half of the poor in my study admitted to getting angry regularly and I believe this was causing them some relationship problems. Who wants to do business with someone who is always pissed off at something? Who wants to do business with someone who is sad or depressed all the time? Who wants to do business with someone who doesn’t trust you?
  • They Have an Opinion About Everything and Everyone – The poor are not afraid to express their opinions, I found. The problem is that, because they don’t read (98% don’t read to learn), they are expressing opinions not based on facts. And when they expressed opinions about others, often it was very negative. “Rich people cause poverty.” “Our politicians don’t do enough for the poor.” “My parents were drunks.” “My kids are lazy.” I heard it all. Ironically, they had a lot to say about the government and politicians not doing enough to get them out of poverty. I say ironically because many were on unemployment, welfare, receiving Social Security disability benefits or just plain old Social Security benefits. The rich in my study, on the other hand, blamed themselves for anything that went wrong in their lives. Not Wall Street, not the government, not the politicians. Themselves!
  • Repeat Mistakes – The poor do not learn from their mistakes. They were too closed minded to listen to others or were simply not aware of the bad habits they had that were dragging them down. Mistakes repeated become habits. Habits are hard to change if you’re not aware of them.
  • Closed-Minded – I think this was perhaps one of the worst attributes of the poor in my study. They just did not want to listen to anyone’s opinion that differed from theirs. As a result there was no way they could learn from others. This keeps you stuck in life. You can’t grow as an individual if you’re closed-minded.
  • Me First – The poor want things given to them first before they reciprocate. This me first attribute gets you nowhere in life. It’s an entitlement attitude that keeps you down. The rich gave first and did not expect anything in return. What a difference in attitudes.
  • Jack of All Trades – Being a jack of all trades really comes in handy when you live in the wilderness but gets you nowhere in today’s society. The poor are average at many things because they can’t afford to pay someone to do it for them. But this is mindset that begins in childhood and carries over into adulthood. When it comes to your career, this mindset is destructive. When you and a million others can do something, what value do you really have? The rich focus on becoming experts in one thing, one niche, and as a result they are of more value to society and can command more money.
  • Bright Shiny Object Syndrome – The poor never complete what they start. I call it bright shiny object syndrome because they are constantly moving from one thing to the next. Ninety-one percent were not focused on any single goal. Ninety-four percent admitted to not setting any goals at all. Unlike the rich, they just don’t stay focused on seeing one thing through to its conclusion. They don’t persist. They move on when the going gets tough. That’s too bad because I found from my study that it is those hurdles and obstacles that force individuals to discover their true genius and creativity. When your back is pushed against the wall, that is when you have breakthroughs and grow as an individual. Desperate times result in discovery. We only uncover our true potential when our backs are against the wall and we are forced to overcome insurmountable obstacles in life. Unsuccessful people quit when the going gets tough. That’s why they never succeed at anything. At the heart of this syndrome is lack of confidence and belief in yourself.
  • Unhealthy Lifestyle – I always get into a lot of trouble when I say the poor don’t eat healthy. The enablers of the poor, and there are many out there, always argue that the poor can’t afford healthy food. There are simply too many articles and studies out there that destroy this argument. As an example, here’s just one: http://greatist.com/health/44-healthy-foods-under-1  If you want to eat healthy you can, at least in America. Worse than poor eating is a lack of exercise. Seventy-seven percent of the poor do not engage in regular cardio exercise. Poor eating and lack of exercise is why we have an obesity and type II diabetes epidemic in America. As that rich person said in my study, “you can’t make money from a hospital bed.”
  • Cheap – Most of the poor in my study were cheap with their time and money. Because of their scarcity mindset they were more interested in what they could get from others than what they could give to others. As a result, when things go wrong in life, as they often do, they’re on their own. The government is their only salvation. If you don’t have money, give your time. But the poor didn’t do this. Only 12% volunteered five or more hours a month. If you look at the data on the rich, 72% of the rich volunteered five hours or more a month. Volunteering puts you in touch with many successful people. Most of the charities and non-profits are run by successful individuals. What better way to build relationships with successful people than volunteering. Successful people have many contacts with other successful people. They can open doors to help you start a business, find working capital, get your kid into a great college and do many other things to help you and your family. The poor were never taught this Rich Habit by their parents, so they don’t engage in this volunteering activity.
  • Gamble Too Much – Seventy-seven percent of the poor in my study gambled every week on the lottery. They are relying on random good luck to bail them out in life rather than the opportunity luck that the rich rely on. Gambling involves risk you have no control over. The rich rely on calculated risk. They take risks they have some measure of control over.
  • Gossip About Others – Seventy-nine percent of the poor gossip about others. Since most gossip is negative, this is a very bad idea. Gossip is talking about others behind their back. What you say almost always gets back to the other person. It damages your relationships, as a result. Many of these relationships could help open doors to you and your family, or bail you out in a time of need. Who wants to help anyone who bad mouth’s them behind their back?
  • Work Hard Not Thinking – The poor go to great lengths to not think. Seventy-seven percent watch more than an hour of TV a day. Seventy-four percent spend more than an hour a day on the Internet. Ninety-eight percent don’t read every day because their time is occupied with TV, the Internet or other time wasters.

If you want to break free of poverty you have to change the ideology you were raised with. You have to embrace the Can-Do ideology. Wealth does not just happen. It takes a lot of time to become rich. But you will never have a chance if you don’t change your ideology from a Can’t-Do to a Can-Do ideology. Everyone has unlimited potential. We are all geniuses at some level. That’s the beauty of being human. We all have the capacity for greatness. The circumstances you were raised in have nothing to do with your current poverty. If 177 individuals can go from poor or middle-class to wealthy, so can 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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  1. It’s clear that the author only thought about self made rich, which is not concludent. What did he say? Let’s be patient until 56 years old ? He is probably joking. Where is the point to be rich after 60 ? To pay doctors and leave the hard worked money to others/kinds included ? This is a life of a slave.
    Why did he not interview born rich people or people who married rich people ? That is really being rich, not working hard a lifetime 15 h per day in a corporation just to get rich after 56…The article is a joke.
    I know people who filled all these ”conditions” and they are still poor, those 3000 of books that they read did not made them rich, nor 4 foreign languages plus latin, not knowing arts history by heart; nor giving to poor and being optimistic. I don’t know what people he interview, only business people?

    • You exemplify the "Can't-do" attitude says:

      The only reasons to pursue the multi-millionaire type of wealth is to enjoy absolute luxuries or to be able to offer that and a headstart to your children. If you want one of those, you’ll have to not be selfish and put in the effort. To just have a comfortable middle class or upper middle class income is significantly easier than becoming a multi-millionaire like these rich people. Do you really think that money was just dropped down from the sky and certain people just caught more of it to hand out for their children to have easier (read: NOT PERFECT) lives? It all started somewhere.

      These people, as stated in the article, overwhelmingly had at least three sources of income–meaning, they did not “work 15h per day in a corporation just to get rich after 56.” Most likely, they lived comfortable lives but never stopped striving for greater heights, and after 50 or 56 had finally attained multi-millionaire status.
      Not to mention that 20% of them did become rich before 50, showing that with enough virtue, luck OR determination it’s more than possible.

      Show me these people who saved money, had goals, didn’t blame others, created multiple streams of income, took calculated risks, were patient, became niche experts, formed motivated groups, learned from their mistakes, were healthy, finished what they started and are still poor.

      You’re the joke.

  2. Tommy Kelly says:

    Hi Tom
    I’ve just finished reading your article on the five year study that you carried out on the differences between the Rich and the Poor and I have to say that I found it a great read.
    I was researching some information for my own website when I came across the article and although I get distracted from time-to-time whenever i’m browsing the internet, this was one of the rewarding finds.
    I’m quite new to the whole concept of maintaining my thoughts along the line of being positive and pro-active in the designing my life, that to find this was just what I needed to read.
    I will now go away after taking notes from this and try to implement them into my everyday life.
    I’ve also signed up to your news letter and will make a purchase of your Rich Habits book to keep as a daily reference.
    Many thanks Tommy


  3. Sorry Thomas, you’re an idiot. I don’t have the time or interest to rebut almost every one of your comments, but seriously, to say that the poor are poor because they have a “can’t do” mindset is to be completely oblivious to the complexities of life.

    • LOL! You’re clearly not rich! In fact your response identifies you as a low on the totem pole person.

      I’m 60 and quite wealthy, I did it the old fashion way, started a business; worked, saved and invested. I’m not about to die at 60…..quite the contrary, I run 10 miles a day, visit fascinating countries and give to charities.

      I do enjoy seeing response from people like you though!

      I would tell you what a buffoon you are……..but, you’re not equipped to understand and I’m far too busy to educate you!

  4. Deividson says:

    I feel sorry for you, it is not enough that the poor a explored by the rich, but you also want to explore them by selling information to than that will not help them become wealth through books.
    well, I am really sorry for you. you must have such a meaning less life.

  5. I am thanks you to share with me with your idea, now l know how can i do of my life to getting better, so i can try for doing the rights thing of my life, and how can I see backwards to learn about my mistake l have done. So I am stuck of my life to care with my family to getting our better life, but they woun’t , why is not enough money to support with my family, so i open my eyes to looking so far away with my future and my family, how they are getting rich and helps to share with other someone Who never know how they race up of their life, waste money is done mistake . I do a plans and learn my life how can I open my good session to access my life for better and health, so i try-on to work hard to getting rich and helps with my family too . I thought is to late because my aged is Comming old, because my eyes for see and my ear for hearing, if i am not getting a job, but my health is alright and how Come can I getting a job to make my dream come TRUE hopes I try-on myself to looking forward what can I do myself if something affect with my life and my goals.

  6. Keirasinclair says:

    Ha so that’s why I’m poor well also I hate socializing and don’t gossip because it is meaningless and a waste of my time I also spend way too much time in imagination land which doesn’t really benefit me. I am obese and hate exercising because I hate the sun. Veggies i do enjoy alot of but what screws me up is diet soda so addictive and makes me crave food like crazy. right now I am on water. And through sheer determination I did lose 130 pounds in one year. but gained it all back when i was pregnant yeah in 8 months pissed me off. So my new goal is to beat the odds lose weight and create a lucrative source of income also finish my book only a couple chaps left. I just stopped because I hated reading my own thoughts. thanks a lot for the info you’ve inspired me to get my ass in gear and make something of my life

  7. Nice! Those are a bunch of good thought habits we can all use to improve ourselves. We often can’t say they directly cause wealth and that their opposites cause poverty, but we can’t discount the fact that our thoughts and beliefs affect our actions, and our actions affect what we get in life.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. While some of it brought along “oh…duh.” moments, it never hurts to read the same information twice if it has the potential to improve your life.

  9. Ashley franz says:

    I enjoyed this article so much. It really put in perspective why I am where I am in life and simple values and attributes that I need to be mindfull of. Needless to say, I would love to be filthy rich but a lot of these points are just generally a good standard to live by. Thank you!

  10. And apparently the spirit of Calvinism lives on!

  11. Susan Justice says:

    Sorry to say but those five years of research and those thousands of questions is bullshit because regardless of ones point of view…optimist or otherwise…getting rich how he says is so doesn’t work for everyone…I spent a good part of my life traveling and working…in schools…different educations…the blue collar trades…creative writing…social work…counselor…sometimes I worked two jobs but no matter what I did…I could never save money as it took all I had to live as poorly as I’ve always lived..I spent 8 years writing and publishing a book…got poems out there too…writing was my dream and my goal was just to provide for my two sons and now grandkids…I worked my ass off and nearly 60…still do…I never quit and never gave up and always struggled…nothing I did brought a lot of money and truth be told…I would rather be poor and humble than rich…poor people tend to care more about others and the rich tend to care more about themselves…rich people…not all of them live more for themselves than anyone…that’s what I’ve observed in 40 years compared to your 5…

    • Sounds to me like your upset.

      • She’s also proving his point. She spent time in multiple fields rather than investing her time mastering a niche field. I would also like to counter that my own experiences mirror exactly what has been stated in this review. The self-made rich do tend to be more generous with their time and money. I’ve found those who were born rich tended to not have the same compassion and generosity that those who were self made have.

        As someone who grew up in poverty and now owns a multiple businesses I will say that if you stop blaming others and just work at building relationships and master a specific skill then you will be more valuable to society and thus make more money. It’s that simple.

      • Katherine Joyner says:

        Sounds to me like your upset !the truth is a tough pill to swallow!!

    • Thanh English says:

      the poor mindset 🙂

    • wow !! I love what you say Susan Justice
      especially rich people tend to care more about themselves…….
      I have seen and noticed them…. ‘they have strong desire to be rich, they stick with their goals, they are very strong mind and self discipline, they can control themselves very well’
      But i have those qualities too, only what I have are more unfortunate than them,
      when I frist entered the UK my goal was to finish my PhD before age 36.
      By 40 I must have my own business.
      By 60 I must retired and live in a big land in my homeland.
      now 17 years passed by….
      I still struggling bringing up 2 children on my own,
      renting the house, claiming benefits.
      the first 13 years of living in the UK, I was in the battle of court hearing with my ex-english husband.
      then after he has gone to live abroad, I have to deal with my oldest child mental health & behavior that caused from his father.
      Then my mother passed away,
      then I had an accident closed to death.
      Now i am in such debts,
      every day I think, think, think, read, read, doing research what can i do to get out of this situation?
      if I work full-time, I have to pay all the rent (no housing benefit)
      that’s mean I won’t have time to teach my kids, even to cook them nice dinner.
      my kids would be on the games or tv all the time, they wouldn’t pick up the book to read, do their home work, ironing their clothes, without me telling them to do so.
      so I try to find part- time work but because I am not English native speaker,
      no UK driving licence make it even harder to find job.
      **this is just a normal, lowest paid job in the UK, cashier, stil no success in getting a job.
      cleaning jobs when advertised on window’s shops are gone quickly as too many people wanting the job.
      so forget about ‘getting rich’ …. find ways to survive all the bills and cost of basic living is very hard.
      I am educated, I have many talents but only one barrier is I am not english native speaker.
      I don’t drink, I eat healthy food (lots of fruits& vegs).
      I cycling, excercise but when I had my accident I can’t do it now.
      I have a very strong self- discipline, postitive and optimistic
      but 46 years now I still struggling to have financial freedom. (stopped thinking to get rich now, just enough money to pay the bills and not want to be on any benefits).
      I think we would be better to read & learn about how to live happily on what we have and not have.
      being productive and discipline, learn to over come the tough time in life, helping others if we can.
      that’s would be enough for my life’s goal.
      Life have to be ‘rich&poor’, black&white, good&bad, ugly&beautiful, happy & sad…etc
      otherwise it won’t call ‘world’, we wouldn’t know all those words above
      we wouldn’t be able to recognise the rich and poor.
      I don’t want to be rich or poor…. my aim is to be able to ‘balance’ my life.
      never afraid, stress of not getting rich, never worry of losing the rich and become poor.

    • Robert Ruschak says:

      Good luck with living pay check to pay check. That is a miserable life and you will never retire happy. I am obsessed with becoming rich/ retire before I am 40 and I am setting myself up to live a great life!

  12. Jake lipton says:

    Wow this article is garbage. While Corley’s article begins with positive implementations of the rich and how they earned their wealth (“Have a Defined Purpose in Life”, “In order to get you must give”), it quickly takes a turn for the worse during the latter half when he describes the attributes of the poor (“Negative Emotions Not Controlled”, “Gamble Too Much”). These comments over all imply that in order to be happy, one must have wealth, and all poor people hate their lives. “I uncovered certain attributes that the poor in my study possessed and which were responsible for forging a life of want and unhappiness.” While it is true that, if possessing these “poor people attributes”, one may become unhappy, it is not true that all poor people hold these ideals or life styles. many poor people are content with their lives and do not strive for wealth because it is a luxury they do not need. Often the rich and middle class are the most unhappy because we spend our lives in jealousy of those above us with more than we have. Money does not equal happiness, nor does it equal success, look at Marilyn Monroe; she had a net worth of $27 million back in the day, but struggled to find happiness in life. She went through divorces, miscarriages, and sickness, and died at a very young age. Despite her wealth and fame, she did not achieve full success.
    I agree that this article makes it’s point justly, but one cant simple assume that all poor people are how Corely described.

    “Too many people measure how successful they are by how much money they make or the people that they associate with, In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are.”
    -Richard Branson

  13. What your studying has ignored is that the majority of real wealthy are born wealthy.

    It’s easy to be optimistic and giving of your time, when you are born with resources and plenty of “gifts” including ownership of your own time.
    It’s easy to be healthy when you’ve been feed the best food from birth.
    It’s easy to feel hopeful when you’ve always had it easy and you’ve always had a rich daddy available to give you a leg up.
    It’s easy to have time to exercise when your time has always been you’re own and your not working slavishly for someone else just to survive.
    It’s easy to be “giving” when you’ve spent your whole life taking. (and the example of giving you provided is really just another form of taking).

    Your describing symptoms of the problem and not really providing any solutions.
    Which is funny because you’re calling poor people not problem solvers but they are living in the problem, while you deny it, probably because it would make you face the ugly side of your own wealth.

    • WealthX survey says otherwise, as does my research

      • carahgen says:

        I can both agree and disagree with the points in your research, however, despite having asked almost 52k questions you asked twice as many ‘rich’ people as you did ‘poor’ people. How rich, how poor? White people, black people? From the US or around the world? From a few states or all states? Were they always rich or always poor? (you were both!) There are so many factors that you did not consider that would have a direct impact on these people and your results! The most important of which is that rich and poor people could have any combination of these traits and turn out rich or poor for other reasons or people could have all of the traits of your rich participants and not be rich! You cannot in good conscience believe that your findings are supported by an appropriate amount of data!

  14. Poppy Gallagher says:

    Thank you Tom! I appreciate you sharing your wonderful insight into the difference between rich and poor. I learned a lot about myself, a lot I need to change.

    All the best,

  15. Wow! I loved your article, and your personal story, of being rich initially, struggling in the middle, and achieving success through hard work later on in life. I am a homemaker who has sacrificed my life for my family, but never got down to doing anything for myself in my career other than teaching for 10 years. I will keep your lil secrets of working hard to achieve success, and chasing after ones dream as a reminder to become a contributing member to our ever changing society after my youngest graduates high school in 3 years.
    Thanks a ton.

  16. frederik krog-meyer says:

    Waste of time study, I could have told you that over a beer.

  17. Mr Corley ,
    I do agree with most of what you say, (and I do own Rich Habits, the Daily Habits of Wealthy Individuals)
    But I have found living as a lower middle class working guy a lot of the mindset was not what made people poor , a lot of people started to have a poor mindset from life beating them down .
    Take me for example, for a long time a really thought I would find a way to make it to a better life
    I was an extremely positive person , I have always worked hard , stayed focus and try to live within my means .

    But every time I tried to achieve more life had a different plan. But failure after failure I just would get back up and try again . But finally after many years of working long hours , reading all the motivational books I could , try to control any negative self talk , finally life beat me down
    I now focus on survival. I now fear not being to make rent or child support , years of failures taught me to fear AND PESSIMISM , I did not start this way.
    And it is easy to talk about saving 20 percent of your income, not so easily done when you work 2 jobs and still have trouble paying all the bills.
    People like cannot even begin to understand about how depressing it is when you cannot afford a christmas for daughter or a decent birthday gift.
    I was once one of most positive people you would ever meet, but life has taught me negativity .

    • I know what it’s like not to afford presents for Christmas. I am low middle class. Unfortunately for me divorce destroyed every part of my life. The people that got rich were the lawyers. My daughter’s lawyer (gal) will have no difficulty sending his kid to college. I’ll be in debt the rest of my life. How do you turn that around? You can’t. Success is all about what you perceive. I don’t want to be rich….I want to survive the next day. Keep in mind too what the cost is….rich people who earned it have neglected other areas of their lives to get it…family is one of them.

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  19. Clint roberts says:

    You would actually have to live poorly to understand life at the bottom. Seeing as how his parents never lost their home, they were millionaires so it was nice, that means they maintained enough income to support eleven people. I’m sorry, but I felt completely trash talked during the entire article. Typical America: rich white guy tells poor people it’s their fault, and their stupid parents faults, and they’ll never be able to fix it. The way you’re treated growing up has a lot to do with things. People told me I couldn’t afford college even if I received scholarships and grants. (Now I know better). People told me that nice things weren’t for me. I was constantly told that I wasn’t good enough. After a life of being told that you’re a piece of crap because you’re parents didn’t have money, it puts you in a mind set. Middle class isn’t poor btw. Oh, and I love how people treated my mother for not having money. I’m sure her uneducated self would cry reading this article. It’s hurtful. But you sleep well at night, because your family has never actually struggled. Maybe a month or two happened in those 14 years that you almost didn’t have the $5,000 a month mortgage payment. That’s not struggling.

    • I grew up without running water or indoor heat up in the mountains of KY inside a roach infested home. The son of single mother who worked three jobs and never made ends meet.

      Guess what. Tom is right. The mentality of the people in the situation is what truly matters. My mother worked her ass off and never learned any specific skills. I learned very specific skills and began going to networking events shortly after highschool (where I dropped out to work and support the family) after busting my ass and I don’t mean working 9-5 at a laborious job then coming home to complain and watch CSI. I mean working every waking minute of everyday. Reading tech manuals and studying trends. Over the course of 8 years I managed to build up enough relationships and developed enough of an understanding of the field I had chosen to start a business with the help of those I had become close to (through networking) and started my first business and quit my day job. That was 4 years ago and I am now on my third business adventure and I don’t plan on slowing down.

      I lived at the bottom and I climbed out and I can say with utmost confidence that the main thing keeping people in poverty is their own bad decisions and negative attitudes. Read a book, stop complaining, and make something of your life.

  20. I was inspired to volunteer at a place which would attract successful people. This article implies the rich are rich via actions, but I don’t think people always choose poorness. Obviously. My investor was scammed 4 times this year, one with me involved in an invention marketing company. I wanna cry. Now, I’ve moved onto xmas gifting a beer HQ, my non bitter beer patent, and drew a website spec to show investors, a startup. Will defeat all other major social media platforms

  21. Pele Butcher says:

    Thankyou for this article Thomas!

    Coming from a poor family and reading this article really helps bring everything to the forefront of what I have observed in my 22 years of life.

    Much of the issues in my family (on both sides) are caused by ignorance, being irrational, allowing oneself to be overcome by emotions, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and lack of savings as a result.

    There is also the resistance to change that seems to be ingrained into the minds of those around me. I find myself changing the way I think about my own actions all the time, yet my loved ones seem to be stuck in their ways. Even though they have eyes perfectly capable of seeing, their minds blind them to the truth.

    I have tried to help them see but they are stubborn and set in their ways.

    I have been setting myself up to become a millionaire for just under a year now, as I would rather live comfortably and not have to worry than live in poverty all of my life. I’ve been reading endlessly about philosophy and changing healthy lifestyle habits.

    I have gone from:

    Eating crappy foods to eating primarily fresh fruit and vegetables and incorporating iodine, magnesium and vitamins d, c and k2 into my diet;

    Watching tv, reading the news and playing video games to replacing this time with reading books on philosophy and psychology;

    Smoking 10-20 a day and drinking alcohol to not smoking at all and not drinking alcohol at all.

    I have also stopped watching pornography. This seemed to have a massive effect on confidence and assertiveness when following through with my thoughts and actions. I also gained self esteem from this and further introspection before acting on my impulses.

    I have cold showers every morning to not just wake me up, but toughen the mind to anything that comes its way. I have noticed that when things dont go my way, I just do not care as much as I used to and soldier through it.

  22. dr karthikeyan says:

    Dear Tom
    Firstly my heartfelt thanks for such a post. I too belong to the group from a lower middle class to the higher levels School drop out and after that joined services and worked their for 15 yrs and came out as a Ph.D. Now presently a Director of very prestigious group of companies and apart from that I opened a private ltd company and also a trust , and pursuing my dreams but still now trying to come to the level that I aspire for…working hard 24/7 and assiduously working on my goals, want to make a great consulting organisation and create jobs for the unemployed in turn give it back to society.
    Though my boat is getting rocked due to financial reasons, I was talking to my auditor, and while doing so I even discussed on closing the company and just then I got accidently to your blog and read about your research and you…really motivating and it rattles my conscience, I came up so well and at times I feel helpless, and then immediately called back my auditor and asked for a meeting on sunday at 1100 hrs to look for positive outcome.

    Like to keep in touch.
    Thanks tom for the blogging.

    Wish you all the very best.


  23. Cyril Myburgh says:

    Hi Tom, you have missed out on the true reason why people are not equal in achieving success. I have three sons with an upper middleclass upbringing. All three had the same opportunities but on has not been able to achieve what the other two have.
    Two of my sons eased through school and college while the other one has had a hard time to grasp the fundamentals of learning.
    The two sons that have done well were always given more opportunities to better their studies while the third son had to take extra lessons mostly to no avail. He just did not have the ability.
    He just does not have the insight of how things work and his arguments are really superfluous. He has excellent manners and bearing but will never make it far in life. He will never be paid enough to save and without support he will battle on through life seeking out cheap thrills to amuse himself.
    Throughout my career I have noticed 5 groupings of people: 5% will never make it in life, 30% will battle all of their life to make ends meet, 30% will reach middle management or equivalent status, 30% will achieve success and 5% will be the top dogs. It may vary from society to society.
    Alas, my son will in the first lot.
    8% of the people in the world own 80% of all wealth and it is through this wealth and ability that they should assist the 35% of the population to have a better existence. I fall into the middle 30% and will do my share for my child as long as I can. Not all are as lucky as my son so the Top 5 % should look after the world as a whole and use their resources and talents to improve the lot of those with lessor abilities.

  24. Thank you so much for this insight Tom … I found most of what you said here to be true and its funny I found this in the midst of trying to make a transition in my life… This was really helpful

    God Bless You,

  25. Satish Gotmukle. says:

    Good read, sir. I got more insights from the above article. I have been always in search of new things. I like to know them and read, so I spend everyday a few minutes also to read something worthwhile. I got definitely more good information from this article. Thank you.

  26. Fantastic article, i too am in search of why some people are rich and some are poor. That is why i started my own blog to study this particular field.

  27. Dear Tom,

    I saw your website and your book and LOVE it!!!
    My name is Irit Wald. I am a co-founder of an app called ThinkUp which is an innovative platform to develop a positive mindset and motivation via technology.
    The ThinkUp app offers a unique combination of personalized affirmations recorded in the user’s own voice, combined with his/her favorite music.This technique is proven to make a much bigger impact on the brain and helping to get results faster. We see an increasing interest in money& abundance affirmations and thoughts about you. You will have a great exposure and we will have the best content.
    The ThinkUp mission is to help people change their self-talk to positive!
    We thought it could be an amazing opportunity to add to our offering, sentences by you under your name, your photo, twitter account, and link to your website/program you would like to promote.( 15000 of our new monthly users can be exposed to your content).

    We have some interesting partnerships with well-known coaches, best seller authors, psychologists and neuroscientists and would like you to join us as well. (One of our influencers has 20M followers:))
    Since it’s a new innovative tool and first of its kind, we’d like to expand it to another dimension, which adds experts and contents.
    Please find a minute and look at our app:

    Best Regards,

    Irit Wald
    CEO at ThinkUp

  28. Matthew Brendley says:

    I have to admit, I chuckled a little when you were on the subject of a persons upbringing. I believed you used the term ‘blessed’ I would like to think I am one of those lucky few. My father is an accountant and has been one since he left college. And just about every other day he tells me about the mistakes he made in life. And every time I listen more and more. I often say around them I’ll do my best to not make those mistakes, at times I think that if I don’t make their mistakes I may end up making new ones of my own. But if life didn’t have its trials and tribulations it wouldn’t be as rewarding. Going back to the reason I feel I’m ‘blessed’ I’ve been taught ways on how to be financially successful and I’m still young, only 18. So just yesterday my parents and I had a talk I’ll never forget. To respect money, it’s a problem many of my peers suffer from. So for you to use the word blessed is flattering in a way. Because I have a dream, I have volunteered and meat several people who have changed my life and will continue to do so. I’ve already thought of what kind of person I’ll be 30 years from now. So thank you, this article was very reassuring, it let me know that it works for more than just my parents.

  29. you’re a moron. the can do ideology actually also comes from rich ppl’s upbringing. wake up. they have that ideology because they CAN DO WHAT THEY WANT.

  30. I met tons of so called rich people. In my opinion they are poor in a lot of ways that most can’t see. Their hardly used boats rot in the harbor. They buy overpriced cars that quickly lose value. They work themselves to death with little to no life worth living before or even after they made it. They quickly shove their money down fruitless endeavors of stupid boring make work vacations. And when they finally realize it they either shove their money down some charity or dump it all into a hospital. And if they hoard it like some rabid dog they likewise have the social capabilities of a complete moron. I wanted to enjoy my youth then after 40 work till I die. No one partied as hard as I did. People hate me because I had it made. I had more fun and adventure than a 1%er trust fund baby. And I did it all on my own. Problem is lots of party people died. I’m done with everything. Too tired and worn out to work hard. No motivation except charity. I have the mind of a 200 year old and the body of a 40 year old that looks like a 20 year old. True riches come from the heart of an individual. If your inner self is rotten all the money in the world will just further drag you down. It’s like a violent bratty child being forced to do school work instead of getting in fights and being tortured n killed. Things can go south very quickly.

  31. Marisa Rowe says:

    Loved this, brilliant.
    I think its all about purpose and fulfilment, regardless of whether you become rich or not.

    Put me the can CAN DO camp any day of the week.

  32. Wow. Your food is cheap in the USA. I don’t get why, and then why people still eat fast food. I was born poor, but there is no way that chicken breast are that cheap in Canada. Most foods in there are highly debatable, for one allergies (Which I don’t have, I just hate beans), preferences (beans! D:) and how you can’t just buy certain items like garlic obviously. Lastly, how long you can enjoy a certain food before you either get sick of it or get stomach problems (there’s up to so many oranges I can enjoy)

    And canned fish? For the love of! It’s like the worst. And as a kid, my mom ate that all the time in a sandwich. I can’t stand the smell anymore.

    So if you don’t like ’em legumes, you either eat expensive chicken (pork is what’s cheaper! Then beef, then sole. Chicken is like buying fresh salmon.) or tofu? Those poor poor people. I’m glad I’m not poor anymore. I can afford to buy free range eggs. That’s part of how I give back. But I’m not rich.

    But enough about food (that’s one thing I guess gets me, that and hands-me down clothes, furniture, Christmas gifts, etc).

    I agree that mentality is there. And unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of help. I’ll give you an example. My mom’s mother was this horrible person; she complained all the time and she told her daughters she was proud of none of them. They could never, after all, they didn’t have a husband, a man to stand behind, so could never be successful. She repeated this mantra: born with nothing, will die with nothing. Which she told ad nauseam to her daughters. The only one who made it and is pretty pretty much a millionaire (given, I never asked, but it’s pretty much understood) is my uncle.
    Every meeting with her was all about complaints. She fed this life to people around them, so they absorbed and they complain about every ailment almost as much for some. They buy something they can’t afford, racking up debts to create the illusion that they are not “that poor”.

    An interesting article, but I can’t help feel slighted in this harsh misunderstanding of the poors as someone who had it all and then didn’t as compared to someone who had nothing and made it better (and who happens to LOVE learning, which unfortunately, continues this stigma of the Jack of all trades, so much to learn!)
    Why? Because your family had the right, easy mentality from the beginning. They didn’t come from that poor soil where their roots were planted. Rich soil has all the good stuff to grow into a bigger broader tree with branches stretching towards so many feasible possibilities.
    The fear of losing even more is horribly real for the poor.

    Trying is risky, because they have others to support or they are afraid of going back down where they came from. I know, I want to open business but I have no collateral I’m willing to gamble (my house or car? Are you nuts?? Where will my family live, how will I get to work being in a rural town?). The kicker? I could ruin my entire family if the business fails. That’s scary. I’m not the only one thinking like that and I don’t need to look far. My mother has the same goal with the same paralysing fear. My brother isn’t 18 yet. That’s a scary option, she still lives in a dirt hole to boot.

    Also, the shame of being poor. It’s paralysing. You make yourself small as to not be noticed. All those poor kids I knew where pretty effaced with their second-hand clothes as opposed to the bitchy “Look at me! My parents can afford me brand clothes!” popular cliques. Also because the richer ones liked to pick on the poorer ones… for being poor. Because their parents were poor, to be exact. They make you feel stupid, and school makes you think you can’t afford higher education. Why bother? Some are broken like horses. Those mentalities come just as much from the poor as they come from those who denature the poor.

    I’ll add the bonus can’t control their money. Them poor people can’t. Cannot cannot cannot. Living paycheck to paycheck. Why? Many reasons. I know one. When you can’t afford to go out to have fun, you can’t afford to have a hobby you like (I like building models, they aren’t cheap), eventually you build-up this temsion that makes you go “F*** this, I’m buying it! / Going out!” going all out and draining you credit card’s last credit.

  33. Hey Tom, you’re full of shit and very judgmental.
    Sounds like you went into the study with your mid made up. poor only complain about the govt not doing for them, meanwhile they are all on welfare.

    Im not on welfare, and I don;t need a handout, don;t judge me, check your privilege you fucking schill.

  34. Interesting article and responses to it. I grew up with nothing extra and have always had to work hard for everything. I recently read a book that I found thought-provoking. It’s worth reading.

    Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis Hardcover
    by J. D. Vance

  35. Sahil Singh says:

    But we don’t know they acquired this mindset BEFORE or AFTER getting rich.

  36. TJ2000 says:

    Yes, I’m gonna have to agree with most others who have commented with substance. Your study really didn’t seem to address the “how” ( cause ) they managed to get rich – it only addressed “effective” differences in personal behavior between being rich or poor.

    As others have mentioned in a round about way; It has nothing to do with poor people being angry and stressed; HELLO, they have financial trouble – OF COURSE they are angry and stressed. Take any of the millionaire’s money away and I’d guarantee they’d be angry and stressed the exact same way. Which goes right along with every other point in this article – You address different traits that are re-active to the situation instead of causes.

    I say this as a person who has gone from poor to pretty well off. The compulsive spending rang true but the rest of it just seemed like a description of common behaviors for anyone in two completely different environments.

  37. Troy Cross says:

    Well, since i came from the wrong side of the tracks as per say, I seem many that when in highschool that had parents that was a blue collar to professional level and decided to set goals to achieve their life style, had a few set backs of divorce and a loss of my only son, which rocked my world, but as I look back and then look at where I’m at, I have overcome much when all told me I never could, maybe them saying so made me that much move determined to prove them wrong and later I found out I wasn’t competing against them but only had to prove to myself, sure i had many obstacles, dad was and alcoholic and this was a thing in my life that I didnt want for my son, later after two divorces later learned not to settle. Still the best college wasn’t the one that gave a degree but was the school of hard knocks. One can ask , watch the rich and they will be more than willing to teach, talk and help you as they also want you to be or achieve your dreams. It was a wealthy friend that took me to a porsche dealership as I watched how they treat him as he was only 20 and had a very successful business, as we test drove that Porsche he told me well today I could buy this car but I would loose my money and but my money will buy this car for me, that stuck in my head as he aslo said when you work for a man he pays you what you will settle for , it was a year later when he came driving up in his car and stated my money I still and it has bought me this car, alittle confused I asked him just how could that be, he said invested it and the interest now pays the payment, it was years later as each day that went throught my head and I sold my house and took that money and invested it, I came across a Cadillac I so wanted and thought to myself humm I can pay cash and i get the car but lose my money or I can invest my money and make it work for me, as I sat there with the banker inquring about what interest he would charge me and what interest I could earn if invested. Thats when I made my money work for me. My money bought the Cadillac and I still had my money. Now my friend told me that oneday I would figure it out, so yes I thank him as I wanted more and a better lifestyle than what I had when growing up and still have dreams with plans and motions that will be achieved, along the way when i meet others I always want to share experiences, and help them to achieve their goals, so being poor is only a state of one’s mind. Remove all the clutter, excuses and be true to self and anyone can achieve their dreams.

  38. William says:

    Poor people are more likely to be pessimistic. Gee I wonder why? I understand what you are getting at here man, but a positive can do spirit isn’t going to come from someone who feels they are literally weighted down every day.

  39. The one thing that the article is basicly saying is poor people have brought poverty on themselves by how they think (example a child that came from each broken home grows up battling to survive never has enough to survive (how do they save money to invest ?) They work hard and are determined .then one day one of thoughts millionaires you mention closes down there work place (that’s the poor man’s fault???? Now he can’t pay rent so that wealthy maybe millionaire that owns where he lives has him thrown out on the street he gets unwell depressed (that’s the poor man’s fault how????)circumstances of people’s lives have a big part in there wealth health and stability .the other facts are millionaires and wealthy people do not give to charity freely it’s always for themselves as tax deductions or to get in the media .most places Its the poorer people that give the charity and help others for free as they know what it’s like to do without .so mate I think it’s rediculous to say poor people are poor because they don’t try or to negative makes me wonder have you ever done without?? We all can’t be millionaires have you ever seen a millionaire driving a bus or cleaning your rubbish I think you better restudy your article is far from logical in a real world


  1. […] the day.  We make money because we need money to take care of our responsibilities.  That said, check out the highlights of this study by Tom Corley and come back for the rest of this […]

  2. […] Tom’s original article appears on his blog, Rich Habits. […]

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