I Spent 5 Years Studying Rich People, and Here are the 20 Best Pieces of Advice I Can Give You About Achieving Success

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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 asked each person 144 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. Surveys have limited value, but actual interviews allow you to dig deeper and uncover much more valuable information. 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 or stuck in the middle-class. Here’s 20 of the best pieces of advice I can give you about achieving success:


  1. 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 trying, even if it meant bankruptcy or divorce. In fact, 27% did fail. But they still did not quit. They regrouped, got back up and kept trying. Having a main purpose in life, I discovered, creates persistence. Persistence, I found, eventually results in good luck. Good luck pays dividends in the form of success and wealth.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. You have to learn to be patient if you want to become successful.
  4. Save Money – Ninety-four percent of the rich saved 20% or more of their income. They began saving long before they became rich. They then put their savings to use by taking certain calculated risks.
  5. Take Calculated Risks – The millionaires took risks with their savings. Fifty-one percent invested their savings to start up or invest in private businesses or make investments in specific areas such as real estate, unique products or unique services.
  6. 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. This helped them in creating teams that would eventually help lead them to success.
  7. Control Your Thoughts, Emotions and Your Words – 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.
  8. 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 reading and school of hard knocks experience. They don’t express opinions out of ideological ignorance. Because they are open-minded and students of life, they do not mindlessly embrace ideologies that are inconsistent with facts and information they acquire through their self-education.
  9. Become a Niche Expert – The rich in my study were experts in some niche. This expertise was gained through self-education and years of experience in a specific area. They were by no means a jack of all trades. Because they possessed a unique expertise in a few niche areas they were able to command more money and, thus, earn more money.
  10. 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. The 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 are able to cooperate together, focused on pursuing a singular dream or purpose. No one does it on their own.
  11. 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 allow you to learn and grow.
  12. 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 learning and growth. Growth is the parent of success. You must grow into the person you need to be in order for success to visit you.
  13. Give First, Get Later – In order to get, you must first give. You must give value to others either in the form of service or through some product offering. Giving always 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.
  14. 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 singular goal. They do not leave projects uncompleted before starting other projects.
  15. 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 they eat healthy foods and most don’t smoke cigarettes. Consequently, 82% of the rich said they had no health issues.
  16. 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 when it came to their personal expenses, but were nonetheless generous to others in need.
  17. 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.
  18. 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 behavior, their choices and their lives.
  19. Don’t Gossip – Most gossip is negative. It damages relationships and closes doors that might otherwise be opened. The rich make a habit of not saying anything behind anyone’s back. If they have a problem with someone they go to that person to resolve the problem.
  20. Be a Cheerleader – 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 helps them understand that all things are possible in life, irrespective of where you start out in life.


Wealth does not just happen. It takes time to become rich. But you will never experience success if you don’t have the attributes for success. Everyone has unlimited potential. We all have the capacity for greatness. If 177 people can go from poor or middle-class to rich, than 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. Hi, Your site is great! Been following for a while. Please I’ll like to know the difference between being frugal and being cheap or stingy. Thanks.

    • You can be generous and yet frugal with your money. When you’re frugal, you are aware of how you spend your money. You are not afraid to spend your money for things that matter to you. Many self-made millionaires are very frugal yet willing to spend their money on good causes (charity/investments). When you’re cheap you refuse to spend your money, irrespective of the nature of the cause. Cheap people function from a mental framework of scarcity. Frugal people do not have a scarcity framework. They are simply cautious with respect to how they spend their money.

  2. I like what you said about not quitting, that they go until they succeed, go bankrupt, or die. From what I have seen after they go bankrupt, they still don’t stop trying. They continue to do what they were doing, but maybe from a different angle, trying what they can to make it succeed this time.

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