How Self-Made Millionaires Make Their Money

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It seems to me that you could save a lot of time, aggravation, money and also limit your risk if you knew what professions, industries or businesses millionaires were in and just focused your energy in those areas. So, what should I do to make money and become rich?

Work For a Big Company

Twenty-three percent of the millionaires in my Rich Habits Study were senior executives at some big company they worked for. When I say big company I mean multinational and preferably one that is publicly-owned. Publicly-owned means they sell stock to the public.

The beauty of working for a big, publicly-owned company is that you don’t have to necessarily be a senior executive to become rich. If the company offers qualified stock options, stock grants or has an employee stock ownership program, you can buy your company’s stock at a discount. These small discounts are not available to the general public.

And, even better, big companies often make matching contributions of their stock into the company retirement plan. So, if you purchase their stock through a 401(k) plan, the company will match your contribution, increasing how much stock you own. Two of the millionaires in my study were low-level employees who kept buying company stock over 35 years. They were somewhat lucky, however, in that their company’s stock rose significantly during those 35 years. As I’ve said many times, becoming wealthy requires luck.

Become an Expert

Twenty-seven percent of the self-made millionaires in my study were professionals. Remember your mother telling you as a child she wanted you to become a doctor? Well, there’s a good reason. Fifty-six percent of all of the professional self-made millionaires in my study were Doctors. What type of doctors? Surgeons and Scientists earned the most money and were the wealthiest, according to my data. Next up were lawyers, then engineers, then financial planners. Sorry to say, only one CPA made the list.

Start a Business

Sixty-one percent of all of the self-made millionaires in my study were small business owners. Of this, 21% were professionals. So, if I were to carve out the professionals, 39% of the small business owners were non-professionals. What type of businesses were these non-professional businesses owners engaged in?

  • 19% Commercial and Residential Real Estate – This category included rental properties, developed property and long-term property held for appreciation and eventually sold.
  • 7% Distributors – These were typically distributors who sold products for big manufacturers. They controlled a regional area, giving them a monopoly on the sale of that manufacturer’s products.
  • 5% New Car Dealers – New car dealers own a franchise that allows them to sell cars for auto manufacturers in a particular region. The set-up is similar to the distributor arrangements.
  • 4% Service and Installation – This includes business who sell HVAC systems, pools and pool supplies and various high end products that require annual maintenance.
  • 3% – Manufacturers – This category includes niche equipment manufacturers and re-manufacturers (refurbishing old equipment).
  • 1% Other – This category includes small businesses within some odd niche.

Sell Something

Eleven percent sold something either for a big company or through their small business. They made their money from product commissions, primarily.


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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. Meggie Sophia says:

    What about an online business?

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