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5 habits of the rich that you can afford, too

Wealthy people routinely do things that most poor people don't do -- and a writer says adopting some of these habits could be life-changing.

By Nov 14, 2013 1:04PM

This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site on MSN MoneyEat less junk food. Exercise daily. Sounds like a recipe for getting fit, right? Those habits may also be key to becoming financially healthy, says Tom Corley, who interviewed 233 wealthy individuals and 128 poor ones during a five-year period, gathering data on more than 200 activities each group engaged in. He shares his findings in his book "Rich Habits -- The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals." 

Wealthy couple © Digital Vision/Getty Images"What I found was that there was a difference a lot like the size of the Grand Canyon between the daily activities of the wealthy and the daily activities of poor people," he said in a recent interview for my radio program, Talk Credit Radio.

Here are some of the habits Corley found to be common among wealthy people.

No. 1: Rich people eat less junk food 

Corley found that 97% of poor people "ate more than 300 junk food calories each day whereas 70% of the wealthy didn’t." That's not surprising, considering junk food is cheap. How often do you see "buy one, get one free" specials for organic produce versus chips? But eating junk food results in an increase in the number of calories you consume during each day, which affects your weight and ultimately your health. Health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease, interfere with your ability to make money and medical expenses can put a greater strain on your finances.

No. 2: They exercise regularly

Again, the rich subjects he interviewed generally have healthier habits. "Seventy-six percent of the wealthy individuals exercise aerobically at least four days a week versus 23% for the poor." He added that this habit, along with eating better, is key. "To wealthy people, health is everything,” he said in our interview. “If they’re healthy, they can work. They have more energy. They work longer hours. They have fewer sick days, it increases productivity and it’s a lot driven by their desire to be successful."


No. 3: The wealthy don't procrastinate

They are goal-oriented and accomplish things, he notes in his book. Breaking this bad habit is crucial to success, says Corley. "When the thought of putting off something enters your mind, immediately cast this thought out by saying, 'Do It Now.' Repeat these three words a hundred times a day if necessary," he writes.

No. 4: They keep learning

One of the "eye-openers," he says, was discovering that 88% of the wealthy people he interviewed read 30 minutes or more each day for education or for career-related reasons versus 2% for poor people. "I even dug a little deeper," he adds. "I found that 76% of the wealthy read two or more education-related, self-help related books each month and the poor didn’t. So there's a lot of this emphasis on education, and reading, and self-improvement, improving the vocabulary."

No. 5: Rich people nurture relationships

"Successful people are students of relationship building," he writes. "They faithfully return phone calls right away. They continuously seek out ways to improve their relationships." Remembering birthdays -- even just to make a happy birthday call first thing in the day -- networking, and sharing milestones are regular habits for them. For example, he found that 79% of the wealthy network five hours or more each month versus 16% for the poor.

If reading this list leaves you feeling overwhelmed, Corley reminded me that you don’t have to implement every single one of the dozens of rich habits he uncovered. Each rich habit was intentionally created to be what he calls a "keystone habit." Keystone habits are unique in that they affect other habits. He says they have a “multiplier effect” that makes them even more powerful. For example, one good keystone habit, like exercising aerobically 20 to 30 minutes each day, can help eliminate other bad habits like overeating, eating junk food, smoking cigarettes and consuming too much alcohol.

Corley says that "one or two rich habits is often all it takes to turn your life completely around and raise you out of poverty and onto a new, happy life."

And you don’t have to be perfect. When I responded to one of his tweets about the junk food habit by confessing my habit of eating some kind of chocolate virtually every day, he tweeted back, "If it's any consolation I am a chocolataholic. Some Poverty Habits are just not worth giving up."

More from

Nov 14, 2013 7:46PM
The last time I looked, a pound of carrots was 99 cents and a bag of potato chips was $3.99.
I agree if you're wealthy you have more time to de-stress, cultivate relationships, read self-help books.
But I also know it's an easy hole to fall into, using lack of money as an excuse for eating poorly, wasting time on self-pity and using after-work hours for staying drunk and high.
It all boils down to the fact that the one you can really count on (and blame) is yourself and it's your choice on how you choose to deal with life.

Nov 14, 2013 6:43PM

The key in all of these traits is that you can't be lazy to do them.

Nov 15, 2013 11:36AM
I make just above poverty but I still make an effort to do all these things. A lot of it comes down to simple education, learning things like how to shop for deals on healthy food, how to cook from scratch, how to maximize exercise. Most of my reading is done in political blogs on the internet mixed. It's possible to live better, but being poor I also know that some days I just don't even want to get out of bed. Being poor is demoralizing. It's hard to fight that. 
Nov 14, 2013 3:02PM

Growing up poor taught me some life lessons, old habits are hard to change.  Living pay-check to pay-check leaves little time to do the wonderful things described in the article.  I do agree that lifestyles that mimic those described are correct and healthy.  The greasiest saltiest fast food joints are usually located in poorer neighborhoods.  I love those foods and after a heart attack and 4 by passes, I walk away.  Eating fresh and wholesome foods costs more and takes more effort.  Most of us feel trapped into living and eating the way that we do.  My advice would be to do the best that you can to improve eating habits and try to change bad habits.

I am 70 and worked with my hands and back over 40 years.

Nov 15, 2013 5:00PM
Here's food for thought:
I pay $10/cord to the BLM or Forest Svc to harvest my own firewood. I get exercise and fresh air while harvesting it and splitting it, and it is my primary source of heat.
I buy a fishing license for $20/year and eat fresh trout, bass, walleye, perch all year long (again, more exercise). I trade fish for fresh produce and game meat.
No, believe me I'm NO WHERE close to "wealthy" but I have all the riches of the earth at my feet.
Why would I spend a ridiculous amount of money on gyms and processed or fast foods?

Nov 14, 2013 7:15PM

Sounds like a high degree of common sense intelligence to me.  Can you believe that

fundamental rules of survival still work?


So, to get everybody who's not 'rich' rerouted: advise them it take's regular and more

exercise, fewer-to-no bad-nutritional foods, a goal, a schedule, attention to detail,

"do-it-now" rejection of procrastination, courtesy, conscious networking development,

and a genuine weekly commitment to formal continuing education (with actual book

reading scholarship) to become overcome poverty and access wealth.    


Seems like commencement speakers won't be needed too much longer!   

Nov 14, 2013 8:09PM
 Maybe is article is a good thing. Everybody says 'the rich get richer and the poor get poorer'. But rarely does anyone examine the cause. Most people see this as plain common sense, but far too many people don't. The rich (88% of millionaires in the US are self-made) pursue educational opportunities, work hard,, build relationships and are successful. The poor don't, period. Its too easy to 'settle', stumble through high school, get the dead-end 9-5, try to keep up with the Jones' and fail with endless debt. And then bitch because the rich are more "fortunate". With the exception of entertainers/athletes, talent has nothing to do with money. 
Nov 15, 2013 7:34PM
Chocolate is not necessarily junk food. High cacao-percentage dark chocolate, for example, is a health food, rich in magnesium and anti-oxidants.
Nov 24, 2013 10:36AM
I can see both sides of this.  Growing up, my family would probably have qualified as upper middle class.  My parents worked very hard, were smart with their money, lived modestly in many ways, and instilled those same beliefs in my sister and I.  Education was also extremely important in our family, and it was made clear early on that, in order to succeed, you needed to attend college.  Unfortunately, not everyone has these opportunities, nor the support from family.  Now as a married, young adult I can see how it really is difficult to get to that point of success or wealth.  I work 2 jobs, my husband farms and has cattle, we both have our degrees, and we still live paycheck to paycheck and have debt.  Life is just tough sometimes.  Even though we're not poor, I can see how much stress just goes along with financial struggle.  My best pieces of advice are quit keeping up with the Jones's (live within your means), if you can't afford it with cash, don't buy it with plastic, and start contributing to your retirement plan young--even if it's only a tiny amount, and take advantage of any employer matches.  Oh and you don't need a gym membership to exercise....
Nov 20, 2013 10:11AM
The realty is the rich got rich by coincidence.    They came upon a good deal and had enough good sense to take advantage of the deal.   Once you get the first one, the next ones become much easier because you have made the connections.  For most people,  who are not born into a wealth family, the best bet is to get a good education.   It may not make you rich but likely you will live much better than the ones who do not have a good education.   There is not much difference between a lot of money and lots of money but there is between a little money and no money.    Once you get down to the latter, your chances of pulling out of it become next to nothing.   No medical care, no money, no credit, no way to get to a job, no address or telephone etc.    You become a dumpster diver.   Your whole day is taken up with worrying what you are going to eat the next day or where you are going to sleep.   Get a good education and develop a work ethic and self disipline and you will do ok.  Maybe not a millionaire but you will not be dumpster diving either.
Nov 24, 2013 11:01AM
It's all in the choices you make in life.
Nov 14, 2013 6:23PM
What's the use?  Everything I write is deleted.
Nov 24, 2013 6:51PM
Here I've been rich all this time and didn't even know it!!!  Go figure:<)
Nov 24, 2013 4:44PM
And these items are just the beginning of things that will make you feel better about yourself.....and most of the things can be done for free.
Nov 24, 2013 8:52AM

There has always been division . The "haves" and the "have nots.".

Plus poor mans justice and the rich mans justice. The wealthy never seems to be punished as the poor man is  punished .

Nov 24, 2013 11:33AM
I mostly enjoy hiring servants, or bringing in illegals to hang out at the mansion to do all my work. 
Nov 24, 2013 5:32PM
Just take a trip to a grocery store that is frequented by both "rich" and "poor", and you will generally see a noticeable difference in eating preferences.  You will also notice that few rich shoppers are obese compared to poor shoppers.  I think though that the study should have gone farther in seeing what differences there were in these categories between those "poor" who seem to embrace their condition as a lifestyle, and those who are poor due to life circumstances difficult to control.  The article is in all probability quite accurate for as far as it goes, but I think it falls short of telling the whole story. 
Nov 24, 2013 11:43AM
A friend of mine once said "you only get so many heart beats in your live so why waste them excercising?"  He also said love is grand and divorce is a hundred grand!
Nov 24, 2013 9:24PM

"The last time I looked, a pound of carrots was 99 cents and a bag of potato chips was $3.99.
I agree if you're wealthy you have more time to de-stress, cultivate relationships, read self-help books.
But I also know it's an easy hole to fall into, using lack of money as an excuse for eating poorly, wasting time on self-pity and using after-work hours for staying drunk and high.
It all boils down to the fact that the one you can really count on (and blame) is yourself and it's your choice on how you choose to deal with life."

Don't you wish people would use this same approach when it comes to health care?

This attitude is so right it would keep government out of all of our lives.

Just noticing the benefits of this logic.

Nov 24, 2013 10:37PM

My husband and I didn't have a pot to cook in when we got married.  We saved money by being frugal.


My parents had lived through the depression and never forgot it.  We learned the difference in need and want from them.  We did well, but are far from rich but also far from poor.


I mention that so you won't think I am making excuses. Much of your life is decided before you are born.  A lot depends on the financial, mental and physical health of your parents.

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