Here’s What I Learned From Working For Millionaires

Before I became a full-time blogger, I spent a little over three years working as a financial analyst at a small valuation and investment banking firm. We handled situations related to M&A, business valuation, estate and gift tax, and more. Due to the nature of my job, many of our clients were very wealthy. Very…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: April 24, 2021

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Before I became a full-time blogger, I spent a little over three years working as a financial analyst at a small valuation and investment banking firm. We handled situations related to M&A, business valuation, estate and gift tax, and more.

As an analyst, I worked for wealthy and successful people every day. I learned a lot about rich habits of successful people and it's very interesting!Due to the nature of my job, many of our clients were very wealthy.

Very wealthy.

I saw kids who had millions, successful business owners, and one of our clients was a very famous celebrity.

The majority of our clients were, I say this again, very wealthy – wealth that I could never even dream of.

Back then, I was fresh out of college and struggling financially. I was living paycheck to paycheck and working for clients who had millions – it was an interesting time.

And, I had never really met anyone with the type of wealth that my clients had. Before this job, I always thought these people didn’t really exist. Or, at least, I never thought I would meet them.

However, I regularly met with these types of clients, and surprisingly, a lot of them were very “normal.”

Quick note: I recommend reading the book The Millionaire Next Door. It’s a great book that talks about this subject!

Sure, there are stories about rich people who spend their money like crazy and end up in bankruptcy.

But, the average millionaire is actually quite smart with their money and quite, surprisingly, simple when it comes to how they live their life. More important, they know how to manage their money well.

The reality is much different than the crazy and farfetched lives you see nowadays on Instagram.

Related posts:

If you dont believe me about how normal the uber wealthy can be, here are some examples of rich habits – but those who are wealthy yet frugal:

  • Warren Buffett lives in a house that he bought in 1958 for around $30,000.
  • Mark Zuckerberg drives an Acura.
  • John Caudwell (worth $2.7 billion) rides his bike 14 miles to work every day and even cuts his own hair.
  • Jim C. Walton (son of Walmart founder) drives an old truck with no air conditioning.

I have personally met several retirees who have millions and live in an RV. RVing is a ton of fun, but a lot of people just assume that RVers have no money. If only they actually knew! We became friends with one RVer who actually has a nice house and millions in the bank, but he lives in an RV that is worth less than $20,000. You never would have guessed!

If you want to be wealthy (whatever amount of money or lifestyle that means to you), continue reading in order to learn more about the rich habits that allow the successful to keep their money.

 

They know the value of time.

I still remember to this day a client who had an assistant whose sole purpose was paying the bills. The assistant just spent their day remembering what bills to pay, such as the electricity bill.

At the time, I thought it was nuts. After all, I was having a difficult time paying my own bills and managing my debt, so thinking about how someone had the luxury of hiring someone for such a small task (one that could even be automated) sounded absurd to me.

However, I’m sure they never had a late payment. And, perhaps, they just actually disliked managing that aspect of their life.

By outsourcing tasks, people are able to focus their time on the tasks they actually want to do and value doing. This can help them grow their wealth significantly faster than a person who never outsources or does very little of it.

This is definitely a rich habit. The wealthy and successful understand the value of their time and use it to their advantage. They don’t waste time doing things that they don’t see a benefit from. Even if you aren’t rich, you can take part in this rich habit by automating your bills or writing down in a calendar when they are due. This will ensure that you are spending less on late fees and other penalties.

 

They wear the same outfits.

The average wealthy person is smart when it comes to spending money on clothing. This rich habit means that by being smart with their spending, they are able to keep their wealth!

The thing about people who are wealthy is that for the most part, they usually look very “normal.”

Usually, they don’t drive Lamborghinis. Sure, you may still see nice cars, but the wealthy are usually spending their money in other areas and aren’t trying to impress others.

And, you’ll often find them wearing similar outfits.

Former President Barack Obama once said, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Many other successful people feel the same way, including Mark Zuckerberg, the late Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and many others.

The average family spends $1,700 a year on clothing, which is a lot of money. Plus, the average person wastes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes a day when deciding what to wear!

Having too many clothing options can lead to wasting time deciding what to wear, as well as wasting money. If you want to take part in this rich habit, try finding just a few pieces of clothing that you really love and build your outfits from there. Focus on many things going together for any type of situation

Related read: I Still Wear Shirts That Have Holes In Them

 

They have more than one source of income.

A lot of wealthy people have many sources of income.

They may have a day job, a business (for the most part, the wealthy are business owners along with many other forms of income), rental properties, dividend income, and more. This allows them to bring in more money.

They also do this because the wealthy know that one source of income may not last forever, and they are also able to lessen their risk by having multiple income streams.

If you are interested in taking part of this rich habit, there are many ways you can start adding to your income.

Read about some of the many ways to make money at 75+ Ways To Make Extra Money.

 

They have long-term goals.

Successful people and millionaires are known to set goals, especially long-term ones. Many successful people, especially the self-starters, are extremely determined, and without goals, it would be hard to be successful.

Setting goals is important because without a goal, how do you know where you’re heading? Goals can help keep you motivated and striving for your best.

Please keep this quote from Statistic Brain in mind, “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.”

And, it’s true!

This is an easy rich habit to start. Whether it is just making a yearly resolution or creating a vision board for your goals, anyone can set a goal to start working towards. While some long-term goals may seem unattainable, such as early retirement, tracking your progress will help you stay on track.

Related: How To Become Rich – It’s More Than Millions In The Bank

 

They have a budget.

Yes, even the wealthy have a budget!

Not all of them have a traditional budget, but trust me, they know where their money is going, and they are closely watching their cash flow.

Tracking your money and knowing where it is going can help you see where you’re wasting money and what spending habits need to be changed.

Whether you are just using a pen and paper, a spreadsheet, or a budget app, this rich habit is one that will help you work towards your financial goals.

 

They educate themselves on financial matters.

When the wealthy and successful are unsure of a financial decision, they usually either seek out financial advice from a professional expert and/or they seek out the knowledge they need by educating themselves.

The wealthy and successful are always learning.

They read numerous books, attend classes, read the newspaper, and more.

By reading this blog you are already taking part in this rich habit, but don’t forget about ebooks, other online articles, or even by checking out finance books from the library.

Related: What is Value Investing, and Why Should You Care?

 

They realize the value of experts.

Continuing from the previous point, the rich are interested in educating themselves, but they also know when to hire help.

Knowing when to get help from accountants, lawyers, experts, and more can help them take advantage of confusing laws, areas where they aren’t experts, etc. This can prevent wasteful spending, bad investments, and unnecessary legal issues.

This helps them save time as well as money!

We can’t all hire out help when we need it, but there may be some areas in your life when this rich habit may be accessible. This can be as small as using a meal planning service, like $5 Meal Plan, to take the stress out of meals and grocery shopping.

 

They don’t fall for lifestyle inflation.

The wealthy and successful tend to live below their means. Yes, some of them still spend money extravagantly, but many aren’t living paycheck to paycheck in order to do so.

Many wealthy people buy items used, they drive “normal” cars like Toyotas, and they aren’t trying to keep up with the Joneses.

This is drastically different from those who aren’t millionaires.

Here are some money statistics that may scare you:

  • 68% of people live paycheck to paycheck.
  • 26% have no emergency savings.
  • The average household has $7,283 in credit card debt.
  • The average monthly new car payment is around $480.

Many people try to keep up with others and fall for lifestyle inflation, which can prevent you from being smart with your money.

When trying to keep up with the Joneses, you might spend money you do not have. You might put expenses on credit cards so that you can (in a pretend world) “afford” things. You might buy things that you do not care about. The problems can go on and on.

Taking part in this rich habit is another easy one. Before you purchase something new, think about it’s long-term value to you and why you are purchasing it. If you want it just because it’s the newest thing on the market, you should probably think twice about your motivations and think about the positives of not buying that new car, pair of shoes, TV, etc.

 

They still use coupons and haggle.

This may be surprising, but many wealthy people still use coupons and even negotiate in order to get the best pricing!

According to AOL’s article Guess Who Clips the Most Coupons?, households with average incomes of $100,000 or more actually clip more coupons than those who bring in less than $35,000.

You can sign up for coupon apps or look to your local paper and online to take part in this rich habit.

 

They invest.

The wealthy make their money work for them, and that is how they stay rich.

Most of the clients I dealt with were well invested too. They weren’t trying to beat the market, and they weren’t falling for get rich quick schemes. Instead, I saw a lot of well diversified portfolios, lots of Vanguard and other funds, and more.

Investing is important because it means you are making your money work for you. If you aren’t investing, your money is just sitting there.

This is important to note because $100 today will not be worth $100 in the future if you just let it sit under a mattress or in a checking account. However, if you invest, then you can actually turn your $100 into something more. When you invest, your money is working for you and hopefully earning you income.

For example: If you put $1,000 into a retirement account that has an annual 8% return, 40 years later that would turn into $21,724. If you started with that same $1,000 and put an extra $1,000 in it for the next 40 years at an annual 8% return, that would then turn into $301,505. If you started with $10,000 and put an extra $10,000 in it for the next 40 years at an annual 8% return, that would then turn into $3,015,055.

If you are interested in taking part in this rich habit, you can learn more at The 6 Steps To Take To Invest Your First Dollar – Yes, It’s Really This Easy!

What other successful and rich habits am I missing? Share in the comments below!


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Hey,

    good post. I have a somehow similar career where I come across super wealthy people (people that have family offices to manage their money).
    Although I think that some of the points you mentioned are true for these types of people, I disagree with a handful, such as
    – they have more than one source of income
    -> It is generally true that they have multiple streams of income, hoewever from my experience they have one that one BIG stream of income from just one source that accounts for like 98%

    – they have a budget
    -> To be honest, I never talked about budgets with those clients, but for me it seems they don’thave one. I have met people that live frugally and others that own a yacht.

    – they educated themselves over financial matters
    -> Well, partly true to my experience. These people tend to know basic principles of finance but they don’t care about the nitty-gritty stuff. For example, I worked in a financing department in a bank. When discussing terms with clients, they often have only limited knowledge about stuff that we talk about and they are not going to learn it. That is the stuff they pass onto their team and specialists.

    I highly agree with the points of
    – they realize the value of experts
    -> Everyone that I met shared (or bought) a team of experts. Otherwise most of the deals these people do aren’t feasible at all.

    – they invest
    -> Absolutely true in my experience. These people want to invest as early and quick as possible. That is also often the reason why there are difficulties with the bank, which doesn’t want to refinance their equity so fast ๐Ÿ˜‰

    On a final note, my experience showed me that almost all of the wealthy people took big risks to get where they are. They started to built a business. Some of them live frugally. I think this mostly stems from how they were raised as childs. Some others spent huge amounts of money.

    Kind regards
    Harald

    1. Thanks Harald for sharing your experience ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle

    There are some awesome tips in here! My husband read The Millionaire Next Door (and he basically reads it to me, as he tells me all the “good parts” aka most of the book), and that was a it of an eye opener when it comes to what millionaires tend to look like.

    I love that you pointed out that even these incredibly wealthy people still budget and know exactly where their money goes. Yes, probably not a traditional budget, but still. So many people don’t do budgets or think they should, but if someone who is that financially sound believes it’s important, why would anyone argue?

    I also like that you mentioned they keep educating themselves. Reading, be it books, articles, or (educating)blogs, keeps you growing and learning. There is not a time in your life that you should think you are done learning. It’s pretty prideful to assume you can’t learn anything else of real importance. Because we all know there is someone out there smarter than us!

    Thanks for sharing from your experience!

  3. Great list Michelle,

    Those are great tips you listed.

    We follow every single one of those rules ourselves except the frugal in us won’t let us hire too many experts. We learn and do the work ourselves ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. You can definitely still be frugal and have experts ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Great list and great goals for the aspiring millionaires! From my experience, I would add that they take “risks,” but calculated and educated risks.

    Educating yourself throughout your life is key to growing your wealth!

    And I love the stat about clipping coupons (though I hardly have the patience/time to do that). Thanks for another great post!

  5. The book “Millionaire Next Door” changed my life by pointing out many of the lessons you mention above. I was under the impression that if a person looked like money, smelled like money, acted like money… they had money. I was shocked to find out that often, the “money look” is actually a debt and stress-filled life when the curtain is drawn and the “behind the scenes” is viewed. Here’s to stealth wealth and wise money habits!

    1. Yes! Millionaire Next Door was an eye opener for us as well. We discovered that fancy clothes, cars, houses and such were more often a sign of debt, not wealth. Unfortunately, that leads a lot of people into living financially stressful lives trying to look wealthy without actually becoming wealthy.

      We’ve never had the chance to rub shoulders with wealth people in real life (that we know of) so thanks for confirming some of these realities Michelle!

  6. It sounds like such an interesting experience working with the millionaire. I personally don’t know anyone in real life who has millions, but maybe they have stealth wealth. I’m not so sure.

    It’s great to see how they live so frugally despite being worth so much. Lifestyle inflation is real and is something my husband and I need to be conscious of all the time.

    1. Yes, it was an interesting job.

  7. I love these! I especially like the point that millionaires still have budgets.

    I think a lot of people aim to be rich enough that they don’t have to worry about what they’re spending, but with that mentality (combined with lifestyle inflation) you risk losing everything that you’ve worked so hard to build! Budgets and a frugal mentality help us stay in control of our money, and that’s one of the keys to building wealth.

    I also recommend the book The Millionaire Next Door as mentioned above. It goes into more detail on a lot of the points you raise, backed up by a lot of research and data.

    Thanks for the informative post!

  8. In my experience, your points are all spot-on. The multiple revenue streams is absolutely accurate. Even if we’re just talking dividend and interest income. But most of my clients went far beyond that. Nearly all were real estate investors with multiple properties. One client was an attorney who owned a handful of car washes. One was a personal banker who owned a few El Pollo Locos ๐Ÿ™‚ I love the idea of using income to buy assets (like real estate and businesses) that will create a positive cash flow to then pay for your liabilities. Or reinvest in assets!

    1. Love hearing about the different clients!

  9. I wish I had the knowledge I have today about side hustles back in the day because I would’ve been so far ahead financially in the online business stuff. I guess it’s safe to say everyday is a beautiful learning experience because as you learn slowly about leveraging online side hustles to your social media marketing and affiliate marketing advantage, you get to appreciate the struggle more as those checks start coming in steadily and monthly.

    1. Yes, side hustles are great.

  10. Budget Kitty

    Great stuff. The typical millionaire really is nothing like the image presented by “celebrity” millionaires. The average millionaire isn’t flashy and you probably wouldn’t notice them if they walked by.

    A few years back I was working in corporate job and also working at Babies R Us in the evening for extra money. One night the CEO from my corporate job walks in to buy a crib for his newly born grandson. I only recognized him because I saw his face on our company website all the time, and you’d never guess who he was just by looking at him. He bought a nice crib, but not the most expensive in the store, and he did use a coupon!

  11. James @ Penny Wise Dollar Wiser

    I still work at an investment bank and know exactly what you mean. Not only is their wealth simply amazing ($35+ million), but some of them aren’t even legal to drink yet!

    Completely agree with needing to have multiple income sources to become wealthy. I recall one of the clients telling me that diversification does not only apply to stock portfolios because even if you invest in different industries and markets, the stock market as a whole can crash and you will still take a significant loss. The best way is to try to spread things out, whether it is rental properties, eateries, online businesses, or service companies.

    Love this post. The best way to improve one’s situation is to learn from the success and failure of those who are ahead of you.

  12. We try to keep it simple as well even if we are not millionaires yet, that is what we are aiming for! Just started investing and on track for our savings plan to retire by the time I hit 40! Thanks for the great article!

  13. We paid someone to mow our lawn back when we had a house. We had horrible luck with lawn mowers, though, and they always seemed to break and it was NEVER covered by the warranty!

  14. The bullets about how different wealthy people live is interesting. I would much rather spend on experiences than things. So for some people they drive the beater and go on vacation. Another may have the same wealth and nix the vacation and instead drive a Porsche. As long as they paid cash I think that’s all that matters!

  15. Karina Ramos

    This was such a fabulous post! Really makes you put things into perspective. Learn from those who have walked that road before. Wonderful article, Michelle.

  16. I think people who really understand and appreciate the value of a dollar naturally “spend” their money on the things that bring the most value; ie, investing. Being able to do what they want with their time because they’re financially free is pretty cool.

  17. I saw some of these things with some of the customers that I used to have when I worked at a bank. Many of the wealthy ones came drove regular cars and dressed like our average guy or girl.

  18. Part of having children young and being a single mum for some years, meant it’s taken me until recently to start NOT living paycheck to paycheck- though now we do have our own home, a rental property and solid retirement savings, so I guess we’ve done okay! One unconventional thing we have done has downsized to one car. It’s inconvenient at times but allows for a lot of bonding as my husband and I commute to work together!

  19. It makes sense that many of the uber-wealthy still use common sense with money. They likely wouldn’t have gotten where they are without it! I knew someone once who had plenty of money, but only wore shirts that were given to him for free at conferences. He could have bought clothes anywhere, but choose to wear the freebies!

  20. Hi Michelle,

    I just had to double back to your post discussing working for millionaires. One thing I came to the conclusion about entrepreneurship is if you’re working for millionaire and managed to establish a positive working relationship in longevity, she or he will eventually let you in on wealth building secrets. This is one of many fringe benefits associated with working for millionaire. Employment with a millionaire will also inspire anyone to start their side hustle business, whether it’s online or traditionally and work slowly but surely toward mastering the art of entrepreneurship. One thing I really like about your way of blogging is that not only do you inspire people to take entrepreneurship seriously, but also be the master of your own destiny. And I also like the fact that not only are you a dedicated blogger, but also a dedicated affiliate marketer in my same field of work. Now I understand how great minds think alike! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Keep doing what you doing Michelle, and letting your positive energy flow abundantly in your beautiful blog posts. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Great post! I think it’s true that many wealthy people can appear frugal on the outside. That’s how they gained their wealth, by spending wisely and saving when possible. Understanding the value of time is a super important point, and one I need to remember for myself! I think when working for oneself, it’s hard to learn how to manage and value time.

  22. Emma

    Great tips! I think many people don’t realize that the images of grandeur and wealth seen in the media don’t apply to all of the wealthy. Although there are certainly people who were born with money, that’s not the case for everyone – it took hard work and effort.

  23. Steveark

    I’m an early retired multimillionaire but I don’t consider myself to be rich. People like me are true to the millionaire next door model. I still buy used cars and drive them to 200,000 miles. Still live in my first and only modest house. Married just once and still happy together. But some of my friends are super rich. $100 million plus rich, a couple are even legit billionaires. They don’t live like me, generally they have three or more houses, a private jet, one has his own island, they have a staff of servants and assistants. They are extremely nice but at that level of wealth they live lives much different than mine or yours. And they drive much finer vehicles than mine.

  24. Great read Michelle I loved it! I have read a lot of these habits and love the one about minimizing decisions so not get decision fatigue. Makes total sense — lots of great points here