People reading on subway

Millionaire Mentality

Do you have what it takes?

Money… Something that Americans are very shy to talk about personally. Have you ever stopped to think about why talking about our personal finances makes us feel uncomfortable? Even discussing it with our own family, it often makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s not completely unique to our culture, but also not necessarily that common. When you couple this cultural norm with our consumerism cultural norm there is a recipe of financial ignorance and an unhealthy relationship with money and “things” from a psychological perspective in our youth.

As I write this, we are beginning one of our educational series with our students “millionaire mentality”. The title is an adaptation from Thomas Stanley’s book “The Millionaire Next Door” and “The Millionaire Mind”. In these books, Stanley points out what many people find to be shocking trends within America’s wealthy population. Another great book on the topic is “Rich Habits” by Thomas Corley, whom I’ll reference later in the blog. This blog is not intended to be a book review, if you find the topic as interesting as I do, I recommend you pick one of them up for a good read.

An education in financial philosophy

Whether you grow up in our country with a proverbial silver spoon in your mouth, poor as dirt, or a typical middle class suburban kid, statistically the results are the same… You know little to nothing about finances; personal or otherwise. Why is this? More importantly, what is the impact of this? In short, I feel like the result of not being in control of your finances is the leading cause of unhappiness in the average American’s life. Plain and simple. It’s a bold statement, I know, but bear with me.

I am a firm believer that a person’s life is a good representation of what is going on in their mind. This is why when conducting a mental status exam, we include commentary towards an individual’s appearance, attention to the activities of daily living (are they groomed etc.) and in a psychosocial evaluation we include the peripherals of their life such as family history, relationship history, religious beliefs, housing, and financial situation. When you read the few pages of a person’s psychosocial history, it is basically a short story about their life. That information often provides insight into areas of disorganization and ultimately disorder as it exists in their life.

Ultimately, when someone does not have control of the finances in their life, do they really have much control of the other aspects of their life? If you think about the trickle-down effect of poor finances, it’s directly responsible for what you do for 40+ hours of the week, how much sleep you get, quality of sleep, when you sleep, your social groups, transportation, housing… Relationships… The list goes on almost indefinitely, but you get the idea. When someone says to me that “money doesn’t buy happiness” I often counter with “Do you think a starving orphan in Africa would agree?” My point is not to argue against the philosophy that money should not be the center of your happiness, or that the things you buy with money should not be the source of your happiness, but I simply cannot agree with a statement that money doesn’t buy happiness. I believe it does because of what money represents… the freedom to fund the aspects of your life that do.

Onto the bigger issue

Statistically, poor people and wealthy people have drastically different mentalities, philosophies, rituals, routines, and habits. This is revealing, and what the center of the conversation is around during this educational series… Pointing out what characteristics lead to being wealthy and which ones lead to being poor, then conversations around how that presents itself in other areas of your life. We all remember from science classes that “correlation does not equal causation” but you’ll see where I’m going with this. Here are some of the findings that are most revealing.

The Research

The following is from research conducted by Thomas C. Corley, who spent five years researching the daily habits of 177 self-made millionaires. This information can be found in full by reading his book “Rich Habits”.

Rich people were defined in this research as having an annual income of $160,000 or more and a liquid net worth of $3.2 million or more. And poor people were defined as having an annual income of $35,000 or less and a liquid net worth of $5,000 or less.

“I focus on my goals every day.”
Rich people who agree: 62%
Poor people who agree: 6%

Wealthy people were found to set monthly and annual goals, and ACHIEVED 67% of them, making it clear that they are good at goal setting, not just dreaming. We tie this into the importance of goal setting, which is carried forward during this educational series.

“I maintain a daily to-do list.”
Rich people who agree: 81%
Poor people who agree: 19%

It was also found that of the wealthy people interviewed, 67% of them completed 70% or more of those listed tasks each day.

“I watch TV one hour or less per day.”
Rich people who agree: 67%
Poor people who agree: 23%

What they’re watching also isn’t that surprising. 78% of the poor people interviewed watched reality TV shows, and only 6% of the wealthy did.

“I love reading.”
Rich people who agree: 86%
Poor people who agree: 26%

88% of rich people were found to read “self-improvement” books for 30 minutes each day, compared to 2% of poor people.

“I listen to audio books during the commute to work.”
Rich people who agree: 63%
Poor people who agree: 5%

It seems that optimizing time that needs to be spent, but otherwise wasted,(like a commute to work) is often optimized by wealthy people.

“I do more than my job requires.”
Rich people who agree: 81%
Poor people who agree: 17%

It’s worth noting that while 86% of rich people (compared to 43% of poor) work an average of 50 or more hours a week, only 6% of the wealthy people surveyed found themselves unhappy because of work.

It was also found that 86% of wealthy people work an average of 50 or more hours a week compared to 43% of poor people, and only 6% of wealthy people reported they found themselves unhappy because of work. There is some amazing work ethic and positive reframing conversations that come out of this statistic!

“I play the lottery regularly.”
Rich people who agree: 6%
Poor people who agree: 77%

Corley has some good commentary about this, he makes sure to point out that it is not that wealthy people are not taking risks, they are simply taking calculated risks that lead to slower methods of wealth generation than an incredibly high risk/low likelihood gamble like the lottery.

“I count calories every day.”
Rich people who agree: 57%
Poor people who agree: 5%

“I floss every day.”
Rich people who agree: 62%
Poor people who agree: 16%

Yep, it turns out wealthy people take better care of their health in general, and its habits they do at home, not directly related to higher quality healthcare etc.


The reason we teach all of this is to increase empowerment in our students. When you add this to information about the mechanisms of wealth (Increasing your income, expense management, investments), proper budgeting techniques, and proper goal setting, students have the tools necessary to successfully navigate their finances for the rest of their life which will enable them to allow their money to work for them in bringing security and happiness.

Now, go out there and fine-tune your millionaire mentality, conquer the world, and be happy with your financial freedom and the empowerment it brings!