What separates a regular Joe from Bill Gates? Often, it's a matter of habits.
Author Thomas Corley spent years researching what makes rich people special and put it all in his book, Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits Of Wealthy Individuals.
He discovered that wealthy folks are more likely to form productive personal habits and stick to them for the long haul. Their daily practices can be simple — and surprising.
Here are 10 habits rich people follow, and you should, too.
1. They set the alarm early
Corley interviewed 233 "rich" people with incomes of at least $160,000 and net worth of at least $3.2 million; and 128 "poor" people earning less than $35,000 and with less than $5,000 in the bank.
He says his research showed that 44% of the wealthy regularly wake up three hours before the work day begins, to read and plan out their days — compared with only 3% of the poor.
As painful as it may sound, getting up early has major benefits. You can gain a sense of accomplishment long before the sun comes up, and start your workday in a positive, productive frame of mind.
2. They let their emails wait
Many rich people don’t just jump out of bed and start right in on their work emails. They know that's an easy way to get the day going down the wrong track.
According to the Harvard Business Review, your mind is most focused and creative first thing in the morning. So don't waste that time going through your inbox. Let those messages wait until up to an hour after you get to work.
Corley recommends limiting email-checking to twice a day, each session lasting not more than a half-hour.
3. They limit their TV time
Corley found that wealthy people tend to budget their time in front of TV.
About two-thirds (67%) of the rich spend no more than an hour watching television each day, compared to less than a quarter (23%) of poor people who limit their viewing that way.
Furthermore, only 6% of the wealthy watch reality shows, while 78% of the poor do. Apparently, if you want to rake in the Benjamins, you need to ignore the Kardashians.
4. They're devoted to daily to-do lists
While only 19% of poor people say they actively use to-do lists, a staggering 81% of rich people employ daily lists to get things done.
Wealthy people understand that every large goal can be achieved only by going one step at a time. They take the time to make S.M.A.R.T. goals: using specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-oriented steps.
For example, rather than just vowing to make a million dollars someday, a S.M.A.R.T. goal would be to increase your earnings by X dollars this year, maybe by working more hours or getting a side hustle.
5. They make the most of their commute
In major U.S. cities, the average one-way commute is between 20 and 35 minutes. That as much as 5.8 hours per week that might be better spent.
Imagine how much you could learn in a year if you used that time listening to audiobooks or podcasts instead of listening to the Morning Zoo on your car radio or staring out the window of your train.
Corley found that 63% of wealthy people in his study listened to audiobooks during their daily commute vs. just 5% of the poor.
(We recommend Audible for all your audiobook needs. Start your free 30-day trial and get two free audiobooks here.)
6. They take long lunch breaks
Rich people know how to take a break. They tend to take an hour or more for lunch each day — but we're not talking those legendary three-martini lunches a la Mad Men.
In reality, wealthy people spend their lunch breaks chatting with teammates, networking and brokering business deals. More than half (55%) of their networking is done over lunch, Corley says.
Whether or not you have a whole hour for lunch, don’t let your time go to waste. Use the free time to center your mind, talk to colleagues, or read something interesting and relevant to your personal goals.
7. They get regular exercise
The foundation of success and happiness is good health. Corley found that 76% of wealthy people spend at least 30 minutes jogging, walking or doing other aerobic exercise four or more times a week.
Among poor people, only 23% had a similar activity level.
Exercise gets your blood pumping, balances your hormones, releases endorphins (happy chemicals) and increases your physical fitness and confidence. It can lower your stress levels — and your medical costs.
8. They count calories
Structure and planning play important roles in the lives of the rich, and those vital components of their financial dealings also show up in their eating habits.
While only 5% of poor people count calories each day, 57% of wealthy people do.
Moreover, 70% of rich people limit their junk food intake to less than 300 calories per day, while only 3% of poor people maintain the same standard.
9. They like to be frugal
The rich tend to stay that way because regardless of how much money they have, they refuse to overspend, tend to stick to a budget, and like to look for good deals.
About two-thirds (67%) of the wealthy people in the Corley study said they practiced frugality: spending money wisely and getting the best quality at the lowest price.
As you build your savings, investments, or your business, don’t let your spending habits get out of hand. Instead, improve your quality of life in small increments while saving and investing additional cash to grow your fortune.
Ready to start building your savings? Here's where you should start.
10. They listen to the dental hygienist
Oddly enough, there seems to be a correlation between flossing and financial success.
While only 16% of poor people floss their pearly whites each day, 62% of wealthy people make it a daily habit.
So next time you're at the dentist and you promise to do a better job with flossing, make sure you mean it. Keeping that promise may not only be good for your smile, but also for your bank account.