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They invest for the long haul

It’s been documented time and again that investing can open the door to wealth for everyday Americans. Someone who invested $1,000 in the S&P 500 20 years ago would now have over $6,850, assuming all dividends were reinvested, according to the Official Data Foundation. The easiest way to replicate this type of success is through index funds, which track exchanges and have very low fees. It can be easy to get caught up in the hype of a particular stock, however, index funds have a proven track record of success over long periods of time.

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They’re life learners

After a self-styled, five-year study on wealthy and poor people, Tom Corley, CPA, released a book titled "Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals." His research showed, for example, that more than three in five wealthy people (63%) listened to audiobooks while commuting to work versus 5% of poor people. In addition, they're voracious readers. Ramsey Solutions concurs, millionaires have a desire to learn and tend to read books on leadership or biographies of successful people.

They sign up for employer-sponsored retirement plans

The Ramsey Solutions National Study of Millionaires, which included 10,000 participants, found that 8 of 10 millionaires invested in their company’s 401(k) plan. These programs becomes especially advantageous when the business offers to match contributions, which equates to free money once a certain investment threshold is hit. For example, a 4% contribution from your paycheck would result in your employer pitching in an additional 4%

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They avoid gambling

Many a millionaire knows that, in gambling, the odds are stacked against the player. A 2013 study from the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) found that the poorer the neighborhood, the higher the risk for problem gambling. John W. Welte, an RIA senior research scientist involved in the study, suggested that perhaps poorer people "do not see many role models of financial success achieved through conventional means.” Gambling includes the purchase of lottery tickets, which Ramsey has previously denounced as "poor people stuff.”

They wipe out high-interest credit card debt

Ramsey is among the many financial pundits who abhors this roadblock to wealth. In 2022, 46% of American households held credit card debt and by late 2023 the average household was paying $126 per month in interest alone, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. A year’s worth of interest — just a bit more than $1,500 — could easily be invested in a wealth-generating vehicle such as an index fund or 401(k).

They’re thrifty and avoid frivolous trappings

Billionaire Warren Buffett could live anywhere he wants. But the legendary investor — worth $127.9 billion as of July 3, per Forbes — has never left Omaha. He still lives in the home he bought in 1958 for $31,500 (around $342,000 in today's money). Late billionaire Charles Feeney — who Buffett described as his "hero” — was also known for being frugal. He flew coach, wore a $15 watch and used plastic bags in place of a briefcase. Ramsey Solution notes that many wealthy people avoid buying luxury cars, instead opting for reliable, long-lasting vehicles.

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Lou Carlozo Freelance writer

Lou Carlozo is a freelance contributor to Moneywise.

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