9 Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires: What You Need to Know

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Approximately 12 million American households have a net worth of at least $1 million. Of these, 80%+ are self-made. It stands to reason then that those self-made millionaires know something about wealth creation. Today, I am sharing nine secrets of self-made millionaires to help you develop the financial habits you need to know to become financially successful as well.

1. Millionaires Think Differently 

While many would have you believe large salaries and fancy degrees drive that millionaire status, that could not be further from the truth. No, instead, millionaire status is the result of discipline and thinking differently over decades. 

Millionaires set clear visions for where they want to go, and then they put plans in place to help them get there. 

When Elon Musk started Tesla, his vision wasn’t to become a billionaire many times over. No, his vision was to accelerate the world’s transition to the use of sustainable energy. Tesla has become little more than a side effect of that vision.

You, too, can set a clear vision for the things you want in your life. As it relates to money, that vision is usually about what you want money to provide. For example, you may want to experience grand vacations, or you may want to quit working for money earlier in life. These are the visions. Once you understand what you’re aiming for, you can put plans in place to get there.

2. They Set Clear Financial Goals

What’s the difference between a wish and a goal? A wish is something you want, while a goal is something with a concrete plan in place to achieve a want.

In this respect, millionaires work differently. They set actionable goals and put specific plans in place to get there. For example, the average millionaire spends six hours a week exercising. Is this because they love exercising? Probably not. But they know they must put in the work to achieve what they want (health, in this case).

You, too, can adopt this millionaire habit. With your finances, for example, it makes sense to plan far into the future. Once you do, you can take concrete actions in the near term to meet your long-term goals.

As you plan your financial goals, get clear on what you need vs. what you want and what you spend vs. what you earn. These simple steps will set you up to achieve your long-term financial vision.

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3. Millionaires Track Their Spending

Wait, what? Millionaires are wealthy. Why would they track their spending? As it turns out, this is one of the most surprising secrets of self-made millionaires. 

The truth is that most millionaires become millionaires because they are fiscally responsible. Most millionaires don’t own Ferraris. No, they drive Ford F150s and create wealth through careful management of their spending.

The best way to manage your spending is through a budgeting app like Tiller Money. By tracking your spending, it will become obvious where you’re spending too much, and you can start directing your money towards your financial priorities.  

Finally, millionaires don’t spend spontaneously. They spend with intention. When they make purchases, they take time to think them through.  

4. Millionaires Live Frugally

The next secret of self-made millionaires? They live frugally.

Now, notice I didn’t say cheap. I said frugally.

Millionaires understand that it’s important to consider both price and quality. Sometimes it’s worth spending a little more to get something that will last a lot longer.

Additionally, in living below their means, the wealthy prioritize the things that will bring the most happiness per dollar. Often, rather than fancy cars or designer clothes, they choose to spend money on experiences. In the areas that are less important to them, they spend less. 

5. The Wealthy Avoid Lifestyle Creep

For most people, when their incomes increase, so does their spending. I, too, am guilty of this habit. But if you can avoid this, you’ll be far more likely to achieve financial success.

Some of the world’s wealthiest have demonstrated the ability to do exactly this. For example, Warren Buffett still lives in the same house he bought in 1958 for $31,500.

The path to becoming a self-made millionaire has very little to do with what you earn. It has everything to do with what you keep. The money that you keep becomes the foundation for investing and wealth generation.

There are many ways you’re probably wasting money. The more of these habits you can avoid as your income grows, the more you’ll stand to benefit.

By the way, if you’re looking for a simple way to save money, check out Truebill. Truebill is a service that negotiates regular bills like your cable, internet, cell phone, and more. I know it sounds nuts, but it is possible to pay less for these services with a bit of help. In fact, Truebill has now saved me more than $1,700! It is a home run!


Truebill is a bill negotiation service that will help negotiate your regular bills, track your subscriptions, and help you save. You only pay when Truebill saves you money, so you have nothing to lose. Check out our review to learn more!

6. Millionaires Invest Early

Unsurprisingly, becoming a millionaire rarely happens overnight. Most people don’t become millionaires by winning the lotto. No, they become millionaires by exercising financial discipline over many years.

One such area where millionaires focus their efforts is investing. And not only do they invest, but they invest early. The power of compound interest helps them build wealth over decades. According to Rutgers, the average millionaire is 57 years old. So, the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll become wealthy. 

If you must start early, what’s the first step? Start by opening a brokerage account (M1 Finance is my current favorite option), and then start investing as much as you can (20% of your income is a good target).

Some other best practices for investing include:

  • Maximizing tax-advantaged investment accounts (i.e., a 401(k) and IRA)
  • Aligning portfolio risk to your investment horizon and objectives
  • Minimizing investment fees
  • Monitoring your investment portfolio (Personal Capital is the tool I use for this)

Once you put a system in place to invest regularly, consider automating your finances. Doing so will make it easy to invest consistently. Money that never hits your bank account is money you can’t spend!

7. Millionaires Invest in Themselves

Millionaires are successful because of their habits. One secret of self-made millionaires is that they invest in themselves. Some examples of millionaire habits include:

  • 88% of the wealthy read for 30 minutes or more per day for self-education or self-improvement
  • 76% exercise for 30 minutes or more per day
  • 61% practice dream-setting (i.e., scripting out their goals)
  • 89% sleep for seven hours or more per night

No matter how you invest in yourself, the important thing is that you do. An excellent place to start is picking up a good book or two. A few of my favorite books related to self-improvement include:

8. They Diversify Their Income

Tom Corley wrote the book on millionaire habits. In his book, Rich Habits, he surveyed 233 millionaires and compared their habits to lower-earning individuals. 

One of the most interesting findings from his study is that the rich create multiple streams of income. For example, he found that 65% of millionaires had three streams of income.

If you’ve ever heard the saying that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, the same goes for your income. If you rely entirely on a job for your income, you’re potentially putting yourself at risk if you were to lose your job. However, if you have other income streams, you’ll have greater financial stability and likely more resources to invest. 

To create income streams, there are many options, from investments to side hustles to starting businesses. Some of my favorite options include:

  • Investing in real estate either passively (through a platform like Fundrise) or directly through rental properties
  • Owning stocks and bonds
  • Spending your time on side hustles

Check out these 30+ strategies to build income streams to learn more!

Personal Capital

Personal Capital is a comprehensive suite of financial tools that helps you track your net worth, make sure you stay on track for retirement, and much more! The best part about Personal Capital is it offers a FREE way to track your investment and cash accounts and plan your financial future! Check out this review to learn more!

9. Millionaires Associate with Successful People

The last secret of self-made millionaires is that they associate with other successful people. Have you ever heard the saying that you’re the average of the five people with which you spend the most time?

The same is true when it comes to developing a mindset of wealth building. If you associate with others who have an intense focus on success (be it money, careers, health, etc.), some of their habits are likely to rub off on you.

Spending time with other successful people will help keep you motivated on your financial journey. 

9 Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires:  Summary

How do most self-made millionaires make their money? They exercise financial discipline in their spending and focus their resources towards investing. That is the secret of becoming rich.

Millionaires are a lot like you and me, but their habits compound into financial success. Those habits include:

  1. Millionaires Think Differently 
  2. They Set Clear Financial Goals
  3. Millionaires Track Their Spending (consider a budgeting tool like Tiller Money to get started)
  4. Millionaires Live Frugally (Truebill is a great way to save some money with little to no effort)
  5. The Wealthy Avoid Lifestyle Creep
  6. Millionaires Invest Early (you’ll need a brokerage account like M1 Finance to begin)
  7. Millionaires Invest in Themselves
  8. They Diversify Their Income (investing in Fundrise is a great place to start building income diversity)
  9. Millionaires Associate with Successful People

There are many ways to become a millionaire, but they all start with creating habits for success. Start adopting these habits, and you, too, will be well on your way to financial success!

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