Eat less junk food. Exercise daily. Sounds like a recipe for getting fit, right? Those habits may also be key to becoming financially healthy, says Tom Corley, who interviewed 233 wealthy individuals and 128 poor ones during a five-year period, gathering data on more than 200 activities each group engaged in. He shares his findings in his book Rich Habits — The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.
“What I found was that there was a difference a lot like the size of the Grand Canyon between the daily activities of the wealthy and the daily activities of poor people,” he said in a recent interview for my radio program Talk Credit Radio.
Here are some of the habits Corley found to be common among wealthy people.
1. Rich people eat less junk food.
Corley found that 97% of poor people “ate more than 300 junk food calories each day whereas 70% of the wealthy didn’t.” That’s not surprising, considering junk food is cheap. How often do you see “buy one get one free” specials for organic produce versus chips? But eating junk food results in an increase in the number of calories you consume during each day, which affects your weight and ultimately your health. Health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease, interfere with your ability to make money and medical expenses can put a greater strain on your finances.
2. They exercise regularly.
Again, the rich subjects he interviewed generally have healthier habits. “Seventy-six percent of the wealthy individuals exercise aerobically at least four days a week versus 23% for the poor.” He added that this habit, along with eating better, is key. “To wealthy people, health is everything,” he said in our interview. “If they’re healthy, they can work. They have more energy. They work longer hours. They have fewer sick days, it increases productivity and it’s a lot driven by their desire to be successful.”
3. The wealthy don’t procrastinate.
They are goal-oriented and accomplish things, he notes in his book. Breaking this bad habit is crucial to success, says Corley. “When the thought of putting off something enters your mind, immediately cast this thought out by saying, ‘Do It Now.’ Repeat these three words a hundred times a day if necessary,” he writes.
4. They keep learning.
One of the “eye-openers,” he says, was discovering that 88% of the wealthy people he interviewed read 30 minutes or more each day for education or for career-related reasons versus 2% for poor people. “I even dug a little deeper,” he adds. “I found that 76% of the wealthy read two or more education-related, self-help related books each month and the poor didn’t. So there’s a lot of this emphasis on education, and reading, and self-improvement, improving the vocabulary.”
5. Rich people nurture relationships.
“Successful people are students of relationship building,” he writes. “They faithfully return phone calls right away. They continuously seek out ways to improve their relationships.” Remembering birthdays — even just to make a happy birthday call first thing in the day — networking, and sharing milestones are regular habits for them. For example, he found that 79% of the wealthy network five hours or more each month vs. 16% for the poor.
If reading this list leaves you feeling overwhelmed, Corley reminded me that you don’t have to implement every single one of the dozens of rich habits he uncovered. Each rich habit was intentionally created to be what he calls a “keystone habit.” Keystone habits are unique in that they affect other habits. He says they have a “multiplier effect” that makes them even more powerful. For example, one good keystone habit, like exercising aerobically 20 to 30 minutes each day, can help eliminate other bad habits like overeating, eating junk food, smoking cigarettes and consuming too much alcohol.
Corley says that “one or two rich habits is often all it takes to turn your life completely around and raise you out of poverty and onto a new, happy life.”
And you don’t have to be perfect. When I responded to one of his tweets about the junk food habit by confessing my habit of eating some kind of chocolate virtually every day, he tweeted back, “If it’s any consolation I am a chocolataholic. Some Poverty Habits are just not worth giving up.”