“The one percent” is a term that’s been thrown around for some time. It’s kicked off political tirades, social movements, and Hollywood blockbusters. (Remember The Wolf of Wall Street? How about The Big Short?) But there’s yet another thing the term can turbocharge: Your savings account.
By copping the habits of the financial elite, you too can join their lofty perch and send your bank account numbers into the stratosphere. All it takes is adopting a few daily habits—some are financial, but many are just run-of-the-mill, everyday hacks. So read on and bask in the wisdom.
1. They get up early
“The early bird gets the worm” is the last thing you want to hear when some upbeat so-and-so opens the drapes and zaps you with sunlight. Still, the simple act of getting your day started early is a simple rule many one-percenters live by. Early risers of note include Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group, Disney CEO Robert Iger and, Marissa Mayer (of Yahoo! and Google pedigree). Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, suggests writing your plans for the following day. The first task should make you excited to get out of bed.
2. They save like they mean it
If you want to be in the 1%—and if you want to stay in the 1%—you’re going to have to save money like a boss. We’re talking fully 20% of your income. That may sound like a hefty chunk, particularly if you’re living paycheck to paycheck right now. But fear not! By making significant bites out of your monthly nut (see the next tip), it’s easier than you think.
3. They know their expenses
Business guru H. James Harrington said: “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” Simply put, you’ll never rein in unnecessary spending if you don’t take a sustained and unflinching look at what’s flying out of your pockets each and every month. Luckily, there are apps for that. A great one is Mint by Intuit. It allows you to plug in all of your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, mortgages, investments and, once you’ve budgeted your monthly expenses, it’ll show you what on earth is going on with your money each month.
4. They budget everything
Although monthly expenditures ebb and flow from month to month, get specific about how much you want to spend on housing, groceries, eating out, and gas—as well as how much you want to save. At the end of each month, see if you can improve on the previous one.
5. They exercise
Here’s another old saying that the 1% live by: Healthy body, healthy mind. Exercise keeps your brain healthy, minimizes stress and improves memory. Those are all handy attributes if you want to make some smart money moves. What’s more: Studies show that exercise can boost creativity and productivity by as much as two hours. It makes you smarter, too.
6. They consign debts to history
The 1% scoff at the idea of carrying debt. If you want to count yourself among them, paying down and paying things off should be a top priority. If you’re working but you’re not in the green every single month, it’s time to root out the problem and neutralize it. Instead of thinking about ways to accumulate more debt, make a pay-off plan. Focus on your highest interest credit cards and loans first, then move to the second highest ones, until your debt is erased.
7. They don’t ignore bills
Being reminded of how much you owe is a pisser. We have a natural tendency to ignore bills in the vain hope that maybe they’ll just go away. They won’t. In fact, that strategy will only compound the misery that will be visited upon you at some point and in some form. Be brave, and tackle your creditors’ notes head on.
8. They audit their expenses
Keeping a beady eye on your expenses will almost certainly save you a ton of cash over time. We’re talking double charges, fraudulent charges, dodgy-looking service fees, and recurring charges for a product or service you no longer need. You’ll be surprised just how much pork is hiding out in those numbers.
9. They take an interest in interest
The 1% are able to live off of the interest that their investments bring in, but if they weren’t born with money, they didn’t start that way. They built things slowly over time. Now that you’re saving 20% of your income, it’s important that you put that money somewhere wise. Diversify your investments, and track them on a monthly basis. Study where your money is and just how well it’s performing.
10. They invest in their homes
Depending on where you live, how much space you need and how many people you live with, owning your own home may be a very wise choice. In fact, if you don’t own your own home, you could be breaking an important rule of the 1%. If you already have a home, be sure to invest in it. Upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms will pay dividends in the long run.
11. They take a stake
Nine out of 10 one-percenters say that taking an equity position is necessary to get filthy rich. But just one out of ten people in the middle class have an equity position of any kind, and the vast majority (70%) say they’re not even trying to get one.
12. They find the edge and take it
Gaining small advantages in a series of deals can have a cumulative effect on your wealth over time. However, surveys show that most people don’t seek them out, so they’re likely to end up on the losing side of every deal. So play for the upper hand, even if it’s modest.
13. They act like hedgehogs
The hedgehog strategy gets its name from the spiny creature that has just one strategy at its disposal: it curls up into a ball. Point being, doing one thing well is better than doing lots of new things. Typically, one-percenters have taken an ordinary idea and executed it exceptionally well, honing their skills at it along the way.
14. They hire for their weaknesses
If you’re in a position to put a team together, don’t fall into the trap of hiring people who have a similar background or skill set to yours. Do what you do best, and hire other people to support you where you’re weaker. Build teams with complementary capabilities. Surveys show that most people would rather learn to do tasks they’re bad at than get others to do them. Those at the top often take the opposite view.
15. They resist the sunk-cost bias
You’ve heard that old aphorism “throwing good money after bad.” The one-percent have—and they live by it. One survey showed that 71% of the ultra-wealthy have no problem cutting their losses and moving on if a prospect isn’t headed in the right direction, while only a fifth of the middle-class say the same. The hoi polloi fall afoul of the sunk cost-bias: People want to keep pumping money into a non-starter, because they’ve already invested. If a deal doesn’t seem right, it’s almost always less risky to walk away—or run, as the song goes.