7 Surprising Secrets of The World’s Wealthiest Self-Made Millionaires

What’s the difference between those who earn millions of dollars and the rest of us? These inspiring individuals reveal the financial and lifestyle secrets that helped them succeed. Although, you might be surprised at their ACTUAL end goal!

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This post is sponsored by Discover, however, all opinions and support of self-made millionaires is 100% mine.

This is such an interesting perspective on why millionaires shouldn't be hated for their success! I totally agree that hard work is a huge factor, but what shocked me the most was their ACTUAL end goal had nothing to do with money. Really good points!

I rarely do this, but I’m about to get a teensy bit controversial. You ready? Okay, here it goes.

I don’t think people with lots of money are bad. Nope. Not one bit.

Our culture has this skewed view that the 1% somehow owe us their wealth, and we should stop “supporting third vacation homes” by refusing to shop big box stores. It REALLY bothers me!

Why? Because so many wealthy gurus started out as the “little guys”. This means they were just like us! And with a lot of sweat equity, applying the skills they have learned about how to manage money better, they’ve risen to the top and now have bank accounts to prove it.

Now, I’m not talking about those who inherited their money, I’m referring to those who built their wealth literally from nothing. In fact, a recent survey found that 62% of millionaires were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but instead started their own business and were successful from their own hard work.

This means we need to look at these millionaires {and billionaires} as inspiration rather than hate them for their success. Because hey…..if they can do it, we can too!

But before we can imitate them, first we have to find out what sets them apart. I recently discovered The Millionaire Mind by Thomas Stanley for $2.50 at a used bookstore {score!}, and have been fascinated with what I’ve found.

1. They’re Disciplined

Whether it’s true or not, we have this very biased view that all millionaires are indulgent. But it’s been proven over and over again that this is not the case. Most millionaires are extremely disciplined and learn how to manage their lives, and finances, extremely well.

Get this—Warren Buffet still lives in the Nebraska home he purchased for $31,500 {before he made his money}. How cool is that? He’s currently considered the most successful investor in the world, and had this to say,

Do not save what is left after spending. Spend what is left after saving – Warren Buffet

Brilliant! I totally agree.

FYI: If you want to passively grow your money at a higher rate {something millionaires are experts at}, research different savings accounts. Discover currently offers a rate of 0.95%, which is five times the national average. That means interest earned on $5,000 would net $47.73 per year, versus the industry standard {a measly 0.01%}.

2. They Take Risks

Millionaires are exceptional at taking calculated risks, and for the most part, these gutsy moves are what fuel their success—even when the rest of us see it as “way too risky.”

Jeff Bezos is constantly trying new things as the founder and CEO of Amazon.com. Some of them work, some of them don’t, but the ones that do have been the key to his success. The Kindle was actually one of his risky bets—think about how popular it is now!

His advice,

If you decide that you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table. – Jeff Bezos

The moral of the story is to take a chance, but be smart about it. I love that.

3. They Have Goals

Millionaires know exactly where they are going and how they’re going to get there. They don’t just guess—they create a strategic action plan to accomplish what they want. And when you think about it, this makes total sense!

A woman who is incredibly inspiring to me is Sara Blakely. She is best known for founding the company, Spanx, and was turned away by multiple hosiery companies before finding one that would support her concept. While working on a prototype, she spent an entire year of nights and weekends perfecting it, with a very specific goal of getting it to market.

She says,

You’ve got to visualize where you’re headed and be very clear about it. Take a Polaroid picture of where you’re going to be in a few years.” – Sara Blakely

If you can’t visualize your goals, they’re way less likely to happen. Get it in writing too—you can use my Goal Setting Worksheet to help!

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4. They Have Support

If millionaires don’t have support from family and friends, they FIND it. Networking, mastermind groups, and even a supportive spouse play a huge role in their success.

Oprah Winfrey was a former TV anchor when she met her best friend, Gail King, a production assistant at the same company. Being married to someone who used to work in the news industry, I can tell you firsthand those jobs hardly pay a thing! She describes this friendship as one that has survived through thick and thin, partially because they were both friends before her fame.

This quote of hers made me really stop and think:

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. – Oprah Winfrey

You have to surround yourself with the right people—people who love you for YOU, not what you can do for them. 

5. They Don’t Listen to Critics

There’s a difference between supportive mentors and those who are harsh critics. Critics don’t focus on how others can improve themselves, instead, they tear others down and enjoy watching people fail.

Steve Jobs was actually fired ten years after he co-founded Apple. Talk about harsh! But instead of believing his ideas were worthless, he pressed on and was ultimately rehired by Apple, taking the company farther than it ever had been before.

Before he passed away in 2011, he said,

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. – Steve Jobs

Millionaires either ignore critics, or use them as an inspiration to succeed. Because sometimes that gut of yours knows best.

6. They Work Hard

Despite the stigma, most millionaires become wealthy as a direct correlation of their hard work, not by their parents, sheer luck, or nasty scams.  If you want to be a millionaire, start by working harder than everyone else!

Mark Cuban is best known for his role on Shark Tank and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, but he actually got his start by selling a tech startup company for billions. He constantly admonishes entrepreneurs for shying away from hard work, and is very clear that THIS has been the key to his success.

I absolutely loved this quote by him,

Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it all away from you. – Mark Cuban

The takeaway? Successful entrepreneurs {and millionaires} know the value of hard work. And they’re not afraid of it.

7. They Give Back

This may surprise you the most—millionaires are extremely charitable and generous with the money they earn. And when you think about it, what’s the point of all that money anyway if you don’t use it for good? 

Bill Gates is considered the most generous person on earth, and to date, has given away approximately $27 billion through charitable contributions. Let me say that again—$27 billion! He now focuses most of his time running the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on emergency relief, poverty, global health, and education.

Here are his thoughts on philanthropy:

Effective philanthropy requires a lot of time and creativity—the same kind of focus and skills that building a business requires. – Bill Gates

It’s a good reminder for ALL of us to use our income to bless others…no matter how little or how much we have.

To Close:

Out of all the biographies and interviews about self-made millionaires I found, money was rarely their end goal. These individuals succeeded because they loved what they did, and worked hard to make their dreams a reality. Something I find incredibly inspiring!

In fact, I’m even more convinced that using your money wisely is essential to living a purposeful and fulfilling life. And that’s something we can all benefit from, millionaire or not.

What surprised you most about this list?


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Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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  1. Thank you! I loved your article. My current strategy to get rich is this:
    1. Learn how to be my money’s boss. No matter how much money you make, it won’t make you “rich” if you don’t harness it with discipline.
    2. Set myself apart with tiny changes. Instead of listening to the same playlists every day, listen to informative podcasts. Instead of watching TV after work, blog or research. Instead of talking about trite events or trends, talk about things you are trying to make progress in and ask them about how they do things. Over time, I will be that much smarter and ahead in life than if I didn’t.
    3. Write a plan and keep going. I’m determined to make money on my blog by the end of the year despite the low analytics telling me otherwise. I just need to keep learning the ropes.
    Good luck with your path!

  2. Kalyn this article is phenomenal! So informative I read each and every word. I had no idea Steve Jobs was fired from Apple at one point?! You are right, those critics can get in in our heads and really cause some serious self-doubt. So inspiring to pause a second and remember all the failures that successful people go through before they figure out and reach their true purpose, which then leads to {easier} success. Thank you for encouraging and inspiring me with this article today!

  3. I want to read the millionaire mind book. But we hear stories all the time of the many rags to riches stories from famous people. I remember once reading how Johnny Depp started out selling pens! PENS! Whenever I feel like I’m not going to get anywhere or reach my goals I just remind myself that even the very best start at the bottom.

    1. The story of how people attained wealth is something that is left out of the political debate. It’s easy to be jealous of someone for where they are, it becomes harder to do so when we realize where they came from. Selling pens. Thanks for sharing the story of Johnny Depp!

  4. I read the MIllionaire Next Door few years ago and it completely blew me away. It helped me change my ideas and focus, while improving my business tremendously. Hard work and dedication will take you anywhere, maybe not at millionaire level, but pretty far nonetheless.

    1. When you put hard work in the right places it’s amazing where it can take you. I just have to remember that reading books isn’t going to get me anywhere….I have to apply what I learn. 🙂 Speaking of reading books, do you have any others that have inspired you in your business journey?

  5. These self-made millionaires are true Americans, with the can-do spirit and discipline to achieve their goals. I wish all of the so-called 1% were like them. No reasonable person would begrudge any of these people their achievements and the financial and other benefits that often accompany such achievements.

  6. I love the book “The Millionaire Mind”-I wish that there was an updated version with recent statistics.
    The part about the self-made millionaires getting rich because they did what they LOVED and worked really hard to achieve their success really resonates with me. I am realizing what it means not to create a life, not just make a living with what you do. I love the people/examples you chose to include!

    1. Learning how to create your life I think is one of the biggest keys to financial fulfillment!

  7. There are so many wise lessons in this post! I think the disciplined comment resonates the most with me. I love that Warren Buffet is still living in his Nebraska home. There are a lot of good takeaways that I’ll be pondering for awhile. Great quotes, too!

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