Things Poor People Do That the Rich Don’t

Statistically, rich and poor people differ in a lot of ways. Let's find out about things poor and rich people generally do differently.

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Few people are born rich, and the reality is that most of us will have to work incredibly hard to achieve the kind of financial prosperity we dream of. However, there are a few surprisingly simple differences between low-earners and those destined for success. Of course, you should take these with a grain of salt, and remember: money isn’t everything!

TV vs Reading

Which common habit links uber-successful people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Oprah Winfrey? They read a lot. The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet (who has a net worth of $112.4 billion as of 2023) is one of the most well-known advocates for this hobby.

When asked about the key to his success, Buffet pointed to a stack of books and explained that he reads 500 pages every day, even aiming to dedicate 80% of his free time to the practice.

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Self-made millionaire Steve Seibold also interviewed 1,200 wealthy people about their day-to-day habits and found that every participant listed reading as a common pastime. Siebold further determined that wealthy people primarily read for education, whereas lower-income earners read for entertainment by choosing tabloids, magazines, and fiction instead.

Reading itself is often replaced by watching television, which requires minimal effort and offers fewer opportunities for improving knowledge.

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Author Tom Corley, who wrote a book titled "Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals", also found that 67% of 177 wealthy people making upwards of $160K watch TV for one hour or less per day. On the other hand, only 23% of low earners kept their TV time under 60 minutes.

There’s also a difference in the kind of TV people watch, as reality TV (which offers mindless escapism) was favored by 78% of poorer participants, while only 6% of the wealthy admitted they were partial to some good old trash TV.

Lottery Mentality

A study published in the ‘Journal of Behavioural Decision Making’ in 2008 found that people who considered themselves poorer bought twice as many lottery tickets as those who were more affluent. With less disposable income to spare on such frivolous expenses, why are low earners more likely to entertain these dangerous gambling habits?

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It all comes down to a mindset that has been aptly named the ‘lottery mentality’. Simply put, poorer people often wrongly view the lottery as the best opportunity to dramatically improve their financial situations. This is because the game itself is marketed in a way that makes us think that the poorest in society are just as likely to win big as the very richest, which is kinda true.

What’s dangerous is that the lottery encourages people to dream about a scenario that, statistically speaking, is very unlikely to happen. We’ve all been guilty of this mentality at some point; after all, who doesn’t dream of a cool few hundred million suddenly turning up in their bank account one day?

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In reality, by idling and thinking “If I won the lottery right now all my problems would be solved” you’re subconsciously evading going out and solving those problems for yourself. This fantasy of being struck by random luck is what keeps people playing, and so the lottery mentality alongside any form of gambling becomes a vicious cycle that stops people from escaping poverty.

The best way to ditch this negative mindset is to turn wishes into goals and to think realistically about how to achieve them. And most importantly, remember that the lottery is a losing game! In fact, if you take a look at our article about the dumbest lottery winners, it will be clear that winning the lottery is not always a good thing!

Networking

Ever heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? It’s especially true when it comes to climbing the big old ladder to success; after all, you’re gonna need a helping hand along the way. According to Corley’s book, 79% of the wealthiest participants dedicated around 5 hours or more per month to networking, and even attributed meaningful connections with like-minded people as the major stepping stones to their success.

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This commitment to opportunistic relationship building was only replicated by 16% of lower earners, who generally prefer to make their own way in life. This isn’t to say that money can buy friendship – in fact, social analysis of the 2012 "General Social Survey" and "American Time Use" survey showed that rich people spent an average of 10 more minutes alone per day, and 26 fewer minutes with family.

Professor Emily Bianchi has explained that poorer people value social relationships for necessary material and emotional support, whereas support among the rich was generally classed as ‘instrumental’.

This means that financially successful people always focus on a larger end goal and recognize that they’ll need to collaborate with others to achieve it. Poorer people may spend more time socializing overall, but these relationships veer away from the professional and more into the personal.

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In fact, research has often shown that lower earners prefer to work alone when given the choice, which can hinder their success. This has also been described as a "crab mentality" – a quirky analogy featuring crabs trapped in a bucket.

If all the crabs worked together they could easily escape, but by focusing on their own individual goals and maintaining a competitive mindset they ensure the group's collective failure instead. Next time a social work event crops up just think: what kind of crab am I gonna be today?

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Spending Habits

When you picture the rich and famous, you’ll probably think of flashy cars, designer clothes, and houses that could give the Playboy Mansion a run for its money. However, materialism is surprisingly more frequently associated with the poorer members of society.

To some extent, we all participate in consumer culture and value material possessions, but excessive spending can take a damaging toll on your quality of life. According to the American Psychological Association, Americans’ general well-being has significantly declined since the 1950s, while overall consumption has increased.

Those who flaunt their wealth through outward appearances are generally associated with celebrity culture, but there are plenty of high-earning individuals who don’t seem stereotypically ‘rich’ at first glance.

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This is because many self-made successful people recognize the importance of the long-term when they spend money, which means anything that may not have beneficial returns in the future, like expensive jeans or the newest iPhone, isn’t of much value.

On the other hand, the less advantaged are sometimes more concerned with disguising their true financial situation by presenting themselves as something they’re not, which might mean chasing the newest trends or taking out a credit card to buy a nicer car. These things can all be described as short-term investments and are therefore often viewed as money wasted down the drain, rather than something capable of furthering progress or financial gain.

Of course, it’s fine to treat yourself every now and then, but the sooner we realize that true satisfaction can’t be achieved by filling the voids in our lives with material possessions, the better.

Early Risers

We all struggle to drag ourselves out of bed some mornings, but a peek into the lives of the filthy rich has revealed that they often rise and shine when most of us are still fast asleep. In fact, many high-earners – like Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, who famously starts his mornings at 3:45 AM – have identified early rising as the key to their success.

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Corley’s five-year study found that 50% of all 177 self-made millionaires asked woke up at least 3 hours before they actually go to work. The early morning activities of the rich and famous are varied, with some like Michelle Obama hitting the gym by 4:30 am, others like Mark Wahlberg practicing mindfulness at 2:30 am or even just soaking in the tub at 5 am like StyleSeat CEO Melody McCloskey.

Aside from capitalizing on all the hours the day has to offer, scientific research has suggested that mid-morning is when our brain is most active, so it’s important to be awake and alert. Professor Steve Kay from the University of Southern California explained that this is because our body temperatures begin to rise before we wake up and continue to do so throughout midday.

Our working memory, alertness, and concentration also gradually improve and peak during these ‘active hours’. This means sleeping in until the last minute could be a real disadvantage because we enter the day less prepared to capitalize on this precious brain time. So maybe lay off the snooze button from now on.

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Exercise

Michelle Obama isn’t the only one who puts exercise at the top of her to-do list, as Tom Corley’s book also states that a whopping 76% of all high earners spent half an hour or more exercising per day. This was mostly classed as ‘aerobic exercise’ which includes cardio-based activities like running, jogging, walking, or cycling.

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This kind of exercise has often been said to boast a myriad of benefits for our minds as well as our bodies by releasing chemicals into the brain that are key for improving concentration and general mental sharpness.

A study carried out by the University of British Columbia in 2012 even found that the type of exercise that gets our hearts and sweat glands pumping can boost the size of the ‘hippocampus’, which is the cranial area responsible for verbal memory and learning.

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To be best prepared for the day ahead, it’s essential that our bodies and minds cooperate in a healthy fashion to take on difficult tasks. The spare leisure time low earners do have in their days is more generally filled with less-taxing activities like television and social media instead, which can have a proven adverse effect on our mental well-being.

One 68-year-old participant in Corley’s study worth nearly $80 million even claimed that he maintains a regular exercise plan so that he can extend his career by 3-4 years. It might seem crazy, but why retire during what could potentially be your highest-earning years? It’s all about the long game, right?

Mindfulness

Regular exercise isn’t the only thing many of us wouldn’t recognize as a possible key to success. It’s just as important to keep your brain in good shape too, and I’m not just talking about tackling some tricky brain teasers.

If you’ve got a lot on your plate already meditation might well be your last priority; after all, who has the time to sit around thinking about nothing? Well, some of the richest people in the world do, that’s who.

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Billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates Ray Dalio even explained in 2012 that: “meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had”. He isn’t the only celeb with deep pockets to sing its praises either, as Rupert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Ford are among other big earners who take the time to meditate daily.

Countless studies have highlighted the positive effects a little mindfulness could have in our everyday lives. A study published in the 2013 journal Health Psychology was even able to link meditation to decreased stress by recognizing a significant drop in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in 57 participants who went on a meditation retreat.

Meanwhile, multimillion-dollar author Deepak Chopra has also explained that meditation increases the amount of rest you’d normally achieve from sleep; it’s almost twice as effective as taking a nap! It’s easy for low earners to dismiss mindfulness as a useless time-wasting task but understanding its benefits could be instrumental to your future success.

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To-Do Lists

Making a to-do list might not seem particularly life-changing, but it turns out this simple practice could do the world of good. There are only 24 hours in a single day and it’s important not to feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, so having an action plan can help you make the most of your time.

Without proper direction, it’s easy to drift through life like a lost sheep, never really going anywhere. Just think of your to-do list like a guiding lighthouse and you’d be surprised how much you can get done.

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Business guru Richard Branson, who now has a net worth of $3 billion and lives on his own private island, was once just an entrepreneur with a dream, and he’s been very open about his love affair with the trusty to-do list. Branson always carries a notebook full of ideas and lists and admits that ticking tasks off is both super-satisfying and a great way to watch plans take shape and evolve.

He’s not alone, either, as motivational life coach Joel Brown also interviewed over 100 high achievers for Entrepreneur magazine and found that a staggering 95% practiced writing down goals, plans, and visions for success on a regular basis. Without a physical reminder of your own progress, it can be easy to feel bogged down by tasks and to just adopt a ‘can’t do’ mentality instead.

It’s unsurprising that Corley also found that only 19% of low earners adopted this habit compared to 81% of rich participants. Of course, a few lists won’t make you an instant millionaire but it’s a good place to start if you want to track your progress.

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Healthy = Wealthy

Are your takeaway cravings keeping you poor? Junk food probably isn’t entirely to blame but the phrase ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ does have some truth behind it. According to research, the diets of wealthy and poorer people are usually vastly different, with higher earners maintaining generally healthier eating habits.

Corley’s findings state that 70% of wealthy people ate less than 300 junk food calories a day (which are high in fat, salt, and sugar) while 97% of poorer people consumed more than 300 of these potentially damaging calories daily.

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This may not seem surprising given that media coverage has often highlighted how cheaply produced junk food is more accessible and affordable to the lower classes, but with new legislations like the UK sugar tax now in place from 2018 there are probably some other explanations.

Behavioral experts have also noted that the most affluent members of society are generally more satisfied with their lives and are therefore more focused on maintaining their long-term health. On the flip side, lesser earners live on a more immediate day-to-day basis and may have bigger fish to fry than, well, frying fish instead of just ordering in pizza.

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This also explains why unhealthy habits like smoking are notoriously expensive yet are still more frequently associated with the less advantaged. In addition, studies such as one by Cambridge University in 2009 found that choosing a junk food diet, which is high in fat, could zap your energy levels in as little as one week, so perhaps a few extra greens could mean more money in the bank!

Now that you know some things poor people do that the rich don't, you can make some lifestyle changes and soon find yourself one of the rich. Thanks for reading!

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