4 Habits My Millionaire Clients Have in Common As a Financial Planner

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  • I have many wealthy financial planning clients, and they all share four habits.
  • They keep a long-term view of their finances, and they don’t worry about market fluctuations.
  • They also make a plan and stick to it, and invest automatically in good times and bad.

It does not take long for those of us who work in wealth management to notice certain commonalities among our clients: how they spend their time, what they prioritize, and what they avoid. 

Regardless of background or age, there are four things my millionaire clients do almost universally, which I believe are the reasons they’re able to build wealth (which is hard enough) and stay wealthy (which is harder than it sounds). 

1. They maintain a long-term focus on their finances 

It is easy to get sucked into day-to-day market swings and financial temptations. The financial media can be a noisy place that advocates short-term focus — whether that be on quarterly earnings, the latest technical chart predictions, or the Federal Reserve Chair’s comments. 

While some of those may have meaningful systemic impacts on the market or an individual investor’s portfolio, most millionaires know they need to ignore the short-term chatter and focus on their personalized long-term investment hypothesis and allocation with their financial advisors. This prevents them from making emotionally driven mistakes, such as market timing and herding behavior, that can potentially cost them thousands or millions of dollars over the long term. 

Put simply, they have a long-term plan that they keep in front of mind when making daily decisions.  

2. They make a plan, then save and invest accordingly

Some of the least-sexy aspects of wealth-building are saving, investing, and paying off debt before you do anything else. Despite the fact that these things are boring, they are the most surefire ways to achieve financial abundance. They aren’t magic; they simply ensure you are living within your means, building wealth consistently through monthly contributions, and making progress toward your financial goals. 

I have always found that my successful clients decide what they want to achieve, how much they need to save and invest to achieve their goals in the desired timeline, and then structure their lifestyle around that. This has the super-stealth benefit of meaning you have to save less in your retirement plan because you’re living on a smaller percentage of your income. 

3. They invest automatically in the good times and bad 

One of the best millionaire secrets is that they often ignore the temporary market swings and commit to investing in the good times and bad. They determine how much they need to save and invest on a monthly or quarterly basis, and then they set up automatic bank transfers and purchase plans in their investment accounts in order to execute their plan.

By automating these transactions, they ensure that they can divorce their investing decisions from their momentary emotions. There is less temptation to pause contributions because they “want to see what the market is doing.” They decide beforehand what needs to happen and execute that carefully thought-out plan. This has the primary benefit of dollar-cost averaging, which is shown to deliver superior results to market timing. 

4. They’re apathetic to market swings 

In a 1990 shareholder letter, Warren Buffett said the following regarding Berkshire Hathaway’s investment style: “Lethargy bordering on sloth remains the cornerstone of our investment style.” 

We inherently know there are risks with stock market investing in the short term, but stocks outperform most other asset classes over the long term. However, it can be hard for us to remove the emotion from daily market swings and maintain a long-term focus. The market crash in early 2020 proved that it is much more difficult to stay invested when you are focused on the short term.

Most of my millionaire clients are clear and focused on what their individual buckets of money are supposed to do for them, and they know they are invested accordingly. This means that although they may feel concerned, they generally don’t panic and make any changes that will hinder their long-term portfolio growth.  

The reality is that there should be very little reason to check your portfolio in a volatile market or correction because it should be appropriately invested in accordance with your investment time horizon and risk tolerance. Most of the frenetic energy around checking your portfolio stems from those two boundaries not being settled. This is something my millionaire clients fully embody, and it allows them to see the fruits of that pre-planning and compounding interest.

This article was originally published in April 2021.

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