Is there a secret sauce or recipe for becoming a millionaire?
Cynics will say that luck plays a big part in who becomes rich and who doesn't.
But financial planners and others who work closely with and study the very wealthy say there are definitely traits the highly successful share in common, from picking careers and businesses in fields they love to a commitment to staying in shape.
The good news is that most if not all of these habits are well within the grasp of most of us willing to put in the hard work.
Sure, going to the gym every day isn't going to make you rich, though it would be nice if it did.
But the habits of the wealthiest among us -- particularly the self-made -- can provide insights on what it takes to rise to the top of the income ladder and stay there.
And if you want to squeeze as much out of life as you can, adopting some of these routines certainly can't hurt. It might even make you happier.
"People who defer current consumption or gratification to build wealth for the future are more farsighted and place a higher weight (in economic terms a greater utility) to consumption in the future," notes Laura Mattia, a financial planner in Sarasota and author of the forthcoming book, "Gender on Wall Street: Uncovering Opportunities for Women in Financial Services."
"This mindset is optimistic and hopeful and creates higher levels of happiness," Mattia says.
Want to join the ranks of the super wealthy? Consider these habits:
Love what you do: It makes it a lot easier to reach seven-figures if you truly enjoy what you do for work. "Those who can marry their highest and best traits to a job that requires those skills are often quite successful," says Elliot Herman, a certified financial planner and partner at PRW Wealth Management in Quincy, Mass. It's an idea endorsed by both Stanley and another expert on what makes the wealthy tick, Tom Corley's "Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals." The author, a certified financial planner, spent five years studying 235 wealthy individuals and 128 people in poverty. "Those people who pursue a dream or a main purpose in life are by far the wealthiest and happiest among us. Because they love what they do for a living, they are happy to devote more hours each day driving toward their purpose," Corley writes.
Exercise: The wealthy are big fans of working out and make exercise an integral part of their lives. Michael Resnick, a certified financial planner at GCG Financial in Deerfield, Ill., says his clients work hard at staying in shape, some by hitting the gym on the way to work, others by taking part in exercise classes or team sports. On average, millionaires work out 3.5 hours a week, according to the late Tom Stanley, a one-time Georgia State University professor who went on to write "The Millionaire Mind," and other books on what makes the rich successful. "The consistency with which these wealthy individuals have a workout plan and stay with it relates directly to how successful they have become," notes GCG Financial's Resnick.
Stay focused: The wealthy are big on goals and keeping track of just where they are in achieving them. Corley writes that 70% of the wealthy chase at least one major goal each year. They also spend time defining their goals, and, once they have a plan, whether for a new business venture or their own investments, they stick with it, pushing to achieve it, notes Melissa Sotudeh, a certified financial planner at Halpern Financial in Rockville, Md. "They are DISCIPLINED," Sotudeh writes. "They can stick to the plan or guidance that is required to reach a goal."
Cherish your health: Millionaires on average get at least 7 ½ hours sleep a night and rise early, generally around 6 a.m., according to Stanley. They also don't skip checkups or avoid the dentist. "I see successful clients as paying attention to their health," notes Catherine Valega, a certified financial planner and financial consultant at Rockland Trust, a Boston-area bank. "They get regular exercise, and go to necessary medical checkups on time."
Read (a lot): The wealthy don't rely on the TV or Facebook news feeds for their information. The vast majority of the rich surveyed by Corley, 88%, read for at least 30 minutes each day. They read for knowledge and to get an edge on the competition, closely tracking the latest developments in their fields and current events as a whole, as well as reading biographies about successful people, and, in the case of just over half, history as well.
Save and invest: Millionaires, and in particular, self-made millionaires, don't fritter away their hard-earned dollars. Rather, they reinvest their money or save it up with the goal of earning more money, Stanley's research found. That means saving or investing at least 20% of what you earn.
Say no: One way the wealthy get wealthy is that they know how to say no. They don't get distracted trying to please everyone or embarking on fruitless side ventures. "In my experience, my wealthiest clients have the ability to say no to people or ideas that they do not understand or that may lead them off course," says PRW Wealth Management's Herman.