All of us are born in this country in the same post-industrial media drive country. In theory, if we pay attention in school, do what we are told, go to work on time, pursue our dreams, and don’t break any major laws,then we should wake up one day successful and contented. Most of us accept this as being true but, by virtually every measure, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing over time.
According to a 2011 article by Forbes Magazine in 1962 the average net worth of America’s top 20% of households was $800,000. By 2009 that had grown to $1.7 million (adjusted for inflation). By contrast the bottom fifth of American households had a negative net worth of $7000 in 1962. By 2009 the bottom 20% were (on average) $27,000 into the negative.
Oddly, the net worth of the middle fifth of Americans has only changed from $52,000 to $65,000 in that same period of time. What makes this growing inequality even more mind numbing is that the federal government declared a war on poverty in the mid 1960s to pull up Alabama’s poorest households. Food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, the school lunch program, welfare, the Voting Rights Act, Head Start, school desegregation, fair housing laws, student loans, Pell Grants, subsidized mortgages, even free cell phones were all designed to turn the have-nots into haves and deal with institutional inequities in this country. These programs have helped millions of Americans (at the cost of $trillions in tax dollars), yet the ultimate goal of ending poverty in this country has completely eluded us as a country.
Most of the millionaires today are first generation millionaires and people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds (including many whose families weren’t even in this country in 1962) have seen their fortunes soar over the last half century. Millions of Americans have shared in this upward mobility; but many of the families that were impoverished in 1962 are still impoverished fifty years later. This perplexing dilemma has led many researchers to take a new look at the habits of the rich versus the habits of the poor to see what role (if any) personal decision-making is having on the wildly varying personal outcomes.
The behavioral differences between the two groups in the research turned out to be far more than just the differences in income and bank account.
First of all rich people are readers and they encourage their children to be readers.
* 88% of the rich report that they read 30 minutes or more each day for work or education purposes versus only 11% of the poor.
* 86% of the rich say that they love to read while only 26% of the poor say the same thing. That translates to the next generation as well.
* 63% of the rich report that they make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month; but only 4% of the poor report that they do that.
* 86% of the rich believe that educational self-improvement is a life time goal while only 5% of the poor report they share that same belief
* 76% of the rich listen to audio books on their commute to work; but only 5% of the poor do the same.
The research shows that rich people are much more focused on planning than poor people are.
* 81% of rich people report that they maintain a to-do list; but only 19% of the poor share that habit.
* 80% of the rich say that they are focused on accomplishing some single goal, but only 12% of poor people report that they have a similar motivating focus.
* 67% of wealthy people write their goals down; but only 17% of poor people report that they do the same thing.
Rich people are typically more health conscious than poor people.
* 70% of the wealthy in the study eat less than 300 calories of junk food per day; where 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day.
* 76% of the wealthy exercise aerobically four days per week; while just 23% of the poor do that.
Contrary to the image of the money focused “Scrooge” of Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ today’s successful elites have more of a people focus.
* 70% of wealth parents make their children volunteer ten hours or more per month versus just 3% for the American poor.
* 79% of the wealthy network 5 hours or more per month versus just 16% of the poor.
* 80% of the wealthy actually report that they make Happy Birthday calls versus just 11% for the poor.
* Only 6% of the wealthy report that they say what’s on their mind versus 69% for the poor.
If you think that network television has become coarser and cruder over time you likely are right. The wealthy watch less television.
* 67% report that they watch one hour or less network TV per month versus just 23% for poor people.
* 6% of the rich are reality TV viewers versus 78% of poor Americans.
* Only 23% of the wealthy gamble; but 52% of the poor do.
* 44% of the rich get up out of bed more than 3 hours before work while only 3% of poor people do.
* 84% of rich people believe that good habits create opportunity luck versus just 4% for poor people.
* 76% of rich people believe that bad luck is causes by bad habits. Only 9% of the poor believe this.
Take an hour and reflect on your own life. Do you live this life like a rich person: reading, learning, planning, preparing, eating three square meals a day, networking, improving? Or like a poor person: watching the latest Kardashian divorce drama, watching Maury Povich deliver paternity test results, rolling into work 30 minutes after rolling out of bed, eating cheetos, texting your same old friends about football games, and only growing fatter over time?
Your individual choices: each day and every day ultimately influence your outcome in this life and whether or not you maximize your opportunities in this life or are swept aside in this economy in favor of someone else is in large part due to the cumulative effects of your own decision-making. For more information on how you can change your future and become more like the rich, click here.