When it comes to getting rich, many of us assume it means getting an upscale job with a hefty paycheck. We daydream about how we’ll drive a cool car or treat ourselves to fancy dinners out. After all, the more money you earn, the wealthier you are, and then you can do whatever you want, right?
Not quite. Just as important as a well-paying job are the habits that you build when it comes to your budget and finances. How do you spend your money? How much do you save? Are you investing in yourself and in your future? And there are even bigger considerations, like how well do you connect with your community and what kind of impact you are making on those around you.
There are a handful of small but powerful things wealthy people do that set them apart from those who are struggling financially. Start cultivating these habits and you’ll get a sense of what real financial success and independence feel like, as well as what it’s like to make a difference.
Related: 10 Tips to Become a Millionaire This Year
1. Create multiple streams of income.
It’s difficult to become financially independent on one income. If you lose your job you’ll be frantically looking for work while dipping heavily into savings to stay afloat -- or, worse yet, you’ll be going into debt to pay your bills.
Wealthy people focus on cultivating multiple streams of income so they’ll always have something to fall back on during lean times. During boom times, your income will balloon to pad your savings and fund your investments.
You can build passive income, such as from rental properties, stock dividends or interest from a high-yield bank account. A side hustle is a great way to boost your income while developing a passion or a hobby.
A side hustle could be a business you start on the side, freelancing in an area of expertise or marketing your skills. Can you teach yoga? Design websites? You can work a part-time job during off hours, or even rent out a room in your home.
The best kind of side hustle is something you enjoy doing, and it’s even better if you can create synergy between your different income threads, so they feed into your overarching goals and dreams. If you’re able to tap into an area you are passionate about, you’ll be determined to persist until you’re successful.
Related: 50 Jobs, Gigs and Side Hustles You Can Do From Home
2. Learn to live on less than you make.
Living beneath your means is the key to creating and maintaining wealth, not to mention avoiding debt. Millionaires know spending less than you earn creates opportunity; you can invest that money, save it or donate it to a cause or charity you care about. Ideally, you can do all three.
Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, uses the 70/30 rule as a blueprint for how much to spend, save, invest and donate. For most people, the difficulty is learning to live on 70 percent of their income after taxes, including spending for all necessities and luxuries. The remaining 30 percent is then broken into 10 percent allocations for investments, savings and charity.
Living on less than you make requires you to get your spending under control and come up with a budget that you stick to. You’ll need to learn to be more frugal and to really make your money stretch. It may mean that you drive a used economy car, eat at home more often or ditch extravagant purchases.
It definitely means that you should stop comparing yourself to others. According to Rohn, “Poor people spend their money and save what’s left. Rich people save their money and spend what's left.”
When you spend, think about whether this something you really need, or something you just really want.
Related: 11 Ways To Be Frugal Now So You're Rich Later
3. Make your money work for you.
The wealthy invest in themselves. They know the key to making their money work for them consistently over the long haul is creating an investment plan to create wealth. The plan should include regular payments into a mutual fund, a trading account and retirement accounts.
Accruing wealth also requires making capital investments. This is the money you’ll invest in creating an enterprise, such as developing a business, manufacturing a product, marketing and selling your services or investing in other ventures.
This will require you to take calculated risks while taking into account your long-term financial security. Walking this line require financial savvy. Educate yourself on financial matters. Understand the ins and outs of your investment plan and make adjustments as needed.
In addition to your investment plan, you should be tucking away at least 10 percent of your paycheck into "rainy day" savings. It’s easiest if you have it automatically deducted from your paycheck. This money is for unexpected expenses and to get you through tough times.
Savings protect your investments. It will keep you from going into debt or needing to pull money from your investments, which in turn could cripple your multiple income sources.
4. Give back.
It may seem counterintuitive to give generously of your time and money, but this is also an important investment. Giving to others and being of service to those who need it most helps you connect with your community and be a part of something bigger than yourself: the greater good.
This is about growing wealth not just in your bank accounts, but in your whole community, which benefits everyone. When you volunteer your time or make donations to causes or issues that your care deeply about, it gives you a sense of joy and purpose.
The idea is to not just be a go-getter, but a go-giver -- someone who is focused on others more than themselves. Yes, it’s important to stay focused on your goals and be passionate about your dreams. But finding a way to also add value to the lives of other people will benefit you in the long run as well.
Truly wealthy people, the ones who impact society and change our world views, understand that the more you give, the more those good feelings and vibes come back to you.