Sometimes, simplicity is key.
John, who doesn’t share his last name online, interviewed 100 millionaires over the past few years and found that nearly all of them built their wealth in three simple steps, or what he calls “the old-fashioned way.”
“They earned a lot, saved a ton, and invested for a long time,” he wrote. This is in contrast to the common belief that most millionaires inherit their wealth or got lucky with big risks, he said, though one or two of his interviewees did get rich that way.
The median net worth of millionaires John interviewed was $2.3 million. While 90% of them were men, 93% were married, so John said he considered the women millionaires as well. The median age of the people he surveyed was just under 50.
One of the millionaires told John that he and his wife focused on their careers, made good decisions, saved, and had “good fortune with our investments,” particularly through his 401(k).
“We started with literally nothing at ages 27 and 25, and never really made big salaries (although if someone had told me when I started out that I’d be making six figures someday, I would have told them they were crazy),” the millionaire told John. “We had some luck selling homes at the right time and made a few dollars as we were forced to move a couple times. But there was certainly nothing strategic about the timing.”
He added: “In all honesty the biggest moment in our financial life came when an older coworker literally walked me up to HR back in 1992 and made me sign up for this thing called a 401(k). If he hadn’t been so forceful and insistent, I might not even be answering this interview as a millionaire.”
John said this kind of behavior was characteristic for most of the millionaires he interviewed. “They make solid money moves over time and ultimately become wealthy,” he wrote.
The simple — and long-lasting — habits are the most important
William D. Danko, the coauthor of the best-seller “The Millionaire Next Door,” is also a huge proponent of saving and maximizing income to build wealth — no matter your financial situation or education. In a recent Q&A with The Washington Post, Danko emphasized the importance of saving 20% of your income.
“If you earn and spend everything, you cannot build a significant financial net worth,” he said. “You must practice self-imposed financial scarcity. So, if you make $100,000, create a lifestyle that only requires 80% of this, and save/invest the rest.”
Committing to saving your income is part of setting financial goals. It’s at the heart of building any wealth, Business Insider previously reported. That 20% should be put toward an emergency fund, retirement, and paying down debt.
Danko also advised having more than one income stream to maximize your savings and investments, which will earn compound interest the earlier you start investing and the longer you live.
In fact, investing is yet another way millionaires favor simplicity; John also found that they use a simple investing strategy by investing in low-cost index funds — the same investment strategy championed by the billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
“Becoming wealthy is simple — create a gap between earning and spending for many years,” John wrote. “A huge inheritance or hot stock tip is not required.”
This article first appeared on Business Insider.