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Why Is It That Some Get Ahead ... While Others Don't?

School is HERE for many of my clients (though I have many clients outside of the area as well, so it's always difficult to make these kinds of statements) ... and this "back to school" season got me thinking about things that you NEVER learn in school.

(At least, not in any school I went to.)

Because there are certain truths about life -- ones that really are eternal -- about which we do a disservice to our children if we don't prepare them.
(By the way -- I do hope you had a fantastic weekend. As I sit down and write this, Monday morning, I'm staring at mounds of client paperwork and a lot of tax "season" preparation for my staff to boot ... but after an incredibly restful weekend myself, I have an almost caffeinated excitement about the week. So forgive me in advance if this email is a bit punchy!)
As a tax and accounting professional, it's true that I tend towards financial conservatism. But that doesn't mean that I don't make it a point to study *exactly* how money works, and that I simply default towards savings. No -- even for one such as me -- these are still learned behaviors.

And, unfortunately, they're often not taught in school.

Tony Khait, CPA, PFS's

"Real World" Personal Strategy Note
12 Markers Of Real World Financial Prosperity

"Fortune favors the prepared mind." -Louis Pasteur

Maybe it's true that having $1m+ isn't as impressive as it used to be these days. But it's still a measure that we continue to use as a marker of financial "arriving".
What's further interesting is that even in the midst of the "Great Recession" and its ongoing recovery, the numbers of people who are achieving that mark is increasing. (See here, for example: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/expat-money/10158420/A-record-breaking-number-of-millionaires-in-the-world.html )

But I'm most interested in the kind of financial (and otherwise) behavior which leads to this status. And, having dealt with clients who have reached this point, I believe I have come to a few objective truths about how this stuff works.

With certain exceptions, it's not what Hollywood tells you about it. In fact, based on my research, here are 12 portraits of what today's millionaire looks more like ...
1. He always spends less than he earns. In fact his mantra is, over the long run, you're better off if you strive to be anonymously rich rather than deceptively poor.
2. He knows that patience is truth. The odds are you won't become a millionaire overnight.  If you're like him, your wealth will be accumulated gradually by diligently saving your money over multiple decades.
3. He pays off his credit cards in full every month.  He's smart enough to understand that if he can't afford to pay cash for something, then he can't afford it.
4. He realized early on that money does not buy happiness.  If you're looking for financial joy, you need to focus on attaining financial freedom.
5. He understands that money is like a toddler; it is incapable of managing itself.  After all, you can't expect your money to grow and mature as it should without some form of credible money management.
6. He's a big believer in paying yourself first. It's an essential tenet of personal finance and a great way to build your savings and instill financial discipline.
7. He also knows that the few millionaires that reached that milestone without a plan got there only because of dumb luck.  It's not enough to simply declare that you want to be financially free. This is not a "Secret".
8. When it came time to set his savings goals, he wasn't afraid to think big.  Financial success demands that you have a vision that is significantly larger than you can currently deliver upon.
9. He realizes that stuff happens, and that's why you're a fool if you don't insure yourself against risk. Remember that the potential for bankruptcy is always just around the corner and can be triggered from multiple sources: the death of the family's key breadwinner, divorce, or disability that leads to a loss of work.
10. He understands that time is an ally of the young. He was fortunate (and smart) enough to begin saving in his twenties so he could take maximum advantage of the power of compounding interest on his nest egg.
11. He's not impressed that you drive an over-priced luxury car and live in a McMansion that's two sizes too big for your family of four. Little about external "signals" of wealth actually matter to him.
12. He doesn't pay taxes which could have been avoided with a simple phone call. He plans ahead, before tax time. Oh, and here's the number he calls (in the fall, every year, without fail): (347) 673-6360
So that's it.  Now you know what those millionaires out there won't tell you.
It's up to you what you do with it.

With gratitude for your trust,

Tony Khait, CPA, PFS
(347) 673-6360