When I travel the country speaking to high school and college students about exactly what they need to do to become financially successful in life I always begin my presentation by asking three questions:

“How many want to be financially successful in life?”

“How many think they will be financially successful in life?”

Almost every time I ask the first two questions every hand rises in the air. Then I ask the magic third question:

“How many have taken a course in school on how to be financially successful in life?”

Not one hand rises in the air, ever. Clearly every student wants to be successful and thinks they will be successful but none have been taught by their parents or their school system how to be financially successful in life. Not only are there no courses on basic financial success principles but there are no structured courses teaching basic financial literacy. We are raising our children to be financially illiterate and to fail in life. Is it any wonder that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck? That most Americans accumulate more debt than assets?  That many Americans lose their homes when they lose their job? Is it any wonder that most Americans cannot afford college for their children and that student loan debt is now the largest type of consumer debt?

What’s worse is what our children are being taught by their parents, the school system, politicians and the media. They are teaching our children that the wealthy are corrupt, greedy, have too much wealth and that this wealth needs to be redistributed. What kind of a message do you think that sends to America’s future generation? It is teaching them that seeking financial success by pursuing the American Dreams is a bad thing. The Occupy Wall Street movement was a manifestation of this “wealth is bad and needs to be redistributed “mindset. .

Here are some statistics from my five-year study on the daily habits that separate the wealthy from the poor?

  1. 72% of the wealthy know their credit score vs. 5% of the poor
  2. 6% of the wealthy play the lottery vs. 77% of the poor
  3. 80% of the wealthy are focused on at least one goal vs. 12% of the poor
  4. 62% of the wealthy floss their teeth every day vs. 16% of the poor
  5. 21% of the wealthy are overweight by 30 pounds or more vs. 66% of the poor
  6. 63% of the wealthy spend less than 1 hour per day on recreational Internet use vs. 26% of the poor
  7. 83% of the wealthy attend/attended back to school night for their kids vs. 13% of the poor
  8. 29% of the wealthy had one or more children who made the honor roll vs. 4% of the poor
  9. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during their commute vs. 5% of the poor
  10. 67% of the wealthy watch 1 hour or less of T.V. per day vs 23% of the poor
  11. 9% of the wealthy watch reality T.V. shows vs. 78% of the poor
  12. 73% of the wealthy were taught the 80/20 rule vs. 5% of the poor (live off 80% save 20%)
  13. 79% of the wealthy network 5 hours or more per month vs. 16% of the poor
  14. 8% of the wealthy believe wealth comes from random good luck vs. 79% of the poor
  15. 79% of the wealthy believe they are responsible for their financial condition vs. 18% of the poor

The fact is the poor are poor because they have too many Poverty Habits and too few Rich Habits. Poor parents teach their children the Poverty Habits and wealthy parents teach their children the Rich Habits. We don’t have a wealth gap in this country we have a parent gap. We don’t have income inequality, we have parent inequality.

Parents and our schools need to work together to instill good daily success habits as follows:

  • Limit T.V., social media and cell phone use to no more than one hour a day.
  • Require that children to read one to two educational books a month.
  • Require children to aerobically exercise 20 – 30 minutes a day.
  • Limit junk food to no more than 300 calories a day.
  • Require that children set monthly, annual and 5-year goals.
  • Require working age children to work or volunteer at least ten hours a week.
  • Require that children save at least 25% of their earnings or gifts they receive.
  • Teach children the importance of relationship building by requiring them to call friends, family, teachers, coaches etc. on their birthdays and to send thank you cards for gifts or help they received from anyone.
  • Reassure children that mistakes are good not bad. Children need to understand that the very foundation of success in life is built on learning from our mistakes.
  • Punish children when they lose their tempers so they understand the importance of controlling this very costly emotion.
  • Teach children that seeking financial success in life is good and is a worthwhile goal. Children need to learn what the American Dream is and that it is something to be pursued in life.
  • Children need to learn how to manage money. Open up a checking account or savings account for children and force them to use their savings to buy the things they want. They need to learn that they are not entitled to things like cell phones, computers, fashionable clothes, flat screen T.V.s etc.
  • Require children to participate in at least two non-sports-related extracurricular activities at school or outside of school.
  • Parents and children need to set aside at least an hour a day to talk to one another. Not on Facebook, or on the cell phone, but face to face. The only quality time is quantity time
  • Teach children how to manage their time. They should be required to create daily “to do” lists and these lists need to be monitored by parents. The goal should be to accomplish at least 70% of their tasks on their daily “to do” list.
Tom Corley boats - crop
By Tom Corley Bestselling Author, Speaker, Media Contributor

Wealthy people do certain things every single day that sets them apart from everyone else in life. Wealthy people have good daily success habits that they learned from their parents. These daily habits are the real reason for the wealth gap in our country and the real reason why the rich get richer. Unless we teach our children good daily success habits, and level the playing field, the rich will continue to get richer and the poor will continue to get poorer.



  1. Good talk…the desire you feel for riches is the infinite seeking to express himself in you as he sought to find expression in the little boy at the piano.

  2. True and profound! I hope everyone who comes across this vitally-rich piece would share and appreciate it and above all put to use.Thanks author.

  3. “The fact is the poor are poor because they have too many Poverty Habits and too few Rich Habits. ”
    Are you f’ing serious???

    “We don’t have a wealth gap in this country we have a parent gap. We don’t have income inequality, we have parent inequality.”

    No, I think we have a intelligence gap – and you Mr. Tom Corley are clearly the missing link.

    Maybe the poor are poor because they have less wealth/income than the rich (by definition, pretty much, I’m sure you’ll agree).

    There is just such a gulf between your patronising, glib, Anglo-Saxon, Middle-Class centric platitudes, and the lived experience of most poor Americans that I simply don’t know if there is any hope for you.

    “Parents and children need to set aside at least an hour a day to talk to one another.” How is this accomplished when both parents are working two jobs, and barely pass like ships in the night while trying to earn enough to cover the rent and the basics.

    “Open up a checking account or savings account for children…”. Yeah, great advice when there is a large un-banked segment of the population amog the poor, who simply don’t have the werewithall to open a checking account for themselves, never mind their children.

    Mr Corley, you need to get out more and mix a little beyond your existing social circle. It’s pretty easy to throw these kind of platitiudes from your Prius, or Lexus, as you drive between your McMansion and your golf club, but maybe roll down your power windows sometime and take a drive through the poorer neighbourhoods. Take some of your own advice and volunteer for a few hours a week at a soup kitchen or food bank, and see the lived experience of the poor.

    Until then, maybe you will want to re-title your article, “Some things middle class families can teach their kids in the hope they can stay middle class.”

    “8% of the wealthy believe wealth comes from random good luck vs. 79% of the poor”. Yeah, that’s becuase the poor recognise that being born into a wealthy family is largely good luck, while the wealthy continue to think they deserve everything they have.

    You could probably start your education with reading John Rawls ‘A Theory of Justice’ and thinking about if you would rather be born into a wealthy family or a poor one. And then perhaps look at some recent Census data on social mobility – and realise why the 79% of poor who think wealth is dumb luck are pretty much spot on.

    Other readings would include: ‘Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America’, and ‘Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much’ by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir.

    After this you might ponder some of the statistics you quote, and recognise that correlations does not equal causation.

    I look forward to you expanding your thinking and outlook, but I fear I may be waiting in vain.

    • John, Shearer

      If you don’t like where you are, you need to change what you’re doing.
      Resorting to anger, blame, and bitterness toward those who have the lifestyle you want is a waste of time and energy that could be used to move forward.
      Rationalizing why you are in a lower class by citing books/statistics/papers/experiences will keep you in a lower class. It will never bring about change. It will never put you in a better place.

      That being said, here’s a plan to get out of a poverty/undesirable situation:
      1. Sit down with a pad of paper and a pencil and write out exactly what it is you want in life. Write out your goals.
      2. Put a timeline next to each one – day, month, year, whatever.
      3. Write out the people/places/things you need to achieve your goals.
      4. Break the goals down into daily parts – things you are going to do each day to achieve them.
      5. Take action immediately. Begin with the first thing you have to do to reach that goal. Whether it’s making a phone call, researching a website, or talking to someone, updating a resume, whatever.
      6. Resolve that you are going to work incredibly hard to achieve these goals. Resolve that you are going to face difficulties and setbacks along the way, but you are never going to give up.
      7. Resolve immediately to forgive everyone around you for everything done to you and forgive yourself for what you’ve done to them. You can’t move forward carrying emotional baggage.
      8. Get away from negative, angry, bitter people. They will only drag you down and help you justify being miserable. Misery loves company.
      9. Change your environment. Put images, graphics, whatever – of your goals everywhere you can see them. Above your bed, in your bathroom, change the wallpaper on your smartphone, put them in your locker at work, hang them over the kitchen table, tape pictures of them on your dashboard.
      10. Get organized. Keep a to-do list, clean your living space up, clean your car, clean out your locker, put everything together the night before so that you can start in the morning immediately without chaos.
      11. Take time every day to visualize your goals. Whether in the shower, on the way to work, before/after bed, walking the dog. See yourself having already achieved these goals. What the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.

      You have the same amount of time in a day as every rich person out there – 24 hours. They make different choices than you. If you want to move ahead, find someone doing what it is you desire and work to imitate what they do with their 24 hours. Start small with everything and work your way up. This includes saving money and paying off debts. Start by saving 1% of your paycheck every week BEFORE you spend it. Pay yourself first. Eventually you will be able to move to 2%, then 3%, then more. Use this money to pay off any existing debts. If you don’t have a paycheck, then you need to write out a goal and a plan on how you are going to get one.
      Immediately resolve not to spend money on any extraneous items until you pay off any existing debts – start with the smallest debt and work your way up.
      Understand that a large number of the wealthy in the world today started off very poor and many with undesirable circumstances. They didn’t waste time cursing their luck or being mad at or blaming others, they kept looking for opportunities. When bad things happened to them, they turned them to their advantage.
      And they didn’t let age, race, gender, color, or creed stop them. Examples: Colonel Sanders, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Anthony Robbins, JK Rowling.

      Finally, remember the strangest secret: You become what you think about all day long.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here