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Financial legends say these are the habits that made them rich

Ethan Rotberg
·6 min read
Financial legends say these are the habits that made them rich
Financial legends say these are the habits that made them rich

Want to be the next Richard Branson or Oprah Winfrey? Then you’d better start acting like them.

Sure, you probably won’t amass the same kind of wealth as those iconic billionaires, but you don’t become wealthy — and stay wealthy — without some smart habits and strict discipline.

Here are 10 spending, saving and investing tips you can apply to your own life, straight from 10 legendary financial experts and business tycoons.

1. Jim Cramer: Get to know yourself

Jim Cramer speaking on stage
Mediapunch/Shutterstock

While you’re growing as an investor, don’t try to find the perfect strategy for the perfect portfolio, says Mad Money host Jim Cramer. The key is to develop a strategy that’s perfect for you.

"The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to investing, and anybody who tells you differently is either dangerously misinformed or flat-out lying to you," Cramer says.

That’s why there’s one rule Cramer follows above all others: Know yourself.

Try talking one-on-one with an expert about your goals and tolerance for risk. Today, you can work with a certified financial planner online to create a plan that’s optimized for you and only you.

2. Warren Buffett: Don’t look backward

Warren Buffett
Pojana Jermsawat / Shutterstock

Folksy billionaire businessman Warren Buffett once said "the investor of today does not profit from yesterday’s growth."

Investors often rely heavily on past performance when choosing what to buy and sell. That information is useful, but Buffett says following historical trends is less important than seeing new opportunities.

It takes time to develop that insight. If you’re not there yet, it may be better to take your bias out of the equation entirely by using a robo-advisor.

You can monitor your portfolio as it automatically shifts to account for changes in the stock market. Once you’ve developed an eye for emerging trends, try picking a few winners yourself and see how it goes.

3. Steve Jobs: Spend sparingly

Steve Jobs closeup holding an iPhone
Wikimedia Commons

The late tech icon Steve Jobs was a well-known minimalist, paving the way for the unique designs that Apple devotees love.

A 2011 biography of Jobs says he was “so obsessive when it came to selecting furnishings” that for a long time his home was “mostly barren, lacking beds or chairs or couches.

Instead his bedroom had a mattress in the center, framed pictures of Einstein and Maharaj-ji on the walls, and an Apple II on the floor.”

You don’t need to apply the same thinking to your decor, but a minimalist approach will do wonders for your budget. Make sure you aren’t spending money on things that aren’t useful and don’t bring you joy.

4. Bill Gates: Push yourself early

Bill Gates talking into microphone
Masatoshi Okauchi/Shutterstock

The Microsoft co-founder’s work ethic is the stuff of legends, and it started in his youth. Bill Gates wrote his first software program at the age of 13.

“I never took a day off in my 20s. Not one,” he said in a 2011 interview. “And I'm still fanatical, but now I'm a little less fanatical.”

It’s OK for you to take a break every now and then — but your money should get to work early and never stop. To maximize your wealth, you need to invest aggressively as soon as possible.

Starting early is even more important if you don’t have much to spare. Try investing your spare change by using a micro-investing app — and get your money growing.

5. Suze Orman: Invest in your well-being

Suze Orman talks into microphone
Mediapunch / Shutterstock

A few months after COVID-19 arrived, personal finance guru Suze Orman wrote on LinkedIn that the pandemic was showing how our emotional and physical health impacts our financial health.

How does that work, exactly?

“Well, when we are less stressed we make smarter decisions,” Orman wrote. “A healthier you likely has more energy to work at a high level, work longer (if that’s a priority) and may not have as many medical bills."

When you're in good health, you can save on other bills, too. For example, if you shop for life insurance when you're in good shape you can lock in affordable premiums for years to come.

6. Mark Cuban: Don’t be scared to fail

Mark Cuban speaking on stage
MediaPunch/Shutterstock

After graduating from college in the early 1980s, Mark Cuban was either fired from or quit three straight jobs. But by 1999, he was a billionaire.

"I've learned that it doesn’t matter how many times you failed,” the Shark Tank star said in a 2011 interview. "You only have to be right once."

Just make sure that, before you get out there and start failing, you have a solid emergency fund in place.

Experts recommend you keep enough cash on hand for at least three to six months' worth of expenses, just in case your new business plan doesn’t pan out. Once you’ve built a comfortable cushion of cash, you can fail without fear.

7. Oprah Winfrey: Believe in your investments

Oprah Winfrey on stage talking into microphone
imageSPACE/Shutterstock

Before she bought a 10% stake in Weight Watchers and partnered with the company, Oprah Winfrey used its Freestyle program herself. The program assigns points to different foods and gives users a set number of points to spend based on their goals.

“I don't feel like I'm on a diet that I'm ever going to go off of again,” Winfrey said in 2016, reiterating her commitment to the program. “I feel like I'll be counting points for the rest of my life.”

Over the next couple years, Weight Watchers’ stock price increased tenfold. The lesson? Do your research and invest in things you believe in.

You can start much smaller than Oprah did with her 10% stake. A popular, commission-free investing app allows you to invest in anything, even huge companies like Tesla, with as little as $5.

8. Ben Stein: Get and stay married

Ben Stein wearing sport jacket and bow tie
Vince Valitutti/New Line/Kobal/Shutterstock

You probably know monotone actor Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or the game show Win Ben Stein's Money. But Stein also is a lawyer, economist, former presidential speechwriter and author of numerous books about money management.

In an interview with CBS News, Stein said one of his money-saving tips is to get and stay married.

“Getting a divorce is incredibly expensive. A second divorce and third divorce … can put you in the ground very, very quickly," he said.

Divorce and debt typically go together, a MoneyWise survey found. About 40% of respondents said divorce had saddled them with more than $5,000 in debt.

9. Richard Branson: Follow your dreams

Richard Branson in a hot air balloon
Today/Shutterstock

You’re probably not surprised to hear that a man who famously floated round the world in a hot air balloon is adamant about following your dreams.

Virgin founder Richard Branson wrote on his company blog that “you’ll never be successful if you don’t love what you do and wake up every morning excited.”

If your career is stagnant and you’re suffering from a bout of boredom, it might be time to start your own venture.

You can keep your day job while developing a side gig. Over time you’ll be able to demand more money for your skills, and maybe even turn your fun side hustle into a full-time job you love.