Millionaires Say 1 Factor Was Key in Making Them Rich

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A new survey of multimillionaires shows that today’s wealthy folks were raised with family values rather than financial privilege.

A good upbringing is one of the main factors rich people cite as key to their success, according to the 2016 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth survey.

Chris Heilmann, chief fiduciary executive of U.S. Trust, which is the private wealth management arm of Bank of America, says:

“It is noteworthy that while the survey uncovered several examples of generational differences, the one common thread that cut across all generations was the importance and impact of family values as key contributors to success.”

For the nationwide survey, 684 people of high- and ultra-high net worth and various ages were interviewed. All of the respondents had at least $3 million in investable assets, not counting the value of their primary home.

The top three factors these millionaires attributed for their success were:

  • Hard work
  • Ambition
  • Upbringing

So exactly what kind of family values breed millionaires? According to the survey respondents, the top values that were stressed to them growing up were:

  • Academic achievement
  • Financial discipline
  • Work participation
  • Family harmony and loyalty
  • Civic duty and a responsibility to help others through charitable giving

Additionally, four in five multimillionaires reported that while growing up, their families encouraged them to pursue their talents and interests while setting disciplinary boundaries. Their families were also largely tolerant of their failures and mistakes along the way.

These high-net-worth people did not grow up in financial privilege. More than three-fourths of millionaires surveyed — 77 percent — came from middle-class or lower backgrounds, including 19 percent who grew up poor. They built their wealth over time, primarily by working and investing.

Other characteristics of multimillionaires revealed through U.S. Trust’s study include that they:

  • View marriage as a lifelong partnership: 86 percent were married, with most staying married to the same person, or remaining in a long-term relationship.
  • Are disciplined savers: 81 percent said that investing to reach long-term goals is more important than funding current wants and needs.
  • Take a long-term approach to investing: Rather than taking big investment risks, they made their biggest investment gains through traditional stocks and bonds (89 percent), long-term buy-and-hold strategies (86 percent) and a series of small wins (83 percent).
  • Use credit wisely: Four-fifths said they know when and how to use credit to their financial advantage, and nearly two-thirds said they consider credit as a means to build wealth strategically.

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