A question that comes up on Quora fairly regularly is along the lines of “how do rich people live their lives?” After I responded to one of those inquiries I thought it might make sense to copy the reply into a blog post. That way other people can benefit from the information – without me having to remember and repeat myself. Here is the response…
If you want a good look into how wealthy people live, you should consider reading the Millionaire Next Door. From a personal perspective (and I align with a lot of what is reported in that book) I can share a few things about us personally below.
First, I’m “wealthy”, not “rich”. To me being rich is more of a spending lifestyle. Being wealthy means having a large net worth and enough money that working is no longer a requirement.
That clarified, here are some common differences in how I manage my finances, as do other wealthy people I know.
I avoid debt like the plague
I haven’t paid any interest in years – since we paid cash for our current house. Even during the 10 years or so leading up to that point we never carried a credit card balance. We also paid cash for all of our cars in recent years. Interest on debt can be a huge destroyer of wealth.
I track every dollar spent
I can tell you exactly how much I spend on dining out each month, and on groceries, and on gas – in fact in every category. Most I know off-hand but those I don’t I can quickly access within a few minutes. Quicken is my go-to tool for budgeting and tracking expenses.
I’m heavily invested in the stock market – and in stocks specifically
The risk of not owning stocks (holding cash or too many bonds) can be a large hindrance to growing wealth faster than inflation. I have a diversified portfolio, but I don’t actively trade my investments. My investment philosophy is buy-and-hold, which has worked out very well for us over the long haul.
I have a large emergency fund
More than the standard 3–6 months – because I never want to be in a situation where I need to liquidate investments during a downturn in the market. Our emergency fund is probably a bit bigger than it needs to be, but right now we are in a transition season of life. My wife and I are early-retired (our mid-40s). Having the large cash reserves gives us options while we transition into this next season. I suspect that sometime in the next year we’ll deploy a lot of that cash into stocks and bring the reserves down to around 9-12 months’ of living expenses.
In addition to tracking money spent, I also limit it
My wife and I hold very tight to our annual budget. We track it monthly but really care about the total annual spend. This gives us some flexibility throughout the year but allows us to keep our total spending in check.
Our house is modest
We used to live in a $1m+ waterfront house (that I loved) but made a conscious decision to downsize. We sold that and moved into a house that we bought with cash with the equity in the waterfront house. I miss being on the water, but it was a smart financial move. Hav