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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

10 Ways to Live Like a Millionaire—Even if Your Bank Account Is Empty

Wealth is one possible reward for developing good habits in life, but you don't need wealth to develop good habits.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Do you desire the millionaire lifestyle? Unless you’re very lucky, building wealth can take many years.  But you don’t need a high net worth to begin living like a millionaire. 

Here are ten lifestyle habits and benefits of the wealthy that take little or no money to start. 

1: Be Fit

There is a strong negative correlation between wealth and obesity in wealthy countries. Why?

Contrary to popular belief, the rich are not slimmer because a healthy diet is more expensive or they can afford personal trainers. They are slimmer because they invest more thought into what they eat. This is because the wealthy have a lower time preference: they are willing to forgo the short-term pleasure of a sugar rush for the long-term reward of truly delicious food, good health, and good looks.

In developed countries (where calories are cheap), food choice is determined by three factors: stress, culture, and availability.

Stress is the main determinant of time preference in regard to food. Chronic stress makes us unable to make intelligent decisions about diet, and dietary sugar is the main pharmacological compound we used to deal with stress. Sugar and other processed carbohydrates are the main cause of obesity. For non-athletes, exercise has little to do with it.

There is much more to say on this topic, but to sum up: if you can learn to manage your stress, you will learn to manage your cravings. You can choose to develop a culture of cooking real food, and even though good food will not be as available to you, you can learn to go out of your way for it.

2: Wear Well-Fitting Clothes

The fashionable rich are not stylish because they can afford luxury brands. They are fashionable because they are conscious of fit and style. You don’t need to go to a bespoke haute couture tailor to dress well: you can find something that fits you at Goodwill. You just need to do free online research and make a conscious effort to design your wardrobe. Men, check out Art Of Manliness, women, check out Evie Magazine. If you do one thing, don’t wear baggy clothing – it makes you look adolescent and sloppy. Get close-fitting tailored clothing that shows off your form. It only costs a few dollars to get your pants fitted at a tailor.

3: Show Up on Time and Be Fully Present

The rich are not always punctual and the poor are not always late, but: the wealthy can afford to be physically and mentally present for occasions that they deem worth their time, something many humans struggle to do.

In a 2019 experiment involving 2,250 adults, Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert found that the human brain is wired for continuous distraction, concluding that a typical person spends 47 percent of every waking hour “mind wandering”—an experience so ordinary we rarely notice it.

As with diet, the root cause of our mental disengagement is often stress: it’s easier to be present when you have self-discipline and can spend money to make your distractions go away. But if you’re poor, there is something else you can throw away to make your stressors go away: attachments. All relationships and possessions cost time and money. Some relationships and possessions are worthwhile and produce a positive return, while others are a net drag. When you are poor, it’s much easier for minor things to drag you down, so you must keep your load to a minimum. Partying is expensive. Owning a car is expensive. Owning the latest iPhone is expensive. Letting go of attachments that are not vital to your long-term success can be liberating and a path to prosperity.

I didn’t own a car until I got my Master’s Degree at 23. It’s not that I couldn’t afford or didn’t want a car. I knew that it would be an ongoing cost and a distraction from my main goal of completing my education.

4: Take Care in Your Appearance

No amount of wealth will give you a younger body, and plastic surgery can only do so much. Yet there are free or low-cost ways to dramatically slow down aging and look younger. Here are some suggestions for both women and men:

  • Use sun protection: sun exposure is the main cause of photoaging—what dermatologists call skin permanently damaged by sun exposure. Wearing covering clothing and sunscreen is much cheaper than the very expensive treatments to repair the damage.
  • Keep a grooming routine: well-cared-for hair makes a huge difference in appearance for both men and women.
  • Take care of your face: I don’t want to sound like your mom, but things like brushing your teeth, washing your face, and using a daily moisturizer really do make you look a lot younger and prevent damage that comes from aging.

5: Raise a Big Family

While there is a relationship between poverty and more children, the cost of raising kids is one of the main reasons parents don’t have more children. While estimates vary, the average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 was more than $270,000 in 2022.

Children are expensive at all income levels because the expectations of parents grow proportionately with income. But parenting doesn’t have to consume your entire salary. The mistake made by many is to think that being a good parent means spending money on superficial signs of a good parent, rather than spending time being a parent.

For example: we took our daughter out of an expensive private school because she was struggling to read. My wife found a homeschooling curriculum that worked well for my daughter and worked with her until she was able to read at her grade level. No school teacher, no matter how elite the private school, could have invested so much time and energy into experimenting with English learning programs over a period of years.

We don’t shuttle our kids from one expensive activity to another, but go hiking, play chess, and cook together. Being a parent is cheaper and more rewarding than hiring someone else to parent your child.

6: Work at Having a Successful Marriage

There is a strong relationship between divorce, single parenthood, and poverty. Why do the poor get divorced more often? The root cause might be an inability and unwillingness to negotiate conflict: all relationships take work and generate stress. Successful couples can take time to do the work because they manage their stress. Couples who divorce let stress and resentment build up.

Research shows that the overwhelming reason relationships fail is “lack of commitment.” But why are some couples not committed to relationships? It’s because it does not create value for them. Once the sensual aspect wears off, the inherent friction of human relationships can overwhelm the positive aspects of the partnership. Many poor people divorce for the same reason they gain weight. The root cause of poverty, obesity, and divorce is high time preference, an economic idea that analyzes one’s willingness to delay gratification for future greater happiness or rewards in the future.

Incidentally, the same can be said for your work relationships: once the appeal of money wears off, you must find your work rewarding to overcome the inevitable challenges and personality conflicts to thrive in your role.

7: Complain Less

Wealthy people are happier, while the poor are much more likely to be depressed. Part of the reason is that the rich can throw money at problems. A more fundamental reason is that the poor have a scarcity mindset, while the wealthy have an abundance mindset.

The abundance mindset sees the universe as full of opportunity — for friendship, love, and financial success. By contrast, the scarcity mindset sees everything as a fixed pie and leads to hoarding, envy, and stagnation in virtually every aspect of life.

Poor people with a scarcity mindset think that if their neighbor has something good, whether it’s a possession or relationship, it must be unavailable to them. So they complain about the cruel, unjust universe.

Wealthy people with an abundance mindset see others’ success as an inspiration: if their neighbor has a great marriage, a beautiful house, or a successful business, there is something positive to learn, and potentially a valuable relationship to build. The universe is full of opportunities, so there is little reason to complain about failure. Shifting one’s mindset from one that seeks to blame others to one that sees new opportunities is key to finding a path to success and happiness.

8: Learn to Enjoy Great Art

While the rich can afford an original Banksy on their wall and can pay to have attend their kid’s bar mitzva, the world’s greatest paintings are in public museums, and great music and film are nearly free for you to enjoy — if only you develop a taste for it.

It is said that Howard Hughes once locked himself in a hotel room and watched Ice Station Zebra for months. If I developed an OCD desire to watch a movie on repeat for months, it would be the 2003 film Master and Commander. I’ve heard some people complain that the film is boring and doesn’t have enough action. Once again, high time preference is at fault. You are addicted to crave the rush of sugar in food, the cheap dopamine thrill of pornography, and the freight train of explosions in the latest Michael Bay Transformers movie.

Nurturing a taste in great art takes patience and time, but if you want to explore the highs and lows of the human condition and be inspired to be a deeper, more passionate soul, you must put in the time and work.

9: Keep a Clean House

Yes, the wealthy can hire housekeepers to pick up after them. But if you’re poor, you have an advantage they don’t: you have fewer possessions and less space to store them.

While weekly cleaning is necessary for every household, being organized is more important. By putting things away after you use them (and teaching your kids to do the same) you can keep your home from becoming a mess in the first place.

The messy appearance of poor households has another cause: the scarcity mentality. People hoard things they don’t need because they worry that they won’t be able to get a hold of them again. But possessions you don’t need right now are only a drain on you. They take up physical and mental space in your life. Let go of the things you don’t need with the faith that they will be there when you need them again. There are “Buy Nothing” neighborhood groups all over the US where families freely exchange things they don’t need anymore. This year, I got a punching bag, a shop vac, a kids trike, lighting for my garage, toddler clothes, yard tools, and much more. We gifted just as much. Relying on relationships and having faith in people’s generosity frees us up from physical and mental baggage.

10: Don’t Stress about Money

In developed countries, stress about money is the worst aspect of poverty, worse than the physical deprivation it forces. Few people in America have to worry about going hungry or homeless, but many more live paycheck to paycheck with chronic stress about money. A $500 surprise expense would put most Americans into debt.

A high income is no guarantee of financial well-being. If your spending rate is greater than your income, you will never have financial security. Real wealth is not measured in income, but in financial security: the confidence that no matter what happens to your income stream, your lifestyle won’t be affected.

The solution to money stress is simple: live below your means and build an emergency fund. It’s easier not to stress about money when you’re young and broke. When you’re starting out, all you need to worry about is living below your means and keeping your emergency cash fund topped off. When you’re wealthy, very little of your net worth is cash. You have to balance your net worth between business interest, real estate, securities, and other assets. Managing your portfolio becomes a part-time job — unless you hire expensive money managers, which is another set of worries.


Wealth is one possible reward for developing good habits in life. It takes time, patience, work, and luck to build wealth, but you don’t need to wait to become rich to enjoy the other rewards that result from striving for physical and mental health.

To summarize the above, here are some quick tips on how to improve your emotional and financial health:

  • Find life-enhancing ways to manage stress (such as sports or hobbies rather than food, porn, drugs, or tv)
  • Eliminate relationships that drag you down and distract you from your life’s goals
  • Put as much thought into your appearance as you do into other important aspects of your life
  • Eliminate possessions that do not bring you joy or add more value than the financial, physical, and mental burden they carry
  • Live below your means to avoid financial stress

  • David Veksler is the former Director of Technology at the Foundation for Economic Education and CTO of Royalty Exchange.