I’m a financial planner, and my wealthiest clients have the same 3 habits

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  • I’ve been working with wealthy clients for nearly 15 years, and I’ve noticed they have a few habits in common.
  • While everyone’s path to financial success is different, it may be worth considering these strategies and habits.
  • My wealthiest clients save at least 25% of their income, employ a team of financial professionals, and understand how to manage risk.
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I’ve been advising wealthy clients for nearly 15 years, and I’m often asked for the secret sauce, or the commonalities that I see in my wealthiest financial planning clients that make them successful. 

Some simply ask because they are curious, while others ask because of cognitive-behavioral biases, like the bandwagon effect or herd behavior, where we believe it’s safer to follow the crowd or popular opinion.

While that’s not always a fact, there’s some merit in evaluating what the wealthiest among us have in common, and seeing how applying those behaviors or actions to your own situation could improve your chances of financial success. 

Although everyone’s road to financial independence can be different, I can tell you about three everyday habits some of my wealthiest clients share.

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Their most significant yearly expense is savings 

Yes, big-ticket items such as mansions and exotic cars can sometimes come with a wealthy lifestyle, but my most successful clients’ biggest expense is their commitment to savings

In fact, my most affluent clients consistently save 25% or more of their gross income on an annual basis. 

Typically, most industry pundits will recommend saving around 10% to 15% of your gross income, and then increasing it annually or when cash flow permits. Please know that I agree with this strategy and recommend this technique to my clients quite often. If you’re not saving anything right now, 10% of your income is an excellent place to start.

But if you’re looking to understand the habits of my wealthiest financial planning clients, those almost always start with a more aggressive savings rate.

When I look at my most successful clients, they’ve managed to maintain this savings rate even at various levels of income, from extremely high annual earnings to retirees who don’t receive earned income at all.

They are great at understanding and managing risk 

I recently learned that Mount Everest — Earth’s highest mountain above sea level — claims more lives on the descent down than the climb up. 

If we use this same metaphor on the topic of wealth, it goes along with my belief that more “wealth casualties” are sustained trying to maintain wealth versus accumulating it. 

Once you obtain wealth, not only do you have to protect it from bad investment decisions and market volatility, but other casualties such as overspending, longevity, inflation, and even frivolous lawsuits. 

Unfortunately, protecting your wealth can sometimes come at an exorbitant cost. As a Certified Financial Planner professional, we are taught to brace our clients on the high cost of long-term care insurance premiums. But this is only the beginning. 

Realistically, you might also need disability insurance to protect your income, life insurance to safeguard assets from estate taxes, and umbrella insurance for additional personal liability protection, to name just a few other protection mechanisms. 

The list goes on and on, and each of these products adds an expense to maintain. But that cost could be minimal compared to the impact of actually needing some of this coverage and not having it. 

They have a team of experts on their side

Although more and more people are tackling things themselves by using Google and YouTube, when it comes to finances, my most successful clients seek help from experts. A professional wealth-building team typically consists of an attorney, tax expert, insurance expert, and a financial planner. 

While these professionals can help you by providing expert advice and tangible action steps to follow, their true value may lie more in intangible factors, including:

  • Helping you to control your emotions. Because no matter how wealthy you are, losing your cool can happen to the best of us. My most successful clients lean on us to help them separate those emotions and make sound financial decisions.
  • Providing a clear roadmap when there are endless paths to explore. My most successful clients value receiving comprehensive financial plans specific to their respective goals and situations. They use these plans to help prioritize their goals and create cash-flow strategies that maximize savings or optimize distribution strategies. In addition, they lean on these plans to assess their risk exposure.
  • Keeping up with rapidly changing financial and legal landscapes. In the field of finance, things are forever changing due to new legislation, groundbreaking research, and new products. Since December 2017, I can argue that we have had the most legislative changes our industry has ever seen.  

Some of those recent legislative changes include the Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed in December 2017, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act passed in December 2019, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed in March 2020. 

The passing of these acts has caused all financial planners to re-evaluate, and in some cases completely pivot, from prior recommendations. This is only after we have made ourselves familiar with the new laws, which can take countless hours of research. 

At the end of the day, my most successful clients are very consistent, committed, and utilize a team of experts to accomplish their most desired financial goals.     

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