2023 Is the Year to Start Thinking Like a Rich Person. Here's How

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  • Keeping up with the Joneses is expensive and can hinder wealth-building.
  • To build wealth, you'll have to make some tough decisions.
  • You won't get rich overnight, but time and compound interest will eventually work their magic.

No two people are alike, but rich people seem to have several traits in common.

We're familiar with big names like Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zuckerberg. But most rich people have names we've never heard -- and they're perfectly fine with that. Fame is not what they're after. What they want is to build a safe enough nest to provide for them now and into their golden years.

Their lives are far less flashy than we might imagine and far more driven by a commonsense approach to finances. For example:

They're not even sure who the 'Joneses' are

Most wealthy people are not looking to impress anyone. Every financial move is made with an eye on the future and on accomplishing goals. They would rather read a life-changing book than be "seen" looking fabulous.

While there are exceptions to the rule, and it's easy to think of a few rich folks who flaunt their wealth, it's not representative of the wealthy as a whole. They have more important things to do than pose for cameras and hire publicists to make them look good.

Takeaway: If you're serious about building wealth, focus on work you love, people you care about, and planning for the future. Keeping up with the Joneses is not worth the cost.

They understand opportunity costs

The rich are keenly aware of what economists call "opportunity costs." Opportunity costs represent the value of what you must give up to choose something else.

Let's say you have a perfectly good sofa, but you're in the mood for a new one. You visit a furniture store and spend $3,000 on a new sofa. While you now have a new couch in your living room, you no longer have the $3,000 you paid, and you no longer have the opportunity to do something else with that money.

For example, if you'd invested the money in an IRA with an annual return of 7% instead, it would be worth around $8,300 in 15 years. That's more than double your initial investment. And let's face it, in 15 years, you've probably replaced the sofa one or two more times.

Some spend money to appear rich, but those who truly are wealthy tend to know the value of opportunity costs.

Takeaway: You don't have to keep your cash squirreled away in a low-interest savings or checking account, but if you want to become wealthy, remember that everything you spend comes with an opportunity cost.

They create -- and then prioritize -- goals

Unless they're born into a wealthy family or receive a sizable inheritance, rich people are known for being laser-focused on goals and then doing what it takes to achieve them. That may mean 16-hour workdays, endless networking, and continually looking out for new opportunities. The wealthy are rarely satisfied to rest on their laurels. There's always something new they can do to accomplish their goals.

Takeaway: Sit down and figure out what you're passionate about, and what you want to spend every day of your life doing. If you're not passionate about your pursuit, it will be tough to maintain the energy you need to chase your goals.

They remain diversified

Think of the wealthiest person you know of. They're probably known for owning or working for one company, right? Here's a secret: Their personal funds are spread out among different types of investments, each with its own level of risk. Putting all your eggs in one basket is a sure way to lose it if things go south.

Takeaway: Even if you only invest a few hundred dollars at a time, make sure your portfolio remains diversified enough to carry you through bear markets.

They view time as an ally

Social media has ushered in an odd phenomenon. It used to be that people understood that building a business takes time. Becoming a performer can take decades of trying and failing to make it. Learning to play an instrument takes years. In other words, shortcuts rarely get you where you ultimately want to go.

Today, it seems everyone wants to be rich and famous right away. In fact, they want to be rich and famous just for being rich and famous. There's no working hard to achieve a goal, no thought given to their role in life -- outside of being rich and famous.

Let's say you're passionate about designing video games but don't have the skills you need to make it in the big leagues. Time is your friend. Take the time you need to gain skills that will set you apart from the competition.

The same is true of investing. You won't wake up rich tomorrow if you begin investing today, but time -- and compound interest -- are allies. They will grow your money while you're busy living and learning more about what you want to do next.

Takeaway: Understand that creating wealth takes time and a plan. If you're looking for instant wealth, you're bound to be disappointed.

You may never strike oil or hit a jackpot, but by thinking like a wealthy person you have a better chance of building wealth on your own.

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