What 54 Self-Made Millionaires Wish They’d Known Sooner About Money

How many times have you thought, “If only I’d have known that one thing sooner, I’d be a millionaire by now!”

Well, millionaires, as it turns out, aren’t so different from you and I. They make mistakes too. The difference between them and you might be simpler than you thought. 

To help you – I wanted you to know what they know. So I checked in with What 54 Self-Made Millionaires Wish They’d Known Sooner about money, business and life choices.

Now I’m sharing 18 tips from them – for you – to build not just a wealthy life but also a deeply meaningful one.

First, to be clear, millionaires don’t always earn six-figure salaries. Most never hit the lottery or receive hefty inheritances. And, few lucked out with financial windfalls in their investment portfolios.

Becoming a self-made millionaire by my mid-30’s doesn’t mean that I haven’t made tons of mistakes and had to learn the hard way not only how to make more money, but even tougher (for me at least) was figuring out how to keep and grow it.

The big thing that separates out millionaires is they focus heavily on the financial long game and practice many savvy money habits.

I wanted to understand not just their successes but also how they’d do things differently (and perhaps faster) had they known certain things. What I learned will likely surprise you…


Tip #1 – They’d Stop Giving a Sh$t

Have you ever dreamt up a money making idea?  Then, do you excitedly share that idea with friends and family who just as quickly crush it?  Often ‘encouraging’ you to be more practical and do less “pie-in-the-sky” dreaming. Self-made millionaire and coach, Shanti Zimmerman says this is something she wished she ignored sooner. Shanti says making money became increasingly simple once she let go of what the ‘world’ might think of her decisions.

Another challenge that can get in the way of wealth building is trying to be all things to all people.  The more Keith Schroeder let go of his need to be a people pleaser, the more time he had to get down to enjoying his life while building wealth. There is a fine balance between helping others and giving so much that you burn yourself out.  Being able to stay in your own lane and not worrying about what everyone else is doing and thinking requires giving yourself permission to stop doing what doesn’t make you happy so you have more room for the things that do. 


Tip #2 –  They’d Play to Win

When it comes to making money, the question many self-made millionaires wished they had asked themselves sooner is this:  “Are you playing to win or are you playing to NOT lose?”  

Playing to not lose means treading cautiously in your investment strategy and avoiding risk as much as possible. When we are deeply invested in safety and comfort, playing to not lose becomes our “go-to” strategy for all of life. The problem is that missing out on opportunities that would have led to big returns can easily become way more stressful than if you had taken the risk in the first place.

Business and speaking coach, Elliot Kay, summed it up by sharing, “I would have liked to have known what it means to have an investors’ mindset sooner, so I could have gotten started earlier at putting the money to work for me.”  In this case, an investor’s mindset has a lot to do with learning not just how to invest but also how to become more comfortable with risk. 

Another couple echoed these sentiments by stressing the importance of pressure testing your risk tolerance level as early as possible to avoid investing too conservatively. Continuing with the fact that although conservative investing decisions might leave you feeling secure in the moment, low returns lead to far less security in the long-term.


Tip #3 – They’d Pay Closer Attention to the Littlest Bits

When it comes to paying down debt, saving and investing, contributing anything you have available (even $20) is better than nothing. Many people ignore the impact of small contributions over time, something many self-made millionaires wished they’d known sooner.

One entrepreneur who runs a very successful advertising agency encourages readers to contribute anything extra into an investment as the power of compounding is incredible given enough time.  Another couple who are both long time business owners echo this thought stressing that, “Saving small amounts adds up to big amounts saved over time”.

Yet another mentioned the importance of knowing there is a difference between saving money and investing. While saving can add up over time, it is only the first step in the process, and investing in various ways, including the stock market, is where the biggest potential growth can occur. 


Tip #4 – They’d Understand Their Numbers

Relevant to everyone but crucial to business owners especially is increasing one’s awareness of the numbers. In regards to business, a couple who worked together running a multi-million dollar engineering firm in the Bay area wished they knew sooner that more revenue doesn’t always mean more profit.  Understanding and identifying the sweet spot – the point where net profit is the highest is the most important. From their experience, growing bigger wasn’t always better.

Although the advice above is specific to business owners, it certainly translates into employees too. Often, increases in salaries or taking on extra work appears (at first glance) to generate more money now, but misunderstanding the numbers (the tax implications) may mean most of your efforts are actually wasted.

Business strategist and coach, Elizabeth Sinclair spoke about the importance of knowing how your advisors are paid so you know how incentives could be clouding their advice.  Early on Elizabeth discovered that her investment account was being churned by her financial advisor.  In case you don’t know, this is when an advisor is buying and selling stocks in order to earn commissions rather than helping you to grow your portfolio. This taught her a big lesson about being the manager of her advisors rather than the other way around.


Tip #5 – They’d Focus on the Long Term

Again, it’s easy to think self-made millionaires lucked out with their money. You might think they struck gold, won the lottery, or inherited a fortune. After speaking with nearly all of those interviewed, it seems slow and steady wins the race.  Financial coach, Lisa Duke wishes she knew that most of the wealthy became millionaires one paycheck at a time and by living well below their means. Delay gratification and live simply is the mantra that many swear by.

Looking back, another couple who built their wealth through stock options and consistently saving into a 401K plan for over 35 years spoke about the importance of entering the housing market as early as you can given its historical appreciation rates.


Tip #6 – They’d Focus on Happiness and Living Deliberately

If you’re looking to money to create your happiness, you might be exceptionally disappointed. Divorce attorney and community builder, Leigh Daniel shares that she wishes she understood sooner that money wasn’t going to make her happy. She felt empty as she pursued wealth even though she was making a substantial income. Once she focused solely on happiness, money came easily and it felt much more fulfilling.

Combined with finding your joy, many self-made millionaires talked about the value of being intentional with your life. The more you can envision what you want for yourself and then go about creating a well designed plan for what you really want, the happier your life can be. 

Living deliberately means paying attention to the value of having soul satisfying relationships while you are building wealth. There are plenty of miserable wealthy people out there, and the suggestion is to be sure you know what you’re looking to create in life and how it’s going to feel when you get there. 

One millionaire encouraged asking yourself the following question on a regular basis, “Have you succeeded where it really matters?”


Tip #7 – They’d Meditate

In his book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, Tim Ferriss talks about the value of meditation. The book is based on his interviews with more than 200 world-class performers including celebrities, athletes and scientists for his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show.

In recent articles Ferriss wrote for The Observer he revealed what the one routine common to “titans” in any field of life is meditation. Sharing that more than 80% of the world-class performers he interviewed were using meditation to get better results with less stress and to effectively recover from the feeling of “being in a trench on the front lines” throughout the day. Granted not all of those he’s interviewing are millionaires, but Tim noted that his meditation practice has improved his life.

I started meditating over 20 years ago and it has led to life-changing shifts beyond my wildest imagination. Slowly but surely, everything has improved — my ability to control my thoughts (and the negative voices inside that used to rule my life), my relationships, my financial status and my health.  

Meditation helps us to drive our attention to the things that matter most rather than all the moving targets and opponents that show up along the way. We become more flexible, agile and resilient in the face of uncertainty and, enjoy the present moment as a result.  

If you are interested in the science behind meditation, a great resource is the book, Altered Traits, Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body, by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson.  To learn more about meditation, an easy to use book is: Meditation by Eknath Easwaran


Tip #8 – They’d Focus on Confidence 

Confidence and control is crucial when it comes to building wealth. Promotions, new careers, new business, savvy investing and tackling debt all require some level of confidence. One self-made millionaire wished she’d had more confidence to move beyond jobs and careers that weren’t right – something she knows would’ve saved her millions.  

Lil Schaller, a real estate broker in Truckee, CA shared that she wished she’d had the confidence to become an entrepreneur far earlier in life.  Sharing, Giving 110% to a salaried job gets you no more salary, but applying that to your own business . . . you get out of it what you put into it!”

Chris Mamula speaks to the importance of confidence when it comes to building wealth as he details in “The Worst Investment Advice I Ever Heard – Everywhere”, which awakened him to DIY investing, which helped him take total control of his finances.


Tip #9 – They’d Tackle Debt

Not only is repaying existing debt really important when it comes to building wealth, avoiding it (bad debt) in the first place is just as important. Dr. Jeff Anzalone wishes he worked more and applied for scholarships and grants during his post-secondary education. He sees now how he could’ve reduced his need for student loans – putting him ahead financially faster.

Another couple reminds us that retirement is exceptionally tough for those carrying debt. And, numerous other self-made millionaires acknowledge how much further ahead they’d be if they’d worked harder to avoid accumulating any (bad) debt in the first place.


Tip #10 – They’d Pay Themselves First

Perhaps the most notable place the phrase “pay yourself first’ exists is in Robert Kiyosaki’s Book, Rich Dad Poor Dad. In it, Kiyosaki strongly urges those looking to build wealth to take something from every single paycheck and save it – something self-made millionaires, like retirement mentor, Dennis Miller echo. 

Serial entrepreneur, Andrea Lake shared that it’s not only important to save money, but to vow never to touch it — ever — something many entrepreneurs struggle to avoid and have lots of reasons to celebrate when they can.


Tip #11 – They’d Jump into the Real Estate Market

Time and time again real estate is cited as a massive lever in building wealth. One couple shared how important it is to invest in real estate early because from their experience housing prices often rise faster than salaries.  Looking back, they wished they stretched themselves to get into the market sooner than they did. Several couples wish they bought more real estate sooner too, adding that it can be tough to ‘save your way to wealth’. Your much more likely to acquire wealth through appreciating investments.


Tip #11 – They’d Marry the Right Person From The Beginning

When I posed my question to a group of millionaires in the Millionaire Roundtable hosted by Dave Jacobsen of Coach Connections, LLC several people mentioned the importance of marrying the right person the first time around. 

Let’s face it divorce is expensive, but even more important is the fact that when you find a partner who shares similar money beliefs, goals and dreams, it’s far easier to build wealth together than when you are divided. 

Too many times we fall in love with people without understanding the importance of having mutually supportive money behaviors and how it helps you to create a more satisfying relationship.  If you want to build wealth for yourself, make sure your prospective partner has similar goals and evidences their goals in their behavior. Every bit of consideration in this area will pay off in spades because having a strong and healthy marriage that nurtures your soul and your wallet brings tremendous personal satisfaction and contentment into your life.


Tip #12 – They’d Reduce Frivolous Spending & Tackle Debt

Though a budget isn’t necessarily the answer, having a good sense of one’s spending is really important. And, perhaps most important, is living below your means. In fact, the more you live below your means, the more you’re able to invest and save. One couple regret buying frivolous things in years gone by – things that don’t mean anything today. If they could go back in time, they’d do less frivolous spending and put more against their mortgage every month.

Self-made millionaire and business coach, Charles Gaudet shared that he wished he’d known sooner to not spend foolishly and unwisely.  He earned his first million by age 24, but then proceeded to spend everything he earned. Eventually he figured out the importance of being more careful because what matters is not what you earn but what you keep.

In the course of writing this article, self-made millionaire, Soumyadipta Basu provided me with a blog post written to young people about how to be careful about accumulating debt so they can set themselves up for success early in life.  

To be clear, no one interviewed talked about budgeting their way into millionaire status but what they did talk about being careful about spending.  One of my favorite books of all time, that helped me to shift my money behaviors is The Millionaire Next Door. In this mind-shifting book, I learned early on that millionaires were often the people you didn’t know where wealthy.  They drove old cars, clipped coupons, lived in homes that were way less expensive than they could afford, and didn’t try to “keep up with the Jones”. This led them to saving money and building wealth over time without having to make big sacrifices through extreme budgeting.  


Tip #13 – They’d Invest in Themselves

There’s no question learning more about personal finance is a good idea when it comes to achieving millionaire status. Self-made millionaires arm themselves with as much knowledge as possible. They learn about investing, debt repayment, savings and more. Take advantage of podcasts, blogs, books, and courses.

Self-made millionaire, Raj Chavda shared, “I wish I would have invested in myself more to better understand my passions.  And then worked on turning those passions into into a business instead of relying on a steady paycheck.”  Further sharing, “I, naively, was in tunnel vision thinking that the only types of business I could start needed to have a brick & mortar location.”

One couple, an insurance entrepreneur and his wife, who worked in the medical field, felt like investing in one’s self has the highest rate of return. Their suggestion was to learn as much as you can early in life about your skills and talents so that you can maximize your income later in life. This was something that came up several times as many self-made millionaires regretted not learning more  about business, money management, and investing far sooner.


Tip #14 – They’d Find Their Niche

If you employ a side-hustle or any kind of business, self-made millionaire Kim Ades reaffirms the importance of identifying a niche target audience. Kim says she wishes she ‘niched’ her target audience faster as she was building her business. “That would have helped me build greater wealth for myself”.


[Authors note:  I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with this idea of “niching” ever since starting my company, WealthClinic where I serve two different audiences,  

  • The first group are like my parents who were self-employed and terrible with money.  So terrible  that no matter how hard they worked, they couldn’t keep it which caused them to fight about it all the time. Watching them repeatedly engage in self-sabotaging behaviors with money made me want to learn how to break free of these sorts of destructive patterns someday. I knew the apple didn’t fall far from the tree and it would end up taking many years of self-development and a 20+ year career in finance before figuring things out and becoming a self-made millionaire by age 35. 
  • The second group I serve have built wealth for themselves but they also realize that no matter how much money they have, something still seems to be missing.  Funny enough, this is where both groups have a lot more in common with each other than most realize.  Both want to create more joy and less stress while finding the balance between earning money and living a deeply meaningful life. This has become the sweet spot that is explored throughout all of my teachings and in my upcoming book, The Mindful Millionaire (St Martins Press – Release date of June 19, 2020).

In the end, not niching has worked out well enough for me because I figured out how to create solutions that not only serve two groups of people, but also bring them together to help each other grow. Its one reason why my free Facebook group, The Mindful Millionaire Community is filled with inspiring conversations that explore a wide range of helpful and enlightening information. To join us, CLICK HERE.]



Tip #15 – They’d Focus on Finding a Balance

In addition to living deliberately and purposefully, several interviewees mentioned the way to becoming millionaire while finding greater quality of life comes down to having a balance between the extremes of making money and everything else.  When you know what you value and what you want for yourself, far beyond the money, you can devote your time accordingly and ensure that you don’t get skewed into thinking, “First I’ll focus on the money, then everything else.” 

All too often, people wake up in mid-life and realize they’ve forgotten how to do all the other meaningful things like take care of their body and nurture intimate relationships. A few interviewees even mentioned that you will not be on your deathbed thinking about your money, instead you will be thinking about how much you love your family and friends.


Tip #16 – They’d Get Started Now 

You might’ve heard the saying, the best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is today. Many people get caught up in waiting for the perfect time to get started – whether it be saving, tackling debt, or investing. Self-made millionaires will tell you they wished they’d started sooner. 

One executive, who built her wealth through saving into a 401K and investing in real estate early in her career, wishes she invested even more and much sooner. She realizes if she had done that her net worth would be double what it is now.


Tip #17 – They’d Believe in Karma

With a strongly held belief that what you give will come back to you, self-made millionaire John Rampton, has a powerful rule. He believes that one in every ten people you help with help you back. One in every hundred people you help will turn into a profitable relationship. And, one in every 1,000 people you help will turn into a multi-million dollar partnership/venture. He believes helping only three people a day will make you a millionaire.


Tip #18 – They’d Always Have a Plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” and “failing to plan is planning to fail” – these are only some of the quotes reiterating the importance of having a plan. While you might have financial goals, it’s important to have a plan supporting your goals. Self-made millionaires regret not carving out plans sooner. 

One couple remind us not just to make a written plan but to take action and implement it. They also suggest revisiting your financial plan regularly.



As you can tell by now, I love learning what it takes to build wealth, both on the inside and out. The people I’ve met who’ve done this for themselves are incredible human beings who fill me up with inspiration whenever I get to hang out with them. They elevate me to see my own greatest potential and provide insight that helps me continue my pathway to greater prosperity.  

Completing the research for this article revealed what I’ve been teaching for several years which is the fact that wealth building is not just about the money. It’s also about being able to step back from the money and develop your mindset  — orienting your thoughts and goals to what is most important and then creating a well-thought out plan to help you achieve a life that brings you the most joy and meaning possible.

My greatest joy has become those moments when I help people experience a significant shift in their life around money and the realization that anything is possible. Witnessing the twinkle in someone’s eyes in the moment they realize that opportunity is everywhere and scarcity and fear no longer have to rule the day is incredibly rewarding.  From these moments and what people go on to do after working with me, I know that everyone has the potential to create wealth for themselves and the more we realize this truth, the sooner we’ll get down to the business of creating it.

My hope is that this article helps you feel more empowered to become a millionaire yourself and to know that you can make mistakes and still get where you want to go.

Living means learning new ways to get where we want to go and your money is no different. Regardless of where you find yourself right now, I want you to know that you can create that which is most important to you.

Now is the best time to get started and I can’t wait to hear how it goes…


If you’ve learned something new and would like to pay it forward, please consider sharing this with your children, parents, family, co-workers and your friends. Sharing, as they say, is CARING 🙂



A note about the author:

Leisa Peterson, MBA, CFP® is passionate about helping people to heal on all levels and expand into their greatest potential. She is honored to witness 1,000’s of financial healings with people from all walks of life. Leisa’s soul-based desire is to elevate the consciousness of the planet by helping people heal their relationship with money.

Leisa recently completed her new book, The Mindful Millionaire which will come out in June 2020. It shows you how to use mindfulness practices to identify, then break free of limiting money behaviors. So you live with less stress, greater empowerment when it comes to money, and more financial prosperity.

Before founding WealthClinic, Leisa spent over 22 years in executive roles for some of the largest financial institutions in the United States and, at the same time, teaching people how to meditate and break free of old paradigms. Leisa lives in Sedona and Flagstaff, AZ with her family.

You can connect with Leisa and learn more about her programs, podcast and meditations at www.wealthclinic.com.  You can connect with her on Twitter @leislooski, Instagram @LeisaPeterson, and on Facebook.

2 thoughts on “What 54 Self-Made Millionaires Wish They’d Known Sooner About Money”

  1. Love this Leisa! Thank you so much for curating these. I’m struck by the diversity of perspectives here, even some that seem to contrast one another. It leaves me hopeful that I can chose some of these lessons, double down and also trust my gut when it comes to building wealth.

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