Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires

They’re just like you. But with lots of money.

By Kristyn Kusek Lewis from Reader's Digest | December 2007

4. Grow your money
Most of us know the never-ending cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. “The fastest way to get out of that pattern is to make extra money for the specific purpose of reinvesting in yourself,” says Loral Langemeier, author of The Millionaire Maker. In other words, earmark some money for the sole purpose of investing it in a place where it will grow dramatically—like a business or real estate.

There are endless ways to make extra money for investing—you just have to be willing to do the work. “Everyone has a marketable skill,” says Langemeier. “When I started out, I had a tutoring business, seeing clients in the morning before work and on my lunch break.”

A little moonlighting cash really can grow into a million. Twenty-five years ago, Rick Sikorski dreamed of owning a personal training business. “I rented a tiny studio where I charged $15 an hour,” he says. When money started trickling in, he squirreled it away instead of spending it, putting it all back into the business. Rick’s 400-square-foot studio is now Fitness Together, a franchise based in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, with more than 360 locations worldwide. And he’s worth over $40 million.

When extra money rolls in, it’s easy to think, Now I can buy that new TV. But if you want to get rich, you need to pay yourself first, by putting money where it will work hard for you—whether that’s in your retirement fund, a side business or investments like real estate.

5. No guts, no glory
Last summer, Dave Lindahl footed the bill for 18 relatives at a fancy mansion in the Adirondacks. One night, his dad looked out at the scenery and joked, “I can’t believe we used to call you the black sheep!”

At 29, Dave was broke, living in a small apartment near Boston and wondering what to do after ten years in a local rock band. “I looked around and thought, If I don’t do something, I’ll be stuck here forever.”

He started a landscape company, buying his equipment on credit. When business literally froze over that winter, a banker friend asked if he’d like to renovate a foreclosed home. “I’m a terrible carpenter, but I needed the money, so I went to some free seminars at Home Depot and figured it out as I went,” he says.

After a few more renovations, it occurred to him: Why not buy the homes and sell them for profit? He took a risk and bought his first property. Using the proceeds, he bought another, and another. Twelve years later, he owns apartment buildings, worth $143 million, in eight states.

The Biggest Secret? Stop spending.
Every millionaire we spoke to has one thing in common: Not a single one spends needlessly. Real estate investor Dave Lindahl drives a Ford Explorer and says his middle-class neighbors would be shocked to learn how much he’s worth. Fitness mogul Rick Sikorski can’t fathom why anyone would buy bottled water. Steve Maxwell, the finance teacher, looked at a $1.5 million home but decided to buy one for half the price because “a house with double the cost wouldn’t give me double the enjoyment.”

It’s not a fluke: According to the 2007 Annual Survey of Affluence & Wealth in America, some of the richest people “spend their money with a middle-class mind-set.” They clip coupons, wait for sales and buy luxury items at a discount.

No kidding! Talk show host Tyra Banks calls herself the Queen of Cheap and keeps perfume samples from magazine ads in her purse for quick touch-ups.

Sara Blakely, founder of the $100 million shapewear company Spanx, gets her hair trimmed at Supercuts.

And Warren Buffett, the third richest person in the world, according to Forbes, lives in the same Omaha, Nebraska, home he bought four decades ago for $31,500.