What would financial success look like for you?
Certainly, everyone has a different definition. For me, it’s not about having more money than I know what to do with.
It’s about making wise decisions with the money that I have.
It’s not all about pinching pennies, although, there is a place for managing expenses and keeping them to a minimum.
It definitely involves entrepreneurship and generating multiple streams of income.
Not so that I can be rich, but that I can give more, provide for my loved ones, and create more freedom and time to do the things that interest me the most.
If that definition of financial success relates to you, consider these 12 things you can bet financially successful people are doing differently than the average Joe.
1. Have an eye for entrepreneurship.
Financially successful people don’t just think about how to manage expenses are cut them back when times are tough. They think about ways to increase their income. They are constantly on the look out for new ideas that will allow them to leverage their skills and abilities to generate additional income.
For them, there are two parts of a budget. Expenses and income.
People often just focus on spending and expenses when there is a world of opportunity out there to increase the income side to not only meet expenses, but support their long-term goals and plans. You don’t have to think big in this area or come up with the next product on “Shark Tank.”
Instead, think about ways you could generate an extra $500 a month. How about a $1,000? You get the idea.
2. Assemble a team of experts.
I constantly hear about how successful people surround themselves with the right people to support them in what they are doing. Personal finance is no different. Who said it had to all be personal, anyway?
Successful people have identified where they are experts and where they aren’t. Most people will find that at some point in their lifetime they need a good family or business lawyer, accountant, financial counselor (short-term decisions, budgeting, debt management, etc.) and financial advisor (long-term decisions, retirement planning, etc.) to help them along the way.
Seek out these people now so you don’t have to hunt for them later. Aside from the lawyer, the other three subject matter experts are people you’ll want to meet with several times a year.
3. Minimize taxes.
Financially successful people look to minimize their tax burden in order for them to get the most out of their money and investments.
How do they do this? As I mentioned above, they have a certified public accountant on their team so they don’t miss applicable deductions when it’s time to file their taxes.
They also invest pre-tax dollars in tools such as a company 401(k) up to the employer match. They also invest after tax dollars in a Roth IRA to avoid paying taxes on their earnings in the future.
It’s always better to pay taxes on today’s dollar versus tomorrow’s!
At the end of the day, taxes are every American’s responsibility, but there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of tax benefits to the degree the law allows.
4. Never stop educating themselves.
Walk into the house of the financially successful and you’ll perhaps find the latest issue of Money magazine, Entrepreneur and some financial staples, such as Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover,” anchoring down their book library.
That’s not to say that they spend all their time reading, rather they stay informed on the latest tips and ideas and seek to be inspired by others in the financial and business industries.
Even the most financially successful know that there is plenty to be learned from others and life’s journey always demands new strategies and ideas.
5. Build wealth.
Building wealth is a top priority in their plans and it’s done with steady plodding over time, not overnight. The financially successful seek to maximize retirement investments via their 401(k)’s (up to employer matching) and Roth IRA’s, but go further in creating assets that appreciate in value.
Such assets come in the form of businesses or real estate that can eventually be sold or can generate monthly income to support them later in life, or even replace the need of working for another employer in a full-time capacity. Time is extremely valuable and the investment in assets, which may require work upfront, creates free time once it grows in value and produces passive income.
6. Don’t deprive themselves.
While making wise business and financial decisions is core to their nature, they don’t deprive themselves of having fun. Doing so would only create more of a tendency to spend money later in life. That’s why they make the most of the journey, budgeting for family vacations, date nights and time with their family.
While these seem like expenses on the surface, they can also be viewed as investments targeted toward their most valued relationships. They also know that it’s important to celebrate accomplishments along the way so they can be recharged to accomplish their next business or financial goals.
7. Set goals.
And speaking of goals, the financially successful have them. Who needs goals? You do if you have dreams and aspirations you want to accomplish in life. Interested in replacing your day job with a small business or generate passive income while you sleep?
Doing so requires a plan and setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) to keep you moving. Otherwise, you’ll squander time and just tell yourself you’ll get to it tomorrow.
Setting SMART goals works for their personal finance goals too. Such financial goals help with saving more money and managing spending month to month.
8. Reinvent themselves.
The financially successful know that things change with time and you can’t always stick to yesterday’s goals and plans. New opportunities arise all the time whether it be in business or in the tools used to manage their finances.
The last few years have seen a big movement in Cloud technology and how people can now manage their finances online with applications such as Mint, Ready for Zero, Betterment, Credit Karma (for credit scores) and many more.
There is information at our fingertips and the ability to access it anywhere, anytime. From a business standpoint, social media is here today, but what will it look like tomorrow and what business opportunities will the financially successful capitalize on in the future?
9. Help others.
Financial success isn’t always about looking in the mirror. It’s about knowing what’s within and the most successful know that acquiring money can’t be the top priority in life. Putting money first tears apart relationships and the race to acquire more can never be won.
The financially successful keep money in it’s proper place by giving it away. Yes, they make giving their top priority. They give to their house of worship or favorite charity, as well as look to help others.
10. Avoid personal debt.
Debt is the number one thing that robs people from time and freedom. Why? It requires time to work to generate income and make the payments. Sometimes that requires overtime work!
Brearin Land, financial adviser and CEO of Irvine Wealth Management adds, “Being weighed down by debt puts a damper on a families ability to meet their retirement goals down the road. Don’t pass the buck to yourself. Staying out of debt allows you to buy life’s most important asset when you need it most — time.”
Without debt, you have a lot more flexibility and most importantly, get back the time to invest in wealth building activities such as starting a business or in creating products and services to sell. The financially successful know that personal debt is a hindrance and they do everything they can to avoid it.
11. You Down with OPM.
While personal debt might be hindrance, the right kind of debt could give your business the edge it needs. Jude Wilson, financial strategist and founder of Wilson Group Financial, says:
“Many financially successful clients I work with view the use of debt very strategically. Their focus is, “how can I use “other people’s money” to enhance my business opportunities. This is in stark contrast to the way many see debt, as a way to satisfy more immediate desires, like that next grand vacation or a means to purchasing that dream mac-mansion.”
Financially successful people see debt as a tool to purchase or own a greater percentage of an investment — that if successful, could result in earning far more than the interest on the loan. Of course there are those of us who use debt irresponsibly and others who view debt as something to be avoided at all costs, but the financially savvy relish the chance to leverage debt to maximize returns.
12. They have persistence.
Finally, you will never be successful unless you have persistence. This characteristic is never been more important when striving to attain financial goals, overcome obstacles and certainly, in growing a business into the black.
Persistence pays off debt, increases retirement savings one percent at a time and continues to create and market products when you don’t think anyone is listening.
There you have it. 12 things financially successful people do differently. They sound simple on the surface, but how many people in your life do you consider to be financially successful?
Not everyone has the discipline and persistence required. Think about the people in your life you’d like to model after and consider how they live out these 12 things.
Invite them to coffee or dinner and talk about their success, these 11 characteristics and perhaps learn more things you can add to the list.
This post originally appeared on DailyFinance.com.