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Do you manage your money like a millionaire?

Over the decades, Annex Wealth Management has helped many millionaires and soon-to-be millionaires plan their retirement. We’ve begun to realize a few consistent traits that help millionaires get ahead – and usually, stay ahead.

So, whether you’ve cracked the seven-digit club or are on your way, consider some of these millionaire behaviors as you plan:

Millionaires take advantage of tax laws.

Where many folks today look at taxes as a “have-to,” many wealthy folks see a system that can be used to his or her advantage.

You can, too. Whether it’s becoming involved in your 401(k) plan to reduce your taxable income, using cost-segregation studies to accelerate depreciation on assets, effectively using trusts, or even planning out when you’ll take your RMDs as you retire, make sure you maximize the tax laws to your advantage.

Millionaires live below their means.

It may sound like basic math, but we’ve discovered that, unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Even if you’ve reached some level of success with your annual earnings or investment portfolio, you shouldn’t spend more than you can afford.

A better idea would be to spend less than you can afford. We’ve seen plenty of our millionaire clients look for great deals and seek opportunities, ensuring they’ll spend less than they make. A lot less. That’s how they got rich in the first place.

As you’re shopping for good deals, remember: you’re in good company. I think of billionaire Warren Buffett, who enjoys his $3.17 breakfast every day.

Millionaires love reading and research.

Over and over again, we observe that many of our wealthiest clients love to read and discover how to achieve and maintain success.

Don’t get caught in an investing rut limited by your understanding of the breadth of investments and markets. Wealth management is so much more than investing. Make sure you have a handle on your tax situation, on your estate plan, and your retirement plan. Study, research, and grow.

Reading and research are powerful parts of how we operate our business. We encourage folks to research what makes a great financial advisor, and ask tough questions of those who are currently helping them. Many are disappointed to learn that their advisor has two bosses – their clients, and their home office, which pays them for pushing proprietary products.

Millionaires get help with their money.

Ah, you say. Here it is, the financial advisor advising me to seek out financial advice. I can only report what I’ve seen through the years – most of the wealthy outsource many activities that require insights and time-consuming work.

You’d expect a millionaire to turn to a kinesthetic or metabolic specialist if he or she wanted a healthy, chiseled body. You wouldn’t be too surprised to discover that a millionaire would delegate wealth management.

Sometimes, you’ll use a financial professional because of what they know, and sometimes, you’ll engage an advisor because he or she can help you make a less sentimental decision. We tend to get attached to people, companies, and even sectors.

Just make sure you’re engaging a financial professional who doesn’t possess a conflict of interest. Ask direct, simple questions, like “Are you a fee-only advisor?” and “How do you get compensated?” so you can better understand what motivates their professional decisions.

Millionaires understand that credit and debt is a tool to be used sparingly.

Plenty of folks out there use credit as a path to get something. The wealthy see credit as an advantageous path to further themselves financially.

Generally, we’ll see millionaires use debt strategically, and most of our wealthiest clients seek debt-free living. Sometimes, the slow-but-steady path to your financial goals could require taking on some debt – just consider it only when absolutely necessary.

Many of these behaviors seem obvious. But I drive by a gym every morning on the way to work. That doesn’t mean I stop there to work out. (I’d rather focus on keeping my drives on the fairway). Dreaming really hard won’t get you to your goals. Planning and discipline will.

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Dave is President and CEO of Annex Wealth Management.

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