Money

4 things millionaires do that the middle class doesn't

Becoming a millionaire starts with your mindset. But how you follow through on those ideas matters just as much.

You don't only need to think like a millionaire — you need to act like one.

In "The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class," Keith Cameron Smith shares the insights he gleaned from spending two years working with and studying the ultra-rich, including the actions and attitudes that distinguish them from the average person.

Here are four ways to start acting like a millionaire, regardless of what's in your bank account.

Millionaires talk about ideas, not things

It's not that cars, movies and other people aren't interesting to wealthy individuals. But they tend to focus more on big ideas for the future than on the minutiae of what's happening in the present.

"Millionaires are creative," Smith says. "They spend time thinking about new ideas."

While middle class people talk about cars and movies, millionaires own the car companies and produce the movies. They understand that "ideas are the most valuable asset in the world."

"To become more successful, you must continually expand your mind," Smith writes. "In a world where everything is changing fast, you would be wise to spend time thinking of new ways of doing things."

Millionaires take calculated risks

While middle class people are often content to stay in their lane, millionaires strive to move out of theirs. Put another way, the middle class lives in fear of risking too much, while millionaires know when to go for it.

This happens because "millionaires overcome fear and the middle class submits to it," Smith says.

"Millionaires overcome fear with knowledge," he continues. "Millionaires educate themselves before taking risks, and then they consider the consequences of failing."

They calculate the intensity of the risk versus the power of the reward. "If you can live with the worst thing that could happen and if the most likely thing to happen will get your closer to your goals, then go for it!" Smith writes.

Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Miquel Benitez | Getty Images
Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Millionaires are generous

While middle class people often believe they can't afford to give, rich people see generosity as a necessity.

"Most millionaires believe in the law of sowing and reaping," Smith says. "They see money as a seed. Millionaires know that if they are generous, they will receive more in return."

Numerous millionaires and billionaires have become philanthropists. In 2010, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates teamed up to form The Giving Pledge, an effort that encourages the ultra-rich to donate the majority of their wealth to good causes. More than 150 billionaires have signed on, including Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and Elon Musk.

"Not all millionaires are generous, but the happy ones are!" Smith writes.

Millionaires cultivate multiple sources of income

The more sources of income you have, the more potential you have to rake in big paychecks. Smith gives the example of a fisherman with one line cast versus a fisherman with five lines. Who is going to catch more fish?

But developing multiple streams of income means letting go of a mindset that often holds the middle class back: The idea that you must do everything yourself, which "puts extreme limits on your financial potential," Smith says.

"Millionaires have a different belief," he writes. "They believe they can find someone who can do it not only as well as they can, but even better!"

Smith emphasizes that creating sources of passive income is crucial to building wealth. That means putting in effort up front but eventually leaving more qualified people in charge so they can move on to the next income-generating project. Don't try to be in charge of everything — that only leads to burnout.

Millionaires focus on the big-picture aspects of a project without getting bogged down in the minute details.

Again, this is a divergence from the middle-class mindset that you have to do everything yourself. "The middle class believes that if you attempt to build multiple sources of income, you will spread yourself too thin," Smith explains.

Don't miss: If you want to be a millionaire, start thinking like one