My uncle was obsessed with telling the time.
When I was born he was already in his 70s. Whenever I went to his house he’d always be playing with clocks. His house had clocks on every wall. Time felt different inside his tiny shack.
On the hour, all these cuckoo clocks would make various chimes. It creeped me out. I never knew what my uncle did for a living before he retired. In post-retirement he grew plants and played with clocks.
He drove an old, red Ford station wagon, never went overseas, wore cheap Kmart clothes, and played in a brass band. We got on well because he was a quirky character.
No one could quite figure him out.
Because of that, people easily dismissed my uncle. Some even insinuated that he wasn’t too smart. You’d be fooled into thinking he was poor and never made a dollar. That he was a talentless flower grower.
Then he died.
It happened only a few months after his wife passed away from a tragic accident. He was 100-something years old. I still miss him.
When it came time to divide up his estate people joked. They said all there would be was a few flowers, a rundown home, and a car that needed to be recycled for scrap metal.
They were wrong.
He was worth tens of millions of dollars (I got zero in case you’re wondering).
I found out after he died that he was a jeweler. And one of the best in the world. He worked hard in his own jewelry business and gave a lot of money to people with nothing.
He was frugal. He didn’t worship status. He invested his money and stored it in scarce assets like physical gold.
Most of us probably have a friend who’s a secret millionaire like my deceased uncle. Here are the signs so you can become more like them to generate modest wealth and work less.
They didn’t win the wealth lottery
Many people who have money never worked to earn it.
They were born into a wealthy family and got everything paid for by mommy and daddy. Or they had a trust fund or secret inheritance. About 5 years ago I pulled a friend up on this.
He was giving everyone money advice like he was a god.
I dared call out his family’s fortune made in the oil business. He never spoke to me again and still trolls me.
When you tell a fake rich person they didn’t earn their money, and therefore shouldn’t be giving money advice, they get pissed off. Author Robert Greene explains family money better than I can:
Any titles, money, or privilege you inherit are actually hindrances. They delude you into believing you are owed respect.
Fake money you didn’t earn lacks the experience. And without the experience of making millions of dollars you’ll likely spend and invest money in a stupid way.
It’s why trust fund babies often go bankrupt.
Work hard for your money. Fail. Get rejected. Build a business. Go bankrupt. Live life and earn financial wisdom.
They worship charitable acts more than they seek to become rich
I just finished watching a 1-hour documentary on the Aussie real estate industry. Wow…crooks.
The opening scene is a guy in a bright orange Lambo telling the host how honest he is. He flexes his watch, home, sales team, office, and high-profile customers. I felt sick within minutes.
He values looking rich above everything else. My uncle was different. He thought the real wealthy people were those who quietly donated lots of money to worthy causes (and didn’t do it for tax evasion).
The question is, why do secret millionaires love this? Entrepreneur Alex Hormozi has a good answer:
Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness hasn’t given enough away.
Helping people who can never repay you is one of the best feelings in the world. And 99% of the world never get to experience it because they collect dumb stuff to show status instead of chase true happiness.
They wake up early and work hard
This is controversial.
If I say “work hard” the hustle culture hippies come after me with pitchforks. “How dare you tell us to work hard!” Sorry. I’ve got bad news. There are no wealthy people who didn’t work hard. It’s a myth.
Waking up early is also cliche advice. We’ve all had enough of the 5 am heroes. But guess what? They’re right.
Getting up early is a wealth hack. It allows you to get a headstart on the day and start before things get busy.
Read the biographies of the greats and you’ll rarely find a single one who didn’t wake up early. It’s dumb-as-f*ck advice but it works. My uncle was up before dawn every day.
He liked to read books and learn while most people slept in. He’d open his jewelry store earlier than everyone else so he had access to city commuters the other stores didn’t.
When all the other stores worked the bare minimum hours, he stayed open. Don’t get me wrong, he still took breaks. But he always had people staff his store more than the others, so there were more opportunities to sell jewelry to those who wanted it.
No one loves to hear this stuff. It’s funny how the ancient and cliche advice we overlook often is the most obvious stuff we should do.
They rarely watch TV
Some of my friends can tell you everything about a reality TV show. Or they know everything about their favorite football team.
But when it comes to their dreams that can perhaps make them wealthy one day, they know nothing. They’re obsessed with the wrong thing.
They’ve fallen in love with watching someone else’s life to escape their life.
My uncle didn’t believe in TV. He’d watch the Christmas carols in December and that’s about it. He was preoccupied with ticking things off his bucket list and spending time with his grandkids.
Question I ask myself: “Did I create these goals or did someone else assign them to me?”
They live in a modest postcode
My uncle could’ve lived in Beverly Hills with Axel Foley and Sylvester Stallone, given all his money. Yet he lived in a working-class town.
He didn’t like being around rich people.
He felt it messed with his view of the world, no matter how hard he tried to vaccinate himself from it. The place he lived in didn’t look special. His house was red brick with rotten window frames and a messy garden. His driveway wasn’t even concrete.
He collected old things because he liked the way they were made, so strangers thought he was a junk collector and, therefore, poor.
But he didn’t need much.
As long as he had his wife and grandchildren, he was content. He spent more time with his family than he did giving acceptance speeches and getting awards.
In fact, he didn’t get many awards. He was unremarkable and liked to slide under the radar. He preferred to put other people on a pedestal and let them have their moment.
Look out for people who are purposely low status. They’re often the wealthiest.
They stay fit
Fitness and money are rarely talked about as a wealth hack.
My uncle loved to walk everywhere and ride a bike. At 100 years old, he was fitter than most of the 40-something year old bankers I used to work with.
Exercise gives you energy. And money, too, is a form of energy. So if you exercise and get more energy because of it, it’s not crazy to say there’s a better chance you’ll create more financial energy.
Protect your energy.
They don’t get overpriced financial advice
Common wealth advice goes like this: hire a professional to manage your money because you don’t know what you’re doing.
My uncle hated this. He didn’t want to pay financial advisors because he felt they were corrupt, and he worked out the fees they earned risk-free often killed all the good returns he might make.
I recently watched an interview with the Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, and Tucker Carlson. (For the record, I don’t like either of them.)
Jordan shares the secret most people don’t know: advisors work to make themselves rich, not you. Fees are the hidden wealth trap most people can’t see. Almost no advisor or actively traded fund beats the S&P 500.
Worse, TV stations like CNBC encourage the average person to trade in and out of stocks to try and beat the market. What they don’t tell you is that every time you buy and sell, you pay fees and taxes, which kill your long-term gains. Somehow, my uncle learned this and didn’t fall for the lie.
Instead, I later found out, he did his own deep research on what to invest in instead of trust biased experts.
He stuck with obvious investments like real estate, owning a profitable business, scarce assets such as gold, and a basic portfolio of stocks that were safe bets.
Outsourcing your financial learning to another person can be a disaster. Follow the incentives and the financial world will make more sense. Incentives drive good and bad behavior. Be careful.
They ditched the BMW
I don’t care whether you’re Mother Teresa. Everyone who makes a decent amount of cash at some point will likely fall for the luxury car trap.
I sure did. I bought a Big Man’s Willy (BMW). Biggest piece of crap I’ve ever owned and it helped money magically evaporate in repairs.
My uncle apparently made this mistake early in his life. He quickly learned a fancy car wasn’t needed. Secret millionaires don’t drive tin buckets to get around and show off. Transportation is one of their lowest priorities.
Instead, they’d rather use money to buy free time.
Free time is the ultimate flex…and someone should tell all those big tech employees chasing unicorns what they’re missing out on.
They invest more than they spend
It doesn’t matter how much money you make.
If you’re sh*tty at spending money then no amount of money will ever be enough. My uncle was frugal. He only bought things when he really needed them. He liked to see how long things could last.
I learned later that he mostly had no liquid cash. He spent most of his money on buying appreciating assets, which left him with not much money in his bank accounts. That made people think he was poor because he didn’t have stacks of spare cash at hand (on purpose).
Being cash-poor and asset-rich is the fastest path to wealth ever known.
This article is for informational purposes only, it should not be considered financial, tax or legal advice. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.