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The Top Twenty  

As noted in the introduction, the research revealed four distinct groups of people: the wealthy, the financially comfortable, the paycheck-to-paychecks, and the further-in-debtors. Unfortunately, the breakdown below reveals that most Americans are still struggling. 

THE DIFFERENCE IN AMERICA
The wealthy (W): 3 percent of the population
The financially comfortable (FC): 27 percent of the population
The paycheck-to-paychecks (PTPs): 54 percent of the population
The further-in-debtors (FIDs): 15 percent of the population

What Makes The Difference?

The individuals that fall into these groups vary, of course, in terms of their income and their assets. But these discrepancies in income and assets aren't driving the bus. They're not leading the charge. The individuals in these groups are fundamentally different. 

As I said, we tested for hundreds of factors. Yet in the end there were twenty factors that rose to the top as key elements. These twenty—literally—make The Difference. Those who "have it" share the following: 

Financial Attitudes and Behaviors 
• They feel stocks are worth the risk. 
• They devote money to personal savings or a 401(k) each month. 
• They save regularly for emergencies. 
• They have invested for retirement. 
• They have reduced outstanding debt. 

Goals  
• They want to be financially comfortable during their working years. 
• They aim to retire comfortably. 
• They always knew what they wanted to do (for a career). 
• They made it a goal to accumulate $1 million. 
• They want to own a home.  

Personality  
• They are confident. 
• They are happy. 
• They are optimistic. 
• They are competitive. 
• They are leaders. 

Nonfinancial Behaviors  
• They have a college degree. 
• They socialize with friends at least once a week. 
• They exercise at least two to three times a week. 
• They read newspapers regularly. 
• They are married. 

The good news is that you don't need to have all of these factors. The Ws have more of these factors than the FC, who have more than the PTPs, who have more than the FIDs. It's a continuum. But you do need, on average, ten factors (your choice) to make your way into financial comfort—and twelve to make your way to wealth. In contrast, only half of the PTPs and FIDs have more than three of these factors.  

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