Jean Chatzky says that anyone can prosper in even the toughest economic times...if they possess the key traits and abilities that will set them apart. She calls these traits The Difference, and in her book, Chatzky describes how you can go from the person who lives paycheck to paycheck to the person who lives in comfort.

Do you have The Difference? And, if not—how can you get it? Here are the eight things that matter most to help you become financially free.

1. Happiness and optimism Some people believe money leads to happiness. Not true. Once you're living comfortably, more money doesn't buy more happiness. The reverse, however, is true: Happiness leads to money. And success. Likewise, so does optimism. Both enable you to solve problems, conjure ideas, take long-range consequences into consideration and come back and try again if you miss the first time.

2. Resilience People who have moved from a bad financial situation into comfort or wealth have resilience. They can overcome—on the job, in their personal lives, with their finances. They don't deny the bad things that happen, but they're able to turn their focus to things over which they have control with the belief that they have the ability to effect change. The good news is you don't have to be born with resilience—you can learn it by controlling the things you can control and letting go of the others.

3. Connectedness Ever heard of social capital? It's the asset created when relationships between people change in ways that lead to action, generally for good. It's an important component of The Difference, and the wealthy and financially comfortable not only have more of it than people living paycheck to paycheck, they know how to use it. They cast a wider net, socializing with neighbors, co-workers, people who can help them advance financially or in their careers. To get your share of social capital, you have to make time for people and put yourself forward as a leader.

4. Passion It is a key element that moves people from a life of financial struggle to one of financial success. The wealthy, simply put, want it more than the rest of that. Some want it in the form of money, but most are quite passionate about the careers they choose to pursue. And, at a time where doing what you love may seem not so possible, it's important to know you can learn to love what you do.

5. Intuition Over the years, your brain has scored up scads of patterns, information that tells you that if one thing happens, something else is likely to follow. We feel these signals in our gut—and we call them hunches. They are really our intuition, a sixth sense that is more developed in the wealthy than in anyone else. You can learn to bring yours forward by adopting strategies like giving your intuition a little room to breathe: Jean herself says she has the best aha! moments when she's not searching for them.

6. Habitual saving The wealthy people in our study certainly have the funds to be crazy spenders, but most are not. Both wealthy and financially comfortable individuals say that saving more money has been an "absolutely essential" financial goal as an adult. If you're not a habitual saver already, The Difference will show you how.

7. Invest in stocks Jean did the research for this book when housing prices were cratering and the markets were falling out of the sky. Yet, one lesson emerged again and again: The wealthy understand the need to take risks in the market—in good times and in bad—in order to make their money work as hard as they do.

8. Gratitude The Karma Kickback. The people who get rich—and stay rich—are not just grateful. They practice gratitude by giving back to their communities, to organizations they believe in and the people they care about. Even if you are thinking of something you view as mundane—like your job—when you think about it as a gift, you focus on what life might be if you didn't have it.


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