I give a lot of talks to groups of investors. I like to ask this question:
How many of you made most of your money investing in the stock market?
Very few hands go up.
I get the same result when I ask: How many of you know someone who made most of his or her money investing in the stock market?
Let's drop to the bottom line:
Rich people invest in themselves.
Poor people invest in "things" that give them instant gratification, like plasma screen TVs and flashy cars.
I don't mean to be glib. Rich people can afford education and great health care. Poor people often can't. A great education and good health positions rich people to get richer.
Rich people risk their capital to start and grow businesses. When these businesses succeed, they plow the profits back into their ventures because they believe in themselves and in what they are doing.
It's not easy for poor people -- or even for people of moderate means -- to emulate these habits of rich people.
But being frugal and believing and investing in yourself is a good start.
Dan Solin is the author of The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read (Perigee Books, 2006) and The Smartest 401(k) Book You'll Ever Read (Perigee Books, 2008).