Why Are Some People Rich & Others Poor? Tom Corley’s Rich Habits.

Tom Corley, author of Rich Habits, spent four years interviewing rich and poor Americans, another 18 months analyzing the resulting data and eventually boiled his findings down to a list of lifestyle differences between the two groups.

1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.

3. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically 4 days a week. 23% of poor do this.

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% for poor people.

5. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% for poor.

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read 2 or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% for poor.

7. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% for poor.

8. 80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls vs. 11% of poor

9. 67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% for poor

10. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs 2% for poor.

Read all twenty lifestyle comparisons at DaveRamsey.com.


Dave Ramsey wisely labeled this list “what the rich do every day that the poor don’t.” But Tom Corley goes further. He doesn’t see this list as a mere comparison of two different lifestyles. He sees causation: The rich are rich because they did these things. The poor are poor because they don’t.

And I disagree. Poverty and wealth are more complicated than that.

98% of presidents have lived in the White House (correlation). But does moving into the White House cause a person to be president? To establish causation we’d need to ask more questions…Are there people living in the White House who are not presidents?

Of course, we know without asking that living in the White House does not make a person president any more than living in a garage would make him a car. There is no causation between the two. Becoming president is more complicated than that.

I believe Tom Corley has given us a valuable and insightful list of differences between the lifestyles of rich and poor Americans (correlation) but has mistakenly interpreted them as the causes of wealth and poverty (causation).

But what do I know? So I’ve asked Mr. Corley for an interview and he’s kindly agreed. Specifically, I want to understand how his research was conducted and how he went about establishing causation between this list and becoming wealthy or staying poor.


Here’s why this matters so much to me. One myth that destroys our compassion and generosity is the belief that all impoverished people deserve to be poor; they chose their way into poverty. But poverty – the sociologists, economists, development experts and theologians agree – is much more complicated than this myth makes it out to be.

I wonder if you have any questions for Tom Corley as well. Feel free to share them in the comments of this post. I’ll post a copy of our interview when it’s complete early next year.