What got them to the highest level? It isn't necessarily stock-market savvy: On average, folks who recently hit the $5 million mark report that only 10% of their money came through passive investments. And only 10% of pentamillionaires inherited their wealth. One might think that good fortune would play a role, but even luck is largely a matter of one's own making. Psychologist Richard Wiseman has found that people who describe themselves as lucky share common habits that account for their success: They're friendly and fond of new experiences, traits that put them on a collision course with new opportunities. In addition, "lucky" folks simply have higher expectations of success — they're too pigheadedly optimistic to heed the long odds and call it quits.
Not to say that getting rich is simply a matter of having a swell attitude. The path to riches usually involves the kind of risk that would make most people feel a little queasy. Harrison Group head Jim Taylor recently persuaded more than 3,000 pentamillionaires to discuss their path to success. Perhaps not surprisingly, none of them had a cushy union job down at the DMV. The vast majority — 80% — either started their own business or worked for a small company that saw explosive growth. And almost all of them made their fortune in a big lump sum after many years of effort.