Financial Literacy - How to prosper
Do you think you will be rich one day?

Surprisingly, just 9 percent of survey respondents say real estate investments offer a likely path to wealth. Though real estate investors have gotten creamed in the past year, it's been a major moneymaker for some over the years, though it's by no means a sure thing. Plenty of people go bankrupt in real estate.

What is the most likely way for someone to get rich?

What motivates you the most to obtain prosperity?

"You do have to have deep pockets to play the game," says Dan Danford, principal and chief executive officer of the Family Investment Center in St. Joseph, Mo.

It offers a couple of advantages. For one, you can leverage the investment which dramatically increases the return or magnifies the loss.

"The research shows that owning your own business and real estate are two of the most common paths to achieving wealth and financial security. There is a reason for that. Owning your own business and real estate have two principles: They have leverage and tax advantages," says Tresidder.

Surprisingly, 15 percent of people say that getting lucky via the lottery or an inheritance is the most likely road to riches, while 15 percent point to living frugally and saving money as best.

Though living frugally may not have you living like a Rockefeller, it's a more likely route to wealth than winning the lottery.

"Living frugally and saving money are helpful, sure, but winning the lottery isn't even a plan. That's called hope," says Tresidder.

Motivations for attaining wealth

Despite what advertising messages might convey, most people are not motivated to pursue wealth for material reasons. Only 11 percent of those surveyed say they want to be rich to afford material things and pursue leisure activities.

Instead 41 percent of Americans wish to obtain personal prosperity so they can provide a better life and future for their children.

Statistically, only a small fraction of the population will ever be truly rich. Americans sometimes sabotage themselves or are too anxious about current economic conditions to take steps toward prosperity. Danford has a fatalistic point of view when it comes to getting rich.

"I work with a broad spectrum of people, and one of the truisms I've come up with is: People who have money will always have money and people who don't (have money) won't ever have money."

The majority of Americans appear to agree, according to Bankrate's poll. But optimism prevails with at least a third of Americans who aspire to be wealthy.

Results are based on telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,003 adults, age 18 and over. The interviews were conducted from Nov. 12 through Nov. 15, 2009, under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Interviews were conducted on landline and cell phones using random digit dial, or RDD, sample. Sample demographics were weighted to match population parameters derived from the Census Bureaus' 2007 Annual Social and Economic Supplement data. The overall margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on the total sample. Results based on smaller subgroups are subject to larger margins of sampling error. In addition to sampling error, the practical difficulties of conducting surveys can also introduce error or bias to poll results. For full results and methodology, download this PDF.

See Bankrate's Financial Literacy series on How to Prosper.

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