It’s easy to think millionaires are just a select few, but you might be surprised to learn that there are many walking among us. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, the U.S. claimed more than 25.1 million millionaires as of 2021 – about 4.8 percent of adults. Maybe one day, you could become one of them.

Becoming a millionaire might be easier than you once thought, especially if you begin to think like a millionaire. If you want to get to millionaire status, here are a few ways to invest so you can become one.

How to invest like a millionaire

1. Don’t wait to start investing

Wealth needs time to grow. The sooner you start investing, the longer compounding has time to work its magic on your investments. Your money earns money, snowballing over time.

Waiting just 10 years to start investing could mean missing out on thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

Consider this example: Amy starts investing at age 22. She invests $10,000 annually and nets 8 percent annual returns. Meanwhile, Jake starts investing at 32. He invests the same amount and enjoys the same annual returns as Amy.

But when they both retire at age 62, Amy’s investments will have amassed more than $2.6 million, assuming no taxes, while Jake would retire with $1.1 million, assuming no taxes.

That’s how important time is to becoming a millionaire. So find a good broker and start investing if you’re not already.

2. Have long-term goals in mind

Instead of mindlessly saving or investing, millionaires have goals set for both the short and long term.

You might want to get into investing because someone told you it’s a good way to build wealth. But you might find that investing now helps you save for retirement, can cover a potential emergency or pay for a big purchase, like a home or car. By having specific goals in mind, it can become easier to focus on those goals and make them a priority.

3. Invest in diversified index funds

Index funds are a basket of assets, usually stocks or bonds, that share a common theme. Some of the most popular funds track the Standard & Poor’s 500 index — a collection of America’s top companies. This index has a track record of 10 percent annual returns over time.

These funds offer a lot of perks including instant diversification at a low cost, making them well-suited for new investors and long-term investors alike.

By investing in index funds or exchange traded funds (ETFs), you can achieve millionaire status at a lower price and with less risk.

Here’s what to look for in an index fund or ETF:

  • Broadly diversified. Look for funds with stocks across a wide variety of industries. This might include an index fund of small cap stocks, international companies or one that tracks a market index like the S&P 500.
  • Invested in stocks. While risky in the short-term, stocks offer the best track record of long-term gains.
  • Low cost. Most index funds are passively managed, which helps keep costs low. It’s easy to find solid index funds with expense ratios below 0.3 percent.

4. Invest when everyone is freaking out

When the stock market begins falling, many investors rush to the exits, hoping to avoid still-further losses in the short term. The thing is, that decline may be a great long-term deal.

“Buy when there’s blood in the streets,” is a famous quote from Baron Rothschild, a 19th century banker and member of one of the richest families in history. If the market takes a nosedive, you might want to consider scooping up undervalued stocks or even low-cost S&P 500 index funds while the price is low.

Consider the brief yet fierce bear market kickstarted by the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. Stocks were plummeting. Markets were in free fall. The S&P 500 experienced some of its biggest single-day losses since the Great Depression.

If you had purchased shares of SPY (a low-cost ETF that tracks the S&P 500) on March 16, 2020 at $228 per share, you would have enjoyed a 53 percent return on your investment by August 24, 2020.

Investors who cash out when prices are at record highs probably didn’t buy at record highs. They likely bought low, during bear markets when others might’ve been freaking out about declines. Take a fall in the market as a time to consider putting more money into your investments, not less.

5. Don’t worry about looking the part

If you have an idea of what a millionaire looks like, you might want to think again. Millionaires don’t need to have flashy cars or mega homes. Millionaires can look just like you do, right now.

You don’t have to shop at expensive stores or buy name-brand goods to fit in with the crowd. Instead, put more time and effort into building your wealth through investments, not stuff. Millionaires aren’t wealthy because they spend money, but rather because they didn’t spend it.

6. Make it automatic

Don’t let investing be an afterthought. Consistency is key if you want to invest like a millionaire.

Set up automatic contributions to your brokerage account on a weekly or monthly basis. By putting your contributions on auto-pilot, you’ll reduce the risk of unintentionally neglecting your investments. And since it’s automatic, you won’t be tempted to spend the money on something else.

Investing the same amount on regular intervals also helps you benefit from dollar-cost averaging. Buying funds regardless of how the market performs helps smooth out your average purchase price.

If you’re already contributing to a workplace retirement account, such as a 401(k), you’re already practicing dollar-cost averaging. Most experts recommend investing 10 to 20 percent of your salary for retirement.

If you’re not saving for retirement in one of these tax-advantaged accounts, you should set one up, especially if your employer offers a company match. It’s essentially free money for your future — money that can help you become a millionaire even faster.

7. Diversify your investments

If you’ve dumped all your money into the best stock that you believe is going to make you rich, think again. You’re putting a lot of financial weight on one asset, exposing yourself to a lot of risk.

Millionaires think defensively, too, and they often get rich by diversifying their portfolios through a mix of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and various other securities. They reduce the risk that any one investment – especially a particularly large one – hurts them too much.

Avoid putting all your money into one type of investment. Instead, spread out your cash. In the event that one security tanks, you have other investments to carry you through. Index funds and ETFs provide instant diversification, so check those out first.

You might also want to look at other investments, such as real estate, to add diversity in your portfolio.

8. Get the help you need, when you need it

You don’t have to get into investing alone. If you’re starting from scratch, you might feel a little overwhelmed at how to proceed. Millionaires call in the experts when they need them.

If you could use some guidance, talking with a financial advisor can help get you to the next level. Financial advisors can help you craft a long-term financial plan that considers all aspects of your financial life, from investments and retirement planning to life insurance and estate planning. If you hire a financial advisor, make sure to work with a fiduciary, meaning they’re ethically obligated to work in your best interest, not their own or their firm’s.

Alternatively, you can turn to one of the best robo-advisors if you just need basic portfolio management. These automated investment options often have no minimum investment requirements and offer low fees.

Bottom line

If you want to become a millionaire, it means you need to start thinking and investing like one. Avoid piling up debt and start investing for the long term in a diversified portfolio of investments. Focus on your own goals, rather than what the crowd is doing, and ask for help when you need it.

Bankrate writer Rachel Christian contributed to an update of this story.