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NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — When he was fresh out of college, Steven Siebold accumulated $50,000 in debt. The Florida resident knew something needed to change, so he rented an apartment next door to the richest country club in town he could find.

"If you want to be wealthy you have to get around wealthy people ," Siebold told MainStreet. " A country club with really wealthy members is a great place to learn how to acquire wealth ."

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About 23% of the rich say they've been members of a country club, and 19% say the business use of a country club was the most relevant factor in joining, according to a Tom Corley study.

"Country clubs and golf clubs are an invaluable tool for developing new business relationships and strengthening existing business relationships," said Corley, author of Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals (Langdon Street Press, 2010). "Like vacation homes, these clubs offer a relaxed, fun environment that helps personalize every business relationship."

Some 22% of members play golf weekly, and 30% joined a golf club for business purposes.

"Getting out of the office and on to the golf course expands the thinking of the rich and their level of creativity," said Siebold, author of How Rich People Think (London House Press, 2010).

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About 16% said they paid less than $10,000 in initiation fees for country club membership and only 15% say they spend less than $1,000 a month at the country club.

"Rich people like to associate with other rich people," Siebold told MainStreet. "They join a country club, because that's where rich people hang out. They know that consciousness is contagious and getting around other people with like-minded ideals, philosophies and goals will bring them that much closer to success."

Although the cost can be a barrier entry for those who aren't yet rich, it only takes one profitable relationship to pay off the cost of a pricey members-only affiliation.

"Conducting business on the golf course happens all the time," Siebold said. "Sometimes it's intentionally to close a big deal and in other instances agreements just happen."

Rubbing elbows with the rich pays off in more ways than one for the average Joe seeking guidance.

"Rich people love to mentor a wannabe millionaire in the making," said Siebold. "They are very open to sharing their stories of success and important insights into money and business but be ready for a dose of objective reality because most millionaires don't sugarcoat the issue and say things exactly as they are."