I posses five and a half of the seven denominators of American millionaires, according to The Millionaire Next Door. Assuming each of these traits are weighted equally, I have a 79% chance (78.5% to be exact) of becoming one.
While the extra play money would be fun, I’m content with my thousandaire status. I have my health. I’ve got my soulmate. I found my calling.
I have five fabulous children, many uplifting friends, and a loyal dog. When kids ask me if I’m “rich,” I say yes, because I am.
Enough of the feel-good crap. A millionaire I am not. Let’s get down to numbers:
- 80% of America’s millionaires are first-generation rich, according to the book—which is contrary to the myth of inherited or old money
- 20% of millionaires are retired—because the time value of money
- 50% of millionaires own a business—because owning a business affords more time, leverage, and opportunity compared to employment
So what do American millionaires have in common, according to authors Stanley and Danko, and how do I stack up?
- Millionaires live well below their means. The majority are low-consuming, thrifty, and take extraordinary steps to save money. They don’t live lavish lifestyles. They’re willing to pay for quality, but not for image. After being on the brink of insolvency 10 years ago, I’ve gotten good at this.
- They allocate time, energy, and money towards building wealth. Millionaires budget (check). They plan their investments (I invest like a second grader—all indexes). They begin earning and investing early in life (check on the former, slow with the latter). On top of that, I goof off more than my highly ambitious friends because I believe I have sufficient for my needs. For this, I only awarded myself half a point in meeting this requirement.
- They value financial independence more than social status. Millionaires buy used cars with cash, they buy less than they can afford, and they don’t need to own impressive things to feel good about themselves. Check.
- Their parents did not provide lifestyle payments. Most millionaires were not financially supported by their parents. “The more dollars adult children receive from their parents, the fewer they accumulate,” the authors write, “while those who are given fewer dollars accumulate more.” That explains why 80% of American millionaires are “new.” Handouts are enabling. Welfare only works on a short-term basis. I’m fortunate that my parents didn’t enable me in this regard. They helped me, even into college. But never for lifestyle things. And always in complimentary ways (like car or health insurance) while leaving me on the hook for payments and tuition.
- Their adult children are economically self-sufficient. Giving money to adult children damages their ability to succeed, argues Stanley and Danko. This is the reason I’m not putting my kids through college. As adults, they can do that on their own dime, like most millionaires do. It’s also why I won’t support them for extended or indefinite periods of time. Obviously each child is different, but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that indefinite financial support is a good thing.
- They are proficient in targeting market opportunities. “Very often, those who supply the affluent become wealthy themselves,” the authors write. Smart businessmen do this better than most. While I sell to companies because they have more money than consumers, I wouldn’t say I’m “proficient in targeting market opportunities.” At least not yet. For that I award myself zero points.
- They chose the right occupation. “Self-employed people are four times more likely to be millionaires than those who work for others,” the book found. In other words, not everyone will become a millionaire, but a millionaires can come from anywhere. In fact, most millionaires make their money in dull industries. They build cabinets. They sell t-shirts. They’re dentists. They clean windows. You don’t have to work in high-tech or software to make millions. But you can increase your chances by doing what you love; finding your calling instead of just working a job or career. For finding my groove as a professional writer for 10 years now (with no desire to change), I award myself one point in this regard for a total of 5.5/7.
Unlike most books that teach either earning or saving strategies, The Millionaire Next Door teaches the importance of both. To succeed financially, you need “good offense” in terms of income and “good defense” in terms of savings, Stanley and Danko conclude. Despite its eye-opening findings, the book is tedious and belabored at times. For that I award it four stars out of five.