This is the third and final post in this series where I discuss the most influential events of my personal finance journey. I like to save the best for last so today I’m discussing a book called, “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy,” by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. 🙂
The Millionaire Next Door
A hundred years ago everyone owned a horse but only the rich had cars. Today the middle class drive cars and only the rich have horses. Oh how the stables have turned. 😎 The advantage of building wealth today is you don’t have to be smart, highly educated, inventive, or take precarious risks. There’s actually a rulebook – a set of specific guidelines that you can follow to reach millionaire status. It all comes down to practicing some simple habits. 🙂
I read the Millionaire Next Door when I was 20 years old because I wanted to know how rich people live so that I can be like them one day. Or better yet – for the rest of my life. 😉 What I discovered from the book blew my mind. For some reason I had the misconception that most millionaires inherited their money, and enjoy spending it on lavish goods and luxuries. But instead, the book revealed that 80% of millionaires are self made. And most of them live a very low key lifestyle – known as stealth wealth. Your next door neighbor could be a millionaire, but you probably can’t tell just by looking. The book is essentially a compilation of behaviors and habits of rich people through academic surveys.
I decided to follow in the footsteps of the millionaires in the book. Since 4 out of 5 millionaires are first-generation affluent it gave me more confidence that I don’t need any financial help from my parents to reach a 7 figure net worth.
My plan was straightforward. I would simply behave like a millionaire until I became one. 😀 That’s literally all I did. Everything I needed to know to act like a millionaire was right there in the book. And believe it or not this actually worked! 13 years later I became a millionaire. 🙂 So let’s take a look at the behaviors I began to adopt back in 2007.
The Characteristics of a Millionaire
Here are 10 habits that I picked up from the book. Some of these behaviors I followed to a T in order to improve my chances of success.
- Millionaires spend twice as many hours per month planning their investments as other people.
At first I didn’t know how this would actually help make me a millionaire. But I did it anyway. And it was pretty easy. I started to watch the performance of my investments more closely. To my surprise, what I paid attention to grew the fastest. For example, by focusing on my retirement plan, my RRSP has now grown to $150,000.
- Wealth accumulators don’t drink much, and spend less than $10 on average for a bottle of wine.
Alcohol is often taxed more than other goods. An evening spent drinking can cost $50 or more, especially if you order the good stuff. But rich people usually don’t drink. And when they do it’s often something affordable. 🙂 I have followed this rule myself and have saved lots of money. There are tons of other activities in life to enjoy. Drinking alcohol doesn’t have to be one of them.
- The millionaire next door probably doesn’t smoke.
The financial cost of smoking can be expensive. And it’s not good for your healthy either. Although I’ve heard it is good for curing salmon. 😎
- Most wealthy people own cars instead of leasing them. The millionaire’s car make of choice: Toyota.
I bought a used Toyota in 2010. I’ve been driving it for the past 10 years. Amazingly it still works like new. 🙂 I could probably get another 10 years out of it. It’s fuel efficient, cheap to maintain, and easy to insure. I can see why millionaires like to drive these.
- Millionaires avoid buying status objects. They tend to reject status symbols whenever possible.
You can either look wealthy or be wealthy. But it’s nearly impossible to do both. That’s why I don’t own luxury brands. This alone has saved me thousands of dollars over the years. I don’t even have any Apple products since there are always cheaper alternatives.
- Millionaires like to track their spending. Two-thirds of millionaires can answer “yes” to this question: “Do you know how much your family spends each year for food, clothing, and shelter?” In contrast, only one-third of high-income non-millionaires answered yes to this question.
I started to track my spending when I learned about this habit. It doesn’t take too much time with a spreadsheet. It really makes me feel in control of my budget and personal finances. 🙂
- Most millionaires work between 45 to 55 hours a week.
I adopted a 50 hour work week in my twenties by taking up a part time job. It has worked out really well as the skills I’ve learned from the side job has given me the tools to advance my full time job. 🙂 The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average person who works 13% longer earns 44% more pay. So there’s a nonlinear return on overtime.
- About 80% of millionaires have brokerage accounts. But they make their own investment decisions.
I used to have a financial advisor in college. But after reading this book I took out all the money and started to invest it all myself. Best decisions I’ve ever made. Saved myself over $50,000 in management fees.
- The vast majority, (97%) of millionaire are homeowners. Most of them have lived in the same home for over 10 years. Thus, they have likely enjoyed significant increases in the value of their properties.
This is why I’m a staunch proponent of real estate investing and saved up a downpayment ASAP when I was starting out. There’s a huge correlation between being rich and being a property owner. I’ve lived in my home for nearly 12 years now. The market value has easily doubled. 🙂
- On average, the wealthy invests nearly 20% of their realized income each year.
My salary today is around $70K, the highest it’s ever been. But no matter how much I earn I always invest at least 20% of my income every year. Consistency is key. Making six-figures would be great, but it’s not required to become a millionaire.
Fake it till you make it
Millionaires aren’t that different from the rest of society. Most of them are not workaholics. They don’t all earn a top 1% salary, or wake up at 5 AM and go to the gym every day. But they do involve themselves in activities and habits that complement wealth accumulation. The good news is anyone can adopt those habits such as the ones listed above.
I’m living proof that if you simply mimic successful behavior long enough you will eventually reap the same success. I didn’t do anything extreme or drastically change my lifestyle from before I read the book. I simply practiced the behaviors of millionaires and acted like I was already rich. Time took care of the rest.
The Millionaire’s Playbook
Having a million dollar net worth is more possible now than ever. 7.6% of America’s adult population are already millionaires so it’s not an unrealistic goal for most people. But whatever you do, make sure to enjoy the journey. 😉 If the process to become a millionaire is too uncomfortable then maybe it’s not worth pursuing in the first place. The authors of the book discovered that “financially independent people are happier than those in their same income/age cohort who are not financially secure.” This is why working towards financial freedom excites me like a kid in a candy store. 😀
The Millionaire Next Door is probably the best personal finance book I’ve read so far. It doesn’t just talk about theories, mindsets, and other aspects of self improvement. It also straight up tells you what millionaires are literally doing so that you can replicate their actions and also become a millionaire. 😉 If there was ever a blueprint for how to become rich, this book is it. 🙂
Further reading: In case you missed it, part 1 of this series was about compounding, and part 2 focused on asset columns.
Random Useless Fact:
What about all the persons who fit the above requirements, but have simply failed in life to become a millionaire?
-Laid off in the worst possible time
-Poor investment choices (XOM, M etc.)
-Poor business decisions
That is an unfortunate situation to be in. Sometimes you can do everything right and still don’t achieve the goals you set out to do, which can be really frustrating. Murphy’s law is relentless, and it can happen to anyone. To that I would say to first check the expectations. Have they been given a reasonable time to build a million dollars? If they’ve followed all the habits of millionaires for decades and are still nowhere close then it’s time to reflect on the decisions made by the individual that lead them to their current situation. Learn from that experience, and determine how to overcome the past. There’s a saying that if you’re born in North America poor, that’s not your fault. If you live and die in North America poor, that’s actually on you. I was laid off 2 years ago. One of the reasons was because I didn’t possess any skills that my employer deemed indispensable. Thankfully I had other job prospects lined up. But that took years of planning and networking on my part. Every employment circumstance is different, but there is always something the individual can do about it, such as planning a contingency. Poor investment… Read more »
I love how you depict the characteristics of a millionaire. I see myself being a millionaire soon.
That’s great. 🙂 Hope you get there soon.
I’m fall into that category: Millionaires spend twice as many hours per month planning their investments as other people. -Yes I spend a lot of hours on this Wealth accumulators don’t drink much, and spend less than $10 on average for a bottle of wine. – I do drink, probably 6-15 drinks a week The millionaire next door probably doesn’t smoke. – I don’t smoke Most wealthy people own cars instead of leasing them. The millionaire’s car make of choice: Toyota. -I own my cars, but drive Fords. Millionaires avoid buying status objects. They tend to reject status symbols whenever possible. – I was rejecting pretty good but caved on the dream house Millionaires like to track their spending. Two-thirds of millionaires can answer “yes” to this question: “Do you know how much your family spends each year for food, clothing, and shelter?” In contrast, only one-third of high-income non-millionaires answered yes to this question. – I do track some spending but not super hardcore Most millionaires work between 45 to 55 hours a week. – 50 hrs a week About 80% of millionaires have brokerage accounts. But they make their own investment decisions. – have accounts with brokerages but… Read more »
Thanks for sharing. You are another example of how these behaviors largely work in favour of turning someone into a millionaire. 🙂 I feel like overspending on a house isn’t necessarily vain or status chasing. If it’s your home then it needs to be comfortable to you. It will also probably appreciate in value over time. Most other status objects won’t.
Cheers For all the Individual Who reads this Artcle- Lets Just keep Moving Forward!
For the Brightest Future Ahead !
What is your definition of a millionaire?
A million of net assets, or a million of investment net assets?
As in, do you include your home in your definition?
To me a millionaire is someone with a net worth of at least $1 million. I include the equity of my home in my net worth calculations. To me this is the simplest definition. 🙂
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