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The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy Paperback – November 16, 2010
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How can you join the ranks of America's wealthy (defined as people whose net worth is over one million dollars)? It's easy, say doctors Stanley and Danko, who have spent the last 20 years interviewing members of this elite club: you just have to follow seven simple rules. The first rule is, always live well below your means. The last rule is, choose your occupation wisely. You'll have to buy the book to find out the other five. It's only fair. The authors' conclusions are commonsensical. But, as they point out, their prescription often flies in the face of what we think wealthy people should do. There are no pop stars or athletes in this book, but plenty of wall-board manufacturers--particularly ones who take cheap, infrequent vacations! Stanley and Danko mercilessly show how wealth takes sacrifice, discipline, and hard work, qualities that are positively discouraged by our high-consumption society. "You aren't what you drive," admonish the authors. Somewhere, Benjamin Franklin is smiling. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Library Journal
In The Millionaire Next Door, read by Cotter Smith, Stanley (Marketing to the Affluent) and Danko (marketing, SUNY at Albany) summarize findings from their research into the key characteristics that explain how the elite club of millionaires have become "wealthy." Focusing on those with a net worth of at least $1 million, their surprising results reveal fundamental qualities of this group that are diametrically opposed to today's earn-and-consume culture, including living below their means, allocating funds efficiently in ways that build wealth, ignoring conspicuous consumption, being proficient in targeting marketing opportunities, and choosing the "right" occupation. It's evident that anyone can accumulate wealth, if they are disciplined enough, determined to persevere, and have the merest of luck. In The Millionaire Mind, an excellent follow-up to the highly successful first analysis of how ordinary folks can accumulate wealth, Stanley interviews many more participants in a much more comprehensive study of the characteristics of those in this economic situation. The author structures these deeper details into categories that include the key success factors that define this group, the relationship of education to their success, their approach to balancing risk, how they located themselves in their work, their choice of spouse, how they live their daily lives, and the significant differences in the truth about this group vs. the misplaced image of high spenders. Narrator Smith's solid, dead-on reading never fails to heighten the importance of these principles that most twentysomethings should be forced to listen to in toto. Highly recommended for all public libraries. Dale Farris, Groves, TX
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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The book is divided into eight chapters:
1. Meet the Millionaire Next Door
2. Frugal Frugal Frugal
3. Time, Energy, and Money
4. You Aren't What You Drive
5. Economic Outpatient Care
6. Affirmative Action, Family Style
7. Find Your Niche
8. Jobs: Millionaire vs. Heirs
The author essentially splits everyone into two categories: Underaccumulators of Wealth (UAWs) and Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth (PAWs). UAWs have a low net worth relative to income, and the opposite for PAWs and uses these terms throughout the book.
His primary argument is that PAWs get to be wealthy by living well below their means - these are people who do not look like millionaires, they live in modest neighborhoods, drive domestic sedans, wear a Timex, and usually have a blue-collar job that does not come with an expensive lifestyle associated and as a result can accumulate a sizeable nest egg. On the other hand, UAWs are typically well-educated professionals with high paying and high profile jobs (doctors, attorneys), but due to societal pressures associated with their social standing are forced to squander all their money living in luxury neighborhoods, driving German cars, and sending their kids to private schools. Their expensive lifestyle means that they spend most of their income and as a result have a low net worth, despite outward appearances.
I agree that this is good advice for just about anyone: live below your means and prioritize financial security over social standing. Growing up in a single-income family living in a modest middle class neighborhood, I'm quite used to the live-below-your-means philosophy and I think it gave me at least some sense of good financial discipline. If my parents are any indication, it works great.
Where the authors really lost my interest is that the rest of the book is chock full of anecdotes and some rather uninformative statistics to drive a few other points home. While some of these are good points and undoubtedly useful, they always seem to come with caveats or don't draw any real conclusion, which I found frustrating. Most of the points could have been made succinctly in about 1/10 the amount of page space the authors dedicate to them. These include:
- Most millionaires in America are self employed business owners, because they run their personal finances like their business finances. However, going into business for yourself is very risky so we don't really recommend that as a viable way to get rich.
- Very few millionaires have ever spent much money on a nice suit, pair of shoes, or luxury watch. They usually live in modest neighborhoods or rural areas where the cost of living and social pressures of consumerism are lower.
- First generation millionaires (often immigrants) tend to be succeeded by children with financial struggles, since the parent's desire to "give them a better life" pushes them into careers where they become UAWs, and their upbringing in our consumerist culture impedes their ability to live frugally. But even if it turns them into UAWs, encourage them to go to college and aspire to a while-collar professional job.
- Parents giving money to their children develops and reinforces poor financial habits. This money is almost always immediately spent, and these children generally have no savings since they are looking to their parents as their safety net and counting on an inheritance. Doing things like buying children a house in an upscale neighborhood or sending grandkids to a private school actually makes the children worse off, since they have to spend more to maintain the associated lifestyle.
- The authors spend an inordinate amount of time and space comparing different careers, which I found next to useless since I'm very happy with my chosen career (Engineer) and have no intention of changing. They continually deride pretty much every professional job you can think of, and simultaneously praises how great working for yourself or owning a business is while going on about how difficult and risky it is to actually own a successful business. The author does not recommend changing careers, but again, this is more of a discussion of what their research has shown than any sort of "how to" advice.
- Car buyers fall into four categories: whether you buy new or used, and whether you buy from the same place or shop around. The authors devote an entire chapter to this while only coming to the following conclusions: no method of buying a car is the clear winner, but if you own a business you may benefit from your connections with the owners of car dealerships; and most millionaires drive unassuming domestic (and to a lesser extent, Japanese) cars purchased new or lightly used.
A final note - curiously, I found no mention of anything real-estate related, which to me is highly unusual in any sort of book about building wealth. The only investment advice found here is in the final chapter and could be summarized as "invest in what you know." That is, if you work in a certain sector, your knowledge of the industry will help you make good investment decisions. Not sure how I feel about this one. For example: not working in technology doesn't mean blue-chip tech stocks are a bad investment. Take it with a grain of salt.
One last complaint: most of the financial figures are presented in mid-1990s dollars. I found it frustrating to have to mentally convert to today's dollars to get a relative sense. The authors took the time to update the preface in 2010, it would have been nice to see a revision to the figures quoted throughout the book. (For reference, one 1996 dollar is worth about 1.6 dollars in 2017).
In summary, I was surprised about the amount of praise heaped on this book. I would hardly categorize it as a self-help book, it's more a retrospective on the authors' research and a collection of anecdotes and interesting conclusions about the countless Americans leading unglamorous lives while accumulating appreciable amounts of wealth. It's a quick read and I made it through the whole book on a 5-hour flight with time to spare. I would only recommend this book as an interesting overview of some good financial habits, or as an eye-opener for those with luxurious financial tendencies who struggle to save money despite their income level. However, for those who have already developed some discipline and are looking for detailed strategies and advice on personal finance and building wealth via investments and generating passive income, look elsewhere.
I grew up in a super-affluent suburb. My friends' lived in big houses and mansions with luxury cars and country club memberships. We lived in one of the smallest houses in the suburb. My mom was so frugal. I thought it was such a drag!! But when she died (too young), she'd saved enough so that my dad, who lived another 30-some years, was comfortable in retirement. I wonder now if any of my high school friends' parents were actually living on the edge in trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Years ago, I used to charge like crazy. Now I save like crazy, just like my mom.
Just read it, it will change your life and thinking forever.
We were meant to go to the work force to save money, not live check to check. This book gives awesome examples of "It does not matter how much money you make, you can be richer overall, by your spending habits."
The biggest value of this book from my point of view is the part "how to raise children if you are already affluent". How to build their responsibility, respect, independence, and not less important authors point out why it is also crucial for family so it avoids conflicts over inheritance and may stick together for generations.