From Library Journal
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The implication of The Millionaire Next Door...is that nearly anybody with a steady job can amass a tidy fortune.
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
These people cannot be millionaires! They don't look like millionaires, they don't dress like millionaires, they don't eat like millionaires, they don't act like millionaires -- they don't even have millionaire names. Where are the millionaires who look like millionaires?
The person who said this was a vice president of a trust department. He made these comments following a focus group interview and dinner that we hosted for ten first-generation millionaires. His view of millionaires is shared by most people who are not wealthy. They think millionaires own expensive clothes, watches, and other status artifacts. We have found this is not the case.
As a matter of fact, our trust officer friend spends significantly more for his suits than the typical American millionaire. He also wears a $5,000 watch. We know from our surveys that the majority of millionaires never spent even one-tenth of $5,000 for a watch. Our friend also drives a current-model imported luxury car. Most millionaires are not driving this year's model. Only a minority drive a foreign motor vehicle. An even smaller minority drive foreign luxury cars. Our trust officer leases, while only a minority of millionaires ever lease their motor vehicles.
But ask the typical American adult this question: Who looks more like a millionaire? Would it be our friend, the trust officer, or one of the people who participated in our interview? We would wager that most people by a wide margin would pick the trust officer. But looks can be deceiving.
This concept is perhaps best expressed by those wise and wealthy Texans who refer to our trust officer's type as
Big Hat No Cattle
We first heard this expression from a thirty-five-year-old Texan. He owned a very successful business that rebuilt large diesel engines. But he drove a ten-year-old car and wore jeans and a buckskin shirt. He lived in a modest house in a lower-middle-class area. His neighbors were postal clerks, firemen, and mechanics.
After he substantiated his financial success with actual numbers, this Texan told us:
[My] business does not look pretty. I don't play the part...don't act it....When my British partners first met me, they thought I was one of our truck drivers....They looked all over my office, looked at everyone but me. Then the senior guy of the group said, "Oh, we forgot we were in Texas!" I don't own big hats, but I have a lot of cattle.
PORTRAIT OF A MILLIONAIRE
Who is the prototypical American millionaire? What would he tell you about himself?
- I am a fifty-seven-year-old male, married with three children. About 70 percent of us earn 80 percent or more of our household's income.
- About one in five of us is retired. About two-thirds of us who are working are self-employed. Interestingly, self-employed people make up less than 20 percent of the workers in America but account for two-thirds of the millionaires. Also, three out of four of us who are self-employed consider ourselves to be entrepreneurs. Most of the others are self-employed professionals, such as doctors and accountants.
- Many of the types of businesses we are in could be classified as dull-normal. We are welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers, and paving contractors.
- About half of our wives do not work outside the home. The number-one occupation for those wives who do work is teacher.
- Our household's total annual realized (taxable) income is $131,000 (median, or 50th percentile), while our average income is $247,000. Note that those of us who have incomes in the $500,000 to $999,999 category (8 percent) and the $1 million or more category (5 percent) skew the average upward.
- We have an average household net worth of $3.7 million. Of course, some of our cohorts have accumulated much more. Nearly 6 percent have a net worth of over $10 million. Again, these people skew our average upward. The typical (median, or 50th percentile) millionaire household has a net worth of $1.6 million.
- On average, our total annual realized income is less than 7 percent of our wealth. In other words, we live on less than 7 percent of our wealth.
- Most of us (97 percent) are homeowners. We live in homes currently valued at an average of $320,000. About half of us have occupied the same home for more than twenty years. Thus, we have enjoyed significant increases in the value of our homes.
- Most of us have never felt at a disadvantage because we did not receive any inheritance. About 80 percent of us are first-generation affluent.
- We live well below our means. We wear inexpensive suits and drive American-made cars. Only a minority of us drive the current-model-year automobile. Only a minority ever lease our motor vehicles.
- Most of our wives are planners and meticulous budgeters. In fact, only 18 percent of us disagreed with the statement "Charity begins at home." Most of us will tell you that our wives are a lot more conservative with money than we are.
- We have a "go-to-hell fund." In other words, we have accumulated enough wealth to live without working for ten or more years. Thus, those of us with a net worth of $1.6 million could live comfortably for more than twelve years. Actually, we could live longer than that, since we save at least 15 percent of our earned income.
- We have more than six and one-half times the level of wealth of our nonmillionaire neighbors, but, in our neighborhood, these nonmillionaires outnumber us better than three to one. Could it be that they have chosen to trade wealth for acquiring high-status material possessions?
- As a group, we are fairly well educated. Only about one in five are not college graduates. Many of us hold advanced degrees. Eighteen percent have master's degrees, 8 percent law degrees, 6 percent medical degrees, and 6 percent Ph.D.s.
- Only 17 percent of us or our spouses ever attended a private elementary or private high school. But 55 percent of our children are currently attending or have attended private schools.
- As a group, we believe that education is extremely important for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. We spend heavily for the educations of our offspring.
- About two-thirds of us work between forty-five and fifty-five hours per week.
- We are fastidious investors. On average, we invest nearly 20 percent of our household realized income each year. Most of us invest at least 15 percent. Seventy-nine percent of us have at least one account with a brokerage company. But we make our own investment decisions.
- We hold nearly 20 percent of our household's wealth in transaction securities such as publicly traded stocks and mutual funds. But we rarely sell our equity investments. We hold even more in our pension plans. On average, 21 percent of our household's wealth is in our private businesses.
- As a group, we feel that our daughters are financially handicapped in comparison to our sons. Men seem to make much more money even within the same occupational categories. That is why most of us would not hesitate to share some of our wealth with our daughters. Our sons, and men in general, have the deck of economic cards stacked in their favor. They should not need subsidies from their parents.
- What would be the ideal occupations for our sons and daughters? There are about 3.5 millionaire households like ours. Our numbers are growing much faster than the general population. Our kids should consider providing affluent people with some valuable service. Overall, our most trusted financial advisors are our accountants. Our attorneys are also very important. So we recommend accounting and law to our children. Tax advisors and estate-planning experts will be in big demand over the next fifteen years.
- I am a tightwad. That's one of the main reasons I completed a long questionnaire for a crispy $1 bill. Why else would I spend two or three hours being personally interviewed by these authors? They paid me $100, $200, or $250. Oh, they made me another offer -- to donate in my name the money I earned for my interview to my favorite charity. But I told them, "I am my favorite charity."
Ask the average American to define the term wealthy. Most would give the same definition found in Webster's. Wealthy to them refers to people who have an abundance of material possessions.
We define wealthy differently. We do not define wealthy, affluent, or rich in terms of material possessions. Many people who display a high-consumption lifestyle have little or no investments, appreciable assets,
income-producing assets, common stocks, bonds, private businesses, oil/gas rights, or timber land. Conversely, those people whom we define as being wealthy get much more pleasure from owning substantial amounts of appreciable assets than from displaying a high-consumption lifestyle.
THE NOMINAL DEFINITION OF WEALTHY
One way we determine whether someone is wealthy or not is based on net worth -- "cattle," not "chattel." Net worth is defined as the current value of one's assets less liabilities (exclude the principle in trust accounts). In this book we define the threshold level of being wealthy as having a net worth of $1 million or more. Based on this definition, only 3.5 million (3.5 percent) of the 100 million households in America are considered wealthy. About 95 percent of millionaires in America have a net worth of between $1 million and $10 million. Much of the discussion in this book centers on this segment of the population. Why the focus on this group? Because this level of wealth can be attained in one generation. It can be attained by many Americans.
HOW WEALTHY SHOULD YOU BE?
Another way of defining whether or not a person, household, or family is wealthy... --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.