on December 30, 2001
I received this book as gift, and after reading it, I am glad I didn't spend any money on it. This book is a classic example of taking a few simple concepts and restating them in every imaginable form to reach a decent book length. The useful information could be summed up into a small pamphlet.
The basic premise of the book is how the average Joe and average millionaire may not be too terribly different. The author interviewed hundreds of millionaires and then analyzed the data from the interviews. They repeatedly comment about how "Mr. penny-pinching trailer park owner is far better off with $1.5 million in the bank than Mr. Doctor with a great house and lifestyle, who only has $750,000 saved up."
The authors constantly rant about how being incredibly frugal and watching every penny spent will make you wealthy. While this may be true, none of the information presented ventures far beyond common sense.
Another tactic, which I found very annoying, was that various charts and data tables were listed multiple times but in varying ways. For instance a whole page may be taken up by a table dedicated to whether or not millionaires worry about things like cancer, their children's financial future, and the stock market. Three pages later, the same table may be listed, but with percentages rather than raw data scores. There are many instances where the same information is presented in what appears to be nothing more than an attempt to lengthen the book. I found myself wanting to pound my head against the wall.
I would not recommend this book to anyone looking to make good use of his or her time. I kept reading only in hopes that there would actually be a few pearls of knowledge to be gained. In the end, I wish I had put the book down shortly after reading the great discussion about millionaires and their ancestry. I truly could care less that there is a larger proportion of millionaires from Scottish descent than from Algerian roots. How is this helpful to me??
Don't waste your time reading this book in hopes that you'll come out of it with a great insight into financial well being. It just won't happen. This book seems more like a doctoral thesis gone commercial than a truly useful guide to financial security.
Thanks for your time...
on July 31, 1999
this book stinks. The lesson from the last ten years is that you need to be adaptable to the job marketplace, build your own career path, and take risks (investing also helps). Penny-pinching is all very laudable, but is only one small part of the equation. I was brought up in Scotland, and don't tend to spend money foolishly (I buy a car I can afford, not lease one to impress the neighbours, etc.), but that is not what makes me wealthy. What makes me wealthy is that I enjoy my life, I have a challenging job and a great family. If you are naturally tight, buy this book, revel in how much better you are than your neighbours given the authors formula for personal happiness (God knows, everybody around you probably isn't - have you noticed that?). Otherwise focus your self enhancement energy on what makes you happy, not somebody else. As one of my friends once told me - be successful - the money will follow. (BTW, there seems to be some personal attacks on the one-pointers, the thrust being that we are poor and therefore bitter - that is not the case with me, I'll accept smug, but that's all :).
on January 1, 1999
When I read this book, I was SO appalled at the POOR QUALITY of the research and conclusions that I wrote a letter to the authors. I sent it to them on 1 JUN, '98, in care of their publisher. I have YET to receive a response. I reproduce the content of this letter below as a WARNING to anyone who might be misled by the authors' SEEMINGLY "scientific" analysis:---------I am writing to you about your research on "the wealthy" reported in your recent book, The Millionaire Next Door. I believe that there are serious problems with your research methodology and I would like to point out what I think they are and obtain your response. First, and most importantly, there is the issue of how you choose to define someone¹s "expected level of net worth." You are careful to state that you define "expected net worth" as [(current pre-tax income*age)/10].As a former teacher of Philosophy of Science, measurement theory and statistical methodology, I knew the moment I saw your description of this measure exactly what your findings would be. Your measure asserts that people, at any stage of their lives, should have a net worth equivalent to what they would get if they put aside 1/10th of their current income for each year of their lives. Why, I asked myself, does this measure appear nonsensical? Then I realized that it was because it is biased in favor of calling people, in your terms, "Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth" or "PAWs" if they leave school early, take a job or go into business, get a salary which does not vary much from year to year, and then engage in a regimen of self denial that would make your average, everyday sort of miser look like a spendthrift by comparison. For such a person, there are few "no-income" or "low-income" years (like those associated with going to school for a long time) to have to make up for later. In addition, there is little likelihood that, when you interview them, these "wealthy" individuals will have recently obtained a large raise due to, say, having had an exceptionally high-scoring year (as professional Baseball or Football players might) or developing a new drug to, e.g., fight cancer or AIDS.Thus, many people who are "PAWs" by your measure are decidedly NOT what most people think of when they are asked what it means to be "wealthy." In particular, they get none of the benefits that wealth is supposed to confer on its holders. The main benefit of wealth for such people seems to be the great pleasure that they take in the sheer possession of money, itself! This is thoroughly contrary to most peoples' intuition regarding the actual meaning of the term "wealth." Are people who love simply the possession of money itself not just as pitiable as those who, with an enormous income, squander it all (or nearly all) and, as a result, have a net worth near zero (by the way, are there such people?). More to the point, doesn¹t your measure, by its very nature, fail to capture the theoretical concept of "wealth" shared by most people (including most professional Economists)? I argue that it does and that, by selecting it, you have RIGGED the outcome to paint a picture of the "wealthy" that may not be accurate.My mother, for example, was a child of the Great Depression, she placed great value on the sheer possession of money. This was understandable given her abject fear of what might happen if there were to be another Great Depression. Over her lifetime she managed, having gone to work as a teen-ager, on a rather small income, that didn¹t vary much year-to-year, to put away an amazingly large amount of savings relative to her income. She was a "PAW" times 10. BUT, the value she placed on money per se was so irrationally high that she never, until long after her retirement, permitted herself any of the comforts or advantages that her money COULD have provided for her without doing any significant harm to her accumulated "stockpile" of the stuff.Is THIS the kind of behavior we want to encourage? Miserliness? Stinginess ("I am my favorite charity" says your protoypical "PAW" on p. 11)? Clearly, not even YOU really think so. On p. 74 of your book you warn AGAINST the very life-strategy stemming logically from your own measure - dropping out young and going into business. What kind of Economists ARE you? Do you not have enough faith in your own measures to do what they tell you? How do you think people would react if the inventors of modern portfolio theory had said "All the people who¹ve done really well in the market have followed this approach, but we don¹t encourage anyone to try it"? This is nonsense! Either you believe your research or you don¹t. If you don¹t even believe your own definition of what "wealth" really is, how can you expect the rest of us to believe it or to take seriously anything else you have to say? The truth is that what your measure has REALLY identified with its "PAW" classification is NOT those who are "wealthy" but those who have a masochistic love of self denial. Let¹s be HONEST and call them "Masochistic Self Deniers" or "MSDs" for short.Now we come to the second methodological problem with your work. The fact is that the tendency of your measure to identify MSDs as "wealthy" (through the trick of the "PAW" classification) is exacerbated by your admitted focus on the "first-generation rich." The problem here is that, unless one happens to BE Michael Jordan or Michael Eisner or Peter Lynch, the ONLY way to obtain a net worth over $1 million in a single lifetime is by being an "MSD."Thus, again, you RIG the game. Your own methodology pre-determines the outcome of your research. The "seven factors" you tout on pp 3-4 of your book are NOT the ONLY way to "wealth." What they ARE is the only way to wealth on a middle-class salary in one generation. Ho-Hum. Tell me something I didn¹t know before I picked up your book.I am sorry to tell you this, but I must conclude that your research is, at best, useless and, at worst, highly misleading (in that, as you admit, it SEEMS to say that the road to "wealth" runs through ³drop-out city² and "Drudge-job/Small Business Gulch.").It may, however, be possible to salvage your work to some extent and even, perhaps, arrive at some counter-intuitive findings. This can be done by CORRECTING the measure to account for its obvious bias. A simple way to do this would be to define "expected net worth" as [(current pre-tax income*(age-21))/10]. This would reduce the advantage the measure gives to young drop-outs who, for whatever reason, get steady, low-paying jobs, and remove some of the penalty placed on those who go to college. A better correction would be to tailor the model to each individual by defining "expected wealth" as N [(SUM Wi)/N] i=1where N is the number of years the individual has been employed and W is the individual¹s wage or salary for each year of the "N" years of their working life. This approach is clearly more complex and may require additional data. BUT, it would treat young drop-outs, Medical Doctors and, yes, even basketball players, fairly. In particular, it would not only remove the advantage your measure gives to young dropouts, it would ALSO remove the penalty that your measure places on those whose yearly incomes do not fall on a smooth curve. Would these modifications change significantly your conclusions regarding the Socio-Psychological correlates of wealth? I don¹t know. BUT, I suspect that many more well-paid professionals who choose to enjoy some of their incomes rather than live like Silas Marner, would be included in the ranks of PAWs. THIS will have the effect of significantly altering your findings regarding the habits and beliefs of "the wealthy."Another point. You state, as another criterion for being a PAW, that one must have a "go-to-hell fund" equivalent to at least ten years of one¹s living expenses. I would really like to know how you arrived at the figure of ten years. Why not seven, five or three? How sensitive are your Socio-Psychological findings to the choice of which number is used?Finally, one last point. You write (on p. 4) that you hope that your book will stimulate others to "learn how to develop" in themselves the qualities exhibited by "the wealthy" (i.e., by MSDs). I find that a very difficult sentiment to understand coming from an Economist. Any REAL Economist would know that there is no way in which one can validly assert that Mr. X¹s values are "better" than Mr. Y¹s; that those who gain greatest happiness from from counting the number of dollars they have made at the end of each day while dressing and eating like beggars are "better" or "happier" than those who gain greatest happiness from owning a $2000 suit
on October 3, 2001
The authors have several charts and tables in the book citing a specific percentage of millionaires by ethnicity. They leave out the Blacks in America. Before you stop reading this note, take heart to what I am saying and try see this point from the perspective of a Black millionaire. If we are not represented in literature of "perceived fact" in our national writings then we will remain the lost "tribes" here on the American continent. Some of us belonging to the Original Americans who owned this continent.
Although Native Americans are mentioned in one chart, none of the charts, tables and/or text mentions Black Americans, where other specific ethnics are called out, such as Russian and Asian. Both groups settling in The Americas long after Blacks were "introduced". (I use the term loosely.)
Black millionaires are well and healthy in the United States and should not be over looked. In fact, most should be held-up as an ethnicity who has overcome barriers far greater than any other Americans, to obtain their wealth. Few Black millionaires were produced through windfall, family inheritance or other types of instant prosperity.
I feel strongly about this issue and have advised all of my friends and associates to either destroy this book or to disregard it if they have not purchased it already. I do not want my children to read a text of which they rightfully should be a part yet are missing.
On a more positive note, the book contains good information about how to become a millionaire, how to identify millionaires and the basic statistical behavior of millionaires, and strategies millionaires use to remain in their chosen group; a group with which most Americans are not particularly familiar.
I wish the authors had made a concerted effort to be racially balanced, as I am sure there are a significant number of Black millionaires in the United States to warrant a mention in the text or on one of the charts or graphs. Additionally, the authors could have made a footnote or addendum entry citing the millionaires that were in smaller numbers than the 0.04% which they cite for one of the groups.
I left my copy of this book on the train in Europe in hopes someone reads it and is misinformed over there versus over here. Here -- we have enough misinformation perpetrated upon Black America, both wittingly and unwittingly by insufficient, illequiped authors, investigating subjects with limited intellectual tools, in the name of literary prowess.
on May 6, 1999
While reading this book I was wondering why there was so little mention of Average Accumulators of Wealth(AAW). Only the extremes were emphasized. Like our society, are AAW's as numerous as the middle class?
This book only tells us about PAW's and their friendless, miserly, unsociable, tunnel-visioned lives and their extravagant, wasteful, egomanic UAW counterparts! Surely there must be happy, reasonable, generous(to a fault), scrupulous, venturesome AAW's out there.
For books like these, I imagine that we the AAW's, are too boring and are not good cannon fodder.
Ironically, we are the ultimate supporters of any UAW's who end up on the dole or close to it, in their retirement years. After all, those PAW's won't help. They're too busy planning to stuff their cash in (good used)luggage to put on top of their hearse limos.