Black Belt Shopper
Shop Like the Millionaire Next Door
She looked like the ideal person to answer my question. She was well dressed and looked like a lady of taste and class. She was standing next to me in the home decoratives department of an upscale closeout store.
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I was buying a vase as a gift for a friend who was working in a flower shop at the time. He brought flowers home for his family weekly and they put them in Gatorade jars. I thought a crystal vase would make a nice family gift, but I didn’t know anything about vases.
When the woman started advising me, I could tell she knew her merchandise very well. She sounded like someone who probably had a beautifully accessorized home. She had some nice pieces in her hand.
After I bought my vase, I thought more about the fact that this woman of means who was shopping in a closeout store. Her dress and manner showed unpretentious class. I wondered if she was the millionaire next door.
The Millionaire Next Door is a book by Drs. Thomas Stanley and William Danko that strives to draw a portrait of millionaires, especially self-made ones. While many of us don’t have as a priority becoming millionaires, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of their habits as we strive to improve our own financial status. You will see that the millionaire next door practices what is taught here at betterbudgeting.com.
Essentially, the millionaire next door is usually a down-to-earth person who is relatively unpretentious and lives a relatively unglamorous, but abundant lifestyle. More millionaires have Sears cards than have Neiman-Marcus cards. Drs. Stanley and Danko have identified seven traits of self-made millionaires. These are people who have gained financial freedom. Here they are...
They live well below their means.
People who become millionaires put more emphasis on building a strong financial base than on having all the showy toys. They might forgo a luxury car and buy a more ordinary one so they can put that extra $5000 into an investment that builds their net worth. They are more interested in being solid than stylish.
They allocate their time, energy, and money efficiently in ways conducive to building wealth.
This is another way of saying that they are very intentional about building wealth–they have a plan. While some millionaires are more obsessed with building wealth than I would recommend, one lesson we can learn from them is that it does take planning to work toward financial independence.
For most of us, that plan includes getting out of debt, having a reserve fund, owning a home, and becoming an investor. The millionaire next door started with a plan and did without some of the fancy toys to continue to work on it.
Following through on these plans often involve choices–some big some small–between consuming now or building a base. These choices can be as small as doing without a few dinners out a month to pay a little extra on the mortgage to delaying becoming a two-car family to stay out of debt.
They believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status.
Actually, the millionaire next door is secure enough about who (s)he is that (s)he doesn’t have to flaunt it. (S)he considers conspicuous display of wealth a true waste of money.
Their parents did not provide economic outpatient care.
Last month I wrote about a personal trainer who is in financial adolescence because he was constantly bailed out. He is now suffering the consequences of a number of bad decisions, including the purchase of a $35,000 car on payments when his grandparents had just bought him a perfectly good truck. Now he has a 23% personal loan to show for his extravegance, and that loan is lower than most of his credit card rates.
Indiscriminate bailing out doesn’t often lead to financial success. Better to help a person learn to be self-sufficient than to bail a friend or relative out when (s)he is suffering the consequences of financial mistakes.
Their adult children are economically self-sufficient.
This is the mirror image of the above point. Receiving too much bailing out for financial mistakes keeps a person in financial adolescence. Neither the giver nor the receiver benefits.
They are proficient in targeting market opportunities.
They know the times. They study the environment. They figure out how to make the market work for them.
While some millionaire obsess on this to a level that many of us don’t want to, I think we can all learn something from them about stepping back, taking a look at opportunities, and using them to our benefit.
They chose the right occupation.
It is so difficult when you are a twenty something to choose a line of work that will serve you well for the rest of your life. Fortunately, we don’t have as much as we used to.
Remember the organization man of the 1950's? He stayed with his corporation with absolute lifetime loyalty. He depended on that corporation to outlive him and take care of him with pension and lifetime medical benefits.
Those days are gone. The world of work is much more change-friendly. If work isn’t working, you can look for something else.
I’m in the middle of that very process. My day job, an elementary teacher, doesn’t really work for me. I’m taking time off to assess the situation and hopefully to move on. This is not easy, but I know it is necessary.
As a shopping columnist, I was interested in how the millionaire next door shopped and spent. Here are some points I gleaned from the book:
Throughout the book the millionaire next door is contrasted with the Under Accumulator of Wealth (UAW)–an individual who often makes a lot, but spends all (s)he makes and often then some and pays little attention to building wealth. Many high-income UAW’s are broke, but you’d never know it to look at their houses and cars.
Obviously, most Americans will not become millionaires and many of us don’t have that as an important goal.
Still , there is a lot that all of us can learn from those self-made millionaires. We can learn to choose unpretentious substance over showiness built on debt. We can be intentional about building a financial base first by getting out of debt and then by becoming a saver and an investor. We can be aware of the opportunities around us. We can develop shopping skills to save mightily both on everyday needs and on major purchases.
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Copyright © 2004 by Larry Wiener
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