The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americas Wealthy [MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR 2D] [Compact Disc] CD-ROM – September 30, 2000
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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.
In summary, this book was essentially a long stream of curated data distilled into a finely tuned narrative that I just couldn't put down.
At first glance, the title "The Millionaire Next Door" might sound like some trashy novel just begging for glamour and it's 15 minutes in the spotlight, but this couldn't be further from the truth. I assume most people, when they think of the world 'millionaire,' they think of a high class, high consumption lifestyle full of limitless indulgence. However, Thomas Stanley goes through great length in this book to show precisely why this isn't so. Through countless interviews and a vast list of data, Stanley pulls together that the average millionaire is anything but the cocaine-induced celebrity so often featured in mainstream media.
Quite the opposite, being an average millionaire is within reach of just about everyone. The American Dream is alive and well, but only for those who are willing to sacrifice.
It's kinda funny in a sense. This book put into words and data a lot of things I noticed growing up. I've always said that there are two ways to have more money: make more or spend less, and I prefer to do both. As it turns out, most millionaires feel the same way, and they invest their savings into appreciating assets rather than depreciating assets, like real estate and stocks/bonds as opposed to clothing and cars. The average millionaire doesn't reach such a status until late in life, and inheriting large sums of money more often than not dooms any developing child to a life of high-spending with few fulling achievements.
I could go on, but it's really pointless. In a way, Thomas is simply a messenger, presenting the data he found in an easy to follow format that drives home a list of bullet of points. However, despite this, I still found this book amazing and uplifting, because the message it presents is exceptionally hopeful and inspiring. Everyone should read this book, to help themselves and their finances, because there are no second chances when it comes to time and money.
Top reviews from other countries
The point of the book’s title is that many apparently affluent people (nice house, car, clothes, gadgets) may not have much in their piggy bank because they are driving, wearing and displaying it instead. People who do have a lot of wealth built up do so because they are living a very modest life - ‘the person next door’.
The only downsides for me were the repetitive facts and figures drawn from their research which pads out a booklet into a book. Pretty soon you might get fed up of the ‘this percent of that, which as a percentage of this, as a ratio of’ and just start skim reading it as you got the point from the first paragraph.
You also have to wonder ‘what’s the point?’. You can’t take the piggy bank with you when you die, no matter how big you get it. So of course there is a balance - which I don’t think the book strikes - in knowing the basic things you need for a sufficient life and then using your wealth to enrich your own and other’s lives.
Moreover, it jumps from various point with no logic it will start describing info in a line of ‘3 out of 192 millionaires wear a watch worth more than 5k; out of these watches one was given as a gift; 7 of 192 millionaires have never spent lots than 1k on a watch;175 out of 192 wear a watch worth less than 500 etc’, this makes it not only a super boring read but leads to a point completely unrelated like their background, which then will lead tot he fact they write a budget and stick to it, to how much they spend on alcohol to someone life story to god knows what else- I did not even finish it but can already Imagine a few pegs written about 80% of 168 out 192 millionaires’ clothing is black or grey so when it is dirty so you cannot see that and 75% do laundry only once a month which allows them to save on the cost of laundry (detergent, water and electricity) ;P
If you are very early on in your wealth creation journey you may find this info eye-opening. If you believe that millionaires drive Ferrari and wear designer clothes you will quickly change your opinion but if you already know that frugality is crucial or in fact you want to drive Ferrari then this book is pointless.
The only info that I found of interest was that they live on 7% of their wealth.
I agree with many that criticize this book for its clear survivorship bias; starting a business is not going to be the right thing for everyone. Perhaps focusing on "successful upper-middle-class" financially independent types would have been more realistic and helpful to most, but "The Financially Secure Person Next Door" wouldn't be as good a title.