A few years ago, I made my weekly trip into the local library and did a little bit of browsing in the Getting Rich section of the bookshelves (I’m a big fan of the good ol’ 332.024 part of the Dewey Decimal system).
I found an intriguing book called The Millionaire Next Door, The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, by two Ph.D researchers named Thomas Stanley and William Danko.
Now, regulars on the financial blog circuit will already know all about this book, but for me it was quite a surprise, and it provided a nice mixture of Advanced Mustachian Training as well as affirmation of principles I had suspected were right all along.
Now that a few years have passed and I have become Mr. Money Mustache, I re-read the book to see what benefits I could pass on to you, the readers.
You can soak up the overall message within the first paragraph:
“Twenty years ago we began studying how people became wealthy. Initially, we did it just as you might imagine, by surveying people in so-called upscale neighborhoods across the country. In time, we discovered something odd. Many people who live in expensive homes and drive luxury cars do not actually have much wealth. Then we discovered something even odder: Many people who have a great deal of wealth do not even live in upscale neighborhoods”.
The book goes on through 270 pages of interesting findings by these researchers who actually conducted thousands of surveys of real millionaires around the US. It took them years to do it. The overwhelming results of these surveys show that these people are not Velvet-Bathrobe wearing gentlemen smoking pipes in their West Palm Beach seaside compounds. They are not even Suburban Ultraconsumers with a 4500 square foot McMansion and two Lexus SUVs in the driveway.
95% of the millionaires of this country are, in fact, what you and I would call Senior Mustachians. They all got there by spending way less than they earn, working hard when they had the chance, and looking to all the outside world like they were actually somewhat low-income.
There’s actually one of these guys three doors down from me on my own street. One of those well-trimmed-grey-mustache-and-full-beard types with a bald head, silver glasses, and a big smile. He lives in a much smaller house than me, and we talk over the leaf-raking occasionally. This man does all his own home and car maintenance, and is often happily covered in mud and grease. It was only when we got to talking about the fact that we are both out often in our front yards on weekdays, that he revealed he “mostly lives off of the passive income from his 300-unit apartment building these days”. Mr Money Mustache shut his own mouth at this point, feeling like quite a silly beginner.
There are loads of amusing individual stories in the book, including one about two contrasting Doctor families each making $700k per year. One of them spends $30,000 on clothing alone and is completely broke, the other one merely spends a moderately luxurious amount on everything and is an ultramillionaire. And inspiring stories about firefighters and secretaries who became millionaires while sharing a $50,000 income.
My personal favorite statistic was the one that over 66% of people driving $70,000 luxury cars in this country are actually non-millionaires. Millionaires typically spend $29,000 or less on their cars, representing less than 2% of their net worth. If you’re not a millionaire yet, your spending should be the appropriate ratio lower, probably translating into a $5,000 car or less!
So when I bike down the street on my 3-year-old $299 commuter bike, wearing ripped jeans and a plaid construction shirt, and someone passes me in a brand new BMW 7-series, I actually get to feel pity for that person and their very-likely poor financial situation. That is true joy.
So if you want some backup tracks to go with Mr. Money Mustache’s own rhymes, you might consider checking this book out of the library. The main thing it will do is give you reassurance that I am not actually making this shit up. I’m following a very time-honored formula for making you rich here. The only difference is I’m trying to make things a little more concrete, telling you EXACTLY how you can cut your spending to a level that allows riches, using real numbers instead of sissy guidelines, and weeding out any hidden losses of your precious employees. That way it will happen automatically, and you can increase your odds dramatically above the default 3.5% chance a person has of becoming a millionaire.
Ready to go further next week? OK, see you then.