Over the last 20 years of my financial life I have learned valuable lessons about debt, spending, investing, and so much more. It didn’t start that way, we all have moments that change our lives financially. One of my life changing financial moments was reading The Millionaire Next Door. As I started reading The Next Millionaire Next Door I realized it’s a great time to share how to become a millionaire next door.
As a note any time I make reference to The Millionaire Next Door I am referring to any of the works credited to the late Thomas J. Stanley. I encourage you to read more of his publications. For example I recently found his writings on a variety of topics that I look forward to reading and learning more about.
When I first started college I saw myself as a future businessman and/or financial advisor. My relationship with money was mostly receiving student loans and working hard during the summer for rent, beer, and the extras not found in the classroom.
During my summer’s I had the opportunity to work at a private golf course as a caddie. I caddied for CEO’s, lawyers, doctors, financial advisors, hedge fund managers, small business owners, and athletes mostly.
My relationship with money during college became distorted. First it was the initial “free” money from the government that I received in student loans as the beginning. Then during the summer each day after working as a caddie I would receive cash, usually a wad of $20 bills for my efforts and expertise on the golf course.
My relationship with money become student loans and receiving cash from millionaires.
I was surrounded by income millionaires, possibly wealthy millionaires for four (4) to six (6) hours a day on an old cattle ranch turned beautiful golf course.
Along the golf course I would see million dollar homes and heard talks about luxury spending. I would see BMW’s, Aston Martin’s, and a laundry list of luxury vehicles each day in the member’s parking lot.
Then I received cash money for my efforts. As a college student it was very hard for me not to see a clear path towards wealth.
Graduate college, get a big paying job, buy luxurious things including houses, cars, watches, golf clubs, clothing, and play golf in the summer with my free time. Sign me up.
Add to the fact that I was playing poker, gambling, and generally having little regard for money and that was my vision and actions for becoming a millionaire.
I’m not sure when I read The Millionaire Next Door but it had a major impact on my financial life. I thought that you needed to be a CEO and buy big houses and fancy cars because that’s what a millionaire does. The book made me look at becoming a millionaire in a completely different light.
One of my goals starting out was to own multiple homes including a European vacation home. I know this because I wrote down my goals on a yellow legal pad and still have it today. Owning a home is great, but when I read that owning a home in a modest neighborhood instead of a luxury neighborhood was one of the keys to becoming a millionaire it made me pause my dreams of George Clooney house spending.
Driving around in a Mercedes Benz G Wagon doesn’t mean you made it. Quite the contrary in many cases it means your lease or car payment to be over $2,000 per month.
Most millionaires were driving around in old Ford F-150 trucks and used Toyota Camry’s. A far cry from what I witnessed in the private golf course members parking lot.
I read about expensive designer suits, watches, and luxury items and realized that most millionaires are buying inexpensive suits, cheap watches, and don’t mention luxury in the purchases they make.
Rolex was replaced with Timex and luxury was replaced with frugal.
It’s one thing to have a general understanding of personal finance, debt, and investing. It’s an entirely different conversation about putting that knowledge into action.
I once wrote a post called personal finance in 100 words. If you follow this simple advice over a long period of time it’s likely that you would become a millionaire.
The overall big picture behind becoming a millionaire is simple. Unfortunately we as a society want, need, and expect instant gratification and immediate millionaire status.
Track your expenses. Develop a budget to meet your own goals and values. Above all live below your means. Practice and educate yourself by reading, listening, and watching topics related to personal finance. Master the basics of a budget. Increase the gap between your income and expenses. The best action you can take is to increase your savings rate and live below your means, these are vital. Automatic saving and investing will keep you on track. Insure against emergencies and keep fees low. Keep your finances simple and your time with money short and intense. Regularly learn and ask questions.
Becoming a millionaire next door is not easy and I’m not claiming that I have reached this milestone. We prefer to keep some details about our income, investments, and net worth as private.
However I can say with confidence that these are the steps that I have taken to become a millionaire next door.
Becoming a millionaire isn’t a process that can be heated up in a microwave, instead it’s a slow cooker.
I graduated with a college degree from a state school. I was a “B” ish student where I usually excelled in classes that I had a high interest in, most commonly business. For the Millionaire Next Door that fits me to a tee.
Where I missed the mark was not receiving any financial assistance from my parents, scholarships, or grants. As the first person in my family to graduate college I didn’t truly understand the weight that student loans would carry.
While not a requirement to become a millionaire, having this debt certainly slows down the overall process as I speak from experience. My student loans created an extra weight to carry.
I emphasized this fact by attending a private university via a study abroad program in London which essentially doubled my student loan debt in a semester’s time. I remember receiving a $5,000 scholarship and almost brushing it aside because I would still owe another $40,000.
While I certainly started slow when I graduated college into my first real job. My overall career path since then has been on the right trajectory.
I’m pretty open about my salary over the course of my career and when I left after just turning 36 years old I was making approximately $65,000. I feel pretty confident that over the course of the next 5-10 years I would have been making six (6) figures.
Our combined household income was above the six figure mark as my wife makes more income than I do. In this regard our household income is closer to the mark of the millionaire next door.
For context my wife graduated from a state school on a scholarship and left school without debt. She also received her MBA from the same state school and funded this with her full-time employment not long after graduation.
As I have said many times before my wife is the smart beautiful one in the relationship and I am humbled that she said yes to my marriage proposal.
A topic that is not mentioned in the Millionaire Next Door is going beyond your career. This is completely separate from your 9-5 job.
For me a large part of my success has been earning money outside of my career. I’ve talked about it before but selling new and gently used men’s clothing on eBay really catapulted my timeline to pay off my student loans faster.
In fact with this money I was able to also purchase a couple special gifts for my wife and even paid for all of the appliances in our former Chicago home which we used as a house hack.
Real estate was a major factor in our pursuit of becoming a millionaire next door. My wife purchased a home in 2009 in Miami, Florida that ended up creating rental income. After just one year living in an apartment in Chicago we also purchased a home that created rental income, our house hack.
Both of these factors have increased our income and investment net worth. We made earning income outside of our careers a priority.
When we moved to Chicago we thought about living downtown in a high rise over looking the lake. Not long ago when we moved back to the Miami area we talked about moving to Coral Gables, an expensive almost affluent area.
In each situation we bought or moved into an area that was considerably less than what we could “afford” per our banking pre-approval letter.
Our original home in Chicago was what I would describe as a blue collar neighborhood. Close to transportation, parks, and a grocery store. Far away from busy streets, expensive homes, and fancy cars.
The home situation we have worked for and chosen has resulted in a home we live in without debt. This has allowed us to increase our investments into the stock market rather than continue paying a mortgage payment.
If anything the biggest difficulty has been the neighborhood we live in currently. A change from the days of our Chicago blue collar neighborhood.
Today we live close to the marina so not only do boats go by the main road, but also our neighborhood has one hidden behind just about every other fence.
Where there are boats that usually means big expensive pickup trucks to haul them on the trailer. Not to mention multiple vehicles and a shift towards luxury vehicle brands.
Add in the new increase towards pool ownership in our community and as you can see an increased life of luxury seems to be more and more present.
Do I own a boat or luxury vehicle?
I think a large reason we have avoided the increased luxury is our general thoughts on being frugal and purchases that align with our values (family, travel, health & fitness).
If you look in our driveway you will see a 2007 Toyota Sequoia SUV with well over 100,000 miles. This vehicle has been paid off for as long as I have been married.
Also you will find only one vehicle in our driveway as we both work remotely and have found little need for an extra vehicle. While living in Chicago we avoided this as well since public transportation was so prominent.
Less vehicles, less loan payments.
We have chosen to pass on toys like boats, a pool, and jet skis. I’m not saying that we won’t one day make those purchases, but what’s more important to us is not only the values but also the opportunity to live a life of financial freedom.
In a short amount of time we will reach financial independence offering time back into our lives.
So when we ask ourselves do we want that $40,000 boat today or do you want a paid off home or more time to travel with your family the choice is easy for us.
We tend to avoid luxury purchases, especially big ticket items.
As personal finance personality Ramit Sethi says “Spend lavishly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.”
The latest and greatest. Watches never became a thing for either one of us. Phones have had a little more emphasis but we certainly don’t buy the new Apple or Android product when it comes out.
I’ve personally had two (2) phones in the last seven (7) years, which probably makes you think I’m quite possibly insane.
We have one laptop which is about five (5) years old so again we tend to buy and hold our tech and gadgets for a good amount of time.
Television is the same. In fact I’ve been trying to get my wife to get rid of the TV she bought while she was in college to no avail as it sits outside in the patio just fine.
A nice set of speakers or headphones from Bose are bought very infrequently like the many purchases we have made with the intent of lasting longer than the average consumer or company would care to guess.
Our hobbies often result in travel which is most commonly our biggest purchase (s) for the year. We choose experiences more often than we choose “stuff”.
Many of our hobbies are frugal in nature. Bike rides, kayak, beach day, snorkeling, walks with our dog Angel, and the occasional arts and crafts project.
As I begin to spend a few more dollars on fitness outside of my regular Crossfit membership I anticipate buying equipment that is high in quality, brand name, and will last me quite some time.
This tends to be the trend in many of the items we purchase. While society is busy consuming and throwing away, we do our best to buy quality and tend to keep and use it for quite some time.
Throughout Thomas J. Stanley’s work the emphasis on becoming a millionaire has been to live below your means over a long period of time. In The Next Millionaire Next Door categories of wealth related behavior patterns include:
This amounts to having the confidence and knowledge to make the right financial decisions. Adhering to a budget and living below your means. Taking responsibility for the financial outcomes in your household both good and bad. The will power and created habits to ignore keeping up with your neighbor and social pressure. A focus on your career, financials, and a plan to reach your goals.
Creating an action plan to reach your financial goal is my number one priority for my clients. Let’s work to reach your financial goals together. Schedule a 20-30 minute phone call to see if working together is the right fit for both you and me. I want to help everyone, but I only have time for a select few. Schedule an appointment and select Free Discovery Call.