How to be the Next Millionaire Next Door

Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

If you want to be wealthy, live below your means.” — Paul Merriman

A few days ago, Thomas Stanley, author of “The Millionaire Next Door,” died in a car accident at the age of 71. I met Mr. Stanley at the Atlanta Investment Conference a few years ago (hosted by Martin Truax, a well-known stockbroker and money manager with Raymond James).

We plan to dedicate a room to Mr. Stanley at FreedomFest.

Why? Because more than any other financial expert, Stanley dispelled the notion that the rich are bad people, that they flaunt their wealth, engage in white-collar crime, divorce then marry trophy wives and don’t pay their fair share in taxes.

Stanley’s research proved otherwise. In fact, most millionaires are model citizens.

According to “The Millionaire Next Door” and the sequel, “The Millionaire Mind,” wealthy American millionaires are good people. Here are the results of his survey of more than 1,000 super-millionaires (people who earn $1,000,000 a year or more):

  • They live far below their means and have little or no debt. Most pay off their credit cards every month; 40% have no home mortgage at all.
  • Millionaires are frugal — they prepare shopping lists, resole their shoes and save a lot of money — but they are not misers; they live balanced lives.
  • 97% are homeowners; they tend to live in fine homes in older neighborhoods. (Only 27% have ever built their “dream home.”)
  • 92% are married; only 2% are currently divorced. Millionaire couples have less than one-third the divorce rate of non-millionaire couples. The typical couple in the millionaire group has been married for 28 years and has three children. Nearly 50% of the wives of the super-rich do not work outside the home.
  • Most are first-generation millionaires who became wealthy as business owners or executives; most did not inherit their wealth.
  • Almost all are well educated; 90% are college graduates and 52% hold advanced degrees; however, few graduated at the top of their class — most were “B” students. They learned two lessons from college: discipline and tenacity.
  • Most live balanced lives; they are not workaholics. 93% listed socializing with family members as their #1 activity; 45% play golf. (Stanley didn’t survey whether they were avid book readers — too bad.)
  • 52% attend church at least once a month; 37% consider themselves very religious.
  • They share five basic ingredients to success: integrity, discipline, social skills, a supportive spouse and hard work.
  • They contribute heavily to charity, church and community activities (64%).
  • Their #1 worry: taxes! Their average annual federal tax bill: $300,000. The top one-tenth of 1% of U.S. income earners pays 14.7% of all income taxes collected!
  • “Not one millionaire had anything nice to say about gambling.” Okay, but his survey also showed that 33% played the lottery at least once during the year!
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Thus, we see how the super-upper-income families of this nation are not the ones contributing to crime, welfare, divorce, child abuse and a spendthrift society. But they are paying a lot of taxes and making a lot of contributions to help solve social problems.

Although Stanley did not cover this issue, I’ve also seen studies indicating that higher-income individuals live longer, on average five to ten years longer, than the average American (76 years) and enjoy better health, fitness and quality of life. Higher-income individuals aren’t the ones causing Medicare to go bankrupt.

Stanley had been criticized for emphasizing the Calvinist lifestyle of self-denial. For example, New York Times columnist Thomas Frank complained of Stanley’s “militantly Calvinist attitude toward consumption” in which “saving and investing are ends in themselves, evidence of moral virtue, while spending is empty dissipation.”

And Nasim Taleb wrote, “I see no special heroism in accumulating money, particularly if, in addition, the person is foolish enough to not even try to derive any tangible benefit from the wealth…. I certainly do not see the point of becoming [a millionaire] if I were to adopt Spartan (even miserly) habits and live in my starter house.”

But that’s not what Stanley advocated. He was a devoted follower of “The Richest Man in Babylon,” who believed in living liberally, but always within your means.

After all, Thomas Stanley did die in a car accident driving a Corvette, not normally a symbol of asceticism.

Instead of bashing the rich, let’s salute them. If indeed the wealthy are such good citizens, as Stanley’s work suggests, our goal should not aim to impoverish the rich, but to enrich the poor. That is our goal at Forecasts & Strategies.

Let the Debate Begin: Is the American Dream Alive or Dead?

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Can you still become a millionaire next door? Is the American dream still alive — to get a fulfilling job, marry and raise a family, buy a home and retire comfortably? We’re going to debate this issue at this year’s FreedomFest.

During the past week, I’ve spent hours putting together the entire list of speakers, panels and debates for this year’s big show in Las Vegas. You will be amazed at what we have planned. What’s FreedomFest all about? Everything! Read about the conference lineup so far.

Nailed It! A Tale of Two Comedies on Broadway

I have both a positive review and a negative review this week. Last week, I was in New York to see John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, participate in a debate on healthy living (John is a famous vegan who opposes meat in diets) and also attend two performances on Broadway.

On the positive side, I saw a revival, “On the 20th Century,” a musical comedy written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (“Singin’ in the Rain”) that first appeared on Broadway in 1932, way before foul language became all the rage. The musical starred Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth and it featured nonstop laughter, dancing and singing. I was in heaven. It brought back memories of the times when almost all plays and musicals could be performed on Broadway without having to worry about offensive language.

On the negative side, the previous night I watched Matthew Broderick and Martin Short in a new comedy, “It’s Only a Play.” It actually is a pretty funny satire about Broadway stage actors, directors and producers, but the play was peppered with four-letter words throughout that sadly have infiltrated most modern plays and musicals these days. (“Jersey Boys” is a perfect example.)

When people wonder why great musicals are re-introduced to new generations of theatergoers and find receptive audience members, consider my pleasurable experience of watching a well-performed classic revival. Bravo!

In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my e-letter column from last week on Eagle Daily Investor making a case for high-dividend-paying investments. I also invite you to comment in the space provided below my commentary.

Upcoming Appearances

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O Top Ten Debates Announced at This Year’s FreedomFest, July 8-11, Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas: We have a great lineup of debates this year, starting with the Krugman-Moore debate. We also have: Peter Thiel vs John Mackey on “Monopoly Power! Has Competition Been Oversold?”… Michael Shermer (Scientific American) vs Congressman Allen West on “Are We in Moral Progress or Decline?”… Ian Morris (Stanford University) vs Angela Keaton (Antiwar.com) on “War, What is it Good For?”… Michael Huemer (University of Colorado — Boulder) vs Mark Skousen (Chapman University) on “Is Government Really Necessary?”… Dinesh D’Souza (“What’s So Great about God”) vs the late great Christopher Hitchens (“God is not Great,” whose views we will try sharing via “séance”) on “Does the Afterlife Exist?”… Colin Campbell (“Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition”) vs Wayne Gorsek (CEO, DrVita) on “Are Vitamins Good for You?”… Gregory Clark (University of California — Berkeley) vs Alexander Green (Oxford Club) on “Is the American Dream Dead?”… Richard Crepeau (University of Central Florida) vs Marc Eliot (Hollywood’s #1 biographer) on “The New National Pastime: Football or Film?”… Yaron Brook (Ayn Rand Institute) vs Ziad Abdelnour (Blackhawk Partners) on “Israeli-Arab Peace Accord in Oil, Gold and Stocks!”… plus “The Fed on Trial” with prosecuting attorney Robert Murphy (Mises Institute) vs defending attorney Jeff Madrick (“The Case for Big Government”), with Steve Forbes and John Allison (Cato Institute) as star witnesses and our Judge Kennedy (Fox Business). Only at FreedomFest — visit www.freedomfest.com, or call toll-free 1-855-850-FREE.

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Investment U conference, March 11-14, 2015, St. Petersburg, Florida: “A New Golden Age” is the theme for this year’s IU conference at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort. Speakers include Alex GreenMarc LichtenfeldDave FesslerFrank HolmesBryon KingKarim RahemtullaMichael CheckanRich Checkan and Martin Truax. To register, go to www.investmentuconference.com, or call 1-800-926-6575.

I want to invite you on a cruise, Sept. 13-20, with Newt GingrichChris Versace and me, among others. Come spend seven fabulous days aboard the six-star luxury liner, the Crystal Symphony. We will travel from New York to Montreal with a roster of noted historical scholars, political pundits and renowned market experts who will share their insights and perspectives on the current environment in Washington and Wall Street. For further information, including how to sign up, call 800-435-4534 or visit www.PoliticsAndYourPortfolio.com.

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