The Millionaire Next Door

themillionairenextdoor

Although this book is outdated in many ways and there has been much criticism about the authors’ research methods, it is still well worth reading. I certainly wish I had read it back when I was in high school or college.

The title may give the impression that the book is geared toward materialistic people who are obsessed with getting rich and living the high life, but that’s not at all what it’s about. In fact, the authors’ main point is that most people who accumulate a lot of wealth are not at all interested in living the high life. Rather, they are thrifty and live below their means, with the result that they often don’t appear wealthy at all. For example, your next door neighbor who manages a maid service — not a very glamorous-sounding occupation — could be surprisingly rich. By contrast, a large percentage of people who appear to be rich — people living in fancy houses, driving expensive cars, wearing designer clothes — don’t actually have much saved up at all.

The authors were surprised to make this discovery, and that is what inspired them to write the book. For years, they have compared the behavior of people who are successful at building or maintaining wealth with those who are not successful. Using elementary statistical analysis, they identify key habits and attitudes that enable people to accumulate wealth — even if they don’t have a particularly high salary. Thus, even if you earn a teacher’s salary (as I do), you can still hope to retire comfortably and be a relatively wealthy teacher if you manage your spending and investments well. It does help, of course, to have a large salary, but with bad spending habits you can still end up accumulating nothing. (The authors do recommend choosing your occupation wisely.)

The habits that they recommend are very practical. For example, you should keep track of all your expenses so that you know how much you spend each month and year on housing, food, entertainment, etc. Then make a budget and stick to it (or create a false sense of scarcity by stowing away a big percentage of your earnings before you even think about spending anything). Invest time and money in financial planning and research. And very importantly, invest your savings in stocks or other equity, making it your goal to have more of your financial growth come from growth of investments than from taxable wages.

Overall, the authors present sound principles for building wealth, and they offer compelling evidence for the effectiveness of those principles. They provide many interesting anecdotes that make the book fun to read most of the time, as well as basic statistical analysis of survey results. Again, although their methods may not be “scientifically rigorous,” the main ideas are basically sound. I highly recommend the book, especially to young people who are just getting started in their careers — regardless of how much money they expect to make.

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