Is Becoming A Millionaire The Rule Rather Than The Exception?

Dr. Thomas J. Stanley wrote a great book called “The Millionaire Next Door” where he surveyed a bunch of millionaires who are pretty simple, everyday people.  The next door millionaires drove second hand cars, shopped at Walmart, and lived in sub-$500,000 houses which were of course, all paid for.  Part of the reason why Dr. Stanley’s book is such a big hit is because he appeals to a mass audience and shows us we can all be millionaires because there’s nothing really special about them!

Hence, like getting your college degree, is becoming a millionaire by the time you retire fast becoming a rule rather than the exception?  The answer is “yes” if you ask Dr. Stanley and all the next door millionaires.  In fact, they are probably all shaking their heads at those who can’t get there because it’s so easy for them.  However, success skews reality.  If you’re rich, you think everybody is rich or should be rich.

SO EASY, EVEN A KNUCKLEHEAD CAN DO IT!

People are fooling themselves if they think only 6%-9% of all households have a net worth of more than $1 million in America.  The data only tracks what is reported and plenty of wealthy people do not report the full extent of their assets.  As such, I’d venture to guess the percentage of households with at least a net worth of $1 million is more than double the stated levels.

Someone who makes $60,000 a year on average for 30 years earns $1.8 million in gross income in his or her lifetime.  Save just 20% of $1.8 million, or $360,000, and let that money compound at 4% leads to well over a million dollars.  Look at the lower right hand side of this site and you can see the income breakdown of 400 submissions.  It’s clear more than 6-9% make over $85,000/year.  In fact, over 40% of the participants make over $85,000 a year, which means after 30 years, the individual has raked in at least $2,550,000!  It would take a big time knucklehead to not be able to accumulate over a million dollars by age 60.

TIME + SAVINGS + WORK + READING FINANCIAL SAMURAI DAILY = $$$

There is more wealth out there than you can ever imagine.  Right here in San Francisco, 450 workers make over $100,000 a year just from their pensions! That’s just the public sector.  If you look at those working at Apple, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Groupon, LinkedIn, Zynga and eBay, you can pretty much guarantee that a large majority of them will retire millionaires if they aren’t millionaires already.

Let’s not even mention all the doctors, lawyers, venture capitalists, bankers, consultants, firefighters, policemen, and trust fund babies who make tremendous sums of money.  You don’t have to make six figures to get to a million dollars+ in net worth.  You just need to read this site everyday for the next 10-20 years and you’ll be fine!

There is plenty of money running around so why shouldn’t we all have at least a million bucks by the time we are 50, 60, 65 or whenever we want to retire?  We all should!

As someone once said, “Don’t share the wealth.  Go out and get your own!”

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Photo: Condo with pool in Santorini by Sam.

Regards,

Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Rob Bennett says

    Should we scratch our heads and scoff at those who do not achieve this once lofty goal?

    I think we should try to teach them (and thereby ourselves too) how its done.

    I agree with the idea that most of us are capable of achieving levels of wealth beyond what we imagine possible. It’s small ideas that hold us back. We let small thinking restrain our intelligence and creativity in a hundred different ways.

    But the attitude (arrogance) that produces “scoffing” is on my list of small ideas. We can learn wonderful things from people who have made all sorts of mistakes and never achieved much financial success as a result. And those who have done well often draw the wrong conclusions about the true source of their wealth. So we need to be a little skeptical of the tales the “winners” tell.

    If only we cared about money as much as we say we do we would all have a lot more of it. My experience is that what our actions say we really care about most is pride. A good number of us would rather be proud and poor than rich and humble and we all face temptations to take it in that direction.

    Rob
    .-= Rob Bennett´s last blog ..Investing: The New Rules #4 — The Stock Investor’s Weather Report =-.

  2. Little House says

    Funny you should mention this book, I’m currently reading it for the first time. The data Dr. Stanley uncovered, that typical salary earners who know how to budget and save are the ones that become millionaires is definitely eye opening. However, there are some factors that determine who actually become prodigious accumulators of wealth (PAW’s).

    These factors include as not worrying about the “Joneses” or what they think, saving a minimum of 15% of your salary (too many of us struggle with this one, myself included!), investing wisely, having a budget and sticking to it (I’m really quite good at this one, though). Dr. Stanley also pointed out that most people believe that millionaires drive Bentley’s, live in large mansions, and own Rolex’s. Until this believe is squashed, there will be few millionaires.
    .-= Little House´s last blog ..Tuesday Tips, Week 12 =-.

    • admin says

      I think you’ve got the basic concept of the book down pat. And this is what I’m trying to bring out in my post. Anybody can be a millionaire, even a knucklehead can do it! Reminds me of the caveman Geico commercial!

      I have a secret for you…. get motivated! Everytime I see someone driving a $80,000 car, I believe they make $800,000+ a year and is following my 1/10th rule for car buying. I also believe the are all multi-millionaires. I don’t look down on them. I get motivated to try and earn more!
      .-= admin´s last blog ..An Extra Seven Hours A Week =-.

      • Roshawn @ Watson Inc says

        Ha! This is ironic because I typically think the exact opposite. Since I know way too many people refuse to avoid consumer debt, I instinctively think that his person likely has a car payment or a lease that they cannot afford. I think it’s the fact that I listen to too much Dave Ramsey.

        Interestingly, with one friend who keeps a Rolls Royce and a Bentley, I don’t have the
        same feelings. I think it is because I know she is very responsible with her money. Go figure.

  3. FinancialBondage says

    I read that book. Great read. I don’t dream of making a million bucks because odds are it won’t happen. I’d like to make $40k/year. I could live very well on that, with no debt. :)

  4. Nunzio Bruno says

    I think by retirement age that $1million marker is what you should be shooting for. You are right FS after a life time of income generation and the long term trends of financial markets it, on paper, doesn’t look that hard at all. Now I know that life happens and so do unexpected circumstances that affect financial situations. But, if you are making that annual income close to $100,000 then you shouldn’t really have a problem saving. As the years pass and inflation takes a hold of prices that $1million won’t even be enough. I like what @Rob said in an earlier comment as well about teaching people to be better consumers and savers. The other part of it is the psychology of consuming..sometimes people that make over $100,000 are the worst savers because they grow accustomed to a lifestyle that doesn’t involve second hand cars and Wal-Mart.

  5. Money Reasons says

    Within the last year, I’ve re-read “The Millionaire Next Door” just to check my progress. I think the book identifies that it is possible to achieve a million dollars in one’s lifetime.

    Hmmm, you’ve converted me over to believe the percentage is higher than I initially believed! I know a few millionaires, but they always understate their net worth… And for the most part they dress worse than I do…

    Still, it will be tough to get up to a million, if you earn less than $100,000 (unless you marry someone at least making $50,000 in addition to your $100,000). And the reason that it’s tough is because of kids. :)

  6. Everyday Tips says

    I think a lot of it depends on timing. I watched my in-laws wealth erode with the tech bubble and then Lehman brothers.

    I don’t think a million dollars is even close to enough anymore, depending on when you retire. Especially if you do not have a pension.

    I agree with money reasons – those kids sure burn through the money. My kids are not indulged in the least, but they are very expensive. But, very much worth it.

  7. Mike @ Saving Money Today says

    Obviously a million dollars is not what it used to be, though it’s still a good amount of money. I think in the future it will take a lot more than a million to comfortably retire (I’m not convinced it’s enough now). Eventually, we’ll be feeling sorry for all of the people who are ONLY worth a milliion!

  8. INB says

    It’s been ages since I read MND (I agree with the lessons, but find the book extremely dry and boring) does the $1mm his subjects have include house value? If so, assuming we pay off our mortgages, most of us will have a large chunk of that million right there.

  9. Geek says

    I think it’s ‘easy’ to become a millionaire in certain parts of California, and New York City, Seattle, maybe now Atlanta. Cities with industries like the software industry that pay a lot.
    I think you see a lot of millionaires because of where you’re at, and success (of other people!) really does skew your view of reality.

    But hey, I’ll get there someday. I’m doing my 30/30/3 housebuying now, and my 10 year old car can last a while longer. But is it worth it? Time will tell.

    • admin says

      Good point about it being easier to accumulate wealth in certain big cities… that said… is it really? Cost of living is sky high in Manhattan and SF for example. Good thing incomes are that much higher!

      So that’s perhaps one of the keys.. move to a big city and make big bucks!

      Awesome job following the 30/30/3 rule of home buying! It’s definitely worth it.. peace of mind that is.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..The List of Jobs I’d Do For Free Baby! =-.

    • admin says

      Isn’t that the problem then? If you aren’t saving 20% of your money, what on earth are people doing with it all? Blowing it on blow and going clubbing every night after eating toro sashimi?

      I’d venture to guess that most people are save 20% of their annual income with 401K and money set aside. Don’t you?

      Are you telling me you don’t believe you can be a millionaire in your lifetime with the title of your blog?

      Don’t believe in data.. they are all lies, saying consumer don’t save and are in debt to their eyeballs. It’s just media schadenfreude.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..Germany’s Missed Opportunity To Save Greece & Themselves =-.

        • admin says

          But that’s just the thing. We are most people! It’s so easy to say everybody else doesn’t do this and that, but we are everybody else!

          In other words, we are nobody special, and just like everybody else, millionaires now, or millionaires in the making. We are the rule, not the exception.
          .-= admin´s last blog ..The List of Jobs I’d Do For Free Baby! =-.

        • Marcus Baraed says

          Admin, I like the original post, but the logic here has veered off into absurd territory. We can consider ourselves “normal savers/spenders,” if we like, but the numbers don’t back this up.

          Personal savings rates in the U.S. are well documented, and it only takes a few seconds to look them up. The rate in October, 2011 was 3.5%, so clearly most people are not saving 20%. money.cnn.com/2011/11/23/news/economy/savings_rate_income_spending/index.htm research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/data/PSAVERT.txt

          Perhaps saving 20% is the norm for this message board, or your neighborhood, or some other particular demographic, but it doesn’t hold true for “most people.”

  10. Derek Sisterhen | Past Due Radio says

    It all comes back around to what you do with what you have.

    Stanley’s research showed that 80% of all millionaires are first generation wealthy, which means they started with nothing and worked their way up. Other studies have shown that, by profession, doctors and lawyers tend to be some of the worst managers of money. And government reports tell us that 25% of Americans have a negative net worth. All of that is to say that I’m a lot less concerned with how much money someone makes versus what they actually do with it.

    However, following the painfully simple rules of living on less than you make, avoiding debt, and saving money will make just about anyone a millionaire. I met with a young woman recently who was on her way to millionaire status making $30,000 a year. She had no debt and started saving early.

    In Stanley’s book, he found that the millionaires achieved their wealth with a marathon attitude, not a sprint mentality. That’s likely the missing link for most higher-earning Americans. Patience is not a very “American” trait, and yet that’s what these folks possess to reach such great heights.

  11. Stephan says

    i dont think becoming a milionarie is becoming the rule, but it is certainly much more prevelant than studies suggest. the reason it is not even more common is because of the high levels of discipline and self control it requires. most people cant tell themselves not to buy certain items, and society is always pusing new ways to SPEND our money, not save it!

  12. MyFinancialObjectives says

    I fully plan on being 1+ million in total CASH saved by the time I retire. I’m working rather hard to achieve that goal earlier than normal as well. I think that slowly but surely, this is becoming the norm. Especially considering you stated that a lot of people neglected to report a lot of their assets. And yes, I think that people who make of $85,000 a year for more than 30 years are without a doubt knuckle heads if they think that $1+ million is unachievable!
    .-= MyFinancialObjectives´s last blog ..My Cashless Society =-.

  13. Money Funk says

    It is that magical goal, a cool $1 Million. Although, as I put on some years I realize with some decent financial planning on my part + some time for that money to grow…. one million should not be so hard to achieve by my retirement years.

    The Millionaire Women Next Door is a pretty nifty book, too. ;)
    .-= Money Funk´s last blog ..Money Funk goes Comic =-.

  14. Jeremy Johnson says

    All I can say is where can I get me a pension like that? You are talking about some kind of city/government job right? That’s an amazing amount of money, just from a pension!

    Is becoming a millionaire the default setting for all of us?

    –> No – until the amount of debt starts to go down – and by debt I mean frivolous credit card debt and the like, I don’t think a millionaire will be the default setting at all.

    Should we scratch our heads and scoff at those who do not achieve this once lofty goal?

    –> No – we should ask what we can do to educate, inform, and inspire. People are the way they are. It’s a leader’s job to inspire and get people to do more than they are currently doing. If we are scoffing, then we are not being leaders. I would imagine most people on your site Sam have the mentality of a leader. It’s what it takes to ask the kind of questions you are asking and to engage in the discussion you are having.

    Are people who make over $85,000 a year knuckleheads for thinking a $1 million net worth is unachievable?

    –> Short answer yes; long answer no. It’s all about perception and what the person believes. Someone who is making $85,000 a year and not believing they can achieve a $1 million net worth really needs to be educated (i.e. come to this site) and really needs to get their brain bopped a few times. I think a large debt/spending would be the counter to this – that’s the only thing I can see people saying would say $1 million being so difficult to attain.
    .-= Jeremy Johnson´s last blog ..How To Work Harder On Yourself Than On Your Job =-.

    • admin says

      Exactly Jeremy. $100,000++ a year in pension money for police officers and firefighters. It’s fantastic!

      I agree, debt is what ways us down. It’s like putting sandbags on Usain Bolt during his Olympic gold medal winning runs. Will affect progress!

  15. traineeinvestor says

    This is all a bit theoretical.

    A person who graduates with a large amount of student debt, experiences a lay off or two, a period of unemployment, lives in a high cost/high tax jurisdiction and has a non-working spouse + children is in reality going to struggle to save 20% a year consistently for 30 years even without any misfortunes like divorce, sinking a significant amount of capital into a home that depreciates by 40% etc etc

    So, yes it can be done (and I have done it) but it is not as easy as an overly simplistic calculation suggests.

    • admin says

      Hi Traineeinvestor – Of course you’ve done it and are a millionaire. As I point out in my post, a lot of people have a lot of money, so people are kidding themselves if they think they can’t become millionaires with even a modest income. Cheers, Sam

    • Money Funk says

      I was just thinking about that last night… I think its harder to pay down debt than build wealth. And getting out of debt…. seems like it’s taking for’ever!

  16. Mike Hunt says

    Sam,

    Let’s look more into your example- someone making $85k a year or $2.55 million over 30 years. Their biggest likely expenses are taxes and housing. Taxes (federal, state, local, FICA, Medicare, Unemployment) work out to be 40 – 45% of their income. Let’s use 40% so that is $1.02 million for taxes, leaving $1.53 million remaining.

    Second let’s assume this person buys a house and for the sake of argument buys a house on year 1 with a 30 year mortgage. The person lives in an area with good paying employment so housing is expensive, the person buys a house at 4X annual income or $340K, a modest house considering there are many medium sized places going upwards of $600 – 700K. over a 30 year mortgage this person will end up paying around $650k in interest. So that leaves the total 30 year net income down to $880K.

    I guess this person has a car throughout this time – fixture $1K per month for depreciation, fuel, insurance, repairs – this would be for a modest car- over 30 years this works out to be $360K- so they are down to $520K now. What about health insurance, food, and fun money- even if this works out to be $10k per year or $800 per month that’s $300k over 30 years. What about children?

    The person is down to $220K now.

    So I don’t think it’s dead easy to become a millionaire making $85k a year, it takes a lot of work and focus.

    I could reach $1M very early simply because I started making $145K a year at age 27 and then jumped up to $400K a year by age 33, if I were still making $80k a year it would take many more years of effort to reach $1 M.

    That said even having $1M in cash is a nice reserve by all means but it really doesn’t buy much in the way of luxury- that takes $10 M or $20 M. That’s the irony, $1M is a lot of money but in the scheme of things it’s very tiny as well.

    -Mike

    • admin says

      Hi Mike – In ‘Fortunes, Fortunes, Everywhere” in this post, I highlight the point that everyone is pretty well off and makes good money, including yourself. A lot of people 28 years old out of top b-schools were making 200K/yr, so I totally believe you. Hence the statistic that only 6-9% of people are millionaires is way understated.

      Second, 40-45% effective tax rate? Run the numbers again and see what the effective all in tax rate is for someone making $85,000. It’s more like 18%.

      Finally, even with only $220,000, you can get close to $1million over 30 years assuming a 4% return on your money every year, and spreading that money out.

    • FinEngr says

      Mike –

      You can appreciate that making the example dynamic is similar to the time-value of money used in determination of engineering projects & future profits.

      Another way to look at this would be the absolute value. Since cars & houses are technically choices, if people were to include their: education, cars, homes, & then everything else – most would be much closer to the $1M mark.

      What then would be worthwhile to look at is not how debt impacts our net worth, but interest on those obligations.

      Side Question #1: Would you agree that graphing your take-home (Y-axis) vs. salary (X-axis) would show a relatively shallow slope since you’re taxed more at a higher income?

      Side Question #2: What type of engineer are you???

  17. Mike Hunt says

    Sam,

    Using your example of someone making $85k a year for 30 years, yes this does work out to $2.55M. However this person must pay taxes (40% of income for Federal, State, local taxes, FICA, Medicare, unemployment) so after this about $1.5 M remains.

    Let’s assume the person buys a house with a 30 year fixed mortgage on year 1. They buy a place for 5X their income because housing is expensive where good paying jobs are plentiful. This works out to be a $425K house, over the life of a 30 year mortgage the person will pay around $800k in interest (realize it depends on the interest rate but this is roughly the case at 6%). Now the earnings over 30 years is down to 700K.

    The person has a modest car which averages $1k per month for depreciation, repairs, maintenance, fuel and insurance or $300k over 30 years- now down to $400k.

    Person still has to eat, buy clothes, heat his house, pay insurance for the house, phone / cable / internet and entertainment. Kids and pets are extra.

    Seems hard to save $1M just by saving salary… that’s why you need growth investments.

    But $1M over 30 years on an 85K / yr salary is very challenging. Possible yes but not a no-brainer.

    The biggest sources of losing your money are taxes and interest on big ticket items (like a house!) Financing cars and appliances are just plain insane.

    Sadly $1M isn’t even enough money to feel ‘rich’, just enough to provide a cushion against disasters with a frugal lifestyle…. need 10 or 20 M to fit the modern definition of ‘rich’!

    -Mike

  18. Mike Hunt says

    Hi Sam,

    I just ran the numbers for the federal tax burden for someone making $85k a year using the below link:

    Effective federal rate is 20.6% + 6.25% Social Security (taxed up to 105K in income) + 6% state income tax (depends on the state so I’m making a guess here) + 2% Medicare tax plus unemployment (0.5%) plus any local taxes- so that works out to 35%, not too far off from what I calculated.

    In the example the person doesn’t have $220K on year 1 so cannot get a return on the total amount for 30 years…

    I got really lucky to get higher paying jobs early in my career. When I started my career as a Engineer with a Masters to now per the following trend:

    Age Total compensation

    23 $42K (Engineer I in a big multi-national company)
    25 $68K (made my first job change from a Sr Engineer to a Manager)
    26 $90K (got promoted to a Sr. Mgr at the same company, growing fast)
    27 $143K (made my second job change as a Director at a small start up)
    28 $25K (start up went out of business and out of work for nearly a year!)
    29 $115K (made my third job change to work as a Director in a new company)
    32 $142K (still in the same company as a Director)
    33 $280K (made my 4th job change to work for a competitor as an MD in Asia)
    34 $400k (after my two year contract got laid off from the company)
    35 $260k (made my 5th job change as CEO of a small company)
    37 $345k est. (current age, still at the same company in the capacity of CEO)

    So you need to make a good salary progression while weathering the ups & downs and I think it’s getting harder to achieve that in this global economic environment. In fact if I was just born 10-12 years later I would be facing much greater hardship. I must admit that my timing was quite lucky.

    -Mike

    • admin says

      Howdy Mike – Nice calculator you found there. I guess if you add in all the other taxes besides Federal and State, it’s pretty shocking huh? Definitely not 40-45%, but not 20% either, unless you live in one of the 7 no income tax states.

      However, anybody with some motivation will be able to write off a good amount of income. A home mortgage interest for example would get this examples taxes down quite a bit. It’s not hard to have a 20% effective tax rate at all post all the deductions.

      Nice details on your age and income! It definitely proves that my example of $60,000/yr or $85,000 for 30 years is conservative. But, I’m a conservative kind of guy and keep the income constant and still show that amassing $1mil liquid over 30 years is easy.

      You may say you got lucky, but luck has very little to do with it. It’s hard work and a natural progression practically everyone experiences. Maybe not to over $300K, but progression nonetheless.

      My question to you is, will you feel less special if everybody is becoming a millionaire?
      .-= admin´s last blog ..The List of Jobs I’d Do For Free Baby! =-.

      • Mike Hunt says

        Sam,

        If everybody is a millionaire it definitely is less special being one, cars would be costing $300k then.

        Take a look at Singapore, people make more $$$ but houses are $4-5 million, hotel rooms are $400 a night, etc.

        In China workers got a 20% raise this year but food went up more than that.

        As CEO of a company of 700 people I have the highest salary.

        Mike

  19. Kim | Money and Risk says

    Everyone is capable of hitting $1Million. It’s about how hard do you want it?

    Children are a huge cost but it is still doable if you focus and force yourself to have the discipline.

    The key that people need to focus on is that you need to pay yourself first and be aware of your spending. I don’t mean to live so cheaply that you have no joy in life but to make conscious choices. It is possible to learn the discipline even if you are really lazy. You just fool yourself into good behaviors.

    People are so focused on things like trying to get an extra .25% on their $2,000 savings account that they miss where their biggest controllable costs are or how they can make more income.

    My concern is more that for some part of the country $1Million will not be enough for retirement when you consider that you need to generate enough salary (from your savings) to pay yourself for 50 years with inflation factor in.

    • admin says

      That is a valid concern, which is why we need to pay off our mortgages by the time we retire to minimize living expenses.

      The great thing about living in expensive places like NYC or SF is that after you accumulate your wealth, you can move practically ANYWHERE and lower your expenses!

  20. Darwin's Money says

    I remember reading that book as a kid – my dad got it for me. It was inspiring, even if a bit cliche and generic in hindsight. People (Americans at least) focus so much on how much they make and so little (or ignore) what they keep that while a substantial portion of Americans SHOULD be millionaires (even in today’s equivalent dollars) someday, they won’t be. It’s not a rant against spenders, it’s just the way it is. Societal pressures to keep up with the Joneses, low self-esteem driving large purchases, dumb financial decisions…everyone’s got a story.

    It really just comes down to having goals and executing them – and not being the victim of some exogenous event that you had no control over like cancer or a brain injury or whatever. We fully intend on fully funding our kids’ colleges, retiring at a decent age and having no worries financially in retirement by living responsibly now (which means not having the same house and cars our friends do). It’s gotta be a priority.

    • admin says

      I’m impressed you read MND as a kid Darwin!

      Is there really societal pressures to keep up with the Joneses? I feel I lost that desire long ago senior year in high school.

      Glad you’re thinking of your kids first!

  21. Charlie says

    Money doesn’t define us, but it definitely can give us stability and a secure, less stressful lifestyle if we are disciplined in managing it. Sometimes people are just born rich, but they can always choose whether or not to flaunt it. The richest girl I went to school with was the most plain Jane in my class b/c that’s what she was comfortable with and she didn’t feel she had to prove anything to anyone. We all have different lifestyles and different monetary needs and goals and that’s what makes the world work, creates jobs, and motivates many people.

    • admin says

      You’re right, money doesn’t define us. It just helps facilitate our goals. I want to be the poor looking, plain multi millionaire. I think that would be nice!

  22. Forest says

    The one mill figure has been floating around for so long and doesn’t mean what it used to. These days it is far more obtainable but its also not as rich as it sounds.

    I think everyone should aspire to have a million in the bank… It’s a nice comfy safety net that is for sure. I like the idea of the millionaire next door too…. No need to show the world your sense.

    • admin says

      Exactly, which means all the more why being at least a millionaire is becoming a default setting b/c it doesn’t mean as much anymore!

  23. financialwizardess says

    I disagree with your hypothesis and here’s why…

    “Look at the lower right hand side of this site and you can see the income breakdown of 400 submissions. It’s clear more than 6-9% make over $85,000/year.”
    Anyone reading financial blogs is assumed to have a higher income than those who do not. I’d argue your demographic is not a good cross section of America. In fact, if you aren’t making a lot of money, you might not be motivated to click the button to even submit your income, whereas someone who’s doing well is excited to report it. A better gage of American income is a poll that is both random and mandatory (aggregated tax return data, possibly). Your poll is neither random or mandatory.

    “Save just 20% of $1.8 million, or $360,000, and let that money compound at 4% leads to well over a million dollars.”
    It is much easier to save 20% of your income once your basic needs are met. So therefore, it is easy for someone making $85k+ to save more than someone scraping by on $40k due to them having more dispensable income. However, my experience tells me that there are many people taking in more than $85k that feel no need to save because they have a good income. They feel invincible. I work with several people with that mindset.

    With that said, I DO believe it is “easy” to become a millionaire. I just don’t believe that folks are doing it.

    • admin says

      You think only people with higher income read about financial blogs? Tell that to the 40% who make less than 65K a year who filled out the survey. I would say less financially secure people read financial blogs b/c they are looking for help on how to improve their finances!

      Funny how different we think.

  24. Igotadose says

    I, too, recently read MND and have some couple concerns with it.
    It’s a compendium of data and research that was started around 1976 and published in 1996. During that time, the market was stable but growing, had a couple smallish downturns (1973 springs to mind), but otherwise wasn’t as wild as it has been since 2000 with the .com implosion, and the 2008 CDS crash from which we haven’t fully recovered. So, I don’t think its as easy for the ‘millionaires’ described in the book, to be as easily successful in 2010.

    For one thing, the safe investments of today are pathetic: 2% and less if you’re lucky.
    Further, the cost of everything then, was much less than it is now. Just for grins, I looked at a tech. college course description for becoming an auto mechanic. $10k for 1 years training!
    And we all know that tuition is outrageous pretty much at any reasonably good school – 50k isn’t unheard of anymore. The millionaires of the MND era could not conceive of those kinds of numbers.

    Since 1996, wages have been relatively flat, too, in real dollars, but costs of education, energy, housing have all spiraled. When I finished college (1984), I had zero student debt and a good job lined up. Today, that’s the exception, rather than the rule. With outsourcing, the rise of the BRICs and other countries (have you heard of the CIVETS yet?), the drift of corporations from having some slight concern for society to totally avaricious stock price prostitutes, it’s likely to me if Stanley and Danko did a 2010 MND, (or perhaps the “MultiMillionaire next door”), the percentage of society in that group would be less, the percentage that inherited the $$ higher, and the prospects not nearly as sanguine for people wanting to become millionaires.

    And, as long as population keeps increasing in the US through the high birth rate (esp. for a Western country), this can’t improve.

    About the only useful lessons from the MND I took, were to be frugal, spend serious time planning your finances, and get out of the consumeristic/keep-up-with-the-joneses lifestyle with which we’re bombarded by media, government and industry

  25. Aury (Thunderdrake) says

    Frugality certainly goes a long way. To paraphrase an author, the poor buy their luxuries first, and the rich buy their luxuries last.

    Personally, I don’t see being a millionaire as a real yardstick to someone’s wealth though. I always figured the income statement on a monthly basis was a far more accurate measurement of someone’s overall wealth pattern.

    • Financial Samurai says

      I think a lot of folks would disagree with you regarding a monthly income statement vs. one’s networth.

      A healthy monthly income statement is certainly a great start, but it’s how much you keep.

  26. Darren says

    Nice post. Becoming a millionaire is definitely achievable for most people. But I’m not sure if it’s the default setting, because I think many people may not think they can become millionaires. Consumerism and materialism drags their net worth down.

    But it all comes back to spending habits and lifestyle. Even if you make $30,000 (which should be feasible with a college degree) and work for 40 years (standard time from 25 to 65), you’ll amass $1.2 million! Of course this doesn’t take into account taxes and expenses, but the point is that you’ll come across lots of money in your lifetime. If you manage it wisely, you should be able to reach a million without extreme effort, if that is your goal.

    And if you make over $85k and think $1 million is hard to achieve, I definitely would have to question your thought process and look at your lifestyle.

  27. Mneiae says

    “If you’re rich, you think everybody is rich or should be rich.”

    True. It’s something that I’ve had to deal with since leaving my hometown. When everyone came home for winter break, I went to hang out with my high school friends. One of them talked to me about the major culture shock that we were hit with when we went to college. Apparently, at most Midwestern colleges, people’s parents AREN’T all millionaires. It’s a refreshing experience, but a strange one.

  28. Darwin's Money says

    I think the term “Millionaire” itself is becoming a bit of an anachronism over time (the book is pretty old so back then, that was a lot of money). A 20-something starting out their career now that hopes to hit that $1 Million mark by retirement will fall woefully short since in present value, that’s only about $200-$300K. We all know none of us could retire on that kind of money today at 60 and expect it to last more than a couple years, let alone 23-27 years (on average male, female).

    I think the premise of the book is sound (my father made me read it as a teenager and the lessons have stuck with me ever since), but the term itself is outdated. I guess maybe, “Financially independent” or some other phrase may be more appropriate if contemplating it today.

  29. Untemplater says

    Being smart with money is more important than the amount of cash one has in the bank. A million dollars in the bank isn’t great if you have 3 million in debt! I think it’s also important not to drastically increase your expenses as your income goes up which I’ve seen a lot of people do. I don’t think making a million should be everyone’s target because a lot of us don’t need that much money to be successful or happy. Having an emergency fund, paying down debt, and saving and planning for retirement are goals I think everyone should have though.

  30. marissa says

    It’s odd- I was thinking about this same topic about my parents income this weekend. My mother wouldn’t consider herself a millionaire by any stretch, but being a high ranking government employee she has made more than that over the last 19 years. Earning the money isn’t as hard as people assume, its properly allocating it and allowing it to grow and be useful when you need it. There are tons of people who make quite a bit in terms of income, but at the end of the day have nothing to show for it because they spent it on shoes, purses and cars, and vacations.

  31. 20's Finances says

    Interesting timing on this considering my guest post at Evan’s blog. Like I said that, I will probably reach 1 million in my lifetime (unless I get hit by a bus), but my aim is not a lump sum – it is a cash flow. Much better approach if you ask me. Yet, that isn’t the question you are asking… :) No – considering the people I know hesitate to save money (instead of buying new phones, new useless crap, etc., no. People will be lucky to scrape by in retirement with what little money they have and social security (or what’s left of it).

    • Financial Samurai says

      Gonna go check Evan’s site out.

      Glad you are in agreement that you will get to 1mil+ in your lifetime. Just don’t get that second card you write about in your post! And if you do, 1/10th rule!

  32. My University Money says

    I think the main limiting force is our need for consumer goods. Retailers add a substantial profit margin onto goods, and to constantly be in a state of wanting more material things can quickly eat into your savings rates. Most people are so used brainwashed, that they believe they can never reach the vaunted “millionaire” status; consequently, they spend their money on short-term luxuries like booze, presents, trips abroad etc. This kills any compounding. I would also argue that student loans, and buying “too much house” are key contributors do decreased savings rates during the time period where they would do the most good.

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