The Millionaire Next Door: How the Rich Manage Their Finances

This article touches on three of the main financial concepts that millionaires seem to share. Most are frugal, at least in some sense of the word. Instead of buying expensive things that are seldom used, they rent as needed. Most millionaires do own a home, though often use the equity to leverage investments, because borrowing against your home today has such a low rate of interest. Many have a mortgage and use it as a tax advantage. Retirement is the third focus of millionaires. Most do not want to live longer than their money, nor do they want to be forced to liquidate investments that incur penalties in their old age because they have less income.

It appears that millionaires who find long-term success, continue a lifetime of the millionaire mindset that capitalizes on strategic planning, creativity, whole-brain thinking, advisers, and continual investing. They look for opportunities that allow more time to work, stay healthy, and never stop learning. Few declare they don't get it, so they don't bother. They learn, observe, and figure it out. Millionaires are not smarter than everyone else, they are just more committed to the lifestyle. The lifestyle of progressively earning more money.

Personally every millionaire has his own opinion. In his book, The Frugal Millionaire, Jeff Lehman interviewed 70 millionaires who shared personal stories and beliefs, with the agreement that Lehman use only their initials. It reveals that millionaires have some definite ideas about becoming, and staying, wealthy. This article will expound upon those ideas.

Thinking Frugally - What does that really mean?

Millionaires did not get to where they are by being extravagant. Their temperate thinking habits came from a disciplined mindset. Earning money and enjoying the journey on the road to earning wealth is difficult. But when it comes to spending, we are so ready to whip out the credit cards and spend, spend, spend. We end up spending what will take us a year or more to earn. That is a hopeless situation and fills one with dread, despair, and hopelessness. How do you end that kind of merry-go-round? You know the answer to that. You jump off that merry-go-round and take the time to develop the thinking of a millionaire.

Most millionaires enjoy what money will buy. However, they spend very carefully and with an appreciation of the value of what they purchase. Spending time with family, travel, and contributing to a worthy cause are often cited as the top three areas for parting with money, because those add a quality to life that has more meaning than owning stuff. On the road to gaining wealth, a person pays attention to money earned, money spent, and what the things owned are costing. Those with many millions or billions are more able to maintain the lifestyle of their choice by spending more, but for the emerging millionaire, that is not the case. Unless a millionaire was handed his wealth, he will be aware of every penny, ever percent of interest, and every wasteful activity in his life. Amassing large sums of money is not gathered by paychecks alone. It is attained from being economical and wise investing along with the paycheck.

It's been said, "If you've got it, flaunt it." Most millionaires don't need to flaunt it. They are content and fulfilled within themselves and have little need to let the ego lead his way. Entrepreneurs have learned that nothing is a sure thing. If you manage your money effectively, it can support you and your family for a lifetime. If not, you start over. That in itself is a motivation to spend cautiously. Studies show that most millionaires shop bargain stores, just like the rest of the population. Walmart, Costco, Target, and J.C. Penny's work just fine for them. The rich who intend to stay rich don't necessarily own new expensive cars, live in mansions, or throw money around lightly to amuse themselves. They've developed a life with values that transcend the need for showing off, bragging behaviors, or ego trips. Those who have not, often end in a bad place. The rich who intend to stay rich also don't live with an attitude that they are better than others. You can read about people like that every day in the paper, especially in Hollywood. They tend to think they should not be required to follow the same laws, be respectful, or care about the rest of us. It is a way of thinking that will eventually backfire.

Warren Buffet is a study in frugalness. He has been interviewed and written about over and over, partly because he is such an amazing role model for those wanting to become wealthy. Buffett continues to live in Omaha, NE in the house he bought in 1958 for a little over $31,000. He has stated that he loves McDonald's hamburgers and cherry coke. At Berkshire Hathaway, which is his dream job, he continues to take a $100,000. salary and lives on that amount. He keeps track of every dime that he has, and knows exactly where it goes. He knows what everything in his life costs him to have and maintain, and he refuses to own things that drain his bank account. He says he values his job, his family, and continued learning.

Looking at Buffet's life is a study in contrast from what most think a millionaire's life should be like. He has said if most of us would stop up the outflow of money that leads here and there, with no accountability, we would be on our way to amassing our own wealth. Buffet cites the biggest problem young people get into is credit card debt. If you don't have it in the bank, don't spend it.

Millionaires Think Owning a Home Is Important

Millionaires in America own their own homes. There are two styles of thought about that. One group uses their home as a line of credit to finance investments that they feel they can't pass up, but their money is tied up elsewhere. It's important to note here that investing money in diverse assets is a good way to work on long-term growth and a way to make sure you will have enough money for your chosen lifestyle after you are unable to work; however, investments usually require the money to be held in the account for so long, or you pay large penalties. You have to know what you are doing as well as use advisers.

Real estate can be a good investment, though, like everything else, it can drop in value and the markets can make you wait a long time to realize any growth. Having a paid-for home is a nice asset to have. Knowing you have a place to spend your golden years, and you've taken care to maintain that home, takes a lot of your plate. The other side to that is, for many millionaires, having a large mortgage is a tax benefit they want. Depending upon the cost differentiation between what the mortgage cost you, and the tax write-off will be your deciding factor.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Habits of Millionaires course?

Diverting for the moment to a small discussion of taxes, an accountant is necessary to help you manage any spending associated with your work to claim at tax time. Job costs continue to be a source to lower your taxable income and you need to use everything that can legally be used to save money.

Think About Investing

Getting back to Warren Buffet, he was educated and learned about investing in the financial sector. He made his millions from investments, and his billions from re-investing what he made from that. Investing is a way to wealth, but you have to know what you are doing. There are day traders who do nothing but sit home and study the markets and trade on the whim of the markets. That is a full-time job and you rarely make a million. You can make a living if you are good at it, but not millions. To make millions in the stocks, bonds, or real estate investing, a person must diversify to withstand the ups and downs of the market. Unless you simply enjoy spending all of your time watching the markets and being in the financial business, hire a certified financial planner, an accountant, and an attorney to handle it for you. If that is your passion, then you may just enjoy the ride. It still requires a team to keep the investments balanced correctly, and capital gains from investments are in the lowest taxed bracket of all things taxable.

The common number of advisers in today's markets is two or three -- and most use at least three. One of those investment advisers is a financial planner who works up a long-term plan that will support retirement, the education of children, insurance for losses, and other financial issues that appear. This person works all this out and will update you a couple of times a year, so you know where you are and where you are going. The accountant maintains figures needed for tax time and keeps the financial planner up on changing tax laws. Both are full time careers. On top of that, an attorney is good to have on retainer for the adviser and the accountant to work with, as needed, and for estate planning.

Remember one of the important parts to becoming and staying a millionaire is strategic planning, prefaced by strategic thinking. Don't skip this in any part of your life, especially with money management. Experts agree that everyone has specific financial needs to support them through struggles that can come out of nowhere. Each of us should have an emergency fund that will support us through three to six months without income. We should each have a budget, follow it, and it should have spending controlled to accommodate for the emergency savings and investing. Entrepreneurs are very forward thinking and are always looking for the next big thing, so be prepared with some funds that can also be quickly liquidated.

A few things to think about when investing: Stay away from fads and anything that explodes quickly. If you are in it for the explosion, you might make some money; however, for most, it is the explosion that captures our attention -- and by that time, the dust is beginning to settle and it may not be the right thing to do.


In summary, there are a few do's and don'ts when thinking about how to manage finances and investments like a millionaire. Don't invest in what you don't understand. Know and learn about every place you are putting your money. Know what the past performance in that area has been. Talk to others for more opinions and take time to think. If you don't have time to think about it, then don't do it. Do know your tolerance for risk. Don't put money in a risky venture if you know you will lose sleep, your blood pressure will soar, or it will cause anxiety. Do know why you choose an investment. Maybe it has a history of great management or you see it as being undervalued. Do diversify. By spreading your wealth across different markets you protect yourself from total loss if one takes a nosedive.

Warren Buffet says to take everything you make in your investments and re-invest it. If you decide to invest in a risky investment, take what you make and put it into safer places and continue to use that same amount in the risky investment. Don't overextend your investments or your spending but do save for your kids or your grandchildren's education, and for emergencies. Know how to make tax breaks work for you. Don't make big outlandish purchases. If you feel like driving a nice sports car one weekend, rent it. The cost of renting will be so much less than owning, paying insurance, or maintaining it over time. Depreciation is another consideration. You can also rent jewelry, high end accessories and even clothes. Get over the need to own things. It is usually and ego trip and not part of sustaining your millionaire mindset.

Most millionaires list investments, a home, and education or continued learning as the three most important parts in staying wealthy. Learning can be college, but it can also mean studying investments and keeping up on where your money is, and how the earning is progressing.

Example: Tammy's passion was real estate. She decided to purchase properties and rent them out. She was making headway and growing her business, learning to make repairs on her own, and being a good landlord. Then Tammy became ill. The illness compounded some mistake she'd made in her business that she was not aware of. First of all, she'd failed to get health insurance and her medical bills were mounting. She had no one who worked with her to take over and run the business for her. She began to lose money, so decided she would have to sell several of her holdings to meet her bills.

The housing market had dropped dramatically since Tammy began her journey, and she had to sell at a loss. She was devastated both physically, emotionally, and financially. Tammy eventually filed for bankruptcy.

Consider this:

1. Many millionaires will not purchase anything new. They get their clothes second hand, buy used cars, and shop eBay and craig's list. With the Internet in our hand, we have access to all information.

2. There are two parts to becoming wealthy: Earn it and don't spend it.

3. There is never an excuse to charge purchases that you do not have the money in the bank to pay for. And if you charge as a convenience then go right home and pay the credit card bill on your smart device.

4. Small amounts do matter. Don't use name brand products, unless they really are a much better value. Shop at discount stores, and if you have to borrow money, every 1 percent counts. Work to get the lowest rates and constantly reassess.

5. Having stuff really has little meaning past the initial high.

6. Keep your ego in check. An ego out of control can cause you to lose more than money. You will lose your respect.

7. Think about all the ways money leaks from our pockets: trips in a car, junk food, use of electricity, dressing up our homes, having pets, car obsessions, collections, purchasing books, instead of using a library, amusements like cell phones, computer games, eating out, movies, and bad habits like drinking alcohol, smoking, and gambling.

8. Think of this: For every penny you keep, you are closer to your million. But more importantly, you are developing the lifestyle, the thinking, and the actions that will sustain that million when you earn it.