Thirty years ago I first defined the blue collar affluent aka the millionaire next door type in a speech and paper that I delivered on behalf of the New York Stock Exchange. This began a lifetime journey of identifying and profiling the myths and realities of the rich.
I discovered that not all millionaires have high social status. In fact, those who are among the least productive in transforming their incomes into wealth are in the higher status occupations. In a 1980 national study of multimillionaires, I found that half of the millionaires in America do not live in upscale neighborhoods. In 1988, I wrote my first book, Marketing to the Affluent, which essentially discussed how to market to the “millionaire next door.” After reading it, one of my colleagues at Georgia State University, Dr. David Schwartz, author of the perennial mega bestseller, The Magic of Thinking Big, suggested that I broaden my work to appeal to a much larger general audience. I followed Dave’s advice and wrote The Millionaire Next Door published in 1996 which answered the question: Who is the typical millionaire in America? This best selling book exploded many common myths about the wealthy in America, revealing that their low-profile and frugal lifestyle were pervasive among this group.
After the success of The Millionaire Next Door, I continued my research with The Millionaire Mind (2000). In this book, I revealed the factors that millionaires, who had three times the wealth as those in The Millionaire Next Door, reported as being most important in explaining their economic success. Among those factors were integrity, discipline, social skills, a supportive spouse, leadership qualities and having a love for one’s vocation. Among the least important were luck, investing in the stock market and having high academic achievement. I responded to the numerous queries I received from women about their lack of representation in my books by writing Millionaire Women Next Door in 2004. Women in business succeed because they work harder and are more frugal than their male counterparts. Women who fail in business typically love their product but not their business.
In Stop Acting Rich: And Start Living like a Real Millionaire, I detail why so many people who are not rich hyper spend on luxuries. Often they think that collecting these expensive toys will enhance their overall satisfaction with life. But, as you will read in detail, happiness in life has little to do with what you wear, drive, eat or drink. The people with the greatest satisfaction are those who live below their means. Even during the recent peaks of income production, the residential real estate market and the bull stock market when the main survey for this book was undertaken these millionaires maintained their habits of thrift and frugality. In other words, increasing asset values did not cause the majority of wealthy people to hyperspend.
So who are these hyper spenders really emulating? They are merely mimicking the behaviors of people like themselves who are not rich but act in ways they think the economically successful people act.