The Millionaire Next Door

A Millionaire on Less than $60K

In an earlier blog, I mentioned that the typical Balance Sheet Affluent (millionaires) had an annual realized household income of $89,167 (median) when he first became a millionaire ($1 Million: Something or Nothing? Part I, and Stop Acting Rich, pp. 17-29). In other words, one half of the BAs had incomes that were less than this figure. What does this tell us about building wealth and becoming financially secure?  For most Americans one’s desire, discipline, and intellect are more important factors in accumulating wealth than earning a high income. The problem today among many high income earners is that they think that money (income) is the most easily renewable resource. Consequently they act according to the principles found in the “Handbook for Hyper Consumers.” 

But not all Americans follow such principles or the path taken by the modal crowd in America. They think for themselves.  And most rich people in this country become rich and remain that way because they receive much more satisfaction from building wealth and financial security than displaying expensive store bought badges. So it is with Mrs. C.C. who was kind enough to share some of her thoughts on becoming financially independent without once earning a high income.

Dear Dr. Stanley,

When my friends read your “Millionaire” books they always say, “C.C., it’s you he’s writing about.”  I attended public schools where the teachers were role models and mentors.  I have had the benefit of knowing many strong women, some who did well financially.  From them, I learned to rely on myself and not wait for “Mr. Right” to support me.  I was a scholarship student at a small liberal arts college.  I had many mentors whose examples shaped my life.

While my net worth can be attrtibuted to frugality and canny investing, my lifestyle is shaped by an excellent education.  I have always tended to wander away from the herd in my thinking, but my education taught me self-discipline, independence of thought, and strong ethics.

I am the child of a single, working mother, and my early years were fraught with financial uncertainty.  I learned by watching my mother that women have to work harder and longer to achieve financial success.

While I am not as wealthy as most of your subjects, my net worth is above $1 million, and like most of your subjects, I started with nothing more than a college scholarship and a good mother.  The thing that you may find interesting about me is that I have never earned more than $60,000.  I have worked in middle management in state government most of my career.

I have accumulated most of my net worth by living below my means.  I have everything I want, but I have learned not to want too much.  Also I avoid debt.  Midway through my career the state government was being downsized and I was in danger of losing my job.  I told myself I wanted to get into a position where I would never again be faced with that uncertainty.  First, I stopped giving myself raises.  All new money went into investments.  Then I paid off my house loan, and the house payments could go into investments.  I am fairly conservative in my investment but not afraid of risk.  Most years, I saved 30 percent of my income, if not more.

My net worth is my own, separate from my husband’s, and I manage it myself.  Recently, I “semiretired.”  It was satisfying to know I could afford the pay cut.  While I have no biological children, I have had many foster children.  I notice that have learned from me the ability to manage money well, as I learned from my mother.


Mrs. C.C.

7 thoughts on “A Millionaire on Less than $60K”

  1. She is an inspiration. As a newly divorced single mother of three I am almost debt free. I read blogs like yours and Dave Ramseys to stay financial literate, focused, and encouraged. She is proof it can be done. I plan on making it happen. Thanks for this great post.

  2. Christine @ Money Funk

    I love true stories such as this one. And to realize I can be a millionaire on my income. Nice. I needed that happy thought.

    Yesterday, I received a 4% raise and told myself it is going straight to my savings as if I never received it. I make enough to live comfortably. That is is based on the way I chose to live.

    I too, try not to want to much, have forgone the credit card usage while cleaning up my past mess.

    True inspiration to me. Thank you

  3. This points to something that took me most of my adult life to learn…contentment. I’m totally guilty of always looking for the next gadget or toy and at the age of 37 I finally got it. Thanks so much for your story of Mrs C.C. and of course your books which have been life changing. Merry Christmas!

  4. For Paul :

    Be glad you got it in your thirties. It took me until my fifties to get it through my head and get the ball rolling. I am doing ok at 66 and still saving, but think how much better it would have been if I’d done it at your age!

  5. I remember when someone recommend me to read “The millionaire Next Door” after I read the book it change my spending habits and how true millionaires don’t need flashy stuff. I am currently reading “The Millionaire Mind” and this another smack in the face. I didn’t know that majority of the millionaires were just C+ average college students…

  6. My sisters always flaunted their income status as self employed women. There values of (husstle and bussle, fico pyscho, and obsessive competitiveness),caused me to believe, they may have been brainwashed by their jobs. When we equally got an inheritence they are still in debt and showy. I am not. High blood pressure is not what I desire, thanks for being the millionaire , that the neighbors never knew about.

  7. Dear Dr. Stanley and everyone who is reading this,

    First of all, I wanted to start with saying that I really enjoyed reading all the featured articles on here and plethora of responses from readers and other affluent millionaires.

    After reading “Mrs. C.C’s story” article above, I can definitely relate to her. According to what she wrote in her article, one thing that the readers and I don’t know is her age. All we know is that she is a self-made millionaire only making less than 60k all of her life. I wanted to know and sort of make me think if I too, will retire as a millionaire only making less than 60k per say, throughout my life.

    I was born and raised by a single mother and we moved to the US about 18 years ago when I was 7 years old from southern Vietnam. I remembered when growing up, I didnt have the luxury of going to school like many other “upper middle and wealthy class” kids because in Vietnam education is very expensive and only the “haves” can give this to their kids. I was home schooled for about 7 years before moving to the US in 1992. Didn’t speak a single word of English and my reading and writing skills were very low I was put into an ESL (English as a Second Language) class for about two years. The first few years living in a new country and starting a new life was very hard mentally, socially and financially. My mom got a low paying job as a cook at a restaurant. Many years of hard work, determination and hope for a better future and achieve the American dream, we were able to assimilated into the American culture. At a young age, my mom taught me a very powerful lesson about frugality, living below your means and be grateful for what you have. She also taught me to be unique and different from the rest. Fortunately, I graduated from a very respected University with two bachelors. In fall of 2006 after graduation, I planned to move to Los Angeles to find work. I learned that Los Angeles is not only a very expensive city to live but is also a superconsuming city. Fortunately, I still remained discipline and realistic and not let all the temptions that Los Angeles has to offer gets to me. In April of 2010, I will be 26 years old and have already saved up about 36k. I have a stable job only making 35k annual and working very hard to putting aside about 60% of my income toward savings. It has been a very hard and difficult journey. I have personally curtail and delay my spending so I can give myself something far more important: financial independence and security and living a life with uncertainty. Throughout my life, I learned that things (financially)wont be okay unless you make it that way.

    Dr. Stanley, if I continue doing this for 20-25 years, or more will I retire comfortably and being financial independent? I dont know when I will be making 60k, considering I’m only 26 right now, but my hope is that I will be making this amount before I turn 30 years of age.

    Another thing that you might find interesting about me is that couple times a week I would go to a book store after work and read couple chapter of your book. I dont even own any of your books.

    Thank you for reading this Dr. Stanley and any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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