The Millionaire Next Door

Even More Frugal Than One Engineer

A woman contacted me soon after Stop Acting Rich was published.  She reflected upon the discussion in the book about how productive educators and engineers were in transforming income into wealth.  She asked, “What about an engineer who is also an educator?”  She was talking about her husband, a 60 year old mechanical engineering professor.  According to this woman, her husband had an investment portfolio of over $5M.  Yet he always bought Fords and kept them until the wheels fell off.  Currently he is driving an 8 year old Crown Victoria, aka the traditional “police car.”

Throughout Stop Acting Rich I mention the productivity of engineers and highlight the cases of several millionaires who are in this vocation.  Carlton, a chemical engineer, has a net worth of over $30M.  Yet his favorite brand of scotch is Crawford’s (of the plastic bottle variety).  His favorite wine (California red) is in the $10 or less per bottle category.  According to Carlton, all scotch is from Scotland and all scotch is good scotch!  Thus, the big variation in alcoholic beverages is in the price and not in the chemcial composition.  Also, I profile Tom, a civil engineer, who invented among other things the dumpster.  He drives a Honda Civic.  Why?  Because he views it as an engineering marvel and highly efficient means of transportation.   He is not into glitz.

I find that engineers are among the least likely to be influenced by marketing hype and the so-called high status cues that the advertising industry attempts to associate with everything from spirits to cars.

What is better than one engineer in your household?  How about two engineers?  Consider some of  the excerpts from a letter I received from a woman whose household net worth is in the multimillions:

Just finished your book, The Millionaire Mind.  I [too]married the right spouse and have a simple lifestyle.  We’ve been married 22 years, 3 children, 3 dogs, 2 horses.  We have lived in the same, modest 1,900 square foot [1975 era home] for 20 years.  I have an MS in chemical engineering; my husband has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and is now a VP at a chemical company. 

I made all As in high school; 1170 SAT [note that the average SAT score for the 733 millionaires profiled in The Millionaire Mind was 1190].  I was the first person in my family to go to college.  I was born in the backwoods of Arkansas.  After college my husband and I both got good jobs; we lived on one income and saved the other.  Anytime we got raises we just saved more.  I am now a stay at home mom. 

We are already millionaires.  However we still have 3 kids to put through college so we don’t feel rich.  Sometimes my kids ask me if we are poor because I make them order from the $1 value menu!

The average single family home in America is approximately 2,400 square feet or about 500 square feet larger than the home mentioned above.  But even though this family  is below average in terms of home size it is in the top 2% in terms of net worth.  Statistically the larger one’s home is the less productive its owner becomes in transforming his income into wealth.   And remember that 92% of homeowners are not millionaires, but a whole lot of them live in homes larger than 1,900 square feet.   


4 thoughts on “Even More Frugal Than One Engineer”

  1. Good posting Mr. Stanley. If an engineer or anyone can train themselves to be less influenced by marketing hype this will help them save more of their personal income.

    I bet that over many years, saving a little here and a little there, makes a big difference, especially if that savings goes into buying a real estate investment or an up and coming stocks or bonds.

    I have personally noticed that if you watch TV there are actually two types of marketing pressure there to get you to spend your money instead of save.

    One is the TV commercials. This is the more direct route. The second is more subtle. Its inside the TV programs themselves. For example, ever notice how often the actors in the shows themselves are wearing designer clothes or living in nice fancy houses? Also ever notice how that cool actor is driving in a fancy car like a new BMW and not our engineer’s Honda Civic.

    The two engineers in the example above probably really did well for themselves, in part, by not giving into all this marketing pressure that people face nowadays like on TV.

  2. I love this story. My husband and I are both engineers even though I stay home with our 2 kids now. We just paid off our house this week and we are 31 years old. We fall into the PAW according to Dr. S. I never really thought about it before but maybe it does make a difference that we are both engineers from farming backgrounds.

  3. I’m always amazed at how many non-engineers will tell engineers that they need to upgrade to more expensive gadgets, because we’re engineers and thus should NEED the most advanced gadgets. Like Scotty from Star Trek. Guess they all missed the fact that he was always trying to fix his high tech machinery. Glad they all understand our careers better than we do.

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