The Millionaire Next Door

Wrecks to Riches

Our family receives more than 2 dozen telephone directories annually.  Most of them we recycle.  However, I actually look forward to looking through one of them- the Business Yellow Pages.  The 2010 edition contains 1,051 pages.  Eighty-one of these pages is devoted to attorneys. In a quick computation, I estimated that there are more than 12,000 attorneys/law firms listed.

This reminds me of an encounter that I had with an attorney who was working the counter at a Kinko’s. He had attended an accredited law school and passed the bar exam on the first try.  He explained that he was working two jobs (as a lawyer and at Kinko’s) “to make ends meet.”  I left the rough draft of Chapter 5 from The Millionaire Mind (Vocation, Vocation, Vocation) with this young man to copy.  When I returned hours later, he said, “I need to read the rest of this book!”

He further explained that he was most impressed with the case study of Mr. Richard who is in the business of selling used truck parts.  As pointed out in the chapter, Mr. Richard was more than a multimillionaire. He also had a net personal income of over $700,000.  His head mechanic earned over $130,000 annually for disassembling trucks.  That is more than twice what the attorney/Kinko’s clerk was expecting to earn at that time.

What is so compelling about Mr. Richard’s case study is how he conjured up the idea of being in the used truck parts business.  When he was in his late 20s, he was a junior manager for a large manufacturer and distributor of tractor trailers.  He recognized that he would never become wealthy working for someone else.  Then one day, as he says, “a light bulb turned on in his head.”  “My boss asked me to sell this wrecked truck to a junk dealer who would cut it up for scrap. . . .Sold it for $500. . . .About two weeks later he asked me to go back to the junk dealer.  We needed a used engine for another truck. . . . . . . [got] the engine out of the same truck that we sold them two weeks ago.  And the guy invoices me out $500, plus we had to exchange another engine that needed to be replaced.”  Mr. Richard then realized that the disassembled parts [transmissions, axels, heat exchangers]  were worth five to ten times more than the $500 his employer had received.  Within two weeks of discovering the enormous profitability of used truck parts, Mr. Richard was in business for himself.

Mr. Richard is like many of the millionaire next door types whom I have interviewed.  He used his creative intellect to select a business that millions of other people overlooked.  Many a millionaire next door purposesly selected a type of blue-collar industry where there would be little or no competition, unlike the legal profession in my community.

Under the heading of Truck Parts in my Business Yellow Pages, there is only one page.  And on that page, under the subheading “Used Truck Parts,” there is only one business listed. . . .  Do I need to tell you who owns this business? 

In the final version of The Millionaire Mind, I also included the Kinko case study in sharp contrast to Mr. Richard.  In terms of selecting a vocation, try to be like Mr. Richard, however.  Don’t restrict yourself by looking only at industries and vocations which denote high occupational status. High occupational status does not automatically translate into high income or net worth.  

3 thoughts on “Wrecks to Riches”

  1. Just confirmed my suspicion that the people at Kinkos read my material. Working at Kinkos can lead to starting a great business but only if you live Thomas Stanley’s town! haha.

    At least the young man kept his business simple. Lots of bootstrapping entrepreneurs nowadays focus on having a great idea… Coming up with a great idea is much less important than developing a solid business model. (classic MBA definition of business model – how you set up a business to get money out of it)

  2. Bruce Benson (

    I find that I no longer steer my still young kids to the idea of doctors or lawyers (though one already sounds like a lawyer!). I did very well for myself and I spent my first 20 years in the military – so it is clear that many vocations can get one to financial independence (and we were poverty level poor when I was a kid).

    I care that my kids take a path where they don’t end up barely making ends meet. These kind of examples remind me that if they live right (get educated, be frugal, save, don’t chase things, be creative, follow their passions) then many paths will lead to a good life, financially. This is an easier sell then trying to aim them towards a seemingly “rich” vocation.

  3. Interesting topic, I work as a technician with medical professionals. Their field is growing but the competition is increasing with the influx of new grads. As I watch newly licensed professionals struggling to work enough hours to make the payments on their school loans, I’ve come to the realization that I can do just fine where I am at for now. Getting that doctorate won’t guarantee anything.

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