The Millionaire Next Door

Part-time Hobby, Full-time Wealth

Wall Street recently lost one of its greatest investment gurus, Dr. Martin Zweig.  His obituaries were published prominently in both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.  His accomplishments were many.  On the Friday before the Monday stock market crash of 1987 he predicted “crash” on TV’s Wall Street Week program.  Also The Zweig Forecast ranked 1st among newsletters that predicted performance, according to Mark Hulbert.  

People have a great advantage in life if they can select their ideal vocation early.  Zweig was no exception.  He “began his investing career at age 13 when his uncle Mort gave him six shares of General Motors stock.”

But investing in publicly traded stocks is certainly not the only way people become wealthy.  Let us look back 40 years ago.  A professor of business is asking a group of college seniors, “Where are you going after graduation?”  Most indicated that they were going to work for large corporations; a smaller group said they were going to get MBAs.  T.C. [pseudonym] was the last to respond.  “I already own a business collecting antique firearms.”  Then laughter broke out.  Perhaps if these students understood something about T.C.’s background they would have given him more respect. 

At that time he already had 12 years of training by his mentor, his grandfather, who was an amateur gun collector.  At the age of 21, T.C. had a nice collection which included early model Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles.  That collection alone in a good market today would be worth more than $2M.  From the start, T.C. enjoyed reading and researching guns, buying and trading guns, and visiting gun shows with his grandfather.  He loved American history which related well to his interest in gun collecting.  Among his high school terms papers were biographies of Samuel Colt and John Browning.

T.C. was lucky.  He turned a great love into his vocation.  It was a hobby of affection.  Never was it the drudgery of “just a job.”

Ask a national sample of self made millionaires the following question: In terms of net market value, what is your number one most valuable asset?  About 5% will answer: tangible collectibles (TC).  In other words, these people are collectors of certain types of tangible and/or collectible assets.  These include everything from antique firearms to coins, gems to precious metals, and stamps to artwork. Most, 6 in 10, of these millionaires are part-time collectors who have other full-time occupations. 

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