Today, in many circles it has become culturally acceptable to vilify millionaires as somehow evil or not worthy of the wealth they have accrued. Young people in particular have bought into the lie that in the interest of fairness, wealth should be it taken from those who have built it and given to those less fortunate.
To some extent, I can understand why this view is gaining in popularity. The middle class is shrinking and the data do show the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. However, in his new book “Everyday Millionaires,” Chris Hogan analyzes data he gathered from over 10,000 millionaires in the U.S. to understand where this wealth came from and what they do with it.
While the first thing that comes to mind when you or I think of a millionaire is probably some kind of Wall Street CEO or world-famous celebrity, the five most common occupations that produce millionaires are engineer, accountant, teacher, lawyer and manager. What Hogan learned is that a high net worth typically doesn’t happen overnight. It’s generally built over a lifetime by hard-working people like you and me. In fact 62% of millionaires never earned an annual household income of more than $100,000.
Some characteristics, however, increase a person’s chances of becoming wealthy. First, according to Hogan, they avoid unnecessary debt. The study found 73% have never had any credit card debt, and 66% have a paid-off home mortgage.
Another interesting fact that came out of the study is 80% exercise three times a week. While this may seem like an unrelated statistic, I think it is actually quite relevant. People who succeed with money typically are goal oriented. This discipline, combined with a good overall plan, leads to success in all aspects of one’s life, including finances.
One final characteristic from the study that I found fascinating was that self-employed people are disproportionately represented. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 7 and 10% of the U.S. workforce is self-employed. The fact that nearly 20% off all millionaires are self-employed tells me there is a strong correlation between entrepreneurialism and wealth.
If these are the true characteristics of millionaires, then what are some of the myths about who they are. First, unlike what you might think, they are not highly educated – 62% graduated from a state college, and almost 10% have no degree at all. Second, they are not selfish, with the majority giving to local non-profits monthly.
Third, they were not born into wealth. In fact, according to the study, 95% of millionaires are first-generation millionaires.
What I found most interesting about this study was how the picture of what truly wealthy people look like is so very different than we might think. More often than not it is not the person with the fancy car or largest house on the block who is really succeeding with money. I like to refer to those people as all sizzle, no steak. Instead it is the unassuming person who never catches your attention who is actually winning with money.
For me, this information was just the encouragement I needed to keep working toward my goals. Hopefully for some of you the response will be the same.
(Advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations.)
Luke Davis is the director of operations and compliance at Stewardship Capital in Independence.