Is the Millionaire Next Door Still Relevant?

Today’s guest post is written by Preston from His site is focused on dumping debt and building wealth while stumbling towards financial independence by age 35. Follow him on Twitter.

I hope you enjoy reading this guest post as much as I did:

“I am not impressed with what people own. But I’m impressed with what they achieve. I’m proud to be a physician. Always strive to be the best in your field…. Don’t chase money. If you are the best in your field, money will find you.” – Thomas Stanley, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy continues to be one of my favorite explorations into the habits of the average Millionaire.

I firmly believe that now, more than ever, our society is burdened with the pressures of conforming to consumerism at the expense of our net worth.

The internet has affected our generation much like the Industrial Revolution changed the generations of the past.

An individual’s creative or business expression is limited only by his or her self-determination. Literally every day, someone comes up with an idea, starts an online business, and is able to market and sell that idea to the entire world!

With the extreme potential of the internet, along with all of the devices that make connecting to it effortless, comes the result of elevated consumerism. The days of shopping for limited items in a Sears Catalog are gone. With resources like Amazon, where cheaply priced products dovetail with social media marketing, “keeping up with the Joneses” has been elevated to the next level.

Gone are the days when you compare your lifestyle and status to a limited number of neighbors and colleagues. People in today’s society endure the competition of thousands via social media posts which only highlight the materialism and stimulate competition.

To sum this thought up, Americans today (especially Millennials) face even more pressure to spend more than they make in order to impress people they don’t really care about. The ease of marketing combined with a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality has resulted in a drastic increase in consumer debt and reduction in net worth.

A study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that the median wealth of a U.S. household (in inflation-adjusted dollars) dropped 36% from 2003 to 2013. Additionally, student loans have more than doubled in the past 10 years to over $1 trillion!

So what does a Millionaire look like today?

“Many people who live in expensive homes and drive luxury cars do not actually have much wealth. Then, we discovered something even odder: Many people who have a great deal of wealth do not even live in upscale neighborhoods.” – Thomas Stanley, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy

Some things have changed drastically and some remain the same since Thomas Stanley and William Danko wrote The Millionaire Next Door in 1996. As mentioned above, the internet revolution has resulted in an increase in both consumerism and debt, while the appearance of the average Millionaire remains much the same.

A few years back, Lending Tree came out with a commercial in which a middle class father flaunts his four-bedroom upscale house, his brand new car, and all of his other “stuff” with a suspicious smile on his face. At the end of the commercial he asks, “How do I do it? I’m in debt up to my eyeballs.”

This comedic man unfortunately represents what the average Millionaire today does NOT look like. Most people who have built up a net worth greater than a million dollars are likely not showy with material possessions. They probably drive a used, older model car, have a reasonably-sized and affordable house, and simply spend less than they make in order to save the rest.

That’s right people, a middle-class person can build a net worth of a million dollars by simply spending less and consistently saving over a period of time. As Thomas Stanley says in his book, don’t spend to create the illusion of wealth; rather, spend less than you earn.

To follow the basic precepts of Stanley, some simple steps would include: buying a reasonable house, and buy vehicles that get you from point A to point B rather than one that makes a statement.

Now that you know what the millionaire next door looks like you’re ready to venture out into the digital world and face the powerful forces of marketing/social media straining to keep you from building wealth.

I’d like to sign out with my favorite quote from the book. I’d recommend committing these words to memory to use as ammunition when the call to keep up with the Joneses sounds!

“Wealth is more often the result of a lifestyle of hard work, perseverance, planning, and most of all, self-discipline.” – Thomas Stanley, The Millionaire Next Door

-Preston @TheDrunkMillionaire

24 comments… add one
  • The Green Swan May 5, 2016, 6:57 am

    Great advice and reminder of what it takes to be a millionaire. It is tougher these days with the social media and getting caught up in “showing off” your “wealth”. Thanks Preston.

    The Green Swan

  • Apathy Ends May 5, 2016, 7:41 am

    Everyone is making it easier to spend money!

    I read this book awhile back, it does a great job of changing your perspective on wealth – or who is actually wealthy.

  • Mr. PIE May 5, 2016, 8:41 am

    Self discipline. That is he hardest of all and the key to success in anything in life.
    Doubly hard for a younger generation, which makes me even more impressed when I see millenials seizing the opportunity to take the road less traveled.

    • Preston @TheDrunkMillionaire May 5, 2016, 9:19 am

      Agreed. Hopefully this movement towards financial responsibility continues to grow within the Millennial generation. I have no doubt that it will make the world a better place!

  • Stefan @Mllnnlbudget May 5, 2016, 11:04 am

    Nice post Preston! Your post is very similar to the one I just wrote about social media. We focus so much on pleasing others that we put financial strain on ourselves. What people fail to realize is that people will only post the positive on social media, never the negative. Unfortunately those that try to please social media and others are most likely the ones living paycheck to paycheck. It is so easy to purchase anything these days and with so many ads in our face that we are easily tempted into spending. Self control is super important in this day and age. Hopefully people will listen to your message. Nice job!

    • Preston @TheDrunkMillionaire May 5, 2016, 11:33 am

      Hi Stefan, thanks for your kind words! It’s crazy how drenched in marketing our lives are today. I think it’s only going to get worse in the future, so it’s great to see you’re also talking about such a relevant topic!

  • Patrick May 5, 2016, 2:15 pm

    This is a great post! It’s definitely relevant. It’s amazing with the misinformation out there specifically aimed at millennials to make them think the system is rigged, only the wealthy get wealthier, there’s nothing they can do about it, etc. What also doesn’t help, is our government basing it’s economic outlook on CREDIT activity! It’s all aimed at making sure the current generation keeps consuming rather than saving. I’m loving the fact that there are more writers than ever out there motivating people to save, and make it ‘cool’ again.

  • Financial Slacker May 5, 2016, 8:28 pm

    I love this quote –

    “An individual’s creative or business expression is limited only by his or her self-determination.”

    There are no excuses.

  • Preston @TheDrunkMillionaire May 5, 2016, 9:42 pm

    Thanks!!! Most people don’t realize that the greatest limitation is in their mind.

  • amber tree May 6, 2016, 1:08 am

    Very good points: the key is to spend less than you earn. I also do not see the point to spend to show off wealth.

    With friends yesterday we actually had the discussion on a car. DO you need one or two, or none. Is it ok to use a car sharing project to complement temporary mobility needs? We re in the camp that would like to have as few cars as possible.

  • Thias @It Pays Dividends May 8, 2016, 9:00 pm

    I love the Millionaire Next Door! The book started me on the finance journey. Social media has made understanding the true Millionaire lifestyle even more since people only share the good things in life. We are constantly made to believe that people are living amazing lives when we don’t get the full picture because it isn’t “Facebook worthy”. Great post!

  • MyMoneyDesign May 9, 2016, 8:32 pm

    Every time I talk to some “big shot” at work, I’m immediately reminded of Stanley’s books and the facade of what a rich person actually looks like: Over priced wine, vehicles they can’t afford, etc. This phenomenon is definitely still alive and well.

  • Rob @ Money Nomad May 11, 2016, 6:43 pm

    Great post discussing a great book. Thanks for reminding me of a few of the awesome quotes from the book and that it is still, indeed, relevant. Between books like that and the plethora of personal finance bloggers around, it’s awesome to see how successful you can be without having to show it. Truly inspiring read!

  • Tawcan May 12, 2016, 4:25 pm

    I love that book. It’s so easy to spend money but much harder to save money. Saving money should be considered as an art. 🙂

  • Andy May 17, 2016, 7:27 am

    i read the book when i was 14 yr old.

  • Pamela May 17, 2016, 7:11 pm

    This is a great post. The millionaire next door is a great book. The pressures of millennials are greater than ever as they try to live up to the standards that society has illused them to live. We all have a personal choice to conform to society or create our own path.

  • ZJ Thorne Jun 5, 2016, 6:14 pm

    I agree that there is more advertising than when TMND was written, but there is also more opportunity to connect for free with like-minded people. Your immediate neighbors live on your block and you may never know what makes them tick. Your true neighbor may be another blogger who lives 3000 miles away and shares their thought processes with you on the most important decisions in their lives.

  • Pamela Jun 30, 2016, 6:22 pm

    This is great advice. This is one of my favourite books because it’s based on the fundamentals of personal finance and conveys perfectly the human condition left unchecked. Great post.

  • Brian Oct 9, 2016, 8:31 am

    It is one of my favorite books. I feel like it will be relevant 1000 years from now. Many people don’t like it because it takes time, patience and perseverance. Nice post, thanks for sharing! Cheers.


    • Distilled Dollar Oct 10, 2016, 11:37 am

      Absolutely. Books that do not preech the get rich quick theme are often not as popular. Sad, but true.

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