ARBOR WEALTH: Millionaires next door, Tom Stanley and Patsy Cline

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

“I must make up my mind today … what to have, what to hold; A poor man’s roses or a rich man’s gold.” — from “A Poor Man’s Roses” as performed by Patsy Cline

The millionaire next door has moved away. Dr. Thomas Stanley, author of several best-selling financial books (including his most famous work, “The Millionaire Next Door”), died recently in a tragic accident.

Dr. Stanley achieved a doctorate in business and served as a college professor for 20 years. In 1980, he performed one of the first known national surveys of multi-millionaires in America. His research results were interesting and surprising. What followed were a series of fascinating books, including “Marketing to the Affluent”, the aforementioned “The Millionaire Next Door," “Stop Acting Rich” and “Millionaire Women Next Door."

The central theme of “The Millionaire Next Door” was this: many millionaires live right in our midst, folks who have over a lifetime accumulated substantial saving and investment accounts through small sacrifices and frugal lifestyles (it is estimated that there are now over 10 million U.S. households with over $1 million in investable assets). Most times their neighbors don’t think of them as “wealthy," primarily because they have frequently eschewed the trappings of wealth in favor of real financial security. Most have never spent $75,000 on a car. They are more likely to drive Honda Civics, Ford Explorers and pickups. They live in nice but traditional homes (not McMansions), they rarely join costly clubs, and seldom take expensive vacations. Instead, they carefully shepherd their resources, plowing money monthly into retirement accounts, and utilize compound interest to become wealthy. One millionaire Stanley interviewed said he drinks two kinds of beer: “Budweiser and free.”

What resonated with readers was the idea that “anyone can do it," given an acceptable level of income, a willingness to make difficult choices and the patience to embrace delayed gratification. Instead of “all hat and no cattle," these folks “have plenty of cattle.”

While some millionaires started with more resources than others, most have not inherited great wealth. Many have built businesses from the ground up, and through determination and hard work have made those enterprises extremely successful. Many have pursued careers working for others, but simply managed their incomes extremely well. Stanley discovered a large number of “blue collar millionaires," folks who had built businesses in trades like electricity and plumbing.

The responses of millionaires to Stanley’s questions were wonderfully revealing and often disproved traditional stereotypes. When asked to rank the qualities that were most important in their own success, millionaires invariably ranked perseverance, determination and work ethic far ahead of IQ, grades or a degree from a lofty institution. Most millionaires were also likely to consider their spouse an important partner in developing financial security.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.