The Millionaire Next Door changed the paradigm on how we judge financial success. Drs. Thomas Stanley and William Danko broke the rich into two groups: Under Accumulators of Wealth, or people living above their means, and Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth, or people living below their means. UAWs aren't really wealthy, or at least won't be long.
I recently reread the classic. Three decades later, The Millionaire Next Door has three particularly excellent arguments that stand the test of time.
Just a report card, not who you are
Money should never change one's values. Making money is only a report card. It is to tell you how you are doing.
Getting my startup acquired showed that others recognized the value I created in the world. It doesn't reflect my value, though. As I say in my latest book, it doesn't Bring Your Worth.
The rewards or responses you get from your best work may be monetary, or it could be social status, or it could be simply seeing your impact on the world. Money isn't just a report card, but just one of many report cards.
Status symbols only create more pressure
There is nothing the Rolls Royce represents that is important in my life, nor would I want to have to change my life to go along with owning the Rolls.
You upgrade part of your life and the rest of your life, inevitably, will need to be upgraded to go along with it. In a previous column, I talked about the dangers of upgrading your business too quickly:
It's like Apple releasing the first iPhone and realizing it had to upgrade the iPods and, eventually, the entire Mac lineup, or television productions spending more money on makeup and lighting because HDTVs would show the wrinkles on every onscreen actor. Improvements have consequences.
Stanley and Danko warned that the consequences could keep you from getting and sustaining wealth, as you may always be trying to keep up with your latest improvement.
Create more than you consume
Dad used to say seeds are a lot like dollars. You can eat the seeds or sow them. But when you would see what the seeds turn into - 10-food high corn - you don't want to waste them. You can consume them or plant them.
Keep in mind that the original book came out in 1996. Today, you have zero excuse to not make more than you take:
The authors add a great observation here: It is much easier in America to earn a lot than it is to accumulate wealth. In short, your overhead determines your wealth.
Broadening your income streams by creating your unique value is one of the most natural ways to bring wealth. Then it's just a matter of remembering that what you bring to this world, not what you spend in this world, is the true reflection of your value.