Are you regretting your talent for buying flashy gifts for your friends and family, wishing you'd hit the jackpot already so you could use it and spend like a millionaire?
You might be surprised to learn that not all wealthy people are big spenders. According to a 2006 survey by the consulting firm Spectrem Group, households with a net worth of $5 million or more saved or invested 23% of their annual gross income.
They've got it, but they do not flaunt it. These households also reported having economical habits. About one-quarter of them spent absolutely nothing on jewelry. Three-quarters spent less than $10,000 on clothing. And they're not often traveling in high style, either. Only 2% spent a penny on private aircraft. Boats were a little more popular, with 12% reported spending money on their own little vessels to paradise. But 86% spent less than $50,000 on cars.
Looking at how people made the $5 million necessary to be included in the survey, almost a third owned private businesses, and 18% owned professional practices.
Defying the stereotypes
To anyone who has ever read The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko, this profile will sound familiar. In the book, the authors summarize years of research that conclude the wealthy get wealthy through hard work, planning, and financial discipline.
Millionaires on average, according to their findings, are well educated, drive older-model cars, and often are self-employed. They live well below their means. They spend their time, energy, and money on pursuits that lead to wealth. They care far less about social status than they do about financial independence.
How can you get there?
How can you join the ranks of these much-studied millionaires? Try thinking rich by saving and investing like a millionaire. Before you laugh at the very idea, consider that the wealthy didn't start saving after they got rich, they got rich by saving.
It might seem daunting to consider putting away $0.23 out of every dollar that crosses your path. Even if that seems too lofty a goal, you should do what you can to live below your means and save a little more.
If you don't already have a stash of savings set aside for emergencies, that's the perfect place to start. Aim to have three to six months of expenses safely stashed in case calamity strikes. With that goal you are pursuing financial independence over status. Get help determining your optimal emergency savings target at the Savings Center.
If your emergency coffers are in good shape, direct more toward your retirement accounts. You don't have to make complicated investments to start building the nest egg of a high net-worth household. Consider a low-cost index fund that tracks the average gains of the stock market. Or look at some of the stocks our Fool community of CAPS players voted as the best stocks for 2008.
They named Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) their top pick for its product originality and tremendous growth. But several other promising companies made the list, including the venerable industrial giant General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , restaurant powerhouse Buffalo Wild Wings (Nasdaq: BWLD ) , and household name Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) , to name a few.
Who knows? A little research and you might start spending your time like a millionaire, planning your financial goals and finding ways to cut costs. Maybe saving 23% of your income isn't impossible after all.
This article was originally published Dec. 20, 2006. It has been revised by Dan Caplinger, who doesn't own stock in any company mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings, which is also a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.