This post comes from guest columnist Len Penzo at LenPenzo.com.
Although having a million bucks isn’t as impressive as it once was, it’s still nothing to sneeze at. Reuters reports that in 2009, there were 7.8 million millionaires in the United States. Odds are, one of them are living near you.
But, Len, you don’t know my neighbor. That guy doesn’t look anything like a millionaire.
Well, guess what? Your millionaire neighbor called (oh yeah, we go way back) and the two of us had a nice little chat. Here’s a few things he shared with me – but apparently doesn’t want to tell you. (No offense, I’m sure.)
1. He always spends less than he earns. His mantra is, over the long run, you’re better off if you strive to be anonymously rich rather than deceptively poor.
2. He knows that patience is a virtue. The odds are you won’t become a millionaire overnight. If you’re like him, your wealth will be accumulated gradually by diligently saving your money over multiple decades.
3. When you go to his modest three-bed-two-bath house, you’re going to be drinking Folgers instead of Starbucks. And if you need a lift, you’re going to get a ride in his 10-year-old economy sedan. And if you think that makes him cheap, ask him if he cares. (He doesn’t.)
4. He pays off his credit cards in full every month. He’s smart enough to understand that if he can’t afford to pay cash for something, he can’t afford it.
5. He realized early on that money does not buy happiness. If you’re looking for nirvana, you need to focus on attaining financial freedom.
6. He never forgets that financial freedom is a state of mind that comes from being debt-free. Best of all, it can be attained regardless of your income level.
7. He knows that getting a second job not only increases the size of your bank account more quickly but also keeps you busy – and being busy makes it difficult to spend what you already have.
8. He understands that money is like a toddler: It’s incapable of managing itself. You can’t expect your money to grow and mature without some form of credible money management.
9. He’s a big believer in paying yourself first – in other words, setting aside money for your savings instead of spending it on bills or entertainment. Paying yourself first is an essential tenet of personal finance and a great way to build your savings and instill financial discipline.
10. Although it’s possible to get rich if you spend your life making a living doing something you don’t enjoy, he wonders why you do. Life is too short.
11. He knows that failing to plan is the same as planning to fail. He also knows that the few millionaires who reached that milestone without a plan got there only because of dumb luck. It’s not enough to simply declare that you want to be financially free.
12. When it came time to set his savings goals, he wasn’t afraid to think big. Financial success demands that you have a vision that is significantly larger than you can currently deliver upon.
13. Over time, he found out that hard work can often help make up for a lot of financial mistakes – and you will make financial mistakes.
14. He realizes that stuff happens, that’s why you’re a fool if you don’t insure yourself against risk. Remember that the potential for bankruptcy is always just around the corner and can be triggered from multiple sources: the death of the family’s key bread winner, divorce, or disability that leads to a loss of work.
15. He understands that time is an ally of the young. He was fortunate enough to begin saving in his twenties so he could take maximum advantage of the power of compounding interest on his nest egg.
16. He knows that you can’t spend what you don’t see. You should use automatic paycheck deductions to build up your retirement and other savings accounts. As your salary increases, you can painlessly increase the size of those deductions.
17. Even though he has a job that he loves, he doesn’t have to work anymore because everything he owns is paid for – and has been for years.
18. He’s not impressed that you drive an over-priced luxury car and live in a McMansion that’s two sizes too big for your family of four.
19. After six months of asking, he finally quit waiting for you to return his pruning shears. He broke down and bought himself a new pair last month. There’s no hard feelings though; he can afford it.
So that’s it. Now you know what your millionaire neighbor won’t tell you.
Oh, and, um, would you be so kind as to keep this just between you and me? I’d hate to ruffle anyone’s feathers or cause of any kind of neighborly spat.
Thanks. You’re a peach.