The Millionaire Next Door is a book that I have been meaning to read for about ten years. I finally started it, and even though I’m only half way through, I wanted to share some of its insights. One of my favorite quotes so far is from one of the “next door” millionaires interviewed for their study: “I don’t own big hats, but I have a lot of cattle.” In other words, he doesn’t look like much, but he’s got plenty of money in the bank.
Obviously he’s from Texas, and he owns a small business that rebuilds diesel engines—not very sexy but he does well for himself. He went on to say, “My business does not look pretty. I don’t play the part, don’t act it. When my British partners first met me, they thought I was one of our truck drivers. They looked all over my office, looked at everyone but me.”
It is fascinating to hear about small businesses that don’t look like much because they are dirty and rough but make a ton of money. When I was young, an entrepreneurial family friend said, “I would sell pig slop if I knew it would make me a million dollars.” But that idea of hard, or sometimes even gross, work doesn’t fit the prototypical idea of wealth, so people avoid it, even though it’s just as good a way as any to accumulate a lot of “cattle.”
You can also tell that it’s a point of pride for him that he doesn’t wear a suit or look like someone with a high net worth. Instead, he wears jeans and generally looks the same as the blue-collar men who work for him. I’m sure that as a practical matter in his line of business it just makes more sense for him to wear jeans. But he could certainly be flashier if he wanted to be.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having nice things, but as mentioned later in the book, “It is easier to purchase products that denote superiority than to be actually superior in economic achievement.” As a result, people waste time, money, and energy trying to convince the world of success that doesn’t exist. Instead, we should be more introspective and learn what it will take for each of us individually to achieve our own version success.
Josh Norris is an Investment Advisory Representative of LeFleur Financial. Josh can be reached at josh@LeFleurFinancial.com.