As I mentioned in my previous post, The Millionaire Next Door has been on my reading list for a number of years now. Honestly, it took me this long to read because it just sounds boring. The gist of the book is: don’t spend your money on stupid stuff and save—which is neither revelatory nor exciting. But the individual stories within this book have made me much more self-reflective than I thought I would be.
So this week I want to share another story. The book gives an account of a high-earning executive who “can’t afford” to participate in his employer’s stock purchase plan. As you can probably guess, his high salary was eaten up by a monthly mortgage in excess of $4,000, car leases, country club dues, and taxes. Yet despite his spending, he stated that one of his primary personal goals was financial independence.
Unfortunately, there is no way that this series of decisions will ever lead to any meaningful wealth accumulation. Or as the authors note, “He has sold his financial independence,” which is more appropriate because it puts the responsibility back on the executive. To say, “I can’t afford it,” creates a helpless and defensible connotation, but the executive has made identifiable decisions that led to his situation.
This story begs the question: How can the executive not see what he’s doing? To have any type of high-earning job, the general assumption is a good education and a moderate degree of intelligence. But those factors do not automatically guarantee accumulation of wealth. Even if you’re well educated and have a high-paying job, you still have to plan your finances and sacrifice.
Of course, sacrifice will look different for everyone. For the executive, maybe he should downsize his house in order to have a more affordable mortgage payment. Or maybe instead of leasing what I can only assume are luxury vehicles, he could purchase something more modest with cash. There are a number of things he can adjust in order to be able to participate in his employer’s stock purchase plan, but he chooses not to.
The authors also note, “Remember, wealth is blind. It cares not if its patrons are well educated,” which is both humbling and encouraging. To those with multiple degrees and a high-paying job, it reminds them that their accomplishments do not entitle them to wealth. And to those from a more modest background, it assures them that they are not excluded from the opportunity to save and accumulate.
Josh Norris is an Investment Advisory Representative of LeFleur Financial. Josh can be reached at josh@LeFleurFinancial.com.