The Single Most Useful Book I’ve Read

Image for post
Image for post

The first time I read one of the most useful books of my life, I’m ashamed to admit that I read it for free online in a scanned PDF.

I’m not quite sure how I found it — whether it was a referral from another personal finance blogger or it made a ‘must read’ list for personal finance beginners like myself.

Either way, I remember the feeling of my world slowly being turned upside down as I scrolled through each page of the Millionaire Next Door by Dr. T. J. Stanley.

At the time, I was horrible with money. I was making more than I had ever made, and I was spending more than I had ever spent before. I thought I ‘deserved’ to spend frivolously because I was a newly minted lawyer.

Thankfully, I stumbled upon this book right at the moment I needed it.

Here are five key lessons that I learned from reading The Millionaire Next Door.

[1] Most millionaires are self-made. I used to think that the majority of millionaires in the U.S. inherited their wealth. I mean, how can one accumulate so much in a lifetime? Not true, says Dr. Stanley. It’s possible to be a teacher, nurse, or someone working in a blue-collar trade, and still generate enough wealth to pass the threshold of six zeroes in their net worth.

[2] Most millionaires did not provide economic outpatient care (EOC). In other words, most millionaires did not receive money from their families after high school. Dr. Stanley explains that adults who rely on or wait for their parents to give them cash gifts or subsidize some of their living expenses are generally not very productive. Usually, this money gets allocated towards consumption and supports an inflated lifestyle that cannot be sustained should the EOC be withdrawn.

[3] Millionaires allocate their time, energy and money in ways that is conducive to wealth building. Millionaires do not care about spending time on negotiating to get a $1,000 discount when purchasing a depreciating asset, such as a car. They do, however, care about spending time and money on selecting knowledgeable financial and legal advisors, especially when it relates to handling their business affairs and growing other appreciating assets. Millionaires dedicate their resources to learning about areas of potential growth.

[4] Most millionaires do not flaunt their wealth or have expensive tastes. Surprisingly, most millionaires purchase American-made cars. Those, however, who choose to buy foreign-made cars predominantly purchase Toyotas and Hondas, and not Mercedes, BMWs, or Audis.

In terms of living arrangements, most millionaires do not live in upscale neighbourhoods, but rather live in nondescript communities where the cost of living is affordable. Dr. Stanley insists that one of the biggest destroyers of wealth is living in a high-cost area, in which you are living among households who earn substantially more than you. Instead, he urges, to live in an area where your household is among the highest earners. He explains that these neighbourhoods tend to be populated by small business owners, blue-collar workers and middle managers and/or executives, rather than lawyers, doctors and c-suite executives.

Millionaires, especially self-made ones, play great defence rather than offence, which means that they believe in maintaining a frugal lifestyle, receiving joy through non-material possessions and avoiding the trap of being ‘house rich and cash poor.’ Dr. Stanley insists that you would not recognize most millionaires when you meet them because they do not have expensive tastes.

[5] It’s entirely possible to become a millionaire in your lifetime. This is the biggest takeaway from Dr. Stanley’s book. If you refrain from frivolous spending, live within your means and invest early and consistently, you can become a millionaire without a six-figure salary.

The biggest misconception when it comes to millionaires is that you need a six-figure salary in order to accumulate a seven-figure net worth. I understand now that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I couldn’t be more grateful for Dr. Stanley writing The Millionaire Next Door because it made me realize that the pursuit of money is not really the purpose of life (as it was evident from the millionaires featured in the book), but at the same time can be attainable if you just have the patience and persistence to play the long game.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this story, you should check out where I write about personal finance, progressive economics, going against the grain, and tons more. — Jen

This originally appeared on Quora.

Written by

Productivity, craftsmanship, and the pursuit of excellence at work. Writing now at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store