In 1996, professors William Danko and Thomas Stanley published a book revealing the habits of America’s super wealthy. The Millionaire Next Door is a collection of surprising discoveries about the affluent, including the observation that, according to extensive interviews and data collection, real millionaires don’t look or act like millionaires.
On average, millionaires wear regular clothes and inexpensive watches, and drive Fords. Yes, Fords. That was the preferred brand of transportation for the group surveyed. Mercedes made the top-10 list of auto brands, but otherwise the favorites were American cars and a few Japanese automakers.
So what did the super-wealthy have in common?
Most of the crowd was down-to-earth. Most were self-employed. Most were in a single industry for decades. Most also kept the same spouse for several decades.
Most of the millionaires kept detailed budgets for their companies and households. In fact, only a small percentage was wealthy from having large incomes, while many with large incomes were not wealthy. In summary, becoming a millionaire requires discipline and planning, but not a large income.
Why are we talking about personal wealth at YouHaveThreeCows.com? (This is, after all, a blog about changing the world via successful agricultural business.)
The reason is that the habits required for success in small business (like agriculture) are very similar to those required for accumulation of personal wealth: Discipline and planning.
Obviously, the purpose of farming is not to become wealthy. (If wealth is your primary goal, I recommend a different line of work!) But wealth, accumulated through sound business practices and healthy habits, does open some real opportunities to serve.
Consider, for example, this sandy plot of land in Mexico near Valle de Guadalupe. The site was inherited by a wonderful lady whom we will call Maria.
Maria has dedicated the property to feeding orphans near a drug rehab center in a particularly poor area of Mexico. A Christian church full of privileged individuals from the United States has helped her construct the building with a kitchen and a well.
Rachel and I got to meet Maria last Monday at her property to help design a landscaping plan. Her goal is to plant gardens to create a calm, beautiful environment for the children. The plants will be mostly fruits and vegetables so they also help feed the kids.
Meeting Maria and her husband reminded me that wealth has no purpose except to serve others. And for that purpose, it can be a powerful tool.