Re: The Real Numbers: Half of America in Poverty -- and It's Creeping Upward
posted at 5/30/2013 10:06 PM EDT
Meet the Millionaire Next Door
These people cannot be millionaires! They don't look like millionaires, they don't dress like millionaires, they don't eat like millionaires, they don't act like millionaires--they don't even have millionaire names. Where are the millionaires who look like millionaires?
The person who said this was a vice president of a trust department. He made these comments following a focus group interview and dinner that we hosted for ten first-generation millionaires. His view of millionaires is shared by most people who are not wealthy. They think millionaires own expensive clothes, watches, and other status artifacts. We have found this is not the case.
As a matter of fact, our trust officer friend spends significantly more for his suits than the typical American millionaire. He also wears a $5,000 watch. We know from our surveys that the majority of millionaires never spent even one-tenth of $5,000 for a watch. Our friend also drives a current-model imported luxury car. Most millionaires are not driving this year's model. Only a minority drive a foreign motor vehicle. An even smaller minority drive foreign luxury cars. Our trust officer leases, while only a minority of millionaires ever lease their motor vehicles.
But ask the typical American adult this question: Who looks more like a millionaire? Would it be our friend, the trust officer, or one of the people who participated in our interview? We would wager that most people by a wide margin would pick the trust officer. But looks can be deceiving.
Most of America's millionaires are first-generation rich. How is it possible for people from modest backgrounds to become millionaires in one generation? Why is it that so many people with similar socioeconomic backgrounds never accumulate even modest amounts of wealth?
Most people who become millionaires have confidence in their own abilities. They do not spend time worrying about whether or not their parents were wealthy. They do not believe that one must be born wealthy. Conversely, people of modest backgrounds who believe that only the wealthy produce millionaires are predetermined to remain non-affluent. Have you always thought that most millionaires are born with silver spoons in their mouths? If so, consider the following facts that our research uncovered about American millionaires:
* Only 19 percent receive any income or wealth of any kind from a trust fund or an estate.
* Fewer than 20 percent inherited 10 percent or more of their wealth.
* More than half never received as much as $1 in inheritance.
* Fewer than 25 percent ever received "an act of kindness" of $10,000 or more from their parents, grandparents, or other relatives.
* Ninety-one percent never received, as a gift, as much as $1 of the ownership of a family business.
* Nearly half never received any college tuition from their parents or other relatives.
* Fewer than 10 percent believe they will ever receive an inheritance in the future.
America continues to hold great prospects for those who wish to accumulate wealth in one generation. In fact, America has always been a land of opportunity for those who believe in the fluid nature of our nation's social system and economy.
More than one hundred years ago the same was true. In The American Economy, Stanley Lebergott reviews a study conducted in 1892 of the 4,047 American millionaires. He reports that 84 percent "were nouveau riche, having reached the top without the benefit of inherited wealth."