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Two decades ago, The Millionaire Next Door taught us a surprising lesson about the making of a millionaire. We return to it every January, along with a few other pivotal financial independence books. See all the posts in Jonathan Cope’s series about Our Financial Independence Journey.

Financial Independence Books: The Millionaire Next Door
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At my best I will ask for directions.
Not always but sometimes.

In the case of our financial independence journey I have been conservative, often cautious, and have looked for guides. The studious type rather than those selling.

The Millionaire Next Door

We owe much to Thomas J. Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door and its sequel The Millionaire Mind.

Mr. Stanley offered a relatable view of the wealthy. A dull normal view. No glitz. No glamour. Millionaires who started with no funds, no advantage, no magic, and no special skill.

Their stories leave only admiration, no envy. Stories of the deserving. The type of story to write for ourselves.

Financial independence books

The Millionaire Next Door chronicles the simple living, saving, and investing habits of the verified wealthy in the United States.

Plumbers, janitors, bus drivers, middle managers, teachers. “Dirty Jobs” kind of people. Regular people. Parents, grandparents, C-students, folks with foibles. People.

So what made them different?
Why did they end up wealthy?

Just a few things.
A few things practiced consistently. Consistently for years.

Earn, save, invest, spend

Earn, save, invest, and then spend.
In that order.
Nothing fancy.

Many ran small businesses. Cleaning, building, recycling, repairing, hemming. Not because they had vision. Most because they had no choice. No one would hire them otherwise.

Most lived in simple neighborhoods. They owned simple houses. They drove older cars. Their children went to public schools, as they did. Nothing fancy or unattainable.

They cared about quality, frugality, charity, community, and family. Most of their families had one income.

A life well-lived mattered most of all.

Their frugality stemmed initially from necessity. It persisted out of habit. Coupons were clipped on Sundays because they always had been.

Building a life well-lived

Their saving and investing also stemmed initially from necessity. They saved for rainy days. They invested in their businesses to grow their incomes. Or some invested within their employer’s retirement plans to receive matching payments. And the habit of saving and investing persisted thereafter.

I reread The Millionaire Next Door each January as grounding. To remind myself to be in good company. To keep it simple. To emulate the successful.

And each time I am reminded of the potential of a life well-lived.

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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