The Millionaire Next Door – A Doctor’s perspective

If there were anything that I could do to help my patients that goes beyond the call of a family doctor, would be to help them with their finances. I would love to help liberate some from living paycheck to paycheck and the constant financial pressure that mounts from poor decisions and a consumer lifestyle.

To have control of your financial destiny is freedom. To not be slave to the bank is liberating. To be able to change your family legacy because of your wise money decisions is life-changing.

Money can be sensitive and precarious subject to approach but, I was liberated about 8 years ago after I read the “Millionaire Next Door” by Dr. Thomas J Stanley. Next to the wisdom of the Bible, this book changed my whole view on spending, living and earning.

I feel compelled to write about this because I learnt that on February 28th 2015, Thomas J Stanley sadly passed away. Normally this would just be part of the daily news but his ground breaking research on wealth has had such a profound impact on my life and countless others that this needs to be shared.

millionaire-next-door-book-review

 

The idea

The premise of his writing is that our perception of what a millionaire looks like in our society is false. The typical millionaire isn’t the family with the biggest house in the best suburb with the newest cars who lunch at the country club, rather it’s the plumber who owns his own business, who drives a reliable 5 year old Toyota who lives in a modest house who is actually the true millionaire.

Stanley showed repeatedly through all his work that the typical millionaire lives well within his means, invested regularly, buys quality products rather than luxury and repeated these and other key behaviours on their way to becoming wealthy.

The book in no way is a “get rich quick” schematic or stepwise plan for financial success but a stark reminder that simple and small, daily and deliberate financial decisions can take a fixed income employee towards financial independence.

Personal impact

In medical school I thought that I wouldn’t ever have to worry about money again. I was here. I made it!

Working as a doctor would afford us the lifestyle that we had wished for. I dreamt of a beautiful expansive house with view across a body of water where we’d live and I even talked at length with my father in-law about the black BMW that would be parked in the driveway.

I also had noble visions of how I would provide for my parents in their retirement and fund mission works overseas. But when I picked up my copy of the Millionaire Next Door, it didn’t fulfill my expectations, it blew them away and was a profound “kick in the guts” that I needed.

In the chapter entitled “Time, energy and money”, Stanley meticulously profiled two high earning doctors in their 50’s both with identical specialties and earnings but in opposite financial situations. This difference was frightening.

Both doctors worked hard, spending fewer than ten hours a day with their patients which translated into a high income. One doctor figured that with such a large income, a household budget and planning was a waste of time but the other had an opposite feeling.

He and his wife believed that money was a resource never to be squandered but to be carefully allocated to a lifestyle well within their earnings.

This left me with a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew that we needed to change our thinking of wealth and money as, I’d been consumed by the “Rich doctor” syndrome.

“Being a well educated, high income earner does not automatically translate into financial independence. It takes sacrifice and planning” The Millionaire next door – Dr. Thomas J Stanley

General practice and wider implication

After reading the millionaire next door I started noticing a pattern within our families, our friends and in my patients. Two of my favourite patients who regularly saw me were both married tradesman with their own businesses and they have amassed a small fortune through careful investing, working hard and living within their means.

They were more than happy to share their story with me when I asked as there is much wisdom to be learnt from the experience of others!

I’ve also recently seen two schoolteachers on fixed incomes become millionaires and retire aged 65 after a lifetime of frugal living and planning.

This story about an American janitor recently confirmed that Dr. Stanley’s research about the wealthy are true as Ronald Read had amassed a 8 million dollar estate when he passed away at age 92.

But I’d have to sadly say this rather the exception than the rule as most have fallen for the illusion of acting rich and that success is measured with spending and living beyond their means.

Application

With Dr. Stanley’s words firmly echoing in our minds, the change in our lives has been gradual but rewarding.

These are some key ideas from The Millionaire Next Door that have had a personal impact:

Begin earning and investing early in your life

Budgeting, investing and controlling expenses is the path towards affluence

Live well below your means 

You definitely aren’t what you drive

Don’t take on a mortgage that is more that twice your annual income

Most millionaires don’t spend money on luxury items

STOP ACTING RICH! 

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to drive my 13-year-old Mazda 121 to work or receive my $40 $25 a week allowance for “personal items” (its usually coffee, music and books). I dare say influence that “The Millionaire Next Door” had on our lives was one of the few reasons why we chose to move to the country ,to reduce our cost of living and therefore path to financial independence.

My collection of Dr Stanley's works - My favourite "Stop acting rich"
My collection of Dr Stanley’s works – My favourite “Stop acting rich”  @thehealthyGP

Finally

So is it all about becoming a millionaire and amassing a fortune? I dare say most millionaire’s never had this as their target, rather wanting to be in control of their financial future and not falling into the cycle of debt and consumerism.

They found out early that living within their means, saving and investing led to a happier and more fulfilled marriage, children who understood the value of money and work and finally the capacity to be generous with the next generation and those in need.

The message here is clear.

Frugality, living with our means and investing are the secrets of the millionaire next door.

Live Intentionally

Jonathan  Ramachenderan

*All text and ideas shared here are copyrighted work of Thomas J Stanley *

Check out these books:

The Millionaire Next Door – The book which started it all and the cornerstone of how we should live and think financially

Stop Acting Rich – Game changing for me as a doctor and an excellent perspective of real millionaire living 

Link to Dr Thomas J Stanley’s blog – a wealth of wisdom on money

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Janet Diaz says:

    Very interesting , as usual.

    Like

    1. Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan says:

      Hi Janet, thank you for your comment. I do find these studies very interesting too!

      Like

  2. Kylie says:

    A great read. Even better in practice! We’ve come far and will continue to grow together 😘

    Like

    1. Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan @thehealthyGP says:

      You are the budget queen!

      Like

  3. Julie says:

    John, great read as usual 🙂 Have a look at an app called “You Need a Budget.” It is awesome!

    Like

    1. Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan @thehealthyGP says:

      Thanks Julie! We’ve been using a budget that Kylie designed since I was in medical school. It is has just become way more considered and balanced now in the last few years.

      Like

  4. chasinggains says:

    interesting and a great read, I love the point to “stop acting rich”. I would much rather be rich than act like I was 😀

    Like

    1. Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan @thehealthyGP says:

      Thanks!

      Love your writing! I too am chasing gains in both arenas. I am going to test my PR’s again in 6 weeks.

      You should read if you haven’t already “The Millionaire Next Door” then “Stop Acting Rich”. These are books I wished i’d read as an 18year old at university.

      Well done to be on the road to being financially independent and strong!!

      Jonathan

      Liked by 1 person

      1. chasinggains says:

        Thanks Jonathan ! Best of both worlds I think 😀 Good luck in beating your PR’s! Will definitely give them a read thanks!
        CG

        Like

  5. Elissa says:

    Hi Jonathan. I first read The Millionaire Next Door more than 10 years ago when my friend, the ever financially astute Tanya Lee (you might remember her from high school), moved overseas and lent me some books. She never moved back and it is still on my bookshelf, having been read by me several times. When I first read it I was a medical student, surrounded by private school graduates who lived in their parents’ huge houses and drove really nice cars. Yes, most of their parents were medical specialists! I used to be a bit envious (even though I was always rich by global standards, and even Australian standards) but reading The Millionaire Next Door led to a light bulb moment. The “millionaire” described is my dad to a T – and I am forever grateful for the sound financial skills my parents have taught me throughout my life (not to mention the excellent public education I received) and that they valued paying off HECS fees over buying flashy cars. I feel no desire to move to a larger home (in fact, I think my 2×2 apartment is way too big), buy a new car or a new TV. I am certainly not perfect (my parents think I’m a very extravagant spender with my sustainable fashion and overseas holidays) but live well within my means and when I have an income rise it tends to go towards donations, not consumer stuff.

    It brings to mind one of my favourite quotations, for Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I remind myself of this frequently.

    Like

    1. Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan @thehealthyGP says:

      Dear Elissa

      Very pleased to hear from you! Comparison is the thief of joy. I love that too.

      Thank you for the comment, I only wish that I’d read this earlier! But I believe my boys will receive this as their financial education.

      The boomers do think that we are more extravagant, maybe because it is much more accessible and “cheaper” for what we are earning. They lived in a different time. The wisdom here being that as long as we live within our means and are considered with our spending, this will serve us very well.

      So glad again to hear from you. Thank you for reading my work. I am honoured.

      I am convinced that financial education can change family legacies.

      Like

  6. Sean says:

    Hey Rama, Good blog post.

    Never read that particular book but I did read Rich Dad Poor Dad which has a very similar theme.

    I was recently at antenatal classes and happened to sit next to a couple who looked a fair bit younger than us where the wife was all blinged up, e.g. her diamond engagement ring was honestly more than double the width and height of my wife’s 1.2 carat engagement ring, Chanel Hand bag, Louis Vuitton iPhone cover and a Bulgari watch. As they looked quite young I wondered what they did for a living to be be able to be so blingy. Further investigation found that it’s all show, they lived somewhere where I won’t name but what I considered to be not a great area and they had just sold his sports car to buy a family car. Consumerism drives today’s society and unfortunately I am guilty of it too as I love fast cars 🙂

    I agree with what you wrote that people should be living within their means and budget appropiately but the main problem I have with these types of books is that being frugal generally relies on the fact that ignorance is bliss or that you are going to live to a very old age.

    My wife loved her mazda6 and thought it was a fantastic car and said she would keep it for ages or didn’t need an upgrade. Then when I got my car and she started driving it around she said you can definitely notice the difference between her car and mine and started getting the upgrade itch.

    Also, what happens to the guy that spends all his youth amassing a small fortune through working his butt off, living frugally and gets to 40 and finds he is terminally ill?

    Doing things in general is expensive, whether it be hobbies, travel or experiences.

    There was one guy from our High School whose name I won;t mention, but while he was living in London everyday for for dinner he would 2 minute noodles and nothing else cos he wanted to save as he thought food in London was too expensive. When I first got their his skin looked pale and green as he didn’t want to spend money on fruits and Veg. At the time he was earning around $125k AUD a year so it’s not like he didn’t have the cash.

    We went on a trip to Sweden once and he didn’t eat one meal out a restaurant. He had packed 2minute noodles with him and when we went out to eat he would just watch us. I thought half the point of travelling was to experience the cuisine of that country. Anyway he was probably one extreme of the Frugal kind and sure he save a lot but what is the point of living in another country and travelling if you don’t bother experiencing things.

    On another note, I am curious to know if those tradies have paid all the tax they should be paying given a high amount of them dodge tax through not declaring cash jobs. Ask them the next time you see them and see what their response is.

    Like

    1. Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan @thehealthyGP says:

      Dear Sean thanks for taking the time to read the post and comment, I appreciate it and congratulations on the baby!

      I agree with you and one of the biggest criticism of The Millionaire Next Door is exactly as you mentioned, we can live within our means but still live and enjoy life!

      In Stop Acting Rich (my favourite book), Stanley examines this criticism and concludes that most millionaires didn’t set out to be rich but rather wanted to attain financial independence. Becoming a millionaire was simply a by product of this.

      The beauty of a life well lived is that it is usually a composite of great ideologies that we’ve read, teaching usually from our parents and mentors and experiences that we’ve been through and learnt from. I think that it is possible to take some advice from The Millionaire Next Door but combine it with our own experiences and beliefs.

      The change for me wasn’t in starting to live extremely frugally but rather a shift in my mindset and perspective of wealth. As a doctor I am part of a group that can be time poor and therefore expend the majority of time treating patients and spending cash rather than being mindful about our lifestyle and creating wealth.

      Regarding the two guys that I mentioned, I think its their business to run and therefore their issue to face the consequences if there is anything unscrupulous going on! I will do what I do best and listen!

      Thanks for the comment Sean!

      Like

  7. Luke says:

    I’ve definitely changed my spending habits after reading this book. The ultimate way to be frugal would be to start an internet business and move to a country with lower cost of living, which I want to do.

    Like

    1. Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan @thehealthyGP says:

      G’day Luke, I agree! We are exploring exactly that idea now (internet business). So far I am thinking along the lines of information products (GP related possibly) or starting to put together eBooks.

      I hope you find something that allows you to achieve what you are looking for!

      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

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