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This article by Melinda Sherwood was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on October 27, 1999. All rights reserved.

New Money, New Millionaires

Fundraisers, before you start wining and dining the

guy with the expensive clothing or car keep this in mind: today’s

millionaires don’t fit the usual mold. Most of today’s wealthy, in

fact, live well below their means and hold average jobs. The richest

guy you know, in fact, could be the plumber, the guy who runs the

mobile park home, or, says William D. Danko, the guy next door.

Danko is co-author of "The Millionaire Next Door," an intimate

look at America’s millionaires that sat on the New York Times bestseller

list for a year. Danko, a professor of marketing at SUNY Albany, has

been studying the affluent with colleague Thomas J. Stanley,

who co-wrote the book, since 1973. Between 1995 and 1997, the two

professors gathered surveys from thousands of high-income households

and held interviews and focus group studies with more than 500 millionaires

in which they asked questions about occupation, budget planning, financial

fears, methods of bargaining when purchasing large items, and financial

gifts or acts of kindness.

The charitable habits of the affluent are the subject of Danko’s keynote

address, "Philanthropy…Building for a Better Tomorrow,"

at the National Society of Fundraising Executives meeting on Thursday,

November 4, at noon. The event begins at 7 a.m. at the Newark Airport

Marriott. Call: 609-585-6871. Cost: $240.

"The Millionaire Next Door" taunts the typical WASP snob with

proof of how fast his inheritance is shrinking, and how quickly new

money is accumulating. The trust fund babies, write Danko and Stanley,

are getting bought out by the small business owners, cattle-farmers,

or even horse traders. This is America, after all.

Danko describes the cultural clash like this:

"Several years ago we were asked to conduct a study of the affluent

in America. We were hired by Toddy, a corporate vice president of

a subsidiary of a large corporation. Toddy’s ancestors were English.

His forefathers were in America before the Revolutionary War. More

recently they owned steel mills in Pennsylvania. Toddy, their direct

descendant, attended an exclusive prep school in New England and graduated

from Princeton University.

"Toddy, like many people in this country, had always believed

that wealthy people inherited their fortunes. Toddy also believed

that most wealthy people had English roots. So what happened to Toddy’s

long-held opinions after he joined us out in the survey field, meeting

America’s millionaires? Most of the millionaire respondents Toddy

met were first generation affluent. And most were not of English origin.

Most of them attended public schools; they drove American-made automobiles,

and they preferred club sandwiches to caviar. And, unlike Toddy, most

were frugal."

The portrait of a typical millionaire, write Danko and Stanley: a

57-year-old male, often self-employed, using an advanced degree to

work a "dull-normal" job with an average taxable income of

$131,000. He (most millionaires are hes) is not "new vehicle prone"

and invests roughly 20 percent of household income per year. Work

weeks range from 45 to 55 hours a week (another slap in the face for

the workaholic) and he has a "go-to-hell" fund that could

support him for several years without work.

Millionaires, Danko and Stanley write, follow these seven rules:

They live well below their means.

They allocate their time, energy, and money efficiently,

in ways conducive to building wealth.

They believe financial independence is more important

than status.

Their parents did not provide economic outpatient care,

i.e. large cash gifts or inheritances.

Their adult children are economically self-sufficient.

They are proficient in targeting marketing opportunities.

They chose the right occupation.

Each of the millionaires interviewed were given a couple hundred

dollars for their time and were given an option to donate a portion

of that to their favorite charity. That’s when Stanley and Danko learned

the most important thing about millionaires: they are tightwads. Most

replied, "I am my favorite charity."

— Melinda Sherwood


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