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What’s it like to be a millionaire?

The garden-variety millionaire is shopping at Target and Wal-Mart, just like you.

By Karen Datko Mar 1, 2010 8:57PM

We’ve noticed that SmartMoney’s “10 things a millionaire won’t tell you” (a version appeared here at MSN Money) is still provoking commentary long after it was initially posted. We never tire of the inside scoop on the rich, even if they’re not famous.


So what’s it like to be a millionaire? Two bloggers who apparently are members of that club examined the question by asking: Did SmartMoney get it right?

Yes and no, they said, but on one point they and we can all agree: Millionaires don’t feel rich, and with good reason. Having a million bucks isn’t what it used to be.


“Equating millionaire with rich made sense 100 years ago, but today I think the lifestyle most would associate with rich would start at around $10 million in net worth,” said Frank Curmudgeon at Bad Money Advice, a millionaire blogger.


In fact, millionaires are not all that uncommon. About 6.7 million U.S. households have a net worth exceeding $1 million (not including home equity). MSN Money’s Liz Pulliam Weston didn’t do a happy dance on the kitchen island the day she realized her household net worth exceeded six figures. “There was no popping of champagne corks, no trips to the Continent, no quitting of jobs. The fact that the experience was so mundane speaks volumes, both about how millionaires are really created and what it means to be one,” she wrote.


In fact, SmartMoney quoted a Fidelity executive who said many millionaires are worried about the same things the rest of us are, like retirement savings and health care. “I think they realize that they are certainly doing well -- and much better than most -- but they also realize that a million dollars isn't going to last 30 years into retirement,” said Free Money Finance's "FMF," who speaks from experience.

Among SmartMoney’s other observations:


Millionaires are bargain hunters and shop at places like Wal-Mart, likely reflecting their predominantly middle-class roots. These people made their own fortunes, either from starting a business or becoming a professional or corporate type. Only 5% inherited their money, SmartMoney says. (Frank is a fan of Target.)


Millionaires use concierge services for lots of things, like getting good tables at restaurants or having a doctor readily available. FMF and Frank suspect that’s more a behavior of the super-rich, not the run-of-the-mill millionaire.


The super-rich, “The Investor” argues at Monevator, have special problems of their own, including more complicated lives (multiple accountants, servants, lawyers, architects, etc.), public disdain, and people who want to scam them, including prospective mates. For yet another take on what it’s like to have tons of money, read this post at Len Penzo dot Com.

Millionaires weren’t the best students. The book “The Millionaire Mind” said their average SAT score was a decent but not spectacular 1190. Also, the majority went to state schools. “When asked to list the keys to their success, millionaires rank hard work, followed by education, determination and ‘treating others with respect,’” SmartMoney wrote.


That makes sense, FMF said. “As we've discussed, success in life is more about the person and his/her qualities, not what school they went to and what their grades were.”


Rich people are happier, studies have shown. That could be due to the freedom that comes with having surplus funds. FMF sees some truth in that. He wrote that “my take is that money can make you happier to a point, but after that, more money doesn't increase happiness.” Frank is still waiting: “It hasn’t for me. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps I need just a little more of the stuff.”


Millionaires are still trying to keep up with those who have even more money. Both Frank and FMF set their sites on SmartMoney’s unfortunate subhead: “You worry about the Joneses -- I worry about keeping up with the Trumps.”


“The Trumps? Seriously? On what planet is Donald Trump an attractive role model for anything other than implausibly successful self-promotion?” Frank asked, adding, “Of course, there is truth to this in that no matter how successful you are, the grass is always greener on the lawn next door.”


Do you know any millionaires or people you at least suspect have that kind of net worth? How are they like you? Are they different in any way?


Related reading:

Dec 8, 2010 1:32AM

ONE THING they didnt mention is that most millionaires were born and raised in good families... his or her family could be poor, but their parents teach them well...


in other words, they werent born in a fckd up family calling them stuped almost everyday.

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