Richer by the Day
Ongoing ramblings about personal finance, and all related topics. If it has to do with money, it will be covered here.

Filed under Book Review, Books, Wealth

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The latest book review here on Richer by the Day is Thomas J. Stanley’s Stop Acting Rich … And Start Living Like a Real Millionaire.  Those familiar with Stanley’s other notable books, namely The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind will see many familiar themes in Stop Acting Rich.  That’s not a criticism though, since this niche is where Stanley is at his best.  The differences between the three could be summarized as follows: The Millionaire Next Door described the typical millionaire, The Millionaire Mind revealed what they believe made them a success, and Stop Acting Rich explains why so many non-rich hyperspend and fail in their rich-emulation attempts.

Stop Acting Rich begins with an overview of the phenomenon whereby people try to emulate the rich, but fail miserably.  The problem, in simplified terms, is that they either emulate those with nearly limitless resources (whom they will never become) and/or the habits they believe the rich follow.  Unfortunately their beliefs of the rich are incorrect and so they act in many ways that are detrimental to their wealth.  The disheartening situation that many seem to find themselves in is a preference for appearing rich, rather than actually becoming rich.

Hyper-consumption and a desire to highlight our “wealth” through the showcase of status symbols takes away from our true wealth.  As Stanley implies, owning these rich badges (fancy cars, premium brands, etc) doesn’t make you rich any more than a certificate proclaiming your high IQ makes you smart.  The relationship is one-way; being rich may allow you to acquire such things, but having them doesn’t confer wealth upon you.

In each of the middle five chapters, a particular type of spending (Shoes, Watches, Liquor, Wine, Cars) is covered.  The results are anything but what commonly held beliefs would estimate.  Throughout the book, we learn why buying luxury items from these categories may make us feel like the rich, when in fact millionaires are typically not purchasing these brands themselves.  As an example, in the United States, 86% of all pristine/luxury makes of motor vehicles are driven by non-millionaires.  So if you want to drive like a millionaire, skip the Mercedes and opt for the Toyota.  Other similar examples (more than 2/3 of country club members are non-millionaires) abound.  The other side of such statistics, i.e. what percentage of millionaires do drive luxury cars, are also presented.

An interesting side effect of so many people acting rich is that marketing to those people may be successful.  It may be important for luxury home builders to include wine cellars in their homes; not because millionaires are wine connoisseurs (they aren’t, but they also tend not to buy such homes) but rather because those who do buy a luxury home for the status it conveys probably also believe that they need wine cellars.

I really appreciated the author’s disclosure of worry about being an outlier, in this case a non-wine-worshiper.  I have felt similar anxiety about my own lack of desire to spend on status or hyper-consume.  Thankfully The Millionaire Next Door and Your Money or Your Life, among others, reassured me that I’m not alone in my choices.  In Stop Acting Rich, Stanley further explains that engineers (I’m an engineer) tend to be relatively insensitive to marketing hype.  I prefer to use logic to make decisions.  Another influential factor in my case is that most of my friends and colleagues are also engineers.  This ties in nicely with Stanley’s premise that the type of home we live in and where we choose to live often takes the greatest toll on our financial health.  Neighbors and neighborhoods, much like friends and colleagues, set our expectations of ‘normal and necessary’ consumption habits.  Living in an exclusive community may make you more inclined to join the country club, drive the luxury car, and serve the premium brands when entertaining.

I can imagine additional benefits to living like a true millionaire without flaunting success.  It provides a form of privacy, identity theft protection, and liability insurance.  Thieves or litigation-happy individuals might not waste their time pursuing a Millionaire Next Door type, who keeps a low profile and doesn’t appear rich, but may go after those who flaunt their (non-existent) wealth.

I suspect that Stop Acting Rich readers will fall into three categories: those who have read Stanley’s prior work or are already aware of the frugal nature of typical millionaires, those blown away upon learning these facts for the first time, and those who will never accept these truths despite the mountains of data proving the point.  I always appreciate debate and differing views, but I have little patience for the most stubborn of this last group who would dismiss the research with a myriad of excuses like “that may be partially true on average, but here in California (The Northeast, etc)…” or “the author must not be speaking to the real millionaires because everyone knows they do drive fancy cars and live in mansions.”  No amount of proof can break the myths held so dear to such people.

As with his previous books, I enjoyed and highly recommend Thomas J. Stanley’s Stop Acting Rich.  It will reaffirm your good habits and highlight those areas of your financial life where aspirations are aligned with myths that lead you astray.  Stop Acting Rich, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available for your reading pleasure.


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How Come That Idiot’s Rich and I’m Not? Review

66 Responses to “Stop Acting Rich Book Review”

  1. Riggsveda Says:

    If you’ve never read Paul Fussell’s “Class”, I highly recommend it. It goes even more deeply into the psychology of this phenomenon, and is a hilarious read, too.

  2. Kay Says:

    Hi,

    I loved your review. I am currently halfway through the book,I fall into the first category of someone who has previously read Stanley and am familar with his research.

    Interestingly, I have a friend who recently filed bankruptcy. She and her husband still cannot afford their basic living expenses. I was telling her some of the main points of the book including rich people don’t all drive Mercedes, wear Rolex watches and drink Grey Goose. She disagree and said, “Yes they do; everyone knows that. The author is totally wrong.” I never know how to reply to those types of commnets because in the next minute, she will be sobbing stating that she can’t go on with her life.

    Do you feel like this is typical behavior for a hyper-consumer, or has my friend just not realized the important lesson to be learned from bankruptcy?

    Also, do you have any suggestions on how to reply to her when she makes comments, that I know are incorrect.

    Thank you,
    Kay

  3. Mike Says:

    @Riggsveda Thanks for the recommendation. I love hearing about interesting books (particularly those published a while back) which might not have otherwise crossed my path. I’ll add it to my list of books to check out.

  4. Mike Says:

    @Kay I would hope that in many cases, a bankruptcy could provide the wake-up call necessary for a hyper-consumer to change their ways. Unfortunately, I fear that your friend’s behavior may be the more typical response…continued denial. Some people never seem to learn. As with other types of addiction, those offering support to the afflicted struggle with the delicate balance between nurturing support and tough love to try to inspire change. It sounds to me like you’re in this struggle with your friend now. You can only show her proof and contradict her false statements so many times. The revelation is in her control, not yours. Unless she is open to such possibilities, I doubt another round of statistics (our great Stanley book) will make the difference. One possible approach you might consider trying is removing the abstraction that average numbers (such as those from this book) can have on certain people. Instead, consider offering a real life example of either your own, or a common acquaintance’s, finances. By showing how you are doing more with less or much more with a similar amount, you may be able to convince her. Good luck!

  5. Kay Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. You are exactly right about the denial and my struggle with her. My husband and I recently paid off $22,000 in student loans, and she has watched me make an effort to live more simply and cut-back on unnecessary expenses. We still have $15,000 left on a home equity loan, and then we will be debt free except for our house. She considers what we are doing ridiculous when we can “obviously” afford things.

    I am sorry to ramble on, I just really appreciated your comments. When I have asked other people what I should do, they tell me to ignore her or forget about it, but we work together and are close friends. It is difficult to ignore it!

    Again, thank you for your time and comments. Great site.

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    I am an avid Stanley reader and fan. I thought your review was thoughtful and showed you thoroughly read and understood the book. How refreshing! I have enjoyed his blog in recent months as well!

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