Last year I read The Millionaire Next Door and it opened up my eyes to the reality that as individuals we are in complete control of how wealthy or poor we end up as adults. The research within this book, though slightly outdated, maintained that the truly wealthy were not the people conspicuously consuming material items. Instead, they were the blue-collar business owners and the middle-management husband and educator wife who saved much more of their income than they spent. They may not have been driving the most current vehicle or wearing the flashy Rolex, but most certainly could afford to do so. The bottom line was that the truly wealthy were prodigious accumulators of wealth (PAW), unlike the symbolic “Joneses” who are under accumulators of wealth (UAW).

After reading Millionaire, I researched where the term “Keeping up with the Joneses” came from and found out it derived from a cartoon strip meant as a parody on conspicuous consumption. I guess the ultimate irony was played on the succeeding American generations as more people than ever before can be categorized as UAW’s. But what I gathered from the book and the epiphany I had after reading it, was that anyone can be a millionaire; it just takes some lifestyle changes and understanding of the qualities leading towards a PAW versus a UAW.

PAW Qualities

  • Save more than 20 – 25% of your income. It obviously helps if both spouses within a marriage can contribute a portion of their income towards savings. The earlier an individual or couple can start, the better as compounded interest grows over time.
  • Purchase a home within 3-times your income. Most PAW’s own their own homes. However, most remain within 3-times their income limit. It’s even better if the home purchase is 3-times just one income, not two. Think of all the money that can be saved living off just one income and saving the other.
  • Drive an older model car. Based on research, most PAW’s keep their cars for 10 years or more. Good quality, reliable cars that are taken care of can last quite a while. The benefits include no car payments and lower auto insurance.
  • Marry a frugal spouse. It’s more difficult to become a PAW if one spouse is saving the money and the other is spending it all.

UAW Qualities

  • Spend all or more of your income than you can afford. UAW’s often save very little of their income or none at all often relying on credit to cover emergency expenses.
  • Live off your parents. The interesting thing about PAW’s is that those who fund their children’s lifestyles create UAW’s out of their children. (I know someone in this category.)
  • Keep up with appearances. People of certain professions often feel they must appear successful and purchase the brand new BMW, buy the largest house on the block, and send their kids to Harvard. This behavior leads to an UAW down the road.
  • Marry a spendthrift. Even the most diligent saver can be hoodwinked by a spendthrift spouse. If one spouse is depositing their income in the bank as quickly as the other is depleting it, you end up reverting to zero.

Thankfully, I’ve never categorized myself as a “Jones,” partially because I really don’t like shopping and have never been a slave to fashion. However, I’ve learned that by changing my perspective of what a true millionaire looks like with a definite savings plan in place, I may eventually become one myself.

Do you consider yourself a UAW or PAW?