Is it weird that a book about blue collar workers who are uber savers somehow managed to upset me? I was actually really excited to read this book. A New York Times Bestseller, highly recommended by financial bloggers and experts, I speed read through The Millionaire Next Door pdf I found online and listened to it as an audiobook (my preferred method of “reading”) both for free. The authors would’ve been proud if it wasn’t their book, right? I can’t say I hate this book or that it’s a bad book, but there are two major aspects about the book that really managed to push my buttons.
First is the ultra-frugal lifestyle it seems to push on the reader. There is a fine line between frugal and cheap and let’s say some of the people depicted in this book cross it. I am all for saving and consider myself pretty frugal, but I think money is for more than accumulating. Both my husband and I grew up as second generation Asian-Americans to immigrant parents who saved everything. I’m talking about reusing paper towels til they disintegrate, washing and reusing plastic cups, utensils and even ziplock bags. So I think I understand the frugal mindset. We as a household have no debt, except the mortgage, and we max out our retirement accounts, Roth IRA and have a good 6 month emergency savings and invest in taxable accounts as well. But it’s like come on! Loosen the purse strings a little. I’m not about to eat spam and baked beans every day just to watch my money accumulate like some Scrooge McDuck.
I know people will argue that’s not the point of the book, but I think the book without meaning to has a moral tone that makes it seem like the “good” people are the people who save and scrimp every penny and the “bad” people are those who buy fancy cars, nice clothes and go on vacations. I think there is a healthy balance between any two extremes and finding that balance is a personal decision.
The other thing about the book that pushes a button in me is the part where the authors characterize the average “millionaire.” It goes something like this: “Hello, I am a 50 year old male, I have 3 kids and my wife doesn’t work, but if she does she’s a teacher! My sons are all financially smart, but my daughters, well they are all financially dumb as rocks.” (my paraphrase) This description of the average millionaire is in essence saying, hey if you didn’t know women are NOT the average millionaire and they don’t know much about money either. Granted this book was written in the 90’s. In today’s day and age, more women than men are college educated. Women are the breadwinners in 40% of households. By the time my daughter reaches marriageable age, she will probably be living in a society where women breadwinners will significantly outnumber men and might even be the norm. Not all women are just into shopping. Why can’t a woman shop and be interested in investing too? End rant.
Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of good and interesting things about the book. The greatest take away from the book is this, live below your means. That’s a very important message in our debt-ridden, consumeristic society. If the Millionaire Next Door lifestyle suits you, that’s great! But I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with you or date you. ?