I recently received an e-mail from an engineer whom I’ll call Mr. SC. I’d like to share his story with you.
My wife and I have achieved multi-millionaire status by the very means Dr. Stanley has found in his studies. I perform the vast majority of tasks that most Americans would think a millionaire would outsource: I take care of my own yard work (run a chain saw to remove dead trees, clean the gutters, paint the trim, caulk the windows, dig drainage ditches, spread mulch), I perform my own oil changes, and I give my pets baths. We rarely eat out, spend large sums on clothing and vacations are infrequent and usually for the purpose of visiting relatives (where we can stay for free). What’s the saying: you’re truly rich when you can get someone else to take care of your things? I guess I’m not there yet. We do have a nice house and vehicles, but we use our money only in those limited categories where we spend most of my time and where we derive pleasure (although even here we are now rethinking some of this, reducing capital investment in real estate and vehicles because we’ve read studies which indicate people tend to be happier when spending money on experiences and less on assets: maybe we should trade that third car in for more vacation time?). We probably have had more of an advantage than most people. We have no children. We both have graduate educations from good schools and have had very good professional incomes. We have lived in low cost areas in the country (the southwest and the southeast). I also took a significant risk, leaving a Fortune 500 career in my mid-30’s (1993) to start a successful engineering consulting company. I sold that in 2003 (we used the proceeds from that sale to pay off our mortgage and now carry no debt). Despite those advantages, we face many of the issues afflicting others. Our income has declined by about 40% in this economy, due to the loss of engineering revenue (I recently bought my engineering business back for pennies on the dollar after the purchaser had problems keeping it successful – I’m rebuilding it now with little personal income, relying on my spouse). Despite this, however, we continue to save for retirement aggressively – both in terms of dollars and percent of income.
Some millionaires find it easy to save aggressively for retirement because they are handy around the house like Mr. SC . In fact, nine percent of America’s decamillionaires (those with a net worth of $10 million or more) mow their own lawns; 14% paint the exterior of their own homes; 23% frequently conduct do-it-yourself plumbing; 29% are involved with do-it-yourself carpentry, and 54% are involved with gardening. Most of these people grow a lot of their own vegetables!