When looking at what makes people successful, people often attribute wealth and success to things that really aren't the cause. For example, people often assume that the wealthy only got to where they are because they inherited their wealth, and because they did unethical things to cheat people out of their money. The reality is that most millionaires are first generation wealthy, and that they got to where they are because they place a premium on ethics and are extremely fair in how they treat other people.
So today, I want to do a quickie post talking about another misconception, and talk about a few attributes that set the wealthy apart from those who aren't.
Discipline, Frugality And Moderation Lead To Success
We're often told that the wealthy are prone to great excesses, and that they love to spend lavishly on things they don't necessarily need. In some respects people believe that the wealthy lack a sense of moderation, and that they love to spend. Quite the opposite is true.
One thing that often leads to success for the wealthy is the fact that they are disciplined in the things that they do, whether it be in researching and planning their financial lives, or if it comes to being disciplined in their eating and exercise habits. They learn their outlook on life via their parents who taught them the value of discipline, frugality and moderation from an early age.
Author Thomas J. Stanley discusses this point in a recent post where he talks about calls for government restrictions to fast food consumption.
Just like hypereating is a danger to one's physical well being, hyperconsuming is a danger to one's financial well being. So what does this all have to do with millionaires? Most millionaires eat and spend in moderation. They are well disciplined. In fact, it is rare to find any of the millionaires whom I have interviewed one on one or in focus groups to be overweight. I have found that the typical millionaire, a male, is 5'10” tall and weighs 184 pounds. Decamillionaires are about an inch taller and 3 pounds heavier. After reviewing this data, I was prompted by the numbers to review my latest copy of the Forbes 400 issue. Looking at the pictures of the wealthiest 400 people is telling. Bill Gates is hardly overweight nor is Steven Jobs or Larry Ellison. One must be well disciplined to achieve the status of a Forbes 400 designation. This discipline extends to the consumption of food.
The problem often isn't necessarily that someone doesn't have the opportunity to succeed due to their situation, it's the fact that they haven't been given the tools to succeed by their parents. They haven't been taught the value of hard work, discipline, frugality and moderation. They see the excesses that society says is ok and laudable, and they shoot for those goals, when in fact discipline, moderation and frugality are the actual keys to success.
The habit of eating in moderation among the wealthy in America was not developed via government mandates and laws. Most economically successful people tell me that their disciplined lifestyle including consumption habits originated from their upbringing. In other words, the parents mold the child. They are the ones who dictate how much the child eats and where he eats.
Today a good number of millionaires patronize fast food restaurants. In fact 47% of those in the $1M-$5M net worth category reported eating at least one meal inside a McDonald's within the last 30 days before being interviewed. Forty percent of those with a net worth of over $5M did the same. If anything these numbers understate their patronage since my question did not ask about drive-in or take-out orders.
What can I say about children who are taught the benefits of discipline, frugality and moderation? They are much more likely to become economically successful and satisfied adults than those who were raised in an atmosphere void of these characteristics.
So having discipline, frugality and moderation are key ingredients to becoming successful in life, no matter what your starting point. If you have those things, you'll be much more likely to be economically successful – and satisfied adults.
What are your thoughts on this. Do we understate the importance of these things – discipline, frugality and moderation? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.
Wow, how true! Great post. Most Millionaires I met have their plan and stick to it, no matter what. They adjust the plan only when there is a material change in their situation. They are clear what the end goal is, and what it will take to get there, Like you said, discipline, frugality, and moderation.
Amen! To answer your question (Do we understate the importance of these things – discipline, frugality and moderation?), I don’t think we actually underestimate the importance of these things. But there is a lot of “what” in those words and not a lot of “how.” A simple concept is often overwhelming to people and they just give up (problem with discipline…). And, of course, there are the billions of dollars spent every year convincing people that you have to “spend money to make money,” “keep up the appearance of success, so success will follow,” etc. etc. etc.
So, no, we don’t underestimate it. But we may underestimate how difficult it is for many people to incorporate discipline, frugality and moderation into their lives.
I thought your correlation between eating habits and wealth was very interesting and when I thought about the millionaires I have known I have to agree that you may be right. I must mention that they did not follow every new fad about food like low fat, low carb, etc. They ate simple 4 food group meals and not a lot of desert or snacks. Good catch on your observation!
As to your first part of the post
“For example, people often assume that the wealthy only got to where they are because they inherited their wealth, and because they did unethical things to cheat people out of their money.”
I think most are just simply angry they aren’t there or worse because they believe they can never get there.