Yes, The Rich Are Different — They’re Better

Personal Snapshots
Forecasts & Strategies
March 2000

by Mark Skousen

“The rich are different from you and me.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Yes, they have more money.” — Ernest Hemingway

In 1996 when I jogged with President Clinton (see My Jog with Bill Clinton), I complained about his constant attacks on the wealthy. During the presidential campaigns, he would often opine, “The rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes.” Politicians and the media love to take potshots at the well-to-do. Hollywood producers delight in portraying the rich as big spenders who use drugs, engage in white-collar crime, avoid taxes, and dump their companions in favor of trophy wives.

Millionaires Are Model Citizens!

Thomas J. Stanley, former professor of marketing at Georgia State University, shows that the critics of capitalism are dead wrong. Prof. Stanley, you may recall, is the author of the huge best seller, The Millionaire Next Door, which I reviewed last May in Forecasts & Strategies. Now he has a new book out, and it’s a blockbuster. According to The Millionaire Mind, (available from www.amazon.com or Laissez Faire Books www.lfb.org) millionaires are model citizens. Here are the results of his survey of over 1,000 super-millionaires (people who earn $1,000,000 a year or more):

  • They live far below their means, and have little or no debt. Most pay off their credit cards every month; 40% have no home mortgage at all.
  • Millionaires are frugal; they prepare shopping lists, resole their shoes, and save a lot of money; but they are not misers; they live balanced lives.
  • 97% are homeowners; they tend to live in fine homes in older neighborhoods. (Only 27% have ever built their “dreamhome.”)
  • 92% are married; only 2% are currently divorced. Millionaire couples have less than one-third the divorce rate of non-millionaire couples. The typical couple in the millionaire group has been married for 28 years, and has three children. Nearly 50% of the wives of the super-rich do not work outside the home.
  • Most are one-generation millionaires who became wealthy as business owners or executives; most did not inherit their wealth.
  • Almost all are well educated; 90% are college graduates, and 52% hold advanced degrees; however, few graduated top of their class — most were “B” students. They learned two lessons from college: discipline and tenacity.
  • Most live balanced lives; they are not workaholics; 93% listed socialiazing with family members as their #1 activity; 45% play golf. (Stanley didn’t survey whether they were avid book readers — too bad.)
  • 52% attend church at least once a month; 37% consider themselves very religious.
  • They share five basic ingredients to success: integrity, discipline, social skills, a supportive spouse, and hard work.
  • They contribute heavily to charity, church and community activities (64%).
  • Their #1 worry: taxes! Their average annual federal tax bill: $300,000. The top 1/10 of 1% of U.S. income earners pays 14.7% of all income taxes collected!
  • “Not one millionaire had anything nice to say about gambling.” Okay, but his survey also showed that 33% played the lottery at least once during the year!

Thus, we see how the super upper-income families of this nation are not the ones contributing to crime, welfare, divorce, child abuse, and a spendthrift society. But they are playing a lot of taxes and making a lot of contributions to solve these social problems.

Although Stanley did not cover this issue, I’ve also seen studies indicating that higher-income individuals live longer, on average five to ten years longer, than the average American (76 years) and enjoy better health, fitness and quality of life. They aren’t the ones causing Medicare to go bankrupt.

Instead of bashing the rich, let’s salute them. If indeed the wealthy are such good citizens, as Stanley’s work suggests, our goal should not aim to impoverish the rich, but the enrich the poor. That our goal at Forecasts & Strategies.

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