If you saw my father on a normal day, you'd feel sorry for him. His clothes are worn and coated with a mosaic of dirt, paint, and other unidentifiables. His boots are solid blocks of mud. His head is covered with a worn-out baseball cap, usually soaked in sweat.
You'd think he was a beggar. But he's not. He's one of the wealthiest and fastest growing landowners in northern Mississippi.
Movies and television have created a stereotype of the millionaire, and like most stereotypes, it's completely false. Rich people don't drive fancy cars, live in mansions, or cart around entourages of sexy playthings.
They know better. As one of my most successful mentors told me, "Getting rich is not about how much money spend, but about how much money you keep."
To illustrate, here are some comments from my investors:
A car payment? Why, I can't remember the last time I made one.
About a year ago, my father invited all of our investors to a private conference in his home near Memphis, TN. You've never seen so many rich people. If you tallied up the net worth of everyone in the room, I'm sure you'd go well over $100 million.
When I drove up to the house though, all I could do was laugh. Looking at all of the cars in the driveway, you'd think you were at a retirement home. The newest car in the driveway was from 1998. The majority of them were models from the 80s... and older. None of them were freshly detailed or flashy. You would have never guessed that all of them were owned by millionaires.
Talking to the investors about them was also interesting. I didn't ask everyone about their car, but the few I talked with told me they'd paid for the car in full a long time ago. They were also focused on regularly maintaining the car. Performance was just as important as price.
Buy a mansion? God no. Who needs all that space?
Knowing how to leverage their money and tax benefits, you'd think millionaire real estate investors would live in huge houses. But you'd be fooled, once again. Most of the millionaires I know live in modest houses in good neighborhoods. The average value is probably around $300,000.
They also own the houses debt free. Usually, they bought their house years ago for a steal in a good area, and then they lived there while it appreciated. To properly leverage their equity, they keep credit lines open, so they can take advantage of short-term opportunities.
Wear a suit? No, I prefer to work in my underwear
Through a series of coincidences over the years, I've learned that nearly all of my investors work in their underwear or pajamas. When they're forced to leave the house, they usually wear sweats or khakis. During the past five years, I've never seen one of them wearing a suit.
They have three reasons:
* Cost. Dry cleaning is expensive. You save money by dressing down.* Practicality. Investors deal with a wide range of less fortunate people that distrust people in suits.* Comfort. Suits are uncomfortable, so unless you have to impress your banker, stay comfortable.
The Moral of the Story: Live like a Millionaire and You'll Become One
Not surprisingly, the most successful real estate investors I know are the most frugal people I know. I'm not talking about being miserly either. They live exceptionally well, but they do it with less money and more attention to practicality than pizzazz. If you want to get rich, act like them. Start living below your means and you'll see your wealth grow much faster.
Also, I've learned to be suspicious of people driving fancy cars and living in huge houses. While some are genuinely wealthy, most are in debt up to their eyeballs. They're usually insecure people, trying desperately to convince everyone they're rich. To use a metaphor:
You can judge a book by it's cover, but remember, the classics are rarely new and shiny. Their faded covers are evidence of their survival and their tattered pages were created by the hands of countless loving fans.
About the Author
Jon Morrow is the owner of Real Estate... Answered, a web site that answers dozens of questions about real estate investment for free. He also manages over $20 million of real estate investments in three states, focusing on luxury homes and multimillion dollar transactions.