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What does real wealth look like? Is it a vacation home in Tahiti? An always-reserved table at the city’s finest restaurant? Or maybe it’s a ‘trophy spouse’ and extravagant weekends in Vegas? Well, author Thomas J. Stanley doesn’t think so – and he’s one to know. Having studied the affluent for over 30 years, Stanley has published seven books on the subject – and his findings uncover some surprising truths about how millionaires become, well, millionaires. And it’s not just about the money.

In Stanley’s view, money is merely a by-product of a far more valuable commodity – The Millionaire Mind. In his best-selling 2001 publication (of the same name), he interviewed over 1300 American millionaires to ascertain just what made them wealthy. His research reveals a comprehensive understanding of the traits shared by the rich – and in so doing, uncovers how those in a lower tax bracket keep themselves from true prosperity.

The Educational Myth: Millionaires are intellectually gifted, Ivy League graduates.
The Reality: Yes, an Ivy League education is a benefit. (It must be said, so as not to dissuade anyone from pursuing higher education.) But statistically, those who have achieved wealth are not always the highly-educated. Just as often, it is students of mediocre performance that are able to adapt a millionaire mind, using abilities that are rarely taught in even the finest of business schools – their personal communication skills. A trait shared by many in Stanley’s survey was an ability to connect with people on a fundamental level.

The Lazy Myth: Millionaires are inherently lazy, preferring that others do the work for them.
The Reality: Patently untrue. In truth, millionaires stand above the rest of the population because of two distinct personality traits – tenacity and determination. Even when the ‘going gets rough’, the affluent will continue to forge ahead.

The Entitlement Myth: Millionaires are most often ‘trust fund babies’, who have inherited their wealth, rather than earned it.
The Reality: Nearly two-thirds of the millionaires Stanley interviewed were entrepreneurs and/or business owners. They created their affluence by filling a void in the market – not by having their assets given to them.

The ‘Big Spender’ Myth: Millionaires spend money like water.
The Reality: Millionaires are conscientious about their spending habits. From finding a trustworthy financial adviser to buying a home, the affluent don’t spend money without knowing what they’re getting in return. And as boring as it may sound to some, the old maxim of ‘quality not quantity’ comes into play.

The Miserable Myth: Millionaires will work at a job they loathe – as long as the big bucks keep rolling in.
The Reality: Stanley’s subjects found success by following their interests, not by getting into the corner office. By finding a job that suited their talents and abilities, the wealthy were able to commit the necessary emotional energy and focus to succeed – and to do so happily.

From Daddy Warbucks to Paris Hilton, millionaires can often seem like a lucky, lofty few. But as Stanley proves, it’s not the money – it’s the mentality. Adopting a millionaire mind can improve your bank account balance – but the most important returns can’t be spent. Personal happiness, a sense of achievement and providing a service to others are attributes that money can’t buy.