Every industry has millionaires and Thomas J. Stanley has studied them for more than 20 years. His book The Millionaire Mind provides a look inside the mindset, values, beliefs and marriages of millionaire couples. Yes, his study includes millionaire farm couples.
I found the statistics on marriage in millionaire couples particularly interesting.
To start with, 92 percent of millionaire households are composed of a married couple, compared to about 70 percent in the general population, and the divorce rate among these couples is less than one-third the rate among non-millionaire couples. That statistic matters when people are trying to accumulate wealth.
Divorce makes it much more difficult to become a millionaire. In fact, Stanley quotes one study of more than 12,000 respondents as discovering that “consistent participation in marriage results in significantly higher wealth.” He says the correlation between length of marriage and level of wealth is strong and holds true throughout all education and income groups.
So does that mean that people with a millionaire mindset choose their spouses differently than us
ordinary folks? The answer seems to be yes.
Here is the difference.
Belinda Tucker of the University of California, Los Angeles, studied 3,407 adults from the general population, ranging in age from 18 to 55 and found that when looking for a spouse, men give more weight to physical attractiveness than any other criteria. They rated the salary and earning potential of a prospective spouse second. In other words, the average guy is seeking a good-looking woman who can earn a lot of money.
Women in the general population weren’t quite so focused on looks, but put more importance on the salary and earning potential of a prospective mate.
And here is the kicker. Tucker also found that, overall, both men and women would contemplate divorcing a spouse who lost his or her job. Hardly a way to build wealth.
In contrast, Stanley says it is not unusual for self-made millionaires to report that “just after I was fired from my job I started our business,” or “spent every bit of our savings” or “my spouse’s income kept us alive for the first few but long, long years.”
Here are the top five qualities that initially interested millionaires in their spouses, in order of importance:
Remember how the average folks are searching for good-looking people who make lots of money? Neither of those attributes are even on millionaires’ top five list.
That list is just what first attracted millionaires to their spouses. The reasons they give for their marriages lasting are that their spouses are:
These reasons are given by both men and women in millionaire couples, with essentially no difference in how important they think these traits are.
Stanley says the typical millionaire couple has been together for nearly 30 years and their bond tends to be permanent as well as economically productive. And no matter whether you ask the husband or wife to explain their household’s productivity, each gives most of the credit to the other.
Most millionaire couples did not start off rich, but they had long-term plans and were willing to forgo a high lifestyle to have more wealth later, which is another reason a long-term marriage is important. They are what Stanley calls “balance sheet affluent,” meaning they have high net worth as opposed to the “income statement affluent” who have big incomes, big homes and big debt, but little net worth.
They are not credit junkies and they are not “all work and no play” kind of folks either. Their credo is simple: you cannot enjoy life if you are addicted to consumption and the use of credit.
I couldn’t find statistics on how the divorce rate among farm couples compares with the general population, but I think it’s a sure bet that wealthy farm couples (and there are some) would have more of the attributes of millionaire couples than of the average crowd.
Remember, you don’t have to be rich to have a million dollar marriage.
With BSE, bad weather, tough markets and all the other problems that farmers face, it can be tough getting rich.
But here is the good news: if you and your spouse have the attributes of a millionaire couple – honest, responsible, loving, capable and supportive – you can be happy anyway and it will help carry you through the toughest times.
Then, if you do get rich, you’ll still be happy.
Edmonton-based Noel McNaughton is a sponsored speaker with the Canadian Farm Business Management Council, which will pay his fee and expenses for speaking at meetings and conventions of agricultural organizations. To book him, call 780-432-5492, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.midlife-men.com.