Chapter 1: Meet the Neighbors
In the next few pages, I want you to meet the neighbors. Read carefully. Your goal is to get a sense of both who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow. Where do you fit? What attitudes and personality traits do you share? What goals and behaviors do you want to adopt?
Where wealth is concerned, individuals aren't stuck in little boxes. You don't start out wealthy, stay wealthy, and end wealthy. Likewise, if you're struggling with debt today, as so many people are, you aren't destined to be there six months or two years from now. These four categories aren't types as much as they are works in progress. People move from paycheck-to-paycheck to financially comfortable, from financially comfortable to wealthy. Sometimes they even fall back, before rebounding to a position of security.
The advice that follows is largely prescriptive. If you'd like to know how to bounce back with the resilience of a person who is financially comfortable, or how to see the glass as three-quarters full like a person who is wealthy, you'll find exercises to help you do just that. Let's take a look at these groups a little more closely—starting with the people you most want to be.
Meet the Wealthy
Confident. Driven. Intuitive. Resilient. Only 3 percent of Americans are truly wealthy. But there is no doubt it's good to be one of them. On average, they have investable assets (not including home equity) of nearly $2 million, but we also categorized them as wealthy if they had achieved significant wealth at a younger age:
• $1 million or more for ages 55 or older
• $750,000 or more for ages 45–54
• $500,000 or more for ages 35–44
• $250,000 or more if under age 35
What made them wealthy? The vast majority didn't get there overnight. Nor did they get there because someone died or handed them a check. In fact, nearly nine out of ten said their wealth developed over time. They credit a combination of the Top Twenty factors for their success. Some are attitudes or attributes that seem to make up their personality; others are habits that support wealth. Both are needed to build a life of lasting wealth. When you have the habits without the personality, you are likely to be financially comfortable, but it's less likely you'll become truly wealthy. When you get the attitudes without the habits, the picture is even less rosy. We have all met that person who is able to get job after job but never climbs the ladder. Without solid financial habits, paycheck-to-paycheck is usually where they get stuck.