The Millionaire Zone Book Excerpt
"My new book The Millionaire Zone comes with a free 30-Day Getting Started Program to turn your Passions into Profits and your personalized Millionaire Zone Profile, which tells you what Zone you're in and offers specific ways to make money based on your answers to 50 questions - a value of $50!"
Excerpted from "The Millionaire Zone" by Jennifer Openshaw Copyright 2007 Jennifer Openshaw. All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold.
The Millionaire Myth
You could say rugged individualism is the American way. It's the story we see all around us. It's the ethic behind Hollywood's power hitters, and it's behind the Horatio Alger mantra that, no matter what, we can all pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We're told all we have to do is buckle down, work hard, and eventually we'll succeed.
That's the story we're told and it's the story we believe when we read about John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and a few women like Mary Kay, Martha Stewart, and Oprah, or any of the millionaires and billionaires whose stories surround us on television and in magazines.
The usual line is that these people struggled against terrific odds, alone against the world. They achieved the American dream and became extremely wealthy because they were extraordinary individuals. To make it in this world, we're told, you've got to make things happen on your own. We've all been taught that the way to make money is through individualism. To get ahead, you have to do it on your own, it's all up to you.
There's only one problem with this story: It's not true. The financially successful people you see all around you did not get there on their own.Z
I'm going to tell you in this book exactly how people in the Millionaire Zone got there. And, I'll tell you exactly how to make this solution work for you, just like the real-life stories you'll read.
After years of working with, talking to, and observing very wealthy individuals, I began to see a common theme.
Successful people don't get there alone. That's the revolutionary message behind this book.
There are thousands of theories espousing the next great way to get rich, but you have to execute them on your own.
You have to get into real estate on your own, you have to day-trade on your own, you have to do X or Y or Z on your own. It's always all on your shoulders. The experts say, Here's how, now go out and get 'em! That's very simplistic, and of little real value. You either get it or you don't. Good luck!
The typical working American rarely achieves anything substantial by going it alone. We're too busy with our kids, dragged down by our jobs, fearful of the risk, unsure of what to do, or confused. Sound familiar to you? You're not alone. According to my research, 53% of Americans say they'd like to supplement their income or start their own business but feel anxious about venturing out on their own.
The Rules of the Game Have Changed
Even when I attended business school, the fundamental philosophy seemed to be to just go out, find a job, and make money. That usually meant to go work for someone else.
But these days, that's dicey advice. Who wants to be at the mercy of a company for the rest of their working lives when jobs are being sent overseas, mergers and buyouts are wreaking havoc with employees' lives, and right-sizing (i.e., slashing jobs) is the name of the game?
It's harder than ever to get ahead now that the loyalty bond between employer and employee that was there during our parents' generation has evaporated the victim of a global economy, the technological revolution, disappearance of pensions, and corporate America's never-ending search for higher quarterly earnings.
Companies such as United Airlines and Bethlehem Steel, which promised generous pensions and medical benefits in retirement to the workers who were loyal to them for decades, have since reneged on those promises.
These days, even financially healthy companies such as IBM and Verizon are freezing their pensions, meaning that workers will end up with far fewer guaranteed benefits than they were expecting. Meanwhile, half of American workers don't have any kind of pension at all, and most of the rest are relying on a 401(k) plan the very epitome of go-it-alone.
With a traditional pension your benefits are guaranteed, but with a 401(k) all the risk is on the individual to save enough (your employer's matching contributions notwithstanding), make the right investment choices, and figure out how to make your nest egg last through your retirement. And, trust me, even if you did save through your 401(k) during your career, chances are you wouldn't be close to having what you need for retirement: A 32-year-old making $30,000 a year would only have about $102,750 at the age of 67, assuming he or she contributed 3% of their salary to a 401(k) and received a company match of 1.5%, according to Vanguard. So much for the golden years.
Here's another sign that it's only getting harder to get to the Millionaire Zone, especially if you're trying to do it on salary alone: The inflation-adjusted income of the median household in 2004 was 3.8% lower than in 1999, according to the Economic Policy Institute's analysis of census data.
The reality of our wages situation, combined with disappearing pensions, higher college costs, and rising health-care costs, is hitting our savings rate hard: Personal savings has been running negative for 16 straight months. How do you get a negative savings rate? By borrowing money or selling assets to support your spending habits.
Now take a look at the returns on your own money. How have you done? Have you handled your savings like millions of others, leaving it in a checking or savings account at, maybe, 3%? Are you among those who, even if you've stashed money aside through your 401(k), didn't carefully choose which funds you're invested in? Is what you're stashing in your retirement account going to get you through retirement? Get your kid to college? Enable you to start that nonprofit you always dreamed of?
Obviously it's important to keep some money invested in low-risk, low-return investments. You want a balanced portfolio and you want to invest according to your risk tolerance. But you also need to consider your future, and decide whether moving yourself closer to the Millionaire Zone requires taking some steps toward higher returns.
A Wake-Up Call
Yes, these statistics are depressing. But rather than letting these numbers beat you into submission, consider them a wake-up call. The American dream is still very much attainable. The impact of the economic dislocation our society has undergone in the last twenty years just means we need to change the rules of the game, so that the dream remains ours.
What about turning $5,000 into $1 million? Many have done it, and you'll hear some of their stories in this book.
My experience is that average working Americans are severely disadvantaged. Even if they've dedicated 20 or 30 years of their life to one company, it's unlikely they'll ever create a seven-figure fortune. And many of them seem to know it: 50% of employed Americans surveyed for this book said they are very or somewhat pessimistic that they will make a lot of money in their lifetime. For most of us, to achieve real financial independence, the only way up is out!
The New Millionaires
The first key to becoming a millionaire is to believe it's possible for you. Guess what it is! Despite all the hurdles we've just discussed that society and corporate America have thrown in front of us in the last few decades, there is plenty of good news out there. In fact, it's probably easier than ever to create your own venture and reach a seven-figure fortune. Just consider how many people do it today.
Why is it that so many more people are millionaires today? Well, thanks to inflation, a million dollars is worth less in relative terms than it was 50 or 100 years ago. But more people are millionaires because the way we make money these days is fundamentally different than it was when Henry Ford started making the cars that fueled his fortune.
For Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, and other millionaires of the early part of the twentieth century, creating wealth was all about controlling resources, such as oil, railroads, or manufacturing. Such individuals tended to be older, experienced men of business.
These days, people become millionaires thanks to three important trends. First, the vast advancements in technology mean that today the world truly is flat. Technology allows us to operate globally. Thanks to the Internet, a person in the U.S. can do business in China, right from his garage in Hoboken. Plus, the Internet is teaching people skills they would never have gotten to learn just a few decades ago. Heck, you can do everything from taking a real-estate investment class in the comfort of your home to creating an ad for a product at 10 a.m. and knowing by noon if it's working. And those technological changes also mean the costs of entry are lower, giving the average person a greater chance of starting a business. You can hire someone overseas to build a Web site. You can find someone instantly on the Internet to help you design a brochure at a cost you negotiate, based on your online research.
Second, entrepreneurialism is celebrated. A young person fresh out of college, a high school dropout, retirees anyone! can turn an idea into a product or service. Open up the business section of any newspaper and you'll read all kinds of fascinating stories about hardworking individuals who have found a consumer need, or created one. YouTube, anyone?
Third, the rise of direct selling has opened up the door to building wealth for many ordinary Americans. More people with good ideas can now go straight to the consumer, often online. They've built entire businesses that way. We see more one-on-one marketing because technology allows it, and people are no longer hampered by the myth that only established companies can sell goods.
The Myth about Saving
If this chapter does nothing else, it should change your view about success. While it may seem as if the chips are stacked against you, there are some fundamental advantages to the way the world is structured today that Henry Ford could never have imagined. You don't have to know the richest people, or have connections in government, or be absurdly lucky. These days you just need some good ideas (and my strategy can help with those too!) and you need your LifeNet.
But before we delve into how to use your LifeNet to get ahead, I want to focus for a moment on another myth. It's the personal-finance solution de jour. Namely, that scrimping and saving is the only way to get ahead. Not only are we supposed to work harder than ever, relying solely on ourselves, we're also told to cut out the lattes, drive an old car, eliminate magazine subscriptions, and eat in every night.
These are not bad ideas. Pushing ourselves to work harder and being prudent when it comes to spending are certainly important elements to being successful. In this book, you'll meet people who are making seven-figure fortunes, and you can bet that none of them got there by slacking off or by going deep into debt to buy the latest fashions or brand-new luxury cars. I'm certainly not pooh-poohing thrift as a personal virtue. But I'm proud of the fact that I buy most of my clothes at 30% off or more. Even famed personal virtue investor Warren Buffett has lived in the same house in Omaha for the last 30 years and shops at discount stores. And many successful entrepreneurs have made a dollar go a long way in their businesses.
But in these pages, instead of focusing on ways to cut back, we'll target the income-producing side of the equation, and how people can become millionaires by using the LifeNet strategies I'll outline.
There's no doubt in my mind that hard work is the cornerstone of success. It's also true that you're not going to get anywhere by spending all your money on things you don't need. Saving is important. And the more debt you carry, the longer it's going to take you to dig out to financial freedom.
But I just don't believe you're going to make your first million by giving up that $3 latte every day for the rest of your life. I would argue focusing on pennies alone will doom you to failure. At some point, as with a failed diet, you're going to break down and buy the coffee, go out to a lavish meal, buy something you don't need and then you'll feel really guilty about it. Often as not, that guilt makes us feel so bad we give up trying to save altogether, figuring financial success just isn't for us.
I've got a better idea. Rather than relying solely on yourself, on scrimping and saving to get ahead, why not start tapping into the people and resources that are all around you to turn your passion into profits?
So Here's the Secret
It isn't that America's storybook millionaires and billionaires made all that money on their own. It's just that the public traditionally perceives those fortunes having been built as solo endeavors. One name gets all the credit. The media always likes to trumpet the accomplishments of the individual because it's more dramatic and more consistent with our hero-worshipping culture.
The real story is a lot more complex and less dramatic. In fact, those millionaires and billionaires didn't do it alone. They had help, and plenty of it. Some autobiographies may even acknowledge that fact, but the critical reviews never pick up on it, or never connect the dots into a theory the way The Millionaire Zone does. I am going to show you that, despite popular perception, the financial moguls past and present and thousands of others did not get rich following the individualistic, go-it-alone approach.
The "I" Problem
Trying to do everything yourself leads to a cascade of negative events. It looks like this:
Individualism Isolation Inactivity
Let's look at each more closely.
We've talked a lot about how our culture is steeped in individualism. The idea that we have to get ahead on our own grit is an idea that pervades our entire world, whether we're watching television, reading a book or the newspaper, or talking to friends or family.
Take a really mundane example. Think about the last time you could have used a hand emptying your garage or cleaning your house. Did you ask friends and family (other than your spouse) to help you out? I'm guessing the answer is no. But wouldn't you have gotten the job done in half the time if you had?
We're so used to the idea that everything we do in our lives is up to us that we usually don't even consider the kinds of resources and talents our family, friends, and acquaintances can bring to any of our endeavors. In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain's hero is given the job by his aunt Polly of whitewashing the picket fence. By pretending that only very gifted artisans could be entrusted with such a delicate task, Tom cleverly induces his friends in exchange for numerous gifts to take over his whitewashing duties. Before long, he is relaxing under the shade of a big old tree, and his friends had given the fence three coats of whitewash. A perfect example of using your LifeNet!
Now let's look at our finances. Ask yourself why you haven't achieved the kind of wealth you'd like. Below I've listed some of the most common reasons people give for their inability to get ahead financially. Do any apply to you?
- I don't have enough time.
- I have too much debt.
- I'm afraid of running out of money.
- I'm confused about where to start.
- I'm worried about the loss of prestige I have a good job now!
- I can't risk being unable to support my family.
- I'm the only breadwinner.
- I'm too old to start a business.
- I'm too young to start a business.
- I'm interested in too many things I wouldn't know where to begin.
- I don't have enough education or training.
- I've tried starting a business and failed.
- I'd need a lot of money to start, and there's no way I'd get a loan from a bank.
- I've been turned down once before and don't have the courage to start again.
- I need to come up with a good idea.
Do any of these excuses sound familiar? All are normal fears that many of us have felt at one time or another, even those who are already in the Millionaire Zone. Unfortunately, if you adopt just one of those beliefs, it's enough to stop you in your tracks, without ever trying to turn your passions into profits. Of course, doing it all on your own is daunting. It makes sense that you'd be worried!
The beauty of the LifeNet approach is that you don't have to do it all on your own. The more you share these concerns with the people around you your family, your friends, and your community the more likely it is you'll find solutions. These solutions will soon start to stare you in the face, once you take the necessary step of including your family, friends, and community in your dreams.
The most immediate by-product of our focus on individualism and the do-it-yourself myth of wealth-building is that you feel isolated. No surprise there. After all, you're doing this on your own! But if creating a business or starting a venture is supposed to be so empowering, why are you feeling so lousy?
I remember sitting in business school some years ago and feeling like something was wrong. Every course seemed designed for someone who was part of a larger organization. Excuse me, but if I'm going to work my butt off, I want the upside potential to be unlimited. Yet going it alone seemed incredibly daunting. There were not many classes teaching how to make that happen, though it's changed since then. I had to learn it the hard way.
You've heard of the saying It's lonely at the top? Well, it's not only lonely when you're alone, it also can be stressful and debilitating. I remember building my first financial services company, just before the tech meltdown in 2000. There were days when I needed to bounce an idea off someone else, and there were days when I just needed to know that someone was there, listening. When I didn't have that, my confidence dropped and my excitement diminished.
Isolation, plain and simple, causes us to lose perspective and confidence. Over the years, I found out the hard way and saw the same thing happen to others that if you start out trying to get to this pinnacle of achievement completely on your own, you will become frustrated, fearful, and angry.
The beauty of my path to wealth is that you are not isolated. You can get to that summit with the help of your LifeNet resources and you'll never again feel the anxiety and the loss of confidence of going it alone.
Feeling isolated and alone in the pursuit of your dream usually triggers feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. Then, when hurdles or obstacles arise, the tendency is to freeze up and stop moving forward. That's exactly how my friend in the TV audience described her feelings in the Introduction of this book. What's the inevitable next step? We quit.
This inactivity reveals itself in a variety of ways. Do you recognize any of these feelings or situations?
You're too uncertain to reach out for help.
- You don't take even the smallest risks, when you know in your gut they'll pay off.
- You keep thinking negative thoughts: I can't do this, I'm going to fail.
- You have an idea for turning a passion into a profitable venture, but you don't think it's good enough.
- You want to start, but don't know where to begin.
- You know you need to learn more before diving in, but you don't know where to get that knowledge.
The result is that we don't move forward financially in ways that are possible, ways that are right before us:
You let money sit in a checking account rather than investing it.
- You have a subscription to Entrepreneur magazine and you haven't read it in six months.
- You purchased software to manage your expenses but you've never opened the package.
- Your daughter bought you a book on Warren Buffett's investing philosophy and you haven't gotten past the first page.
The "S" Solution
The cumulative effect of these feelings is that the goals that really matter to you the future that you feel so passionate about begin to look unachievable. You lose confidence and the next thing you know you're settling. Believe me, I know.
But if you keep reading, you'll discover that, with your LifeNet, you don't ever get into that cycle of the the 'I' problem. That's because you're working within a framework a kind of safety net that leaves you feeling supported instead of alone, surrounded by resources instead of isolated, and sure of yourself rather than inactive, which looks like this:
Supported Surrounded Sure of Yourself
The End Zone
We've seen in this chapter that going it alone is not the right way to go about creating wealth. So what now? What do you do with this information? Now comes the part where you stand up tall, look yourself in the mirror, and say: I have a responsibility to both myself and my family to wake up, to pay attention to the voice inside me that is saying 'I can do better'and to do something about it!
If you're tired of not reaching your financial goals, and you're ready to make a change, read on! In the next chapter, I show you how to get started with my new, better way: the LifeNet way.
My Big Fat Secret
Do you believe that the real winners in society are go-it-alone go-getters? Should you believe it? I'm here to tell you: No! It's simply not true. It's not the way success happens in real life. Deep down, you and I both know that to get to the place we really want to be financially, to make our dreams come true, we can't do it alone.
When I was building my first company, a senior executive of a big accounting firm (who later became involved in buying my company), said to me, "You didn't really build it alone. You weren't really by yourself." His comment angered me because I felt alone, especially in the early days.
I told him, "Yes I was! I had a friend review legal documents in the earliest days, but otherwise it really was just me trying to build a network of financial advisers and making this whole thing happen." I could see his point, though: Anyone trying to do it herself is crazy! And as I think back on those days, I can see the weight I put on my shoulders by trying to do it by myself. It's so difficult for anyone going it alone that the odds of success are vastly diminished.
Take a look at the people who've made it in this world: They're not alone. They've got friends, family, acquaintances, and you can bet their support system their LifeNet helped turn them into the success stories they are today. In fact, my research data show that high-net-worth Americans readily rely on their LifeNet to get ahead.
I'm not talking about cash. Your LifeNet is more than simply a way to fund your path to success. No, your LifeNet is much, much more than that.
Your LifeNet is your life's network of familiar things people, places, and resources that you tap into to build your net worth and provide your family's safety net.
Notice I said familiar things. I'm not suggesting you start throwing yourself at strangers and asking them for help (at least, not yet). I'm also not suggesting you become someone you're not. Instead, this book is all about tapping the resources you've got all around you, right now.
My good friend Maryanne I've known her since second grade is a perfect example. Her husband is 60, and she's determined that he won't have to work past 70. The problem is, their retirement accounts aren't beefy enough, at this point, for him to stop working for a good while past 70.
So 41-year-old Maryanne started thinking about her strengths, about the things she really likes to do in life. She wondered whether her passion for feeding her family healthy foods might translate into an ability to sell nutritional supplements and other health-care products. She knew a neighbor another stay-at-home mom who was earning thousands of dollars a month doing just that. So she tapped her LifeNet to find out more. She talked to her family and friends about her idea and got the feedback and the support she needed to start developing a plan.
YouTube Founders Tap Into Their LifeNets
But your LifeNet is more than just one good friend, or your supportive wife or husband. Take a look at Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, founders of the online video company YouTube, who sold it for almost $1.7 billion in less than two years: two names in the world of online business who were virtually unknown just months ago and two people who could not have built YouTube alone. In fact, from the very beginning, these two friends were using their LifeNets and leveraging off each other's skills and support to fulfill their dream.
It all started out with a very simple idea: They wanted to get their home videos to their friends or whoever wanted to see them. Pretty soon, the idea of reaching out from their LifeNet to yours caught like wildfire and grew to more than 100 million videos being viewed at YouTube.com every day.
And there were others in their LifeNets, too. For instance, both Chen and Hurley were part of a whole network of friends developed during their days working at PayPal, the online payment system owned by eBay. These friends not only enjoyed barbecues together, but provided support, feedback, connections, and even funding for each other's ventures, long after they had left PayPal, according to a New York Times article entitled "It Pays to Have Pals in Silicon Valley." Can you imagine YouTube's birth without the help of Chen and Hurley's LifeNets? It just would not have happened. Who knows where Chen and Hurley might have ended up if they didn't have their LifeNets to provide support and to help them get their idea off the ground.
And it's not only Steve Chen and Chad Hurley. Based on my survey of high-net-worth Americans, it's clear that tapping one's LifeNet is part and parcel of reaching the Millionaire Zone. Take a look, on the following page, at how those in the Millionaire Zone used their LifeNet to get there.
Among those with a net worth of $1 million or more, 50% said business contacts and relationships had a "big" or "some" impact on their financial success, followed by family and friends. Note that even neighbors, clubs, and your local government can have a significant impact on your success, as they did with these millionaires.
Wealthy Americans Know the Power of LifeNet
Here's more proof that your LifeNet is key to reaching the Millionaire Zone. According to my survey research, more than one-third of high-net-worth individuals say they should have focused more strongly on their LifeNets.
Even more telling, my research shows that those in the Millionaire Zone are more likely to say they relied on their LifeNet than those who are not yet in the Millionaire Zone. These people are strongly aware that their LifeNet is the key to their success.
If you compare two high-net-worth groups both of which have investable assets of at least $500,000, but the people in one group have a net worth of $1 million or more while those in the other group are not yet millionaires you will find that those who are in the Millionaire Zone say they used their LifeNet to a greater extent.
For example, among those in the Zone, 64% said they received introductions to others while only 53% of those not yet in the Zone said they benefited from introductions. Those in the Zone consistently said they benefited more than was reported by those not in the Zone through information, business partnerships, and advice as well as emotional, financial, and practical support (such as reviewing a business plan).
Many Roads, One Destination
Okay. You're getting a feel for what I mean when I say LifeNet. But you're wondering how all of this works, and how you can use this thing I call your LifeNet to reach your financial goals.
I've got seven key strategies for you to follow, outlined below and detailed in the subsequent chapters. I'm going to lay out a step-by-step plan for understanding the who, what, and how of the resources you can access to move to a new financial level.
But before I introduce you to my seven key strategies, I want to mention one thing: There is no one right way to financial success. Let me clarify. You do need to rely on my seven key strategies my LifeNet approach to reach your financial goals, but you can apply my approach to any number of paths to get you to the Millionaire Zone.
For instance, you could start your own home-based business, or maybe you want to keep your full-time job but do some freelance or consulting work, or start investing in real estate on the side. Another path would be to become an independent consultant outside the home. Just check out the many ways those who are already in the Millionaire Zone have achieved their goals. We asked millionaires in what ways they primarily achieved financial success. As you can see below, many achieved their success not through just one path but through several routes, combining real estate with a business, for instance.
|FAST FACTS: How Millionaires Got There|
|Stock market or other investments||65%|
|Paid employment working for someone else||58%|
|Received inheritance of more than $50,000||30%|
|Started self-funded business outside the home||29%|
|Started home-based business||17%|
|Partnered with existing company (franchise/marketing/distributor)||14%|
|Started business funded by others||12%|
|Source: The Spectrem Group for Jennifer Openshaw|
Your Path to the Millionaire Zone
We've looked at some of the ways millionaires have reached the Zone. How about you? Not every path to the Zone is for everyone. That's why I created the Millionaire Zone Profile (outlined in Chapter 12) to help people like you figure out which path to the Millionaire Zone is right for them.
If you're like most people, you fall into at least one of three groups: You're working for someone else as an employee; you're working for yourself as an entrepreneur, sole proprietor, or business owner; or you're investing your money into other people's ventures. It looks like this:
A Bigger Paycheck
I showed you in Chapter 1 why getting a paycheck alone usually isn't enough to make you rich. But you may not be ready yet to start your own venture. That's okay. There are ways to use your LifeNet to help move you up the corporate ladder and into a position of greater wealth. Did you know that surveys show that the most common way to get hired is through a referral? That's one way your LifeNet can make a difference: You can tap your LifeNet to move into a higher-paying position. Or, you might use your LifeNet to start generating income on the side by marketing someone else's products, or perhaps by opening up a franchise that a family member manages. Or you could take that great idea you've had and license it to someone who can take it to the next level while you collect some of the revenue it earns, as a colleague of mine has done literally hundreds of times. And still another option is to use the principles in this book to invest better earning far more than you would by simply plunking your savings into some checking account or even mutual fund. My Millionaire Zone Profile will help you figure it out.