Who are the millionaires?

01:18 PM ET 02/06/00
By CHAD ROEDEMEIER (Associated Press Writer)

ATLANTA (AP) Who gets to be a millionaire? Conventional wisdom says it's the students who get straight A's, blow the roof off the SAT and go to Ivy League colleges. Or maybe it's the children born into wealthy families with brilliant connections.

Neither is typical, says Thomas J. Stanley, who surveyed 1,300 millionaires for his new book, "The Millionaire Mind," due out Monday.

The average millionaire made B's and C's in college, Stanley says. Their average SAT score was 1190 - not good enough to get into many top-notch schools. In fact, most millionaires were told they were not intellectually gifted, not smart enough to succeed. "I find no correlation between SAT scores, grade point averages and economic achievement. None," said Stanley. "Admittedly, there are some very bright people in the data, but not many."

Instead of relying on natural genius, millionaires choose careers that match their abilities, Stanley said. They may not have great analytic intelligence, but they are creative and practical. They focus on a goal, take calculated risks and then work harder than most people.

It's a lesson Stanley has taken to heart. The author, who lives in Atlanta, has gotten rich himself by writing about the rich. For years he was a marketing professor at Georgia State University. He wrote three textbooks about marketing to wealthy people and gave seminars around the country. But he felt like he was on a treadmill going nowhere.

So he took time off to write what he calls "the home-run book." "The Millionaire Next Door," written with researcher William D. Danko of Albany, N.Y., and published in 1996. It has been on The New York Times Best Sellers list for more than 150 weeks.

In "The Millionaire Mind," Stanley studied even richer millionaires - the top 1 percent of households. These people had an average net worth of $9.2 million and earned $749,000 a year. The average multimillionaire in Stanley's study is a 54-year-old man, married to the same woman for 28 years, with three children. Nearly half are business owners or senior corporate executives. And almost none of them credit their success to being smart. They say the keys to success are being honest and disciplined, getting along with people, having a supportive spouse and working hard.

"Somehow they figured out what they were good at", Stanley said. "They all said, 'I'll be the best at this. This is what I really, really love to do.'" One of his case studies is Donald Sonner, the 64-year-old head of Southern Bloomer Manufacturing Co. in Bristol, Tenn. Sonner's only education was a single year of high school, but he was a millionaire by the time he was 24.

How? His company takes scrap cloth and makes underwear for prisons and gun-cleaning patches. He got rich by working hard and capitalizing on an idea no one else had, Stanley said.