I used to watch the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and dream of answering that final trivia question to win my way into a world of wealth.
But the reality is I can barely remember where I last put my eyeglasses, so I doubt I could recall enough trivia to win $1 million.
Luckily, you don't have to win on a game show or hit the lottery to join the ranks of millionaires. The vast majority of them simply work and invest their money to achieve a net worth that has two commas.
The number of millionaires worldwide is estimated to increase over the next five years, reaching an all-time high of 55 million, according to Credit Suisse Research Institute’s latest Global Wealth Report. There are currently 42.2 million millionaires in the world. Within the past 12 months, the United States added 878,000 new millionaires — representing about 40 percent of the global increase.
But two researchers have a message for you. You don't have to literally be a millionaire to have a rich life. It's all about your perspective on prosperity.
Consider this: “A person needs net assets of just [$4,210] to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens in mid-2018,” according to that Credit Suisse report. To be in the top 10 percent, you would have to have a net worth of $93,170.
Want to be in the top 1 percent? It would take a net worth of $871,320. Net worth, or “wealth,” is defined as the value of your assets, including real estate (mainly your personal residence), minus your debts.
At the lower level of the wealth distribution, 3.2 billion adults — or about 64 percent of the world’s adult population — have a net worth below $10,000. Many struggle with having enough to eat, not whether they can eat out.
Although you may never become a millionaire, there are things you can learn from those who have become affluent and others who are likely to join their ranks.
So let’s look at the millionaires among us. This month’s pick for the Color of Money Book Club is “Richer than a Millionaire: A Pathway to True Prosperity,” by William D. Danko and Richard J. Van Ness.
You may not know Danko by name but have probably heard of his research on the rich. He is co-author of “The Millionaire Next Door,” which has become a must-read for its groundbreaking examination on wealth in America. Along with his co-author Thomas J. Stanley, Danko introduced us to seemingly ordinary folks who had amassed extraordinary wealth.
Studying the affluent led them to this conclusion: “Most people have it all wrong about wealth in America. Wealth is not the same as income. If you make good income each year and spend it all, you are not getting wealthier. You are just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend."
Stanley died in 2015, but Danko has carried on their research and continues to expand it by looking at what it takes to feel rich even if you aren't worth millions.
In the new book, Danko and Van Ness surveyed 1,354 homeowners and separated them into two groups. There were those with a net worth of $100,000 to $1 million. They call them the “up-and-comers” or “mass affluent.” The second group was households that had wealth of $1 million or more.
Here’s what it takes to be a millionaire: Work hard, be frugal, save, avoid excessive debt and be a consistent investor. By the way, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur, a physician or an attorney.
"Just holding a well-paying, suitable job will enable wealth building,” the authors point out.
Most folks are understandably doubtful they'll ever reach millionaire status. GOBankingRates surveyed 1,008 people and asked: “Do you think that you will become a millionaire during your lifetime?"
An overwhelming number — 71 percent — said no.
“For most, it is a challenge to become a millionaire,” Danko and Van Ness write. “But even if millionaire status is attained, there is no guarantee that satisfaction will follow.”
In fact, their research showed that it's not just about the money.
The overarching theme of this book is figuring out what it takes to achieve financial security as well as defining wealth in a way that could make you realize you’re already richer than a millionaire.
I’m hosting an online discussion about the pursuit of wealth at noon Eastern time on Nov. 29. Danko will join me to take your questions about his research.