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Real Millionaires Aren't Gatsbys

Pop quiz: How can you spot a millionaire?

Big house, big car, lots of flash with lots of cash, a snazzy job in a corner suite of a glass office tower?

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Probably not. In fact, you could live next door to most millionaires in America and never know it.

The typical millionaire, says Tom Stanley, lives on a modest budget in a home he or she has occupied for 20 years and is now valued at $320,000.

Dr. Stanley and colleague William Danko put 20 years of research on rich people, including interviews with 1,115 of them, into a book called "The Millionaire Next Door" (Longstreet Press, $22).

Their results might surprise you.

Almost 40 percent of those surveyed by Stanley and Mr. Danko drive an American-made car that's at least two years old. Ford is the favorite brand.

Three-fourths have never spent more than $600 for a suit or $200 for shoes.

And most don't hit the top by inheriting money or starting a software firm.

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To borrow a clich, they earn it.

One of the book's subjects owns a small janitorial service in Texas. He's worth more than $2 million and once spent $399 for a suit, but that was for his 25th wedding anniversary.

He shops at J.C. Penney.

The authors say the best way to bank a million is also the least glamorous.

Stay frugal, says Stanley, a self-made Atlanta millionaire who started as a $20,000-a-year assistant professor, in an interview. "Building wealth takes discipline, sacrifice, and hard work. You have to be frugal and suffer a little."

Spending habits are key. For a big spender with a lavish lifestyle, wealth may be elusive, family money or big salary notwithstanding.

The nation's millionaires, Stanley says, are compulsive savers and investors. They budget, plan, build slowly, and live on less than 7 percent of their wealth.

They invest more than 20 percent of their annual income and spend a lot of time planning investments.

Two-thirds own businesses - the likes of bowling alleys, dry cleaners, janitorial services, and funeral homes. And they work 45 to 55 hours a week.

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