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Learn From Millionaires Pt. 2

April 25, 2010

Christopher Shaw, a 29-year-old convenience store clerk, won $258.8 million in the Powerball last week.  It is believed he had $28.96 in his checking account at the time he purchased his ticket.  For most of us, winning that much money would be a dream come true.  It would answer all our problems.  We would be set for life.

Some studies show that 70 percent of lotto winners eventually squander all their winnings.  The poster boy for this fact is Jack Whittaker, who won $315 million in 2002.  Jack started out being very generous with his money, but that led to a point where everybody wanted something from him.  He felt extremely lonely and this led to drinking and gambling problems.

To cope, he wanted to provide everything for his granddaughter, Brandi Bragg.  This led to a drug problem for her, and two years after Whittaker won the lottery, his granddaughter was found dead.  In 2009, Jack’s daughter, Brandi’s mother, was also found dead.

This is a shocking, but somewhat common story for other big winners.  The 20 percent of lottery players who contribute 82 percent of lottery revenue are disproportionately low-income, minority men who have less than a college education.  It is always a big story when someone hits the jackpot, but what does not make the news are the stories of many others who hurt their bad financial position by playing the lottery.  With only a 1 in 120,526,770 chance of winning the Powerball, there are hundreds of thousands of people with very sad stories.

Fortunately, we do not have to win the Powerball or lottery to become rich, but can continue to learn from the studies of Thomas Stanley, author of “The Millionaire Mind” and “The Millionaire Next Door,” which I wrote about last week.  Stanley has discovered that 80 percent of millionaires are self-made, first generation millionaires.  Stanley surveyed more than 700 millionaires regarding what traits are important to their success.  The top 10 were:

  1. Being honest with all people
  2. Being well disciplined
  3. Getting along with people
  4. Having a supportive spouse
  5. Working harder than most people
  6. Loving my career/business
  7. Having strong leadership qualities
  8. Having a very competitive spirit/personality
  9. Being very well organized
  10. Having an ability to sell my ideas/products

 I imagine these are some of the same characteristics that people who are satisfied with their life have, even if they are not millionaires.  As I look through this list, I discover three common themes — integrity, initiative and passion.  It seems to me that if one lives his or her life with these guiding principles, he or she will be rich — and not just in terms of net worth.

When someone tries to analyze the way to wealth, they may try to come up with a “get rich quick” scheme or choose a career based on the income.  These are not the way to wealth.  Many people in high income jobs spend just as fast as they earn, and many who try to get rich quick will find themselves poorer than they started.

When trying to build wealth, it can be easy to become distracted or get caught up in the details.  It is important to stay focused on what is important to you and to stay true to yourself.  If you live an honorable life and work hard, it is possible to be rich in a couple of areas.  You may have been able to make and save a decent amount of money to pass on to improve the future of others, but you will, for sure, have amassed a fortune in the relationships you built with your family and friends.

This is echoed by Powerball winner Jack Whittaker, who said, “Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up.  Family is what is dear.  I don’t know where it’ll end, but you know, I just don’t like Jack Whittaker.  I don’t like what I’ve become.”

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