How to Think Like a Millionaire

September 19, 2017
Greg Kelly

A bit of frugality mixed with hard work, determination and a few other very attainable ingredients could well put you on the path to making a million.

“Wealth comes to those with a lifestyle of hard work, perseverance, planning and, most of all, self-discipline.” These are the words of writer and business theorist Thomas J. Stanley, PhD.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Stanley a few years back. A wise Georgia State University marketing professor, he studied American millionaires for nearly 30 years and found they didn’t live the high life, but they did have certain behaviors that helped them build wealth.

And today’s average veterinarian, facing $175,000 in educational debt and working in a highly taxed profession, better start thinking about making millions — if only to keep even.

Dr. Stanley turned his research (which included the health care profession) into several best-selling books. The one I thought most useful to building a veterinarian’s personal finance skills was his signature tome, "The Millionaire Next Door." In that 1996 book Dr. Stanley uncovered the keys to building personal finance success.

Wealth hallmarks are hard work, thrift, determination, discipline and finding a good spouse. Easier said than done, but certainly possible with a little physical and intellectual vigor.


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When I interviewed the Bronx-born Dr. Stanley, he expressed surprise at the book’s great success but satisfaction that his message was getting through.

Dr. Stanley tragically died in an auto accident in 2015. According to a 2015 New York Times report, Dr. Stanley “died behind the wheel of a 2013 Corvette, rammed by another driver... It turns out he couldn’t help but have a taste for the finer things in life.”

Dr. Stanley provided a simple formula for how much retirement savings or net worth a doctor should have based on his or her age: Take 1/10 of your age, multiply that number by your annual income and then double it.

With the average annual salary for a veterinarian practicing in the United Sates now approaching $90,000, that means a 40-year-old veterinarian should have about $700,000 in net worth, a 50-year-old one needs $900,000 and a 60-year-old doctor needs around $1 million.

If you’re coming up short, don’t be discouraged. Keep at it, and keep Dr. Stanley’s "foundation stones to success” top of mind:

  • Be assured that the lack of deep financial knowledge will not stand in the way of economic productivity.
  • Have the courage to take some financial risks, and learn how to overcome setbacks.
  • Have a vocation that is original, profitable and makes full use of your strengths; make it one that you love.
  • Trust that the economy rewards success factors like hard work, integrity and focus.
  • Choose a spouse who is honest, responsible, loving, capable and supportive — characteristics that are compatible with success.
  • Run an economically productive household, focusing your time and spending to enhance your productivity.
  • Search and negotiate aggressively when buying a house, and choose one you can easily afford.
  • Adopt a full and balanced lifestyle — having fun doesn't have to carry a luxury price tag.
  • Embrace the freedom of being frugal; spurn the tendency to spend for show.

Greg Kelly is a long-time health care writer and editor. He has written for the Physician’s Money DigestTM, Dentist’s Money DigestTM and Veterinarian’s Money DigestTM websites. He lives at the Jersey Shore and welcomes comments at