Learning From the Millionaires: Part II

This is a sequel to the first article that appeared on this website. We appreciate the positive feedback and hope that you will find this sequel just as informative . 

Millionaire. The word brings to our mind images of grand mansions, speeding Lamborghinis, endless vacations, delectable feasts and haughty disposition. But many studies reveal that these images do not match reality. We got it all wrong. Most millionaires are so different from those we see on television. So, what are millionaires really like? What sets them apart from most people?

In addition to the qualities mentioned in the first article, here are their other traits :
The guts to say “ NO.” American billionaire Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of the giant US conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, says that one important characteristic of rich people is that they say “ NO” to many things. They can easily refuse sales pitch from crafty sales people and ignore tempting advertisements. They can say “ NO” to family and friends who are just taking advantage of them. This trait enables them to save a lot of money.

On the other hand, ordinary people like us readily say “ YES ” to many requests , offers and invitations. Here are just some the questions that we usually say “ YES” to. Some questions seem harmless and the amount involved seems small —- but if we compute how much we lose by nodding our heads too frequently — it’ll amount to a fortune.

• (In fast food restaurants ) Would you like to upsize your fries and drinks, Sir ? – Yes. ( Even if you are not that hungry and thirsty. Because you’re too full, half of your fries and drinks eventually end up in the garbage can. Or — you overeat.)
• (In doughnut stores – when you order six) Would you like to make that a dozen, Ma’am, for only P450? – Yes. (Again, the effect is overeating of sugary stuff , which is bad for you.)
• (In department stores) Fifty percent discount sa dress na ‘yan Ma’am. Kunin nyo na. – Yes. Even if your closet is already bursting at the seams. Even if you got a blouse at 50% discount, if you already have a lot of clothes, it’s still a waste of money.)
Pwedeng pautang? – Yes. (Even if that person will unlikely pay you back. Or even if he does , that’s after ten years.)
Pwedeng sagot mo muna ang tuition fee ng pamangkin mo sa sem na ‘to ? – Yes. (Even if you have already sent two other nieces and nephews to college. Or even if you have already built a house for your family.)
Gusto mong yumaman? Join our business. You will get high returns in a short period of time . – Yes. (Even if you have not done any research about that business. Eventually, you lose your hard-earned money from scammers.)

At this point, we have to bear in mind that millionaires do say “YES” to a considerable number of personal and business risks. In the first place, many of them are business people. However, they only take risks after careful evaluation of different factors. In other words, they take “ calculated and intelligent risks.”

There are many other questions which Filipinos, including the 10 million OFWs, say “ YES ” to . But why do we do so to a fault? Our materialism and desire to show-off drive us to buy so many things. Also, our family-centeredness makes it difficult for us to set a limit to the responsibilities that we carry. Lastly, homesickness and — we have to admit, greed — make us lose our senses.

We agree to questionable business deals which later prove to be fraudulent. So, kabayan, next time someone poses a question to you, think hard first. Maybe , it’s better to say “ NO”.

Right attitude over grades. Of course, good school grades give us certain advantages . But again, research says that having the right attitude brings us further in life. A study revealed that the average college GPA of American millionaires is only 2.9 out of the perfect 4.0. That’s not very high. However, most of them admitted being complimented by teachers as “ highly dependable ”. Indeed, grades don’t determine success. Many studies cite right attitude as the key to getting rich. This includes the ability to deal well with people and the grit to stick to the goals despite hardships. Many people who are considered “ intelligent” based on conventional measures such as school grades and IQ tests have a lot conflict with other people because of their ego and inflexibility. Thus, they fail in their jobs and businesses.

On the other hand, people who are likely to succeed are those with people-skills. They can deal well with diverse groups of people: from CEOs to secretaries to janitors. Moreover, most millionaires are able to control their emotions and don’t let them get in the way of progress. They get rid of their ego and accept the possibility that they are wrong . They listen to other people and make the necessary adjustments.

So, what does this tell us? You don’t need to worry if you are not a “ cum laude”, or if you are not a graduate of a premier college. You can still make it. You don’t need to be a genius to learn the knowledge and skills needed in your profession or business. As long as you are determined to learn, you will get there. Be humble enough to accept criticism and advice. Be willing to work hard toward your goal. Research says that most successful people work 60 to 65 hours a week as they struggle to reach their target. Regular guys clock only 40 hours a week.

Self-reliance. How often have we wished that we had rich parents who would just give us a comfortable life? And how many grown ups, especially in Asian countries like the Philippines, actually still depend on their parents? This is far different from many millionaires who prefer to work on their own. Only a small portion of wealthy people cite inheritance and family connections as a source of their wealth. According to FundersandFounders.com, out of the top 100 richest people in the world today, only 27 were heirs. The remaining 73 were self-made, meaning, they built their fortune on their own.

Self-reliance is a part of right attitude that we mentioned earlier. Working hard, by yourself, develops traits such as decisiveness, patience and resourcefulness. There is also much more value and pride when you achieve your goals by personal effort than having them handed to you on a silver platter. People who struggle become wiser and tougher in life.

So, be inspired by these millionaires’ lives. Most of them started from scratch. If you’re sweating it out because you did not inherit anything from your parents (except for a list of utang or loans ) , still — be grateful. Yes, your journey will be harder —- but it will be more meaningful and rewarding in the end.

Lifetime of Learning. Millionaires never stop learning. Despite having millions in their bank accounts, they continually find ways to improve themselves. They keenly observe how their surroundings change, and learn to cope with it intelligently. Millionaires always evolve in terms of know-how. This is a very important trait that we should emulate. As OFWs , we should use our spare time abroad to enhance our abilities. We may choose to learn higher skills about an area that we already know; or learn a new skill that we think we can be very good at. We have to develop abilities that will help us be financially secure even until our old age. It may be a second language skill, a culinary skill, or knowledge in finance and investments.

The internet is an abundant source of knowledge. Use it well. TESDA has online courses that can help migrant workers with this aspect. Do not be intimidated by the technical aspects of online learning. If you can learn how to use Facebook , Twitter and Instagram —- there’s no reason why you can’t learn the nuts and bolts of an online course. Besides, there are staff who are assigned to help online learners.

Simplicity and frugality.This was already mentioned in the first article, but I would like to reiterate and give more examples. Most millionaires don’t waste money on luxury clothing, watches, and cars. Many of them live in modest houses not more than US$300,000 in value.

According to a study cited by Forbes.com, among Americans with an annual income of at least US$250,000 (considered rich) , only 39% said that they have bought luxury cars like Mercedes and BMW. The majority, 61 % , said that they drive ordinary cars like Toyota and Honda. In terms of clothing, 50% said they have not bought a suit with a price tag higher than $399.

In the process of writing his book The Millionaire Mind, Thomas Stanley arranged for a personal interview with some millionaires. He and his staff rented a first class penthouse in New York City to serve as the venue. They also prepared an array of expensive food and beverages because they were anxious to please the millionaires. When their ultra-rich visitors came, Stanley and his staff observed that most of them felt somewhat out-of-place in the expensive penthouse. And to their surprise, the millionaires preferred to have the cheapest food and drinks: crackers and regular beer.

How do Filipinos fare in this aspect? The moment Filipinos get hold of money, whether it’s salary, remittance or bonus —- our tendency is to buy expensive things and to splurge on recreational activities. We burn money with no regard for long-term goals and life emergencies, which happen to everyone whether we like it or not. We are “one-day ” millionaires , as the sarcastic comment goes. Simplicity and frugality require a change of mind set and behavior.  We should be able to resist the temptation of overspending. We should be able to delay immediate gratification of shallow wants ( for example , an expensive phone ) in order to attain more meaningful and sustainable goals (for example, having your own business).

And of course, many of us become arrogant at the first taste of wealth. We flaunt the latest gadgets in the market and swagger on the streets in glitzy fashion. We demand special treatment when we go restaurants, hotels and other public places. We become snobbish with people who have less money than us. Real millionaires , on the other hand, keep their feet on the ground.
These are the special traits millionaires have. We might as well learn from them if we want to get somewhere. And why should we strive to be richer? Because money — and I mean lasting, sustainable wealth, not just the money we have every pay day —- will give us a lot of things .

It’s not just the material things . It’s the choices money can buy for us . We can choose the food we will put on our tables. We can choose better educational opportunities for our children . We can choose better medical care for our sick parents. We can choose a safer shelter for our families. Most important of all , we can choose to go home to our loved ones and enjoy priceless moments with them.

Marily Sasota Gayeta is currently an English lecturer in Salalah City, Oman . She has held this job since September 2013. Before coming to Oman, she was also an English lecturer in Sebha City, Libya for three years. Marily studied Bachelor of Secondary Education major in English at Tomas Del Rosario College in Balanga, Bataan ( her hometown ) and earned her MA in English Language Teaching from the Philippine Normal University. Her career, which spans more than 20 years, also includes teaching Vietnamese refugees in a training camp in Bataan , and teaching collegiate English in three private colleges in the same province. She enjoys watching action movies, listening to rock songs, reading and writing . Her articles are available on her blog at www.gardenerofthoughts.blogspot.com. Marily is married and has two children.

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