Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How to be a millionare

I was greatly disturbed by what I found in this article about how US Citizens think they can "get rich:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than one in five Americans believe the best way to get rich is to win the lottery, while 11 percent say inheriting money is the way to go, a survey showed on Monday.

Asked the most practical way to accumulate "several hundred thousand dollars," 21 percent chose winning the lottery, compared to 55 percent who thought saving something each month for many years was best, according to a survey by the Consumer Federation of America and the Financial Planning Association.

Three percent of those surveyed thought a big insurance settlement was the best way to become wealthy.

The poor were the most likely to say winning the lottery was the most practical way to gain wealth -- with 38 percent of those earning less than $25,000 a year choosing that option compared to just 9 percent of those earning $75,000 or more.

African Americans and those over the age of 65 were also more likely to believe winning the lottery was more practical than saving each month -- at 30 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation, said it was of "some concern" that so many people thought the lottery was their best chance at wealth.

"It appears that these Americans both greatly overestimate their chances of hitting a lottery jackpot and greatly underestimate their ability to build six-figure wealth by patiently making regular savings contributions over time that benefit from interest compounding," Brobeck said.

The survey of more than 1,000 adults also found only about half of Americans understand the meaning of personal wealth -- which includes financial assets plus home equity and other assets minus consumer debts -- and less than half know how much personal wealth they have.

Brobeck said the typical household had a net wealth of $100,000, mostly in home equity. About 5 percent had net wealth over $1 million, while nearly 1 in 10 households had zero net wealth -- meaning their debt exceeded their assets.

While financial planners believe about half of young Americans could accumulate $1 million over a period of 30 years, fewer than 1 in 10 of Americans believe they could save that much money, the survey showed.

"Planners know that it is easier for individuals to build personal wealth than they realise," said James Barnash, chair of the Financial Planning Association.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

It almost frightens me that so many people don't understand how easy it is to become a millionare. I see people waste away cash on some really dumb things. For instance, how many people have you met who buy the best of the best (...and most expensive), yet never use it. I have an aquantice who has a 'golden ticket' to being a millionare while being far younger than any of his peers...yet has declared bankruptcy at least three times through what has to be described as horrific money management.

This scares me. My wife and I have been plugging away money since we started steady work (10% of gross income). How many won't be prepared for retirement?


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