The Beginning Of The Surprise Millionaires Journey

I thought I would start my next 100 posts with a look back on the experience that started me on this journey.  Everyone needs that spark, that catalyst, that “aha” moment.   This was mine …

This story begins for me several years ago when I was asked to serve on my church’s finance committee. Even though I wasn’t much of a joiner, I found the idea of learning how the financial life of the church worked very intriguing.

As I arrived for my first committee meeting pen and paper in hand, I was shocked to learn that my first act as a committee member would be a very momentous one. We were to decide the best use for the “estate” left to the church by a deceased parishioner, Mrs. Williams (not her real name).  Church Pews

It seemed that her estate had been held up in legal proceedings over the past couple of years and was now ready to be released to the beneficiaries; our church being one of them. I thought it was quite nice that this saintly old lady had decided to gift the church with what was left of the blood, sweat and tears of her meager life. Boy was I ever wrong!

The committee was quickly informed that this would be a very important decision due to the size of the estate. It was felt amongst the pastoral staff that the money should be used to pay off the outstanding loan on the current church facility. I was shocked. Kindly old Mrs. Williams, the little lady who had always sat in the fourth pew from the back of the church each and every Sunday had the wherewithal to pay off a seven figure construction loan? Unbelievable!

But that was only part of the story. The church was actually one of several institutions that would benefit from Mrs. Williams’ multi-million dollar estate.  In reality, Mrs. Williams was both a very wealthy and very generous woman!

I left the meeting that day shaking my head. How could Gladys Williams and her late husband have accumulated all of that wealth? They certainly weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths. Mr. Williams had been a postman during his working life and had also sold vacuum cleaners on the side.  Mrs. Williams had been a homemaker until her children were grown and had then taken a job at the local library.

I had never had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Williams but Mrs. Williams was, well, rather ordinary.   While always neat and tidy in appearance, she mostly wore the typical polyester “church lady” suits that could be purchased at any local discount store. Her car had been a mid-priced, American-made model of a completely ordinary nature.

There was no mansion for the multi-million dollar Williams’ either. They lived in a non-descript, but well maintained bungalow style home. There wasn’t even a garage to protect their car from the harsh mid-western winters. Nothing in their outward appearance would give any hint of the wealth that lay at their disposal.

I didn’t dwell on the matter for too long preferring to characterize the Williams’ as “outliers” in what we like to call the American experience. It just wasn’t natural to have all of that wealth yet not spend even a fraction of it on yourself, was it?

It wasn’t long before I discovered that the Williams’ were not alone in their pursuit of wealth accumulation.  They were part of a group of people who kept a low profile while at the same time accumulating vast amounts of wealth; they were the Surprise Millionaires.

My 100th Post: Why Millennials Will Never Be Surprise Millionaires

The Surprise Millionaires

To celebrate my 100th post, let’s discuss the millennials from their perspective.  This post features my first guest writer: my daughter, Kelsey McDowell.

Saddled with student loan debt and a perceived inability to invest, I am far from the profile of the frugal outlier chronicled on this blog. When my father initially asked me to write for The Surprise Millionaire, I was quite unsure what I could possibly contribute.

Lucky for you, I am not here to provide any lasting financial advice. Rather, as a self-proclaimed expert on my generation, I am here to support an argument made in his last post: the millennial will never be a surprise millionaire.

That’s awfully generalized and negative, isn’t it? “Never a surprise millionaire? I’m going to be showing all you boomers just how awesome and unique and successful and UNIQUELY SUCCESSFUL I am… or will be! Someday!” cries the millennial from his urban coffee shop. Yes, the millennial fervently believes in his potential. Is that not how he has been raised, though?

If you were to stop 100 millennials on the street, I can unscientifically guarantee most of them would claim that they possess the potential to be a millionaire. The millennial believes in himself, which is certainly half the battle. But will this confidence translate into consistent and gradual wealth accumulation? Probably not.

The millennial, with his inflated sense of self and conditioned need for instant gratification, is in for a life-long battle. Will his immediate perceived needs outweigh the wise advice to invest for the future?

While the millennial can certainly become a millionaire, he will likely take a path much different from our surprise millionaire. Where the surprise millionaire slowly accumulates his wealth through frugality and sometimes doing without, the millennial will harness his innovative, entrepreneurial spirit and follow a vastly different timeline.

The surprise millionaire will always be an outlier, but it appears that his breed will become even more rare.

It’s My 99th Post !!

99 birthday

And just why am I celebrating, of all things, my 99th post?  Because I have given the honor of the 100th post to my daughter Kelsey.  A recent college grad and new to the workforce, Kelsey will be posting on why she thinks millennials will never become Surprise Millionaires (say it isn’t so!).

Kelsey is responsible for the overall look and branding of the website and related Twitter account for the Surprise Millionaires.  I’m very interested in getting her generation’s perspective on wealth accumulation and setting long-term financial goals.  Check back to see her post next week.

The Blue-Collar Millionaire Of Durham N.C.

I have never heard of this television program “Blue-Collar Millionaire”; but I will be watching for it!  It is a little known fact that most American millionaires make their money in what many would consider dull, normal or even unattractive businesses.  What you see out there in popular culture is not the reality!