In Rich Like Them: My Door to Door Search for the Secrets of Wealth in America’s Richest Neighborhoods, author Ryan D’Agostino decided the best way to learn how the richest people got that way was to simply ask. So, he did. Traveling through almost 2 dozen of the richest zip codes, he knocked on 500 doors and interviewed about 50 wealthy people, simply asking, “How did you get to live in a home like this?”
The diversity of responses was staggering, as were the variety of occupations and careers that these wealthy individuals had chosen. Roughly half of them rose through the corporate ranks, got tired of the corporate rigamarole, and struck out on their own to start their own business. Here’s a few of the things he learned and the people he learned them from:
From a real estate investor who focused on waterfront properties, always keep your eyes open for potential opportunities.
From a health care administrator, delay gratification.
From a divorced mom, you have to earn 2 or 3 dollars for every dollar you spend.
From a psychologist and author, have a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Failing is the best way to insure future success.
From a travel agent, people will pay to have unique experiences.
“For every instance of conspicuous gumption, there are thousands of workers who plod along in their jobs, doing what they’re told, complacent and unimaginative. Which is why anyone who bends the rules even a little bit can go far.” —Ryan D’Agostino
From a rare book seller, always have and show gratitude and maintain your network of connections.
From a former CEO, compounding isn’t the magic, the magic is having the patience to allow it to work.
From an elderly widow in Las Vegas, wade in slowly to your investments and never bet the farm.
From a doctor, be willing to move where there’s more opportunity to produce the desired results.
You have to love what you do. If each $100 you earn saps $100.01 in drive from you, eventually you’ll have nothing.” —Ryan D’Agostino
From the popular band Dispatch, never compromise your principles.
From a real estate speculator, buy crap and make it look like the Pottery Barn.
From another real estate titan, work to take the gamble out of the gamble. There’s a difference between risk and chance. A risk is a bet that you’ve tried to rig in your favor by learning everything you can.
From a shrimp peeling machine manufacturer, stay in your core business.
From an art dealer in San Francisco, pay the people you owe with the cash that’s supposed to go to them.
From a heavy equipment dealer, don’t expect an inheritance. Your parents will probably live into their 90’s!
From another art dealer, don’t plan a career, plan a life!
From a media planner:
“First of all, to work hard to achieve the goal of just being able to afford stuff is a terrible way to go through life.”
That same guy said to make sure your boss doesn’t saddle you with just doing one thing for the rest of your career.
From a real estate titan in California, if you sell things quickly, you might get rich, but if you hold on to them, you’ll get wealthy.
From an ophthalmologist, chase whatever makes you happy and give you joy.
From a credit card processor, there are NO rules. ANYTHING can be done so go ahead and challenge the norm.
From a produce broker, never stop being a student. Learn everything you can.
From the former CEO of TRW, bend the corporate rules once in a while.
From a Seattle airline executive for 18 years who quit to become a home-builder, take a risk!
From a venture capitalist, value your relationships more than the financial assets you’re earning. Greed values accumulation for accumulation’s sake, wealth values relationships. Remember, you are not a god.
There are five major chapters and they are organized to teach some of the lessons of wealth. Each chapter has subchapters with tips like these below:
- Open Your Eyes. Find opportunities that others don’t see. You’ll find them by always having your eyes open. When you hear someone say “If only I could … ” THAT is an opportunity. Connect the people you meet.
- Luck Doesn’t Exist. Choose your purpose and don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong. Watch your pennies no matter how many you have. Don’t deviate from your planned path for a quick gain.
- The Economics of Obsession. Love what you do. Do what you love. Take your mind off the money and you’ll earn more. Turn your fear into passion.
- The Myth of Risk. Take risks. If you work smart and hard, those risks will be reduced. Calculate every risk – even the one you live in. If you want autonomy, let it motivate you. If you hate your career, um, change it.
- Humility. Be humble. Realize what you can’t do, and work on what you can do. Don’t be a slave to plan A, it will prevent you from seeing plan B. Don’t be afraid to make less than your spouse. Remember that you are not, nor will you ever be, a god or goddess.
Very few of the people D’Agostino interviewed had inherited their wealth, but those who had, had a full time job just maintaining it. An enviable position, to be sure, but taxing to say the least … in both respects of the word.
What I took away from the book was the vast majority of people who read it can probably ascend to similar heights of wealth as the interviewees. That’s encouraging. But it’s also important to realize that getting wealthy is hard work. There are no over-night successes. One person related how he had worked 7 days a week, sometimes until 4 AM, to get his company up and running. He did this for 12 years and poured his soul into it. Then people claimed he was an overnight success!
People only see the results of labor, rarely do they see the knotted stomachs, the late nights, the missed ballet recitals, the loan rejections, the $35,000 lost in a customer’s bankruptcy, the sleepless nights when you don’t have the cash to make payroll tomorrow, or the disapproving looks from the in-laws when you announce you’re going to quit the corporate job to strike out on some “unproven” venture. But I doubt any of the interviewees would go back and change much!
In case you’re wondering about those top 100 wealthiest zip codes in America, the data was compiled by ERSI taking into consideration factors such as average household income, the value of material possessions and resources, and the sustained accumulation of wealth. By state, New York had the most zip codes on the list at 24, California 20, New Jersey 10, Connecticut 9, Maryland 8, Massachusetts 8, Illinois 5, Virginia 4, Florida 2, Georgia 2, Ohio 2, Pennsylvania 2, Arizona 1, Missouri 1, North Carolina 1, and Washington 1. D’Agostino makes a distinction between those who have a lot of money, those who are well off, and those who are truly loaded.
Buy or Don’t Buy
I honestly liked the book. It was a fantastic read and I finished it in just two sittings. I probably could’ve finished it in one, but after I got started, I decided that the information was so good, I wanted to take notes and I started over again. It really is a good book so I’d recommend picking this one up.