How do you measure wealth? There are many different approaches. Do you have $1,000,000 in the bank? Some would say that makes you wealthy. It might unless you have excessive spending habits and spend $1,000,000 or more per year.
Another way to measure wealth is based on years of annual living expenses that you have in savings. I once read that if you have 10 years of living expenses in the bank, you can consider yourself rich. If you have 25 years of living expenses in the bank, you are financially independent. Any dollar amount beyond 25 years of living expenses would make you wealthy. That scale is logical to me.
One of my favorite ways to measure wealth was created by the late Dr. Thomas J. Stanley. In his book The Millionaire Next Door, he introduced three categories for people to measure how they stack up as creators of wealth. Dr. Thomas J. Stanley refers to these three different groups as UAWs, PAWs, and AAWs.
Under Accumulator of Wealth (UAW)
An Under Accumulator of Wealth or UAW is a person who has a low net worth in relation to their income. A person who is 45 years old, earns $200,000, and does not have a net worth of $900,000 would be considered a UAW. That formula is based on (Age * Income * 10%).
Most Americans fall into this category based on their low savings rate. Contrary to popular belief, however, many high-earners tend to fall into this category. Based on Dr. Stanley’s research, many Physicians are not good at building wealth and are classified as Under Accumulators of Wealth.
You might be thinking, that is nonsense, Medical Doctors are rolling in dough. How could they not be wealthy? Yes, doctors earn a high salary. General Practice Physicians earn around $200,000 per year and specialists earn over $400,000 per year. How could they not be wealthy?
Doctors come out of school with large student loans. On average, new Doctors come out of medical school with $167,000 in student loans. I know of one who owes over $300,000 in student loans. Doctors are faced with social pressures that members of other professions do not face. They are pressured to look the part. That requires living in a fancy housing development, driving luxury automobiles, sending their children to private schools, and joining exclusive country clubs.
I am not picking on this noble profession. Not all Doctors fall victim to those social pressures. There are many in the financial community who buck those trends including DocG who blogs at diversefi.com.
Average Accumulator of Wealth (AAW)
An Average Accumulator of wealth would be someone who has a net worth equal to the sum described above. A person who is 55, has a salary of $150,000 plus $50,000 in investment income, would have to have a net worth of $1,100,000 to be considered an Average Accumulator of Wealth (AAW). If they have a net worth less than that amount, they would fall into the UAW category.
Prodigious Accumulator of Wealth (PAW)
To be considered a Prodigious Accumulator of Wealth (PAW), you would follow the same formula, but multiply it by two. From the example above, the formula would be (Age 55 * Total Income of $200,000 * 10% * 2). In order to be considered a PAW, this person would have to have a net worth of $2,200,000.
Age is a Factor
This formula is better suited for people who are more mature in age. I read The Millionaire Next door when I was age 26. At that time, I was a student but had a full-time job. My net worth at that time was $60,000. Based on this formula, I was an Under Accumulator of Wealth. In order to be classified as an Average Accumulator of Wealth, I would have had to have a net worth of $78,000.
This aspect of the formula has led it to be criticized. In its defense, not many people who are in their 20s are focused on building wealth. Most are in college racking up debt or trying to pay off debt after they enter the workforce.
In my opinion, a person should not focus on these calculations until they are at least 15 years into their career. It takes time to build wealth as an investor or entrepreneur. This calculation is more about where you finish the race as opposed to where you start out.
How to Become a (PAW)
There are plenty of steps that you can take to become a Prodigious Accumulator of Wealth (PAW). Dr. Stanley has provided a complete outline in The Millionaire Next Door. Below are some suggestions that will help you to reach these financial heights:
– Spend less than you earn
– Save 15-20% of your earnings
– Invest in equities, bonds, real estate, private businesses
– Don’t speculate on getting rich quick schemes
– Invest in yourself by getting a good education and keeping your skills current
– Avoid luxury items
– Focus on building wealth for your children
I am a fan of the late Dr. Thomas J. Stanley. I remember reading about him passing away as the result of an unfortunate car accident the day after it occurred. His research has helped to spread a message that just about anybody can build wealth if they follow some basic principles and practices.
The UAW, PAW, and AAW classifications do receive some criticism. It takes hard work to become an AAW and very hard work to become a PAW. As many of my readers know, I am transparent about my income, net worth, and approach to investing. With that, we are firmly planted in the Average Accumulators of Wealth (AAW) category. We will not be in the (PAW) category for some time. Being an Average Accumulator of Wealth (AAW) at this point in our life has allowed us to reach financial independence and one day retire early.
Are you a UAW, PAW, or AAW? Use this calculator to find out.
What is your opinion of the formula that determines these classifications of wealth?
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