by Thomas J. Stanley
reviewed by Jon A. Ford, CFP®
There are at least two reasons for reading this book, subtitled The Many Journeys of Successful American Businesswomen. The first is to find out what Dr. Stanley is up to now—since The Millionaire Next Door, he continues to provide wonderful insights into the saving habits, work ethic and personality of America's wealthy. Like his others, this book is exceptionally clear, research based and graced with thoughtful conclusions that help consultants, including financial planners, offer improved service.
The second reason to read Millionaire Women is to understand how lifestyles of successful businesswomen compare with those of successful men. Illustrating with a personal illustration, we have four children and I am reluctant to continue giving money to them after paying for four years of college, for their own good, of course. On the other hand, my wife, a psychologist and successful businesswoman herself, has no problems shelling out the dough. Stanley explains that our differences are not so unusual and, in fact, expected—successful businesswomen are more generous with their grown children than are men.
I know that applying large-group research findings to our household is a bit of a conceptual leap. However, the author discovered that successful women give to grown children an average of 5 percent of their earnings. Not only that, but they are more apt to contribute more to worthy causes—about 7 percent a year. Within groups of women, differences flourish as well. Out of 26 ancestral groups included, successful African-American women gave a higher proportion of their annual income (10.1 percent) to noble causes.
The author argues that being wealthy and being generous are not mutually exclusive goals, and he explains why. For instance, among wealthy businesswomen, there is a striking contrast between those who contribute 10 percent of their income to charity and those who contribute 1 percent. He discusses the familial roots that trigger giving preferences and reports that a primary result is that 10-percenters (his term) produce more wealth per dollar of assets than 1-percenters. Since people allocate dollars in ways they feel will give them the greatest satisfaction, and the latter group spends more on products, then they have fewer dollars remaining with which to save, invest, or even donate.
Over the past few years a Fortune 500 company in our region has asked that a series of financial planning seminars be presented to its employees. Since 2001 we have completed four—the next two will include spouses because the male and female employees, I've been told, want their spouses to hear what I have to say.
Finding this book is a Godsend in my preparation. Among other things, I will be more familiar with lifestyle differences between successful women and men. I will also have a better understanding of their early socialization, benevolent nature, part-time versus full-time work satisfaction, and various alternate routes women might take to become wealthy. Whereas most millionaires are self-employed, Stanley clearly talks about other groups who have more than their share of the wealth. It's not such a stretch to believe that salespeople could amass a fortune, but he also devotes an entire chapter to wealthy educators. It's a very interesting read.
In sum, I recommend this book to financial planners with successful female colleagues or friends, or planners who teach or serve successful businesswomen. That's about all of us, I believe. You won't be disappointed; take it from me, it does help remove the personal and professional confusion from male-female spending preferences.
Jon A. Ford, CFP®, is president of Commission Free Financial Planning Solutions Inc. in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Andrews McMeel Publishing
$28.95 (hardcover: 356 pages)