MONEY consumer psychology

19 Secrets Your Millionaire Neighbor Won’t Tell You

The secret to financial freedom.

Here’s a classic post with advice that never grows old:

That’s right. Although having a million bucks isn’t as impressive as it once was, it’s still nothing to sneeze at.

In fact, CNBC reports that in 2013 there were 13.2 million millionairesin the United States alone.

That’s a lot of people, people. And the odds are one or two of them are living near you.

Heck, one of them might even be your neighbor. In fact, the odds are very good that it is your neighbor.

But, Len, you don’t know my neighbor. That guy doesn’t look anything like a millionaire.

Well, guess what? Your suburban millionaire neighbor called (oh yeah, we go way back) and the two of us had a nice little chat.

Here’s a few things he shared with me but apparently doesn’t want to tell you. (No offense, I’m sure.)

1. He always spends less than he earns. In fact his mantra is, over the long run, you’re better off if you strive to be anonymously rich rather than deceptively poor.

2. He knows that patience is a virtue. The odds are you won’t become a millionaire overnight. If you’re like him, your wealth will be accumulated gradually by diligently saving your money over multiple decades.

3. When you go to his modest three-bed two-bath house, you’re going to be drinking Folgers instead of Starbucks. And if you need a lift, well, you’re going to get a ride in his ten-year-old economy sedan. And if you think that makes him cheap, ask him if he cares. (He doesn’t.)

4. He pays off his credit cards in full every month. He’s smart enough to understand that if he can’t afford to pay cash for something, then he can’t afford it.

5. He realized early on that money does not buy happiness. If you’re looking for nirvana, you need to focus on attaining financial freedom.

6. He never forgets that financial freedom is a state of mind that comes from being debt free. Best of all, it can be attained regardless of your income level.

7. He knows that getting a second job not only increases the size of your bank account quicker but it also keeps you busy — and being busy makes it difficult to spend what you already have.

8. He understands that money is like a toddler; it is incapable of managing itself. After all, you can’t expect your money to grow and mature as it should without some form of credible money management.

9. He’s a big believer in paying yourself first. Paying yourself first is an essential tenet of personal finance and a great way to build your savings and instill financial discipline.

10. Although it’s possible to get rich if you spend your life making a living doing something you don’t enjoy, he wonders why you do. Life is too short.

11. He knows that failing to plan is the same as planning to fail. He also knows that the few millionaires that reached that milestone without a plan got there only because of dumb luck. It’s not enough to simply declare that you want to be financially free.

12. When it came time to set his savings goals, he wasn’t afraid to think big. Financial success demands that you have a vision that is significantly larger than you can currently deliver upon.

13. Over time, he found out that hard work can often help make up for a lot of financial mistakes — and you will make financial mistakes.

14. He realizes that stuff happens, that’s why you’re a fool if you don’t insure yourself against risk. Remember that the potential for bankruptcy is always just around the corner and can be triggered from multiple sources: the death of the family’s key bread winner, divorce, or disability that leads to a loss of work.

15. He understands that time is an ally of the young. He was fortunate enough to begin saving in his twenties so he could take maximum advantage of the power of compounding growth on his nest egg.

16. He knows that you can’t spend what you don’t see. You should use automatic paycheck deductions to build up your retirement and other savings accounts. As your salary increases you can painlessly increase the size of those deductions.

17. Even though he has a job that he loves, he doesn’t have to work anymore because everything he owns is paid for — and has been for years.

18. He’s not impressed that you drive an over-priced luxury car and live in a McMansion that’s two sizes too big for your family of four.

19. After six months of asking, he finally quit waiting for you to return his pruning shears. He broke down and bought himself a new pair last month. There’s no hard feelings though; he can afford it.

So that’s it. Now you know what your millionaire neighbor won’t tell you.

Oh, and, um, would you be so kind to keep this just between you and me? I’d hate to ruffle anyone’s feathers or cause of any kind of neighborly spat.


Thanks. You’re a peach.

More From Len Penzo dot COM:

Len Penzo blogs at, “the off-beat personal finance blog for responsible people”.

TIME Innovation

This Simple Procedure Can Give Amputees Bionic Limbs

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. With a simple procedure, amputees can have brain-controlled bionic limbs.

By Eric Sofge in Popular Science

2. Is Starbucks helping to rebuild America’s middle class?

By Amanda Ripley in the Atlantic

3. Now a satellite can tell you when a bridge is about to fail.

By the European Space Agency

4. We can get cheaper wind power from bladeless, vibrating turbines.

By Liz Stinson in Wired

5. Can learning machines predict the next pandemic?

By David Schultz in Science

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email

TIME Starbucks

There’s a New Way to Get Starbucks Rewards Points (and Music!)

Starbucks Starbucks Cold Brew

Starbucks and Spotify are working together after the coffee chain stopped selling CDs.

Starbucks and online streaming service Spotify are teaming up, allowing Starbucks to stay in the music sphere even after the coffee chain stopped selling compact disks in March.

Customers will be able to see lists of songs played baristas in their coffee shop under a new section in their app. Starbucks will also offer Spotify users rewards points to its loyalty program.

The partnership with Spotify comes after Starbucks stopped selling physical CDs in March after more than 20 years. Artists who’ve seen their work featured on the counter next to the pastries include Bonnie Raitt and Aretha Franklin.

“For many, many years, music has been a very significant part of the Starbucks experience,” CEO Howard Schultz said, per Bloomberg. “The music in our stores gave us license over the years to be in the physical CD business and as many of you know that turned into a very, big and important business for Starbucks.”

TIME viral

Starbucks Employee Fired After Ranting at Customer

The customer said she has since been given a $100 Starbucks gift card

A Starbucks employee was fired after a viral cell phone video showed her berating a customer in New York.

Ruby Chen said the Starbucks employee accused her of trying to steal a cookie straw and starting yelling at her to get out of the store, NBC reports.

“Get out,” the employee says in the video, which Chen had posted on Facebook. “You’re not going to be served here. Period. Bye. Bye. Bye.”

A spokesperson for Starbucks told NBC the employee was fired. “This customer’s experience is not reflective of the service our partners provide to customers every day,” the spokesperson said. “Our leadership team is reaching out to the customer to apologize and make this right.”


MONEY credit cards

The Ingenious Way Starbucks Gift Cards Are Getting Hacked

Starbucks app on iPhone
Kevin Schafer—Getty Images Starbucks app on iPhone

Crooks are exploiting the auto-reload feature

Credit card hackers are targeting Starbucks gift card and mobile payment users around the country — and stealing from consumers’ credit cards — with a new scam so ingenious they don’t even need to know the account number of the card they are hacking.

Criminals are using Starbucks accounts to access consumers’ linked credit cards. Taking advantage of the Starbucks auto-reload function, they can steal hundreds of dollars in a matter of minutes. Because the crime is so simple, can escalate quickly, and the consumer protections controlling the transaction are unclear, Starbucks customers should consider disabling auto-reload on the Starbucks mobile payments and gift cards.

The fraud is a big deal because Starbucks mobile payments are a big deal. Last year, Starbucks said it processed $2 billion in mobile payment transactions, and about 1 in 6 transactions at Starbucks are conducted with the Starbucks app.

Maria Nistri, 48, was a victim last week. Criminals stole the Orlando women’s $34.77 in value she had loaded onto her Starbucks app, then another $25 after it was auto-loaded into her card because her balance hit 0. Then, the criminals upped the ante, changing her auto reload amount to $75, and stealing that amount, too. All within seven minutes.

“I don’t know why Starbucks would recommend people do auto-reload when this crime is so easy,” she said.

The trouble started at 7:11 a.m. on Wednesday when she received an automated email saying her username and password had been changed, and if she hadn’t authorized the change, she should call customer service. She tried, but the number she called notified her an operator couldn’t answer until 8 a.m.

“Whoever did this knew the right time to do it,” she said.

More From

TIME Accident

Starbucks Not Liable for Police Officer’s Coffee Burns, Jury Concludes

The police officer was seeking $750,000 in damages

A North Carolina police officer burned by a cup of Starbucks coffee has lost a suit against the company.

A jury concluded Monday that Starbucks is not liable for the burns Raleigh police officer Lt. Matthew Kohr experienced when his coffee spilt on his lap in 2012, ABC 11 reports. Kohr and his wife sued the coffee giant for up to $750,000,

Kohr claimed the lid of his coffee popped off and then the cup collapsed which caused the hot coffee to spill all over his lap causing burns, blisters and emotional damage. Kohr also said that the stress from the event aggravated his Crohn’s disease, causing him to get surgery.

Kohr’s lawyers said Starbucks has a policy of serving its large-sized coffee drinks with a sleeve, which Kohr did not receive. They also argue they gave him the coffee with the lid not properly secured. Lawyers for Starbucks questioned Kohr’s motivations, his diagnosis and Starbuck’s role, ABC 11 reports.

[ABC 11]


Police Officer Sues Starbucks After Spilling Hot Coffee on Himself

The Raleigh officer is suing the coffee giant for $50,000

A police officer in North Carolina is suing Starbucks for $50,000 after he apparently spilled a free cup of coffee on himself.

In the latest legal battle over hot coffee, Raleigh police officer Matthew Korh says the lid popped off his coffee cup and then the cup caved in, spewing the liquid onto his lap and resulting in burns, blisters and emotional damage. Korh’s defense team began making his case on Monday for compensation of medical costs, attorney fees and damages, according to WRAL, and Kohr claims the stress of the incident aggravated his Crohn’s disease, leading to a surgery to remove part of his intestine.

Starbucks, for its part, refutes the claim since the coffee was free and says that out of about 4 billion cups from the same manufacturer that are served each year, there have been 59 similar incidents. Testimony is expected to start by the week’s end.


TIME Fast Food

Here Is What’s Going On With All Your Favorite Fast Food Chains

a fast food tray full of hamburgers
Getty Images

It's a war out there

The fast-food business may never have been in more flux than it is now. Higher food costs and increased competition are hitting the whole industry, while erstwhile mainstays (and not just McDonald’s) are dealing with ever-more-fickle consumers and new trends toward healthier fare. Given all that, it might seem surprising how well the industry as a whole (leaving out McDonald’s) is doing. Here’s a snapshot look at several of the biggest players.

One-year stock performance: down 5%

This is the big one. Tastes are shifting and lifestyles are changing, taking consumers away from the same-ol’, same-ol’. People seeking quick meals are looking for more quality, for which they’ll pay a little (but not too much) more at places like Chipotle, Starbucks, or the prepared-foods counter at the supermarket. And when they just want a burger, more of them are opting for higher-end fare like that served up by Five Guys and others. Or else they’re going to Burger King or Wendy’s, both of which have been concentrating on upgrading their image.

In response, CEO Steve Easterbrook is trying to remake the company. He’s initiated a global restructuring, slashed costs, and revamped menus—including all-day breakfast, new toppings, pastries (to keep more people from fleeing to Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts), and the new, $5 Sirloin Third Pound Burger. It will be a while before we can know how successful these initiatives might be, but it was more than clear that something radical needed to be done.

Yum Brands
One-year stock performance: up 18%

Yum gets half its revenue from China, where it has about 7,000 Pizza Hut and KFC outlets in about 1,000 cities. Growth in that market had served the company well for years, and might again in the future, but for now, the company’s reliance on China is a problem. For one thing, consumer tastes are shifting there, just as they are in the United States and elsewhere. KFC and Pizza Hut are no longer novelties as both foreign and domestic competitors gain strength. A scandal last summer involving bad meat from a KFC supplier didn’t help matters.

But that doesn’t mean things can’t be turned around. The company’s stock got a big boost last week, when billionaire investor Daniel S. Loeb took a “significant stake” in Yum, citing its potential in China as a major draw.

One-year stock performance: n/a

Probably because it’s a private company, Subway often gets left out of examinations of the fast-food biz. But it’s the second-largest chain in the world, with about 43,000 locations (about 25,000 of them in the United States), and it brings in somewhere around $20 billion in revenue.

With its human mascot, weight-loser Jared Fogel, Subway has for years pitched itself as the “healthier” alternative to greasy burgers, pizza, tacos, and fried chicken. And that has largely worked—but fast-food is increasingly competitive for all players, and Subway isn’t immune. Nation’s Restaurant News reported in February that growth was slowing and revenues were nearly flat.

One-year stock performance: up 14%

Yes, it’s a coffee chain, but it’s also a fast-food chain (sort of), as McDonald’s surely believes. Starbucks has been adding various foods to its menu for years, and its expected to keep adding more. That helped it boost store traffic by 3% in its latest quarter. The size of customer purchased also rose – by 4% (people aren’t ordering extra lattes—they’re buying sandwiches and salads.)

The company’s recent clumsy attempt at curing America’s racial ills doesn’t seem to have hurt it much. Last month, a Goldman Sachs analyst said that although Starbucks’ breakfast offerings have performed only so-so, there’s huge potential in its plans to expand its lunch menu.

Burger King
One-year stock performance: n/a

Things are looking a bit better for Burger King than they were a few years ago, even though the chain hasn’t made any big changes. Even as executives were focused on the merger with Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton’s, sales stabilized, and in its most recent quarter, the company reported total sales at Burger King were up by 9.6% and same-store sales were up by 4.5%.

Burger King has been revamping stores and adding some menu items, like the heavily advertised chicken fries. But most of its efforts have gone into overall marketing and operations.

One-year stock performance: up 2.2%

The No. 3 burger chain has been rejiggering its menu some, and pushing its online promotional efforts in an effort to update its brand to appeal to a younger crowd. It recently announced it will start selling organic Honest Tea drinks, and it’s testing a veggie burger that people seem to actually like. In the meantime, the company is working to spin off more of its stores to franchisees, which will help with both costs and profits in the future, but in the near term is tending to tamp down revenue.

Still, Wendy’s, which will release its first-quarter results on Wednesday, has reported same-store sales growth every quarter since the beginning of 2013.

One-year stock performance: up 46%

The pizza chain’s TV commercial might elicit sniggers (“We’ve changed from Dominos Pizza to Dominos), but the strategy of adding new menu items like pasta and sandwiches — along with improving its pizza somewhat — seems to be working. In its latest quarter, Dominos reported that sales were up 11%, and same-store sales were up 16%

MONEY Food & Drink

Starbucks’ Bottled Water Comes From Thirsty California

A report from Mother Jones found that Starbucks' Ethos water comes from some of the areas hit hardest by California's drought.

TIME Environment

Starbucks is Selling California Spring Water For $1.95 a Bottle Amid a Historic Drought

California's Central Valley Heavily Impacted By Severe Drought
Justin Sullivan — Getty Images Well water is pumped from the ground on April 24, 2015 in Tulare, California.

A bottled-water company owned by the coffee giant is drawing on precious springs in the bone-dry state

A Starbucks owned bottled-water company in California is continuing to sell locally sourced spring water, as the Golden State battles one of the worst droughts in recent memory, according to a report in Mother Jones.

Starbucks acquired Ethos Water, an enterprise that gives a nickel of every $1.95 bottle sold to water charity projects around the world, in 2005. Ethos has reportedly raised around $12.3 million for water charity projects to date.

However, the company partially relies on water from private springs in central California’s Placer County and also operates a factory further south in Merced, where it uses local water sources at its production facility. Both areas are in territories that are experiencing “exceptional drought” conditions, according to federal authorities.

The Merced Sun-Star reports that locals are increasingly irritated that the company is continuing to tap the area’s scarce water resources amid the blistering dry spell.

A Starbucks spokesperson told Mother Jones that Ethos water came from “a private spring source that is not used for municipal water for any communities.” However, the magazine also spoke to a geologist with the state’s Department of Water Resources, who said that local communities downstream could still be adversely affected “if you capture and pull it out before it ever makes it.”

Read more at Mother Jones.

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