I recently read a book titled, “The Millionaire Next Door,” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. The book summarized survey results of hundreds of millionaire households and revealed the frugal habits of the affluent — what kinds of cars they drive (most popular are used Ford F-150s), the size of the homes they live in (on average less than $450,000 houses) and the things they invest in (commonly stocks in agriculture and land).
The take-home lesson of the book was to invest wisely, live well below your means, don’t worry about keeping up with the Jones’ and with hard work and a little luck, smart entrepreneurs can become millionaires in just one generation without ever inheriting a dime.
Another interesting point in the book was the careers the affluent encouraged their children and grandchildren to pursue. Many of these self-made millionaires/business owners indicated they would prefer their offspring to become intellectual professionals — physicians, accountants, estate or tax attorneys, dentists, architects or engineers, to name a few.
They explained that owning a business came with too many risks and had certain limitations, but no person or government could ever steal your marketable intellect gained from higher education.
Yesterday, I mentioned that my family took a photo of our four generations in farming and ranching. In between takes, I asked my grandma if she would like to see my kids run cattle one day. Despite her own success in the farming/ranching business, she was quick to say, “Oh no. This life is too hard. I think Scarlett and Thorne should be doctors and lawyers.”
Her comment only reaffirmed what this book says — owning a business is difficult and requires great sacrifice, and there are probably much easier ways to make a living. As we face lower prices and a drought situation here in South Dakota, I know that things could certainly get tough for us in the cattle business this year. Wouldn’t it be easier to have a steady income, a guaranteed profession, one that isn’t at the mercy of unpredictable forces like the weather and the markets? You bet.
Considering the risks of being in production agriculture, I’ll admit there is probably some merit to encouraging kids to explore other professional careers. After all, if my kids went on to become successful accountants or engineers, cattle and land would certainly be a nice tax write-off and a solid investment, and they could still stay involved in this business that way. Ultimately, no matter what my children grow up to do, I hope they follow their passions and find what makes them happy.
As for myself, despite knowing that there are easier ways to make a living, there’s nothing I would rather be doing than continuing my family tradition of raising cattle. My writing helps support my family when things get lean on the cattle side of things, and I’m thankful to have the flexibility to work from home with my young children and humbly build our cattle business at a pace that we can manage.
No, it’s not easy, and it’s interesting that Grandma wishes for something different for her children and grandchildren. However, if your heart is truly in it and you’re willing to put in the years of hard work and sacrifice, success should surely follow suit.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.