It would be natural to expect someone who earns a high salary to be socking more money away than a lower-earning employee. But that’s usually not the case.

High-status incomes, like those earned by doctors and lawyers, often come with expectations for high-status living, according to the authors of the book “The Millionaire Next Door.”

Authors Thomas Stanley and William Danko developed profiles of different types of individuals to define their style of building wealth. Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth, or PAWs, have little need for expensive homes, cars and technology and typically save well more than the average person. They spend less than they earn and can often end up as millionaires even on a modest salary.

The opposite end of the spectrum is the Under Accumulator of Wealth. These UAWs have a low net worth compared with their income in part because they feel the need to measure their success based on how they compare with their neighbors. Doctors and lawyers often fall into this category. It’s the “better than” theory. Others in this group include those who fall prey to the “better off” theory, meaning they are driven to prove they are financially richer than their parents by buying a larger home, luxury car, country club membership — you get the idea.

Another intriguing belief among UAWs is that income is a readily renewable resource, resulting in confident overspending on homes, cars and luxury items. “The Millionaire Next Door” was written before the latest deep recession. I’m betting the attitude of the PAWs don’t change with the state of the economy, but it would be interesting to note if it has changed among the under accumulators.

How would you define yourself: as a UAW, a PAW or somewhere in the middle?

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