The author of a blockbuster book series on the habits of millionaires was killed in a car crash Saturday afternoon near his home in Marietta, according to his family and Cobb County police.
Thomas J. Stanley, who was 71, used research to smash the stereotype that being wealthy meant looking wealthy. On the contrary, his works said: Self-made millionaires — the real deal, not the wannabes — are much more likely to be frugal and spurn spending for show.
As for the people showing off the bling? “It’s the neurotic middle-class,” he said in a 1991 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Or the millionaires’ children.
Stanley was a marketing professor at Georgia State University, a public speaker and consultant on selling to the rich. Before his 1996 breakout hit “The Millionaire Next Door,” his theories were gaining publicity, and he and his wife, Janet, figured the book, his fourth, would do well. “We had no idea,” she said.
The book got him on Oprah. It and a sequel “The Millionaire Mind” spent a collective 170-plus weeks on The New York Times’ best-seller list.
They did buy a bigger house. But they stayed in the same neighborhood and didn’t change the fundamentals of their lifestyle, said Janet Stanley. “The reason we only [moved] a mile away was to keep the friends we made,” she said.
Thomas Stanley was born in 1944 in the Bronx, where his father drove a subway car and his mother was a homemaker and secretary. He went to college in Connecticut, and did graduate work at the University of Tennessee, where he met Janet. He got his doctorate at the University of Georgia, and eventually moved to the Atlanta area to teach at Georgia State University, and remained here.
“He liked the fact that it was a big city for the South,” Janet Stanley said. “He liked the people. He liked the terrain, being near the mountains, being near the ocean, the Chattahoochee.”
He also loved cars. As a young man, he worked summers at a Chevrolet dealership while in school. In 2012, he bought his own Corvette. He was driving it Saturday afternoon when he slowed down on Paper Mill Road prior to turning left toward Atlanta Country Club Drive. According to Cobb police, an Acura MDX traveling behind him cut around him to the left, into the opposing traffic lane. As Stanley turned left, police said, the Acura, driven by Jeffrey Fettig of Marietta, slammed into Stanley’s left side. Charges will likely be filed, police said. Attempts to reach Fettig on Sunday were unsuccessful.
Of all his successes, Janet Stanley said, the one that brought her husband the most pride was probably his children and grandchildren.
Their son, Brad, works in insurance. Their daughter, Sarah Fallaw, is an industrial psychologist, and recently left her job to work with her father on a new survey for an updated Millionaire book. It has been many years, after all, and a new Gilded Age is taking hold, with a whole new generation of attitudes toward wealth.
Fallaw said she would continue the work. “We certainly will,” she said. “The survey is being packaged up and sent out.”
Service arrangements will be made at Sandy Springs Chapel on Mount Vernon Highway.
RELATED: Read the AJC obituary guestbook for Thomas J. Stanley
AJC reporter Mike Morris contributed to this story.