When many of us think of “millionaires” we don’t automatically think of high school teachers. However, Andrew Hallam built a $1 million portfolio with the salary of a high school. He’s a great example of what can be accomplished with smart financial decisions, and savvy investments. His book, Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School, is a personal finance classic. The book offers a simple, no-nonsense prescription for improving your finances and amassing the wealth you want.

Are You Living Like a Millionaire, or a Wannabe Millionaire?

The first thing that Hallam points out in his book is that there is a difference between spending like a millionaire, and spending like a wannabe millionaire. Unfortunately, he points out, the wannabe rich are more interested in appearance, and aren’t often actually rich. One of the most surprising factoids in the book is this one: Most millionaires drive a Toyota (hooray for my Prius!), and the average cost of millionaires’ cars is a little more than $31,000. No need to be a BMW or Cadillac — unless you are more concerned with looking rich, rather than actually being rich at some point.

While you might point to the uber-rich and insist that they’re living large, the truth is that many millionaires live simple and unassuming lifestyles. You might not even know that they are rich! Hallam points out that it’s possible to have a huge house, nice car, and go on amazing trips, all while doing it with money you don’t even have. That’s not true wealth; that’s a lifestyle built on debt. And over-leveraging that way can lead to financial ruin, not lasting wealth. The point of the book, of course, is that it’s possible to build up to $1 million if you are willing to spend wisely, and invest smart.

Building Your $1 Million Portfolio

Once Hallam has established the need to actually adopt the habits of the rich, rather than focusing on appearances, he delves into how you can build wealth. The book addresses indexing, bonds, and other methods that can help you build wealth. Millionaire Teacher takes aim at self-serving financial industry professionals, and contradictory advice. Instead, he lays out a course that, he claims, even a fifth-grader can follow.

Additionally, Hallam looks at psychological factors that can be holding you back. Don’t forget to look in the mirror. Make sure you honestly evaluate your situation and your habits. And try to avoid panic and greed. Hallam’s book offers solid advice, and nine rules that are fairly easy to follow as you do your best to build wealth.

It’s important to note that financial success doesn’t just happen; Hallam requires you to make fundamental changes to the way you think about what constitutes “rich.” You have to take an active role in getting your finances on track, and improving your situation. And you have to try to avoid falling prey to the problems associated with mixing up looking rich with being rich.

Bottom Line

After (finally) reading Millionaire Teacher, it’s fairly obvious why this is considered canon in the personal finance world. It’s a great book with practical advice. Follow it, and you can be a millionaire — no matter your salary.