Learning from the Rich: Debunking “Rich” Stereotypes

by Jessica Sommerfield · 9 comments

rich stereotypes

Most of us would be considered middle-class — not below the poverty line, but not making six-digit salaries, either. But if we stop and think about it, each of us knows at least someone we’d consider rich, and, if we’re honest, we’re at least slightly jealous of them.

Because we don’t want to think less of ourselves for being middle-class, we often write them off as one of the following stereotypes:

  • Their wealth was inherited; they have no self-initiative. 
  • They’re greedy, money-obsessed, and miserly. 
  • They think they’re better than everyone else. 
  • They’re lonely. 

Of course, these stereotypes can be accurate, but that’s no excuse to apply them to the rich people we know (and don’t know). Let’s take a look at each of these stereotypes and shed some light on the mystery of what rich people are really like.

debunk rich stereotypesStereotype #1: Their wealth was inherited; they have no self-initiative.

Stereotypical ‘rich kids’ can admittedly be some of the most obnoxious, spoiled, and immature people we know. But they don’t have to be. Many who find themselves born into wealth turn into perfectly functioning members of society who use their wealth responsibly and invest in businesses, the community, and charity. Entitlement isn’t necessarily a recipe for a social shipwreck.

We often view inherited wealth as less impressive than that of self-made millionaires. But in actuality, inheritance is a great tribute to the ability of parents to not only maintain wealth, but to build it and pass it on to future generations.

Maintaining a fortune you didn’t earn is just as challenging, if not more so, than maintaining wealth you’ve earned. For instance, wealth from an inheritance may have grown due to short-window stock or investments, ideal economic conditions, particular skill sets, and lifestyles that are hard or impossible to maintain or reproduce. Spending an inheritance takes no special talent, but maintaining it does.

Stereotype #2: Rich people are greedy, money-obsessed, and miserly.

Charles Dickens’ character Scrooge is the perfect stereotype of a greedy, miserly, and miserable wealthy person. This type of person places so much importance on money that they stomp on everything and everyone that gets in their way of getting more of it.

Although there are real-life Scrooges, you’ll usually find that rich people are the most generous, selfless, and non-materialistic people around. Because they hold the keys to financial success, they aren’t afraid of losing or giving away money; they know they’ll just earn more. And, because (1) they understand how money works and (2) their money is working for them, there’s no need to be obsessed with it. It’s simply a tool.

Stereotype #3: Rich people think they’re better than everyone else.

Rich (and particularly, famous) people can be haughty, rude, and condescending. There are some who have been wealthy their whole lives and don’t appreciate the hard work required to build it (stereotype #1). If you keep an open mind, you’ll usually find rich people to be just like the rest of us, and that any ‘airs’ you think they’re putting on are probably being misread due to your own prejudice.

Stereotype #4: Rich people are lonely.

If someone is of the greedy, miserly type, he might be lonely. But most rich people are well-networked and extremely social — a characteristic which probably helped them build their wealth in the first place.

One misconception of rich people is that they can’t have friends because they can’t trust anyone to be truly interested in more than their money. On the contrary, rich people have to learn the skill of discerning genuine friendship from people who are using them, and they’re therefore more likely to find true and lasting friendships.

Being rich is not a statement about you — just your bank account. Breaking the misconceptions about what rich people aren’t is important. It’ll enable you to observe their lives and discern the principles of what makes them wealthy, so that you can emulate them.

After all, who doesn’t want to be rich?

Do you agree or disagree with these “rich people” stereotypes? 

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • James Heidebrecht says:

    I’ve really tried to change my perspective on what it means to be rich. Sadly I think we are all indoctrinated into this idea that to be rich means you were bad 😉 But without money how can you help people or yourself for that matter. I’ve been reevaluating my take on this. To truly make a difference in this world I have to make some cash.

  • DNN says:

    Side hustle millionaire status is a very humbling status for some people to have because they don’t want to be flashy nor in the limelight.

  • GreenDollarBills says:

    This article reminded me quite a lot of the book The Millionaire Next Door. It busts a load of myths surrounding millionaires and has some revealing conclusions. Well worth a read if you liked this article

  • Steveark says:

    Some of my friends have tens or hundreds of millions. They are the kindest, most generous, funniest and most giving people. They are self deprecating, honest and very confident. They don’t think they are better than others but the fact is they really are better at life than most people, which is how they attained their wealth.

  • Linda Diaz-Murphy says:

    Thank you! I really appreciate your words. . It will help me debunk stereotyping of rich kids. I intend to make a short video for kids. I have made it a goal to debunk stereotyping in general. Two children’s books stereotyping rich children were rejected by me and not promoted on my Facebook pages.i did share my thoughts with the authors. The books were horrifying and so harmful. One book aimed to teach a rich girl how to share etc. Sharing is another issue that needs redefining. How unfortunate. Again, thank you, Linda

  • Lucy says:

    So rich people are generous are they? Well…..obviously you have not
    met MY family. Oh dear. I need more champagne.

  • Robert says:

    Two books I recommend on this subject are “The Millionaire Next Door” and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” Both are written from very different perspectives, but they also both emphasize that most millionaires today are self-made. Years ago I hated rich people because of the attitudes of some of the people we worked for (building custom homes), but as I have matured, I have learned that those people would have been buttholes no matter what their income. I now try to get my advice from successful people, such as the couple that has been married 50 years or the contractor who owns the custom home company. After all, we plan to be millionaires in 10 years and hopefully pass some knowledge to our children.

  • Alex C says:

    For the first stereotype of the rich becoming wealthy because their money was inherited is not true in many cases. Most millionaires are self-made, meaning they worked hard to get where they are.

    I have heard about 80% of millionaires are first generationers, meaning their parents before them were not millionaires.

  • @debtblag says:

    I suppose it doesn’t change anything, but I would really like to see percentages here when things are debunked

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