Many of us have the goal of financial independence, and beyond that we hope to one day be wealthy. We want the kind of money that helps us to never stress about our bills, that buys us the ability to travel to exotic places and to provide for our loved ones. So you would think with such stress-free, well-traveled lives that wealthy people would be humble and gracious. Studies as well as personal experiences show that money can buy a lot of things, but it can not buy you class.
Any of the “Real Housewives” series are great examples of women who have money but who act entitled, who’s fake body parts can tell you everything you need to know about their self confidence, and who can sometimes be seen rolling around in their designer dresses fighting one another. After reading a bunch of studies on the idea of why money just can’t buy you class – I thought I would share some of the findings so that you can be careful not to fall victim to some of the risks associated with becoming a part of the 1%.
The risk of weak personal relationships
Although it’s important to network and surround yourself with people who are motivated, driven, and who’s opinion you trust – it seems that the wealthy are much more likely to get into the mindset of first asking “what can this person do for me” at an introduction. Again, look at all the housewives – you don’t see them hanging out with their friend who bags groceries down at Publix – you see them hanging out with people who they call their friends and secretly hate. In the attempt to hang out with only those in your income bracket or befriend only those who can help further your career or social status in some way – what kinds of relationships are you missing out on? Plus, just because someone is not currently in the position to benefit you, you never know where they can be in the future. Establish relationships with anyone you feel a connection with and be willing to help others who can’t necessarily help you in return. It always comes back around.
The risk of being less sympathetic (aka a jerk)
I’ve read countless studies that suggest that because those in lower classes tend to rely more on neighbors, relatives and friends for help with things that the wealthy would just hire people for (like child care or a ride to work), they develop more effective social skills that promote good will and empathy. The idea here is that the freedom and independence from others that wealth buys results in rich people simply not caring as much about other people’s feelings. For example, a Berkeley study found that luxury car drivers were more likely to cut off other motorists instead of waiting for their turn at the intersection. In a different study it was found that luxury car drivers were also more likely to speed past a pedestrian trying to use a crosswalk, even after making eye contact with the pedestrian.
Does this mean that all rich people are jerks, or that driving a mercedes means you’re more likely to run down some poor person in your car? No – but this definitely backs up the popular opinion that the rich tend to feel a sense of entitlement. On your way to the top, it’s important to remember where you came from, and how quickly it can all be taken away from you. Keeping yourself humble and kind will keep positivity around you – because we all know that on top of class, money can’t buy you happiness.
The risk of becoming greedy
The Berkeley study also pointed to the idea that rich folks endorse the idea that “greed is good”. The study stated that “wealthier people were more likely to agree with statements that greed is justified, beneficial and morally defensible.” Another interesting finding? Last year, the wealthiest Americans in the top 20% gave an average of 1.3% of their income to charity. Those in the bottom 20% gave 3.2%. On top of that, the biggest individual charitable gifts from the rich went to ivy league schools, museums and hospitals. Not one went to a charity that directly serves the poor. I’m sure that many affluent people give to those in need, but it is definitely an interesting fact that the richest fund programs that further help the rich.
This is no doubt a controversial topic, since the wealthiest Americans pay the most in taxes that fund many social programs, and I am by no means suggesting that the rich should “take care” of those less fortunate – but I’m sure that most of the wealthy in this country could be doing more to help the poor. Expressing gratitude through your actions is sure to help you stay away from the greed trap. When you are grateful for what you have, you are more willing to help others – and again, it will always come back around to you.
Wealth and integrity can co-exist
Saying that all rich people suffer from these problems would be crazy talk – especially when you have people like Bill Gates who have donated huge amounts of money to reduce extreme poverty. Plus, holding the opinion that money is bad or turns you into an evil person can be pretty self-destructive on your journey to accumulate wealth. Remember that money is just a tool – and how you use it will reflect the kind of person you are. I think important questions to ask yourself will always be, “what kind of person do I want to be remembered as?” and “If I had no money – how rich would I be?”