Habits of the wealthy: What do rich people do differently?

I’m fascinated by the differences between rich people and poor people. Are the differences mostly a matter of class and economic mobility? Are people born to wealth and poverty and destined to remain there? Or are there observable differences in attitude and action that tend to lead people to specific levels of affluence?

From my experience, it’s some of both.

I believe that there are absolutely systemic issues that contribute to wealth and poverty. But I also believe that there are attitudes and habits that foster wealth and success. These attitudes and habits can be learned. They can be applied to our own lives, allowing us to build better futures.

My Story

I grew up in a family that had always been poor, a family that had lived for nearly 100 years in rural Oregon, barely getting by. The things we had and said and did were “lower class”, even if I didn’t know it at the time.

I was raised in this trailer house:

The house where I grew up

My father was a serial entrepreneur and the primary breadwinner for the family. Occasionally his businesses did well. Mostly, they didn’t. But even when our family did have a decent income, Dad spent that money on boats and airplanes and computers. He didn’t save. Then when hard times came — and hard times always came — he had to sell those toys to put food on the table.

The boom times were rare though. During the 1970s and 1980s, Mom and Dad spent most of the time living paycheck to paycheck. They fought about money. When Dad’s businesses weren’t doing well (which, again, was the norm), he worked as a salesman for various industrial companies. Or he was out of work. He spent long stints unemployed. We had to have help from extended family and from our church. (I can’t recall that we were ever on government assistance, but it’s certainly possible.)

Just before he died in 1995, Dad pulled me aside to apologize for how poor we were when I was a kid. “I remember that one Christmas when we didn’t have enough money for presents,” he said, “You and your brothers wrapped your existing toys and gave them to each other. I felt so ashamed. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you guys a better life.”

So, I’ve experienced poverty. Maybe not poverty as extreme as some others, but poverty.

I’ve also experienced wealth.

Today, my life is very different than it was when I was growing up. I’m fortunate (and grateful) to have a solid financial foundation. I achieved that financial success through a combination of hard work and luck. (And make no mistake: There was definitely good fortune required to get me where I am today.)

My brothers too have managed to work their way to a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. We have it better than our parents did. At the same time, it’s clear that the three of us retain some of our old habits and attitudes. (So too, I think, do other members of our extended family who also grew up poor.)

From my experience, I believe that poor people have certain habits, attitudes, and expectations. I think that these habits, attitudes, and expectations differ from those of wealthy people. Sometimes these qualities are a result of being poor (or wealthy); sometimes these qualities lead to being poor (or wealthy). In other words, it’s neither the “chicken” or the “egg” — it’s both.

What do I mean? Let’s take some time today to explore the types of habits that foster wealth and success.

Important note: Before we go any further, I’d like to acknowledge that this is a complex subject, one weighted with political, economic, and social issues. I don’t expect for one blog post to be a definitive exploration of the topic. I do, however, hope that this article can highlight some insights from myself and others — including you. This piece is not meant as a takedown of the rich or a takedown of the poor. It’s meant to highlight habits and attitudes that can improve the odds of success.

The Secret Language and Behaviors of Wealth

First up, here’s Chelsea Fagan from The Financial Diet sharing eight things wealthy people do differently. Fagan breaks down what she calls “the secret language and behaviors of wealth”.

At first I thought this video would be cheesy. It’s not. It’s excellent — which is why I’ve placed it at the top of this article. Fagan’s observations are astute, and she offers lots of practical advice for her intended audience: young women.

“Wealth isn’t just about how much money you accumulate,” Fagan says. “Particularly in America, there’s a whole different approach to life — not just the financial parts of it — when you’re wealthy.”

She continues: “There are many specific behaviors that wealthy people tend to practice which are adapted to perpetuating their wealth. The good news is there are many of these habits ane techniques that you can adopt even if you’re on a serious budget.”

According to Fagan, these are the eight things wealthy people do differently from the rest of us:

  • They don’t wait for permission. From a young age, we’re conditioned to get permission to do the things we want. As a result, most of us enter adulthood with the idea that we still need permission to pursue our desires. Wealthy people have shifted their mindset from permission to control. Echoing my friend Chris Guillebeau, Fagan tells her viewers, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” (This is one of CG’s mottos. He lives by it.)
  • They know the landscape around them. In the U.S., for instance, we’re taught that it’s bad manners to talk about money. Most people don’t. The wealthy, however, do talk about money — at least amongst themselves. (From my experience, this is very very true.) Talking about money helps wealthy people better understand the financial world around them so that they’re able to make better decisions. Plus, wealthy people actively seek advice and information about money.
  • They ask for help with what they don’t know. This one is huge. From my experience, when poor people don’t know something, they tend to shrug their shoulders and go on with life, never seeking an answer. Wealthy people aren’t satisfied to remain in ignorance. They have what I call a personal board of directors, a small group of trusted advisors to which they can turn for information and advice. I just emailed my accountant the other day, for instance, asking for help with a financial issue. This morning, I’m driving an hour to meet with my friend Michael, who has acted as both a friend and advisor for a decade now. Even if you can’t afford to have an accountant, attorney, and/or financial advisor, much of the info you need is available for free online. You just have to take the time to search for it.
  • They put a specific (and growing) value on their time. “Wealthy people decide that every hour of their life has a value,” Fagan says, “and they stick to that value while constantly trying to raise it.” Wealthy people are aware time is money — and money is time. As a result, they try not to waste time. This is an area where I struggle. That’s why I did a time inventory last year (and discovered I spent twice as much time playing videogames as I did writing about money). Fagan urges viewers to treat every hour of their lives as if it has value — because it does.
  • They speak the language of money. Wealthy people are more financially literate than the poor. They’re better educated about personal finance. Because they know what they’re talking about, they’re better able to advocate for themselves. They’re able to make better decisions.
  • They understand that money is a long game. Or, put another way, wealthy people recognize that there’s no reliable way to get rich quickly but that almost anyone can get rich slowly. They keys are persistence and patience. Do the right things for a long time and you will achieve your financial goals. “The choice is not between this $5 Starbucks that will make me happy or this $5 sitting in a sad bank account making me feel bad,” Fagan says. “The choice is between this $5 Starbucks today or the hundreds of dollars it has the potential to be when it comes time for retirement.”
  • They outsource, outsource, outsource. Wealthy people are aware of where their skills and talents lie, and they play to those strengths. They know when it’s better to delegate a task to somebody who’s better at it. Or they know when to outsource because their time is better spent elsewhere. (This is another area where I suck. I’ve never really figured out how to outsource, so I often find myself doing things that I’m not good at or that I’d rather pay somebody else to do.)
  • They know the importance of recharging. While you might not have the ability to jet off to a beach house in Florida, we’re all able to make time in our lives to “sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey put it in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Deliberately dedicate time to self-renewal in your physical life (exercise, proper nutrition), social life (spending time with friends), mental life (reading, education), and spiritual life (meditation, church).

This video is truly excellent. If I had a college-aged daughter (or a college-aged son), I’d urge her to watch it. But I think it contains good info for anyone at any stage of life.

The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals

Rich Habits Tom Corley is the author of a book called Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, which summarizes his research into the habits of the rich and poor. (He defines “rich” as those having an income over $160,000 per year and net liquid assets of more than $3.2 million. To him, poor means a gross income of $35,000 or less and no more than $50,000 in liquid assets.)

Corley’s approach is unique because he took time to interview people from both ends of the financial spectrum. While I haven’t yet read the book, I did manage to track down a piece he wrote for Success magazine that gives some insight into the results of his study. According to Corley:

  • Rich people live within their means. “Wealthy people avoid overspending by paying their future selves first. They save 20 percent of their net income and live on the remaining 80 percent.”
  • Rich people don’t gamble. “Every week, 77 percent of those who struggle financially play the lottery.”
  • Rich people read every day. “Among wealthy people, 88 percent read 30 minutes or more every day.”
  • Rich people spend less time in front of screens. “Two-thirds of wealthy people watch less than an hour of TV a day and almost that many…spend less than an hour a day on the Internet.” On the other hand, “77 percent of those struggling financially spend an hour or more a day watching TV, and 74 percent spend an hour or more a day using the Internet recreationally.”
  • Rich people control their emotions. “Loose lips are a habit for 69 percent of those who struggle financially. Conversely, 94 percent of wealthy people filter their emotions.”
  • Rich people network and volunteer regularly. “Almost three-quarters of wealthy people network and volunteer a minimum of five hours a month. Among those struggling financially, only one in 10 does this.”
  • Rich people work harder. “Unsuccessful people have ‘it’s not in my job description’ syndrome…Successful people work hard to achieve the mutual goals of their employers or their businesses.”
  • Rich people set goals; poor people make wishes. “Every year, 70 percent of the wealthy pursue at least one major goal. Only 3 percent of those struggling to make ends meet do this.”
  • Rich people avoid procrastination. “Successful people understand that procrastination impairs quality; creates dissatisfied employers, customers or clients; and damages other nonbusiness relationships.”
  • Rich people talk less and listen more. “Wealthy people are good communicators because they are good listeners. They understand that you can learn and educate yourself only by listening to what other people have to say.”
  • Rich people avoid toxic relationships. “Of wealthy, successful people, 86 percent associate with other successful people. But 96 percent of those struggling financially stick with others struggling financially.”
  • Rich people don’t give up. Wealth individuals “simply do not quit chasing their big goals. Those who struggle financially stop short.”
  • Rich people set aside limiting beliefs. “Almost four out of five wealthy people attribute their success in life to their beliefs.” They pursue personal development.
  • Rich people have mentors. “Finding such a teacher is one of the best and least painful ways to become rich.”
  • Rich people make their own luck. “Successful people create their own unique type of good luck. Their positive habits lead to opportunities such as promotions, bonuses, new business and good health.”
  • Rich people know their main purpose. “It’s the last Rich Habit, but it might be the most important. Those people who pursue a dream or a main purpose in life are by far the wealthiest and happiest among us.”

I’d love to see the raw data that led Corley to make these conclusions but I don’t think his book includes that info. From what I can tell, it’s written as a story, sort of like The Wealthy Barber. His website does give some background on his methodology, however.

I found other articles about Corley at Business Insider (some stats included) and Entrepreneur. Corley also appeared on an episode of the Afford Anything podcast.

The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind When I first decided to dig out of debt in 2004, I devoured every book about personal finance that I could find. One volume that had a profound influence on my future financial philosophy was The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker.

Eker believes that we each possess a “financial blueprint”, an internal script that dictates how we relate to money. Our blueprints are created through lifelong exposure to money messages from people around us, especially our family and friends, and from our country’s culture and mass media. (I agree with Eker. See my recent article about money blueprints.)

Eker says the unfortunate truth is that most of us have faulty blueprints that prevent us from building wealth.

“Money is a result, wealth is a result, health is a result, illness is a result, your weight is a result. We live in a world of cause and effect,” writes Eker. “A lack of money is never, ever, ever a problem. A lack of money is merely a symptom of what is going on underneath.” (This echoes my advice that debt reduction is a side effect of doing the right things and ought not be a goal in and of itself.)

At the core of Millionaire Mind are Eker’s “wealth files”, a list of seventeen ways in which the financial blueprints of the wealthy differ from those of the poor and the middle-class. According to Eker:

  • Rich people believe: “I create my life.” Poor people believe: “Life happens to me.”
  • Rich people play the money game to win. Poor people play the money game to not lose.
  • Rich people are committed to being rich. Poor people want to be rich.
  • Rich people think big. Poor people think small.
  • Rich people focus on opportunities. Poor people focus on obstacles.
  • Rich people admire other rich and successful people. Poor people resent rich and successful people.
  • Rich people associate with positive, successful people. Poor people associate with negative or unsuccessful people.
  • Rich people are willing to promote themselves and their value. Poor people think negatively about selling and promotion.
  • Rich people are bigger than their problems. Poor people are smaller than their problems.
  • Rich people are excellent receivers. Poor people are poor receivers.
  • Rich people choose to get paid based on results. Poor people choose to get paid based on time.
  • Rich people think “both”. Poor people think “either/or”.
  • Rich people focus on their net worth. Poor people focus on their working income.
  • Rich people manage their money well. Poor people mismanage their money well.
  • Rich people have their money work hard for them. Poor people work hard for their money.
  • Rich people act in spite of fear. Poor people let fear stop them.
  • Rich people constantly learn and grow. Poor people think they already know.

Eker says that most people are motivated to make money out of fear. People don’t call it fear, though. They say they’re motivated by security. Eker notes — correctly — that fear and security are essentially two sides of the same coin. The tough truth is that money doesn’t dissolve fear.

Eker writes:

Fear is not just a problem, it’s a habit. Therefore, making more money will only change the kind of fear we have. When we were broke, we were most likely afraid we’d never make it or never have enough. Once we make it, however, our fear usually changes to “What if I lose what I’ve made?”

“When the subconscious mind must choose between deeply rooted emotions and logic, emotions will almost always win,” writes Eker. Even if you know what you ought to do intellectually, it can be tough to do it because your money blueprint controls your thoughts and behavior. To change your habits, you have to work consciously and constantly to create a new plan. This takes time and practice.

Want to read more about how fear affects our decisions? Check out my article on how to build confidence and destroy fear.

Millionaires vs. the Middle Class

10 Distinctions between Millionaires and the Middle Class In The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class, Keith Cameron Smith also makes an attempt to delineate the difference between the rich and the rest of us.

His ten “distinctions” — in order of importance — are:

  • Millionaires think long-term. The middle class thinks short-term.
  • Millionaires talk about ideas. The middle class talks about things and people.
  • Millionaires embrace change. The middle class is threatened by change.
  • Millionaires take calculated risks. The middle class is afraid to take risks.
  • Millionaires continually learn and grow. The middle class thinks learning ended with school.
  • Millionaires work for profits. The middle class works for wages.
  • Millionaires believe they must be generous. The middle class believes it can’t afford to give.
  • Millionaires have multiple sources of income. The middle class has only one or two.
  • Millionaires focus on increasing their wealth. The middle class focuses on increasing its paychecks.
  • Millionaires ask themselves empowering questions. Middle-class people ask themselves disempowering questions.

Some of the items on Smith’s list seem to be derived from Eker’s philosophy. But although there are similarities, Eker’s list gives me warm fuzzies and Smith’s list doesn’t. I’m not sure why.

Maybe the difference is this: From my experience (and your experience may be different), Eker’s many distinctions hold true (at least in the U.S.). I’ve seen the differences he describes in my own life. But I’m not convinced that the differences Smith lists do hold up.

For instance, I know lots of poor people who talk about ideas rather than things and people, and many of the same folks embrace change. A lot of my friends love learning but they’re not millionaires. And haven’t we seen statistics that show, based on a percentage of income, poor people give more than the rich do?

There are differences between the mindsets of the rich and the poor, of this I’m sure. But I think they’re closer to Eker’s list than to Smith’s.

A Brief Rant
Without taking anything away from personal responsibility (which you all know I think is vital to success), I’d like to suggest that both Eker and Smith are too quick to dismiss systemic causes of poverty. Perhaps neither of them knows what it’s like to be poor? Some of their observations make sense, but some seem to come from people who’ve lived lives of privilege.

“Rich people act in spite of fear,” Eker writes. “Poor people let fear stop them.” Why is that? Could it be that the rich can act in spite of fear because they have a safety net? Could it be that when you grow up poor, a scarcity mindset becomes so deeply ingrained that it’s almost impossible to shake? (That’s been my personal experience, by the way.)

There’s no question that wealth brings opportunities, both in the U.S. and in other countries. Those with money have more choices. The rich can take risks, and they’re often rewarded for taking them. (Thus, “the rich get richer”.) I have so many more options now than I ever did when I was a boy, when my family was poor. I think this element of “luck” is something ignored by both Eker and Smith (and many other people).

Ten Habits of Successful People

Instead of defining the differences between rich people and poor people, I think it’s more constructive to look at what separates successful people from unsuccessful people. Maybe I’m picking nits, but in this case I think focusing on a financial scorecard misses the point. It’s possible to be successful and poor, and it’s possible to be rich and a fool.

I’ll admit there seems to be a strong correlation between wealth and success, but the two qualities don’t overlap precisely.

From looking at my own friends, and from thinking about the stories readers have sent me during the past decade — especially stories about how people have moved from debt to wealth — I’ve seen the following patterns.

  • Successful people surround themselves with positive people. They limit their exposure to negativity and naysayers, preferring to spend time with folks who have can-do attitudes. They don’t have time to listen to the reasons something can’t be done; they’d rather find ways to make it happen.
  • Successful people aren’t flummoxed by failure. They know that mistakes are inevitable and should be treated as stepping stones to success rather than signs of weakness or reasons to stop trying. (This is why it’s important not to praise achievement, but to praise effort. The former breeds fear of failure.)
  • Successful people manage their time effectively. They recognize that minutes and seconds are a precious non-renewable resource. So, they set priorities and pursue them with passion. My successful friends seem to watch less television (and play fewer videogames) than my unsuccessful friends, for instance. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Game of Thrones or Hearthstone, but they suck up time that could be spent exercising or reading or taking a class.
  • Successful people ignore the opinions of others. They march to the beat of a different drum. They don’t feel compelled to “keep up with the Joneses”“. They limit their exposure to mass media not only because it allows them to be more productive, but also because it reduces the influence of advertising and the pressure of cultural norms. When investing, they don’t follow the herd. The wealthy people I know all drive older cars (many of them bought used!), dress modestly, and avoid conspicuous consumption.
  • Successful people have direction. They act with purpose. They know why they’re working hard and saving money. They have a mission, even if it’s as simple as putting their kids through college, and their daily actions are aligned with their long-term goals. None of the folks I know who struggle with money have a clear idea of what they want to do with their lives.
  • Successful people focus on big wins. Sure, they develop smart habits and pay attention to the small stuff. But they also understand that if they’re diligent with their dollars, then the pennies will take care of themselves. The average person economizes on the small things but isn’t willing to make sacrifices when it comes to housing, transportation, or career. And the folks who are broke all of the time? Well, they fritter away their pennies and their dollars.
  • Successful people do what’s difficult. They don’t procrastinate. My friends with money work longer, harder, and smarter than my friends who have less. (This is an unpopular observation with some folks, but it’s true.) They practice deferred gratification, sacrificing small comforts today in order to obtain greater rewards tomorrow.
  • Successful people make their own luck. They practice awareness so that they can recognize opportunities when they come along. Moreover, they act boldly, seizing these opportunities where others might hesitate to act.
  • Successful people believe they’re responsible for their future. They’re proactive. They have an internal locus of control. That is, they understand that although it might not be their fault they’re in a given situation, it is their responsibility to change it.
  • Successful people grow and change over time. They adapt. They evolve. They’re not afraid to entertain different points of view. Most importantly, they’re not afraid to change their minds. They seek knowledge and experience, and they allow the things they learn to mold them.

None of these differences is absolute, of course. Most people (including me) follow a few of these rules but not others. Or we adhere to certain rules only part of the time. The most successful people I know do all of the things on this list; the least successful people do none of them.

The Bottom Line

That’s a lot of words — almost 5000! — about how the mindsets of the wealthy and the poor differ. And while I do agree with these generalizations, I think it’s important to note that they are generalizations. These principles aren’t applicable to all people.

There are plenty of poor people who have the right mindset but struggle because of external factors. There are plenty of rich people who do not have these attitudes but have managed to obtain wealth anyhow.

For me, the real takeaway from discussions like this is that regardless your circumstances, you can increase the odds that you’ll achieve your goals if you model your actions on those of the people you want to emulate. If you want to be rich, look for common themes in the lives of the wealthy. Do what you can to incorporate them into your own life. If you want to be successful, learn from the lives of successful people.

“If you don’t change direction,” my father used to tell me, “you’ll arrive where you’re going.” I didn’t really undersand what he meant when I was in high school. Now I do.

In life, there are often default options. If you don’t consciously and deliberately choose something different, you get the default. Most people live their lives in default mode. They accept the default without question.

My aim for myself — and for you, the readers of Get Rich Slowly — is to both be aware of the defaults and to question them. Sometimes they’re fine. A lot of times, however, there are better ways to live. By examining the habits of the wealthy and successful, I think we can all find ways to change direction so we reach a better future.

What do you think? From your experience, what are the differences between the rich and the poor? What qualities separate successful money managers from those who remain broke? Given roughly similar backgrounds, why do some folks build wealth and others struggle to make ends meet? How do the rich think differently? What behaviors to the poor and the middle-class have that the rich do not? Or is it even possible to create distinctions like this? Does it all just come down to luck? (Please keep conversation civil and respectful. No poor shaming — but no rich shaming either.)

More about...Money Mindset, Psychology

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

There are 456 comments to "Habits of the wealthy: What do rich people do differently?".

  1. Giacomo Balli says 01 November 2011 at 04:10

    I can’t believe people actually write these things in books.
    Sure, in a context it might be somehow “explained” but it’s still idiotic.

    What they call “poor people mindset” is caused by the pyramid of needs and wants. Unfortunate people need to focus on survival therefore obviously will not just take risks to make profit.
    Regardless, many do, pushed by our society to “have” superfluous status goods and then find themselves in worse situations.


    • Shaun says 01 November 2011 at 09:23

      You’re missing a small point: poor people often get rich. What causes this? That’s what the lists are about.

      If distinctions between what causes poverty and wealth offend you, then it’s not the list that’s wrong — it’s being easily offended.

      • Kevin says 01 November 2011 at 10:06

        Often…really? Horatio Alger in hizzhouse…

        • Rhett says 01 November 2011 at 14:31

          I don’t think often is the right word in the sense that athletes don’t go pro often, bands don’t get signed often, and actors/actresses don’t make it big often. Some people try and fail, but some do make it. Such is life in this world regardless of where you live or where you are in the food chain. In the US you get a chance to try.

          As an example, I work for a man who’s family immigrated from Mexico. He worked in fields when he was a child, and now he owns a business that grosses 150 million a year. Can it be done? Yes and he is proof. Will you do it?…

        • Shaun says 01 November 2011 at 15:03

          Make excuses all you want, I’m a college dropout with an above average income, and I’m 22. I don’t know of anyone else close to my age who isn’t making just stupid choices.

          I know dozens of millionaires and hundreds of poor men. I swear to you: the general difference is attitude, character, and choices. Anyone who disagrees is ignorant, delusional or both.

          Those who know me know that I haven’t slept much in years, I make good money but reinvest just about every dime, and am obsessed with bettering myself every day without exception. It’s intense, but good behavior just about always pays dividends, no matter what the whiners claim.

          If you really care about the poor, find a way to teach them everything I just said. It’ll help them more than a check.

          • Richard says 01 December 2018 at 02:10

            Spot on. You will go far. You tell by reading these replies who will be rich and who won’t. Keep going!

      • Amanda B. says 01 November 2011 at 10:27

        When poor people get rich, it is as often as not a stroke of luck or circumstance, not due to any particular action of their own.

        Of course there are good choices and bad choices, and good choices can lead to financial stability even at very low income levels. However, they will often not make you rich. Someone could do everything right, arguably, and not become rich. Meanwhile, another person could have several slip-ups and still end up with more money than they know what to do with. Case in point: some people become millionaires because they win the lottery- but playing the lottery is an arguably terrible financial choices.

        In addition, *most* rich people (at least in the US) are rich because they come from good family circumstances. They are born into money, and given all the privileges they need to retain that status or improve upon it. Poor people are unlikely to ever become rich regardless of what they do. Those that do become rich are the exception rather than the rule.

        Again, I do like the mindsets these points bring up because they show how even someone will a smaller income can make good choices and maximize their opportunities. But they’re unlikely to take a person from poor to rich without some kind of situational or systemic change. The causal link they draw between a person’s actions/cognitions and their wealth is not that strong.

        • KM says 01 November 2011 at 14:01

          I disagree with your assertion that poor people who get rich usually do so by luck.

          For example, I know several dirt poor immigrants who worked their way up to middle class once they came to the U.S.–through a mindset composed of exactly the qualities in the posted lists!

          I myself was born into a lower-middle/poor family, and now I’m in the upper 10%. It was not by chance–I worked really hard in school, I put off spending on much of anything until I was nearly 35 years old, I planned my career, I worked hard at it, I saved & invested etc. I’m only lucky in the sense that I’m healthy & no natural disasters like hurricanes or tornados struck while I was doing this–but I didn’t win the lottery by any means which is what many people mean by “being lucky”.

          Certainly it is true that some poor people have trouble through their cultural background not emphasizing education and so on. I do think this is a problem, and that these people are often unable to follow the simple rules on the lists because of these disadvantages. But it is nevertheless true that if you can follow the rules on the list, and they aren’t that difficult for many people, you will indeed very likely to end up rich or at least much richer than if you don’t.

        • chris says 01 November 2011 at 14:02

          Do you have evidence behind your statement “*most* rich people (at least in the US) are rich because they come from good family circumstances. They are born into money, and given all the privileges they need to retain that status or improve upon it”? At least according to the research done in the Millionaire Next Door, about 80% of millionaires are first-generation millionaires. Based on that evidence, it would seem that most rich people in the US are self-made.

        • Alice says 21 July 2013 at 05:46

          Hi Amanda,

          Well, belief that when poor people become rich only by a circumstance shows a limiting belief you hold, which is assertion in lack of control over your life.
          Instead on looking for opportunities for how to better yourself, you are focusing on systemic laws that are supposed to make it harder – thus you don’t even try.
          Not holding this view is very rare in poor people, which, bred in adverse circumstances rarely take charge over their lives and actually take steps to change them. This is why not many poor people get rich.
          Someone will say… beliefs are beliefs, not facts. But according to psychological research, you will be wrong assuming that a belief will affect your attitude less than actual fact.
          Believing that you are responsible for your future (wealth, health, education) changes a great deal.
          1. Choice rather than destiny flashes before you.
          2. Make your choice and commit to active pursue of it.
          3. The means are: commitment to learning, enthusiasm, motivation, practice, resilience, refinement whenever applicable, all these fall under a category of EFFORT.
          4. Build on your successes, learn to cut your losses, get new ideas, learn more.

          Only independent thinkers get through to no 1.
          Thoughtful, motivated and planners will get through to no 2.
          Hardworking, tenacious, strong willed, positive and the go-getters will go through no 3.
          It takes intelligence, real strength of character and humility to maintain wealth.

          If you look at these behaviours and character traits I’ve listed, you will see them in many poor people. But not many at the same time.

          You will now remind me of all the reasons why, but WHY?
          You know what you need to do, it’s all out there. If you know that society and your upbringing is limiting you, then drop it!
          It is hard, but because not many of poor people make it there, it puts those who do in minority and advantage for competition. More good news:)

          Stop looking for excuses, the governments are not there to make you comfortable and profitable. This is the bare minimum, and if you were born in the bottom of the economical and social pool, you will have to work very hard and dare to be different than those surrounding you to get out of there.

          Most rich people have grown up with all these things given to them. Rich life has other pitfalls, which poor people don;t know about, every gain comes with a loss. You think it’s unfair, and I’ll say – you have the right to whine about all you want, but this is not what’s going to change your situation.

      • Sue says 01 November 2011 at 11:03

        Poor people do not often get rich; it’s an unusual occurrence, as the most recent social science research demonstrates. The Wall Street Journal, of all places, wrote about this in 2008: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2008/11/12/report-shows-stagnant-upward-mobility-in-us/

        The LA Times wrote about this in the last year: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/02/opinion/la-oe-mcmanus-twous-20110102

        • J.D. says 01 November 2011 at 13:58

          Okay, Kris and I are finished with today’s touring in Cusco, Peru. That gives me some time to research the archives for the post i mentioned earlier. (I’ve also posted this comment in the main flow at like #186 or something.)

          In February 2008, I shared research from the Economic Mobility Project, which found:

          • “Across every income group, Americans are more likely to surpass their parents’ income in absolute terms if they earn a college degree, reinforcing the conventional wisdom that higher education provides a means for opportunity.” You are four times more likely to move from poverty to wealth if you earn a college degree than if you do not.
          • “Family background plays an equally, if not more important, role than education.” If you are born into wealth, you have a 23% chance of remaining wealthy if you don’t obtain an education. Yet if you’re born into poverty, you only have an 19% chance of moving to the top, and that’s if you earn a college degree. (There’s only a 5% chance if you don’t get an education.)
          • “Data show that…there is ‘stickiness’ at the ends of the wealth distribution.” About one-third of those born into poverty remain in poverty. About one-third of those born into wealth remain wealthy. (There’s a lot of movement up and down among the middle-class, however.)

          Though it’s difficult to move from one end of the economic spectrum to the other, there’s a lot of bubbling up and down to (and from) the vast middle class.

          So, yes, those arguing that people do move from poor to rich are correct. But it’s not common, especially for those without an education. I’m not sure about economic mobility in other countries, but I suspect in the U.S. it’s actually easier to move up and down than in other parts of the world. (I’d love to see some data, though.)

        • Mike says 08 November 2011 at 13:39

          2008, 2009 – interesting dates. 2012 & 2012 would be interesting reassessment dates. It would also be interesting to see what folks though about such ideas in 1929-1940.

      • barnetto says 01 November 2011 at 17:43

        Ah, to be 22 again. 😛

      • HD says 20 October 2019 at 07:45

        I believe that lower class people get rich once they start to understand the concept of money. They learn that money is accumulated in one of three ways: working a job, investing in a business, or providing a service. Depending on the individuals circumstance and level of neccessary for wealth they will start thinking of ways to make more money. Thus, seeking greater knowledge and understanding that they didn’t have when they were broke.

    • Megan says 01 November 2011 at 10:43

      I believe that the underlying message of the lists is about gratitude. If we live from a place of gratitude no matter what the circumstances, than we may be able to rise avove the situations. We do create our lives, and how we handle our situations and what we focus our attention on in our situations makes the differences of our experience.
      As a single parent with no financial help I have struggled a great deal financially. However most of my crisis situations were self induced. I have belief systems that block my experience of abundance, it is changing,very slowly, but it is changing. I need to become more emotionally intelligent and smart about making my money work for me.
      There is so much shame involved with money for most of the poor and middle class, if we can work through our emotional blocks ie, shame, than we can move forward, and…those lists won’t be so offensive as much as helpful.

    • Shane says 01 November 2011 at 12:05

      I don’t see anything wrong at all with Eker’s list. When I read the distinctions between the rich and poor, I took them each as a mindset in itself. For example, a poor mindset person wins the lottery. Although he has the huge windfall, he still ends up broke because he thinks like a poor person. He spent all his money instead of thinking like a rich person. There are also people who are physically poor, but have rich mentalities. They are the ones who dig out of the darkness to greater success.

      I don’t know why so many people are offended by this. The lists really have nothing to do with money. Take off the blinders and look at it from the perspective of a rich thinker and a poor thinker. You have to ask yourself which one is you. If you are the poor thinker, learn to become a rich thinker.

      This is coming from someone who used to be a poor thinker. I am mostly a rich thinker now, and I see that if I keep in my path, I will be monetarily wealthy in the future also. And now that I’ve made the distinction between the two types of thinking, it is very easy to see the examples in the world around me.

      • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 12:24

        If they had ‘nothing to do with money’ the terms used wouldn’t be ‘rich’ versus ‘poor’ ‘millionaires’ versus ‘middle-class’ – they would be something like ‘successful’ and ‘unsuccessful’.

        Or happy/unhappy or some other combination that isn’t intrinsically tied to money.

        And the words ‘wealth’ ‘net worth’ ‘income’ and ‘profits’ wouldn’t show up quite so much.

        • Shane says 01 November 2011 at 12:58

          In my comment, I state that I only agree with Ekler’s observation, not the second list. So two of the terms in your comment don’t even apply to what I said. As for the terms rich and poor, they can relate to much more than just money. One of those relations being a person’s mentality.

      • KM says 01 November 2011 at 14:19

        Perhaps there should be another item on the lists?

        “Poor people are uncomfortable overall with thinking about money and planning on getting richer–they “put down” such thoughts as evil and grasping, and they often spend or give money away quickly when they do get it to demonstrate how much they dislike money (for example sports stars or lottery winners who go bankrupt despite their billions….)

        In contrast, rich people acknowledge that money is in fact necessary and therefore they plan ahead so they have money when they need it and to do the things they want.

    • Romeo says 31 December 2011 at 10:13

      I think these are a list of extremes that suggests that one is either “rich” or “poor.” There seems to be no in between.

      There are some commonalities that most of us CAN control (or could have controlled) that does give us a heads up to become rich no matter what our origin of social class is. However, most of us prevent ourselves from becoming rich or building wealth. How? Well, they are spelled out in detail in “How We Prevent Wealth: A personal finance reflection.” These barrers include setting ineffective goals, not educating ourselves, and getting caught in the upgrade cycle.

      The entire book can be read online for free at howwepreventwealth [dot] com.

    • GyrlWonder says 28 January 2014 at 15:37

      I think that’s the point…to stop focusing on the need to survive more than the need to get out of poverty. You are what you’re consumed with. Do what you have to do but at the same time create a strategic plan to overcome it. Every rich person was not born that way.

    • rod wargo says 31 December 2018 at 10:25

      sad , absolutely , keep your money , not that interested , i have no desire to present myself as some well off dude that can buy whatever material things he wants ,i would rather be seen as a person with compassion , and integrity whom regardless of money would never put it ahead of any people . the stuff money can buy doesnt do all that for me , i would much rather invest in my personal relationships with my family and friends , this is my opinion of course but truly i believe this monetary system is horribly corrupt, and just the clamouring of people to get it and the willingness of some to even kill each other over this garbage ,makes me see money in a pretty ugly light i gotta say ,
      it divides people and makes some feel like they are better than others , how is this anything but dysfunctional ,
      anyway like i said thats my opinion , if it werent for a system that had already been formed when i arrived , and requires me to give them this stuff cuz its all they recognize , well i doubt i would have anything to do with it short of starting my woodstove with it ,
      i think if all the decent people of the world took all thier money and threw it in the streets and refused to allow the controllers to control them with the only thing they have to control with which is money , us as a human race might really be on the road to some form of REAL happiness , so i guess i kinda feel like the lovers of money in this world are holding the rest of us back .
      have you ever watched a rich person talk down and condescending to a person without the bags of money , even though the latter person was more informed and a better person ,
      it really puts a light on being wealthy that makes me want no part of it , SUPERFICIAL GARBAGE THE SOONER WE CAN RID OURSELVES OF IT THE BETTER WE WILL BE thanx rod MY OPINION ONLY !!!!!!!!!

  2. Becka says 01 November 2011 at 04:29

    Well, I’m glad after you posted those – yes, glib and facile – lists, you pointed out that they were clearly missing a lot of The Point, because I was on the path of losing a LOT of respect for you. But damn, why post them at all? It’s one thing to say, “Here are some common mindsets associated with people who accrue wealth well – are you in that group? Should you change the way you think?” It’s another to say, “Here are the mindsets that make rich people rich, and here – remember, it’s all about mindset! – is why poor people stay poor.” A lot of this is just downright insulting. The relationship between poverty and wealth is complex everywhere.

    • J.D. says 01 November 2011 at 05:57

      Why post these lists at all? Because the first is from a best-selling book and the second was suggested to me by a Get Rich Slowly reader. These ideas are out there, and though not all of us may agree with them, there are people who do. And even if we don’t agree with the lists, I’m sure there are some elements that we do agree with.

      As I said in the post, the relationship between wealth and poverty is complex. Trying to boil it down to these points (especially when ignoring global, historical origins of poverty) is crazy. But at the same time, I’m willing to wager that we have all had sets of friends who shared certain circumstances, and one of those friends was able to build wealth when the other(s) did not. Why is this? I think it’s an important question, and once certainly worth discussing at Get Rich Slowly. After all, our goal here is to build our wealth, right? Are there certain mindsets that are more conducive to this than others?

      I’d like to remind folks of something I’ve said from this site’s beginning: You don’t have to agree with a book to get something out of it. In fact, some of the most influential books I’ve ever read are those that I think are way off base.

      Just because you don’t agree with the authors’ points doesn’t mean they’re not worth discussing!

      • Kent Thune says 01 November 2011 at 06:10


        I’ve half-jokingly suggested you change the name of your site to “Get Rich Quickly,” assuming the meaning of “rich” is not defined in monetary terms.

        Many people who are financially rich today were already “rich” before they ever had the money. Many of the rich are self-actualized individuals who simply must be who they are; and because they are authentic, they attract financial wealth.

        There are also “rich” people who are perfectly content without money.

        I believe a large portion of your readers believe rich is a mindset or lifestyle filled with meaning, purpose, contentment and inner peace. Money, material wealth and social status are not primary pursuits for the truly rich person. If the money comes, it is only a byproduct of being authentic.

        Don’t you need to hire a financial philosopher type of writer?



        • Melissa says 01 November 2011 at 07:58

          I LOVE this comment, which sumarizes (with much more eloquence) my thoughts while reading this post. I am certainly not rich, but I have enough that I don’t have to worry about paying for basic necessities. I can do and buy what I want but I usually have to plan and save to for it. I can afford to give (money AND time) to help others. I read this site to help me stretch and grow what I have. If a person is not rich or poor, and does not have the goal of becoming a millionaire, where does she fit into these lists?

          I would love to read more from Kent! In fact, I am going to check out his site right now!

        • @impulsesave says 01 November 2011 at 08:39

          I agree with Kent@theFinancialPhilosopher : I think that the idea here is that wealth is more of a state of mind. I think that part of the problem with our culture is that money is the basis of wealth, and I just don’t believe that’s true. You can have a “rich person’s” mindset with only a few dollars in your pocket (based on the hierarchy of needs, you will most likely spend those on needs, but you may be more willing to take risks, etc.).

          On the other hand, having money does not necessarily give you a “rich person’s” mentality: you can want to hold on to that money with all your might because you have the same fear that poor people do.

          All in all, I like the first list better, because it distinguishes based on mentality rather than net worth/income.

        • KM says 01 November 2011 at 14:28

          I find these comments strange.

          The lists, and this blog, are in fact actually about MONEY, not just mental richness or fulfillment. Money is something that a lot of people have trouble with and its hard to live a comfortable or fulfilling life without it.

          I think it’s strange that no matter what is posted on this blog, a lot of people always write in to say that they don’t care about money, not really, that they’re fulfilled in their life already without having much money & etc. Which makes me wonder why they are reading this blog?

          For many, having too little money, bad credit, loans they can’t pay back blights their lives. Just ask all those college grads who will be paying on their student loans forever!

          It’s not all about the fulfillment you feel in your life–you need to pay attention to your money too.

      • Becka says 01 November 2011 at 07:02

        Well, I disagree; I don’t think they’re worth discussing. I think these lists are framed in insulting, dismissive ways that attribute poverty to shortcomings and wealth to being *~*AWESOME*~*, and while these authors may have some wisdom buried in them somewhere, I bet someone else has that wisdom too, and I’d rather get it from someone whose view of the world doesn’t make me queasy.

        And I’ll point this out: when you said “I think Eker and Smith are talking about the rich and the poor in the U.S. Globally, the differences between the rich and the poor are myriad and complex,” it reads as a distinction, not an inclusion. To me, this statement says, “Outside of the US, these issues are complex. Not so much, here.”

        • Steve says 01 November 2011 at 08:56

          I think these lists are framed in insulting, dismissive ways that attribute poverty to shortcomings and wealth to being *~*AWESOME*~*

          I think you’re hit the nail on the head, at least with T. Harv Eker. Remember that the “T” in T. Harv Eker stands for “The.” He gave himself that designation and it’s very much about being *~*AWESOME*~* and hanging out with *~*AWESOME*~* people.

        • xysea1971 says 01 November 2011 at 09:33

          Althought I am not entirely offended by these ridiculous and specious lists, what I do find borderline disrespectful is the attempt to demonize, or in effect blame, the poor for their circumstances. If they only changed their mindset life would somehow magically become better. Sure, that’s true, but so is the axiom it takes money to make money. And it doesn’t certainly abrogate or belittle our responsibilty to those in need. We can’t just hand them a book with a list like thas and say ‘take it from here, okay?”

          It’s good to see where positive thinking and hard work will get you but I know plenty who have those things and don’t have wealth. It’s a part of a successful person, but so is getting help (like loans from banks or friends/family or even govt) and having enough income to permit you to become a good risk and invest in yourself.

        • J.D. says 01 November 2011 at 09:51

          Fair point, Becka. When I wrote that issues of poverty are complex outside the U.S., it was because I’d just taken a tour of Lima, Peru and my mindset was shifted. But you’re right. Even in the U.S., the issues are complex. But as an American, I have a better feel for them. And as somebody who has moved from poor to upper-middle class, I’ve seen that such class mobility is possible. (If I had a better connection, I’d research the post I made about class mobility a few years ago. If I remember right, the conclusion of the study was that mobility *is* possible, but not overly common.)

          If I were to re-write the post, I would phrase things differently.

        • Steve S says 01 November 2011 at 12:01


          Here is a link to another blog I read that recently presented some data on income mobility: http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2011/10/income-mobility-is-more-important-than.html

          The data is from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and tracks INDIVIDUALS over time to see what quintiles they are in starting in 2001 and going again in 2007. In each quintile, anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3 of the people move up or down in income in just a six year span.

          So when you hear that “wages are flat” or “inequality is increasing”, it’s instructive to note that you are not absolutely referring to the same people.

          Needless to say, 1/3 to 2/3 of people moving income groups (including 5% of people in the lowest group moving to the highest group in just six years!) is what I would call frequent.

        • barnetto says 01 November 2011 at 15:58

          Steve S, that post attempts a positive spin on the data, largely by ignoring the data.

          He argues that rising inequality and stagnant wages by quintile do not matter because people start at lower wages but over time they will leap to higher income quintiles. But his data does not back that up. Using the data in his chart I see that 50% of people stay in their original income bracket, ~24% will move up income brackets, and ~27% will go down income brackets. As a whole people are more likely to end up making less money in the future than they are to be making more money.

          Here is an inflation adjusted chart of incomes starting in 1917 and going through 2008:

          Income inequality is rising and wage growth for the bottom 90% is not equal to that of the top 10%. Income mobility that does not demonstrate what the blogger said it is demonstrating does nothing to solve this problem. (And inequality is a problem, there is info out there suggesting it correlates to a significant number of societal ills).

        • Steve S says 01 November 2011 at 17:15


          I respectfully disagree and argue that your stock rendition of the data (Business Insider link) is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

          The guy in the top 1% in 1917 is not the same guy as in 2008. You don’t take the same 100,000 guys and increase all of their incomes by 275% over 91 years. Same goes for the “bottom 90%”.

          What your data is telling us is that a smaller number of people are contributing a disproportionate amount of value to society than before. Which makes sense in the internet age.

          Everyone needs to stop thinking of income groups as people. And equating income with wealth (some people just have 1 really good year…and then blow it all. MC Hammer anyone?)

        • barnetto says 01 November 2011 at 18:09

          Perhaps I wasn’t clear.

          It would be pretty amazing if the guy from 1917 was the same guy as in 2008. No, what I meant is that I would like to see the same kind of chart you linked to, which had a data set from 2001-2007, replicated many times.

          For example:
          and on until we get to the most current data. What I expect, given that social mobility decreases as income inequality increases, is that you will see there was far more social mobility in the preceding years as there are now.

          Also, you did not respond to my crunching of the numbers showing that slightly more people actually move into lower income quintiles rather than higher quintiles in the set of data you provided. On its face that fact puts the lie to that bloggers claim that income stagnation doesn’t matter because people are continuing to increase their earnings throughout their lives.

          Your take on income mobility, that its the individuals that matter and not the quintiles, is novel, but ultimately facile and obfuscatory. I don’t understand on what basis you deride the “stock” rendition of data.

          Also, given that just about everyone (except the really poor) have the internet nowadays, shouldn’t they start seeing the same gains in productivity and be able to produce value in proportion with that seen in today’s 1%? In fact, if they were late to the internet game, then I would expect at some point to have seen a sudden increase in other quintile’s income growth as more and more people became connected.

      • Megan says 01 November 2011 at 10:56

        I agree with you, it is neccesary to look at the lists, if we want change in our lives anyway. This is the first time I have replyed to an article because I feel like I can, from experience, participate. I have been financially challenged all my life, I have done many seminars trying to get past my blocks etc…but I have discovered over the years that gratitude and being willing to face my (stuff)has been what has moved me forward. It has taken a long time and I am no where near done, if I ever will be, but I am closer than I have ever been to creating a nice level of comfort, where I can actually use my bonuses to go on vacations rather than get caught up on bills.
        A classic example of gratitude that I have learned about was when my gas was shut off for about one week due to non payment. I did not have the funds to pay the bill. Rather than feel sorry for myself, I was grateful that the apartment I lived in had a gym, with a shower, that we used for a week until I recieved my paycheck and could get the gas turned back on. The rest of the apartment was electric so we could cook. This is classic of “mindset” though that is important in changing our experiences.

    • sasha says 01 November 2011 at 11:23

      Yes, all I could think of when reading this post was that I was very surprised that anyone could take it seriously.

      It reminded me of the quote, “The plural of anecdote is NOT data”.

      A lot of the commenters who are finding “value” in Eker’s writing don’t seem to understand that distinction.

  3. Nicole says 01 November 2011 at 04:36

    Not a post I would expect to see on GRS. I fear the comments.

    • imelda says 01 November 2011 at 20:57

      247 comments later…. lol.

      You know, as a super-leftie socialist hippie from a poor family, I came into this list expecting to hate it. But I don’t (completely).

      One of the biggest distinctions between rich and poor (or black and white) is exactly this – that the poor are not raised these assumptions. Many of these beliefs come from a place of privilege, where people have the opportunity to take risks, where richer people have something useful to teach you.

      If lower-income kids were to learn some of these things and adopt them (on the rare occasions it was possible to do so), it could help them get ahead.

      (PS: My father always taught me that no one comes by a fortune honestly. There is always some cheating, law-breaking, or exploitative action behind it. I still agree with him….)

      • Dan @ Casual Kitchen says 03 November 2011 at 09:19

        Always? In what way do does it help you or your family to cling to a sweeping generalization like this? All it does is help you maintain an irrational feeling of loathing towards money.

        Money is just a tool. It can be used for good or for evil. Why presume the latter only, and thus disempower your future self from potentially using it for good?

      • Kelly says 04 November 2011 at 03:04

        Imelda, I agree with you. I thought I would hate it, too, but in fact I recognized myself in a lot of the “poor mindset.” While I don’t necessarily agree with the sweeping generalization of “this is the difference between rich people and poor people,” it did cause me to question things about my mindset and draw interesting parallels that I would not have done on my own.

        So thank you, JD, for both posting the lists and directing reasonable skepticism towards them both. I got a lot of value out of it.

  4. Jeff says 01 November 2011 at 05:01

    The attitudes expressed in the “distinctions” have issues. Too many to go into. I think we can agree that not worrying about when your next meal or doctor’s visit is going to be is a big difference.

    I’d MUCH rather see a research based list of distinctions between poor people that stayed poor, and poor people who became middle class.

    • Shaun says 01 November 2011 at 09:20

      The distinctions are spot on. I’ve been poor, and yet I focused on long-term returns — it hurt in the short run, but now I’m doing fantastic.

      Same for my father, and plenty of others. Poor people become rich. Why? Mentality and strategy.

      If this offends you, maybe we should add something else to the list:

      Rich people search for politically incorrect truths; poor people stay bitter.

      • Megan says 01 November 2011 at 11:09

        Why do you say that rich people look for politically incorrect truths and poor people stay bitter? I know plenty of wealthy people who are bitter and plenty of “poor” people who experience a great deal more joy than the average person.
        There is truth to the saying the rich get richer because of the political injustices that are in place, but … I refuse to let arrogant opportunists to keep me down so I may not experience wealth as well as abundance in every area in my life.

        • Carrie says 04 November 2011 at 13:50

          Megan, while you are somewhat correct that the rich can remain rich by the way politics are, you must also remember that the poor very often are encouraged to remain poor by this same political system. Welfare recipients are taught to vote for the “welfare candidates”, not the “education or jobs” candidates. Once you are given *just* enough by the government to eke out a survival, you stop being encouraged to give up the welfare and look to be competent on your own anymore. (Obviously there are some cases where SOME peole wise up and get off the government welfare, for dignity or other reasons.)
          I moved to a ‘poor’ town while keeping my middle-class pay job an hour away. EVERYONE near me was on welfare, food stamps, Section 8, and they couldn’t understand why I *had* to go to work every day if I could essentially get paid to stay home. I tried to explain why working and earning my own money was better, and I was constantly met with incredulity. I lived there because the cost of living was great (very inexpensive), and I still earned a decent wage from the big city. Without fail, these bottom-of-the-line income folks smoked, drank, stole, and bought lottery tickets — not only that, the always tried to borrow my money.
          As for the above lists, I think they’re potentially right on. Sometimes the truth hurts, sometimes it’s harsh, and pretty little excuses as to why the rich are rich and why the poor are poor just sound less harsh. But they’re still excuses.

      • barnetto says 01 November 2011 at 11:27

        Should there be just as many, more, or less people in the US who have the mentality/strategy to change their social class as there are in other developed countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, etc?

        The OECD data shows that there is less social mobility in the US than in France, Denmark, Canada, and Australia but more social mobility than the UK. The US, of all developed countries, has the worst social mobility of just about any other country.

        The problem of why are poor people poor is not an either/or question of mentality vs circumstances. It is both.

        If we take as a given that people are as likely in our country as in any other country, given the same circumstances, to get themselves out of poverty, than we have to ask what conditions are making it such that we have less people getting out of poverty than nearly every other developed country.

        I presume most of the people who can create their own positive mentalities are likely already doing so, I doubt it is helpful to the most of the poor to keep reminding them that they are lazy and stupid.

        If we’re serious about reducing poverty, we need to focus on changing their situations so they can get out of poverty. Whether that is job training, child care, childhood nutrition, access to medical services, etc, it needs to be done so that people can live the American dream not just in Canada and Denmark, but in the USA.

        • Lynda says 01 November 2011 at 12:11

          Perhaps the UK needs to come off that list due to changes over the last year or so that will result in many people not getting opportunities others have had.

  5. Emanuel Moura says 01 November 2011 at 05:01

    Now about European colonialism… well, I´m Brazilian. Things down here got pretty bad from the 60’s on, until at least the middle 90’s, due to American sponsorship to our military dictatorship. That put, Brazil is doing pretty well nowadays and consider America our ally.

    There are countries, on the other hand, who resent to this day wars that were waged in the middle 1800’s, and blame others for it. Some European countries were colonies of other European countries and yet, today are an amazing nest of wealth and welfare.

    Why that?

    My bet is that the countries that do well don´t resent their past; they work with what they have and expose themselves to the odds of luck and destiny. That way, they assume full accountability on their future. On the other hand, most latin-american countries blame their poverty on somebody else and keep struck to their past.

    My 2 cents is that this idea applies to individuals, too, at least in the Western and Middle-Eastern world. Blaming others and being stuck in the (sometimes imaginary) golden days of yore is a way to justify and embellish poverty.

    • Coley says 01 November 2011 at 06:03

      Excellent insight!

    • Tom says 01 November 2011 at 19:06

      Blaming others… Brazil didn’t go through hard times in the 60’s because of US involvement. It went through hard times because those with power wanted to maintain what they had and exclude other Brazilians. They sought and obtained some US aid to fight “communists/socialists” (or people that just wanted a more equitable system). This is very different than the US causing the problem. If you were Chilean, from about anywhere in Central American, Cuban, or to a lesser degree Argentinian I would sympathize with you more. Don’t blame the US for Brazil’s 60s.

  6. Kevin says 01 November 2011 at 05:03

    I’ve seen those lists before, and like you, I found them trite and oversimplistic. That said, I do believe there are indeed fundamental differences in the mindsets between rich people and poor people. Poor people, in my experience, often tend to have a “victim” mentality, believing they are powerless to improve their circumstances, so they don’t even try.

    In many cases, there really are serious impediments to them making significant changes, such as being a single parent or battling addiction. But those circumstances are merely the consequences of earlier poor decisions. They could truly be stuck in a rut that can’t be escaped through a simple shift in “mentality,” but that’s only because it’s too late for them. The shift in mindset needed to happen before they had unprotected sex with a deadbeat, or before they blew off class to go smoke dope with a bunch of losers. Wanting to change now doesn’t instantly erase the negative consequences of those earlier poor decisions.

    • Elizabeth says 01 November 2011 at 05:20

      And rich people don’t make bad live decisions? I think the difference is they’re in a better situation to handle them.

      A friend of mine teaches in a private high school — you should hear her stories! Rich kids have many of the same problems that middle class and poor kids do — drinking, drugs, pregnancies, truancy, crime, etc. In middle or lower class kids, these behaviours could be life-altering because they don’t have wealth and powerful parents to fall back on.

      I agree we all have to take responsibility for our decisions (good and bad), but I also think that for some people the stakes are much higher.

      • David says 01 November 2011 at 05:28

        This reminds me of the South Park where Cartman substitute teaches at an inner city school. One of the latina girls gets pregnant, so he tells her to get an abortion and that that’s one way white girls cheat in life and get ahead.

        He basically spends the whole episode teaching minorities how to “cheat” in life like white people and not stay poor.

      • J.D. says 01 November 2011 at 06:02

        Exactly, Elizabeth. This is what I mean by a “safety net”.

        I’ve written before about how having an emergency fund gives us a buffer to deal with our mistakes. Now that I have more than just an emergency fund, now that I have real savings, I see that the bigger the safety net, the more risks I can take.

        If I were still in debt, if I were as poor as my family was when I was a boy, I couldn’t afford to take the risk of packing up and spending six weeks in South America, for instance. (For one, I wouldn’t have even been able to afford to travel!) What if something bad happened while I was down here? Now, though, I feel comfortable in the knowledge that I can handle the financial problems that come my way.

        For poor people, these problems are even more severe. They might not be able to risk quitting their second minimum-wage job to take night classes. They might not be able to risk moving to a nicer neighborhood to put their kids in better schools. Wealth brings opportunity. That’s a reason to strive for wealth, it’s true, but it’s also a reason to look at lists like these and say, “WTF?”

      • Courtney says 01 November 2011 at 07:04

        Right – this list completely ignores the marginal value of money. For example – the rich and the poor both occasionally make mistakes while driving and get a speeding ticket or red light ticket. We’re human, it happens. For the rich person, a $100 ticket is miniscule in proportion to their wealth – they may even have that much in their wallet that they can pay without blinking. For the poor person, it represents a day’s worth of wages and maybe the difference between seeing a doctor or not, or paying the electric bill or not, etc.

      • Des says 01 November 2011 at 09:13

        Elizabeth – you’re missing Kevin’s point. He is saying that these decisions were made *before* these folks were rich or stuck in a bad situation.

        I can only speak anecdotally, but I came from a poor family. Both of my parents were drug addicts, though my mother was high-functioning enough to hold down a steady (low-paying) job. My sister and I saw the life they led and wanted nothing to do with it, so we never touched drugs or alcohol and refused to have sex before marriage (to avoid pregnancy and disease, not for moral reasons). We both worked our own way through college, she is now a dental hygienist and I am a programmer. We are not rich, but I would say we are solidly middle-class. At the same time, I see many of my old high school friends (some from more affluent families) who chose to do drugs or have kids young, and they assume I was just lucky and that life was conspiring against them. I was lucky to be born in America, but I also made good decisions which lead to positive consequences. Life isn’t conspiring against them, they are experiencing consequences of the decisions they made earlier in life.

        I didn’t have a safety net, I just made normal socially-acceptable good decisions (no drugs or babies, go to college in a good-paying field, live like a college student as long as you can stand it).

        It goes without saying, but some poor people have extenuating circumstances in the same way that some obese people have medical reasons for their condition. From my own personal experience, that doesn’t appear to be the majority.

        • Elizabeth says 01 November 2011 at 15:14

          I think you and I interpreted his comment differently 😉 I can see your point, though. Sometimes it takes a life-changing mistake to prompt people to change — it could be someone’s direct choice or their parents.

          I think people can change their mindset anytime, and “rich” people can see themselves as victims too.

        • skp says 01 November 2011 at 15:17

          You also have to be smart enough to become the progammer and the dental technicianand not everyone is that smart. I am a nurse. I was the good girl who made all the right decisions. But several of my coworkers were the bad girls- not drug addicts, but unwed mothers who supported their kids doing minimal wage jobs. They eventually got a clue and pulled themselves up because they were SMART bad girls. We do not all have the same abilities. Family background and good decisions help but I think ability is the most important factor.

        • Elizabeth says 01 November 2011 at 16:57

          @SKP — I agree with you there! I’ve taught remedial level courses and know that some people just aren’t capable of being innovators or leaders. You can put kids in a classroom and they can work very hard, but sometimes things just don’t “click”. Not everyone can be a doctor, lawyer, executive, etc. even if they have all the financial advantages, the support of friends and family and the right mindset.

  7. slug+|+sunkcostsareirrelevant.com says 01 November 2011 at 05:04

    I remember reading Eker’s list years ago and thinking they were an over-simplification of the difference between rich and poor. However, there are most certainly some tenets hidden within that serve as useful ways to think about life and frame existence.

    Kudos to you for re-visiting this during controversial times.

  8. Jane says 01 November 2011 at 05:06

    My initial reaction to your question, although itself facile is this:

    The difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich have more money.

    Full stop. I think you can find people with the positive and negative traits on those lists who are rich AND who are poor. Yes, I am oversimplifying the question, but it’s because I perhaps choose not to engage with a question that invariably will kick a bunch of people when they are already down.

    • Elizabeth says 01 November 2011 at 05:22

      lol! That was my initial thought too!

    • Becka says 01 November 2011 at 07:06

      This comment is most excellent. Thank you for making it.

    • Jason says 01 November 2011 at 07:21

      Obviously the lists are simplified, as has been acknowledged. But the responses to them actually serve as pretty great examples of how the lists hold some truth.

      Some people read them and feel attacked or victimized. They get defensive and resistant to any wisdom at all the lists may hold.

      Some people see the lists as a possible learning tool and seriously consider what they have to offer.

      Of those two mindsets, which is most likely to make one successful?

      • Becka says 01 November 2011 at 10:40

        Some people are insulted by these lists and are doing quite well for themselves.

      • Anne Cross says 02 November 2011 at 07:09

        Right on.

        I’m so surprised to read people taking these lists as personal attacks. It seems to reinforce Eker’s first point — poor people think “life happens to me”.

        I thought of his list as describing personality traits — you know like “introvert” or “extrovert.” I think a person can have natural tendencies one way or the other, but if the person wants to make a change it’s good to know how to do so.

    • Andy Hough says 01 November 2011 at 08:47

      That was my first thought as well. I agree with you completely.

    • Anne says 01 November 2011 at 09:02

      No, it’s way more than that. How many stories have we read about lottery winners who suddenly have $20M, and 3 years later; nothing?

    • Trina says 03 November 2011 at 04:49

      To me, these lists are typical of any self-help literature. You could substitute “thin and fat” or “well-liked and unliked” or “organized and unorganized” into these lists and they would work equally well. It’s just the same old self-help rhetoric.

  9. malcom says 01 November 2011 at 05:09

    I am reading Eker right now. This is my second time to read him. I think that there is a lot of truth in what he says. I do note that Eker is very clear at the begining of the book to say he is going to exagerate the differnce between the rich and poor so to make his examples clearer.

    • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 07:15

      Which is basically a way of saying he’s going to lie in order to make his points.

      • malcom says 01 November 2011 at 08:33

        I think one point is being missed. Ekers book is THINKING like a rich person and not a poor person. This book is similar to the Millionaire Next Door book that also has the core principal of teaching people to think differently

        • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 09:00

          That’s completely illogical. If the values don’t actually match the person they’re being attached to on both sides, then it’s meaningless to say ‘this is how the rich think’

          It’s the equivalent of saying ‘rich people wear green’

          Some do, some don’t. And some who aren’t rich wear green. And wearing green doesn’t make you rich. And that’s just as accurate as their official list.

  10. Ohplease says 01 November 2011 at 05:11

    I went to one of those day-long “feel-good” seminars once and T Harv Ecker was one of the speakers. It was the tackiest presentation ever. He enumerated that list of his and at the end of every point he would ask the crowd: Am I right or am I right?

    Then, near the end, he started plugging his book. He said that there was a coupon inside for a free seminar on how to get rich quickly that he and others were hosting somewhere around my city. He said the coupon was only inside the books being sold at this seminar. So before his talk ended there were droves of people running to the book stands outside in the hallway (including one of my friends). They were like flies to a cadaver it was really funny.

    Of course, when I saw the book a few months later at the bookstore there was the same coupon in it, at the end, which you could tear out and bring to the seminar.

    It would seem that one of the ways to become rich, which Eker doesn’t really talk about is to convince a bunch of gullible people to buy your book. My friend certainly isn’t rich, in fact, her situation is worse than it was before buying his book but does she sure have a winning millionaire mind now woo hoo!

    And yeah, what Becka said: the relationship between poverty and wealth is complex.

    What the heck is an empowering question anyway?

    • Aubrey says 01 November 2011 at 10:43

      “What the heck is an empowering question anyway?”

      I was wondering that, too.

  11. Elizabeth says 01 November 2011 at 05:14

    Well, this post will certain generate an interesting discussion! Especially since my guess would be that most of us reading this are not rich.

    Perhaps these lists are remnants of the American Dream? We’d all love to believe that rags-to-riches is possible if you just believe in yourself and work hard enough. It’s a nice ideal, but I agree with J.D. and other commenters that these issues are very complex and can’t be distilled into nice little lists.

  12. Rob+Ward says 01 November 2011 at 05:23

    In regards to luck, that is part of becoming rich, but that isn’t everything. I heard the saying recently “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” I think that is one of the main ideas both authors are trying to get across with those points.

    Also, check out this article by Jim Collins about Bill Gates, which talks about Gates’ “luck.”


    • J.D. says 01 November 2011 at 06:05

      Rob, you’re right. There’s no question that hard work can separate one person from another if there’s a level playing field. And I don’t mean to downplay that. I’ve seen this over and over and over again in my life. Those that work hardest make the most happen.

      That said, there are times when hard work isn’t enough because they playing field isn’t level.

      • Courtney says 01 November 2011 at 07:05

        “That said, there are times when hard work isn’t enough because they playing field isn’t level.” And despite what the media tries to portray, I believe THIS is the crux of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

      • Kingston says 01 November 2011 at 08:34

        Are we distinguishing between “self-made” rich people and those who have inherited wealth? Because I don’t see what hard work and a can-do mindset really has to do with possessing riches in the case of the second group.

    • Ross Williams says 01 November 2011 at 08:10

      Do check out the article on Gates. Take the simple question asked in the article – How many kids were in their basements playing with computers who didn’t become Bill Gates? The answer is quite a few, although Collins seems to assume the opposite.

      The real question is how many of those kids, having sent a letter to a company in Arizona offering to sell them a product they didn’t have (a BASIC programming language) would have received a positive response. The answer, of course, is not many. One can imagine that it helped a lot that Gates was a student at Harvard with Harvard professors to vouch for him.

      The larger problem with Collins is that he apparently either didn’t take or failed basic logic in college. He comes to “Taxi’s are yellow cars, that’s a yellow car, therefore it must be a taxi” conclusions. Or, put another way, the fact that you can’t win the lottery without buying a ticket, doesn’t mean you don’t have to be lucky to win the lottery.

  13. cs says 01 November 2011 at 05:25

    With both these books, these questions come to my mind.

    Both are more or less positioned as truths (but immediatly disclaimed by saying: my personal experience).

    They list differences between poor and rich.
    1. they are not scientificly researched facts (objective, repeatable) And i promise they wont hold up if you were to do a study of them. They are mere intuitions of the writer from the interactions in his life, he claims.

    2. For these differences to be ususefull at all in your life: wich of these (if they hold up to hard facts at all) are mere correlations (rich people play golf), and wich are causal ( some smart rich people invested in apple stock in 90’s and got richer).
    3. The facts are really really too generic to be of any help at all…eg i create my life…

    which brings me to the conclusion, the only person that gets rich from these books…are the writers, publishers and workshops hosts, bloggers who get paid directly or indirectly to blog about the books and workshops.

    My 2 cents.

  14. David says 01 November 2011 at 05:30

    Instead of picking on the whole list I’ll just pick one:

    “Millionaires believe they must be generous.”

    I actually find that the opposite of this is true. Rich people don’t get rich by giving their money away.

    • Kevin says 01 November 2011 at 06:08

      Well, if you believe Dave Ramsey, 2/3 of all charitable giving comes from the top 1%. I don’t know what his source is, but he’s cited this statistic repeatedly in his derision of the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

      • Ross Williams says 01 November 2011 at 06:46

        Actually, most charitable giving goes to churches. My guess is that claim about charitable giving by the “top 1%” is based on a wild guess or careful/careless number crunching to prove a point. Given the context of its use, I would bet on the latter.

      • Courtney says 01 November 2011 at 06:57

        I’ll wait for the reference. It wouldn’t be the first time Dave Ramsey has cited a completely made-up statistic…

      • Jane says 01 November 2011 at 06:57

        Well, so what if the top 1% gives the most money to charity?

        Newsflash: They give the most money to charity, because they have the most money to give!

        It’s the same argument about taxes. OF COURSE the wealthiest pay the most in taxes. It’s because in last few decades they have made insane amounts of money.

        • Kevin says 01 November 2011 at 07:16

          Sure, but fully half of US citizens pay no net federal income tax at all. And yet they keep calling on the “rich” to pay their “fair share.” If the so-called “rich” are the only ones paying taxes, how is it “fair” to ask them to pay MORE

          Or, to put it another way, how “fair” is it that half the people in the US don’t pay any net federal income tax at all?

        • Courtney says 01 November 2011 at 07:50

          Kevin – most of the people that don’t pay federal income taxes don’t have any taxable income after they subtract the standard deduction and personal exemptions. The same standard deduction and personal exemptions that everyone else gets. Why do you think it’s fair that only the middle class and wealthy should get to exempt the first $26K or so (for a family of four) from taxes, while the poor shouldn’t be able to exempt the same amount from taxes simply because they don’t make enough money to have any left over to tax?

          Everyone gets the same benefit – exempting the first $X amount of their income from taxes. That’s basically the textbook definition of “fair.”

        • JB says 01 November 2011 at 07:56

          About as ‘fair’ as calling corporations ‘individuals’ and then not having THEM pay their taxes.


          About as ‘fair’ as the rich using accountants and tax lawyers to help get them out of paying their taxes.

        • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 08:04


          – And that ‘do not pay federal income tax’ includes people who are unemployed and not paying taxes now – although they were before and will again when they have a job.

          – It also includes those on Social Security who paid taxes throughout their life.

          It’s a ridiculous talking point designed to spread misinformation and resentment. Plus, while you had the grace to specify federal income tax (which many people don’t) those people ARE paying taxes and are paying for government services through those taxes. (The number of people who don’t realize that payroll taxes, for example, are excluded from ‘federal income tax’ is astonishing)

          When you actually look at the people who are covered in that ‘half’ – that is when it becomes fair.

        • Catherine says 01 November 2011 at 08:37

          Federal income tax is but one of a myriad of taxes and fees imposed by various government agencies. If you look at all the taxes and fees in toto paid by the poor in comparison to the rich, you get a much different statistic. Politicians on both sides tend to pick the statistics that fit their argument rather than vice versa. Pity.

        • Ross Williams says 01 November 2011 at 10:12

          The real problem with the claims about the 53% of “people” who pays taxes is that they aren’t true, even if you limit it to federal income tax.

          The actual comparison is of “tax units”, not “people”. So a married couple who file a joint return is one “tax unit” and their kids who file to get the taxes back from their summer jobs are each separate “tax units”.

          This is just one of those media “factoids” that is repeated over and over until people believe it. The reality is too complicated a story for the media to make interesting.

      • grrlpup says 01 November 2011 at 07:05

        Maybe the wealthy donate more dollars, but in terms of a percentage of income, the most generous Americans are those who earn between $5000 and $30,000 per year. (That’s from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey from 2005.)

        I think these lists show the authors’ contempt for the poor and their desire to believe the poor deserve to be poor and for that reason THEY’ll never be poor.

      • Pamela says 01 November 2011 at 07:41

        According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, congregations with the lowest per capita income (the Church of God)give a greater percentage of their income than congregations with the highest per capita income (Epicopalians).

        Wealthy people may give a lot of money but it’s not usually a meaningful percentage of their net wealth. Whereas middle class and poor people who “tithe” are giving 10% of their income to their church.

      • Mondo Esteban says 01 November 2011 at 09:41

        Dave Ramsey is a huge anti-OWS person. A statistic like that, I cannot help but believe there is some bias built within it. For alls I know that may be true, but I would expect as much since the top 1% have much of the wealth in this nation. A $1000 donation might be .0001% of their wealth, while for the other 99%, $1000 might be 2% of thier wealth. So who really pays more?

      • jim says 01 November 2011 at 11:12

        Here is a study that breaks down charity giving versus income levels.

        Patterns of Household Charitable Giving
        by Income Group, 2005

        The top 2% of households by income levels give about 56% of the charity donations. This would contradict Ramsey’s claim.

        Also keep in mind that the top 1% controls 36% of the wealth in the nation. So OF COURSE they will give far more than poor and middle class people.

        Here’s another source that compares the giving as a % of income:

        “In 2001, Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization focused on charitable giving, found that households earning less than $25,000 a year gave away an average of 4.2 percent of their incomes; those with earnings of more than $75,000 gave away 2.7 percent.”

        I wonder what would happen if you removed large donations from Gates and Buffett from the equation? I’m sure their mult-billion dollar foundations skew it upwards.

        There are certainly many generous rich people and many generous poor people. Rich people can afford to give far more in dollars than poor people and they do so. Many poor people give a higher percent of their wealth since a “little bit” of a “not much” is a lot.

        • Kevin says 02 November 2011 at 05:01

          I can’t believe the attitude I’m seeing in some of these comments. “Of course the rich give more to charity – they’ve got so much more money than the rest of us!”

          What an ungrateful attitude. The rich don’t have to give anything! They could just keep all their money if they wanted. They don’t give it away for the tax breaks (the break is always less than if they’d just kept the money and paid tax on it), they don’t do it for publicity – they do it because believe it or not, they’re good, altruistic people and they believe it’s the right thing to do.

          Sometimes it seems that some of the 99% are so clouded with jealousy and envy, that they’d find something wrong with anything a big, bad “rich” person did. “He only donated that kidney for the tax break!”


        • barnetto says 02 November 2011 at 06:38

          Kevin, its the math.

          The average income of the bottom 90% (using this source I found in a quick google search: http://www.wealthandwant.com/issues/income/income_distribution.html) is $30374. Giving 10% of their income is $3037. The top 10% have an average income of $269,658. To give away $3037 dollars the average top 10%-er only has to give away 1.1% of his/her salary.

          This reminds me of the story of the Widow’s Mite.

        • Kevin says 02 November 2011 at 10:07


          That’s meaningless mathematics. By definition, there are 9 times more 90%-ers than 10%-ers. So of course, all things being equal, the 10% contributions of 9 90%-ers will equal a single 1.1% contribution from a 10%-er. So what?

          If that meant anything, then the donations would be equally distributed across income levels, since there are so many more 90%-ers than rich 10%-ers. And yet, the vast majority of all donations comes from the relatively few 1% richest people, even though they’re outnumbered 99-to-1.

        • Tracy says 02 November 2011 at 12:05


          That’s not how math works. You’re ignoring income distribution, which is essential to the whole point.

          And you also apparently think that 1.1% is greater generosity than 10%, which is just weird.

        • barnetto says 02 November 2011 at 12:50

          Kevin, how are you counting when you say that the vast majority of all donations come from the wealthy?

          1) Counting absolute dollars
          2) Comparing percentages
          3) Comparing the # of different organizations contributed to
          4) ???

          If you’re using #1, then yes, no one is disagreeing with you. The wealthy give more dollars because the wealthy have more dollars. Let’s say our high earners give away 10% of their salary (which in real life someone already said they don’t, they give closer to 2%). That would be $29,000 out of their ~$290,000 average salary. The average person outside of the top 10% would have to give away 94% of the salary to equal that.

          They would have $2000 remaining to spend on food, shelter, and other living expenses. The average 10%er would have $261,000 remaining to spend on their living expenses.

          Now, backtracking, you said (without any citation to back it up) that Ramsey says 2/3 of charitable contributions come from the top 1% to try and prove a claim that the rich are generous (a claim from one of the lists). Another contributor found the actual statistic which is that the top 2% contribute 56% of all charitable giving (and that the top 1% hold 36% of the wealth). Furthermore, that contributor provided statistics that as a percentage of income, lower income people give away a larger percentage of their income than the rich do. You responded by ignoring the numbers and throwing a tantrum about how everyone hates the rich (not true, otherwise why would we all be here trying to get rich slowly?), but we won’t dwell on that.

          So maybe we can say rich people on average are generous, but poor people on average are twice as generous.

          I’m sorry math isn’t your strong suit, but its not meaningless.

    • LauraElle says 01 November 2011 at 07:56

      I must reply to this. Not all wealthy people are selfish. My dad owns a small company that has been very profitable. He hasn’t taken a salary since 2007 because he doesn’t want to lay anyone off. He bought him and my mother private insurance policies so the company wouldn’t have to cover them both anymore. He also covers part of the company’s share of the medical insurance premium so his employees’ will not have additional expenses. His employees have no idea he’s doing this. Those are only a few examples.

      No one makes him do this. No one makes him give up considerable personal money to do these things.

      • Janette says 01 November 2011 at 08:53

        Your parents are living off of your mother’s income from a different company or are they living off of their savings?

      • Mondo Esteban says 01 November 2011 at 09:45

        Lauraelle – I also question how your parents are making money. Not to be super snarky, but perhaps instead of taking taxable income, your father writes off all of his expenses as “business expenses” all the while keeping his stated salary at zero?

      • rdzins says 01 November 2011 at 14:56

        Any one can come up with a clicky do good think good list, I personally don’t beleive in them having mind and always looking for opportunities is a good mind set to have, but also realizing if something does not work out that is OK to and you learned from it and move on.

        I have to agree we have a business also and we pay ourselves less than our workers. I wish we could offer our workers more than what we are currently however, right now we can not. In the future I would like to as our business progresses and more things are paid for and established. I work full-time outside of the business and we put in long hours. On the flip side I get paid NOTHING for my time that I spend in the business doing the accounting. We have put in long hours that we have not been paid for in years with hope that someday it will be fully supportive of us and our employees. As a business owner I resent the biased claims from others who have never owned a business or tried to own a business claim about all of the “benefits” that a business owner receives. For every employee we hire there is social security, medicare, workmans comp, unemployment taxes, corporate tax ect… We will never be compensated for the long hours and time we put in for no pay.

        The government should be trying to make and put forth policies that make the people self supportive and not reliant on the government, not push them to look to the government to provide for them.

        On the flip side the politicians have been bought and paid for by special interest no matter what side of the fence they are on and until that changes the more will stay the same.

    • phoenix says 01 November 2011 at 08:40

      I completely agree too. And coming from somebody who grew up in a very poor community, the poor often helped each other in time and labor (which is never counted in such studies). If a elderly neighbor’s roof leaked, we pitched in and fixed it, using supplies we bought and our own labor. If somebody needed another to watch kids, we were there for each other.

  15. mihai says 01 November 2011 at 05:31

    Well it is true in life you need to take action and change the status . Usually this is better than just maintaining it especially if you are poor.
    I liked the quote about calculated risk.
    How it applies to me:
    I for one hate debt(became debt free this year in February) but I am renting. So would buying a house (with a modest 20 year mortgage) help ? I think it will.
    With aggressive snowballing I might pay it back in 10 years (rent and payment are very close and I have a small down payment).
    The risks are : losing job and health but I am not protected as I am paying rent either…
    Being smart is more complex than these rules .. so the difference I say is being financially smart (which is not equal to normal smart) and a bit lucky.

  16. Anonymous says 01 November 2011 at 05:33

    That the lists are facile is a given – the issues of rich/poor cannot be reduced to a list.
    However, if we look at the lists and recognize some change that we could make to our own mindset that could improve our circumstances – then they have served their purpose.

  17. Dink says 01 November 2011 at 05:38

    Rich is a mindset. Decide to live a healthy life, stay out of debt, and opt to not have children and you can work a part-time job to support yourself. If you want children, if you want a house that’s bigger than you really need, if you want a consumerist life, you’re going to pay for it with a harder working life. Sure, “luck” could be responsible for you getting into some accident or getting a terminal disease, but the same “luck” could also have you stumbling upon a million dollar lottery ticket on the ground. It’s not constructive to worry about luck.

    The wealthiest (financially) people I know, multimillionaires, work their asses off and their lives are full of stress. I want to be financially comfortable but in no way do I want to be like these people. They work 24/7 and take their laptops with them on vacation. I can’t ever see them retiring fully because work is their life. There are a few wealthy people I know who are exceptions, who seem to have realized they have “enough,” and have slowed. But the majority appear overworked and anxious. That is not the life for me.

    • SLCCOM says 01 November 2011 at 15:22

      Sorry, Dink, but magical thinking never has and never will work. “Decide to live a healthy lifestyle” will not automatically make you stay healthy. Autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease, arthritis — every disease strikes everyone regardless of lifestyle. We actually have no clue what constitutes a “healthy diet” because the studies are all association studies, and they ignore factors that influence both the food eaten and the “results.” For instance, you prepare a healthy salad and someone else gets fast food? Congratulations — you have the energy to prepare the “healthy” salad; someone else might have early cancer, or autoimmune disease, or something else that sucks their energy, and they get the fast food because spending the energy to make that salad means they won’t have the energy to talk to their kids before bed.

      • Christa says 27 February 2012 at 12:48

        um, WTF?

  18. ShackleMeNot says 01 November 2011 at 05:41

    What an odd post. Of course Mindset matters. There are real differences between the thoughts and actions of the rich and poor. This website was supposed to focus on that very concept, right?

    “Get Rich Slowly” is the opposite of the Mindset that you should get rich quick. Maybe you should disagree with a few of the specific points of distinction between those who have made their success and those who don’t, but to chalk it up to luck is ridiculous.

    Good Mindset drives good choices that lead to good results.

  19. Brendan M. says 01 November 2011 at 05:48

    Let’s see if I can be as trite and ignorant as this list…

    Rich people believe: “I create my life.” Poor people believe: “Life happens to me.” – Because they can afford to
    Rich people play the money game to win. Poor people play the money game to not lose. – Because they can afford to
    Rich people are committed to being rich. Poor people want to be rich.
    Rich people think big. Poor people think small. – Because they can afford to
    Rich people focus on opportunities. Poor people focus on obstacles. – Because they can afford to

    See how easy it is!

    • Brent says 01 November 2011 at 09:15

      Sure. But, maybe, only after they worked hard to get to the point of being rich. This article is about mindset and the way one views situations.

  20. Kent Thune says 01 November 2011 at 05:58

    As I was reading the post, I did not think in terms of money. If you did not like the post, you may find a greater perspective if you do the same…

    Try thinking of “rich” as someone who has a healthy perspective on life — a self-actualized person, able to lead a life of meaning and purpose.

    Now replace the meaning of “poor” with those who have an unhealthy perspective on life — those who look outward for redemption and value things higher than inner peace and contentment.

    With that said, there are many people who are financially wealthy but are “poor” human beings. There are also many people that are not financially wealthy but I would call “rich.”

    When we stop categorizing people by their relative level of monetary, material and social status, we are enabled to arrive at the true meaning of “rich” or “poor.”

    “The liar uses the valid designations, the words, to make the unreal appear as real; he says, for example, ‘I am rich,’ when the word ‘poor’ would be the correct designation of his situation.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

  21. Joelle says 01 November 2011 at 05:59

    Having been poor in my life – these statements are oversimplisic and glib. I almost lost respect for you for posting these demeaning “collective” statements and buying into groupthink.

    I’m sure you already know this but poverty is more complex than the way people “think.”

    Half of success is being optimistic. The other half is up to you.

  22. Coley says 01 November 2011 at 06:00

    On one hand, I agree with you and many of the posters that the lists are ludicrously reductive. These are written to sell as many books as possible, they’re not academic dissertations. Look at most glossy magazines: readers love lists.

    On the other hand, there’s some truth behind most of these tenets. And they can be true whether or not the affluent or disadvantaged people are truly responsible or simply lucky for their individual situations.

    JD, I’m glad you looked at this with a critical eye, but I’m surprised that your post seems to dismiss so much of it outright. Three years ago, you would have been embracing these philosophies almost wholeheartedly. At the very least, you would have offered an alternative philosophy about the mindset for increased prosperity.

    Now your whole post essentially just says “Yeah, I don’t know about these lists. A lot just comes down to luck. What do you think?”

    As a long-term reader of this site, to me it seems that you and your writers have an ever-diminishing desire to actually “get rich”–not slowly, not at all.

    • JCC says 01 November 2011 at 16:02

      I believe that a lot of people have found out during this recession that it takes a lot more than the right attitude and mindset when it comes to building wealth and a secure financial future. I think a lot of people have had to eat some humble pie and had a radical shift in their views of particular things. Of course, I wish it had never happened, that should go without saying.

  23. CD says 01 November 2011 at 06:01

    Having gone to what a lot of people consider to be the Mecca of WASPs for boarding school, I feel like I can comment with confidence on this post 🙂 It is funny reading this how many of the “millionaire” values we were taught on a daily basis. “To Whom Much is Given, Much is Expected” was practically engraved on everything. I came from an upper middle class family that had made good, and it really does change your perspective when every day someone tells you “one day you will be a leader in this country (obviously,or why would you be in school here?), so you have certain expectations and obligations normal people don’t”. It is that feeling of a presumption of greatness that really characterizes the children of millionaires.

    this can be good and bad- good in that they often have complete confidence in their abilities and work very hard to meet the ridiculously high expectations of those around them. they are surrounded by high achievers who also feel pressure to succeed. 38% of my class went to Ivies, another 30% went to a top 10 US News and World Report college- failure was uncool unless you wanted to be an artist and travel and Vietnam for a year. It’s also good in that you are not pressured to fit an easy mold- they encourage eccentricity and individual passion. It also allows some freedom from the consumer culture of the middle class. We often joked that you could tell the wealthiest millionaire at parent’s weekend because he had the oldest car in the driveway. When you are THAT rich, there is no shame (even snobbiness really..) in looking poor. We almost never bought new clothes- cords, sweaters, and a puffy jacket was enough. The multimillionaire’s daughter down the hall from me bought all her coats at Salvation Army because it was the thing to do. Wealth, at that level, can be read from your language, culture, where you travel and who you associate with- clothes, cars, etc. are meaningless. It is very difficult for a middle class kid to ever overcome that social barrier.

    On the bad side- kids can get the message that they will be great no matter what (sadly, for some of them this was true). This gives them an ennui, or boredom with life in general sometimes. They can also be very entitled and expect certain things without working for them. I think that’s the major advantage of the poor middle class- they can have a hunger for success and money that the wealthiest children just can’t have or understand. I have seen many brilliant middle class kids who did have this hunger combined with a great work ethic who will certainly be much more successful than my classmates. They often will, however, (sadly to me) ask themselves “Have I arrived yet? Am I successful yet?” constantly in a way that leads them to fill that insecurity with things- cars, houses, wives, etc. This only further divides them from the super rich- socially and on the bottom line. The wealthiest never ask themselves this- they were born knowing they were destined for success and never doubt that they belong where they are. Someone once told me that that was the one characteristic that set people from my school apart in interviews. We are always at ease whether we are talking to the President of France or the lawnmower. It can be a huge advantage. It frustrates me every day when I have to talk to some of the very poor people I work with- they often lack that innate sense of possibility. Their minds of often much smaller than their circumstances and it creates a self perpetuating prison of poverty. Things happen to them, they don’t make things happen.

    • Laura says 01 November 2011 at 17:08

      “…some of the very poor people I work with- they often lack that innate sense of possibility.”

      And that to me sums up perfectly the difference between the financially wealthy and the financially poor. The debate is really over what causes or prevents that innate sense of possibility, and that answer is complex. Some of it IS circumstance, background, handicaps or privileges, intelligence, etc. and some of it really is ability, drive, willingness to learn, delaying gratification, etc. Unfortunately there’s no easy dividing line, hence this debate.

    • Samantha says 01 November 2011 at 19:24

      GUEST. POST. please.

  24. Barb says 01 November 2011 at 06:01

    I find this post inapppropriate for this blog.It sounds like someone said “JD you haven’t had any really good knock downs on your blog lately, and I think you need to come up with one”. I actaully find it insulting as well. I suspect you did not mean it to be.

    that said, I agree with Jane (I think it was). The rich are different because they have money, and because of that money, they get treated differently. On a regular basis, all the time. IN almost all walks of life. Even if they choose to live like the middle class. Untill we stop treating the rich in one way, and those who might have a chance to be rich someday another way, nothing much will change.

    • J.D. says 01 November 2011 at 06:09

      A look behind the scenes at Get Rich Slowly!

      I actually wrote this post in late August or early September. I’ve sat on it ever since precisely because I thought it might be too inflammatory. But I keep thinking about this subject, and I think it’s worthy of discussion. What’s more, I think it’s possible to discuss the differences without fighting. We’ve had many great conversations at GRS about controversial topics, and I’m not sure why we can’t do the same here.

      • Tonya says 01 November 2011 at 10:36

        You’re right, of course. We just all have so many opinions! And it hurts to think that all the negatives in the second column (the non-wealthy, non-millionaire traits) are supposed to be describing us! We may not BE wealthy yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have the same attitudes as people who are.

      • Megan says 01 November 2011 at 11:28

        I think we can, some of us just have to get past the shame of our situations, most people aren’t even aware of it. Whether or not we are rich or poor or somewhere in between, there is a great deal of differences of how people live within and outside of our communities. It is hard to see homeless people walking around begging. It is hard to not be able to “fix” the issues surrounding homelessness.
        However the more we talk about it the more we learn from one another, and out of that comes solution, at least sometimes that happens. I am glad you posted this article, I have so appreciated everyone’s perspective. It is really nice to read from people who really care about the distinctions of our country, and… I hope that the people who were offended from this article can heal so working “talking” together can actually bring some clarity for people to learn from, rather than ” be right”.

      • Laura says 01 November 2011 at 17:10

        🙂 J.D., if no one ever criticizes what you do, then you’re not doing anything worth noticing. 🙂

      • FRUGALTEXASGAL says 01 November 2011 at 19:37

        Okay, then I’ll gently suggest you have poor timing at a minumum. When you’ve got a presidential candidate who says that everyone who is uneemployed are failures and people cheer, that frankly implies some truly warped and unrealistic attitudes. Grown men who used to be upper middle management don’t work at McDonalds because they think poor. Leaving chronic poverty aside for the moment, ten percent of americans do not have any work at all. You’re poor because you want to be (or becaue you don’t know any better) is a pretty sad mantra in my book.

  25. Ross Williams says 01 November 2011 at 06:05

    “Good Mindset drives good choices that lead to good results.”

    I don’t think that is really true. The one thing that distinguishes the rich, beyond luck, is that they often focus on making money as a purpose in life, rather than a means to an end.

    Most people want more money in to spend it. Its not money that they want, its what money can buy. With that mindset, you don’t choose your friends based on how they can help you make money. You don’t choose a job or do a job based solely on how much money you will make.

    One other thing that characterizes many of the nouveau-rich, as these lists demonstrate, is being self-centered and self-righteous. They really believe they are “deserving” of whatever money they get, regardless of what they did to get it. Just take a look at the investment bankers who created the financial collapse.

  26. Pamela says 01 November 2011 at 06:06

    I’ll be honest, I braced myself, because I’ve seen a lot of “rich people just work harder and poor people are lazy” rhetoric flung around certain PF blogs a few years ago. I’ve been financially comfortable, I’ve been broke, and I’ve been everywhere in between. My mindset has always been the same. So like you, J.D., I’m giving these differences these books list the side-eye.

    I don’t resent people who have more than me; I think that’s great that they’re doing so well. I resent the assumption that if you’re in a tough spot, or if you’re actually poor, many people assume that you’re lazy or not trying hard enough or always making bad choices. And that if you are rich, it means that you automatically work hard or you make fantastic choices (oh, hello safety net of money! You cushion a fall from the consequences of crappy choices), etc. I’ve made good calls and bad calls while I was making (and had saved up a lot of ) money (though I was never rich), and when I wasn’t making as much and had very little in savings (though I can’t call myself at any time in my life poor). The difference was, a fully-funded-and-then some-emergency fund (plus a hefty paycheck) goes a long way in cushioning the blow from the bad calls. And that a fully-funded emergency fund will pretty much be gone after a catastrophic event, and if you’re now working a much lower paying job, you’re going to have a heck of a time catching up.

    I hope that in these conversations we could show empathy for people who are in tougher spots than we are, skepticism towards sweeping statements about people’s characters, and encouragement and support to people who are trying to change their circumstances. No matter what our individuals views on economics may be.

  27. getagrip says 01 November 2011 at 06:16

    I really don’t like those lists without a lot of explaination behind each point, otherwise they do appear trite and somewhat insulting as others have pointed out. I could take each of these points and express how a poor person could have the “rich” mindset but not be in a position to execute it.

    I also think a big difference is support to be thinking rich. In the neighborhood I grew up in (lower blue collar) the parents weren’t highly educated, many had a distrustful view of education beyond high school, and they often griped about their jobs, bosses, and lives. If you were considered a smart kid (i.e. me), any time you made a mistake or something you did didn’t work right, you caught immediate grief from peers and neighbors, as well as having it brought up repeatedly for laughs months out. Lots of tearing you down to keep you from standing out. You grow up around that, and your mindset isn’t necessarily one to encourage “rich” thinking. You’re allowed to be clever, but not allowed to strive too far or you’re putting on airs. A friend who opened a pizza business in a poor area put it this way. “they would rather spend a day a week making slugs that will fool a vending machine and bragging about scoring five to ten bucks worth of junk food or two packs of cigarettes, than spend that same amount of time studying for a trade, or school, or inventing something worthwhile. Because they couldn’t brag about that, and people would tear them down for trying.”

    It can be hard to get out from that, to change your mindset. Even now I can’t talk investment issues with my siblings or parent, not because they aren’t as smart as I am, but because they don’t have the mindset that investing is something they can really do.

  28. Theresa says 01 November 2011 at 06:20

    I recently read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. It’s about the mindsets and lessons he learned from his biological dad (Phd, but couldn’t get ahead) and his best friend’s dad who didn’t graduate, but became one of the richest men on Hawaii. I’ve started reading another of his books, Cash Flow Quadrant. If you want to change your life, I would suggest you read his books. While I haven’t read Eker’s book, through other books I’ve read and classes I’ve taken, I have started changing the way I think. I am doing half of Eker’s list already. The start for me was just being willing to learn. If you think you know everything, you will not seek out new things to learn.

    • partgypsy says 01 November 2011 at 09:35

      Actually if you do any research you will find his biographical accounts, including of his father, are fabricated. Kiyosaki rubs me the wrong way because he is very comfortable passing off fables as real events or people. Although he may give a refreshing and perhaps optimistic (and hence inspiring) perspective of becoming successful, the more you read of him the more you realize he doesn’t really give actionable advice you how to get there yourself (unless your route is to write best selling self-help books).

      • JCC says 01 November 2011 at 16:08

        He initially marketed it through some multi-level marketing scam and those sleazy seminars, too.
        Seeing his name on an endorsement for a personal finance book is enough to put me off the book and its author; I think I saw Kiyosaki’s name on a book written by Jean Chatzky. I’m getting so I truly don’t know who to read for credible PF advice.

    • GL says 01 November 2011 at 11:13
      • Vanessa says 01 November 2011 at 13:12

        I’m reluctant to trust the word of someone who bashes one book and suggests his own as a better alternative.

        I always though Rich Dad/Poor Dad was a metaphor and not to be taken literally.

  29. njcatherine says 01 November 2011 at 06:22

    This is fine if all you want to do is amass wealth: You can stick this up in your office and practice those traits.

    I prefer to substitute the word “visionaries” or “people with purpose” because, as Dink said, my end goal isn’t wealth at all. Yet, I want to live a life of vision and purpose, and I imagine such people think long term, are lifelong learners, act in spite of fear… and as others here have said, it’s not about the money in the bank, it’s the mindset. The money is just a tool–a “means of exchange” to get us where we are going, as my greatuncle used to say.

  30. Personal Finance Source says 01 November 2011 at 06:23

    As I read this I understand why I am not one of the rich people.

  31. sarah says 01 November 2011 at 06:30

    There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to start.

    For one thing, correlation does not imply causation. People get rich because they have a certain attitude, or they have that attitude because they’re rich?

    Second, what correlation? These statements are based on what?

    Third, the authors conflate “rich” with “successful.” Are we to suppose that a multi-millionaire who loses half of his/her wealth through poor choices (and is still a millionaire) has better attitudes than someone who came from abject poverty and built a reasonable life for themselves?

    This article reads like a sermon, or a sales pitch.

  32. Kaiti says 01 November 2011 at 06:44

    It’s interesting how all of Eker’s points could just as well refer to self-confidence and high self worth rather than wealth in terms of money. I like that these types of laws are fundamentally universal.

  33. Milos - Success Secret Blog says 01 November 2011 at 06:53

    Yes, many of you are right that this is not ordinary GRS post, but I like it very much. Many of the comments seem like denying that the mindset plays enormous role in getting rich. Even to get rich slowly you have to develop specific mindset.

    I would say that both lists are true, but these characteristics are not exclusive. I wanted to say that it does not mean that everybody who, for example, acts in spite of fear or think big, will be rich. That was the authors comment about the faults of the second list, so I am just pointing that you can look at the first list the same way.

  34. Tina says 01 November 2011 at 06:57

    I actually really liked this article.

    I think the interesting thing about it is not to look at it and say “Rich people are this” and “Poor people are that,” and if you DO read the article that way I can see why people may view it as offensive, but to look at the qualities and realize which of those you may see in yourself that contribute and detract from your own wealth.

    For example, I sometimes find I am too risk-adverse. That is something that limits my ability to gain wealth and it is something I want to improve in myself. Conversely, I do see in others the extreme focus on a bigger paycheck. They will never obtain wealth because their lifestyle expands with their paycheck.

    I hope other readers can find that side of the article.

    Great post. It made me really think! Thanks JD!

    • Steve S says 01 November 2011 at 07:40

      I agree with you Tina.

      It is natural to take offense when somebody “calls you out” so to speak. But some open-minded personal reflection leads me to certain conclusions: that while I am young and our household income is solidly upper-middle class, I will always be a slave to wages since I cannot mentally deal with an uneven cash flow. I enjoy my downtime, hobbies, and passive entertainment (TV, internet) too much to dedicate extra time outside of my 40-hour workweek to finding multiple streams of income (side job, blogging, freelance work, etc.) I am OK with that, and I don’t begrudge materially wealthy people the fruits of their labor.

      My wife works in community mental health, and even she laments that the overwhelming mindset in her clients is one of victimhood and dependency. Some (most? but not all…) are focused on gaming the system, trying to get more medication, more benefits, instead of seeing a life where help isn’t necessary as something to strive for.

      • Sophie says 01 November 2011 at 15:47

        As a health care professional, I think your comments regarding mental health clients are inappropriate, demeaning and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding and respect for the complex mental health issues that many people face. Your comment “instead of seeing a life where help isn’t necessary” strikes me as condescending and is akin to blaming the sick for being sick. The root cause of their victimization and dependence is often tied to: learned helplessness, institutionalization, pathology, social stigma and inequality (social and financial) among many other factors that are external to the self. This means that addressing this dependency entails far more than just teaching and empowering the individual to be self-reliant and self-efficacious.

        • Steve S says 01 November 2011 at 17:04

          You are correct in the sense that a complex issue cannot be boiled down into two sentences in the comments section of a blog. There are 100 other arguments and data points floating about in my head as I write those things that aren’t available to the casual reader, which makes my observations seem shallow and uninformed.

          I’ll steer clear of such topics in the future.

    • Liz says 01 November 2011 at 08:22

      I second what Tina said.

      I think people are reading too much into this article – the point is to get you thinking about your attitude toward what you can accomplish with the resources available to you, including how you decide to perceive the world around you. It’s true that it’s difficult to be optimistic when your current situation is dire, and not everybody is able to do that, but there are people who succeed in getting themselves out of poverty because they have some of the mindsets listed in the “rich” column.

      I’m amazed at the number of people commenting because they’re outright offended by this list’s apparent lack of insight toward how the “rich” live and the unattainable resources they have that the poor don’t. Talk about generalizing – not every successful adult descends from blue bloods.

  35. Tom says 01 November 2011 at 07:16

    I think the better question to ask is what is the difference between the comfortable-living middle class and the paycheck-to-paycheck middle class.
    It’s hard to compare the average rich and the average poor person due to many variables, including systemic (dis)advantages that run completely counter to the idea of meritocracy, the idea that hard work will always be rewarded in the long run. Comparing the behaviors and mindset of rich and poor may be an interesting thought experiment, but I think it can lead to conflating whether the behavior is a cause or effect of economic status.
    I’m sure there is more uniformity to the backgrounds and opportunities offered to the average middle-class. A behavioral analysis of near-retirement age respondents with similar income levels to a “retirement confidence” survey would probably lead to a better list of differences, with less objections over circumstances beyond the control of subjects.

    • Amber says 01 November 2011 at 11:38

      This would have been a much more interesting topic to cover for a blog post here. I don’t know a single person who thinks of themselves as ‘Poor’ or as ‘Rich’. Those are labels we apply to other people only and it makes these stupid lists irrelevant. I know many people I consider rich and many I think are poor, but only comparing my situation against what I know of theirs. I know some brilliant people who have all of the “Rich” characteristics but don’t have 2 dimes. A more timely topic would be what is the Middle Class — and how do we preserve it?

      • Tom says 02 November 2011 at 07:34

        “What is the Middle Class”

        I think that’s an excellent question. I always see articles and posts like “AMT expanding on the middle class” or something similar with middle class never really being defined…

  36. Chris says 01 November 2011 at 07:19

    I think the biggest problem with these lists is exactly what many of the previous commentors have suggested – in general, poor people don’t have room for mistakes. I think this is the thing that middle class people often understand least – they made all sorts of mistakes growing up and even now that might have bad consequences but not life-changing-dramtically-for-the-worse consequences. This teaches them the “rich person” attitude toward risk/reward and many of the other attitudes that those lists in the post talks about. But poor people learn different things from the exact same mistakes because of the dramatically different consequences.

    So how would these different consequences effect poor peoples’ behavior? You have to think that logically there would be two general reactions. One group of people will become incredibly risk adverse because they are trying not to make any mistakes. This describes many of the “poor people do this” list above. Another group decides that nobody can live mistake-free, so given that they are screwed anyway why not do what feels good at the moment? And this describes most of the other points on the list.

    It is absolutely true that a third small group will, with a lot of luck and hard work, pull themselves into the middle class. But too often in the middle class view, that small group is viewed as the only ones who bother being smart and working hard instead of being the ones who worked exceptionally hard, were exceptionally smart, and/or were exceptionally lucky.

    Interestingly, this is true even though people generally don’t think people who stay middle class are dumb and lazy – we think that people who go from middle class to rich worked exceptionally hard, were exceptionally smart, and/or were exceptionally lucky.

    I think a good thought experiment would be thinking over your life and examining the points where having much less money would probably mean that your life would have gone very differently.

    • changeonabudget says 01 November 2011 at 12:51

      Thank you for this. Blaming the poor and saying that if they changed their mindset that they could become rich ignores things like racism, disabilities, lack of access to education, and a whole host of other factors.

      If everyone started a race at the same time, then the person who worked hardest and was most determined to win would be rewarded. But life is more like a race where some get to start only a few meter’s from the finish line and others have to run further and over a lot more obstacles to get anywhere close to the ‘finish’ line of financial security.

      • Shane says 01 November 2011 at 13:03

        The only problem that I see with your comment is that you assume life is a race with each other. In reality it is only a race with ourselves. But let’s say we do assume we are in a race with other people, and get stuck over the fact that many have a head start over us. We would never be able to win with that thought lingering in our mind. We are in essence keeping ourselves from truly winning.

        As for me, if someone has a head start over me, I accept the challenge. I put myself to the test and see if I can accomplish what others might consider impossible. And believe me, many people have started “way ahead of me” just as other have started behind me.

  37. Troy says 01 November 2011 at 07:26

    Of the first 20 top-level comments, 11 or 12 are responses to the idea that there is a difference between rich and poor people, rather than to any of the differences discussed in the article. Words/phrases used include “obnoxious,” “insulting,” “I fear,” and “have issues.”

    8 to 9 are responses to the content of the article, either by referring to its content directly or to related experiences that indicate, refute, or are about differences. Phrases like “My 2 cents,” “I remember,” and “these questions come to my mind” were used.

    That seems representative of discussions about wealth in the US.

  38. Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 07:36

    Eker’s list is literally a list of lies. It’s not even the warm fuzzies thing – it’s just not TRUE. Almost every single statement he makes about the middle-class is not just a generalization, it’s a lie and I think it’s important to call that out.

    (And the exceptions are things like “Millionaires have multiple sources of income. The middle class has only one or two.” Which is for the most part true, although overly simplistic. But the ones on how the middle-class thinks/feels/talks? Just LIES. There’s nothing empowering – OR thought-provoking – in a list of lies.)

  39. Alcie says 01 November 2011 at 07:36

    On the face of it, these types of lists are trite and simplistic. On the other hand, I could boil it down even further. Rich people have access to ‘cultural capital’ that says “I’m one of you” to others with means, in the way they speak, the educations they receive, the neighborhoods they live in, the way they raise their children, the type of food they eat, their choice of entertainment, the people they know and the people their acquaintances know.

    All of the above is a huge jump start to socioeconomic success. While it’s not out of the question for someone from a poor neighborhood with poorly educated parents to become rich and successful, they simply don’t have good access to learning the behaviors of elites, which go a long way toward opening the right doors, so the poor are starting from way behind. Not to mention having to deal with their own friends and families, who may work hard to discourage them from ‘becoming too good for us’.

    Think Pygmalion (GB Shaw), or for a good nonfiction account of the constraints and economy of the poor, read Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor by SA Venkatesh.

    There’s so much more going on than simply ‘thinking like a rich person’ that lists like the one in this post are beyond useless. Who does everything right anyway? But if you have a social and/or monetary safety net, taking risks and making mistakes doesn’t carry the same costs as it does for those without that net.

  40. phoenix says 01 November 2011 at 07:39

    There are some people who are value money above all else and will do whatever they need to in order to obtain as much of it as possible, and based on this devotation naturally exhibit many of the characteristics on the list. There are some people who act like victims of their life and based on that mindset, they will exhibit characteristics of those listed as poor. There are many who are poor who cannot afford to take as many risks because the consequences are more dire to jump without a safety net.

    But what I think would be helpful information is to find out from people who pulled themselves up but are not devoted entirely to money regarding their thoughts on the topic.

    • victor says 04 November 2011 at 05:38

      Read the book that is who he talks about self-made millionares, not ones who are given their money.

  41. Shawn G says 01 November 2011 at 08:00

    JD, I appreciated this article. While I do not agree with either Eker or Smith entirely, it is good to engage these lists and see what we can learn.

    I live in an area with many people who would be considered poor. It is definitely a lot different from the area where I grew up which was middle class. Living here has opened my eyes to just how differently people live. There are many people where I live who work very hard and are not able to gain wealth, they can only seem to maintain. There are others who have no desire to work hard, and will simply take everything they can get and call it good. I would think Eker and Smith’s lists apply more to the second group, than the first.

  42. Raj says 01 November 2011 at 08:01

    I don’t think this post is bad at all.

    There is so much of this sensationalistic and cliched books out there that claim to teach how to get rich.

    Apart from J.D’s skepticism the comments in this post are the real value here in putting all of that “wisdom” in context.

    Good post 🙂

  43. Lorri says 01 November 2011 at 08:08

    JD – I think the lists continue the propaganda that “if only poor people WANTED to, they could not be poor any more”. While I do believe there are people from poor backgrounds that do step into middle class and wealth, I think that there are alot more thngs in their way then their lack of imagination and positive attitude. When no one around you is suuccessful it is pretty tough to assume you can be, when your race and place have 20 to 40% unemployment vs some area that have 5%, you have way more ground to cover to get a step up. I recently heard that black families have 20 times less assets than white families – that means there is someone around who can provide that much needed stepping stone to move forward. I truly believe these kinds of lists allow those of us that have (not even weakth but middle class) to feel better about the disparity in wealth – to believe that Everyone could have it, if they wanted it. I disagree.

  44. Jennifer says 01 November 2011 at 08:24

    I had to respond to these lists largely because of the flawed assumption people make that poverty (as in being materially poor) is a personality defect and has nothing whatsoever to do with structural issues. Clearly, this is not true when you have an educational and a health system funded by property values (which gives the Rich the luxury of opportunity that allows them to see opportunities and to believe their choosing creates their own lives, which does not exist among the poor who do not have options). Nor do these opportunities exists when transit systems decline to create public transport to suburbs where jobs are being created. Nor do they exist where job training programs are underfunded or focused on resume writing and NOT on training usable skills. I think this list is largely meant to justify an overly individualistic sense of entitlement that is willing to do anything to let “Rich people promote themselves and their value(s).” This is why the Occupy movement exists.

  45. evelyn says 01 November 2011 at 08:34

    To me, this article smacks of elitism and ignorance about the real world. I think these are ridiculous gross generalizations. J.D., how about you round up some actual poor people and ask them if they really think the way this author says they think? Then we can start a real conversation. This is just plain insulting, this list. You have traveled all over the world and yet you condone this kind of know-it-all attitude about the poor?? I expect more from this blog.

    • Jadzia says 02 November 2011 at 00:28

      I think that is a great idea for a post.

  46. Matt says 01 November 2011 at 08:39

    What a terribly ignorant and insulting worldview.

    I’ve read this blog for years, and now I’m done with it.

  47. Heather says 01 November 2011 at 08:45

    In terms of helping me understand better the problems of living with poverty, I liked the episode of Morgan Spurlock’s “Thirty Days” on living on minimum wage. What he encountered, other than lots and lots of sacrifice ( which we can all agree is a good strategy towards bettering yourself) was constant slipping into debt because of medical problems brought about by his very difficult jobs. It was very sobering.

  48. Jynet says 01 November 2011 at 08:51

    I’m annoyed that most of these lists try to define “middle class (or poor) vs. Rich”.

    I think they define “Rich vs. Wealthy”.


    Rich people earn and spend. I’ve had clients – a couple – with a combined income in the $300k range tell me that they can’t make ends meet. They are “Rich” by any definition. They have the nice car, nice house, nanny, etc. etc. But they are living paycheque to paycheque. The home equity line of credit is maxed, the credit cards are maxed, the car loan has a higher balance than the car is worth…

    Wealthy people live below their means. They save, pay off their mortgage, invest, spend wisely, etc. The wealthiest client I ever had wore jeans with holes in them because “they’re still good”, and lived in a small house in an ‘ok’ part of town. On his son’s 21st birthday he lent his son $1M. Within 18 months the son had paid him back and was well on his own way to being wealthy.

    Poor/middle class people can be wealthy, slowly, sure, but they can do it. “Rich” people can’t.

  49. Bella says 01 November 2011 at 08:52

    For everyone who is accusing Ekler of saying that being rich or poor is some ummutable personality trait – you need to reread the post
    “Our blueprints are created through lifelong exposure to money messages from the people around us. Unfortunately, Eker says, most of us have faulty blueprints that prevent us from building wealth.”
    He is acknowledging that people are a product of their curcumstances, that past experiences shape how we relate to money – and that rich people’s experiences cause them to think one way and poor people’s experiences cause them to think another. I think that’s dead on.
    the thing is – he’s not saying ‘if you think like a millionaire you can be one’ he’s saying – when something happens – how do you react? Do you react like a poor person or like a rich person?
    The name of this site is Get Rich Slowly – meaning reasonably. Based on everything I’ve read for the last few years that means how do I make the small every day changes that eventually add up to wealth. And maybe the small everyday changes are to change the mindset of – I can’t do anything about being poor, rather than stretching one’s mind to the possibilities that are out there. It’s about concious spending and decision making that moves you forward instead of backward.
    the glib retort to this list is of course that ‘Rich and Poor people think the same, they attibute good things as their responsibility and bad things as someone else’s – it’s just the propotions in their lives are different”
    But I chose to think that whether someone sees a negative event as an opportunity *can* make the difference in the proportions

  50. Kyra says 01 November 2011 at 08:52

    I skipped a lot of the comments because it seemed as if a lot of people got offended for some reason. I’ve been poor and now I don’t consider myself rich but I guess I’m getting there. I come from inner-city Cleveland, where most people are poor and don’t even know it. The current economic conditions didn’t affect them much because this was the way they lived already.

    I can tell you that I agree with both lists. The mentality in the hood is tread water, not learn how to swim to shore. The first step in fixing the problem is identifying it. Isn’t that what the article intended to do?

    I think it’s more of an injustice to say shame on them for looking down on poor people than to say shame on you for not seeing that poor people NEED to hear this. There are people that after reading this, will think to themselves that maybe it IS how I think that is limiting my potential.

    • Evan H. says 01 November 2011 at 14:29

      Excellent post, Kyra. I always liked Dave Ramsey’s analogy of poor vs. broke and thinking richly vs. thinking poorly.

      Broke people think like rich people (save money, live within your means, give thanks for your many blessings, love others) but are at a point in life where their income is low. They are trending upward.

      Poor people have a mentality that they are owed something or that the *system* is working against them. This is a mentality can be passed down through generations. They are either stagnant or trending downward.

      Most of us started as poor thinkers as kids. Remember blowing your entire allowance on bubble gum? Or baseball cards? It takes someone along the line to teach us about how to handle our money and how to make good decisions.

      • Theresa says 02 November 2011 at 06:50

        Exactly! (To both Kyra and Evan H.)

        Evan’s poor people description made me think of another book I read recently. It’s “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson. It’s all about doing little (easy) things every day to improve your health, relationships, and yes, financial situation. I think this one book has done me the most good and will continue to do so.

        The little decisions we make every day add up to a huge difference in our life. I am taking responsibility for myself and my situation. I think more people would be better off if they did the same thing.

      • olga says 02 November 2011 at 08:36

        “Poor people have a mentality that they are owed something or that the *system* is working against them. This is a mentality can be passed down through generations.” Thank you. I tried reading all comments and got lost on too many, but figured bottom line: majority are mad because they don’t like accusation in having not-so-awesome mentality, and then others who say if you take away the harsh words of statement and think, pretty much a lot of it applies. Of course, topic deviated with OWS, taxes and so on, which is not fare to the post’s idea. I’ve been, as most of ya’ll poor, very poor, and a solid middle class. I had those tax advantages due to salary number, but I simply slowly clawed up. Personally, as an immigrant and from former communist block, I use mentality “Nobody will take care of me, and why anybody should? It’s all up to me. Nobody owes me a thing. Now, buckle up and get to work”.

        • Ross Williams says 10 June 2012 at 07:11

          “Personally, as an immigrant and from former communist block, I use mentality “Nobody will take care of me, and why anybody should? It’s all up to me. Nobody owes me a thing. Now, buckle up and get to work”.”

          I am always curious about this claim by some immigrants. How did you get here? How did you get a visa? Where did you sleep the first day when you arrived? Where did you learn English? My experience is that most immigrants get a lot of help, whether from family already here or private organizations or the government. Or, in the case of Mexico and central america, they have a “coyote” who either works for employers or that they pay themselves.

          The fact is people are poor for the same reason you were, they lack money. And there is no common reason for that, any more than people get rich the same way. There are ruthless rich and ruthless poor, what distinguishes them is how much money they have.

  51. Sun says 01 November 2011 at 09:07

    Fighting words for class warfare.

  52. K.C. says 01 November 2011 at 09:07

    Many who have commented have missed the point. Yes, if you are already rich there is a safety net. But what about those who started poor or middle class and became rich? They didn’t have a safety net in the beginning. They created their safety net by living beneath their means and managing their money. Some took calculated risks. Others invested conservatively and just saved a high percentage of their income (Get Rich Slowly). Over decades they accumulated a high net worth.

    The attitudes of these people differ from those who want to live rich and never accumulate substantial net worth.

    If you come from modest means, you have to choose between living rich and being rich. You can’t have both.

    Most choose to live rich, if they can. It’s easier (It can be done on credit!), and it is perceived to be more gratifying.

    • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 10:37

      But none of that has to do with the lists made by Eker or Smith. How do you get that message from nonsensical statements like “Millionaires believe they must be generous. The middle class believes it can’t afford to give” or “Rich people are bigger than their problems. Poor people are smaller than their problems.”?

      (Not to mention that first statement is a bold-faced lie)

  53. Bella says 01 November 2011 at 09:11

    And this is a side note – JD – your commenting readership has changed, as you have grown in your financial independance, you have left some people behind, yet they still read and comment, likewise, you attract new visitors who are much further away from financial independance than you and it’s taking a little while for them to get the message that you’re preaching. That getting rich is about personal responsibility, and making hard decisions. Part of it is the new staff writers – who write differently from you. You always speak about decisions you’ve made from a ‘I did this and it worked out cool for me’, more and more of your writers talk about how other people should be more like them, focusing on intagibles like – I feel good about not suporting slavery – instead of ‘I cleaned out my stuff – made x $ and have a clean home’. So you’re attracting new readers who like to be told what to do instead of be inspired. So of course when a post comes along that tells them they need to be inspired – that they need to figure out the roadmap instead of following what someone tells them – it’s ‘insulting’.

    • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 10:42

      Mmmm, I’m not sure where I fall on the scale but I can say that those lists are not inspiring and it doesn’t have to do with me wanting to be ‘told’ concrete steps to increase wealth and more to do with the fact that they’re just factually inaccurate. If someone drew a Venn Diagram of the incomes and character traits mentioned on those lists, it wouldn’t support the conclusions. Fallacies just aren’t inspiring to me.

  54. Carla says 01 November 2011 at 09:21

    As if we don’t have enough people (politicians and even some GRS readers) blaming poor people for their plight. At one time I had a copy of Eker’s book that was gifted to me and I saw no real solutions in it. I attended one of his “free” seminars when I was still in the Bay Area and it was nothing more than a “rah-rah” session that reminded eerily me of an Amway meeting.

    As someone here ho doesn”t have a high net worth out of circumstances and poor choices, I can say these two authors have the chicken and the egg backwards – at least in many cases.

    A lot of my poor choices in life were because I didn’t know there *was* a choice, or that so-called “choice” was completely out of reach. It was like looking for a light switch in a pitch black room. When I did find the switch, the bulb was burnt out.

    I’m not angry at JD for posting this, I’m curious as to what others have to say as well. Don’t shoot to messenger. 😀

    • Vanessa says 01 November 2011 at 12:19

      I agree with this a lot. My mother didn’t finish school so she was satisfied that I graduated high school. I achieved more than she did so she felt I was a success. I knew from a young age that I would not be going off to university like my peers, even though it was never said to me out loud. I never got the message that it was a choice that was available to me. Low expectations were set for me from the start and it’s a mindset I’ve carried into adulthood and am struggling to break free from.

      • Carla says 01 November 2011 at 17:22

        Wow Vanessa, your experience almost mirrors mine, except my mother did complete school and became an RN. Even then, the expectation was to graduate high school and get a “good job” – nothing more.

  55. Mario Conti says 01 November 2011 at 09:23

    Unhelpful in the extreme. I’m a person considered “poor” and reading this leads me exactly nowhere.

  56. Janette says 01 November 2011 at 09:26

    I just moved mom into a high level continuing care center. She is 81 with plenty to live off of.
    Most of the people there are wealthy. Wealthy not uber rich. Not the 1 % but definitely up there.
    30% are still living with their spouse- rare to see that many 80-90 yr old men. Many do not have step children because they married for life ( with an average of five kids). Most owned their own businesses- but the spouse never took a salary.
    Networking, knowing people, continues to be top in their book. They also were the first people whom others could turn for help (sick children cared for, missionaries supported, museums and the arts supported ). They are, overwhelmingly, religious – this Baptist facility has Catholic, Jewish, Episcopalian, and UCC services.
    Most of the men received their education as a result of serving in the military
    where they learned that everyone put on pants the same way.
    I would say, after watching this group of self made millionaires, that Smith has a better finger on the pulse of millionaires. He forgot, work 60 hours a week in your 20-40s and marry someone who will support your dream.
    If you don’t believe these things to be true-most likely you do not know a self made millionaire.
    Growing wealth is a mind set. ,

    • brooklyn+money says 01 November 2011 at 11:46

      That is nice that your mom is able and those others are able to be comfortable in their old age, but I can’t help thinking “oh great, if only I were a white, religious, heterosexual small business owner with children.” I think there are other ways to skin the cat (in this case, be financially comfortable) than those characteristics. At least one hopes so! Also, correlation does not equal causation.

    • jim says 01 November 2011 at 12:22

      That seems very anecdotal.

      At least a couple of your observations don’t seem to differ from the population at large…

      That 30% figure isn’t much different than the general population. From census data
      about 55% of men over 85 years old aged still married and nearly 20% of women over 85 are married. There are more widowed women over 85 since women live longer.

      “They are, overwhelmingly, religious”
      Depending on how you determine or measure this, its not any different than their age group as a whole or the nation as a whole.

      • JCC says 01 November 2011 at 16:18

        The men in that generation also come from a time when there was a military draft; they weren’t necessarily going into the military in order to build character. That generation also benefitted from being able to buy homes that were more affordable relative to salary. The costs of housing have skyrocketed in many places, far outpacing salary growth. I am not begrudging that generation at all, but as they entered adulthood, they did luck out in that regard. (And I know how tough they had it in WWII, I’m talking afterwards.)

        Oh, and I know several self-made millionaires, ftr.

  57. Kathryn says 01 November 2011 at 09:32

    From these lists, I see things don’t fit for me. I also see things that have changed in my thinking over the last four years. And I see things that I’d like to change in the future.

    I’ll take what works for me, thanks!

  58. Alexia says 01 November 2011 at 09:58
    Do rich and poor people think very differently on average? Sure, I’m willing to allow that they probably do. However, the differences included on these lists make it seem as though these differences in mindset are the CAUSES for the economic differences in life, whereas by and large I’d say they are more likely to be consequences of the economic differences. This distinction is not insignificant.

    A great many of these differences seem attributable to differences in locus of control. Poor people believe “life happens to me”? That’s an external locus of control — the belief that powerful others, fate, or chance primarily determine events. Know why poor people might believe that? Oh, maybe because powerful others, fate or chance often determine events in their lives. Not to say that poor people don’t have any control over what happens in their lives, but it is A FACT that people with more money have more control over what happens in their lives and the lives of others.

    As for Shaun’s statement “You’re missing a small point: poor people often get rich.”, I can only say you’re missing a very large point: poor people more often stay poor. In fact, I’m willing to bet that a very, very tiny number of poor people actually get rich. The bottom 90% of earners have a median income of $33k per FAMILY (this from a NYT infographic this weekend). They are not likely to become rich en masse no mater what they do.

    J.D.’s note: I love this comment. Thank you.

    • Nicole says 01 November 2011 at 14:55

      I would recommend people watch the video clip by Sendhil Mullainathan linked to from this page: http://www.dallasfed.org/news/ca/2010/10consumer.cfm

      It has some very interesting actual data, experiments etc. that address these topics exactly. How we think about money (or time) varies exactly by how much money (or time) we have. Our behaviors change precisely because we have money (or time).

    • Shaun says 01 November 2011 at 15:16

      Of course most poor people stay poor. That’s the entire point of the list.

      I’m a 22-year-old college dropout. I work on weekends. My friends don’t. They drink on weekends.

      The idea that this behavior doesn’t magnify what causes what is absolutely delusional and insulting to those of us who /are/ doing everything right.

      Actions can change circumstances. No, it’s not perfect — and no one is suggesting it is. But in the Information Age, income mobility is more possible now than ever before.

    • jim says 01 November 2011 at 16:45

      Shaun: “You’re missing a small point: poor people often get rich.”

      Alexia: “poor people more often stay poor. In fact, I’m willing to bet that a very, very tiny number of poor people actually get rich.”

      Alexia is correct :

      Center for American Progress

      “Children from low-income families have only a 1 percent chance of reaching the top 5 percent of the income distribution, versus children of the rich who have about a 22 percent chance.”

      1% is not ‘often’ and is what I’d consider ‘tiny’.

      • Shaun says 02 November 2011 at 00:40

        Oh good grief, I said “often”, not “most”. And yes, go look at 100 kids raised by poor folk, and then tell me that 1 of those becoming rich isn’t “often”. Kids often act like their parents and have the same inclinations, training, and approach.

        That absolutely proves the point that background causes approach.

        That said, having a 1% of becoming part of the 5% is completely understandable — especially if the poor have and reinforce poor decisions.

        • jim says 02 November 2011 at 08:36

          Ok I think you misused the word ‘often’ then. ‘often’ means frequently or many times. 1 in 100 is not ‘often’. You wouldn’t say that you go to the movies ‘often’ if you do so once a year. 1 in 100 is not often or frequent it is seldem and infrequent.

  59. Val says 01 November 2011 at 09:58

    JD, I’m very disappointed. These lists smack of “The Power of Positive Thinking” and affirmations and “thinking it makes it so” – so if you’re not monetarily rich, you must simply be thinking wrong. Not that the playing field is egregiously tilted toward those who already have greater means, no no no. It’s like telling someone who has cancer that if they will just pep up their attitude, they’ll cure the cancer.

    We need to wake up to the fact that our treasured national delusion – that anyone who works hard, pulls himself up by his bootstraps, blah blah blah has a shot at becoming scandalously rich – is a fantasy.

    More than all that, though, I have trouble accepting any list that suggests that those of lesser means are lesser people. Poverty is not a moral failing. And sometimes life simply sucks.

    • Matt A. says 02 November 2011 at 12:48

      Val, that attitude by the Left is precisely what’s poisoning the lives of poor people. Poverty is not a moral failing, but very frequently it’s the result of mental failings. The more you resist that, the farther away you get from being able to help them– and, ironically, the more moral most people feel.

      • Lynda says 02 November 2011 at 13:36

        Valid distinction between moral failing and mental failing, I guess, but I think the point being made by Val is that there are still huge and possibly overwhelmingly powerful external factors that may keep many from achieving wealth — even if they have the perfect mindset and work ethic.

        I don’t see this as pure left/right debate, but obviously many of us disagree on the degree to which your economic circumstances are internally driven or externally driven.

  60. Amy says 01 November 2011 at 10:03

    Some people seem to think that success is all about choice, and other people seem to think that success is all about circumstance, but isn’t it really equally both?

    I mean… in the worst of circumstances, no matter what choices you make you are not going to be successful.

    But even the best of circumstances won’t save you if you make terrible choices.

    And yes, there is no denying that the right attitude and the right determination and the right way of thinking gets you very far, and that people can “make their own luck”, as it were.

    But there is also no denying that it is much, much easier to make your own luck when you already have some to begin with.

    We should NOT discount the power of attitude and choice. Indeed, I think that there are MANY people who do discount it, and we should be educating and encouraging those people to help them make attitude adjustments and choices that will benefit their lives better.

    But it seems to me that both of the lists in this post are indicating that those who are not successful are obviously making the wrong choices and have the wrong attitude, and frankly that is dead wrong and more than a bit insulting.

    • Courtney says 01 November 2011 at 11:00

      “But even the best of circumstances won’t save you if you make terrible choices.” – ‘Terrible’ is a sliding scale that is dependent on your circumstances.

  61. Jacob says 01 November 2011 at 10:04

    I like this article. Like many other posters here, I have experience in both the “less fortunate” and “fortunate” financial sides. When I was $40,000 in debt, I would have been incredibly offended by this article (not implying that this is why others are offended) because it represented me a great deal, especially the “victim mentality”. I blamed others for my debt and life, not my own poor decisions. Some of my situation was out of my control, but a lot more than I wanted to admit was based on my decisions.

    I should be clear that it would be easy for me to get offended at this article and point out the large numbers of folks that I knew that didn’t fit these ideas. The ones who had a ton of bad luck, worked their butts off, and still couldn’t break the cycle, but that’s clearly not JD’s point. No one on this forum thinks that poor people are just lazy or that all rich people deserve their good fortune (nor will anyone buy that all poor people are noble and all rich folks selfish and undeserving). These lists are being presented as a tool that we can all use to evaluate ourselves and our mindsets.

    Do I believe that rich people are better than poor? Absolutely not, but I do believe that, in general, they must be doing something that I can learn from. I could dismiss Bill Gates as a one-in-a-million figure who had a lot of good luck, but even if that’s true it would be a waste. There’s always something that we can learn from those who are where we aspire to be. Regarding the list’s content, the elements from Ecker’s list that especially resonate with me are 3, 7, 8, 13, 14, and 15. It’s interesting to think about my mindset and the internal messages that I give myself. Am I sabotaging myself unintentionally? I think that these are definitely issues that are interesting to explore.

    I know that we have a lot of intelligent/successful folks on this forum. Does anyone have any advice for improving your internal messaging and maintaining/building motivation and ambition?

  62. Paris says 01 November 2011 at 10:06

    The thinking behind these lists is so fairy-tale that they are almost not worth acknowledging, but here’s my thought on the difference between how rich people think differently than the rest of us (poor or middle class):

    Rich people THINK they’ve earned their wealth. The rest of us KNOW we have.

    Some wealthy people have earned their wealth, but rarely have they done so on a level playing field; typically it is tilted in their favor already. Most poor and middle class people have earned every penny they own and often achieved this distinction despite the odds being against them. Therefore, we understand exactly how far merit will get you. It will get you somewhere, but not anywhere you might seek to go.

    • KM says 02 November 2011 at 01:18

      Be careful with that “most” you’re throwing around…I’m a person who grew up poor and currently, though I’m not super rich, I am in the top 10%–very comfortable. And yes, I believe it was mostly through hard work and merit. I worked hard in school and saved. My current job/income is because of my doctoral degree.

      It’s just plain wrong to say that hard work and merit doesn’t make any difference in a person’s income or economic situation. Maybe it doesn’t explain 100% of the difference, but it does explain a lot in many cases. Feel free to drop out of high school if you don’t believe me, and check out how well you do after that…

  63. Dr. Jason Cabler (@DrCabler) says 01 November 2011 at 10:07

    I thinks it’s a mindset. You can have a poverty attitude and all that entails, or you can have a success or wealth mentality.

    The word millionaire is such an artificial measure. I think “successful” might be the better word to use for those that choose the path to financial success.

    I teach people in my Celebrating Financial Freedom course that you won’t be able to succeed financially if you possess and feed a poverty mentality. But you can easily change that mentality if you choose to do so.

    Thanks for the great post, and remember…

    “When you help me with money, you help the world prosper.”- J.M. DuMont

  64. partgypsy says 01 November 2011 at 10:10

    I think these authors really need to distinguish between “successful” and “rich.” I know of many successful people who lead satisfying lives and are well-known and respected in their chosen endeavors. Many of them fit the stereotype of “rich”, yet only a minority are financially rich.

    From my personal experience, the biggest difference I’ve seen in rich versus poor (or non-rich) people, given other basic characteristics of ambition and skill, is they value making money over most other life objectives and have organized their life around that, starting from what they decide to devote their life to (business yes, art, no). Also the way they make decisions, is that it is a game with winners and losers and they want to be on the winning side. Some of the examples I can think off the top of my head: is a man who rather than keep affordable low-income housing, evicts the tenants so he can bulldoze and build expensive condos. Another person who gets a job dealing in weapons of mass destruction, the rationale being that if he didn’t someone else would and now my family is better off. Or lastly force a brother out of the family business using a personal tragedy to gain full ownership. Heck what other people see as personal tragedy, others see as a business opportunity. Intuitively these were the “right” decisions because it made them richer. From my personal experience anyways, (at least some) rich people ARE different from the rest of us:they are willing to make decisions that most of us would have ethical difficulty with, or simply wuld not entertain.

  65. Brenton says 01 November 2011 at 10:12

    Its too bad that by the time us west coast people finally get on to read this blog, most of the conversation has already taken place.

    This is a very interesting subject, if you can prevent the sort of gag reflex some of the commenters exhibited.

    This is just a list, meant to spark interesting discussion. The “Im taking my ball and going home” crowd is totally missing the point. As JD has said, and Im paraphrasing, even the most idiotic idea can have some merit, even if that merit is just that it caused you think about something in a different way.

    The list doesnt apply to everyone, no list does. The difference between poor and rich, IMO, is the sheep mentality. Poor people who stay poor dont educate themselves. They are content with their ignorance.

    I just remarked the other day, after listening to a radio DJ talk for 5 minutes about Lindsay Lohan doing a playboy photo shoot, and asking callers how much it would take for you to strip naked, that I can no longer relate to the average American. The average person is just too ignorant, their viewpoint too narrow, and their plans/goals in life too short sighted.

    If you work 8 hours a day, and then come home and watch TMZ, only to do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day… without ever thinking bigger, then you will never become rich. Ever.

    Im not saying those people who do that are inferior(although the TMZ part makes it hard), but hearing people complain about their lot in life when they have never *tried* to do better, or when they ignore the hard work and sacrifice others have made to get where they are, is irritating.

    • Carla says 01 November 2011 at 10:26

      Do you really think the majority of Americans watch TMZ (I don’t even know what that is!) and care about L. Lohan stripping naked? Maybe you should get out more because no one I know is even remotely interested in that garbage. I mean, why were you listening to it in the first place? 😉 See what I mean about stereotypes?

      • Brenton says 01 November 2011 at 11:12

        It was on the radio while I was riding in someone else’s car. I do think the majority of Americans watch TMZ, although certainly not all(you are one example, allegedly, and I am another).

        And I was obviously stereotyping when I said “average”.

        Nevertheless its totally true that most people are just far too unconcerned with issues greater than their immediate plight. In the third world, this is understandable. In America, it is not. Even the poorest American has access to information via local library, and has the oppurtunity to educate themselves via that information or through gov’t guaranteed student loans.

        If you choose to stay ignorant of the world around you, then that is your choice. Most americans make that choice.

        • Carla says 01 November 2011 at 11:28

          See, I have an issue with the use of the word, “most”. I guess its most if most of the people YOU know watch it. For me its very few because no one I personally know does. I would like to see some statistical information regarding this, but I know that’s impossible.

          Its generalizations like these is how racial and national stereotypical get started. Being part of a minority group, I know that all too well.

        • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 11:36

          The facts don’t back you up though.

          18.5M people read TMZ (statistics April of 2011)

          There are 312M Americans – which means only about 6% of Americans read TMZ which isn’t even close to a majority.

        • Des says 01 November 2011 at 13:23

          The TMZ thing is distracting you from the real point: the average American watches 35 hours of TV a *week* (according to Nielson stats). That is nearly a full time job! Whether its TMZ or soap operas or the Office doesn’t really matter. That is a lot of wasted time every week. (If it were all documentaries, there would be a lot more of those being broadcast as opposed to reality shows and sitcoms). If all you do is work 9-5 then come home and eat, sit, and sleep nothing is going to change in your life.

        • Brenton says 01 November 2011 at 13:24

          Oh dear lord…

          18.5M people read TMZ. Thats worse than even I would have predicted.

          Anyway, I wasnt saying that greater than 50% of the population watches the show TMZ, and inferring that from my posts is disingenuous and/or completely missing the point. The point was that the number of well informed Americans is far below the number of uninformed Americans. I dont even need to any complicated statistical research. Just consider the fact that the US congress has an approval rating below 20%, yet over 70% of US congressman get re-elected every 2 years. But hey, by all means continue to straw-man my arguments as our country swirls around the toilet bowl, getting ready to go under at any moment because the average person, the one you are trying to defend, is too lazy to read up on who they are voting for.

    • Jane says 01 November 2011 at 14:05

      Good lord, Brenton. You cannot extrapolate anything based on how many people read or watch TMZ. I go to the site once in a while and (gasp!) subscribe to US Weekly, and guess what? I have a Ph.D., listen to NPR for at least an hour a day, and read a weekly news magazine and also read the New York Times Online.

      You can argue that our country is going down the toilet educationally, but I think you need a little more evidence than you have currently presented.

      And for the record, I watch TV every night too. Oh, my. But our income grew this year and will probably continue to do so.

      Stop the presses – people and their interests are complex!

      • Brenton says 01 November 2011 at 14:20

        TMZ was just a symbol of nonsense, it wasnt meant to be taken literally as “anyone who ever watches TMZ is destined to be poor, dumb, and useless”.

        I was just pointng out that people often dont look beyond their own personal bubble.

        PS: My respect for academia just plummetted at the thought of a doctoral candidate watching TMZ while working on his/her thesis.

        • Carla says 01 November 2011 at 17:25


        • Nicole says 01 November 2011 at 18:04

          Brenton, honey, when you spend all day thinking and thinking hard, your brain needs something completely mindless to relax to so your subconscious can work on the tough problems you didn’t solve during the day.

          If you seek only mentally stimulating activities outside of your day job, then perhaps your day job just isn’t that challenging.

        • KM says 02 November 2011 at 01:25

          I agree with Brenton—if you spend a lot of time doing useless stuff like watching trash TV, it does have an effect on your life, and probably your financial situation too.

          I know people who say they are “too busy” to clean their house and they live in a disgusting mess. But of course they do have time to watch 6 hrs of tv every night!

          Of course some people use TV to relax after an intense day–not a problem. You just have to evaluate whether you really have the time to do stuff like that or not.

  66. Tonya says 01 November 2011 at 10:23

    I haven’t read either book, but I *have* read Millionaire Next Door, and so far I like what that book has to say more than the other two.

    The definition of “rich” or “millionaire” really need to be defined. I’m a teacher. I will never make a lot of money. I believe strongly in what I do and work my butt off at it. Can I be a millionaire some day? If you define that as having a net worth of a million dollars (like Millionaire Next Door), yeah, that possibility exists, if I work hard and am smart with my money. Will I ever be “rich”? Not by any normal definition of the word, but I feel very blessed with a career and family and steady income.

    I grew up with a father with the entrepreneurial spirit who just never quite made it. He could have been rich if things had turned his way, but instead he was a man with many obligations and no consistent income. All of us kids are thrilled to have a steady income and insurance and the stability we never had. There is a lot to be said for financial stability and a career you love.

    I believe I can get rich slowly by being smart and consistent. I am well educated, give generously, continue to learn every day, am positive about my life and my future, and associate with positive wonderful people from every different income level. I literally have millionaires next door who got there by being smart and consistent, not by being an entrepreneurial millionaire like Steve Jobs. Some of them were even teachers!

  67. Tonya says 01 November 2011 at 10:28

    I would be curious to see how many of the truly wealthy have taken out bankruptcy at least once. I’d be willing to bet a high percentage of them.

  68. Anna says 01 November 2011 at 10:44

    To the extent that these lists of attributes of rich people are based in reality, it only applies to a certain kind of rich person … the self-made first generation kind. Lots of people marry into money or inherit money and their attitudes and work ethic do not have a direct connection to their income level.

    Likewise, the lists of attributes of poor people only apply to a certain kind of poor person. Lots of people come from circumstances that handicap their ability to earn money or keep money because of bad luck, bad choices, illness, family responsibilities or whathaveyou.

    Others deliberately choose to make a smaller income because they choose careers in education, the arts or social justice that require it. They are making a deliberate trade off – money for non-material rewards.

    The poor people described in this list are really middle class people who despite having all the same opportunities, values and inclinations are unable to get their lives started and who may have ended up poorer than they began.

    • Des says 01 November 2011 at 13:27

      “Lots of people marry into money or inherit money and their attitudes and work ethic do not have a direct connection to their income level.”

      It depends on what you mean by “lots”. The vast majority of American millionaires are self-made.

  69. Angela says 01 November 2011 at 11:01

    This post reminded me of a conversation I had with my father when I was about 10 years old. He told me that he was poor growing up in rural Missouri, but never lived in poverty. Most of his friends were either poor or in poverty, but he was always in the “poor” category. I asked him what the difference was between being poor and being in poverty. He told me that being poor is a temporary situation, while poverty is a state of mind. His poor friends lived in tidy houses and the grass was always cut; his friends in poverty lived in messy houses with overgrown lawns. The poor kids had parents who thought their childrens’ futures were bright with good opportunities; the kids in poverty had parents who thought their futures were bleak and hopeless.

    I’ve always remembered this conversation and it made a big impact on me. Yes, it’s a somewhat simplistic view of things, but it made sense to me as a child, and it still makes sense to me now. My dad is now solidly in the upper middle class, and I think his success is largely due to his mindset.

  70. Anne says 01 November 2011 at 11:09

    Disgusting. End of comment.

    • Angela says 01 November 2011 at 12:27

      I’m curious to know why you find this disgusting. To me, the lesson from what my dad told me was this: If you give up hope, if you let life happen to you, if you just accept your circumstances, you will never improve your station in life. On the other hand, if you always believe you can overcome negative circumstances and you work hard to do so, at least you have a decent chance. It’s no guarantee, but the odds are significantly better than just giving up.

      • Jane says 01 November 2011 at 14:11

        Angela – I don’t think Anne’s comment was directed at you but rather at the article as a whole. She didn’t directly reply to you, so it was my understanding that the “disgusting” was about J.D.’s article.

  71. retirebyforty says 01 November 2011 at 11:18

    I think Eker has got it mostly right. I have more ticks in the rich column than poor so that bode well for the future. 🙂

    • partgypsy says 01 November 2011 at 11:39

      Good for you! And maybe you can read your horoscope in the newspaper and find out if you will win the lottery next week as well!

  72. Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land says 01 November 2011 at 11:21

    When I read these lists, I see myself reflected in the way rich people think. Despite never earning much money, my husband and I are approaching rich, when it comes to net worth, even though I’m still in my thirties.

    My thought is that considering yourself poor can be something of a victim mentality–the world has done me wrong; being rich or working toward building wealth means figuring out what it takes to get things done, then doing it.

    For my family, the way to build wealth has been extreme (yet joyful) frugality and investing, and thinking long term. Giving is very important to us, too.

  73. Greg says 01 November 2011 at 11:26

    It is certainly valuable to discover what mindsets/traits are common among successful and unsuccessful people. However, it’s not helping anyone to read lists which suggest acting like a rich person when that isn’t possible or practical for someone. It would be more helpful to have well-researched information about what someone in a similar situation can do to better their life/improve their financial health. As long as the research is based on opinions and anecdotes, it will be/appear biased, lack credibility.

  74. Gerard says 01 November 2011 at 11:29

    I don’t know if there are simple lists which define the difference between the rich and the poor.
    The Millionaire Next Door does the best job in my opinion. Besides being able to decide where people spend their money on, it is also where they spend their money on.

  75. margot says 01 November 2011 at 11:32

    Interesting. While obviously not perfect, I think there’s a lot of truth on these lists. People who disagree must not have spent much time being observant in all poor or all rich communities or groups of people. I’ve been in both, and a lot of these generalities apply (but certainly not always, and there are certainly many other factors, including systemic and political problems).

    A lot of factors on these lists explain why some families in America are poor over many (3, 4, 5…) generations, while immigrants who arrive in America with nothing often do better.

    I do see these lists breaking down a bit regarding the people I know who are living off of their parents’ or family wealth. I’m guessing that inherited wealth often creates a different personality than those who worked for their millions.

    • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 12:03

      Ugh. People always say things like that, but do you realize how many of these ‘immigrants who came with nothing’ came with an amazing *education*? And how often they moved into an environment that boosted their chance of success (ie, they had connections and networks of other immigrants)?

      Not to mention it’s one of those statements that only counts ‘successes’ on one side and only counts ‘failures’ on the other.

  76. Krantcents says 01 November 2011 at 11:41

    Rich (successful) people keep trying to succeed despite failing. The keep trying until they succeed!

  77. Melissa says 01 November 2011 at 12:00

    I’m highly skeptical of both lists. They sound anecdotal. Do either have any sort of numbers to back up their claims? There’s also a heavy dose of what reads to me as a sort of paternalism: if you poor people just Try Hard and Think Successfully, money will come to you! I agree that systematic causes of poverty, particularly generational poverty, are too lightly dismissed by these lists.

    There’s a second assumption here that I don’t swallow, though. I don’t think rich necessarily equals successful. I’m successful but not rich. Surely there’s others out there?

  78. gerard kiernan says 01 November 2011 at 12:05

    My wife has pointed out in the past that one thing in the USA is that being poor is associated with Shame. People are embarrassed to be poor because our culture says that if you are not wealthy it is because you are a screw-up in some fashion. In places where everyone is poor, by contrast, it is not as much of a hang-up. I think she is right.

    It is lovely that people can become financially successful in this country, though it seems trickier than ever. I agree that a positive, empowered mental outlook can help in financial success, as can resiliency and positive risk-taking.
    How do we get to where more people are in positions to have those traits? I think that working on that does a lot more than celebrating the few and putting down the many. The whole focus on making life better for the 1%, or the ‘job-creators’ seems misplaced to me, when we should create a climate of education , empowerment, and consciousness for the many.

  79. Kaytee says 01 November 2011 at 12:14

    I guess I missed the memo that says only rich people are successful. It must have been the same one that said rich and wealthy are interchangeable. It seems as though there are several different ideas going on in the comments, and in the piece, that are getting mushed together.

  80. JP A says 01 November 2011 at 12:17

    This post is interesting if for no other reason than that is spurs a great conversation.

    The perspective of rich vs. poor simplifies the question too much.

    I draw the line that Stanley makes. There are two types of rich people:
    1. The Rich
    2. People who act like they’re rich

    The second group acts very differently from the first.

    The second group makes six figures and has fancy degrees. They’re rich. But they’re not like the millionaire misers.

    So on bunching the rich into on large bucket I strongly disagree. One of the great things about GRS is that it teaches people to act like #1 and not like #2. There’s a difference.

    I would be very curious to see if there is a similar distinction between 2 or 3 groups within the poor sections of our country.

  81. Steve S says 01 November 2011 at 12:21

    J.D. I’ve read that list more thoroughly again and almost every single one can be tied to a tenet of “getting rich slowly”. I think it is just the barrage of getting 27 pointers all at once (and the always button-pushing “rich” vs. “poor” language) that is getting people upset.

    Not to belabor the point, but for example:

    6. “Poor people associate with negative or unsuccessful people”, i.e. your articles about how to navigate friendships where the other couple spends a lot more money than you and forces you to live above your means

    13. “Poor people focus on their working income”, i.e. “spend more than you earn”, focus on both sides of the equation (net worth) instead of just spending or increasing income

    1. “Millionaires think long-term”, i.e. getting rich slowly, duh

    2. “The Middle class talks about things and people.”, i.e. making sure you are getting value from your Stuff and not just doing it to keep up

    You get my point. I think you should secretly insert these distinctions into a series of blog posts from your point of view, and see the positive response you get as opposed to the backlash you are getting today.

  82. jim says 01 November 2011 at 12:38

    The lists are gross generalizations and stereotypes. THey appear to be based on nothing more than a pile of assumptions from individual authors. Some of the items are just vapid nonsense. I can’t deny there is some truth to some items but there is no distinction between cause and effect. Certainly many of the traits prescribed to the rich are how rich people act because they are rich and have the luxury / ability to act that way. A few of the points are just gross stereotypes. Item #8 on the millionaire seems to be simply incorrect as we know that low income people give to charity at higher % rates.

    This is what I think :

    Your parents affluence and your education level trumps everything on both lists combined.

    Think about this: Take all the rich people in the country. Set aside the 10-20% who inherited their wealth. Remove their education and remove their parents wealth. Would most of them still be rich? I seriously doubt it.
    Likewise: Take all the poor people and give their parents money and give them a college education. Are they still poor? I doubt it.

    • Shari says 01 November 2011 at 13:16

      So true! I was thinking about that earlier. Rich people can afford to send their kids off to college, and the kid graduates loan free and with a great education. Poor and middle class children, if they get to go to college at all, probably come out of it with huge loans. They start out with a disadvantage rich people don’t even have to think about.

  83. Kate says 01 November 2011 at 12:45

    I think some of the points in the Eker list are about clasically poor versus rich (like the mentality that life happens to you versus creating your own life). However, I think most of the points are basically talking about how to be an entrepreneur or leader (which is where the real “rich” money is) versus your basic salaried employee (e.g., #s 8,13,15,17) and should be taken as such. And, in that sense, I do think leader/entrepreneur is very much a mentality and quite accurately described in those lists.

    I, myself, am a very well-educated, hard working person who’s never, ever going to be “rich” because I do not have the personality traits it takes to become a big-time leader or entrepreneur and, in fact, don’t really admire alot of those characteristics, such as risk-taking and the ability to sell yourself/product when you really have nothing good to sell (#4,7,8). For every Steve Jobs, there’s a Bernie Madoff. Both had “rich” characteristics, but only one is to be admired for having such. I’m not so sure it’s appropriate to get offended but, rather, evaluate for accuracy and decide how it fits with your own value system.

  84. Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 12:49

    What it comes down to is that things like hard work, the right mindset, etc – they’re all good things. They’re valuable things, and they’re things that should be encouraged.

    But it’s a *myth* that they lead to success. All they do is create a greater *chance* that you will succeed. How much of a greater chance depends on where you start – and the worse your beginning situation, the smaller that percentage is. Which doesn’t mean don’t do it, it doesn’t mean give up. But it does mean that lists like these tend to be more harmful than good, because they perpetuate the idea that poor people are to ‘blame’ for their poverty or that the (rapidly-shrinking-and-not-because-just-that-many people-are-becoming-millionaires) middle-class is loosing ground because of their bad attitudes – it’s just wrong. And it’s not healthy to continue to perpetuate this lie.

    Not to mention this idea that all rich people behave and act in one giant, monolothic way is just nonsense. Or that all poor people do or all middle class or … Venn Diagram this up and it Doesn’t.Work. I know more than one person who have trait after trait in the ‘rich’ column of Eker’s list who have died in poverty or live paycheck to paycheck.

    And things like “Rich people admire other rich and successful people. Poor people resent rich and successful people’ – REALLY? That’s not data, that’s fear and class warfare.

    Or how about: “Rich people choose to get paid based on results. Poor people choose to get paid based on time.”

    Heh. Do you know who also ‘chooses’ to get paid on results? Migrant farm workers who get paid by the bushel.

  85. Jaime says 01 November 2011 at 12:55

    I agree. I’m making about $10,000/year and I was going to major in business because I was too scared to major in something that I loved. I realized I was making a decision based on fear.

    Poor people often do make choices out of fear. I’m sure that’s not true for all, but I was about to make a decision based out of fear. As someone in their mid twenties, I didn’t want to do that anymore.

  86. Simon says 01 November 2011 at 13:04

    most offensive post on GRS I have ever read. i am upset. what about people with those with mental disabilities or disabled war veterans? do we call them small minded? do we blame them for thinking small or “associating with unsuccessful people” when they make community with other veterans on the street?

    i understand the tenor of this article, but it could have been written FAR more nuanced than it was. this is not a list of “rich” and “poor”, this is a list of people who are on track towards financial struggle, and people who are on a track to be financially more robust!

    i am seriously reconsidering my participation in the GRS world. this article is offensive and needs to be pulled down.

    • Matt says 01 November 2011 at 15:39

      Nice knowing you. I recommend you check out GetRichNuancedly.org, it doesn’t have any controversial articles and it shies away from painful realities.

      I for one like straight shooters who tell it like it is. For those who are stuck in the poverty mentality and would like to figure out what they need to change in their life to get out of that sub-optimal worldview, “nuanced” explanations don’t cut it. I myself loved this, as it helped me see certain thought processes and tendencies that are holding me back as I seek success in all areas of my life (money, relationships, happiness, etc).

      The main point is successful people take control of themselves, make plans, and make things happen. How is this offensive? It’s motivated me to grow up and take more control of my life.

      • Simon says 03 November 2011 at 23:58

        Sorry Matt, but nuance is everything when we are heaping blame upon people who are living at the margins of society.

  87. Shari says 01 November 2011 at 13:13

    I am middle class, and have been poor (very recently). I don’t resent rich people, I resent arrogant people who assume that poor people are poor because they are lazy or stupid.

    I agree that financially, I could have more money if I made different choices. For example, I am a librarian. Not a highly paid profession, but it is what I want to do. I LOVE my job. My husband is a police officer. Same situation. Neither of us makes a lot of money, but we get by, and we like what we do.

    The problem that we have now is that with the economy being the way it is, neither of us has had a raise in several years (working for the government is not the cushy overpaid job so many people think) yet the cost of everything continues to go up, so even though we work hard, we have LESS than we had a few years ago. Does this mean we are lazy or stupid? My husband is not allowed to get a second job, and I am in graduate school at the moment, so between that and working full time I can’t get a second job either. I think in general we both do have a positive mindset–we know this is just a temporary setback, and things are going to get better. We will ride it out where we are, since we love our jobs and our community.

    We do get by, but things like car repairs and new glasses are very difficult for us. We don’t live a lavish lifestyle; my husband drives a 1986 Ford Taurus and our other car is a 2007 Mazda (new for us!). Perhaps some food for thought: why is it that education and public safety are so undervalued that people who work in those fields are barely getting by, and sometimes not even that?

    • CD says 01 November 2011 at 13:26

      This will sound harsh, but those are low paying jobs because they require little training or background knowledge for many people to fill. I think it’s great that there are people who enjoy those jobs and find them fulfilling, but salaries are a supply/demand equation. if what you do can be done by others, it doesn’t pay well. you have to acquire skills that make you uniquely qualified for a position that is in high demand in an industry that makes money- which usually means a graduate degree in a high growth field. This is why lawyers, doctors, consultants, fund managers, etc. make a lot of money. What they do requires a certain high demand skill set that takes a long time to obtain (physician= 4 years college + 4 years medical school + 3-5 years residency +/- 1-3 years of fellowship= 11 years minimum). Its find if you like what you do, but you can’t complain if you chose a profession that is not high on the supply/demand list. We don’t pay people based on their value to society, we pay them based on their monetary value to individuals and organizations for the most part.

      • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 13:32

        “This will sound harsh, but those are low paying jobs because they require little training or background knowledge for many people to fill.”

        What? You obviously have no idea of the educational requirements for either of those professions or you wouldn’t say such a ridiculous thing.

        • CD says 01 November 2011 at 13:50

          do they require 11 years of post graduate training? “little” is relative. it’s not just training, but training in the right field where supply is low relative to demand. i have no doubt that a great librarian and a great police officer require a lot of training- but can someone else fill that job at the same price? that’s what sets a salary. a phD in english might be a lot of training, but the salary is still relatively low because there are too many and what they do is not in high demand in a money making field. a phD in biostatistics, however, can be very lucrative in some areas. it is great if my english-loving friend wants to teach college composition, but she can’t demand a higher salary in a field where she knew she was not at an advantage on the supply/demand list. it’s called capitalism.

        • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 13:57

          How about this: Becoming a lawyer requires less training than becoming a doctor but the same or more training than becoming a lawyer, hedge fund manager or consultant. Thus invalidating your ‘ those are low paying jobs because they require little training or background knowledge for many people to fill

          That is NOT why they are low paying jobs. They are low paying jobs precisely for the reason Shari stated in the comment you replied to – because education and public safety are undervalued – and her question was why they are undervalued.

        • CD says 01 November 2011 at 14:09

          your comment about lawyers came out wrong, but i think i got your point. i have a lot of friends who are lawyers and they ARE coming up against the supply/demand problem. for a law job that requires few hours and little extra training the salaries are dropping due to an oversupply. my friends who make great money in law work 120+ hours a week getting “training” in the form of an associate position at a big firm. their salaries are also dropping. i strongly recommend not going into law right now unless you are willing to commit to a ton of hours. ditto for consulting.

          why are they undervalued? because those with money who pay taxes don’t feel at this time that they need to pay more police officers. judging from my experience with the police, their clientele is primarily poor and doesn’t pay their salary. you have to be a value-added job to get a pay raise. my favorite boss was a high school only graduate mogul in Hollywood. his first line of every meeting was “how much money have you made me lately?” he fired people on the spot based on their response. how much has my librarian made me lately? well, not a whole lot. should i pay her more? eh, let’s not.

        • El Nerdo says 01 November 2011 at 14:20

          Dear Capitalism:

          My life is not a commodity. Neither is yours. You can’t gamble with your life the same way you trade cattle futures.

      • Shari says 01 November 2011 at 14:46

        You need a master’s degree to be a librarian. My husband has had constant ongoing training since he started his job. Not exactly low-skill jobs, either of them, but people’s perceptions of them is perhaps a large part of the problem.

        • Vanessa says 01 November 2011 at 16:23

          The only thing companies care about is money: how much you can make for them, how much you can save them.

          The more you can show how your skills can positively affect a company’s bottom line, the more you will be paid.

      • JCC says 01 November 2011 at 16:39

        You’re changing your original argument, CD, which is that those lower-paying jobs like librarian are lower-paying because they don’t require the intense training of SOME higher paying jobs. Librarians generally need master’s degrees, for one thing. So which is it that you’re claiming – that they’re jobs anyone can do with brief training, or that they’re not profitable for the boss?
        I believe early-childhood education in particular is really undervalued in this country (U.S).

        • CD says 02 November 2011 at 16:23

          Yes I did change my argument, or shifted it’s emphasis anyway. I actually do read replies and think them over and sometimes change my mind. I think she had a good point- what you train in is probably at least as important if not more important than the length of training. you need to find a way to make yourself irreplaceable and value added. part of that is choosing the right field- one with growth and money. the other is getting enough training to be very difficult to replace. many librarians do have masters degrees and that is a significant amount of training- so in this case it’s more that your job is not value-added enough to qualify for a higher salary or there are too many similarly qualified people who can take your position at the same salary.

          We could get into a very complicated debate about why it is hard to pay teachers more based on how much value they add to a child’s education. Certainly a great teacher is worth her weight in gold and I think a good number of parents, given the option, would choose to pay for her skills. But how do we sort the gold from the chaff? The seniority system of payment in the education system and I believe (Although i admit that i do not know) police force is a contributing factor. You could make a strong argument that this insulation of the education system from the natural forces of capitalism contributes to the low pay and lack of prestige of teaching, but I will leave that debate for someone with more energy and time.

        • Ross Williams says 02 November 2011 at 18:15


          “so in this case it’s more that your job is not value-added enough to qualify for a higher salary or there are too many similarly qualified people who can take your position at the same salary.”

          I think this is a basic misunderstanding of how most salaries get site. Your theoretical free market only exists in theory. The real market in which these decisions are made is not that rational or fluid.

    • Steve S says 01 November 2011 at 13:35

      I hate to link to my own material but it is entirely relevant to this comment:


      I wrote that a while back, explaining why movie stars and athletes are PAID more, yet we VALUE the contributions of teachers/firemen/policemen more.

      It boils down to being able to sell your services to a large number of people. A teacher can provide a $2000 education to 25 students, but an athlete can provide $0.50 worth of good baseball to 40,000 people 162 times a year.

      $2000 education vs. $0.50 baseball game. One is worth more, but the paydays are different.

      Food for thought…

    • Des says 01 November 2011 at 13:52

      The tone of this comment is exactly on point. You made a decision (to work in a low paying career) for a reason (you love the work) yet still complain that you don’t have much money. I’m reminded of a Carlos Mencia line about overweight people that are unhappy with their weight. He said, “Be fat and happy, or lose weight.”

      You said yourself you could make more money if you wanted to, but other things (having a job you love) are more important to you. Great! That’s awesome, and you are better of than most because of it. But you can’t have it all. Why be unhappy about having less money when that was a choice you made (a choice, btw, that others don’t have)?

      • Tracy says 01 November 2011 at 13:59

        She’s not complaining! She’s pointing out something that’s become a systematic problem in our society – that people are slipping backwards, despite doing everything ‘right’.

        • Des says 02 November 2011 at 11:39

          But she is not doing everything “right”. She is taking a calculated risk by accepting a lower-paying job in exchange for more enjoyment from her work. There is nothing wrong with that, I plan to do so myself one day, but call it what it is: she is essentially “paying” for the luxury of a job she loves going to. With her stagnant wages, that luxury is costing her more and more each year. It is a cost-benefit analysis she is making for herself, not a systemic problem with society. She said herself she has the option to make more money if she chose to. There would be a problem for people who lack that option. We can talk about those folks one by one, but her case is not an example of a systemic social problem.

        • Tracy says 03 November 2011 at 08:22

          This isn’t a matter of ‘she’s not making a lot of money, but it’s a trade off for doing something she loves’

          This is a matter of wages in many government positions being frozen, benefits cut and employees forced to take mandatory unpaid furloughs (which are actually equivalent to pay cuts, rather than simply frozen wages)

          And it’s not just government positions – I know many, many people who work for private industries who have had raises frozen for one, two or three years. Meanwhile their healthcare premiums are going up. That is the problem I’ve been talking about.

    • El Nerdo says 01 November 2011 at 14:14

      Dear Shari,

      According to these ideologues, you are stupid, because if you had a “rich person lookout” you would pursue a different job.

      You see of course the perverse logic of that. If everyone was “rich and therefore virtuous,” then nobody would work for anybody, nobody would do anything, nobody would jump into a building when it’s burning and nobody would take care of the sick and the old. Nobody would cook meals and tend bar when the rich take their vacation. Nobody would shop for food either, or transport food. Nobody would grow crops or raise cattle. Nobody would embalm and bury anybody when they die, either.

      Wonderful, isn’t it? If everybody was rich, there would be no problems, nobody would ever die, and we would be happy all the time.

      • Ohplease says 02 November 2011 at 12:19

        El Nerdo, you rock. Well said.

  88. pragmaticone says 01 November 2011 at 13:13

    On a matter like this of adjudicating causality, it helps making a distinction between what’s ‘necessary’ vs what’s ‘sufficient’.

    Seems to me that many of the “rich” traits–and I stress many, not all–are necessary, but not sufficient to become rich. What provides the extra oomph to success are essentially random factors: pure luck, timing, parents, and many others owing the general zig & zag of life. Many here have alluded to those.

    One can imagine a community of dead logs floating about the sea, among which a virtuous minority makes it to a nice little deserted beach where they can spend the rest of their ‘lives’ (=rich). Contrast with other logs who were not quite as “successful” because they got bashed against rocks, broken in pieces by the surf, eaten up by microorganisms, not big enough, or just not fortunate enough to end up on the right current to end up at the desirable beach.
    Yes, some of the “successful” logs’ inherent factors such as being a big, strong, with slightly better constitutions, a better starting point, and a plethora of other initial circumstances will definitely help (=traits), but not by themselves determine that they will reach the nice little beach.

    One can also easily picture the dead logs in the desirable beach holding a big self-congratulatory party talking about how they just worked harder and were “better” than the other lazy logs who just couldn’t make it to the beach. They look around themselves and rightfully notice they’re all big, strong, and arrived from the same direction and current as the others. So, they figure, those factors, BY THEMSELVES, determined why they are successful and who they are. If only all other dead logs would just emulate them.
    (due credit to Rush’s song ‘The Trees’ in which a similar concept is explored)

    In short: hard work, effort, and some of the other factors matter for the most part, but they’re not sufficient. On the flip-side, when someone is poor it *may* just be that they’re being carried by the wrong current.

  89. Evan says 01 November 2011 at 13:25


    There are some serious blame-the-victim issues in this post.

    Reminds me of when people tell me I can cure my depression by just “thinking happy thoughts!” It’s not that easy, but unless you’re been that in position before, you just don’t get it. This is the same – you aren’t going to get out of being in poverty with just a “good attitude.” There are structural factors which make it difficult.

  90. Adam P says 01 November 2011 at 13:52

    Wow…quite the reaction. I definitely disagree it’s a mindset or thinking that makes people wealthy or not. Way too much is defined by circumstance and genetics.

    The marshmallow tests that show kids at 3 years old who can practice self restraint being successful as adults while those who can’t are unsuccessful kind of came to mind when I read this, anyone else? I think this trait is somewhat inherent, and therefore genetic.

    I come from privilaged family, went to great schools, had full time live in help, I’m white, male, and over six feet tall. Does this help me advance in corporate finance? Um. Hell yes. Is that fair? Not in an ideal world, no. Everyone should have an equal chance, regardless of where they were born and to what parents. They didn’t choose it. But it’s not the case, and may never be.

    So genetics and circumstances(luck?) can explain rich versus poor in many cases.

    For the things that are up to the individual; I do run into this with my friends. They’ll explain that I’m “lucky” that I live so close to work or that I can go to the gym on my lunch break….when luck has nothing to do with any of those things. Or lucky that I have a good job when I got my Masters and worked my way up the totem pole by putting in huge hours, taking night classes, and being a reliable employee. Nothing of that is luck.

    And sometimes I think that people DO blame luck for their situation when it doesn’t apply; really what they call bad luck is really just laziness and lack of motivation to improve themselves.

    Of course, this is far from a universal truth, and moving between classes is much harder than it should be if it were just up to hard work and “postiive thinking”.

    • JCC says 01 November 2011 at 16:45

      Are going to the gym at lunch, or living close to work, make-or-break career moments that were pivotal in your success? I think one can’t minimize the advantages of going to the best schools and, per your words, coming from enough family money that you had live-in help.
      There are plenty of poor people who work back-breakingly long, hard hours; the benefits of coming from a fortuitous starting point cannot be overstated, particularly with networking, knowing the “right” way to act, and the like.

      • Adam P says 01 November 2011 at 18:17

        “Are going to the gym at lunch, or living close to work, make-or-break career moments that were pivotal in your success?”

        Actually, in a way, yes. Not sure if this was a rhetorical question. Living next to work means I can work an extra 2 hours a day and not have any commute, and not sacrifice any more free time than a person who lives an hour away by train/subway/car/etc (Toronto has notorious bad time). Going to the gym at lunch when the other C level people do means networking with them, as well as I am in good shape which improves my appearance which sadly does help my career–fair or not.

        “I think one can’t minimize the advantages of going to the best schools and, per your words, coming from enough family money that you had live-in help.
        There are plenty of poor people who work back-breakingly long, hard hours; the benefits of coming from a fortuitous starting point cannot be overstated, particularly with networking, knowing the “right” way to act, and the like.”

        I agree with you 100% here. It’s a huge advantage that rich people are born into and poor people are deprived of…and in an ideal world it wouldn’t exist. We’d live in a 100% meritocracy where rich people are rich because they work hard and are creative hard thinkers. We’ll probably never get there but we can strive for this by rewarding hard work and creative thought and NOT rewarding lazy people and stupidity that is brought on by not wanting to learn.

  91. J.D. says 01 November 2011 at 13:54

    Okay, Kris and I are finished with today’s touring in Cusco, Peru. That gives me some time to research the archives for the post i mentioned earlier.

    In February 2008, I shared research from the Economic Mobility Project, which found:

    • “Across every income group, Americans are more likely to surpass their parents’ income in absolute terms if they earn a college degree, reinforcing the conventional wisdom that higher education provides a means for opportunity.” You are four times more likely to move from poverty to wealth if you earn a college degree than if you do not.
    • “Family background plays an equally, if not more important, role than education.” If you are born into wealth, you have a 23% chance of remaining wealthy if you don’t obtain an education. Yet if you’re born into poverty, you only have an 19% chance of moving to the top, and that’s if you earn a college degree. (There’s only a 5% chance if you don’t get an education.)
    • “Data show that…there is ‘stickiness’ at the ends of the wealth distribution.” About one-third of those born into poverty remain in poverty. About one-third of those born into wealth remain wealthy. (There’s a lot of movement up and down among the middle-class, however.)

    Though it’s difficult to move from one end of the economic spectrum to the other, there’s a lot of bubbling up and down to (and from) the vast middle class.

    So, yes, those arguing that people do move from poor to rich are correct. But it’s not common, especially for those without an education. I’m not sure about economic mobility in other countries, but I suspect in the U.S. it’s actually easier to move up and down than in other parts of the world. (I’d love to see some data, though.)

    • Anna says 01 November 2011 at 14:19

      The point you make about education is a real factor. This is why immigrants are often successful, that they either arrive with a great education or they make sure they or their kids get one just as soon as they get to the US. That’s why the current conversation around how useless a college degree is really bugs me.

      Maybe for that one outstanding Steve Jobs genius its useless, or someone who has resources to start a business at a young age, but if you are trying to move out of poverty, or even from the lower middle class to the upper middle class, a college degree it is essential. Even in the Great Recession, whether or not you have an advanced degree is a better predictor of how well you are weathering hard times than any other metric.

      That’s also why solving the student loan issue is so critical.

    • jim says 01 November 2011 at 14:55

      The link between peoples earnings and their parents earning is higher in the USA than in many/most western industrial nations.

      See : Intergeneraitonal Social Mobility Across OECD Countries example Figure 5.1


      Understanding Mobility in America

      “By international standards, the United States has an unusually low level of intergenerational mobility… Among high-income countries for which comparable estimates are available, only the United Kingdom had a lower rate of mobility than the United States”

  92. John says 01 November 2011 at 13:55

    Amazing push back against this post. What if we changed the wording and remove the trigger words. Would that make it more palatable? Something like:

    More successful people believe: “I create my life.”
    Less successful people believe: “Life happens to me.”

    More successful people believe they must be generous.
    Less successful people believes they can’t afford to give.

    More successful people are willing to promote themselves and their value.
    Less successful people think negatively about selling and promotion.

    • John says 01 November 2011 at 17:12

      As a thought experiment, I replaced rich with artist and put this in an art context.

      1. Successful artists believe: “I create my art.”
      2. Successful artists play the art game to win.
      3. Successful artists are committed to being good artists.
      4. Successful artists think grand.
      5. Successful artists focus on opportunities.
      6. Successful artists admire other good and successful artists.
      7. Successful artists associate with positive, successful artists.
      8. Successful artists are willing to promote themselves and their value.
      9. Successful artists are bigger than their art problems.
      10. Successful artists are excellent receivers.
      11. Successful artists choose to get paid based on results.
      12. Successful artists think “both”.
      13. Successful artists focus on their artistic worth.
      14. Successful artists manage their art skills well.
      15. Successful artists have their art works work hard for them.
      16. Successful artists act in spite of fear.
      17. Successful artists constantly learn and grow.

      Seems like a good blue print really.

      • skp says 01 November 2011 at 17:34

        Successful artists are artistic. I can hardly draw a stick figure.

      • BD says 01 November 2011 at 19:23

        As an artist, I can tell you that I do everything on your new list, and am STILL stuck living under the poverty level. Why?

        Two reasons:
        1) Successful artists need a steady stream of customers willing to pay reasonable prices for art (and most people aren’t willing to pay for art).
        2) Successful artists need to have a natural knack for art that makes them more skilled than the thousands of other artists competing for the small amount of money people are willing to spend on art.

        Without the above two, you could do everything on your list, and STILL fail (and trust me, I know literally dozens of talented artists who tried hard, did everything on the list, and still failed due to the economy and over-saturated market, and are now forced to try to learn another skill).

        Heck, even the President of the United States isn’t willing to pay for art. He is holding an ART CONTEST to get promotional posters for “supporting American jobs”. The “winner” gets their art signed by him. That’s their prize. No money at all for their hard work.

        In other words, by using art in your example, you’re only proving how Eker’s points about the rich and the poor is largely incorrect.

        • John says 02 November 2011 at 10:13

          1)most people aren’t willing to pay for art…
          I agree that many people HATE to pay for art or anything creative. They think it’s effortless. These are people who would never pay for your art anyway.
          I have also see a movement where the wise artists are not giving their art away. Their mind set is “I have a quality product and you want my quality product, so we need to negotiate what is a fair amount.”

          2) Successful artists need to have a natural knack for art….
          Nope. Don’t agree with that. Success in art is a combination of mind numbing amounts of practice and self promotion and yes, some talent and luck. Too many struggling artists seem to obsess over the talent part.
          So going back to the original topic, too many “not rich” people seem to obsesses over luck and not enough on skill and promotion.

          As an artist, do you feel you are owed something for being an artist, for creating the art you create?

        • John says 02 November 2011 at 10:23

          Would you say that successful plumbers need to have a natural knack for plumbing that makes them more skilled than the thousands of other plumbers?

        • Tracy says 03 November 2011 at 08:26


          You just completely dismantled your original argument in this reply.

  93. Erin says 01 November 2011 at 14:02

    Both these lists present false dichotomies, so arguing their accuracy seems like a waste of time to me. I don’t find the lists offensive, just stupid.

  94. barnetto says 01 November 2011 at 14:05

    J.D.’s note: I love this. Thanks for sharing.

  95. Stacy says 01 November 2011 at 14:15

    I recently moved from the Midwest to San Francisco where my mix of friends has definitely changed. One of the biggest adjustments for me has been relating to my new friends here who grew up with significantly more money than I did. In the Midwest I felt like I was on the same wavelength with my friends because we all came from similar financial backgrounds. Therefore for me the difference between the rich and the poor is the rich have the ability to make decisions based on the here and now worrying less about compromising their future because their financial future is more certain. The poor are more risk averse and are more likely to make decisions based on the possible negative implications those decisions could have on their future.

  96. eemusings says 01 November 2011 at 14:19

    That children are plentiful/cheap and often unplanned, vs cherished and planned for.

    That bosses should take personal circumstances and factors outside of work/office into account when it comes to deciding pay, vs solely merit-based decision.
    My two observations.

    • Brenton says 01 November 2011 at 14:31

      WTH? Bosses should take personal circumstance into account rather than merit when decided on pay increases/promotions?

      You cannot be serious… can you?

      • BD says 01 November 2011 at 19:27

        I think eemusings is saying that there are two more factors between rich and poor.

        1) Poor People have unplanned kids. Rich people have planned kids.

        2) Poor People often have the bad luck of being at jobs where their bosses show favoritism based on someone’s outside merits (ie: boss’s son gets the promotion because he’s the boss’s son, friend of the manager gets the raise because he’s the manager’s friend, etc) whereas Rich People work jobs where promotions are based on solely on Merit, so “working hard” actually does get them further.

        Not sure how true the above is, but that seems to be what eemusings was saying.

  97. KM says 01 November 2011 at 15:02

    I take the lists as indicating things that a person could actually do to improve his or her financial situation. As such, they certainly are true! We can’t do anything about bad luck, but there ARE things we can do that WILL help out our personal finances. Changing out mindset is one of them.

    How are the lists different than teaching people to change their thinking to “make do or do without”, “pay yourself first”, “stop trying to keep up with the Joneses” and other crucial mindsets of frugal living?

    Being frugal and shopping at a warehouse club won’t make you super rich–but it will definitely help your financial situation. We talk about frugal living on this blog all the time and everyone apparently approves of it. We even discuss people who still have cable TV and buy stuff even though they have negative net worth, and we talk about how they are making poor choices and they should change what they are doing.

    So I don’t get all the problems people have with the lists.

  98. Katie says 01 November 2011 at 16:01

    Horatio Alger lives!

    • Shaun says 01 November 2011 at 16:25

      Yeah, anyone who believes actions are important is just another Horatio Alger! I’m no longer responsible!

  99. Laura says 01 November 2011 at 18:09

    I agree with J.D. in the original post that Smith’s list doesn’t cut it with me somehow, but I have to say that Eker’s 17 points of what constitutes a “poor” mindset make an astonishingly accurate list of my mother’s attitudes towards life. She was financially poor and carried a poverty/victim mindset all her life, despite having a college education paid by her parents (in the 1940’s), gainful employment, and a middle-class lifestyle (that sank to the poverty line after her parents died and we children came along).

    I agree that neither Eker’s nor Smith’s points should be used to explain or blame people for financial hardship. But I also see the point about how holding onto those mindsets contribute to keeping you there.

    So no, this post didn’t offend me; actually I thought it was intriguing. The most difficult posts are the ones that contain some truth or are true some of the time without being universally or always true. I think this is one of them.

  100. Mark H says 01 November 2011 at 18:09

    “Yes, a lot of that was through hard work, but there’s no question that I’ve been lucky. And I think this element of “luck” is something that both Eker and Smith miss.”

    “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”- Samuel Goldwyn.

    That said, you have some shallow, envious and bitter 99 Percenters reading this blog.

    Keep up the good work!

  101. Michelle says 01 November 2011 at 18:24

    This is unecessarily contetnious and very congratulatory to rich people. In fact, most of the habits ascribed to the rich are actually opportunities which you can only take advantage of once you’ve covered your basic needs already. It’s pretty easy to change your orientation to money and wealth once you’ve had your first crack at getting some. Until then, financial conservatism actually is your best – or only – strategy.

    • Matt A. says 02 November 2011 at 12:45

      Sure, but the actual cost of real basic needs is quite low. Some people live on next to nothing, even in the U.S., and if you’re living in someplace like Mexico it’s even less. Most apologists for the poor seem to take it for granted that there’s a minimum lifestyle they’re entitled to. I don’t think so. Live on less than you make, invest the difference.

  102. Kathryn says 01 November 2011 at 20:33

    I think Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers is a great complement to books like Smith’s and Eker’s. Gladwell doesn’t discount the notion that personal mindset (or work ethic, etc.) contributes to success, but he also believes that external social factors play a large role. And he backs up his assertions with a LOT of data. I think he addresses the issue on a much more complex, realistic level.

    • Eric says 02 November 2011 at 09:04

      Excellent point. Outliers provided a good deal of evidence that success – in ANY endeavor – is a combination of two things:
      1. Hard work and “directed practice” – spending hours to refine and improve abilities
      2. Accumulating a series of small advantages over time, which allow you to leverage (1) to become successful

      One of the major examples given was that a significant number of professional hockey players were born in the first 3 months of the year, because December 31 was the cutoff for age-based youth hockey leagues. The players born just after the cutoff point were effectively a year older than the “same age” players born in December. As a result, they were bigger, stronger, faster – more “talented,” and as a result they got more ice time, more practice, more attention from their coaches, which all accumulates over time to result in a sizeable advantage.

      The same can be applied to finance. Coming from a family that is better off gives you an small advantage (they are more likely to be financially intelligent, push for college education, etc.) over someone with lesser means. The quality of education you receive, and whether value is placed on education, is another advantage. Over time, you can be caught up in a vicious (or virtuous) cycle where your advantages breed more advantages, more opportunities, more success. Hard work is required to leverage those advantages, though. Someone who is born into different circumstances isn’t necessarily doomed to failure, but they have to overcome the absence of the advantages others may already have, so it’s more difficult.

      Putting a different analogy on it, it’s always impressive to score a touchdown, but when you start at the 50-yard line and someone else starts at at their own 10, the amount of effort required to get there is a bit different.

      • Laura says 03 November 2011 at 09:38

        Eric, your response is my thought to chew on for the day. While I was aware of the problem of cumulative advantages, I’d never heard it expressed that way and it totally clicks. I especially like the point that success is an upward spiral that moves back and forth between hard work and building on advantages; it’s the back and forth between these two points that allow the climb. That totally explains to me J.D.’s original post about these lists and how I feel about them. I haven’t read Outliers (but it’s now on my to-read list). Thanks for posting.

  103. smedleyb says 01 November 2011 at 20:34

    Hey, here’s another distinction:

    Millionaires inherit lots of money. Poor people don’t.

    • Mark H says 01 November 2011 at 22:37

      I’m a millionaire. I inherited $10K from my mother. I earned, saved, invested and avoided debt. I did not go on expensive vacations and I drive a 17 year old Nissan.

      The most I earned in a year was $78K. Last year I made $45,000 (including investment income).

      Don’t be a dick. Most millionaires don’t inherit it.

      • smedleyb says 02 November 2011 at 08:18

        Don’t be a dick?

        Good retort. Produce facts next time, idiot.

        • Mark H says 03 November 2011 at 08:02

          80% of millionaires did not inherit their money, they made it themselves. Smoke on that fact idiot.

      • Cameron says 03 November 2011 at 09:28

        You’re the only person here that sounds bitter. Calm the f down and enjoy your money! LOL

      • Megan says 03 November 2011 at 12:27

        Everyone has an opinion, let’s not take anything personally or put out any personal attacks. It makes for unpleasantness.

    • jim says 02 November 2011 at 08:46

      Only 10-20% of millionaires inherit any significant amount of money. So the vast majority of the rich did not inherit their wealth. Some rich people certainly did get there by inheriting of course, but most don’t.

    • AnnW says 09 November 2011 at 14:16

      Not true. Very few wealthy people in the US today have inherited their money. The people that inherit usually end up spending it, not making it last for a lifetime.

  104. Vince Thorne says 01 November 2011 at 22:31

    The good news is that it is never too late to cultivate a change of mindset. SInce the difference between the rich and the poor is money, that more easily achieved compared to living a happy life.

  105. bemoneyaware says 01 November 2011 at 22:38

    Good article.
    “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” Gary Player said. We cannot continue blaming our family, our background. Infact if life gives us lemon we should make lemonade(atleast try).
    If we try to backtrack why rich and poor differ one of the most important way would be their thinking. The rich and poor differ in their thinking just like man and woman, parent and child.
    Few of the statements were also mentioned in Rich Dad Poor Dad.

  106. katrina pascual says 01 November 2011 at 23:48

    In my opinion:
    I honestly disagree on all the statement above why? cause didn’t they know that the poor people can think bigger than the rich one? or haven’t they think that maybe why rich get richer cause we have something to call poor? or haven’t they think that maybe rich people get richer through the help of the poor one?. Poor people can always stand up when they fall and never afraid to fall again but rich really the one whose afraid to fall.. Not all poor people can think the way the author wrote it down and not all middle class had the limit for them selves to reach success

  107. KM says 02 November 2011 at 01:52

    One of the interesting thing about the lists is that “poor” and “rich” are defined only by the reader.

    I think it’s possible for one person reading the lists to think of themselves in the “poor” category, while another person with exactly the same income/networth to think of themself in the “rich” category.

    For example, my ex-husband was in exactly the same career as me and had the same income as me– we were each making around $100K/yr. When we were married, I felt that we we were lucky to have good jobs & I felt “rich” because we could afford to buy a house, have kids, take a vacation now and then, and put some savings away and plan for the future. In contrast, he constantly felt “poor” because he wanted to live like the gastroenterologists he worked with who made 6 times what he did. According to him, we didn’t own a big enough house in a nice enough neighborhood. We needed much fancier cars, we needed to “live large” and throw lavish parties, collect fine wine, & etc. And yes his mental mindset was very very close to that of the “poor” on the list, while mine was & is closer to the “rich” on the list.

    We split up 5 years ago and the divorce split all our assets down the middle and we each got half. 5 years later I’m doing well (& I still feel very fortunate and yes, “rich”, because I feel like I have plenty of money to live a good life by my standards) while he’s broke as a joke and in debt up to his ears with a supermortgage & HELOC on a mcmansion, car loans for 2 BMWs, huge amounts of credit card debt, & no savings. AND he’s still complaining about not having enough money!

    • Anne Cross says 03 November 2011 at 13:03

      “One of the interesting thing about the lists is that “poor” and “rich” are defined only by the reader.

      I think it’s possible for one person reading the lists to think of themselves in the “poor” category, while another person with exactly the same income/networth to think of themself in the “rich” category.”

      This is SUCH a good point, and I think the key to many of the responses.

  108. Sun says 02 November 2011 at 06:44

    The USA is becoming more and more of a caste system. A change in your outlook on life is not going to create as much change without systematic changes to support social mobility.

  109. Ross Williams says 02 November 2011 at 06:47

    “What an ungrateful attitude. The rich don’t have to give anything!”

    Neither do the poor. And yet, the poor give a larger percentage of their income to others.

    The real difference between the rich and poor? The rich have a lot of money, the poor don’t.

    These book lists are an attempt to attribute that difference to the character flaws of the poor. That fits the audience for self-help books whose readers want to believe that wealth is a reward for living properly. But you could easily make a lot less positive list and apply it to the rich:

    The rich are good at manipulating others
    The rich only look out for themselves
    The rich use friends to help them make money
    The rich only care about money
    The rich think rules are made for others
    The rich think the only real rule is don’t get caught
    The rich don’t care what the consequences are for others
    The rich are ruthless
    The rich think they are better than others
    The rich believe they deserve whatever they can take
    The rich think others are “losers”
    The rich put the blame on others
    The rich use others
    The rich are dishonest

    That list is as true as the lists above and as untrue as well. It applies to some rich and not to others. Just as the lists above do.

    In short, wealth is not a measure of character, its a measure of money. There are a lot of ways people accumulate money some of them commendable, some not.

    Bernie Maddoff was a crook and eventually violated the “don’t get caught” rule. But he apparently had all those positive attributes you see on the lists above and was very successful for a long time. Was he rich because he was dishonest or because he “thought big”. The answer is both.

    • Steve S says 02 November 2011 at 07:19

      I wish I had data to back up my hunch, but the Bernie Madoffs of the world (anyone who acquired wealth dishonestly) have to be such a small subset of the “1%”.

      I always saw the “rich are dishonest” meme as a way of rationalizing why oneself is not rich. “Look at that fat cat in his BMW, he must have stolen and cheated his way to the top. But not me. I’m an honest guy! I could have just as much if only I was a liar and a crook, but I have too much respect for myself to sink that low.”

      It is just too hard for some people to imagine that certain people provide a lot more value to a lot more people and are paid commensurately.

      Gross generalization? Yes. Doesn’t apply to everyone. But no more of a generalization than you have to be some slick-talking, selfish, lying, schmoozing son-of-a-b to become a made man.

      • barnetto says 02 November 2011 at 10:56

        I can imagine a world where people make more money due to just compensation for the value they produce.

        Based on the data, that’s not the world we live in.

        What Bernie Madoff did was illegal. But most of the fleecing of regular people is legal. As an example, I saw an interview with Ellen Schultz on her book “Retirement Heist.” She explained that pensions in the United States were doing great. They were actually overfunded. But then executives started lobbying congress to change the rules protecting those pensions. The protections eroded, they dipped into pensions for other purposes and screwed over hard working Americans who don’t have armies of lobbyists.

        Its the same situation that played out in our financial sector and ended up creating our mortgage crisis and subsequent economic meltdowns. The people at the top lobbied for looser regulations and then gambled that housing prices would keep going up. They’re still being compensated, but they didn’t create value.

        Here’s a chart showing the difference in US and other executive pay:
        Do European countries create less value than US companies? Hardly. In 2010 Europe had a larger GDP than the US and their exports as a percentage of GDP are 3 percentage points higher.

        It’d be nice to live in the ideal world where the value we contribute to society is proportionately rewarded. We’re not there yet but it is something I would like to work towards. We can’t work towards it if people insist we already live in a world where income==value produced and then find ways to rationalize how the rising incomes of executives means they’re creating more value.

        • Gail says 03 November 2011 at 19:00

          AMEN to that!

        • Bella says 09 November 2011 at 23:19

          To add more fuel to the fires – I think the lists are valulable – but this article defintly deserves a read – it has some cold hard facts about whether or not certain personality traits are unique to the wealthy

  110. Tanya@TheInspiredBudget says 02 November 2011 at 07:37

    This was a thought-provoking post that made me take a look at my own attitudes. I am glad you posted it.

  111. Ross Williams says 02 November 2011 at 08:15

    BTW, I think a lot of millionaires would call themselves middle class. If you accept the rule of thumb that you can spend 4% of your retirement savings annually, a million dollars in savings would only give you $40,000 per year in income. If that savings is in tax-deferred accounts make the appropriate adjustment for taxes. That is not going to buy you a lavish lifestyle.

    “wish I had data to back up my hunch”

    But we don’t have any data, only our prejudices based on our own experiences.

    “no more of a generalization than you have to be some slick-talking, selfish, lying, schmoozing son-of-a-b to become a made man.”

    Which was my point earlier. But isn’t the other question whether being a dishonest “slick-talking, selfish, lying, schmoozing son-of-a-b ” a bigger advantage than being “hard working” or “thinking big”?

  112. Ross Williams says 02 November 2011 at 09:16

    “Hard work is required to leverage those advantages, though.”

    No, it isn’t. Hard work is just one way to leverage those advantages.

    The issue is not whether working hard is a good thing, but whether wealth is an indicator of hard work. It isn’t. There are plenty of poor people who work very hard and there are plenty of rich people who don’t.

    • Eric says 02 November 2011 at 11:37

      Unless one of those advantages is “large trust fund” or “nepotism”, yes it does. I agree that wealth isn’t an indicator of hard work – everyone has their favorite anecdote about some yahoo who inherited their parent’s fortune or is a vice president at the company Daddy (or Mommy) founded. That’s not success, that’s winning the genetic lottery. Hard work is a necessary but not sufficient condition to be successful. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. Conversely, anyone who tells you hard work is the ONLY thing you need to be successful is trying to convince you that it’s YOUR fault you’re unsuccessful. I could be the hardest working guy in sub-Saharan Africa, but that by itself doesn’t put me near the place that simply being born in a first-world country did from day 1. Advantages in and of themselves can result in wealth if you start far enough down the path, but I was referring to success as mastery of a field – think Olympic athlete, not trust-fund baby.

  113. olga says 02 November 2011 at 10:38

    Now that I re-read both lists, I think what many have problem with is a word “poor” (poor people) in top list. Unlike JD, I got more fuzzies with Smith’ list because it talks about middle class. And honestly, I can sign my name under most of those points, being a middle class who will likely never climb into seriously rich. I did get into middle from poor but avoiding most of the “poor” mentality – those some that don’t cross-over with “lower” list. Interesting how it is. Just an observation.

    • John says 02 November 2011 at 11:26

      I noticed the hot button words seem to cause problems too. What if we swapped in “More Successful” and “Less Successful”?

      • Tracy says 02 November 2011 at 12:17

        It’s easy to make successful and not successful work because they have no agreed-upon definition – so the traits are actually used as the definition. So there’s no conflict with the values attributed to them.

        However, while rich and poor are marginally subjective (how much money does it take to transition to rich?) they’re still attached to a money-based definition, rather than a potentially trait-based definition. So you DO get conflict when the traits don’t match the category, which they won’t, because they’re not factual.

        (In other words:

        Successful people believe: “I create my life.” Unsuccessful people believe: “Life happens to me.””

        If you believe “I create my life,” you are *automatically* successful. Because we don’t have another definition of the word, unless we say “successful in this case means xyz” – in which case it’s just as wrong as …

        However, in the case of : Rich people believe: “I create my life.” Poor people believe: “Life happens to me.”

        If you believe “I create my life,” are you necessarily rich? Is it even more *likely* that you’re rich than poor? Sadly, no.)

  114. Matt A. says 02 November 2011 at 12:20

    I live around a lot of poor people here in Philly, and I think the main difference between the rich and poor is their understanding of how money works.

    Mainly, the poor don’t realize that the more money you have, the easier each additional dollar is to get. That hump they have to get past to make it to the point where they’re impressed just seems too much. They also seem to think it’s a reflection of intelligence, such that they’ll never get rich if they’re not smart. Which of course just ain’t the case.

  115. Ross Williams says 02 November 2011 at 12:55

    Was it legal to package something you called “liar loans” into bonds and sell them as AAA safe? Maybe, but if they had been selling fake diamond rings, it would have landed them in jail.

    “Hard work is a necessary but not sufficient condition to be successful”

    Hard work is not “necessary”, there are plenty of successful people who do not work hard. They are good at getting other people to do the work for them. Or they take huge risks. Or they cut corners. You can’t win the lottery without a ticket, but you can be rich and successful without hard work.

  116. moom says 02 November 2011 at 16:29

    I think part of the problem is the terms “millionaire” and “middle class” in the second list. By usual definitions most professors are middle class and certainly don’t believe that learning ends with school and the same applies to most other professions. And OTOH a millionaire literally is someone with a million dollars net worth which isn’t a huge amount of money anymore and includes many older middle class people.

  117. Katie says 02 November 2011 at 20:06

    I absolutely agree that becoming rich is a mindset.I am probably what most of you would consider poor or maybe middle class but I am young and I am determined. Earlier this year I got a big income tax refund like most of us low income do but I took a risk with it and successfully flipped a house. Me taking that risk was almost more than my husband could handle but I was more than confident I would succeed and I did. I could tell that we had totally different mindsets about business. I may be “poor” or middle class now BUT I am young and I WILL be successful in my near future! Its all about the mindset.

    • Vanessa says 03 November 2011 at 12:44

      I don’t consider anyone who has money to invest in real estate “poor.”

      But good luck to you anyways.

      • Katie says 03 November 2011 at 16:25

        well you don’t know how much i needed to invest. I bought a twenty five thousand dollar house. I had gotten six thousand back from an income tax return so instead of blowing that money it came out to be exactly the amount i needed for a down payment and closing costs. It wasn’t a lot of money but just enough for me to be able to get the house, i didn’t have any other money is savings i just new a good thing when i saw it. I took a major risk and it paid off…i know a lot of low income people who get huge income tax returns and blow the money on idiotic things within a month…so i do think that there are poor people who can find the money to do it you’ve just got to have the guts

        • Ohplease says 03 November 2011 at 17:46

          How much did you make on your flip?

        • Carla says 04 November 2011 at 00:34

          True poor people rarely get large tax returns. As someone who I wouldn’t consider “poor” (just low income), most of my tax return was spent “blowing” on medical bills.

  118. Kathy says 03 November 2011 at 09:31

    It seems to me that those commenting who are offended by the list or who think wealth creation can only be possible if you already have a step up or are lucky are proving the point. By having limited thinking concerning wealth, you can’t ever achieve what the Ecker’s list suggests is possible and your frame of reference doesn’t let you see the possibilities. It requires a change in mindset.

    I am living proof that this way of thinking works. I went from poor to rich over a lifetime by a personal commitment to never be poor again. Obstacles were only opportunities to do something differently to get where I knew I wanted to be.

    In my career I worked with people and their money. I met with thousands of people and how successful they were with money was a direct result of their attitude toward money. The problem is that we don’t teach financial education in the US public schools because it would empower people the elite in Washington would rather keep under their thumb through financial ignorance. But that’s a whole other topic.

    • Laura says 04 November 2011 at 12:19

      “I met with thousands of people and how successful they were with money was a direct result of their attitude toward money. The problem is that we don’t teach financial education in the US public schools because it would empower people the elite in Washington would rather keep under their thumb through financial ignorance.”

      Right on. 100% spot on.

  119. Matt says 03 November 2011 at 13:42

    These days there are a lot of poor minded people that happen to have a lot of money (billions of dollars in bailouts). This financial crisis could have been avoided if the true rich (the hard working honest types) weren’t competing with the fraudulent rich.

  120. victor says 03 November 2011 at 18:20

    I was a brick layer for 20 years. When I left home I had a 15 Year old car and one box of clothes. I work 70 hours a week laying brick making 7 dollars an hour and was never paid overtime. I lived on half and saved the other half to invest in real estate. I started by
    buyer homes and lived in them while I fixed them up then I either rented them out or sold them depending on what was best. I got married at 22 and am still married to the same great lady. We now own 40 rentals and have started an auction company, a real estate company and just 4 months ago partnered in a
    Furniture store. We are creating jobs while people are getting laid off and we rent out over half of our rentals to older people on fixed incomes for alot lower rent then other people because we can. We now have a Net worth over a million dollars and there was no help or easy road. It is not easy to live on 10000 a year with 3 kids, but we were committed. We both came from poor familys and wanted something different.
    If you read the book which I did a long time ago and open your mind you will find that many things he says are basic and do work,
    If you live on half of your income and save your money then when an oppertunity comes along your will have the means to grab it while those who do not live below their means can only cry about the rich get richer.
    Our parents never wanted to set up a budget or cut back on their expenses even though they made a lot more then us now they say that we should give them money to help them pay their bill, but of course they only want our money not our help to live with in their means. We know that someday we will have to take care of them and we will but until they are willing to let us help with their budget they will not get any money from us.
    Now that we have are where we are no one remembers the 70 hour work weeks or the back breaking work I did for 20 year. We still do not own expensive cars or homes, but I do not have to work if I do not want to. Now I can spend time with my kids (13, 10, 8. I worked very very very hard to be able to get the time with my kids.
    I had no desire to be (RICH), Just wanted to created an income that would continue if I broke my arm or back. I have created many different streams of income, and We now have (ENOUGH). My idea of rich is enough income that will pay my few bills with out having to work if I chose not to.
    The True millionare next door does not look like the idea that lower and middle class people think they look like.
    A true millionare will look like normal middle class people.
    No one knows we are worth a million, because we look and act like middle class people and drive ford and chev. I have no desire to look and act like the fake rich who drive BMW (BIG MONEY WASTE)cars and million dollar homes. We buy our clothes at garage sales and good will stores we buy used cars and still live on 15000 a year.
    If you would just open your mind and try to learn instead of feeling sorry for your self and live on half of what you make you might become LUCKY.
    If you continue to live to impress the JONESES you will always be in debt and always be poor crying about how unfair it is.
    We get (LUCK) because We now have the means and the ablitiy to see a oppertunity and to Act on it instead of watching from the sidelines buried in debt. We also have other people bringing oppertunities to us because they see and know that we can swing them
    The media is very good at spinning things to fit their needs. Right now to get the most votes they need to make the 98% feel sorry for themselves so they will vote the way they want. Lets face it alot of people will not live with in their means and the goverment is a reflection of the people. They have alot and we have none that is not fair, take from them and give it to us because we do not know how to manage our money and we need more to blow so we can still be broke.
    If the 98% won the lottery they would still be poor, because they would spend it and then it would be gone, but they would complain about the taxes that they had to pay. The (RICH) would invest it so that they would have a continues income for the rest of their life without touching the priciple.
    If the goverment cared about the poor people it would be teaching personnel finance in Jr high and high school. The goverment does not want you to learn, because no one would need their programs. Then alot of them would lose their (JOBS)and then taxes for everone could go down.
    Please before you slam the book read it. It just might change your life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • barnetto says 03 November 2011 at 20:54

      “If the goverment cared about the poor people it would be teaching personnel finance in Jr high and high school. The goverment does not want you to learn, because no one would need their programs. Then alot of them would lose their (JOBS)and then taxes for everone could go down.”

      Which programs are you talking about? Federal? Because states are in control of setting curriculum standards, not the federal government.

      There are (using this as my source: http://www.nefe.org/NEFENews/PressRoom/PressRelease/PERSONALFINANCECOURSESINHIGHSCHOOLSONTHE/tabid/220/Default.aspx) eight states that “have legislated that personal financial education be either a requirement for high school graduation, or a course that must be offered.”

      I’ve recorded them here along with their ranking amongst states in poverty (page from wiki was my source):
      38-New York

      As you can see, five of the eight states rank in the bottom 25. This should refute your paranoid delusion that the government is withholding the magic bullet for poverty so that it can increase the number of civil service jobs. The non-paranoid-delusional explanation is these programs exist because at one time or another that is what the voters favored and not enough voters want to get ride of them for our representatives to sunset them.

      In any case, since you’re so fond of anecdote, here’s mine. My immigrant parents raised me and set a good example by living on less than they earned and earning a phd and masters, respectively. They allowed me to graduate debt free from college and based on their emphasis on good grades and influences/mentors in my life, I choose an engineering degree. I earn a nice amount of money and spend just 1/3 of it on my expenses.

      I’m lucky I had the parents I had who instilled their values in me, I’m lucky they were established enough to pay for my education and I could just focus on learning as much as I could, I’m lucky the influences in my life pushed me in the direction of a career that pays well.

      What are we going to do with these two conflicting anecdotes? Yours says luck plays no part, its all hard work, mine says luck plays a huge role. How are we going to determine whose anecdote reflects the truth of things?

      Well, I’m going to concede that all the lucky breaks I’ve had wouldn’t have meant anything without the hard work I put in. And if you’re honest you’ll cop to where your knowledge of personal finance came from, what inspired your work ethic, that you weren’t born with an IQ of 70, that you came across that book many years ago, etc.

      And we’re both going to (virtually) shake hands and agree that BOTH luck and hard work matter.

  121. lady brett says 04 November 2011 at 16:50

    thank you for mentioning systemic. i was about to give up on this post as the epitome of classist nonsense.

    those who do not think this is classist nonsense, though, tend to think that the alternative is socialism. the fact is that i am happy being middle class, and am uninterested in being wealthy. as such, it is fair for me to make less money than someone who is more invested in that.

    that, however, is a completely different conversation. poverty and middle class are incomparable. and poverty is a symptom of societal problems, not individual problems. if these lists had compared rich to middle class, it would be significantly less awful.

  122. Ross Williams says 04 November 2011 at 17:28

    It might be helpful to point out the obvious. There are NO self-made millionaires in the United States. We are all standing on the accomplishments of the generations before us. We inherited the richest country on earth, we didn’t create it.

  123. Ross Williams says 05 November 2011 at 05:24

    What is offensive is that these lists really compare “stereotypical rich” and “stereotypical poor”. Many people in both groups don’t fit the stereotypes. There is another name for applying stereotypes in this fashion, its called bigotry.

    You know, trophy wives are part of the ultra-rich too. And Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez were poor. The idea that having money reflects virtue is probably the most offensive part of this discussion.

  124. Krishanu says 07 November 2011 at 12:04

    My two cents: It all boils down to opportunities (which can be attributed to chance or stature of birth or even opportunities created by one’s hard work) and more importantly, the reaction to those opportunities.

    There are elements which you have no control of (chance, stature of birth) and either you get it or you don’t. But the things that you do have control of (hard work, creating opportunity with the hard work, making conscious, informed and deliberate choices), make the most of it.

    It is great if I win a lottery, but it would be foolish for me to hope/expect it to happen; downright stupid if I waste the windfall with bad choices.

    To quote the Boy Scout mantra: be prepared. Read, talk to (informed) people, actively engage in worthwhile activities – so that when the opportunity does along, you know how to deal with it.

  125. Chuck says 09 November 2011 at 08:56

    I think that part of the problem is in part due to the American mythology that we have built for ourselves, namely, that everyone can get rich if they just work hard enough.

    Read the following:


    A recent study that just came out concluded that it was much easier to move up in class in Western Europe.

  126. JEV says 09 November 2011 at 09:10

    Check out this book as a resource. Our church and community are using this to help people do what the title says: “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World.”

  127. Peter says 30 December 2011 at 10:25

    “If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.” George Monbiot

  128. Ruth Orme-Johnson says 17 January 2012 at 10:55

    The question of where wealth and riches comes from is a fascinating discussion, and I believe can often be oversimplified.

    One may argue that relying on historic data to explain that it is “the system” that keeps poor people poor is unfair, in that there are people who have worked within the system to bring themselves out of poverty. Often, this argument leads to the conclusion of “bootstraps,” however, in stating that because one (or hundreds, or millions) of poor individuals have brought themselves out of poverty, than EVERY poor person can do precisely the same.

    There are several personal reasons that I think this is a dangerous path to go down, but I think an important piece of reality we all must take into account is that capitalism relies on a section of the populous having less wealth than others. In order to give individuals an incentive to work, you must have something that they do not; money. For money to continue to be an incentive, you must not allow everyone to succeed in attaining all they that desire, and you must also continue to have a labor source that is willing to work in less gratifying and underpaid occupations (eg. McDonald’s employees, janitors, etc) and be able to pay more in order incentivize as well (eg. garbage collectors). Indeed, our economy would not function without these individuals, so it is imperative that we maintain a status quo there.

    Additionally, don’t forget that this country was built largely on a practically free labor source, and as such the beginnings of income inequality were laid with a sturdy and legally sanctified base.

    For an interesting take on income inequality, its history and its future, I recommend a report that the organization I work for just released (sorry for the shameless plug): http://faireconomy.org/sites/default/files/2012_State_of_the_Dream.pdf

    Again, this is a fascinating discussion, and I love reading all of the posts and seeing people talking about wealth and inequality.


  129. kittu says 04 February 2012 at 09:17

    86Kyra says:
    01 November 2011 at 8:52 am
    I skipped a lot of the comments because it seemed as if a lot of people got offended for some reason. I’ve been poor and now I don’t consider myself rich but I guess I’m getting there. I come from inner-city Cleveland, where most people are poor and don’t even know it. The current economic conditions didn’t affect them much because this was the way they lived already.

    I can tell you that I agree with both lists. The mentality in the hood is tread water, not learn how to swim to shore. The first step in fixing the problem is identifying it. Isn’t that what the article intended to do?

    I think it’s more of an injustice to say shame on them for looking down on poor people than to say shame on you for not seeing that poor people NEED to hear this. There are people that after reading this, will think to themselves that maybe it IS how I think that is limiting my potential.

  130. Ann says 27 March 2012 at 20:20

    I’m coming in very late, and I’ve tried to read the comments, but like the late posters, only managed to skim and summarize.

    I used to believe very much what those lists and gurus say about the difference between the rich and poor. Now that I’ve suddenly found myself below the poverty line, and have friends in similar positions, I know why many are poor. My friends and I used to work good jobs, used to save and invest, used to own homes, used to have high net worth.

    What has put us in such dire circumstances now? Divorce and legal bills (minimum $20,000). Not just divorce, but divorce from abusive or violent men. It means we have to sell and move. It means that litigation goes on forever because they abuse through the judicial system. It means that we have to find work after being out of work to look after children. It means that they find ways to financially screw us through all sorts of means.

    Does it mean that we STAY in this position? NO – we have the mindset of the rich. But for the moment, and for the short-term future, we will be among the large group of people who rely on welfare payments. NOW I know that sometimes people become poor due to circumstances not of their doing or their choice.

    In the end, given what we have lived through, most of us are just glad we are alive. Some of my friends never made it out alive.

  131. Niranjan Kariyawasam says 10 May 2012 at 22:37

    The People who become Rich without having a good family background or Sound educational success, they think they are the people in the society. They don’t know that they bring smile to others.
    They are very poor on attitude. Just because of that they are most likely to be neglected by educated people and their society.
    Then those rich people got only uneducated or poor people in their life. Then they do everything to be famous in their society. Good luck for them.

  132. Gisa says 04 June 2012 at 10:14

    Most rich people aren’t rich because they came up with a profitable way to really change the world for the better. They got rich by coming up with some clever way to do some menial everyday thing in a way others want to emulate because the inventor of a product or “system” is good at convincing people they should do so. Also rich get rich by making others depend on them on a reoccuring basis i.e. refills, yearly contracts and memberships, utlility bills.

    Most rich people are rich (even if they were once poor) because they became good at getting the poor and, less often rich, to give them their money for some product or service they could have really done without.

    McDonald’s executives are rich because they convince a poor person their food is preferable to fixing an inexpensive home cooked meal.

    People feel they need cars today because everyone has one due to being convinced early on in the automobiles history that life was too hard without one.

    The people who give their money to these type of rich people fail to see that the world is dying from obesity mainly because of just two types of successful marketing of things not really needed i.e. cars and fast food being marketed as necessities of life.

    It really is not as simple as poor and rich but, also stupid and clever at the extereme expense of the easily duped.

    Medicine is no exception. Scientists used to be mainly concerned with cures and vaccines. Now, they are concerned with plastic vanity or managing illness through daily meds that aren’t designed to cure and vaccines that need to be re-vaccinated every year for illnesses that almost all people get over naturally withot the vaccine.

    Poor people have no right to complain about being poor as long as they buy into the rich telling them they need to fork over their cash for stupid crap like video games, cell phones, cars, i-this and i-thats, get rich quick telemarketers, televangilists begging for faith seed in the form of money tithes, etc. Even utility companies get in on it by convincing people that they must buy electricity and water from them instead of producing it themselves the way people used to do early on in the game.

    History could have went in a different direction if inventors made things that truly empowered the people. things like home produced electricity, useful software that doesn’t need a patch to work a week after you bought it and personal water entrainment from the begining but, people let them find a way to keep slurping from their monthly financial soupbowl.

    Unless you are extremely wealthy, life will always suck for you if you buy into thinking you need most of what people tell you you do.

    People who are self sufficient and smart, even though they don’t have any money, usually don’t think of themselves as poor unless someone else can convince them of it.

    Shame on most rich people for cleverly taking money from the poor for needless things and shame on most poor for stupidly giving them their money for stupid reasons.

    Poor people really can’t go around asking the rich to give them back money through curved tax scales so they can buy diapers when they gave their diaper money to the rich freely by buying that LCD flatscreen they just had to have or by having to repay that ultra high interest $200 payday loan they just had to take out with the rich money lender so they could get their nails and hair done before they went sportin’ at the mall for new top dollar shoes or to pay their overused cell phone bandwidth bill.

    Sorry if this offends anyone but if you just step back and look you will find truthful examples of what I said abound in most families.

  133. Gisa says 04 June 2012 at 10:53

    What I was trying to say is that the extreme wealth inequality in the world wouldn’t exist if most people who become rich had some ethics and most people who stay poor quit giving thier money to whimsical things.

    There would be a larger middle of the road.

  134. Gisa says 04 June 2012 at 11:03

    The same people who speak as if any obstacle is ok to knock aside in the pursiut of becoming rich are the same people who would run over your kid in the street if they were late to a financial meeting.

    A lot of wealthy people are rich because they kicked grandma to the curb and a lot of poor people are poor because, when their chance to be wealthy appeard, they couldn’t stand to see their grandma in the street so, they missed their greatest or only opportunity during their life.

    Which is to be more admired or emulated?

  135. RUWATR says 08 June 2012 at 14:10

    Rubbish I must say. When money= power then you are outdone, and in democracy money is non governmental power. For Exampleof thousands of people who campaign angainst cigarettes, they still fail, because the rich have their money to inject lies into the public, and take away your voices. Big tabacco paid hundreds to keep the campaigns that try to reach you daily from anti tabacco places that smoking is bad, ansmoking succeded.
    “Money is the power to silence hundreds of voices.” Unanymous.
    And while you’ll fall for the lies your being told I have news for all who listen; they ARE lying to you, to keep you occupied and keep you poor, for if everyman becomes rich, then there is no power to “silence voices.
    The rich want you to beleive its your fault, not to to look back, so that they can keep their ideas, and luxurious life. Being rich isnt just money, or nobody would care, its the power to steal dreams, silence others, step on others dreams so that you can have a more luxurious life.
    “I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
    W.B. Yeats
    This will be the story of most of our lives, if we actually do have a sucessful creation, for if you are sucessful you must take it to the rich to mass distrubute, of whom will cheat you off of your chances, the rich must create and claim it, and so you’ll end up like the worker, working on inventions to make the CEO rich.
    ““There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
    Another quote that“The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all … The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands – the ownership and control of their livelihoods – are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.”

    “History is written by the rich, and so the poor get blamed for everything.”
    I want you to read this quote. your response could be ” Complaints” but really, who has the power to get writings out, the rich because of their money.
    we cant win.

    • Gisa says 10 June 2012 at 05:12

      I hate to break it to you but… The anti-smoking movement fails not because of the rich tobacco companies but because smokers, in general, want to keep smoking and supporting the tobacco companies by buying their product.

      You’d be hard pressed to convince anyone that people today don’t know that smoking is bad, addictive and that they probably shouldn’t do it. I mean, it says so right on the package. It’s their choice to start though, right?Seriously, you aren’t one of those people who think they can take people’s choices away just because you wouldn’t make the same chouce, right?

      Another reason the anti-smoking lobby fails is that most freedom loving people believe it isn’t their business if other people want to smoke. Sure, some pansies will complain about second hand smoke in a wide open park but then again, don’t most of them toke a little joint behind the outhouse or stoke up a BBQ grill with 100 times more smoke? Be honest now.

      This “anti” anything movement, when applied to peoples personal preferences, is just as stupid as people thinking we have a personal or governmental responsibility to take care of people who make bad choices in life. i.e.- smoking, eating fast food, using too much salt or doing drugs.

      If your insurance costs too much because of the fat diabetics the market could provide you with an insurance company with lower rates because they don’t allow diabetics to join if the pansies that lobby the government to force insurance companies to take people who make bad health choices shut up.

      For example, this would naturally take care of most diabetics problems because responsible diabetics would eat healthier in order to get insurance.

      Instead, we have a nanny state health care system that allows people to keep making bad choices at everyone’s expense! It is laughable because in effect, you’re paying people to continue their bad habits.

      And.. the only thing the rich want the poor to keep doing is giving them their money in exchange for mostly useless yet gratifying crap.
      Sadly, that seems to be the mantra of the poor also.

      You seem to be a jealous whiner with a lot of excuses.

      Before you call me an elitist or rich person,I’d be willing to wager that you make more cash than me. It is just that I am more content and happy with what I have and probably always will have compared to what most want and probably will never get.

      This happy outlook of mine is simply because I am more “awake” in mindset than people, for example, who try to make points by quoting others rather than saying something original on the topic.

      Sorry if this offends but, most most whiners who say there is nothing that can be done to change things don’t stop whining and change things untill someone calles them a poo poo spirited whiner.

  136. Gisa says 10 June 2012 at 04:12

    Although, most people equate money with power these days, it is because they have been led to believe it is true by people who have the money. The rich use their money like magic to con the masses into thinking they are wizards of everyone’s fate. You know what, As long as you let them, they actually are the masters of your fate! As long as they make you fearful of their power and envious of their lifestyle, you will always be opressed. As long as they convince you that nothing worthwhile in life can be done without money you, my friend, are screwed! (not as much by them but, by yourself)

    If the poor really were sick of it, instead of just hiding their envy of the rich in rebellious talk and bravado, they would simply say “no” to the rich by not giving them their money and labor so easily, stop wanting things the rich wizards peddle to them. If the poor would tend to themselves by cutting their own grass and fixing their own clogged drains instead of the rich’s things might change. That will almost certainly never be done though because the envy most poor have for the rich’s wealth, power and lifestyle will always trump their need for true freedom from opression no matter how much they whine otherwise. This is because they fear losing more of the things the rich tell them they have to have. i.e.- the longest, most comfortable life possible while living in physical security provided by a “bully” class goverment that serves only the rich. Ironically, that “bully” class can be rich or poor because all it takes is someone thinking they know better than you or someone that will enforce another’s will for their own gain.

    The middle class (police, non-elected officials, teachers, and private management) are usually (while mostly oblivious) used by the rich as enforcers of their policies by dangling the carrot of upward mobility in front of them while reminding them that they can just as easily end up poor if they fail to please their master.

    The fact is, true freedom brings great responsibility. Just as much as you may be free to responsibly live well, you can carelessly die free just as quick.

    People who say they want true freedom yet would be the first to dial the police when someone tries to break into their home or wait for the city ran fire department to arrive when their kids “easy bake” oven catches fire instead of putting it out themselves are just plain phonies to the whole idea of true freedom, economic or otherwise. They want the benifits but not the responsibilities of being free of tyranical economic and social systems. They cry “freedom from economic and social opression” while ratting you out to the building inspector for not having a hot water heater properly vented in your home or call someone to take away your kid when you don’t parent the way they would. GIVE ME A BREAK!

    As long as the poor keep being envious of the rich, there will always be rich people eager to rub it in their faces.

    As long as the poor want power not just for their own lives but, also power to “get even” with the rich and “bully class” they aren’t any better than their opressors.

    As long as the poor keep watching other poor be bullied around by the “bully class”, and do nothing about it because they fear risking anything, they will always live in fear of bullies that follow the policy of the rich or powerful.

    That’s just they way it is folks.

  137. Stacie says 10 July 2012 at 21:36

    I feel it depends on the circumstances of wealth and poverty. With the economy as such, many upper- middle class and middle class people have worked hard to obtain comfortable lifestyles (not necessarily loaded, but can take trips, own property and some recreational items). Then their job is ripped away from them. There may be a nice savings but without money to pay for the mortgage and other bills, the savings gets eaten up. Eventually the foreclosure comes. Now, these people feel like big losers though it’s no fault of theirs. This type of poverty is not a result of victim mentality. Then there are those who are hard- working, poor and humble. These are the people who struggle but always want to help those on even greater need. They live in modest homes, raise their kids with wholesome values and take pride in what they do have. You will see the nicely manicured lawns and friendly neighbors. However, there are criminal, uneducated lazy bums who are poor because they lack the ambition to move upward. They are a drain on society and govt. funds. They feel their poverty is a reason to harm and steal from others with more than them. They blame others and just basically suck.

    I was raised upper-middle class and I have had many friends from all different classes. Many of my poorer friends are genuine and love people for who they are not what they are.

    • SLCCOM says 11 July 2012 at 11:30

      And many more of them have the lousy judgment to get really sick. My husband and I would be multi-millionaires if he hadn’t become permanently disabled with chronic fatigue syndrome at age 37. And I have my own autoimmune disease, too.

      We did nothing wrong. We have “health insurance.” Yeah. We average $20,000 a year out of pocket.

  138. Jay says 17 August 2012 at 13:48

    I would just bet that most rich people are given access to substantial resources at a young age and most poor people aren’t. That’s the real difference between the rich and the poor, generally speaking: placement into the world at birth, a completely random effect to the subjective experience.

    Is there at least a small group of people left in the world that think there are such things as too much and too little? Ho much is enough? I know that having too little can kill you. And competition doesn’t cultivate sustenance, the will to live does… given that one has access to resources. I really think that the average person has forgotten to apply the most basic concept of cause and effect to their thinking about socioeconomic problems. Judgment has become clouded by individual egos and the need to feel important. You were shaped by your environment and so was I. We were both born with a random genetic makeup… to the subjective experience. I think my final recommendation is the creation of a time machine, swapping rich and poor at birth and recording the results over time. Or we could just look at the statistics.

  139. baljeet says 01 January 2013 at 10:30

    post is good and one more thing.. Rich people pursue their dreams and are persistent in their efforts. They don’t just dream and stop. They follow through on their dreams until they win.
    Poor people on the other hand only dream about their dreams. They have dreams to be rich but then the do nothing about it. They never do anything to change their lives and become stuck in this loop.so stop taking and go work for your dream if you have any ?

  140. LD @ Personal Finance Insider says 04 April 2013 at 07:57

    There can be a lot of reasons for why someone is rich or poor, not all of which can be easily explained.

  141. Leah says 10 July 2013 at 23:18

    That question could be my key into college.
    But to keep it short, poor people usually see what they have way more intimitaly, and appreciate chances to grow.
    Rich people simply base everything on money.. And not what they’re buying.
    My opinion, anyway.

  142. GMOTester.com says 28 July 2013 at 14:09

    Would be interesting to see how many rich eat organic and healthy foods compared to poor, and how many poor eat GMO foods compared to rich people… Also would be interesting to know how much of rich and poor can afford to run their personal organic mini-farms for providing their family with healthy foods… how often rich drink Coca-Cola, Sprite, 7Up, Fanta, or eat Mars, Sneakers, Bounty, Heinz catchup and many other proven to be GMO brands that are so insanely marketed to poor via mainstream media… etc etc, i could go with questions for a lot more but i don’t want to bother anyone with my personal interests 🙂 good article, was interesting read i have to say 🙂

  143. jay gholston says 24 September 2013 at 19:33

    The difference between poor and rich is discipline and following your ideas and never let the word no get in ur way

  144. The Ronald says 03 December 2013 at 10:20

    There are real cases (including me) growing up in poverty and building wealth. And you are correct about luck being a factor. Surprisingly, the harder I work, the luckier I get !
    As I like to say: The American Dream is to make the poor become rich — not to make the rich become poor. My mission … to provide solutions to Live the American Dream. It appears the government’s mission … to take from the rich to make them poor.

  145. Tyanne Chaney says 31 January 2014 at 16:14

    I have been poor, but respectfully, none of the above is true for me..My personal experience with a rich person, dealt with how he or she stole away my creative ideas while poor..And this was totally selfish, because God gave me skill to become rich, and that’s all i did was discover it over a period of time..

  146. Beth says 03 April 2014 at 04:41

    I was expecting to see actual habits (routine actions) based on the title of this post, but I like this list of patterns or qualities too. I think the internal locus of control one is especially important.

    One thing I’ve noticed about financially successful people is they know how to say no: to pushy sales people, to their spouses, to their kids and to themselves. They do it tactfully, and when they say “yes” it’s based on careful consideration and research.

    Financially successful people also tend to be critical thinkers. They can see through marketing speak, they do their homework before making investments and they carefully question what they need versus what they want. I think critical thinking is the quality that helps people with most of the qualities J.D. has listed.

    I’ve also noticed that financially successful families work as a team. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a few cases lately where one spouse is financially responsible but the other undoes all of their hard work.

    • lmoot says 03 April 2014 at 06:18

      “I’ve seen a few cases lately where one spouse is financially responsible but the other undoes all of their hard work.”

      This always makes me so sad, and angry on behalf of the other spouse. It sounds shallow but I cannot and will not share my financial life with somebody who is not responsible, because they are playing with more than your money, they are playing with your future and quality of life, and goals, etc etc, so they can fulfill their own wants. It’s selfish, and maybe they do have a problem, but like any other problem they are responsible for getting or accepting help.

      • Jane says 03 April 2014 at 09:09

        I have seen people who get genuine gratification seeing someone spend the money they have made. I think it goes under the “it is better to give than receive” rubric. I’m old enough to have seen it and understand that there are people out there who are like that.

        This doesn’t mean that they are letting the other person ruin them financially.

        • Beth says 03 April 2014 at 15:42

          I agree — I think we all know people like that 🙂

          Unfortunately, I’ve seen the imbalance go to extremes — potentially losing a home, declaring bankruptcy, ending the marriage… That’s a different situation.

          I think most couples complement each other, but I also think the ones who do exceptional things (like retire early) are united in a common goal.

      • Tina says 03 April 2014 at 09:40

        I can say by experience, that it is so difficult when spouses are on different sides.

        I handle all the bills and carefully plot out the budget every month including additional expenses that spouse spends. I read finance articles, Get Rich Slowly, and research stocks, contribute as much as I can afford to 401k and stash money in “spouse untouchable savings account” for emergencies.

        I can say my spouse has improved. He is less afraid to talk about money, will limit spending when I tell him, and has set financial goals for himself and is becoming more knowledgeable about investing but we still have many differences.

        The key is understanding how to communicate and chosing your words wisely so it doesn’t sound like the spender is to blame for the financial issues.

        • Laura says 03 April 2014 at 10:06

          “The key is understanding how to communicate and chosing your words wisely so it doesn’t sound like the spender is to blame for the financial issues.”

          These are exactly the words I needed to hear today. Thanks, Tina, for sharing them.

      • phoenix1920 says 03 April 2014 at 15:01

        Sometimes, I think a spouse can provide balance. My dh is opposite on so many different areas. In finances, he dislikes spending money on big purchases, but completely misses how a stream of small, constant purchases add up. I hate spending money on little things that disappear without anything to show for it. We work together to balance each other.

        When a couple is really a couple, you communicate with each other, compromise, and find that balance. To me, if one person is “undoing” all of the other person’s work, that seems more like there is a communication problem where the couple is not talking and listening to each other (unless addiction is involved).

        I have always loved Dave Ramsey’s discussion about couples where one is a “free spirit” and the other is the “nerd”. I think it fits a lot of (or most?) couples–and I think it gives each partner more balance. Nerds need to live a little more and free spirits need more direction to see a future goal. That doesn’t mean a free spirit is irresponsible. As a couple, you have to work together for one goal.

  147. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says 03 April 2014 at 05:13

    It’s amazing what a difference positive attitude makes. People can roll their eyes when you talk about the power of positive thinking and goal setting, or they can listen, implement it themselves and stop complaining about all their problems and start finding solutions.

    • lmoot says 03 April 2014 at 06:25

      Positive thinking is a real thing! I have a cynical side but generally I am nearly overwhelmingly postive. Some people in my life are annoyed by it (but stopped saying so when I ramped it up even more after their protests), and others are infected by it. Either way it has made all of the difference in my life and is half of the reason I’ve had the motivation and energy to make the changes I’ve recently made.

      Negative energy just drains me and I stay away from it has much as possible. Like I’ve literally trained myself to over-correct towards optimism in response to less than ideal situations. People who have witnessed this pretty much think I’m a loony toon, but whatever…it gives me the energy and extra squirt of brain juice to deal with the issue at hand. I can always have a pity cry later, after.

  148. Damien says 03 April 2014 at 06:09

    “I generally don’t like to make generalizations…” hehe.

    • J.D. says 03 April 2014 at 11:43


      I thought I was a funny fellow when I wrote that.

  149. lmoot says 03 April 2014 at 06:12

    I agree most with the passage under “Successful people have direction”; especially this “None of the folks I know who struggle with money have a clear idea of what they want to do with their lives”.

    Successful people turn dreams into goals. They first identify what they want, then they break it out into specifics, then they draft a plan. As someone who used to be both unsuccessful and currently borderline successful (in terms of fulfilling my life goals), until the day I said “This is how I want my life to look in 5 years” I felt paralyzed. Before that moment (and I remember it well)I knew I didn’t like how I was using my life, but making a plan to get away from something is not a plan; you need to know where you are going to. Unsuccessful people begin with “I don’t want”, successful people say “I want”.

    • Mike in NH says 04 April 2014 at 08:28

      I think you touched on something in a couple of your comments here lmoot that is part of the list even though it isn’t listed as a standalone item.

      Positive, successful people have/utilize a different vocabulary!

      I love to hike and one of the books I read on the subject was by Bear Grylls. A great quote I took away from it was, choose your words carefully because your words become your attitudes and your attitudes become your life.

      I truly believe that perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. Successful people don’t say things like can’t, won’t, fail, etc. People of action use postive words, it isn’t a gimmick.

  150. Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia says 03 April 2014 at 06:22

    This is a pretty well thought out list of habits that successful people employ. Related to or perhaps a subset of managing time effectively is: being patient. I think that’s a key of successful people as well. They don’t mandate immediate results because doing so can mean quitting when those immediate results don’t manifest. They have a vision and patiently stay the course (although they would make adjustments along the way if necessary).

  151. SavvyFinancialLatina says 03 April 2014 at 06:36

    Great points. I know I try to remain positive but it’s really easy to white especially to my close friends. But mostly we whine about things most people do, things we can’t control like society and cultural norms. In my personal and work life, I try to be the best I can be. I’m always looking for opportunities to learn. And I know I change too because I improve.

  152. El Nerdo says 03 April 2014 at 06:54

    Okay, I’ll bite.

    I think #1 and #4 and #last (I didn’t count that far) contradict each other. If successful people ignore the opinions of others–why do they have to limit their exposure to negativity and surround themselves with folks with can-do attitudes? And where do they find the knowledge and experience to evolve over time?

    #4 is not really about ignoring the opinion of others– it’s about having the mental capacity to filter out bad and stupid opinions, just as part of #1; and #last is about the mental capacity to let in good and intelligent opinions, just as the other part of #1.

    So it all goes to critical thinking, as Beth pointed. But I’ll add: it also goes to the fact that a good social environment is what allows success. If you’re surrounded by people with good and intelligent opinions, there’s a fountain of knowledge and resources at hand; and if you’re surrounded by dysfunctional people you’ll have to spend all day filtering out the garbage and trying not to get killed.

    Which is to say: successful people thrive in good social environments. “Avoiding negativity” is really a way to say: you must change your social environment for the better. Success itself, if we define it in non-mystical terms, is a change in social environment.

    • lmoot says 03 April 2014 at 07:09

      I agree that it’s not really important to surround yourself with positive, forward-thinking people as it is to avoid spending most of your time with negative people and environments (especially during formative years). Sometimes having a healthy dose of contact from an opposing side strengthens your resolve. At least that’s the effect it usually has on me. It provides a scary example of how not to do it, much like the father who drives his kid through the bad part of town and says “See son…”

      • El Nerdo says 03 April 2014 at 15:44

        I don’t know that I said that… I actually think its supremely important to associate yourself with people who are like what you’d want to be.

        Mentors and teachers are important, collaborators are important, good examples are important, a supportive community is important, good feedback is important. And in this internet age, the possibilities are HUGE as you’re not limited by your immediate surroundings.

        The point I was trying to add (sorry if I wasn’t clear) is that recipes for success tend to focus exclusively on the individual. And yes, the individual has of course a measure of power, but the individual does not exist without a context, and the context often has more power than the individual as it shapes choices and restricts behavior with rewards and punishments.

        So–individual power can be either leveraged or drowned by social context– it’s therefore crucial to either find or create a context where one’s individual goals can thrive, whether we’re talking about social practices, or legal frameworks, or shared values, or the quality of interpersonal relationships.

        • lmoot says 04 April 2014 at 04:16

          Ah, gotcha. Thanks for clarifying.

        • imelda72 says 04 April 2014 at 05:07

          Yup. Which is why social change is relevant to personal finance. “Personal responsibility” does not exist in a vacuum.

          …Not to get political, or anything. 🙂

  153. Heli says 03 April 2014 at 07:25

    I agree with the taking care of big wins part, altough it’s important to make sure your small purchases, such as daily lattes, are not creating a big stream of expenses in the long run as well. Many people seem to buy things on consumer credit thinking that they only need to pay a small amount, like 40, 60 or 90 dollar per month for a while, but these amounts can soon add up to hundreds of dollars per month in the end.

    One good example on the importance of focusing on big things: For a while now, I’ve been following a blog written by a young woman with a 30k debt project. She often seems excited about how she has managed to save a couple of dollars on stockings or something equally small and trivial. She also creates tight weekly budgets for herself, counting how many dollars to the cent she can spend on each lunch and so on. And then she wrote how she had two fancy meals out in one week and spent almost 700 dollars (!) in total! There were endless justifications such as “it was my boyfriend’s birthday”, “we deserved it”, “we enjoy good food”, “it is a tradition” and “I can’t give cheap presents now that he’s used to expensive ones”. No wonder she is 30k in debt with those “traditions”! You need to save a lot on stockings to come even close to that amount….

    So I guess my point is that people who are good with money know which things to prioritise and don’t fool themselves with excuses.

  154. Sir. Pog says 03 April 2014 at 07:50

    I absolutely love this article. Thank you for sharing this.

    One habit that separates the successful from the unsuccessful is a commitment to life-long learning, which you hint at in your post. Successful people, in my estimation, are not content to stop when they finish school, or their training, but instead strive to learn something new daily. They willing to be stretched, and move out of their comfort zone to try/learn something new.

    Another aspect that I can think of that helps people achieve success is long-term thinking. Similar to your point about having direction, people who experience success are often considering not just what’s happening today, but what is on the horizon. This shows up in delayed-gratification, like you mentioned, but also in terms of goal setting. long-term thinking allows us to look past obstacles, declining temptations and encourages critical thinking about our behavior.

  155. Alea says 03 April 2014 at 09:14

    Great post J.D. I just finished reading “THE MILLIONARE NEXT DOOR”. Everything you say here the people who have money actually practice.

    I have to say when I first started reading the book it pretty much crossed my eyes from boredom, but I kept at it, and by the end, it was the BEST book I ever read.

    By the second chapter I was pretty much a bobble head “YES, I am doing everything right myself”.

    To have money it takes: Discipline, planning, hard work, positive thinking, learning from your mistakes, and most of all PATIENCE. You can’t achieve anything overnight, but if you give it time, it will all come together.

  156. Tina says 03 April 2014 at 09:21

    I belive that under estimating what you can do and not taking changes also is lacking in unsuccessful people.

    I was a stay at home mom for 6 years in the until my children were school age. I didn’t think I could get a good job since I was out of the job force for that long. So I started out working for Walmart part time to build up my work experience. I honestly didn’t think I would ever get a job in an office setting and was doomed to physically work on my feet for eternity.

    One day, I just decided to apply full time for a retailer customer service position and got the job! What was even more amazing was I had applied for one customer service position and they found me more qualified for a higher paying position within the company. Now as an assistant manager(up for a Manager position), I am doing what I never thought was possible.

  157. Steve says 03 April 2014 at 09:40

    Good list, I came across this article yesterday & found it is pretty much exactly what you said in point 2, especially when it comes to praising children. I found it really interesting, all the way to the end, I hope you enjoy it too


  158. Lori Blatzheim says 03 April 2014 at 10:16

    Thank you for this post. It helps us understand actions that lead to success.

    My favorite statement is:

    Successful people ignore the opinions of others.

    Confidence is needed to try a new idea. If not tried, we will never know if it works.

    Don’t listen to the opinion of those who don’t understand the idea.

    Lori Blatzheim

  159. Carla says 03 April 2014 at 10:20

    Successful people don’t live in constant fear.

    I have a friend, age 64, that’s been looking for work since he was laid off nine months ago. He has been laid off twice before in the past three years so no doubt he lives in fear. Though he is a hard worker and very intelligent, you can see the fear written all over his face. I’m sure he brings that to interviews as well.

    In a different set of circumstances I’m the same way. I’ve always feared taking risks and I wear my fear on my sleeve. Working on that!

  160. Steve says 03 April 2014 at 11:09

    This 67-year-old is very impressed with the amount of wisdom in this essay.

    At the same time, I wonder if leopards can really change their spots.

    Those who think it’s important to be in fashion, who watch a lot of TV or play computer games, who don’t set short- and long-term goals … they can read this list all day long and it won’t do any good.

    On the other hand, I’ll bet many GRS readers will be nodding and seeing themselves in the list. We’re the ones who’ve been doing the right things for years … and without ever having seen the list. Our spots are, have always been, in the right places.

    So thanks for the confirmation, but not sure this essay is useful to those who most need it. They’ll keep counting on winning the lottery.

    • Amy says 03 April 2014 at 13:14

      It is easy to get on the wrong road, and hard to recognize it and get on the right road. But I think if people are motivated enough they can do it.

  161. getagrip says 03 April 2014 at 11:41

    Nice list. The biggest one for me is:

    Successful people do what’s difficult: They don’t procrastinate.

    So many times the barriers that prevent us from doing things that would make sense to us and help us are truly small, but just difficult enough that we end up endlessly churning on the decision and not moving forward.

    – You hate your job, but don’t actually update your resume and apply to other jobs, though you scan listings every day.

    – You want to open a Roth IRA, but you aren’t sure which one is best, so you waffle and read articles and play with comparisons, then get distracted, and don’t set it up.

    – You know you should update your will and beneficiary forms. But you need to talk to a lawyer or get folks to act as witnesses. You’ll do that later.

    I have a sibling who IMHO is as capable or more so than me in almost every area of life except one. I procrastinate just slightly less. I feel that’s allowed me to ignore enough of the party life at college to get a degree, while my sibling flunked out. I submitted over a hundred resumes looking for my first job, while my sibling put out few, and ended up being told to work for family. I read up on finances, and invested even if I’m not positive I’m getting the best returns. My sibling can tell me all about the best ways to invest and how I’m falling short, but has no savings and no investments.

    99% of the time, if you take one, often literally just one, step to getting started on something you will follow through. Instead of reaching for the TV remote when you walk in the door, immediately change into exercise clothing and go work-out. Instead of switching on the PC and ending up scanning the internet for three hours, take a sheet of paper and handright what you want in your will, then use the internet to your advantage to find a lawyer and set up an appointment before you aimlessly scan. Often, it is that one small “difficult” decision we refrain from acting on that kills us, not some huge monumental thing.

  162. Elissa @ 20s Finances says 03 April 2014 at 17:39

    I know too many people who rely on “luck” or “fate” – one friend of mine gambles all the time because she thinks “luck” is on her side. It’s not the best habit! Good advice.

  163. Laura says 03 April 2014 at 19:14

    There’s a fallacy in any list of attributes of successful people. Many people may share these same attributes and attitudes, yet they are financial failures. The difference is that they don’t write a book about it or publish the list on a blog. I didn’t come up with this idea. I learned it from a great book called The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman:

    • getagrip says 04 April 2014 at 05:45

      The point to me is that while working hard and/or having most of these attributes may not lead to success, if you don’t exhibit many of these attibutes you are unlikely to gain success.

      It’s kind of like showing up to work every day doesn’t guarantee you won’t get fired. But not showing up likely will.

  164. Divya says 03 April 2014 at 23:49

    I think the most important point is that successful people do not keep up with the Joneses. They do not feel the need to display their wealth. Someone who is truly rich does not have to show off their wealth.

  165. Jonathan Look, Jr. says 04 April 2014 at 00:52

    And I may humbly add patience. I did a thumbnail study of my own investment practices and fund that too much tweaking actually cost me money. Staying the course in a bad situation is not the way to go but sometimes it takes patience for the seeds to grow.

  166. Beth says 04 April 2014 at 05:05

    I came back because the “ignore the opinions of others” part is bugging me. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that successful people know when to ignore the opinions of others?

    For example, if you’re in business you had better care about the opinions of your users/customers/clients — otherwise how can you improve your product or service? If you want good relationships, you care about your loved one’s opinions.

    There’s a difference between ignoring what other people think and considering other people’s opinions and realizing they aren’t right for you.

  167. Kalen Bruce @ MoneyMiniBlog says 04 April 2014 at 16:20

    These are good tips overall and I think practically all of them apply to your life in general.

    Then again, people who strive to reach success are often successful in many areas of their life, especially when they include habits like the 10 mentioned here.

    Great article!

  168. Thegooch says 04 April 2014 at 20:52

    I only know 3 millionaires, and none of them drive used cars. Lol. When I’m invited to their homes, their doorknobs cost more than my car. The truth is, the when you make a lot of money, the rule of economy of scale applies. When you make 1 billion in a year, a 15 million dollar home is ok. When you make 30 thousand a year, a 15 million dollar home doesn’t make sense at all.

  169. debt debs says 06 April 2014 at 05:46

    Those characteristics are all spot on but I especially like the second one.

    Successful people aren’t flummoxed by failure.

    As a mother of four, I agree with your aside to praise effort, not achievement. I used to do that when the kids were younger but I think I’ve gotten away from it now. I think I need to start again, because even in their young adult lives they need to hear this.

  170. Power says 30 October 2014 at 09:29

    What counts is God’s approval.
    He will decide your fate and riches if you obey His commandments. That will determine your reward. Strive to please Him.

    • Voltaire says 30 October 2014 at 10:58

      It is the 21st century. Stop spreading superstitious mumbo jumbo nonsense like this for crying out loud. Jeez, growing income niequality and stupid fundamentalist shit is the one-two punch of America’s downfall.

  171. Joseph says 03 April 2015 at 22:45

    Oh man! this is absolute truth! how I wish every one can get chance and come across this wise advices. I work with a very big church group but all you’ve said I see! “Big think big” and “low think low” that even if one would want a very productive change; the “low” impend it! here in Uganda we got a wise man who has become popular by his wise saying “Toli mwaavu muteegwo gwe mwaavu” meaning “You’re not poor but your head is poor” and this has tried to make some drastic change in the minds and thinking of many Ugandans. so what you’ve shared with us is total truth globally.

  172. Miguel Roman says 22 September 2015 at 18:17

    Do you have to have all the rich people beliefs and distinctions to be rich in the future? I mean, I’m poor, but I definitely consider myself to have most of these beliefs and distinctions of the rich. Like for example, I may be poor, but I believe I can create my future. I don’t stand around waiting for life to happen to me. I may be poor, but I don’t envy or resent the rich, instead I’m the type that offers congrats toward them, because they had to work extremely hard to earn their title. I may be poor, but I fell like I’m willing to promote myself and my value, I also feel as though I’m willing to constantly learn and grow. I want to have as much knowledge and education as I possibly can. Even though I’m poor, I wish to associate with positive, successful people, however, I live in Lawrence Massachusetts, a ghetto, shanty town, and most people who live here are bums, drug addicts, haters, and criminals. No way I want to associate with people like that! As for the distinctions, I may be poor, but I really want to embrace change, I want to continually learn and grow till the day I grow old and die naturally. I also believe that I’m generous and I like to talk about ideas. These are some rich people beliefs and distinctions that I, a poor person, believe that I have. I know I don’t posses all of them, but even if you have a few of them, is it a possibility that I may become rich in my life? Or if not rich but at least successful?

  173. Spicey says 12 October 2015 at 18:04

    Much of the poor live from paycheck to paycheck (monthly or bi-weekly). Trying to make it until next payday. While the rich have extra $ set aside to invest in multiple $ making schemes not even truly feeling the sting when they fail because they are safe inside their widely expanding safety net allowed due to life’s circumstances of classes based on being born into lifestyles higher than most were born into and may never truly appreciate it nearly as much as those born without appreciate each waking moment giving without half the rich take for granted daily and give twice as freely because they also know, appreciate, and accept the struggles faced by others as well as their own trials and tribulations.

  174. s.m. says 15 October 2015 at 10:04

    The difference is limitless middle class can’t afford to give poor like me can’t afford basic insurance. So y give what u don’t have. Which is no lie the only thing rich ppl have done 4 me is treat me like a charity case. If anything I’m smart than almost half the ppl I run across. Life style is another issue completely.

  175. Robert says 23 May 2016 at 10:41

    the rich looks for profit but the poor looks for wages

  176. Dave @ Accidental FIRE says 18 December 2017 at 06:28

    Holy smokes, epic post! That took me a while to read but so much great info in there. I watched the first video but will have to take time to listen to that podcast, sounds like a good one.

    I’d like to highlight your “brief rant” section in the post. You hit the nail squarely on the head in that box. Folks who have never been poor or never lived in dangerous and downtrodden places full of hopelessness don’t know what’s it’s like. I did a post on my blog about the ghettos of Baltimore, and how no amount of great advice – financial or otherwise – is going to magically fix the problems of the people who live there. It’s the cycle of poverty, and it’s far too complex of an issue to address here. But needless to say it’s extremely difficult to fix, since we’re obviously not fixing it in America.

    Thanks for this post JD, this one gets bookmarked for future reference!

  177. dh says 18 December 2017 at 06:40

    I think a lot of money success boils down to more cut-and-dry stuff — wealthy people don’t move a lot, they don’t get frequent divorces, they save regularly, they invest in something like VTSMX instead of stocks based on overheard tips and rumors, they live frugally and debt-free, they work hard, stuff like this. I think a lot of the other “rules” come from imagination. It’s funny, but I went from reading this post today to a great article by Dan Erickson on the subtle art of not giving a f**K:


    • dh says 18 December 2017 at 07:07

      P.S. I also believe, in general, the wealthy don’t follow their “passions” or “purpose;” they follow the money. If the money is in aluminum siding or septic tank pumping, then that’s where they go. They understand that they aren’t going to get wealthy creating an online comic book, although they may still do stuff like this as a fun hobby.

      • Olga says 18 December 2017 at 11:09

        I think your comment(s) pretty much summed up a lot of those 5000 words written above, to the bullet points:)

      • Michael says 19 December 2017 at 05:31

        I disagree here if you look at most top people they love what they do it is their passion. Bill Gates didnt go to computers because he wanted money. He got access to a supercomputer and had a passion for it. If you don’t have a passion for something you wont do as well as someone who does given the same circumstances. Now I think you are right on the purpose one and I think too many people think passion means you love every waking moment. Also it does not help that people lie to themselves on their passion.

        There are going to be things in work that suck but, the fundamentals of your work you should have a passion for or you should be looking for a job where that is true. Because if you like what your doing your going to have an easier time putting in the time outside of work to elevate your skill. Now some jobs you may not be able to get example nfl player. Everyone wants to do them and the chance of you getting it at slim. You can try to find something you can do with your passion i.e sports such as trying to coach, operations physical trainer etc. I also think successful rich people try to find the center of a venn digram of what they like, what they are good at and one they can make money from. I think also if they have a passion for something they try to turn it into money. If they like septic tank plumping they dont just work for someone at min wage. They figure out how they make it into a business.

        • dh says 19 December 2017 at 06:34

          Well, check out a book called the Millionaire Next Door, as it’s one of the most comprehensive examinations of millionaires on the market. And what the author found is that *most* millionaires are in businesses (or professions) that could be classified as dull/normal — welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers, paving contractors, accountants, etc. In my own family, for example, our very richest members come from the car dealership and insurance businesses. I think my uncles who are in these businesses have a passion for making money, and these businesses just happened to be good outlets for that. I mean, does anyone really have a *passion* for insurance???

          I don’t think it’s super helpful to use someone like Bill Gates as an example, the one out of billions who was able to become the richest man on earth from following a passion. I think it’s far more reality based to look to the 99 out of 100 millionaires who succeed from very dull/normal occupations. And it’s not to say that these people aren’t passionate about what they do, it’s only to say that, for the most part, work is work, and they’re doing it *mostly* for the money.

          • Michael says 19 December 2017 at 15:08

            I guess I could see that point though I would have a counterpoint of boiling it less about insurance and more what you are actually doing. For instance, with insurance I would argue it is about sales maybe talking to people is the passion, not the industry. One could even say in the examples the passion was the skillset required to run a business. My example is I have a passion for data science and if you boiled it down it would probably go to more math/computer skills. I am not saying that work will be fun and enjoyable. There are things I dislike but, when it comes to the using my math and computer skills I do enjoy it.

            Yeah maybe picking Bill Gates was a bad example though I am sure if you asked the top richest people such as him, the guy from Amazon and warren buffet they would answer similarly.Maybe we shouldn’t use passion and instead go for find what you like. I do think you need to find the overlap on doing things you like, are good at and can make money at. For instance I like video games but my skillset and my ability to make money on it are not there so it should be a hobby.

            I will have to check out this book though it may be a while since I got a long list of unread books.

          • Placo says 24 December 2017 at 19:22

            Bill Gates made his money from being in the right place at the right time, His big break came from IBM of which his mother was on the Board of Directors yes he came from a wealthy family, he did not even have a functional prototype at the time like Steve Jobs with Apple but he had a valid concept and he invented DOS , You’ll never get super wealthy punching a clock Working for a living , Direct sales is the most efficient means of generating a lot of wealth and being involved in something you love and are passionate about because then its not work its a life style and your motivated because its what your love , Believe in your self , Educate your self,and above all take care of your self love your self because health is wealth utilize the laws of attraction and above all put your money to work for you , and surround your self with like minded individuals a good support system and your mastermind group because you cannot do it alone one of the best books ever written when it comes to developing wealth is Napolian Hills ” Think and grow Rich” Visualization and meditation on accumulation of wealth Avoid Poverty Consciousness live in a state of knowing you live in Abundance and that there is no limit to what can be achieved and keep journals write down your intentions and your goals and develop many streams of income and Focus….

          • Ken says 24 December 2017 at 19:45

            There is a saying that is attributed to Buddha: “before enlightenment you chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment you chop wood and carry water”

      • DarrenR says 26 December 2017 at 11:52

        i see both sides to this:

        following passion and purpose: so many jobs are slated to be replaced by robots and software. up til now, even if one hated being a surgeon or accountant, those fields have historically been automatic-tickets to at least an upper middle class lifestyle. until now. software and robotics are replacing or seriously changing nearly everything, including the previously automatic-ticket fields. apart from the fact that people who hate, or are bored by what they do are seldom outstanding at their fields: why go into something that makes you feel like a robot if you are going to be replaced by a robot anyways?

        following opportunity: one has a chance to join the navy. at least initially they don’t feel any great ‘passion’ about it, yet it’s an opportunity, and if one simply plays their cards right, they can turn that into something good. same with owning a mobile home park or scrap metal business. perhaps the passion comes about as they come to like certain things about that particular field, and that brings the wealthy success?

        someone asks “does anyone really have a passion for insurance?” in that instance perhaps the passion, or at least enjoyment and reward is getting to hear about someone’s business or family. perhaps about someone’s restaurant and how that person is going to insure that and their house for another couple of years, and once the youngest is out on their own, that customer is going to throw a big party, sell, and move to florida. “wow, that’s really cool!”

        that’s how it works for me in tech support. not a wealth-ticket field by any means, but for me the reward is talking with someone in a different time zone about… nearly anything, while waiting ten minutes for a balky computer to restart. maybe the secret is to be a passion-vampire?

    • J says 19 December 2017 at 15:56

      I’m technically a multi-millionaire and I earned the bulk of my money via various investment vehicles most of which I loved doing. I earned my 1st million by 35yrs while earning less than 50k per year and lost half within 2yrs when the economy tanked:) I’ve owned several successful and failed businesses (Real Estate, etc), invested in the financial markets(mutual funds, individual stocks, bonds, 401k/Roth IRA/IRA), collectibles (comic books, Toys), Job, education, etc. All of these investment vehicles had some very mundane tasks associated with them: Lots of reading and studying, learning from failure, accepting more stress, living below or within my means, buy low sell high, buy when everyone else is running from the investment vehicle, driving a 15yrs old car, wearing 10yrs old clothes, not eating out, work 2-3 jobs, have roommates in my home, etc. The mundane task in my youth allowed me to live an almost fairy-tale life as I aged. You can make money from almost any activity, product, life style, etc. The trick is to figure out how to monetize these things and be comfortable with failure and learn from it; be strong enough to ignore the friends, family, and society when they tell you what can’t be accomplished or you don’t know what you are talking about; never stop learning; exercise; and learn to be uncomfortable; take calculated risk; and just Do IT..

      • K says 24 December 2017 at 18:59

        Excellent content…my 23 yr old vehicle arrives at the grocery as fast as a 2016 vehicle. Before spending, ask do I need this? Also, people think hrs worked rather than how well can I do this job. Makes hiring difficult.

  178. Jason@WinningPersonalFinance says 18 December 2017 at 10:24

    A 5K word post where every word brought value! Thanks for sharing JD. I love the part about making your own luck. Sure I’m lucky the stock market has skyrocketed. It would not have mattered though if I spend everything I earned or if I did not invest.

  179. BusyMom says 18 December 2017 at 11:12

    Long post, but was awesome reading it. I am happy to know that I follow many of the habits of rich people. Now all I have to do is get rich!

  180. Rocky @ Richer Soul says 18 December 2017 at 14:10

    I admire your ability to cover the subject so well. Attitude is certainly a major factor in what makes people rich. Yes, some people have bad luck – mainly with health that prevents success.

    I see a lot of people who can’t see beyond their situation and are afraid to try or even imagine a different way. These are solidly middle class people who have formed bad money mindsets.

    Society and marketing have hoodwinked many people into thinking they have to live a certain way.

    I just read about a study focused on helping people make wiser money decisions and showing them a picture of their children help to curb them from making bad money choices.

  181. Megan says 18 December 2017 at 17:53

    Excellent post! I think the descriptors are pretty accurate for both kinds of people. I’m right in the middle and it helped me see where I can do better in my mentality, attitudes, and actions. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this article. It really shows!

  182. S.G. says 18 December 2017 at 20:10

    I also notice that poor and middle income people have a hard time understanding the difference between work and productivity. It goes along with an hourly mindset. So many hourly workers notice how many hours they put in and think they should get more credit, without realizing they aren’t getting things of value accomplished.

    On a second point: I understand your feelings about luck, but disagree. Sure luck plays a role, but I don’t think it’s as outsized as often implied, and I think saying people should be more sympathetic because luck plays a role is counterproductive. It is cathartic for both sides to tell someone it’s okay they’re not successful because of bad luck (though it’s amazing how often bad luck is the result of bad choices) but what does that accomplish?

    A lot of the same bad things happen to successful people, but they turn it into motivation or a lesson, or at least ride the wave. And once again, even if not: I’ve never seen a good outcome that came out of “poor you and your bad luck”.

    • craneboy762 says 26 December 2017 at 12:25

      Is it just luck to be able to see opportunity in a putting pipe in the ground , grading roads, clearing ditches,and being able to exploit them. Having your credit Or is it being prepared, and paying attention that makes some of the luck. Observing what others have done and adapting it to what is in front of you is vital to moving forward in my view. That’s where reading and networking with others on the move pays dividends.

  183. Myfinancekits says 19 December 2017 at 12:30

    I realised that I spend less money when I don’t drive. I only drive to work when it is utmost necessary to do. Apart from the financial aspect, joining public transport is less stressful for me.

  184. Steven says 19 December 2017 at 12:36

    Excellent post again JD! For a few years now I have been gravitating towards this opposite way of thinking. Growing up in a developed Western economy just breeds consumerism, and we’re “taught” from such a young age to live payday-to-payday.

    Well done on inspiring so many of us JD.

    Thank you.

  185. Peter Payne says 19 December 2017 at 19:57

    Fantastic post, 100/100. I have shared to friends and family.

  186. Lady Dividend says 20 December 2017 at 04:41

    You’ve covered just about everything in this post!!!

    It’s interesting for me to hear you compare your upbringing to your experiences now with money. Both of my parents have a unique family situation surrounding money. My mom’s side are blue collar but were able to start successful businesses and invest in real estate with cash. Dad’s family is white collar and are the more professional wheeling and dealing type. It was interesting for me to see the differences growing up and realizing that rich doesn’t fit one archetype.

  187. Travis says 21 December 2017 at 03:07

    I’ll echo other’s comments on an excellent post.

    I’ll also point out that when I first read the slug of the article (“wealthy-habits”), I shortened it in my mind to “wabits”.

    So now, in my head, all of these bullet points are filed under “wabit hunting.”

  188. Myfinancekits says 23 December 2017 at 05:10

    Any addition will just be like saying the same thing but in a different way. The list is comprehensive indeed.

  189. Sean says 24 December 2017 at 05:48

    Their is so much great content in this piece, I can’t come close to capturing it all in one response. I will stick to the 2 items that stuck out the most, because they reflect my situation the most:

    1. “Rich People Read Everyday.” – My entire financial situation changed the second I picked up my first Investment book. I have never been a reader at any point in my life (maybe why I never really understood money), but after I read this book (Investing for Dummies) my mindset changed about money and I have been reading every day since (going on about 2 years now).

    2. Rich people believe: “I create my life.” Poor people believe: “Life happens to me.” – This line may have hit home even harder. Part of my initial readings/analysis showed me that as a millennial, I am completely in charge of funding my retirement. Pensions have all but vanished, and social security could be a dried up well by the time I am able to withdraw from it. Because of all of this, I realized early on that I needed to take my life in my hands and dictate how it would play out, instead of just floating along expecting something to be there in the end.

    Thank you for such a great post, and I look forward to reading your future posts!

  190. Aaron says 24 December 2017 at 17:56

    This article is so true, I am not considered wealthy by no means but I have done very well by the principles in this article for over 30 years. I often try to share this view with everyone I have a close relationship with. Some get it and some don`t. Sacrifice is everything and most people want instant gratification and can not even begin to understand what it is like to be debt free and be ready for retirement. A lot of Americans are bitter because they are not wealthy and want money given to them instead of working for it, saving and sacrificing. If this were not the case these Americans would care less about the wealthy`s tax returns and tax rates.

  191. Alex says 24 December 2017 at 18:20

    Great post and spot on. I think sometimes with people in worse situations than others it may take more sacrifice and more work. I know in my personal experience I’ve had to really sacrifice in order to overcome some of the mental hurdles I’ve had to overcome when it comes to how I think about money and value money. I’ve had to continually challenge myself and sacrifice even more to be completely debt free and now start to build my wealth. It is still a struggle and I continue to work hard to optimize as best as I can. I agree so much with continuous learning and self-improving. Also, not procrastinating helps to foster other areas that need improvement. Seeking and having good mentors also help to shorten some of those processes to help folks reach their goals sooner.

  192. X says 24 December 2017 at 18:35

    On the bit about “systemic” factors.
    I’m going to call bs on this. The system itself is how wealth is generated. It’s like any game, the rich are people who have learned how to play it better. Doing what doesn’t generate wealth is how you end up poor. So learn the rules. For everyone wanting to overhaul the system, it wont’ change your situation. Why? Because someone will learn the new rules and you still won’t.
    This has been how things are since the dawn of civilization. And don’t blame western “consumerism”. You’ve taught yourself to think that way, they merely offer their products and services. Teach your kids how to think and build wealth and the attitude to have towards money. Because if you don’t, someone ELSE will.

    Safety nets do help with risks. But in the end the families that are rich started out poor as well if you trace back. They were smart and built something for their offspring to succeed better. Rather than griping about it, learn to do the same thing.

    The only one responsible for how you think is YOU. So take that responsibility and do it yourself. Just because you grew up in a poor disadvantaged neighborhood doesn’t mean you can’t get wealthy. It just means you have more to overcome. And a greater tale to tell when you do succeed.

    And if you saw this, got triggered or whined, that right there is a good indicator you have a poor me attitude. That attitude will never bring you success. Kill it and grow up.

    • 34' says 01 January 2018 at 01:30

      X, nail on the head with a huge mallet…

    • Bupe says 24 February 2018 at 20:41

      my thoughts as well.
      You need to totally commit to the rich mindset and leave no room for *little poor attitudes*
      Rich people, most of them….were broke too….
      I dislike how he just shuts out those poor people by saying it’s virtually impossible to get out because of LUCK…
      Overall post was good, but that RANT showed that a part of you hasn’t fully grasped the rich mentality.
      I came from poverty too….but my future was absolutely my own RESPONSIBILITY.
      Born poor= not your fault
      Die poor= you fool!

  193. D.M.R says 24 December 2017 at 18:59

    This is a very interesting and informative article, but I think two major points are missed. The overarching reality of social class in America is that, absent higher education, the social class a person is born into is the social class in which they will die. We don’t like to admit it, but in this country most wealthy people were born to wealthy families. Not all, but most. The second point is that generally, education is the means to social class mobility. A college degree is the best investment a person can make for their future. There are a couple of community college A.S. degrees that will pull in six-figure incomes – nursing and x-ray technology – but a B.A/B.S. is the best ticket to move forward. Higher education not only provides specific skills, but more importantly, provides organized thinking, which I think is essential for financial success.

  194. John says 24 December 2017 at 19:29

    I have enjoyed the process of growing money, since childhood. I began real estate investing, at 21, and also started and grew a modest business. By 30, I was a millionaire, and basically retired. Because I live below my means, I have continued to invest in real estate, and have grown my net worth to over 15m, at the age of 52. I truly enjoy real estate investing, and I attribute my success to that passion. I mentor people, but if they are looking for a get rich quick plan, they tend to fail. Financial success is more about what you save than what you earn. Good investments compound, and starting early is the best advice I can give. Wealth is about security, rather than what it can buy, to most people of means.

  195. cdesouza says 24 December 2017 at 19:41

    Excellent article.

    It is true that “when you grow up poor, a scarcity mindset becomes so deeply ingrained that it’s almost impossible to shake”. I’ve been there myself. Only in hindsight could I see how the decisions I made kept me down. What helped me out of that was overcoming the associated negative emotions, which took an enormous amount of work.

    I wonder if that is why so many famous athletes or actors who come from poor backgrounds, or lottery jackpot winners for that matter, often wind up right back where they started. Almost as if they unconsciously sabotage their chances of sustained wealth to get back to what they are more familiar with. My husband observed that a lot of the poorer people he knows stick to whatever and whomever the are comfortable with. The comfort zone is a very powerful draw and yet to succeed, you often need to push yourself out of that comfort zone.

    I often wonder what degree of “systemic poverty” can be solved by addressing the psychology of poverty (I’ve had similar conversations with a social worker relative, who went from the bottom rung of the social ladder to upper middle class). Then, on a larger scale, addressing the problem of monopolies and all the associated nepotism/cronyism so people have more opportunities as well.

  196. Laura says 24 December 2017 at 19:51

    Excellent article. Thank you. I see many areas I need to improve. Do you have any articles that would be helpful that give insight into career choices? I find myself in the difficult task of finding/creating a career from scratch in my 50’s and my college degree in physics is no longer useful.

  197. jackson says 24 December 2017 at 20:20

    Time. The addition of “time’ to planning, or to ANY problem. That principle that separates the classes, and for many the sexes. Dad bought one stock, once IBM,100 shares),HE enrolled in the re investment of dividends-into more shares, in 1954. He told no one, the family grew-survived the Depression of ’55-59, the war in VN, the inflation, (REAL wages have NOT gone up since 1967, 6 divorces(two divorces were his), the ’87 crash, the tech crash, the housing bubble-he got out in ‘2007, sold houses, condos, and rented. When he passed 2012, WE found that lesson in ‘time’ gained us +780,000.00!
    He bought the stock, LONG before ross peroit paid nixon for the 1st computer gov contract in ’69- social security was contracted to IBM…TIME.

    Grandpa taught us about saving the “currency of the super rich”- stamps, and coins. He bought full “blocks” pages of Stamps from all over the world. He bought yearly proof sets for all the children.
    In 2006, i scrimped, I saved, no concerts, way less beer, and I bought 6 OZ buffalo proofs, for 875.00 each. Everyone Hated the Government, they could do nothing ‘right’, at the MINT at West Point, they were doing it right- a pure gold proof.

    MANY laughed at me, how foolish. I bought Proofs, when a “pinch” came in the housing crash of 2009, i sold ONE for 2450.
    APE the rich in buying the best and in appreciation of goods. USE time.

    Lastly READ: X President Obamas book profits? Over 16 millions in non taxable T-bills, do you think he knows the interest rates are going up?
    The Republic- plato
    (those in a cave watching reflected images….).

    When you get my age…(68) you begin to see longer cycles, this one looks like ’74 when prices doubled and tripled over 14 months, Oil, Housing, Banks, loans, When 30 year tax free-T bills hit 18%..our depression era parents bought them. USE time, read. Follow the money. Think LONG < LONG RANGE.

    Lastly, reject the "path" of mind numbing consumerism(deakdash) AND its misuse of time, ie: all problems are to be 'solved" in 23:30 mins in time for 6 1/2 mins for ADs, a vacant powerless victim path, instead BE a force of nature. Own your time and your own life, invest and how long? towards what you are able to sleep with at night.
    Always pay yourself(20%net) first, then everyone else.

  198. Alessandra Shepel says 24 December 2017 at 21:22

    This topic is very interesting and one thing that has not been mentioned is that another difference between rich people and poor people is , like my Mom used to observe, that the latter tend to be slim while poor people tend to be over weight, even obese. This, in turn will affect your health and you will also end spending more on clothing, since larger sizes cost more & is more difficult to find nice clothing on second-hand stores, thrift stores, etc. so you end wearing mainly t-shirts and sweat pants and then it becomes more difficult to find something decent to wear in a job interview, etc. etc. Many poor people over eat maybe because of depression, stress, & the cheap foods have no nutritional value, just calories, so you have to keep eating & end spending more at the end. On the other hand,is also a matter of making wise choices. I remember at one point I was in a very tight budget but because I had learned how to dress, even if I had a few pieces, my neighbors thought I had money. Also, I found out that it pays to spend a little bit more on good food that will keep you full longer and also healthy.For example, oat meal is a good choice for cereal, artisan breads, instead of sliced white bread, etc. Here in USA is not very popular to walk, but I have walked everywhere most of my life and that way I could save & keep slim. I notice some low-income people do not want to walk but drive everywhere even short distances. Also, I have known people who earned a decent income but had vices like gambling, drinking, smoking and that is where all their money went, so they were living like poor while if you avoid these habits you can live with less and once in a while enjoy eating out at a good restaurant, travel, etc.

  199. BRCitizen says 24 December 2017 at 23:42

    Fascinating post. As a household that achieved our (first) million in net worth a few years ago in our early 40s and quickly progressed to becoming at least minor multi-millionaires, I’ll share my own tips. About 60% of the points above describe me, I fall short on maybe 20%, and outright disagree with another 20% (I’ll get to those).
    So what worked for us? Here are my rules, in order of importance:

    1. Take care of your health first. That’s #1. Seems simple, but this is paramount.
    Just financially, if you have poor health, it drains your resources while making it harder to earn money to replenish them.
    If you don’t have your health, nothing else matters. Conversely, if you do, then almost every other difficulty can be overcome. So, never sacrifice your health for anything, including making more money in the short term. That includes emotional health; I’ve seen stress easily cascade into physical problems.

    2. Partner up, but Choose Your Partner Wisely. I’m not saying marry rich, though that’s a nice shortcut. But both my partner and I started with nothing. What we do have in common, is that both of us have a good attitude toward money and work. We don’t spend like crazy and we’re both responsible enough to work to our potential.
    Women seem to follow this rule instinctively; men often sabotage themselves by marrying someone who decides to follow some flighty dream in midlife, or just stay home. I’ve seen so many professional couples, where both partners are well-educated, and they could have decent jobs, but then one partner decides that they don’t want to work full time, and then they struggle. They make a middle class income when they could make a high income, and that puts much more stress on the family finances. Then it starts to affect the marriage, because finances are stressed. And then it starts to affect health when the marriage is stressed (see rule #1). Things are just soooo much easier when you have a stable two-income household, even if those incomes are moderate.

    3. Live below your means, and save consistently. Which of course is near impossible if you don’t follow rules 1 and 2. But even if you do, it can be tough. If you’re able to follow all 3, then you’ll eventually achieve financial independence if you do nothing else.
    With two incomes of 50K (I know bus drivers and cashiers who make that and more), you could do it by retirement age. If you’re smart enough to make a professional income (say accountant, MRI tech, cop, etc.), two such professionals with the right discipline can retire as millionaires in their early 50s.

    As for the rest… I say pick and choose. For example…

    Don’t gamble? Meh. I spend probably $60-70 per year on lottery tickets. It isn’t going to affect my bottom line. I say just don’t overdo it.

    Focus on the “big wins”? Oh yes!!! This is a (minor) disagreement with my partner, who’s more frugal than I am on the little things like turning off the lights. I don’t always bother. And food? Personally, I like good food. And I consider it an investment. We buy fresh, we buy organic, we pay attention to where our fish and meat comes from, and we spend thousands a year for the privilege (see rule #1). On the other hand, when it comes to remodeling the house or buying a car, we save TENS of thousands doing super careful research, multiple quotes, etc.

    Save 20% of your income? It depends. We don’t save quite that much. But we don’t have to anymore. If you make only 30K per year, is 20% really going to be enough? (can you even spare 20%, or is it more productive to spend some money getting an education so you can double or triple your income?). Meanwhile, if you make 300K, do you really need to save 60K per year to finance a comfortable retirement?

    Outsource? Definitely in our case! My time has value too, and I’d honestly rather spend $120 paying someone to pick around in our dishwasher, because for me it would be an all day project and I make a lot more than that in a day.

    This idea that rich people work for profits and prefer to be paid based on results, while poor and middle class prefer to be paid for time and focus on increasing paychecks? I say that’s a great philosophy for those who are already rich bosses. If you’re trying to get rich, the surest way is to have stability in income coupled with personal discipline. Insecurity and instability is what keeps the already rich, rich (because they control the flow of income to their employees), and it keeps others from joining their ranks.

    Know the importance of recharging? Oh, absolutely. See my own rule #1! In fact, I work 30 hours a week and I refuse to work more, even though I could make more money. Balance is key. Retirement is only one goal; having an enjoyable life right here and now is another goal in and of itself.

    Rich people work harder? Absolutely not! Not in my case, and that’s not true of most of the millionaires I know. I’m one of the laziest people I know. But I compensate for my aversion to hard work in a number of ways -I’m intelligent, and I have some discipline. I carefully chose a career that is pleasant and makes a good income, followed through on the necessary education, and then put in the necessary hours to maintain a comfortable lifestyle (but no more than necessary).

    Set goals? Yes. I do that and I write them down. Not a list of New Year’s resolutions, but a year’s to-do list. Even if the goals are modest and achievable, like “lose 5 pounds” or “take that trip to South Africa.”

    Mentors? In other words, people who can get you nice jobs and investment opportunities because of who you know instead of what you know. Yes, I’m sure it’s effective to have someone with connections take you under their wing. Nice if you can find it -I’m sure we’d be even richer if we did. Possibly orders of magnitude richer. But since we both suck at networking, that wasn’t in the cards for either of us.
    We still did OK. More than OK.

    Financial literacy? Absolutely. Know enough to take calculated risks, and research and ask for help when you don’t know. And we’ve had some whopper mistakes that cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars. We’ve also had some really good investments that made us hundreds of thousands. We were able to recover from the bad ones because we followed rule #1 and rule #2.

    Rich people admire other rich people/while poor people resent them? Screw that. We’re rich. We know other rich people. And we know enough that there’s nothing to admire about most of them.
    (btw… I LOVE the little rant in the blog. That rings TOTALLY true from what I experienced!)

    Rich people make their own luck? Well… yes and no. See above. Let’s put it this way, if you have that attitude, you are NOT guaranteed to succeed. Luck absolutely plays a role, especially in a society that chooses not to have a safety net for its citizens. And what’s funny is that the most self-entitled rich people who benefitted from lots of luck, are the ones who seem to have that attitude most of all. On the other hand, if you don’t have that attitude, then you ARE almost guaranteed to fail. It’s a paradox.

  200. uri says 25 December 2017 at 05:48

    the post should probably come with a correlation =/= causation disclaimer. many of these habits contribute to wealth, but many can also be an effect of wealth. rich people are generally healthier, more educated, less vulnerable and less exhausted than poor people. this creates the space to engage in many of the practices and develop many of the habits that this article discusses.

  201. paul says 25 December 2017 at 12:51

    Not mentioned is the fact that you have to feel that you deserve to be wealthy. Most have a lot of guilt about money, especially about having more than others.

  202. Stravo Lukos says 26 December 2017 at 08:07

    I really don’t care what unbelievers think about wealth. It is their nature to be avaricious and stubbornly ungodly in everything they think, do, and say. My concern is with professing Christians who buy into this garbage-stew of health & wealth, or in this case, just wealth.
    There are so many places in Scripture where Jesus and His apostles warn us of the dangers of greed and riches that it is difficult to know where to begin and when to stop. Let’s begin with the most important of God’s commands, to love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength [Dt. 10: 12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? (NKJV)] Jesus reiterates this in Matt. 22: 34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
    Before this, Jesus told a rich, young ruler to give up all his possessions to the poor and follow Him [Matt. 19]. In Matt. 6, Jesus teaches us, 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…” and, “24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon…” and this, 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” From these few verses, it should be apparent that God is more concerned for our holiness than our happiness. He knows what He has in store for those who persevere to the end for the kingdom of God—eternal bliss.
    Let’s continue to the apostles’ teachings. In 1Tim. 6, Paul warns Timothy (and all believers) “9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”
    James, brother of the Lord, argues that the rich, obviously the most avaricious of them, are a scourge to the poor whom God has chosen for glory [2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?”]
    In Acts 3, we see Peter in poverty, yet not impoverished because he has better riches: [Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. 4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.]
    It is worth noting, as I wind up this post, that all the apostles lived in circumstances we would count as grinding poverty, yet they never starved or died from exposure. They counted all suffering as joy. Paul considered the wealth and wisdom of this world as rubbish compared to all that Jesus had waiting for His bride, the church. John warned in his first epistle that the love of the world was death to us, not a prize to be sought. And why is it that Jesus Himself said it would be easier for a camel (or in one translation, rope) to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter heaven? We are to seek the Mind of God for His will for our lives, not lean toward our own understanding. It is that, or as Jesus said, we gain the whole world and lose our soul. That’s no bargain at all. Forget riches! Consider the gains of this world as rubbish. Rather seek God’s will and look forward to His reward in eternity. Do not follow Demas to your ruin.

  203. WealthyDoc says 29 December 2017 at 08:27

    Fantastic summary.
    Thanks for sharing.
    I grew up “dirt poor.” I’m now in the top 5% or so depending on the scale. Money was never even my highest priority. Nevertheless, I did most of the things described on the “rich person” side of the descriptions above. Those habits propelled me to success.

  204. Dave says 29 December 2017 at 09:50

    Very informative post. Rich people are different. They think and act different than the masses. Anyone can become rich if they are willing to practice the list of traits that you provided. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen if you are willing to work for it. Very few people, however, have the required discipline to pursue this lifetime endeavor.

  205. Ekin says 29 December 2017 at 13:42

    The quote about the default really made me think and this was an amazingly constructed piece, you really did epic work and your criticism about the ‘rich vs poor’ rules was excellently delivered. As a very poor decision maker and a newbie to the personal finance topic it is amazing to read such pieces because they are really eye opening, at least for me.

  206. Mr. Groovy says 30 December 2017 at 05:53

    Growing up, the default financial options my family transmitted were not conducive to building wealth. You work and pay your bills. Debt was normal. Saving was just a temporary detour. You saved enough for the minimum down payment on a car or house. Not surprisingly, these default options left me one small notch above living paycheck to paycheck in adulthood.

    Fortunately, I discovered Dave Ramsey in my early 40s. It was my first exposure to default options that were conducive to building wealth. And I embraced those options with gusto.

    And to tell the truth, discarding my family’s default options in favor of Dave’s was easy. I never considered our family’s default options as something integral to our culture and heritage and thus something that had to be defended at all costs. Those default options were just things that took root unconsciously and provided okay guidance. So when I quickly discarded them for Dave’s, I never felt I was “selling out” my family.

    I suspect that most people aren’t emotionally attached to their family’s default financial options. If they do come across better options, there’s a good chance they’ll adopt them. And if this is the case, shouldn’t we be making wealth studies an integral part of K-12 education?

    Well, that’s my pathetic two cents anyway. Great freaking post.

  207. aGoodLifeMD says 31 December 2017 at 11:15

    This is an Epic post! Well done. Im surprised you didn’t mention The Millonaire Next Door, but you seem to have enough sources : )

    I’ll say that as a financially successful physician with a financially savvy wife also in medicine, this post gives me an ego boost. While reading it I thought of my family and self and thought “yup, I do that, wife does that, uh huh, etc”

    I can see that it would be a wake up call to someone wanting to get more wealth but not being there. Might hurt some feelings too.

    Lots of these are redundant, which is good. Probably my favorite is this quote.

    “Successful people focus on big wins. Sure, they develop smart habits and pay attention to the small stuff. But they also understand that if they’re diligent with their dollars, then the pennies will take care of themselves.”

    I talk with so many people that are pound foolish and penny wise. They want my advice but I see that they think clipping coupons is a better use of time than reading posts like this or picking up a mutual fund prospectus.

    That micromanaging is a recipe for unhappiness because of the mental and temporal bandwidth it takes to micromanage every purchase or non-purchase.

    This is truly the granddaddy of all traits of the rich posts I’ve seen.

  208. Vishwa says 14 March 2018 at 03:35

    This “Rich people act in spite of fear. Poor people let fear stop them.” is cent percent true. Kudos to the writer for coming up with an interesting article.

  209. George says 03 August 2018 at 10:56

    Fantastic! I’ve had this at my desk for years – still so inspiring and life-changing.


  210. Mike says 27 August 2019 at 11:40

    I agree with most of the points that were listed. Although, sometimes it is difficult to implement depending on where someone is on the hierarachy. (Maslow)

    I was able to witness something that supported many of the points listed above. A coworker of mine would lead the office in sales every month on a consistent basis. He would sell at least 20 cars a month. I asked him how he managed to do this and he said his daughter had a partial scholarship and he was determined to pay the rest to help her out. (Purpose) He would work every day of the month until he reached 20 cars and then would cut back to his normal schedule. He never missed a month and was able to succeed. Sometimes having a big enough “Why” can help you to win.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*