What Are the Differences Between the Rich and the Poor?
Published on - November 1st, 2011 (by J.D. Roth)
Disclaimer: I realize this topic stirs strong emotions, but I think it’s both interesting and important. Besides, if any group is capable of having a deep discussion about it, it’s Get Rich Slowly readers. You folks are both civil and intelligent. JD Roth
Long ago, when this site was young, I reviewed 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 the people around us. Unfortunately, Eker says, most of us have faulty blueprints that prevent us from building wealth.
In his book, Eker lists seventeen ways in which the financial blueprints of the rich differ from those of the poor and the middle-class. According to him:
Recently, somebody pointed me to a similar book: The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class by Keith Cameron Smith. I haven’t had a chance to read this yet (it’s on my to-do list), but I glanced through some of it at Google books. Like Eker, Smith attempts to differentiate between the mindsets of the rich and the rest of us.
His ten distinctions are:
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.
I know lots of people who talk about ideas rather than things and people, for instance, and I know many folks who embrace change. Many of my friends are continually 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? I’m not ready to dismiss Smith’s list outright — I need to read his book to see how he supports his claims — but my initial reaction to his list is skepticism.
But I think both authors are too quick to dismiss systemic causes of poverty. And perhaps neither of them has ever actually been poor. Some of their criticisms make sense, but some are grounded in a mindset of wealth.
“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?
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’m one of the lucky ones who has managed to make good. 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.
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. (And, really, they’re probably closer yet to the attitudes described in The Millionaire Next Door.)
What do you think? From your experience, what are the differences between the rich and the poor? How do the rich think differently? What behaviors to the poor and the middle-class have that the rich do not?