Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Rich People Are Greedy

Do you hate rich people? Come on, be honest.

Do you hate rich people? Come on, be honest. Rich people are greedy and shallow. They get rich by taking advantage of others. They are miserly and selfish. Money is their god. They don't really care about the poor or less fortunate. Deep down they are not really happy anyway.

Our beliefs about money drive all of our financial behaviors. The problem is that we are often unaware of our money beliefs, as we acquire them early in life. Typically, beliefs about money are developed during childhood as we try to make sense of money's role in the world, and where we stack-up compared to those around us. One of the most self-destructive conclusions about money is that it is somehow bad or evil. On a rational level, this is of course ridiculous. Money is just a tool, no more, no less. It is how it is used or not used that determines its virtue. But when our emotional brain clings to the association that money is bad, we are financially doomed.

If you carry the core belief that money is bad and rich people are evil, chances are you came by it honestly. At some point in your life you learned either through instruction from adults or through direct experience that someone wealthier than you engaged in some nefarious behavior or exhibited some undesirable trait. Therein lays the problem. The fact is that some people do take advantage of others on their way to accumulating wealth. Every now and then a Madoff comes along to drive home the point. However, when this stereotype is applied to all wealthy people, and money is seen as bad in itself, it can become self-limiting.

If you, your family or your community have come to associate wealth with evildoing, how likely are you to accumulate any money yourself? Not very. The psychological cost would be too high. You would become one of "those people." Your friends and family members would look at you differently. You would no longer belong. This explains, in part, why many people who come into sudden money, through an inheritance, insurance settlement, or lottery win, get rid of it quickly. As those close to you learn that your financial situation has changed, it can quickly become uncomfortable. It also explains, in part, why many people unconsciously sabotage their financial success, believing that wealth and integrity cannot coexist.

Given the subjective and contextual definitions of rich and poor, these descriptors are not very helpful, and anger at any "categories" of human beings usually does more harm than good. That fact that you can read and have access to the internet means that you are likely quite rich compared to most other people in the world. Many rich people got that way by hard work, taking extraordinary risks, or providing a product or service that is of great benefit to the world. Many rich people are also quite generous, donating to charities and setting up foundations to help those in need.

Take a close look at your early experiences around money and your resulting beliefs about wealth. Are they keeping you stuck? If so, challenge some of your core beliefs about money and see if a more balanced view of money can help you improve your financial health.

Dr. Brad Klontz, Psy.D., CFP®, is a financial psychologist, an Associate Professor and Founder of the Financial Psychology Institute at Creighton University Heider College of Business, a Managing Principal of Occidental Asset Management (OCCAM). and co-author of five books on financial psychology, including Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health.

You can follow Dr. Klontz on Twitter at @DrBradKlontz.

Copyright © 2013 by Brad Klontz

More from Brad Klontz Psy.D., CFP
More from Psychology Today