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Seven Reasons Why Being Rich Isn’t Evil

“You know the funny thing, I don’t get along with rich people. I get along with the middle class and the poor people better than I get along with the rich people.”
–Donald Trump

“Money solves your money problems.”
–James Altucher

In the summer of 2011, you couldn’t go into a town of any reasonable size and miss seeing some variant of Occupy Wall Street. They’d usually decamped in a local public park and held up signs decrying the 1%. They made a whole series of “one demands” that took on a whole range of issues. They played on a sometimes articulated belief that rich people were evil, and it was because of the evil that those rich people perpetrated that they, the occupiers, needed to make their protests.

There are evil rich people. There are also evil poor people, evil middle-class people, evil retirees, and a whole lot of other demographics which contain evil people. There’s even a Doctor Evil.

Mike Myers as Austin Powers and Dr Evil
He’s truly evil!

Being rich in and of itself is not an evil thing. Here are seven reasons why being rich isn’t evil.

  • The rich usually got there through hard work and provided value and benefit to others. If you create something in the market which people want, then they will give you money for it. They are giving you money because they think that they’re getting something which gives them at least an equivalent value in the trade. In an ideal scenario, both parties feel like they’re better off for having made the trade (hat tip to John Berryman for pointing out the nuance!)
  • The rich have more money to give to charity. No matter how good your intentions are, if you can barely make ends meet, you don’t have money to give to charity.
  • The rich contribute more to charity. Households with incomes exceeding $1 million make 50% of all charitable donations.
  • The rich are doing nothing to keep you from getting there. There is no fence that you have to climb to improve your life and improve your finances. There is no set of handcuffs which prevents you from improving your lot. There are only the voices inside your head which tell you I can’t. They’re the ones which prevent you from trying again when you fail. The voices in your head are the ones who tell you that it’s someone else’s fault, be it the system, the rich, fate, whatever. Stop the voices. Be responsible for your choices.
  • The rich won’t have money problems. 17% of personal income in the United States goes to transfer payments – transfer of income from those who have income to those who don’t. While I am in favor of supporting those who cannot support themselves (disabled veterans is an example which comes to mind), there are those who can but do not. What if people created and earned instead of received?
  • There’s no special button or formula which made these people rich. Read the biographies of several people who are rich. How many of them start with “I was born rich and got richer” (Donald Trump) compared to “I wasn’t poor, worked hard, was prepared to take advantage of opportunities, and got there” (Gates, Jobs, Buffet, Cuban, Jordan, etc.)? Instead of saying “if I was rich, I’d do things differently,” do things differently to get rich and then prove that you would do things differently if you were rich.
  • What happens to rich people doesn’t affect your life. You get up, go to work, earn your living, save money, and live your life. If George Soros buys a yacht, it doesn’t affect you. So billions of dollars get thrown into political campaigns and lobbying each year – which, by and large, is spent by rich people. How does that affect your life? Does it prevent you from going to work and adding value and being more important so that you can earn more? Does it prevent you from starting your own business, providing goods and services which other people want, need, and will pay good money for? No. What does prevent you? Look in the mirror.

If you think that rich people are evil, stop living a life of envy. Define riches for what is important to you. Focus on that. Live a life which enables you to be rich as you define it, whether it’s money, family, travel, helping others, or something else. Go out and kill it. Create value. Focus on what you can do and what you can change. Do not look for external reasons. Success comes from within, and every day that you can give value to those around you, you will succeed.

By

Jason Hull, CFP®, was the co-founder of Broadtree Partners, a firm that acquires $1-5MM EBITDA companies. He also was the co-founder of open source search consultancy OpenSource Connections, a premier Solr and ElasticSearch firm. He and his wife FIREd (financial independence retire early) at 46 and 45, respectively. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a MBA from the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business.

You can read more about him in the About Page.

10 replies on “Seven Reasons Why Being Rich Isn’t Evil”

I’ll add a couple more. #8 – we are all rich here in the States. Compared to the rest of the World, we are all 1% ers. #9 – “rich” isn’t a fixed state of being. People move in and out of the top 5% all the time. There is no elite top of the pile. We all increase and decrease our wealth each day by the actions we take. It’s just as likely that 50 years from now people who attended Occupy Wall Street rallies will be rich vs the sons and daughters of the current 1%. It’s part of what makes the U.S. so great.

It is true, rich people live their lives, create more jobs, contribute to charity and there is always space if you want to reach them. But somehow the poor attribute it to luck, being born rich and other reasons forgetting the hard work beyond the wealth. Even if you receive money from your parents it takes work to keep the wealth.
Not sure all Americans are 1%ers, sure most have a roof over their head and tons of stuff they don’t need but the median net worth is around $70K which if you account for home equity isn’t much and many even have a negative NW.

According to a United Nations study, $70k would put you in the top 1% globally. To reach the top 1%, you’d need about $510k in net worth.

I remember when I lived in Germany, it was nearly impossible to pay for things with a credit card. The Germans were very debt-averse, at least in the 1990s, as many of the elder generation remembered the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic. They also didn’t seem obsessed over money. They were obsessed over beer, though. The United States is, stereotypically speaking, the country with the most obsession with money and material goods. It’s a never-ending struggle to keep up with the Joneses, because we perceive that we’ll only be happy if we’re better off than our neighbors.

Eventually, everyone will come around to our point of view that the acquisition of wealth is not the goal in and of itself. It’s a tool to do all of the other things we want to do in life!

I agree, the only issue that I have against big money is the buying of political power. But that could easily be changed if people actually started caring.
Another factor that many people don’t consider is that many rich people are leaving the biggest portion of their wealth to philanthropic organizations like Buffett and Gates.

Justin–

I have to admit, I flip flop back and forth on the buying of political power. On one hand, if someone wants to spend a billion dollars buying TV ads, who am I to say that they can’t? Would you want me to tell you how you could spend your money? On the other hand, I get that the spending does skew the voices of what should be a constitutional republic (though, arguably, we’re built the way we are to intentionally not be a true democracy). I don’t have an answer aside from the one that you posited – an educated populace who gave a crap – and I have no idea how to make that a reality. I’m sticking my head back in the sand on that issue! 🙂

Heh, your point about Gates and Buffett made me wonder just what that dinner conversation was like.

Bill: “Hey, Warren B. I’m giving away all of my mobneys to charity. Whatchu gonna do? Huh?”

Talk about some serious peer pressure.

Actually, Gates (and to a lesser extent Buffett, if I recall correctly) is giving away a lot of the wealth while he’s alive and can have the greatest impact. Think of how much the Gates Foundation has done. Bono is another one who comes to mind – he’s used his money and his influence to create an amazing bully pulpit for the causes he believes in. He wouldn’t have had that impact without fame and money.

Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

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