Pop quiz: Which of the following statements is true?
- Rich people are greedy.
- Money corrupts people.
- People get rich by taking advantage of others.
- Good people should not care about money.
- All of the above.
If you agree with any of those beliefs, you might be hurting your chances of becoming wealthy yourself. In fact, hating the rich might be making your poor.
Dr. Brad Klontz, an associate professor of financial psychology at Creighton University in Omaha, has found through years of research and surveying hundreds of people about their money beliefs that those who think negatively about wealth and wealthy people are more likely to have lower incomes. The stronger your hatred of the rich, the lower your income will be.
“As long as you hold those beliefs, you’re never going to be able to get ahead,” Klontz said. “They’re going to keep pulling you back.” Here’s why.
1. You Avoid Money
Everyone needs money to pay for food, housing and other necessities, but some believe that they shouldn’t have more than they need because having too much can corrupt people. They think that those who have a lot are greedy.
Beliefs such as these are what Klontz calls money avoidance. Because of these beliefs, you often do things subconsciously that hurt your financial well-being, such as overspending, blowing a windfall or not seeking advancement at work. You sabotage yourself because of your negative associations with money.
2. … Yet You Worship Money
Ironically, people who despise the rich are more likely to worship money, Klontz said. They think that having more money will solve all of their financial problems and make their life better. “On the one hand they think money corrupts people, but, on the other hand, they want more,” he said.
This contradiction causes you to end up hating rich people even more because they have money and you don’t. You convince yourself that everyone who has money is bad and you tune out any evidence to the contrary, Klontz said. Then you tell yourself that by not being rich, at least you’re not one of those jerks.
3. You Surround Yourself With Others Who Hate Rich People
People who hate the rich tend to find friends who feel the same. If you’re constantly reinforcing each other’s belief that the wealthy are bad, “it becomes a reality for you,” Klontz said.
If you do start earning more money, get a windfall or even change your tune about the rich, you risk alienating your friends. So you don’t make efforts to improve your finances because you don’t want to get kicked out of your social group.
Understanding and recognizing these thought processes and negative stereotypes can help you change your behavior. By managing your feelings toward money, you can begin to better manage your money.
“It follows that psychological intervention targeting self-limiting financial beliefs and self-destructive financial behaviors could be useful in helping clients challenge and change their problematic money beliefs and improve their financial trajectory,” according to Klontz and his co-authors of the study, “The Wealthy: A Psychological Profile,” published in the American Psychological Association’s Consulting Psychology Journal.
Bridging the Income Gap
There’s a big gap between the wealthiest people and the rest of the population. In fact, the average income of the richest 5 percent of U.S. households is 13 times higher than the poorest 20 percent of households, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
For Klontz’s study, wealthy individuals were defined as those with $370,000 or more in yearly income or a high net worth of $2.5 million or more. The comparison group had an average income of $88,000, which is actually much higher than what the average American earns. Here’s how wealth breaks down in the U.S.:
- $36,841: That’s the median adjusted gross income of U.S. taxpayers, according to the IRS. If you earn this much or more, you’re in the top 50 percent of earners.
- $127,695: That’s the AGI it takes to be in the top 10 percent.
- $428,713: That’s the AGI it takes to be in the top 1 percent.
- 37 percent: That’s how much the income of the top 1 percent grew from 2009 to 2012.
- -0.4 percent: That’s how much the income of the bottom 99 percent decreased from 2009 to 2012.
No matter how big the difference is between your income and that of rich people, begrudging others their wealth will only distract you from finding ways to grow your own. Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck now, you can channel your desire to learn how to become rich into actions that can help you achieve financial stability and wealth.
How to Eliminate Negative Feelings and Get Rich
If you want to start making more money, you have recognize that you have negative beliefs about the rich, Klontz said. These beliefs are not helping you. They’re only holding you back from achieving your own financial well-being.
1. Pinpoint Where These Beliefs Came From
To help eliminate these negative beliefs about money and rich people, you have to identify why you have them. Opinions about the rich typically are learned in childhood, Klontz said. A parent or other family member might have ingrained in you the idea that money corrupts. Or perhaps you saw a rich person do something bad — in reality or even in movies — and have maintained that negative association in the back of your mind.
To pinpoint where your beliefs came from, Klontz recommended identifying three things your parents taught you about money as well as your most painful and most joyful experiences with money.
As a child, you accept these messages at face value, Klontz said. Unfortunately, because money is a taboo topic, there is not a lot of opportunity to challenge those beliefs, so you hang onto them into adulthood, and they influence your relationship with money. It’s important to recognize that what you were taught about wealth and the wealthy in childhood isn’t always true.
2. Form an Accurate Belief About Wealth
“Some rich people may be bad, but some do incredible things with their money to help humanity,” Klontz said. When you realize that not all rich people are bad, you make your belief about the wealthy more accurate, and you open the door to new possibilities for enhancing your financial situation.
Realize that it’s OK to have money. Then you can start taking steps to learn how boost your own wealth.
3. Stop Sabotaging Yourself
Once you let go of negative feelings about wealth, you can stop telling yourself that you can’t get ahead. “There are a lot of opportunities out there for you,” Klontz said. “You’re just not paying attention because you have a certain mindset.”
For example, you might want to reach out to someone who is successful — such as your boss, a colleague or friend — and ask how he got where he is today.
“There are lots of people who would love to teach you and share with you what they know,” Klontz said. “People love to talk about themselves and pass on their wisdom.”
Stop letting other people decide what you’re worth and start asking for raises or seeking advancement. Stop blaming others for your financial situation. Own up to your money mistakes and accept that you’ve made them so you don’t repeat them, Klontz said. Then you’ll be on the path toward wealth.