“Rich people are insensitive.” “Rich people are selfish.” “Rich people don’t have to work hard.”
These beliefs and stereotypes pop up on the regular, but why? And how do these belief systems affect our own wealth?
Personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi delved into these questions on episode 116 of her podcast “So Money,” featuring financial psychologist, author, and certified financial planner Dr. Brad Klontz, whose latest research has focused on the wealthy.
This general sentiment of hostility toward the wealthy likely plants itself early on in childhood, Klontz says. He wrote in a 2014 blog post:
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 behaviour …
Therein lays the problem. The fact is that some people do take advantage of others on their way to accumulating wealth … However, when this stereotype is applied to all wealthy people, and money is seen as bad in itself, it can become self-limiting.
Ironically, in his research, Klontz found that people who have strong anti-rich beliefs also tend to have a strong desire to be wealthy.
He calls this conflict “money ambivalence” — which can quickly become self-limiting and dangerous for your financial health, he warns.
“That conflict internally sets us up to be stuck. It sets us up for failure,” he told Torabi.
If you learned to associate money with greed and selfishness, you’re probably not going to become very wealthy. “The psychological cost would be too high,” he wrote. “It also explains, in part, why many people unconsciously sabotage their financial success, believing that wealth and integrity cannot coexist.”
Klontz recommends challenging your core beliefs around money to avoid hurting your financial success: “Take a close look at your early experiences around money and your resulting beliefs about wealth … See if a more balanced view of money can help you improve your financial health.”