Combating the “Wealth Equals Jerk” Perception

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Laurie Blank.  Laurie is a wife, mother to 4 and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

There’s a common perception among those struggling financially that all wealthy people are greedy, self-serving jerks who have made their fortune by trampling on others. Many of those living paycheck-to-paycheck lives gained this perspective from their parents or other authority figures in their lives. Entire books have been written on how the wealthy are responsible for all economic problems in the world.

I know our family sometimes talked this way when I was younger. In their minds, there were the haves and the have-nots and which group you fell into was simply luck of the draw. Besides, wealthy people were takers and not givers, and why would you want to be a part of such an uncharitable group of people anyway?

I believe a wrongly-held perception of the rich can have a subconscious impact on one’s ability to improve their financial situation. I know this was the case with my husband and me for many years. Because we viewed the rich as financial bullies, we were hesitant to improve our financial situation. We feared we would change if we became wealthy or financially secure and no longer be the compassionate, charitable people we were. While there are definitely rich people who step on the backs of others to pad their own pockets, studies have shown that the majority of wealthy people are in fact quite pleasant.

If you’re struggling with paying off debt and building wealth because you don’t want to become a “rich snob”, here are some tips that may help you change your perception of the wealthy.


Do Your Research

Thomas Corley, author of the book Rich Habits, found in his extensive research of the wealthy that they weren’t at all the horrible people that much of society makes them out to be. Contrary to popular perception, Corley found out some surprising statistics about the wealthy such as:

  • Seventy-six percent of the millionaires in his study were self-made. In fact, thirty-one percent came from poor households and forty-five percent came from middle class households
  • The wealthy in Corley’s study worked more hours, watched less television and spent more time networking than those struggling financially
  • The top one percent of the wealthy are carrying forty-six percent of the tax burden in the U.S.
  • Sixty-two percent of the wealthy gave 5-10% of their income to charity and seventy-two percent volunteered five hours or more per month at some type of charity

Often times the wealth-equals-jerk perception comes from a one-time experience a financially struggling person has with a wealthy person or from random media reports, but statistics show otherwise.


Remember that Money Doesn’t Change a Person

There’s an old saying that goes “Money doesn’t change one’s personality; it simply magnifies it.” In other words, if a rich person is a jerk, it’s likely that they were a jerk before they had money.

Pride, anger, low self-esteem and bitterness often come from years of self-centeredness, and those qualities can be adapted by people in all financial situations. If you look at the “jerks” you know, I’m willing to bet that they have a range of financial situations and aren’t limited to the wealthy only.


The Truly Wealthy vs the Appearance of Wealthy

One wealthy person I knew when I worked in the banking industry said that in her experience she had learned that while those pretending they had wealth were often angry, unhappy people, those who were truly wealthy were kind and charitable.

Often it’s the case that people appear to be wealthy due to the assets they own, when in reality they might just be highly indebted people who are extremely stressed by their financial situation. What comes off as “pompous jerk” might in reality be “I’ve been living this lie of having it all but I am being crushed under the weight of the monthly payments.”

I saw this regularly when I worked in banking. Nicely dressed people who owned fancy homes and drove fine cars would come into the bank, desperate for a consolidation loan or a plan to help them get out from the burden of heavy debt loads.

I also dealt with many wealthy people during my fifteen years in mortgage and traditional banking, and the majority of the truly wealthy people I worked with were indeed kind and compassionate.


Being a Jerk is a Choice

Don’t let false perceptions of wealth make you hesitant to build wealth for yourself and your family. Simply make a commitment that when you do become wealthy, you’ll use your fortune to make the world a better place. Being a jerk – or not being a jerk – is a choice.

How about you all? What has been your perception of wealthy people? Has it impacted how you’ve handled your money?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of

7 Things Wealthy People Never Do

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer,Laurie Blank.  Laurie is a wife, mother to 4 and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

If you’ve ever read Tom Corley’s Rich Habits or Thomas Stanley’s The Millionaire Next Door, you probably know that there are things wealthy people never do. The rich have a habit of behaving differently than the non-rich and in learning, studying and working to emulate their habits I’ve learned that the results of living the way the wealthy live affect both life and finances.

Here are seven things the rich never do. If you can learn to follow their lead, I’d be willing to bet your money would grow.


Fall for Advertising Gimmicks

If you ever take the time to view commercials and advertisements with a skeptical eye, you’d find that the goal of advertisers is to make you think you cannot live a full life without their product. Product users are always smiling, usually look phenomenal and give off the illusion that they have a perfect-beyond-perfect life.

The wealthy don’t fall for that lie. They have a clear understanding of what truly makes them happy and they know “stuff” isn’t part of the answer.


Neglect Their Savings Account

This report shows us that the Average American saves 5.7% of their income. And you know that since that is the average, it means that many people aren’t saving at all. In fact, this report shows that 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.

Adversely, the wealthy save as much as 51 percent of their income. While you might say “Well, yeah, they can afford to save that much of their income – duh!” there is another factor to their wealth and their plush savings accounts – they started saving early (usually as teenagers) and they formed a habit of putting money in savings every month – no matter what.

The study linked in the last paragraph found that one of the key factors in their willingness to save was that their parents taught them the importance of building a savings habit from an early age. Ironically, many of these young teen savers also starting investing a portion of their savings in the stock market while very young.


Stop Learning

Eighty-eight percent of wealthy people read non-fiction books every day for at least thirty minutes. They have a love for learning and then using what they’ve learned to reach goals that they’ve set. They spend very little time in front of the TV, opting instead for bettering their lives and increasing their knowledge via learning.


Make Impulse Purchases

The wealthy make it a habit to avoid impulse purchases. They think through any purchases, determining what – if any – value the purchase will truly bring to their lives before they buy.


Ignore Their Health

Seventy-six percent of the wealthy get some type of aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise such as running or biking four days a week or more. The thing about good health is that it helps you to think more clearly, and to have more energy to work toward the goals you’ve set.


Live Without a Plan

Seventy percent of the wealthy set at least one goal per year – and then make a plan with actionable steps that will help them reach that goal.


Act with Mediocrity

Speaking of goals, that’s another thing the rich never do: they never act with mediocrity. In other words, when they choose to do something, they commit to doing it well. Go big or go home is their theory.

Successful people – whether it’s being successful at growing wealth, gaining health or whatever avenue of success they choose – reach their level of success because they do things differently than those who aren’t successful. If you’re looking to bring more success into your life, consider doing what the successful do and dropping the habits like those mentioned above, as those habits will most certainly lead to unrealized dreams.

How about you all? What are things you are currently doing – and not doing – in order to reach your goals?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of

How I Grew Up Poor But Still Messed Up My Money As An Adult

money-pile-my-personal-finance-journeyThe following post is by MPFJ staff writer,Laurie Blank.  Laurie is a wife, mother to 4 and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

I grew up in a poor family. For a while, we were really poor. I remember one time – shortly after my parents’ divorce – when we had zero food in the house. Aside from ketchup and mustard, the fridge and the cupboard were completely bare. My dad paid child support faithfully each month, but the monthly amount of support rendered by the judge was enough to pay the house payment and not much more.

The rest of our money came from government assistance until my mom taught herself to type and got a job as a secretary. It was during this transition period that we had the days of the bare cupboard. I vividly remember my mom sitting in the recliner, sobbing with fear over how she would feed her three young kids until the welfare check came in two days later.

You would think an experience so traumatic would make me keen on saving money and staying out of debt, but instead it had the opposite effect.

How could I go through the experience of living a life of poverty and still mess up my money as an adult? Here’s how.

I Thought That People Who Had Money Had Stuff

Somehow in childhood I learned to equate poverty with a lack of stuff and wealth with an abundance of stuff. So my goal when I started working at age fifteen was to own a lot of stuff. I bought all of the clothes my mom couldn’t afford to buy for me. When I got my own home and family, I made sure we had an abundance of food, clothing and whatever else I thought we needed.

I later learned that I had a subconscious fear of not being able to afford to buy stuff, but I didn’t make the connection between the stuff and the money (or lack of it) in my bank account. What mattered to me was that I could buy whatever I wanted, regardless of the means it took to purchase it.

The Cure

The cure for this mindset mistake was to learn to think long-term. The book, The Millionaire Next Door, really helped. It was through that book that I learned that wealth isn’t about having stuff, it’s about having financial security.

I Had a Poverty Mindset

A poverty mindset consists of the belief that “I’ll always be poor/struggling for money.” For many years I believed that wealth or a lack of it was a “luck of the draw” thing. One was either a “have” or a “have not” and whatever group they were lumped in with was up to the gods; individual actions have no effect.

The Cure

Ironically, it was discovering the world of personal finance blogs that cured me of this incorrect belief. Through PF blogs, I found story after story of people who were deeply in debt, yet they managed to dig themselves out of the hole and begin building wealth. The people who shared their stories taught me that a person’s financial situation boils largely down to daily, weekly, monthly and yearly financial choices.

I Used Spending as a Band-Aid

For years I dealt with emotional problems, relationship problems, work problems and any other problems by buying stuff. I “deserved” stuff was my reasoning. I spent money to heal, to celebrate and to confirm my worth as an individual.

The Cure

The cure for this problem came when I began to work to uncover long-held emotional problems and to work through them, one-by-one. Through this technique I began to establish unconditional acceptance of myself and to teach myself what I really deserved and what I truly desired where money was concerned: financial security.

I think the take-away here is that when a person is deep in debt, there are often misguided beliefs behind the problem.  If one can work to discover what those misguided beliefs are, and to exchange them with healthier mindsets, both financial and emotional healing for the long-term can truly begin.

Do you have any subconscious beliefs or life experiences that have impacted the way you handle money?

How Much Money Do You Need to Be Happy?

The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Derek Sall. Derek is the owner of the blog,, where he teaches people how to get out of debt, save money, and become wealthy.

In our society today, there is always a wanting for more. You may live in a house that is perfectly fine for your current needs, but that house up the road that has 500 extra square feet with a pool in the back just looks so much better! Surely everyone would be happier with more amenities and more space, right? Well, not necessarily.


The Research Regarding Money

According to the research of Forbes magazine, the standard amount for happiness is around $75,000. Those that earn more than this really don’t gain much from their extra income. They still have a nice house, but maybe it’s just a little bigger. They might still own a boat, but it has a few extra feet on the front. And, they still receive (and can afford) a valuable education. Extra money beyond the $75,000 amount is merely spent on extras that truly don’t provide much more in the way of happiness.


Why Is It That We Always Think We Need More?

So for those of us that have read this Forbes article, we can buy the fact that happiness does not increase greatly after that $75,000 mark, but why then do all of us continually strive for more?  Why are we all spending our precious time to acquire more and more money, which in turn buys us an increasing supply of stuff?

This is the question I have been asking myself lately, and I think that it’s an important question for all of us. Sure, it might be nice to earn more money than we have right now, but how much money do each of us really need to be happy? And how do we decide what this amount is for us?


The Quest for Understanding Your Happiness

It is easy to think that additional money would make you happy. Instead of going out to eat once a month, you could eat out every weekend. Surely, this would increase your happiness right? Or what about that new car that you have always wanted? If you were able to buy those new wheels, life sure would be sweet wouldn’t it? Then you would be happy! Honestly, I really doubt it. An increase in stuff will not make you happy, and the earlier you realize this the better.

If you are anything like me, when you talk to others, you are not talking about your recent money-making quest or about your big raise at work. No, you are talking about your wife, your kids, your experiences, and the fun things you have done in life. Relationships and experiences are what creates happiness, not money.

So how much does it cost to have these relationships and to create memories through experiences? Honestly, it doesn’t cost that much at all. I currently earn quite a lot of money (in comparison to the average family), but I only find myself spending about $25,000 a year. I travel, I give, and most importantly, I spend a large part of my time with those that I love. In the grand scheme of life, money does not play that large of a role in my overall happiness. As long as I am able to buy the necessities without stress or worry, and I have a little extra to have some fun once in a while, I can really be quite happy.

What about you? Do you always feel like you need more money to be happy? Perhaps you just need to change your perspective!

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of

Stop Searching and Start Acting!

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Grayson Bell. Grayson, who runs the finance blog Debt Roundup, is a fan of personal finance, brewing beer, and working on cars.

I am known for the amount of planning I do when trying to make a decision.

I rarely just jump into something without fully understanding the pros and cons. No decision is too small for me, which is why some people call me a defensive pessimist.

My desire to research options came from my father, who does the exact same thing. My older brother also is a researcher. We research a topic until it is almost dead. While I used to think it was good to research and plan everything, I have found that is not always the case. My decision making has changed a bit, but more importantly, my desire to act.


There is Nothing Wrong with Searching

When I was in debt and realized there was a problem, I took to searching for answers.

The internet can be a great place to find information, but it can also provide information overload. If you don’t understand how to sift through all of the opinions, it can be hard to find what you are looking for. I am an advocate for people searching for options, especially when it comes to getting out of debt.

There is not one person who has the same situation as another. Each person’s financial picture is different. While there is a lot of awesome information about getting out of debt, it might not apply to you. For this reason, I recommend people take the time to search for an option which works best for them. Blanket advice can start you on your way, but it won’t likely be the best answer.


Don’t Keep Searching

I have a confession to make. I tend to overanalyze my options and it leads to me beating a dead horse, so to speak. I can work on researching options for a problem, yet whenever I find the information I need, I can’t make the decision. When I can’t make a decision, I start searching for more options. It ends up being a tiring cycle.

Over the years, I have realized this is my problem. I look for the most desirable option, but then my mind pushes me to continue searching. Second-guessing is in my nature. I have problems jumping out of the searching phase and into the action phase. Remember, actions speak louder than words. I can plan all day, but until I take action on that plan, it is nothing more than words.


Stop Searching and Start Acting

It took me four years to pay off my debt.

While that time period is behind me, that was a long time. I wasted a lot of my money on interest payments and I didn’t save for retirement or all of the other cool things you can do when you are not in debt.

The reason why it took me so long was I needed to find the absolute best option. I searched and searched. I was putting off taking action until I found the answer. That was until my wife muttered “just start paying it off already!” She had a point. She had a really good point.

How can you pay off debt if you never actually make a payment toward that debt? How can you reach your goals if you don’t actually take steps to reach them? There is nothing wrong with researching your options, but you need to take action in order to make a difference. If I could go back to my debt repayment days, I would have just started paying more toward my debt. I wouldn’t worry about the snowball or avalanche method. I wouldn’t worry about any of that. I would just start and then search for options as I went along.

Don’t get hung up on overloading yourself with information. That process can come later. If you need to do something, then research just enough to get started. Take the action necessary and then research some more. Once you take action, you will be on your way to reaching your goals, whatever they may be.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone in debt is to stop searching for options and start taking action. Nothing beats just taking the first steps. All of the other thing will fall into place afterwards. Action is more powerful than words.

How about you all? In what circumstances in your life have you found yourself doing too much prior research, when in reality, taking the first action step would have been more productive?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Image courtesy of Celestine Chua