Thank goodness for Yahoo! Finance. I had almost thought every topic on personal finance had been thoroughly exhausted, until I came across the headline, “Why we’re too afraid to get rich“, by reporter Alyssa Pry. Hallelujah. We are saved.
This notion of this “fear of becoming rich” comes from Jen Sincero, author of the very popular “You Are a Badass” and its follow-up title “You Are a Badass at Making Money.” I actually bought the former for Mrs. Cubert as a Christmas present, but she hasn’t read it yet.
Sincero apparently feels that many of us are actually afraid to get rich. My immediate reaction to this notion is “clickbait!” But I’ll reserve judgement and remain curious, as we explore the psychological hang-ups we have about being loaded.
The “Badass” author suggests that a primary fear we have is essentially the fear of being a douchebag. So how do we avoid becoming one of those, when all we really want to be is a badass? We certainly have our wealthy types who are generous and down to earth… Dare I say “loveable?” Tom Hanks? Barbara Bush (Rest in Peace)? Oprah?
But when we think of wealthy people, we generally default to the bad actors. I’m guilty of this. Just yesterday while riding home through a ritzy neighborhood (NOT mine), I witnessed a drunken pro hockey player crash his big black Cadillac Escalade into a parked car.
Douchebag. He’s lucky he didn’t take out the nearby dog-walker and his sweet little pekingese…
Skepticism About Becoming Rich
At any rate, if avoiding being a sinister rich person is a barrier, I need to learn more. Are we really so judgmental of wealthy people that we subconsciously sabotage our own opportunities to become rich?
Sincero claims in Pry’s report that “… in our subconscious, we think rich people suck, [and] we think that if you get rich, it means you have to compromise your morals.”
Whoah. I wonder what Dave Ramsey thinks of that? Or how about the televangelist who’s prayerfully asking for a private jet?
In Pry’s piece, Sincero comes around to my more common, pedestrian perspective. The author admits that to become rich, “…you have to be open to taking risks, and doing whatever you can to reach your goal. It’s not easy for everyone.”
Okay, I can get behind that. But fear of taking risks and breaking through comfort zones is much different than trying to avoid being a wealthy douchebag.
Which leads me to this quote from Sincero. One that might have a little Walter White ring to it:
“I find that in my own life and with the people I’ve been coaching, when people make the decision to get rich, they’re available to do things that are outside of their comfort zones and stretch themselves,” she says.
“You really have to be available to do whatever it takes, and that’s where people get tripped up.”
I don’t think by a long shot that Sincero is proposing we drop the legitimate work we’re doing now, in order to take on some nefarious meth lab operation in our basement or Winnebago. Though that would certainly qualify under “do whatever it takes.”
Legitimate ways to “do whatever it takes” include:
- Taking night classes, and accruing student loan debt, to earn a part-time degree
- Investing your home equity balance as a down payment on your first rental property
- Making your boss’s life super easy and letting him or her know about your career aspirations
What others have to say about wealth (and fear thereof)
This is far from new territory. A Business Insider post from 2015 dives deeper into the topic. In the article, “How Rich People Think” author Steve Siebold shares that “The biggest thing holding back most people from striking it big are their thoughts, beliefs and philosophies about money.”
Apparently fear, and specifically fear of rejection and failure, are at the root of the problem. If we want to make it big, we have to think and act big. In my case, maybe that means I should be out there applying for VP jobs in my own company, or elsewhere. For VPs, maybe they should consider striking out to form their own small companies?
Many of us do get trapped a bit in our comfort zones. Complacency can set in quickly, especially when other obligations take priority. Raising a family, taking care of aging parents, or minding your own health problems are valid barriers. But not necessarily “fear-driven” barriers.
That said, there’s quite a few worker bees out there who love to play the victim card. You know the type. They’re not getting ahead because of someone else’s problems, never their own. It’s their boss’s fault, their company’s fault, or their colleagues’. Executives and entrepreneurs who navigate to success tend to focus inward and typically avoid this destructive mindset.
Of course our hero went on to sell a bajillion books, not unlike Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. When people like Sincero come along to share what’s worked for them, it would be wise to listen methinks…
Jen Sincero’s tips for getting rich:
- Have a clear, measurable goal. In other words, don’t just say you want to “get promoted” or “make more money.” Be specific! Is there a role above your current level that you might just qualify for? Odds are you do, but what are you doing to network and improve yourself, in anticipation of opportunities? If you want to make $100,000 or even $200,000 a year, be prepared to take incremental steps to achieve that goal.
- Examine and adjust your social circle. This is tricky. I’ve had my share of friends and acquaintances who’ve really struggled and muddled their way through their careers. I’ve also had friends who’ve landed nicely in six-figure territory with giant houses. Thing is, I don’t base my friendships on how successful they are at making money. That’s just plain poopy. People come first. And sometimes your friends and loved ones can’t help but feel the victim, and it’s something they can’t control. Don’t abandoned friends in need. Now, if you have a “friend” who is simply a leech and a total douchebag, abandon at will! Job-wise, zero-in on mentors who have similar strengths, but whom have risen-up in the ranks or forged successful businesses.
- Act like you got the raise. Visualization is the name of the game here. Dress the part, and act the part. So often, this is how that fresh-faced youngster you thought was an intern is actually the VP of Sales. She played the part and got hand-picked for the opportunity that presented itself. That doesn’t mean you get to go out and buy a BMW when a simple, elegant Honda Fit will do. BMW test drives are okay I guess. Anyhow, figure out the habits and lifestyles of those whose jobs you want for yourself. Does the Sr. VP of Sales hit the treadmill at 5:30AM in the office gym? Hop on the treadmill next to him or her, sunshine!
- Just do it. Nike fans – this one’s for you! Sometimes you just have to take action. The act of doing is powerful, especially in a corporate environment where equivocation and analysis paralysis gums up the works so much you wonder how anything important ever gets done. Sure, you can plan, plot, and dream. But until you execute on those things, you’ll stay stuck. Sincero suggests scaring yourself into action. Not a bad idea, considering the ticking clock chasing us all. Now, go make something happen!
What do you think? Are you afraid to get rich? And if so, what’s holding you back?