Getting in Touch with Your Inner Rich Kid

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Justin Locke

What does it mean to be wealthy?  When I recently spoke at a gathering of wealth managers, I saw my chance to find an answer to this question, which has bugged me for years. How much must you have before your “money” is suddenly transfigured into “wealth”?  This all fits into a larger, ongoing quest of mine – to understand why rich and poor kids approach life so differently.

Advisors should take note of what I’ve learned so far.

After my recent speaking engagement, I went up to a fellow whose company managed well over $1 billion in assets and posed my question. I was expecting a numerical answer.  I just assumed that he would say, “If you have this much money in the bank, you are wealthy person.”  After all, we define poverty in terms of how much money people make.  But, much to my surprise, this asset manager looked me right in the eye, and with a certain cold intensity – born, no doubt, of hard experience – he said,

“It means different things to different people.”

Gee, thanks.

I grew up on a farm in a very poor rural community, but at age 15 I was transplanted into a very posh private school.  The differences between those two environments were stark – like going from prison to a country club. My interest in understanding what sets rich kids and poor kids apart began then.

Here are just a few of the polar-opposite cultural differences that I observed back then between poor kids and rich kids:

The rich kids knew what they wanted, and they asked for it. The poor kids didn’t ask, for fear of being turned down.

The rich kids were optimistic that they would eventually get everything they wanted. The poor kids focused on resenting all the things that they didn’t get.

The rich kids had confidence and trusted in themselves. The poor kids did not.

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