How Rich People Think: Habits of the Wealthy

Katie McBeth  | 

The “top one percent” is a common term you hear in relationship to the richest people in the world. However, there are rich people, and there are ultra-rich people — the top one percent of the one percent. There’s a big difference between the people that make about $400,000 annually, and those that make about $1.2 billion.

The ultra rich are classified as half billionaires, or those that have a personal wealth of over $500 million dollars. Some of the ultra rich are people you may be familiar with: Sir Paul McCartney, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffet, to name a few. However, there are also those that were born into wealth, such as the entire Saudi Arabian royal family or the Koch brothers. Primarily, the richest people in the world are white, male, and live in North America, Asia, and Europe.

When you make more than $500 million dollars in a year, what would you do with all that money? Let’s dive into the mindset of the ultra rich and see if they really think, act, and live differently than everyone else.

The Wealth Mindset: How Rich People Think

When it comes to the mind of an ultra-rich person, it’s hard to imagine what their life would be like — especially since money is no longer a worry for them. Unlike the rest of the population, many of them don’t have to stress about paying the bills on time or budgeting their paychecks. If anything, they’ve hired someone to do that for them.

Some ultra-rich people do hire what are known as psychological wealth counselors, or professionals that can help provide guidance and counseling when rich people worry about having too much money. Apparently, being too rich can come with it’s own stresses and a lot of guilt, which is probably why people like Bill Gates donate about five percent of their net worth to charity every year.

Of course, having all that money to your name may seem like a dream — there is literally no limit to what you can buy and do. If you wanted to purchase a seat on the first mission to Mars, you probably could! For many of the ultra-rich, even if they tried their hardest they may never spend all the money they own. In addition, their children may not ever spend the money that they own in their lifetime. The amount of wealth they have is almost unimaginable to the average person.

There are also the occasional few millionaires that have failed (miserably) at being rich — whether it’s refusing to pay taxes on their immeasurable income, frivolous spending, or a failure to invest in worthwhile startups — but for the ultra-rich, even major money mistakes may only leave a small dent in their overall net worth.

And with the lack of stress that comes with having infinite money, the only thing left to worry about for the ultra-rich is finding something to do. In fact, many of the ultra-rich say they miss having a job to do, and some may continue to work simply to help the time pass.

For those that are “self-made” millionaires — essentially the people that grew their own empires, like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg — they spent many of their years sacrificing their time, money, and relationships in order to get ahead. Many of them have regrets, as their relationships with people they loved were either neglected or faded away with time. They may have even missed out on their young children’s earliest years, and now they can’t get that time back.

Even the most rich people among us have some of the most human problems: striving for validation, regretting lost time with loved ones, and searching for a sense of purpose in the world. However, one thing that many ultra-rich people lack is a sense of privilege: very few acknowledge the lack of barriers that were in their way in order for them to pursue their dreams and earn their fortune.

As Andrew Thomas with INC. wrote:

“If you consider the list of the top American self-made billionaires, all thirteen are white men. While that percentage reduces as you include all millionaires in America, the ratios do not reflect the diversity seen across different demographics. According to the Washington Post, 15.2 percent of all white families are millionaires, while only 1.9 percent of all black families are millionaires.

“Yet when I’ve asked white men about their success, I often hear ‘hard work,’ ‘sacrifice,’

‘vision,’ and ‘risk.’ Rarely have I heard them acknowledge a sense of privilege that may have helped them on their journey.

“By no means does this observation attempt to dismiss the value and impact of hard work, sacrifice, vision, and risk. […] Acknowledging privilege does not take away from the merits of our success, but rather, it gives us the opportunity to cultivate empathy, open up to the difficult discussions we’re facing in business and in society, and empower others.”

Things Rich People Say

On Time and Investing

  • “Many folks think they aren’t good at earning money, when what they don’t know is how to use it.” ~ Frank A. Clark
  • “A simple fact that is hard to learn is that the time to save money is when you have some.” ~ Joe Moore
  • “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
  • “Financial peace isn’t the acquisition of stuff. It’s learning to live on less than you make, so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can’t win until you do this.” ~ Dave Ramsey

On Spending, Earning, and Saving

  • “I will tell you the secret to getting rich on Wall Street. You try to be greedy when others are fearful. And you try to be fearful when others are greedy.” ~ Warren Buffett
  • “The habit of saving is itself an education; it fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought, and so broadens the mind.” ~ T.T. Munger
  • “Know what you own, and know why you own it.” ~ Peter Lynch

On the True Meaning of Wealth

  • “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” ~ Jim Rohn
  • “It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” ~ GeorgeLorimer
  • “If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free. If our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.” ~ Edmund Burke
  • “The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.” ~ Unknown
  • “Money is good for nothing unless you know the value of it by experience.” ~ P.T Barnum
  • “If you want to know what a man is really like, take notice of how he acts when he loses money.” ~ Simone Weil
  • “If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.” ~ Henry Ford
  • “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” ~ Maya Angelou

What Do Rich People Do?

For many of the rich, their daily lives are fairly normal. Prior to earning their money, self-made billionaires and millionaires spent years of their life working the grind: starting businesses, hiring and firing people, and working almost day and night to see their vision into reality. However, now that they have their riches and their empire passed on to a new generation of workers, they have a lot of free time that they have to manage.

Some of the ultra-rich may still work with the company they started, either as a boardroom leader or investor in the business. They may still provide guidance and counseling to their business leaders, and may even bring in new ideas for them to pursue.

Others may spend their time investing in the stock market — playing the game and watching their stocks rise and fall. They may also seek out small startups that they can angel-invest in, which down the road may pay off as a fruitful investment. Although many of the ultra-rich don’t have to worry about money, they do still think about it quite a bit, and like to find ways in order to capitalize on new investments or grow their current wealth.

Many of the ultra-rich are also interested in growing their personal brand. Some may do this through registries and putting their name on products (or even designing their own line of products with the help of famous design firms), or through the creation of non-profit organizations (such as the Bill and Melinda Gates charity foundation) that can work as charities.

As for their daily lives, some rich people confess that they don’t do much: they rarely watch tv or movies, they schedule their days and block out time for themselves, and they simply sit around, reading and eating fine food. Many of them have a whole host of assistants that they’ve hired to help them with anything from fashion to financial decisions. Some even have private doctors or psychologists on call. One odd thing that the ultra-rich indulge in is hiring people to help their assistants manage their time — essentially having secretaries for their secretaries.

They find ways to spend their money, invest in their personal education, and work to better the world around them — if they can, or if they feel inspired and benevolent enough. Not all ultra-rich people are nice or caring, but a good many have some idea of how they can give back to the world after being blessed with such good fortune.

What Do Rich People Buy, and Where Do Rich People Shop?

Surprisingly, although there is an entire industry devoted to the highest income earners only, the ultra-rich rarely spend money on frivolous things. Sure, there are vending machines for cars in Singapore, high-end clubs were men can “rent” Rolex watches, and luxury e-commerce sites that sell “Batmobiles” and other excentic items, but the rich tend to prefer to buy items that increase in value over time. Cars, planes, personal submarines, and other items that depreciate in value will only burn away their money.

On the other hand, antiques, fine aged-wines or spirits, houses and properties, and art all increase in value over time. In essence, they can turn a bundle of cash into a physical item, display it in their home, and then sell it for more later if they really need or want to. The rich are all about investing — even when it comes to decorating their home.

Of course, there are also those that are willing to spend their money on trivial items simply for the sake of showing off their wealth. There are golden toilets and diamond-crusted cell phones that millionaires love to buy from private retailers, and well-aged rare alcohols that will probably only be bragged about but never be consumed. There are also private submarines, personal doctors, doomsday-proof luxury bunkers, and private islands — all at a high price but seen as a worthy purchase for the ultra-wealthy.

Yet in some ways, the ultra-rich are also practical. They’re humans after all, and their human needs are no different than our own. Luckily for them, their wealth can buy them convenience, which means some of the ultra-rich have their own emergency rooms, wellness centers, and other modern conveniences right in their own home. That convenience can also extend to their shopping habits, and some ultra-rich may hire personal stylists to do all their clothing, jewelry, and accessory shopping for them, personal cooks and home aides to do all their cooking and cleaning, and personal trainers to help them with their personal health.

Oddly enough, many of the ultra-rich may lack credit history at all — why have a credit card when you have all the money you need? Because of this, or due to poor money management, many rich people struggle with terrible credit scores. Although they may have many assets to their name, there’s little history to show in terms of lending potential.

What to Rich People Eat?

The eating habits of the ultra-wealthy can be a bit eccentric, depending on the person. Some people invest in detailed health plans, ascribing to trendy meal plans or fad diets that focus on super foods and high-nutrient intake. Others may be more interested in making an experience out of what they eat — either traveling for expensive meals (like the Noma pop-up in Mexico), or hiring cooks from around the world to create unique meals for them.

Of course, there are also more practical rich people, who may simply rely on hired aides to cook and curate their kitchen for them. Even some of the most well-known billionaires — Warren Buffett and Bill Gates — enjoy simple meals like burger, fries, and a coke.

Essentially, just like many other things in life, taste in fashion and food is a personal choice.

Are Rich People Happy?

Happiness, just like personal taste, is also subjective. However, research has shown that money and happiness have a unique relationship — one that many people commonly misunderstand.

If you ask a rich person if they’re happy, chances are they’ll say something like “money can’t buy happiness.” They may talk about the sacrifices they’ve made to obtain their wealth, and how they have many regrets and losses that still bother them to this day.

And it’s true: research has shown that money can’t buy happiness — at least up to, and after, a point. However, lack of money can result in significant stress and unhappiness. One study with the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS) found that: “Emotional well-being also rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ~$75,000.”

In other words, after you make about a middle-class income, your money no longer influences your happiness or overall wellbeing. If you make less than that, however, you may be extremely unhappy and emotionally distraught. With the constant pressures of the world — all the bills and emphasis we place on money and worth — it’s no wonder people are stressed out when money is hard to come by.

As for the ultra-wealthy, they exist far beyond that middle-class income threshold, and so many of them do not live happier lives because they have more money. However, they stress less about money, and worry more about how they spend their time, what they should read or eat next, and how they can give back to those in need.


Image Source:

Katie McBeth is a researcher and writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. Her favorite subject of study is millennials, and she has been featured on Fortune Magazine and the Quiet Revolution. She researches SEO strategies during the day, and freelances at night. You can follow her writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth

This post was updated October 5, 2018. It was originally published October 6, 2018.