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Being a Newly Wealthy Man Isn’t All Champagne, Coke and Caviar

Guys who grew up lacking but ended up rich spill the beans about their new lives — and what they resent most

Stupid question: Wouldn’t it be great to be rich? You don’t need to be a jewel-encrusted fly on a raw stone wall in a waterfront mansion to know that more money promises a better life. But what’s it really like to go from nothing much to Easy Street?

A recent Reddit thread asked men what they found most surprising or unexpected about becoming newly wealthy. It produced a slew of interesting responses. While most will provoke the obvious jealously reflex, it turns out the process is more complicated than we might think.

Of course, it’s not easy to get rich, especially if you start out on the bottom rung. Most Americans will remain in the socioeconomic class they were born into, but if you were born poor? You have about a 4 percent chance of ending up in the upper class. And yet, it happens, and when it does, we get a rare glimpse into what life is like on the other side.

Also, to be clear, being “rich” is relative. Recently, a survey polled Americans to see how much money we think rich is. Most people think rich is earning over $1 million a year. In reality, the national baseline for being “rich” — meaning you earn in the top 10 percent of the country — means earning around $118,000. Obviously, that goes a lot further in a small town than the big city. But even to enter the elusive 1 percent, you need to make only a few hundred grand annually. That also depends on where you live: In Connecticut, you’d have to pull in around $660,000 to be a 1-percenter; in Tennessee, just $308k.

Still, a jump from even $100,000 to $300,000, or from 10 percenter to 1 percenter in some places, would grant a sizable difference in lifestyle. The commenters on Reddit don’t always list their individual incomes, but assuming they all classify as “rich” by any of the above definitions, their answers are still illuminating.

To wit:

You Stop Sweating the Basic Costs

Duh. Of course more money means less worrying come bill time or when standing in the checkout aisle of a grocery store. Many commenters noted that the major difference they noticed when their income jumped was that they no longer had to worry about what basic things cost anymore.

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“For me the biggest difference is I don’t have to think so much when I spend money on basic things,” says one guy, PNWSwag, who says he makes in the low six figures as an options trader but with the potential for big bumps in yearly bonuses. “I used to get anxious over every little expenditure, so it’s been nice.”

“The biggest thing is the lack of stress over money,” says veganlibtard. “Being able to sleep without worrying how to pay for everything.”

“Same,” stupedlatentnothing notes. “When I started getting big paychecks in my account I stopped looking for all of the best possible deals in grocery stores and paying attention to how much it was when I check out. That would be the biggest difference.”

You Don’t Sweat the Deals as Much

A little extra money means you don’t have to clip coupons or watch for every sale as much, whereas people who live on a budget, or in situations where there is never enough money, will spend an inordinate amount of time tracking down the deal.

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One commenter pointed out the difference in this arena even when it comes to little stuff, like a phone charger.

“If I need a phone charger right now I walk to a respectable store (or go online) and buy one that is either OEM or from a good brand,” JadedSimple says. “Old me would have bought a crappy one from eBay, wait three weeks for it to arrive and in the meanwhile charge my phone from my computer.”

But You Still Worry About Keeping Your Money

You might not worry about your grocery bill, but it’s not like it’s a worry-free life. Often, when you finally get your head above water, there’s a sense of relief — but it never quite kills the fear that it could all dry up again and leave you right back to counting every nickel.

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“When I started working as a kid I would will myself through my shift by focusing on the nickels I got each minute,” veganlibtard says. “Now almost 20 years later I don’t give a second thought to the dollars pouring in each minute. … I don’t work to make money, I work to keep the job that’s giving me all this money.”

Other commenters note that the wealthy people they know are rarely satisfied.

“What I did not expect to discover is that as you get into wealthier circles of people, most of them stress about trying to elevate into an even wealthier group,” chaoticfather says. “As a result, no matter how much they have, they are still upset about whatever is preventing them from having more. The only people I have met who are happy with the levels of wealth they have are the people who did not start out wealthy.”

It’s Not Just About Splurging on Anything

Getting rich doesn’t mean torching all your old belongings to trade them in for a Rich Guy Starter Kit. It’s picking and choosing the stuff you want to indulge on, because you finally can. One commenter says that he can finally take the vacations he couldn’t as a child. But he doesn’t have to trade in his beloved car for a luxury ride.

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“For me the big thing is I don’t give a flying fuck about ‘status’ or ‘prestige,” macallen says. “I drive a Honda, because I like Hondas. Could I afford a BMW/Merc? Of course, but I love Hondas and would rather put that money into solar panels for my roof, replacing all of the windows in my home with energy efficient ones, and spending 2 weeks in Finland next year 🙂 Oh, and my gaming rig… good lord, don’t get me started and the money I dump into gaming 🙂 ”

But Money Gets More Complicated

Entering a new tax bracket isn’t as simple as clicking over to H&R Block, and if you want to keep hold of that new dough, you might have to acquire a basic fluency in investing.

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“Having money is great, but some things became significantly more complex,” cryptozypto notes. “Juggling businesses, keeping track of investments, staying on top of things like estate planning, being diligent about privacy and security, and all of the people and businesses that want to sell you something.”

And It’s Even Easier to Overspend

Two words: lifestyle creep. It’s when your costs go up in direct proportion to your earning, because nicer houses and clothes and better light bulbs cost more, so that you are still barely making ends meet. If you don’t curtail it, you’re essentially back where you started, just with nicer stuff.

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“Lifestyle inflation was sudden for me,” BedroomAcoustics explains. “What this meant for me was having a huge pay increase and more free time. I took up hobbies, traveling, spending extra on clothes, shoes, eating out. After three months I noticed what I had been doing and to counteract it. Started living a little more frugally. I will shop at Aldi now in comparison to Asda/Tesco and save £30 a week on food shopping. I limit myself to x amount a month on a hobby because that soon adds up! And I still maintain my savings.”

“Lifestyle inflation is so real,” Deusselkerr adds. “Before, I would balk at paying $50 for shoes. Now a $150 pair is basically nothing. It’s really easy to spend money. You need to stay vigilant regardless of how much you make.”

You Realize the Excitement of Buying New Stuff Gets Old

While it’d be hard to blame anyone for indulging a bit when coming into some new money, it’s not as if it’s a sustainable recipe for lifelong happiness.

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“You run out of things to buy then get bummed out about it,” Wozar says. “Then, once you are feeling down about not having anything to buy, you realize that buying things was a false thrill. Buying things wasn’t making you happy, it was distracting you. You only kept buying things because you want the novel feeling to last. It always fades to neutral. Then you are left with the stress of things you no longer care about.

“Once you reach that point you realize that experiences are better than things. You go through a phase of buying experiences. Then you run out of them too (and get bummed out about it).

“You then start down a path of doing things for others. Philanthropy never gets old and (once your family is taken care of) it is the most satisfying thing your wealth can give you.”

But, Hey, New Hobbies!

Having disposable income means you can finally get really into golf, or Faberge eggs, or fencing.

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“I have more hobbies now too,” says MaliciousDrumstick, who says he inherited wealth as a 21-year-old. “Having money has allowed me to afford certain hobbies that were just too expensive when I was younger. This is great on one hand, but it’s also sort of frustrating that I will never have the time or lifespan to master much of any of them.”

Friends and Family Stick Their Hands Out

If you are used to being around other non-money-havers, coming into your own wealth might mean that everyone around you has suddenly turned to you to solve their own financial woes. This was a recurring theme for commenters, who were inundated with requests from friends, family members and total strangers for assistance.

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“Given enough time, every person you know will need money,” mercury_lab writes. “From my experience, about nine out of 10 of those people will ask you for a ‘loan.’ Most of the requests come via social media, text or email with a backstory attached. A small group of the people don’t ask but just tell you of their financial hardship during back-and-forth conversation but never outright ask. They say things like an extra $10,000 would make all this issue go away. Another part I didn’t expect was how many ask for others. Some portion of your daily life will be to sort through these requests, refer them to a third party for processing or flatly decline then all.”

But You Find Out Who Your Real Friends Are

While it wouldn’t always be a dealbreaker for a friend to ask for financial help, most commenters noted that the friends they’ve been able to keep in their former circles were those who did not expect them to foot the bill, and the new friends they’ve made are not the ones expecting a free ride either.

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“Your true friends really emerge,” pencesleftnut says. “I have two true friends that were my best friends long before my wealth and have never asked for a dime from me. I’d buy them both cars if they asked, but they never would. Meanwhile, the ‘friends’ that I only met a few years ago are expecting me to pay for their drinks and dinners, etc. and then tell all of their friends how much of an asshole I am after I tell them that it doesn’t work like that.”

You Get Taken More Seriously

Like being treated wonderfully when you’re beautiful or getting all the laughs when you’re the boss, rich guys say people act like their every utterance is also constructed out of gold.

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“I did not expect the assumption that many people have about my intelligence,” cryptozypto says. “Others who know of my wealth tend to hang on my words and opinions as if they are more profound than theirs or others, even if the topic has nothing to do with areas I’m knowledgeable in.”

But People Might Think You’re an Asshole

On the other hand, most people think rich people are jerks.

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“You can be the nicest man in the world, but people will automatically assume you’re a piece of shit when they hear about your lifestyle,” one man says of his most unexpected discovery.

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“Self-made millionaire,” kindofastud writes. “I want to point out the few negative comments are the reason people like me hide our wealth. Some people get this weird jealous thing and go on the attack. It’s nice to be treated as just one of the guys, not the rich guy.”

Yes, You Absolutely Get More Shit for Free

Just as we suspected, the more you have, the less you have to pay for. That rang true for many Reddit commenters, who say they found that the most ironic difference of all: Now that they can afford certain things, they cost nothing.

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“The wealthier I get, the more things I get for free,” vlookups says. “Business-class flights, the best healthcare, mobile phone, hotels, the best wine and food, computers, tablet, Apple Watch, international relocations … privilege perpetuates itself and I’m totally guilty about it but still accept it. FWIW I started with less than nothing and have been poorer than poor. I worked my ass off to get here. Doesn’t mean others haven’t or that it’s right though.”

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Another guy says it’s particularly apparent when it comes to finances.

“The way institutions treat you differently,” stevebmmm writes. “When I was poor the bank charged me fees for everything. ATM fees, overdraft fees, insufficient-funds fees (fees for being poor are the worst). Now they bend over backward to not only waive everything, but they call all the time asking how they can help me with things. I had to send an international wire to China and they paid all the fees. It’s saved me a ton of money. Ironically, the best way to save money is to have money.”

But Sometimes It’s No Change at All

Some men lament that not much had changed in their lives after becoming wealthier, proving that there is an outlier in every narrative.

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“Things haven’t changed much for me,” wtfmf says. “Neither friends nor family hit me up for money. I dress like a slob. I only work when I want to but that has gotten me complacent. Women don’t throw themselves at me nor do I think they’re after my money. I travel a lot. I almost never cook for myself. I default to ordering in or picking up fast food. I love fancy restaurants. I still struggle to spend money on some things. And yet on other things, I’ll drop thousands of dollars without blinking.”

You Worry About Raising Jerk Kids, Though

Multiple commenters are stumped on how to make sure their kids aren’t freeloading mooches.

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“The biggest challenge is teaching my kids how to be self-sufficient,” continues wtfmf. “I had house cleaners and canceled the service. We do our own house chores. I do my own yard work. I still want them to have pride in ownership and recognize that there isn’t a magical money tree.”

You Carry Rich-Person Guilt

Proof that you can take the boy out of the poor but not the poor out of the boy: Many commenters carry an unease about their improved station, a kind of survivor’s guilt that they do better than friends or loved ones.

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“I didn’t expect it to be so awkward with other people who don’t have as much,” adds MaliciousDrumstick. “I have friends who are working full time for $60k which is less than I pay in taxes each year. In a group setting, people will talk about a financial problem they have, their student debt or similar, and expect that I can relate. I don’t want to make them embarrassed or unhappy so I just continue the conversation without sharing my experience. Sometimes people talk about leasing a new car that I don’t think they can afford or having just bought the latest iPhone, but I don’t feel I can say anything or it might sound condescending. I can see why the rich are friends with the rich, there’s a freedom to talk about your problems without judgment.”

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Another commenter says he feels guilty watching his dad struggle, or watching others hustle “so much harder for every dime.”

Yet another man, who grew up on welfare but now makes a solid six figs in Manhattan, says the inequality in the U.S. makes him “physically ill,” knowing how hard other people struggle.

“My parents worked hard, and were constantly stressed out, worrying about every purchase,” writes elguiridelocho. “I still remember the day in the fifth grade when my mother flipped out because our electric bill was $36 (it was the ’70s). How would we pay it? That was the end of air conditioning for us. The mood in the house was tense for about a week, over $36. People should not have to live like that anywhere in the world.”