How Do Rich People Live

Author Bernie Klinder

I’ll tell you a secret: money is like sex: the more you have, the less likely you are to be obsessed. That’s why many very rich people do not have an eye-catching lifestyle. That is why the most popular car among millionaires is a van and not a Mercedes / BMW / etc. For all the egotistical egocentrics who live with a shameless rich lifestyle, there are a dozen who live quietly – or what the late Thomas Stanley called “The Millionaire Next Door”.

Quiet millionaires generally live in a slightly higher middle class. They have beautiful houses, but no mansions. They are more likely to drive Honda, Subaru, Volvos, Jeep Grand Cherokees, or a Ford F150. They shop at Costco and Target. They have nice clothes, but generally avoid “designer” brands, flashy jewelery and such external manifestations of conspicuous consumption.

So, how to distinguish them?

• They tend to be gourmets: Many of the secretly rich people I know have well-equipped kitchens and like to cook, as well as going out to restaurants known for their chefs’ reputations. They know about 5 star menu. Wine collections are common, with 25 or 30 very fine wines, as well as occasionally a 12$ bottle of wine. They buy top-quality cooking utensils and appliances.

• They read: The average American watches 4 hours of television a day. The average millionaire spends as much time reading every day. No rich person I know can tell you who was expelled from any island the night before. But they can probably tell you what’s on the New York Times bestseller list that week.

• They favor unique experiences: Everyone takes a vacation. Secretly rich people travel abundantly without being “tourists”. They have visited at least 5 other countries, and like the most remote places – Iceland, Peru, New Zealand, Patagonia. A trip to Antarctica is a good indicator of their wealth.

• They lack “things”: The strange paradox that I noticed about the rich is that the more money they have, the less their lives are cluttered. Their houses are not filled with useless trinkets. They can park their car in the garage. Their homes are often downright minimalist. Look for unique and original artworks (not necessarily something very famous or something very expensive).

• They care about their health: A rich friend told me one day that “your appearance is a reflection of the respect you have for yourself”. Almost every rich person I know is a fitness fanatic. They do yoga daily, running, cycling, swimming, marathons, have home gym equipment, etc. A rich friend of mine has a gymnasium at 10K $ in his basement. If you are rich and happy, you tend to want to live a long and healthy life in order to enjoy it.

• They support the Arts: I always meet the same people in local museums, operas, classical music concerts, art walks, charity events and botanical gardens. They are often members of the respective institutions and cherish member events.

It is always difficult to generalize to a large group of people, but I think it would cover two-thirds of the secretly rich people I know. For each category listed above, I know several exceptions and I’m sure others too.

In the end, they are secretly rich for a reason – wealth does not define them and they would prefer that others do not define them by it either. Life is easier when you are a secret millionaire. Once people discover that you are rich, they treat you differently and judge you constantly. If you spend money, you are accused of showing off; if you are living frugally, you are accused of  being a stingy person.

Weddings, birthdays and Christmas are a nightmare because everyone expects unusual gifts. If you spend excessively on a loved one, others will expect that kind of excess when it comes their turn. You will also begin to wonder how many of your “friends” are real. After a while, the only people you trust are the other rich. If you suspect someone to be secretly rich, leave him alone. If he really trusts you, he will end up telling you. Perhaps.

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