Why Being Rich is Overrated

Wealth is portrayed in movies as being the ultimate prize. People buy lottery tickets, hoping to strike it rich. Others dream of attaining riches and exerting great influence. The main reason why being rich is overrated is that it has been shown that money can’t buy happiness. Many millionaires find that their pursuit of wealth has come at a price and that their money doesn’t give them the pleasure, peace of mind and influence that they expected.

Why is wealth so attractive?

People think that being rich will solve all their problems – they can pay their bills, buy what they want, live where they want, not have to go to work, travel and have lots of holidays. Being rich is associated with being famous, popular and influential. Being rich means that you can make a difference in areas that interest you.

People say that having money would give them the freedom to live the way they want but with riches comes responsibilities and worries.

What worries could a rich person have?

  • that they will lose their money.
  • that they always have to have the latest car, fashion, boat etc.
  • they have so many clothes they worry about deciding what to wear.
  • that their new possessions will be damaged.
  • that they don’t know who their real friends are.
  • that they are under constant scrutiny.
  • that the people who work for them are cheating them or stealing from them.
  • that someone will break into their houses and rob them.
  • that people will always be asking for handouts.

And there are sure to be many more worries to consume the wealthy; just think about all that stress.

Can money really buy happiness?

It is natural to get a kick out of going out and buying something new for yourself that you really want. We all experience that feeling. How much satisfaction would you get if you had enough money to buy anything and everything that your hart desired? The buzz we get from getting something new is short-lived so having loads of money isn’t really going to keep you satisfied for long.

Struggling to make ends meet certainly causes stress and unhappiness and so we dream of being rich so that we don’t have to feel the pain of not having enough. However, the satisfaction of always having enough, and even more than enough, would soon become mundane.

So, money can certainly buy temporary happiness, or at least relief from the stress and unhappiness of struggling to make ends meet. Research has shown that humans rate non-tangible things above possessions so it is unlikely that money will bring lasting happiness.

Are you better off if you are rich?

The work that you had to do to get rich, the responsibility of having that much money, the worry about how to spend it and keep it safe, the stress of making big decisions and the strain of keeping up appearances don’t seem like a recipe for a better life. While some things would be easier, from a financial point of view, the negatives may outweigh the positives.

Struggle gives meaning to our lives and gives people the opportunity to make their own decisions about life. The general population can enjoy splurging on a little luxury occasionally, can get together with friends and commiserate about there never being enough money and enjoy the small struggles of everyday life. They may not have mansions full of expensive possessions but they do have the benefit of anonymity and self-determination.

“A hamburger is still a hamburger, millions in your pocket or not” pronounced Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, in a speech to students at the University of Washington. Maybe that’s the answer. When it comes down to it, rich people still buy hamburgers, which is why being rich could be overrated.

So, what do you think? Is being rich overrated?


Why Being Rich is Overrated — 55 Comments

  1. Actually, there are two kinds of rich – those who are handed it, and those who built it from scratch. Usually those who have built it up themselves know how to handle it better and what to do so they don’t loose it. These are the ones who are usually grounded and take care of things just as they did before.

    • Not everyone that is “handed” it is terrible with money, either. My brother and I inherited 2 million dollars each when my mother died – and we’re in our early and mid 20s. We have invested it wisely into rental income and now live off the interest minus inflation (about ~$40,000 a year).

      Are we “spoiled”? Perhaps, but we were raised financially savvy and have taught ourselves to take care of that money. We never spend more than the interest minus inflation (except for a one time purchase of a home).

      Our lifestyles haven’t changed much, although we do spend more on things like well made clothing, and high quality home furnishings than we used to. Though you could argue that it’s an investment because we won’t have to repurchase these items for a much much longer period of time.

      • You are right. Not everyone is spoiled or handed things. Some do come by it honestly. I think where you and your brother set a good example is how you have been so responsible with what you have acquired. A lot of people would just go out and blow it all on fancy cars and big houses but you have invested it for your future. It also sounds like you live a pretty average life and don’t try to go over the top. This is the point I am trying to get across. Don’t focus on the extremes of being rich. Life can be grand without it.

  2. Being rich sure has its load of problems, particularly if you’re single. How do you know if a person you meat is truly your soul mate or just playing along to secure a comfy life for example?

  3. There will always be two sides to a coin. No being rich will not make you happy nor can it buy happiness. But I am sure no one wants to be poor either. There is a point where too much money is just overrated and not have any is horrible. I think more people just want freedom and money certainly helps provide. Being able to work at a job you enjoy verses some place you hate because you need that income.

  4. I can agree that being rich might be overrated and won’t bring you happiness. I think the only place where money buys happiness, so to say, is when you’re toeing the poverty line. I think once you get past that poverty line and actually can pay your bills (even if you’re just making ends meet), then money stops “buying happiness.” And I think most Americans are past that poverty line and so money won’t buy most Americans happiness. At least not in the long-run.

    • Interesting view. I would have to agree with you. Once your basic needs are met and the stress of not having them met is taken away, money no longer serves a purpose. Concentrating on it and how much you make actually will breed unhappiness. Money is a tool like everything else and you really only need so many tools right?!

  5. What always boggles my mind is that people instinctively know that money can’t buy happiness but yet they still yearn to fulfill an insatiable desire to keep buying–all in the name of being happy.

    The only rich person I’ve ever known personally who had what seemed to be a pretty complete handle on his financial situation was my Uncle’s father (not my grandfather) who had millions but walked around town wearing a $2 Hanes t-shirt and driving a rusty old pick-up truck–always smiling & saying Hello. My perspective is that he was the happiest man I’ve ever met simply because he didn’t allow his money to rule him, his actions, etc.

  6. I think having more money is still better than having less money. 🙂
    Like Bill Gates said – a hamburger is still a hamburger. If Bill Gates wasn’t super rich, he probably would still be an all right guy. It’s still the same person, money or not. If you are an unhappy poor person, you’ll probably be an unhappy rich person. That’s what I think.

  7. I believe we are getting all this upside down – we start thinking from money to life (hapiness) istead of thinking from our lives to money. It is true that it is probably better to be rich and miserable than poor and miserable but there certainly isn;t causality between how much money one has and how happy they are.

    I also think that it is useful to distinguish between ‘rich’ and ‘wealthy’ – one is purely material the other includes mentality.

    • Well said Maria. Wealth and rich are two different things. If you ask me, wealth is the thing to strive for.

      I like how you flipped the scenario around. Going from our lives to money definitely jives better. And yes, you can be happy regardless of how much money you have.I saw this on my recent trip to Africa. People can have so little in their lives and yet still feel so rich.

  8. The idea of being ‘rich’ can be a huge illusion though. I think many people who want to be ‘rich’ don’t really care about being wealthy, they just want to have all the latest stuff and look good- like a celebrity. In reality though, there are a lot of people that look ‘rich’ and don’t have much money in the bank. That’s when you are going to run in to the problems regarding constant worry etc. Also, like someone mentioned above, people would always be asking for handouts because you seemingly have so much money. If you are wealthy on the other hand, you probably behave a bit more like Bill Gates without so much of the flash. I don’t think that someone who really cares about being ‘rich’ will be able to be ‘wealthy’ or at least not for very long.

    • Very well said. I totally agree. It is much better to be wealthy than rich. It is interesting how the way we perceive someone can be inaccurate though. Many people think celebs are rich and yet many of them are actually way into debt. Concentrating on wealth and the long haul is a much better plan.

  9. Bing rich is not overrated! It is much better to be rich than poor. You do not need to fit the definition of rich to be happy. When I was considerably younger and building a business or starting a family, I struggled. I didn’t feel deprived, but I was working toward something. As I got much older, I started to enjoy the fruits of that hard work and I was feeling comfortable. The lifetime of effort will be definitely worthwhile when I retire (again).

    • I agree. These problems seem kind of superficial compared to the problems I’ve seen with people in poverty. I’m sure they cause stress, but so does worrying about being able to afford food to feed or your family or enough money for rent. I’d think a happy medium would be good. Aim for middle class. But given the choice I’d take the problems of the rich.

      Oh, and I’m not incredibly rich and I STILL worry about what to wear. :p

      • I think that if you are just concerned about meeting your basic needs than being rich never comes into the picture and doesn’t need to. All we need is our basic needs and we don’t need to be rich to do that. It is focusing on things outside of that that can cause problems.

    • See based on what you are saying, I would call that wealthy. You didn’t allow the amount of money you had to rule your life. You still had a family and worked hard at your business. You didn’t allow it to close doors. Basically, you proved that you don’t need money to be happy.

  10. There’s a song that says, “More money, More problems” I don’t know the feeling yet, but it kind of makes sense.

  11. In some less-affluent countries, getting yourself or your family members kidnapped for ransom is a real risk. Much better to be super-wealthy in North America or Europe than anywhere else.

    • Good point. This desire to be rich would backfire depending on where you live. To me, all that matters is the basic things and then use your energy for better things that are more worthwhile. Life is too short to be wasted on making tons of money.

  12. Being rich may be over rated but I would certainly take it. I think after a certain level needs are met, but then you always want something better or someone has something better than you, so I dont think there is a level of income that would make us happy. Some of my happiest days were when I was a poor college grad living in a one bedroom apt with my wife.

    • Interesting to hear yourself say that I bet. This is the point I am making. We need to stop worry about what others have and we need to stop trying to compete. We don’t need to have a ton of things or be rich to be happy .There is so much more to life.

  13. I don’t know if overrated if the way I would describe it. I think that there are false preconceptions about being rich. I don’t even know if most people know what rich is. People who operate in abundance can buy more fun, which is different from happiness.

  14. I agree that having too much money when unprepared to handle it could be a major stressor. Those who win the lottery without ever having handled large amounts of money often end up broke and unhappy in a few years.

  15. I think being rich is stressful but that’s a different kind of stress than not having enough money.

    I’ve never heard anyone say: “Geez, I wish I had less money.”

    Money can buy some happiness, it buys freedom, but it won’t make you feel fulfilled.

  16. I have been learning to live on less since my lay off and my parent’s health issues. It helps me to appreciate what I have and I now realize that when I was working….I was really “cheap”. What do I mean by that? I never thought I had enough money. Now I am learing just how much I did have.

    • I have been there too. I had some hard times a few years ago and I learned fast how irresponsible I was when things were better. I now make much more better financial decisions.

      Sorry to hear you have been laid off. I hope the situation changes soon.

  17. Money is an enabler and that’s it. If you have enough (just enough and not oodles) money, it is easier for you to do the things in life that make you happy. But the lack of funds is a hindrance that can be overcome with a little hard work and creativity so happiness can still be achieved with out money. It is the intangible things in life like love that brings happiness.

  18. I think being super rich is overrated. But, being rich so you no longer have to worry too much about money anymore is incredibly rewarding. I’d much rather be rich than poor or even in in the middle.

    When you have money, you don’t worry about money anymore!


  19. Money definitely won’t buy happiness. As I write this, I know a dear friend who has worked all his life to make money now has to face divorce as his wife wants it all. That’s even worst than being poor. He is at the brink of not only losing his wealth but also his family.

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