Why Having More Money Can Make Us Thoughtless Jerks

I had just picked up Frank (a relative) from the airport and we were making our way onto the highway. We soon came upon breaking cars as the two-lane narrowed to one. While there was some room ahead of us, we followed the cars in front as they formed into a single-lane.

As we slowly made our way through the start-stop line – one car after the other sped past us in the left lane, trying to make their way up to the front of the line before it narrowed.

Each one that zoomed past us had a similar characteristic: they were high-buck vehicles.

I began feeling a bit agitated but tried to play it cool.

Why is that rich people think they own the world?” Frank blurted out in frustration and indignation.

Although he was the first to voice it – the sentiment felt familiar and right.

After all, the cars who pushed their way ahead of the others taking their turns were luxury vehicles. They must be wealthy people (Or at least rich posers).

While I was a bit convicted at my generalization and judgment – I also felt it was justified.




rich jerks

Does more money make us jerks?

Thinking back at this incident, I’m able to realize a few things:

  • I’m very judgmental
  • Many wealthy folks don’t drive luxury vehicles
  • Some of the nicest folks I’ve met have been rich
  • Many wealthy folks don’t get wealthy just by sitting on their laurels – they make things happen (even if it ticks off those behind them)
  • Over-generalizations aren’t necessarily wrong – but can be rooted in black/white thinking or some other trigger that sets us off

I try very hard in my daily life to give others the benefit of the doubt. My thinking is that I hope others would do the same for me. I wouldn’t want them passing judgment based on one bad episode.

Now, I don’t want to give these thoughtless drivers a pass (whoever they were) OR entitled wealthy people who “think they own the world”, but being rich isn’t all its cracked up to be. And, according to an interesting article I recently read in Businessweek – mo’ money can make us jerks and sick.

Here were some of the article’s findings on the well-to-do:

  • Affluent youth have rates of depression and anxiety more than twice as high as the national average
  • 29% of young adults from well-off families reported heavy drinking (four-plus drinks for women / five-plus drinks for men, 12 or more times in the past year) VS. 8% of those from poorer families
  • Folks making $20k or less who were given cash and asked to donate to a stranger were 44% more generous than rich people (those making $150-$200k)
  • Therapy for dealing with being wealthy is on the rise

And, the one that struck a chord in me:

  • Drivers in a “fancy” car are 4x more likely than ones in a standard vehicle to cut off another driver in a four-way intersection

Of course, being wealthy isn’t all that bad. You probably have more freedom to do as you please. And, you likely will live longer (one article I read said the wealthy can live as much as 10 years longer than the poorest).

Here’s another post we wrote on examining money and how it affects us

Your thoughts?

I know I’m not alone in thinking some of these things or having these generalizations when the fella cuts you off in traffic driving his Mercedes. But – if I’m honest – I also see some of these tendencies in myself when I make money the central focus of my efforts and have been driven by greed. I tend to care less about others – and what matters.

What do you think? Does more money inevitably cause more problems, heartache and make us thoughtless jerks?

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5 comments

  1. Nancy Black says:

    Laughing we all have had similar moments..heh heh. I think I’m too, too mellow to let it get to me..I give blessings to those who are impatient, rude. Better to linger than get into road rage. Safer, happier too. I”m on the very low income scale, but it doesn’t bother me to see these folks trample pass us. Not fair but better them then us.. Money doesn’t make a person, but it helps ease our way.

  2. Money Beagle says:

    I think people often get into a mindset where they think that their time is worth more than that of others, and yes, that can definitely seem to happen more with people that have more money.

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