Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Difference Between the Rich and the Poor

 

It is not that the rich have more money. Not in America. I know several rich people who (having a massive negative net worth) technically have been much poorer than a beggar on the street. And almost all poor people in America today have material/creature-comfort wealth that exceeded that of most kings before 1900.

The difference is found between the ears. More specifically, the difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich have hope. They believe that in the future they can succeed. They are able to live their lives accordingly, spending their time productively.

The poor in America? They might be rich by the standards of ancient Kings – they have heat in the winter, unlimited hot and cold water on tap, no outhouses, clothing, smartphones … and be totally bereft of hope. They blame others for the things they do not have, for the honor and respect they would like to have from other people.

I live in a Blue City in America, and I see poor people every day, which is to say that I see people who have no hope. It is not merely that they have no perspective and do not realize that they have things a lot better than 99 percent of all of humanity in all of history (though that is true as well). It is that they are dark and sad and crushed.

Their lives have no meaning to them, and they know it. They try to crowd out that thought by filling their ears with loud music at all times. The petty things become all-important: was I dissed by that person in the check-out line? How can I show my superiority to the “customer” I am supposed to be “servicing?” They revel in such pecking-order battles, entirely unaware that there is a bigger world of opportunities out there, that there are so many ways in which they could be growing themselves.

I don’t think there are any quick fixes to their hopelessness. And even the slow fixes are seemingly impossible: how do you help people in a Blue City rise above the infantilized station in which they find themselves?

I think all people can be rich, finding meaning in their lives and living for the future. And I think the pathway to riches comes through personal achievement, through overcoming challenges and adversity. Which means that each person has their own path in this respect: we owe it to them (and ourselves) to maximize their potential to find and pursue that path.

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There are 26 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    iWe: The difference is found between the ears.

    Could have stopped right there, brother.

    • #1
    • January 25, 2020, at 9:29 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. JennaStocker Member

    “And I think the pathway to riches comes through personal achievement, through overcoming challenges and adversity. Which means that each person has their own path in this respect: we owe it to them (and ourselves) to maximize their potential to find and pursue that path.”

    Well done. Everyone has inherent value as a human being. If we believe in promoting the cause of life, I think this goes along with it. There are many in the well-heeled socioeconomic sphere who think working class or poor people’s lives are cheap. Conversely many people lacking conventional measures of wealth see the blessings of life as enriching and worthy of passing on in extremely charitable ways. Thank you for the reminder that a richness of heart makes for a wealthy man.

    • #2
    • January 25, 2020, at 10:17 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  3. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A good essay, great question and salient points, thank you.

    Rich and poor are relative terms, we do not ask, “Am I wealthy.” but rather, “Am I wealthy compared to Him.” By comparing ourselves to others we almost guarantee failure since almost no one can truthfully say, “I have more wealth than anyone else.” The secret is to do well, live well and be satisfied with the fruits of one’s own efforts. Working hard consistently generally has better rewards than shirking and complaining.

    There are many who have things I can’t afford. There are many who have larger investment accounts than I have. But I have the fruits of my labor commensurate with the choices I made along the way. I should be pleased about that, especially since I’m debt free and never had a bill come in that I couldn’t pay along the way. What have I got to complain about? Not much. I may never travel as much as I’d like but we do get to travel as much as we can afford. I don’t drive new vehicles but that is a matter of choice since I learned that money spent on one thing becomes unavailable for other things I value more.

    I told my kids, during their late teenage years, two things that are salient to this discussion:
    1) You are not wealthy except compared to 99.9% of all the people who have ever lived.
    2) Your life will be filled with one of two things: blessings or problems. If you look for blessings you will find them everywhere. If you look for problems you will find those everywhere. You get to choose.

    And in America, we get to choose our occupation as well as how we prepare and apply ourselves to the work at hand. An unimaginable benefit in the vast majority of other times and places.

     

    • #3
    • January 26, 2020, at 4:51 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  4. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    iWe: The difference is found between the ears.

    Could have stopped right there, brother.

    I don’t think so. Culture and optimism and sense of accomplishment are not linked to intelligence. I know many “bright” poor people and “stupid” rich ones.

    • #4
    • January 26, 2020, at 5:26 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  5. Stad Thatcher

    iWe: Which means that each person has their own path in this respect: we owe it to them (and ourselves) to maximize their potential to find and pursue that path.

    This is tough to do when there is a political party telling these people they have no hope, and it’s someone else’s fault they have to live the way they do.

    • #5
    • January 26, 2020, at 5:54 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  6. Freeven Member
    Freeven Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “Oh, no. I’m not getting a job. Jobs are for poor people. I’m a rich person who doesn’t have any money.”

    ~ Jackie Burkhardt, That 70s Show

    • #6
    • January 26, 2020, at 6:20 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  7. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    iWe (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    iWe: The difference is found between the ears.

    Could have stopped right there, brother.

    I don’t think so. Culture and optimism and sense of accomplishment are not linked to intelligence. I know many “bright” poor people and “stupid” rich ones.

    Uh, those are between the ears, too.

    • #7
    • January 26, 2020, at 6:20 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  8. PHCheese Member

    It’s not what a person has that is important, it’s what a person wants for.

    • #8
    • January 26, 2020, at 6:21 AM PST
    • 1 like
  9. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    iWe: The difference is found between the ears.

    Could have stopped right there, brother.

    I don’t think so. Culture and optimism and sense of accomplishment are not linked to intelligence. I know many “bright” poor people and “stupid” rich ones.

    Uh, those are between the ears, too.

    Yes. But I thought Arahant (who is no dummy) was making the common assumption that rich people are smart and poor people are stupid. I don’t think rich people necessarily are wealthier OR have higher IQs.

    • #9
    • January 26, 2020, at 6:37 AM PST
    • 1 like
  10. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    iWe (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    iWe: The difference is found between the ears.

    Could have stopped right there, brother.

    I don’t think so. Culture and optimism and sense of accomplishment are not linked to intelligence. I know many “bright” poor people and “stupid” rich ones.

    Uh, those are between the ears, too.

    Yes. But I thought Arahant (who is no dummy) was making the common assumption that rich people are smart and poor people are stupid.

    Ok. But I interpreted it as a pithy summation of a person’s entire thought process, where experience and received wisdom participate.

    • #10
    • January 26, 2020, at 6:41 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor

    For me, we find joy in life when we can flow between the bigger picture of our lives and the immediacy and beauty of a given moment. I think both are necessary to appreciate our lives. Too often we get stuck in “comparing mind,” comparing what we have or don’t have with the rest of the world, and those aren’t just material things, and not engaged with what is happening in this moment. It takes some wisdom and skill to shift back and forth from the larger world and what is happening right now.

    • #11
    • January 26, 2020, at 6:53 AM PST
    • 1 like
  12. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    iWe: And I think the pathway to riches comes through personal achievement, through overcoming challenges and adversity.

    iWe, another excellent post.

    Those of us who follow your essays here know that you’ve left out a quiet, sometimes unseen, element that is key to your own experience (as it is to many of ours): faith in God. So many of the poor you describe, who have lost their hope have first lost faith. And without faith and hope, love (the sacrificial, hard working, active kind of love that leads to personal fulfillment) is difficult to experience.

    And on a personal note, friend, I appreciate your thoughtful presence here at Ricochet.

    • #12
    • January 26, 2020, at 7:36 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  13. David Foster Member
    David Foster Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I don’t think it is only in Blue cities that this kind of hopelessness is seen…there are plenty of indicators of such in much of rural America, in the forms of drug addiction, suicide, crime, etc.

     

    • #13
    • January 26, 2020, at 8:47 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  14. The Dowager Jojo Member

    I would say that it’s at least as much a sense of lack of control, as lack of hope, that makes one poor. The feeling that the elements of your life which are out of your control are much greater than the ones you can decide and direct. Money gives you some control and that’s how it makes you rich. But you are far richer if you made the money yourself and know how to make more than if it was a one time gift. You are far richer if you are secure in your possession of the money than if you know it can be taken at any time. 

    In the end though no one has much control. That is why trust in God is true wealth.

    • #14
    • January 26, 2020, at 8:54 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. Arahant Member

    iWe (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    iWe: The difference is found between the ears.

    Could have stopped right there, brother.

    I don’t think so. Culture and optimism and sense of accomplishment are not linked to intelligence. I know many “bright” poor people and “stupid” rich ones.

    I said nothing about bright. It’s all attitude. And the attitude resides between the ears, too.

    • #15
    • January 26, 2020, at 10:18 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  16. Arahant Member

    iWe (View Comment):
    Yes. But I thought Arahant (who is no dummy) was making the common assumption that rich people are smart and poor people are stupid. I don’t think rich people necessarily are wealthier OR have higher IQs.

    Definitely not. There is a level of correlation to a certain extent, but it is not one that is directly parallel. Indeed, the really off-the-charts smart people often want nothing to do with being super (money) wealthy. We have but to look at Hollywood or sports to see that there are many who would be considered (monetarily) rich who don’t have two IQ points to rub together.

    I might even go further to say that pride in IQ can get in the way of one’s achieving the true wealth we are speaking of, as well as limiting monetary wealth.

    • #16
    • January 26, 2020, at 10:25 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  17. thelonious Member

    iWe (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    iWe: The difference is found between the ears.

    Could have stopped right there, brother.

    I don’t think so. Culture and optimism and sense of accomplishment are not linked to intelligence. I know many “bright” poor people and “stupid” rich ones.

    Uh, those are between the ears, too.

    Yes. But I thought Arahant (who is no dummy) was making the common assumption that rich people are smart and poor people are stupid. I don’t think rich people necessarily are wealthier OR have higher IQs.

    I somewhat disagree with this. Don’t have the data but we’re fooling ourselves if we don’t think most rich people are in high percentile when it comes to cognitive ability. Since the rich on average have the ability to learn more lucrative skills they have more options to pursue. They tend to have jobs they find more intellectually rewarding. Being a neurologist engages the mind more than being a shift manager at Wendy’s People who have much less cognitive ability or I.Q have fewer options. It’s a myth when we tell people if they only apply themselves they can do anything and achieve anything. For most of us there’s a ceiling on what’s achievable. We live in a more deterministic universe than most of us want to believe and coming to terms with that can be cruel. That could explain a certain amount of hopelessness. 

    • #17
    • January 26, 2020, at 10:43 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  18. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    thelonious (View Comment):
    Being a neurologist engages the mind more than being a shift manager at Wendy’s

    I was thinking on the larger scale: people who are worth a LOT of money have far more than can be earned by a neurologist. Nobody who gets a regular paycheck is getting to a net worth of, say, a hundred million dollars.

    I have known self-made men who were worth that much who never learned to read.

    • #18
    • January 26, 2020, at 12:27 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  19. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    thelonious (View Comment):
    Being a neurologist engages the mind more than being a shift manager at Wendy’s

    Indeed, it has often been remarked that the A Students become academics, the B students become professionals and dependable employees, and the C students, having fewer options, are most likely to start their own businesses.

    Entrepreneurs are the most likely to get to the stratosphere in terms of net worth – but only if they are able to be deeply optimistic.

    • #19
    • January 26, 2020, at 12:35 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  20. Manny Member

    This reminds me of a famous conversation between the two American novelists F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

    Fitzgerald: ‘”You know, the rich are different from you and me.”

    Hemingway: “Yes. They’ve got more money.”

    I have to disagree with iWe’s point here. I’ve been both rich and poor in life, and there’s a difference. Yes poor in the United States is not the same as the poverty in central Africa where it’s life and death, but having to worry about not making the rent and facing evictions on any given month is not what I would call an easy life. There is a difference.

    Edit: That doesn’t mean one can’t be optimistic and strive for a better life if one is poor. I’m not disputing that.

    • #20
    • January 26, 2020, at 2:47 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  21. Henry Castaigne Member

    thelonious (View Comment):
    For most of us there’s a ceiling on what’s achievable. We live in a more deterministic universe than most of us want to believe and coming to terms with that can be cruel. That could explain a certain amount of hopelessness. 

    The genetic realism is strong with this one. 

    • #21
    • January 26, 2020, at 5:41 PM PST
    • 1 like
  22. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    iWe: The difference is found between the ears. More specifically, the difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich have hope. They believe that in the future they can succeed. They are able to live their lives accordingly, spending their time productively.

    I completely disagree. Hope is a vice. Hope keeps battered women going back to the man that will eventually kill them. Hope keeps gamblers chasing bad hands, and bad business open. They all hope this time will be different, tomorrow will be better. The odds play out the way they’re cast. I hope to some day win the lottery, even though I mostly forget to buy tickets. I hope to get a better job, even though I havent updated my resume in years.

    I think the rich are rich because they have a vision and the ambition to realize the vision. Like Joy Mangano. There was a biopic about her called “Joy” (2015) starring Jennifer Lawrence. Joy invented the “Miracle Mop”, and built a business around this 1 product.

    I hope someday to have a better job, or to be rich, but unless I stop hoping and start doing something about it – its unlikely to happen.

    I do agree that anyone can be rich – we’re all swimming in opportunity, we just need to recognize one and then build a business to service that opportunity.

    • #22
    • January 26, 2020, at 10:30 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  23. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):
    Hope is a vice.

    Winston Churchill explained that success is defined by lurching from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

    I don’t know any successful person whose vision played out as they expected. But they kept going, through the failures.

    • #23
    • January 27, 2020, at 3:39 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’ve heard someone explain the difference between being broke and being poor. A person may be broke today but believes that it’s temporary and they will work out of it. Being poor means you’re stuck there.

    • #24
    • January 27, 2020, at 5:22 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  25. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    iWe (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):
    Hope is a vice.

    Winston Churchill explained that success is defined by lurching from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

    I don’t know any successful person whose vision played out as they expected. But they kept going, through the failures.

    Yes, thats true. I would call that persistence, more than hope. I just dont like hope.

    • #25
    • January 27, 2020, at 11:30 AM PST
    • 1 like
  26. Arahant Member

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):
    I just don’t like hope.

    Yeah, same here.

    • #26
    • January 27, 2020, at 12:59 PM PST
    • Like