As the wealth gap continues to widen, it may be beneficial to learn how to convince people you are middle class when you’re actually rich. Otherwise, you might become target enemy number one when the revolution comes!
To get things out of the way, I feel rich. Not only do I feel rich, but I also have enough passive income to be time rich. Being time rich is my favorite form of wealth. After chronicling my journey to financial independence since 2009, there’s really nowhere for me to hide. Hopefully, people will give me some credit for all the years of hustle since graduating from college in 1999.
To avoid the guillotine, my hope is that consistently writing free content 3X a week to help everyone achieve financial independence will be appreciated. After all, I’ve got nothing to sell, except for a severance negotiation book, which many readers have said gave them the courage to change their lives for the better.
Even when many large media sites put up a paywall during a global pandemic, Financial Samurai stayed free. My goal has always been, no matter your level of wealth, to provide access to anybody looking to improve their personal finances.
Besides, as a minority, there should be more leniency as well when the uprising comes. It’s cool to be a minority nowadays. That is, unless Asians are considered not enough of a minority worth fighting for. In which case, please have mercy!
How To Convince People You Are Middle Class When You’re Rich
With Joe Biden as President, class warfare rhetoric may pick up over the next four years. I distinctly remember heightened class warfare rhetoric during the Obama years (Jan 20, 2009 – Jan 20, 2017). The Occupy Wall Street movement rose up as Main Street got crushed during the last global financial crisis. Remember the classic slogan, “shit is fucked up and bullshit“?
For a large portion of the population, everything is hunky dory now. But for another portion of the population who doesn’t aggressively invest and who doesn’t have easy ways to make money from home, things are not as good. Therefore, we must be aware of this dichotomy and act accordingly.
There’s also a decent chance we could go through another recession again under the Biden/Harris administration. With so much euphoria being bought with so much debt, things could end very badly for millions of people.
Hence, if you are a rich person, you must be prepared for a sudden change in sentiment. Let me share some strategies I’ve learned from rich people on how they’ve convinced others they are middle class.
How To Convince People You Are Middle Class Strategy #1: Criticize Other Rich People
When you want to deflect attention away from yourself, one of the best strategies is to criticize other people just like you. Therefore, if you are rich, it’s wise to try and assimilate with the middle class.
Use words like “out of touch,” “triggering,” “clueless,” “living in your bubble” and so forth. Let me share a great example that just came to me after a journalist at MarketWatch highlighted this tweet from a wealth management professional.
On Twitter, Michael Batnick, Director of Research At Ritholtz Wealth Management, criticized a $400,000 household income budget. Too bad he didn’t link to the post, as that would have provided more context and nuance. But his tweet seems to have resonated with many people.
I’ve spoken to dozens of households in NYC, LA, San Diego, San Francisco, DC, and Boston who make between $200,000 – $600,000 a year. I’ve also cross-referenced these budgets with my own budget to make sure the numbers are realistic. The reality is, this budget is pretty common for families with children living in expensive cities.
Housing and tuition costs aren’t a secret. You can easily look up online what a typical 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom brownstone costs in Greenwich Village, Brooklyn, or San Francisco. Childcare and preschool tuition regularly cost between $2,000 – $3,000 a month.
A Nice Boost In Wealth Since 2020
It was smart of Michael to criticize this budget to put himself on the side of the middle class. Over the past seven years, as the Director of Research at a ~$2 billion money management firm, I’m sure he makes a hefty multiple six-figure income.
Although not entirely apples-to-apples, Directors in banking often make well over $500,000 a year all-in. Now imagine if you were a Director Of Research at an investment bank. You’d probably make closer to $1.5 million a year.
When Ritholz Wealth Management applied for a PPP loan in 2020 (and paid it back), it was reported their assets under management were only at $1.3 billion. Therefore, a 54% surge in AUM is quite a success and has made their employees even wealthier due to leverage.
Can you imagine if your net worth surged by 54% in one year during a pandemic? You’d be giddy as heck!
The wealth management business is highly scaleable. It does not take more manpower to manage $2 billion in assets versus $1.3 billion in assets. As a result, the employees at Ritholz are making even more money today plus have more valuable equity stakes in the company. With such an immense surge in wealth, learning how to hide in plain sight is important.
Adding On Side Income For More Riches
In addition to making a multiple six-figure salary at Ritholtz Wealth Management (RWM), Michael also makes money from his website and side hustles. He he sponsors for his podcast and blog that have nothing to do with his main business.
As a personal finance blogger for 12 years who also worked in finance for 13-years and consulted for a digital wealth advisor, I understand how much you can make online as well.
Too bad I wasn’t able to concurrently make a finance income and online income while I was working. It wasn’t allowed under company policy as my old firm didn’t want any conflicts of interest. This is one of the reasons why I decided to leave in 2012. I wanted the freedom to do as I wished.
But at Ritholtz Wealth Management, all its employees are encouraged to have personal websites to not only make money from advertising, but to also serve as lead generators to sign up new clients to their firm.
It is a fantastic strategy! I wonder why more money management firms don’t deploy such a strategy. But, again, there might be some legal reasons or conflicts of interest with larger firms I’m not aware of. For example, The New York Times recently told its journalists that all new private newsletters need to have management approval first.
The combination of healthy online side income plus Director Of Research income clearly makes Michael a wealthy man. I’m glad for his success. He deserves it. This is America, where dreams do come true! It’s just important to stay humble, especially during these times.
Oh, and my offer still stands good rich people at Ritholz Wealth Management. If you’re looking to diversify your workforce, I’m a minority who has the relevant finance and online media experience to help grow your business! I would just require a total compensation of at least $400,000 a year as well. Thank you for your consideration.
How To Convince People You Are Middle Class Strategy #2: Display No Material Wealth
To convince people you are middle class, you should drive a beater. A beater doesn’t have to be a car that has smoke coming out of its exhaust. You can drive a slightly-used Honda Accord or even a Toyota Highlander to blend in. Those are reasonably priced cars that attract no attention.
If you are a rich person who likes cars, then you should follow my one car for show, one car for dough rule. When it’s time to drive back to the office, you should drive your dough car (Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, etc). When it’s time to drive to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island, only then should you drive your show car (Lambo, Ferrari, McLaren, etc).
Not only should you drive a beater to work, but you should also not wear fancy jewelry or watches. Any ostentatious displays of wealth can get you robbed or kidnapped. Remember my war cry, “Gap not Gucci“! Wearing a baseball cap and sweats when you go out is a good strategy as well.
Finally, you should never give anybody your house address. Thanks to Zillow and Redfin, even if their online valuation estimates are unreliable, people can easily deduce how much you make using my 30/30/3 rule for home buying.
For example, let’s say you live in a $3 million house. My 30/30/3 rule would indicate you make around $1 million a year. Worst case, you make at least $600,000 a year (1/5th the house value). Banks really aren’t lending more than 5X your annual household income anyway.
Another thing I learned from my beachfront dream house post is that you should never post any house pictures online. Even if you do not reveal the address, someone can download your picture, and then upload the image onto Google to do a reverse search. If the picture was ever used anywhere on the web with an address, the address will be discovered. Curb your desire to show off!
How To Convince People You Are Middle Class Strategy #3: Communicate Poorly
Back in the good old days, I went to Mallorca, Spain with a bunch of friends. We went out for paella at 10 pm and started discussing relationships. As a Stealth Wealth champion, I asked the woman next to me how she was able to tell if a guy was rich if he displayed no material wealth.
She insightfully responded,
“By the way he speaks. Can he hold an intelligent conversation while looking you in the eye. His mannerisms are very telling as well. For example, at the dinner table, will he offer to serve others food first? Will he make sure his neighbor’s glass of sangria is always full?”
Therefore, if you want to appear middle class at the dinner table, serve yourself first!
Avoid The Trans-Atlantic Accent
When communicating, don’t use big words or speak in a Trans-Atlantic accent as Kelsey Grammer did in the sitcom TV show, Frasier. Dr. Frasier Crane is American. But due to the way he speaks, you might think he was a doctor from the UK. Instead of speaking like Dr. Crane, speak more like his father.
You can hear the Trans-Atlantic accent in Audrey Hepburn movies and in the first Cinderella and Alice In Wonderland movies too.
Back in the ’30s and ’40s, wealthy people, mostly on the east coast, decided to adopt this hybrid Trans-Atlantic accent as a “class” marker. You know, that “Hah-vahd English” sound. Rich people taught it in boarding schools such as Andover, Deerfield, and Exeter.
Obviously, if you are middle class or poor, you didn’t attend boarding school unless you received a scholarship. Therefore, you should speak as a normal person does! Perhaps you want to speak with a lot of pauses and use the word “like” a lot. Examples: Like, uh, how you doin? Oh, and don’t tell anybody you went to private school either.
Consider also using “upspeak” by ending many of your sentences in a rising tone like you’re asking a question even though you’re not. Upspeak helps make you sound less intelligent. Incorporate slang, especially the latest generation slang as well.
When it comes to communicating on social media, you must be particularly careful. Most people on social media tend to curate and display the best of themselves. Therefore, if you want to convince people you are middle class or poor, you can take the opposite route.
How To Convince People You Are Middle Class Strategy #4: Do Not Reveal You Have Rich Parents
I was reading a piece by a New York Times Opinion writer who said she had children young and that’s OK. She lives in New York City, an expensive city with her lawyer husband.
It’s wonderful to have kids. And of course it’s OK to have kids young if you can afford to. However, kids cost a lot of money and time. Not everybody is lucky enough to make a living from home or afford childcare.
The author of the article went to Brandeis University, where tuition is $59,000 a year. The all-in cost to attend one-year at Brandeis is about $80,000 a year. I’m pretty sure that if more people had parents wealthy enough to pay huge private university tuition, more people would have kids at a younger age as well. Having wealthy parents is a huge safety net.
Therefore, just like with private school, never reveal to anybody you have a trust fund and wealthy parents. Not only will you reveal you grew up rich, a lot of your work will get discredited as well, rightly or wrongly.
Convincing People Is A Skill That Takes Practice
The most skilled people at convincing others something they are not is the politician. From taking photo opportunities holding babies to going to places of suffering for speeches, politicians are experts at convincing people about their agenda. Therefore, if you want to learn how to convince people, simply study your favorite politician in action.
If you think about it, how else can an extremely wealthy politician hold office, while claiming to represent the interests of the middle class and poor? How is it possible to convince the masses to ignore the fact many politicians went to expensive private universities, live in multi-million dollar mansions, send their children to private grade school, eat at restaurants that charge $500 – $1,500 a head, and so forth? It’s impossible without developing the power of masterful persuasion.
Just be careful about doing too much virtue signaling. Eventually, people will get sick of all talk and no action. For example, if you say something like, “we must help the poor,” while having a billion dollar net worth, it gets old after a while.
You can try to go my route and tell things the way they are. You can also be relatively transparent to others about your financial journey. However, I DON’T recommend following me if you want to get richer and more loved. For example, at least twice a year, I get beaten over the head by the Internet Retirement Police. And the IRP are frequently the most privileged people around!
The middle class is the best class because nobody bothers you. Politicians fight for you because they want to win the most votes. As a middle class citizen, you are part of the majority who can overcome any minority if you want to. If you are rich, learn to convince people you are middle class. Your life will be better if you do.
Readers, what are some other great strategies to convince people you are middle class when you’re actually rich? Why do some people try to convince others they are rich when it’s better to convince others they are middle class or poor?
If you are truly rich, please do more to help others get ahead. Volunteer your time. Donate money. Mentor kids. Fight for equal opportunity. Be aware of systemic racism. Speak up when you see an injustice. Society is no good when there is such a great dichotomy in wealth. Fight on!