Becoming Rich in America: A Guest Post

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Today I’m happy to host a guest post from my fellow blogger, Mitchell Pauly, from Snarkfinance.  Snarkfinance is a edgy, funny site geared towards entertaining and informative takes on personal finance and career orientated topics. Its main writer, Mitchell Pauly, is a financial professional, humorist, and author.  Follow Snarkfinance via email, RSS, or on Facebook!

70% of American’s believe that it is harder to become rich than it ever has been in our country’s short history, according to a relatively recent study by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, with a poor outlook: 80%  believe that things will either worsen or stay the same in the next ten years.  Given, these types of studies are prone to bias, largely because respondents are thinking about the recent past instead of the last decade or so.  Still, this is a little disheartening, right?

The Conundrum
Against this lies another poll conducted by the same organization in which roughly one-third of respondents said it was very or somewhat likely that they would attain wealth.  While this is close to overlapping with the 30%  of respondents from the first survey that didn’t believe that it’s harder to become rich than it ever had been, bear in mind that the other possible responses to the first survey were easier (9%), no different (18%), and don’t know (3%).  So how can only 9% of respondents feel it’s easier to be rich now than ever before while 33% feel that it is very or somewhat likely they will attain wealth?  I will tell you: because it depends on the question.

The Questions
Do you think it is easier or harder to get rich today than it used to be?  This is a question that requires a bit of probing into one’s own feeling of worth and opportunity.  The way it is posed conjures up our past failures and missed opportunities, perhaps our frustration with our jobs and careers, taxes and bills, or how the higher education system is structured.  Some may say it is easier now than ever before, due to the relatively low-cost of internet ventures, etc., while others are not very familiar with internet based services, let alone programming and so may disagree.   I think this latter group is the majority of America, and so the results of this question suggest that opportunities for common-folk to attain wealth through the means that are available to them (primarily save and invest) seem a dryer well than before.

Do you think you will be rich one day?  This question is more straight forward than the last on an emotive level.  The question is asking you to take into account future what-ifs and could be’s and thus dwell less on your current state of affairs.  If you are like most American’s your current state of affairs kinda sucks.  But the future?  Who knows…?  This reading is complicated by those 80% who responded that over the next ten years things would worsen or stay the same in regards to becoming rich, but I think this is more a factor of the preceding question than of America’s true optimism.  One sets up the other.

Seeking an Entrepreneurial Attitude
American’s probably don’t like to think too hard about their prospects of becoming rich.  Our country was founded on the idea that anyone can rise to achieve their dream, and as a nation I think we hold this ideal fervently.  The two questions above seek to expose the tangibility of our dreams, should they be tied in some way to wealth.  Although as I point out they are of differing emotional complexity, I do not think there are answers to be found here as of now.  I think that America is currently doing a lot of soul searching, and perhaps a little fretting over whether or not the dog-days of entrepreneurship are over with (has entrepreneurship been reduced to “entrepreneurial attitude”; a term on a job description?).  Surveys need to be taken with a crack rock-sized grain of salt, but in overlaying these two it does appear as if Americans feel down, but not out.

7 thoughts on “Becoming Rich in America: A Guest Post

  1. Holly@ClubThrifty

    I don’t know if it’s easier or harder to get rich these days but I don’t think that should change anything for anyone. It’s all about doing your best and trying to make the system work for you. Using circumstances as an excuse to never get ahead….will never get you ahead.

  2. Mrs PoP @Planting Our Pennies

    I think a lot of the survey differences come down to the sense that we’re all “above average”. In general, if a survey asks if a person is above average, the survey will get way more than half of respondents saying “yes”.

    So I think this has a lot to do with people seeing that in general it’s going to be hard, but having confidence that they’ve individually got the drive to achieve something.

  3. John S @ Frugal Rules

    I think it is somewhat more difficult as I believe we’re in a lost decade, much like Japan has had where the market really goes sideways. That said, I think it just means you have to be creative at how you approach it and be willing to do what it takes.

  4. Budget and the Beach

    Wow that’s a great question to think about. I used to think for myself that if I just did the normal things: get the full time job, work hard at it, retire, that I would be well off. Maybe not rich, but quite comfortable. Wow that world was shaken when I was laid off over four years ago and started freelancing. I’m just NOW getting to the point where my entrepreneurial spirt has kicked in and know the power is in my hands to make it work. No one is going to look out for me. All I can do is focus on myself, and hope it goes well.

  5. femmefrugality

    Self-accountability is so huge. I think as an individual, we have to recognize that nothing will get us ahead except ourselves and our own efforts, to echo all of you.

    That being said, I do think it is important as a society to recognize that upward mobility is on the decline in our country. Recognizing that your opportunities are either limited or opened because of where you came from is huge, and it is reality. You can have all the motivation in the world to work yourself out of whatever horrible situation you’re in, but the higher up the ladder you start, the easier that will be.

  6. MyMoneyDesign

    I don’t know if its easier or harder, but I think the rules of the game of getting rich have evolved. Gone are the days when simply going to work was enough. Now it seems you need to be doing something that no one else is. Through blogging, I have seen first hand how Internet real estate can translate into real money, and how it could be grown to something that would have taken me days to earn through traditional hard work.


    Exactly. The days of being loyal to a large-ish company are over with, as they clearly do not have any loyalty to their employees. I was laid off at one point as well and although it turned out in my favor employment-wise, all it truly did was resolve my determination to go independent in business. No one will look after me aside from me.


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