Americans’ Love/Hate Relationship With Money

When it comes to money, the attitudes American consumers have towards money is a complex collection of contradictions. On one hand, everyone says they want to be rich, but they deride the rich as “greedy.” They say they struggle to pay the rent and make ends meet, but many also claim they’ll retire by the age of 45. Here’s what financial marketers need to understand about Americans’ views about money.

Mocking those with money is a popular pastime. The rich are an easy target. There are relatively few of them — the much vilified 1% — often stereotyped as greedy, corrupt, amoral — people who unblinkingly pay bribes to ensure their children can punch their own ticket to wealth by getting into the best schools.

In the “Conflicted States of America,” many resent the rich, but would also like to join them. Financial marketers live and breathe money, and help sell what it can do. But do you really understand how other Americans, even yourself, really feel about it?

But then you have Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and hundreds if not thousands of others among America’s wealthy who fund scholarships that send other people’s kids to college, and endow programs, entire schools, hospitals and much more.

Add into this complicated mix the wealth gap — which is widening and has become a huge political issue. On balance you’d think that the public at large would skew negatively toward the wealthy.

In reality, however it’s surprisingly balanced. Asked by GoBankingRates how they would describe their feelings toward “the rich,” one out of five Americans (27%) say they have negative or very negative feelings toward them. 30% have positive or very positive views, and the rest, 43%, are neutral.

‘I’ll Be Rich Someday. Until Then, Tax The Suckers’

The fact that more than seven out of ten American consumers don’t hate the wealthy might just be because they kind of like the idea of getting rich themselves. Many people still believe that by dint of hard work and brains you can pull yourself up to a better place financially.

According to GoBankingRates, just over half (52%) of Americans describe the rich as “hardworking,” and four out of ten (43%) use the word “intelligent,” even while more than three out of ten use words like “self-centered” and “greedy.”

Results from a 2018 Charles Schwab study found a similar strong belief in the American Dream, with 49% of respondents saying that saving and investing is the “key to wealth,” and another 40% pointing to “hard work,” as the key.

Whether the rich are seen as hardworking or greedy or both, more than half of Americans (56%) think raising taxes on the wealthy is a great idea, the GoBankingRates study found.

Another finding from the same study shows that more than half of Americans (56.6%) believe that the government favors the rich over any other income group.