Most of the top 5 percent of the wealthy were not born with a silver spoon in their mouths, according to Bradley T. Klontz, a behavioral financial planner.
Klontz, who is both a psychologist and financial planner, recently completed a study on the attitudes toward money of a group of 1,096 people working with financial advisors. The academic study, "The Wealthy: A Psychological Financial Profile," was published in Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research.
Klontz and his father founded the Financial Psychology Institute, which they hope will help translate academic research into practical strategies for financial planners and their clients.
The study looked at more than 800 people who have an average of $600,000 in assets and an average income of $88,000, and 187 with assets of at least $2.5 million and incomes of at least $370,000 a year, putting them in the top 5 percent financially.
The study countered some of the beliefs that the mass affluent hold toward the rich, Klontz said. These false beliefs can hold investors back and advisors should help their clients dismiss some of their false impressions, he said.
“The wealthy in the study did not come from old money and did not go to private schools,” Klontz said. “Contrary to stereotypes, the wealthy in this study were raised in middle-class homes, were first-generation earners, went to public high schools, worked hard and did not have private chefs or chauffeurs.”
The mass affluent and the wealthy hold similar beliefs about taxes and how money should be spent, the Kansas State University associate professor said.
A big difference between the two groups is that the wealthy are more likely to take responsibility for their financial mistakes and more likely to take steps to correct the mistakes by selling bad investments or taking other action, Klontz said.
“The wealthy took significantly more personal responsibility for their life outcomes, versus blaming others, allowing them to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes,” he said. The mass affluent were more likely to suffer from loss aversion, which made them afraid to take corrective action. They are more likely to hold onto bad investments because they feel they have a stake in the decision to buy the investment in the first place.
The mass affluent also are likely to envy the rich, feel inferior to them and hold resentments toward people they feel were given riches rather than earned it, Klontz said.