When you reach a certain level of wealth, the world becomes much less interesting—you’ve already achieved your peak, and there’s nowhere else to go. You gradually become more and more depressed, and eventually, you realize your wealth is a hollow lie.
Just kidding. Being wealthy is absolutely awesome. The ultra-wealthy get a number of benefits that most of us don’t even think about, and those advantages can make a huge difference in their quality of life.
For instance, when you’re wealthy…
1. Your rich kids can get more time to finish their tests.
If you’ve got an issue like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or severe anxiety, you’ll have trouble in school. Fortunately, young students with these issues can apply for 504 Plan designation, which ensures that they get appropriate help from their teachers—including more time to complete tests.
Here’s the issue: Rich kids are much, much more likely to receive 504 designations than their impoverished peers.
Data compiled by The Wall Street Journal shows that wealthy students are much more likely to be diagnosed with qualifying disorders (such as the aforementioned ADHD). Kids with 504 designations get more time to complete college entrance examinations, which is hugely significant.
To be clear, the data doesn’t indicate that these diagnoses are inaccurate, or that parents are purposely seeking false diagnoses in order to give their kids an educational advantage. Rich parents might simply have more opportunities to get kids appropriate help.
But some school administrators believe that wealthier kids don’t actually have the disabilities in question.
“We have a history of over-identification [of 504 issues] that is certainly an issue in the district,” said David Fleishman, the superintendent of Newton Public Schools in Boston. At one school in the district, Newton North High School, one out of every three students has a 504.
Of course, rich students can have a number of other advantages, including private tutors, smaller class sizes, and parents who are willing to bribe college officials (we’re looking at you, Felicity Huffman).
2. You feel like an expert (even when you have no idea what you’re talking about).
According to research from the University College of London and Australian Catholic University, wealthy people are much more likely to pretend they have expertise in mathematics. To put that another way, rich people know how to BS.
In the study, participants were asked to rate their expertise in 16 math-related topics; three of those topics were completely fake: “proper numbers,” “declarative fractions,” and “subjunctive scaling.” Wealthier folk were more likely to claim expertise in those totally made-up topics.
That might not sound like much of an advantage, but consider this: When was the last time you met someone at your work who had absolutely no idea what they were doing…but they made more money than you?
“Being able to bull**** convincingly may be useful in certain situations (e.g. job interviews, negotiations, grant applications),” the study authors wrote.
The study had a few other interesting takeaways. Across the board, men were more likely to “pretend expertise” than women, although in the United States, the gender gap wasn’t too significant—American men and women are about likely to fake knowledge. Oddly enough, Canadians were most likely to BS. We think it’s related to being polite all the time.
3. You’re more likely to become a professional artist.
Okay, you don’t need money to pursue a creative career, but it certainly helps. According to research from the University of Southern Denmark (reported by Money), with every additional $10,000 in total family income, you’re about 2 percent more likely to go into a “creative occupation.”
Extrapolated, that means that if your family’s total income is $1 million, you’re about 90 percent more likely to find creative work than a person with a $100,000 family income.
The disparity is pretty easy to explain: Rich kids can move around easily to find work, and they’ve got more of a safety net to support them when they can’t find paying gigs. They’re therefore less likely to quit when times are tough—the whole “starving artist” stereotype takes a lot of creatives out of the game early (it’s hard to feel artistic after your 10th consecutive bowl of instant ramen).
Granted, you can’t buy talent, so if you’re a bad artist, your enormous financial parachute won’t help you sell your stuff. You’ll just have many, many more opportunities to try your luck.
4. People can tell you’re wealthy just by looking at your face.
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people can determine whether or not you’re rich just by looking at you. How? Well, rich people wear it on their face.
Per the research, wealthy people generally suffer from less anxiety and live happier lives.
“These well-being differences are actually reflected in people’s faces,” study co-author R. Thora Bjornsdottir told CNBC Make It.
Researchers showed 160 facial photographs to study participants; half of the photos showed people who made at least $150,000 per year, while the other half showed people who made under $35,000. Participants were able to accurately guess the subject’s social class 68 percent of the time.
“People are not really aware of what cues they are using when they make these judgments,” Bjornsdottir told the University of Toronto News. “If you ask them why, they don’t know. They are not aware of how they are doing this.”
Per the researchers, the results weren’t changed by factors like race or gender. Participants made their judgments immediately—and in the majority of cases, those judgments were correct.
“[The results indicate] that something as subtle as the signals in your face about your social class can actually then perpetuate it,” Bjornsdottir said. “Those first impressions can become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s going to influence your interactions and the opportunities you have.”
5. You’re really good at ignoring other people.
Per research published in the journal Psychological Science, wealthy people are less likely to notice their less-wealthy brethren.
In one study, researchers equipped study participants with Google Glass eyewear, which allowed scientists to study the participants’ eye movements. Then, they had the participants walk a block in New York City.
Participants who identified as wealthy were less likely to focus on other people—and more likely to focus on material objects.
“Across field, lab, and online studies, our research documents that other humans are more likely to capture the attention of lower-class individuals than the attention of higher-class individuals,” said Pia Dietze, a psychological scientist at New York University, in a press release accompanying the study. “Like other cultural groups, social class affects information processing in a pervasive and spontaneous manner.”
Combined with the other research, that means that if you’re rich, you can walk around oblivious to other people, but they’ll all instantly recognize you as rich. That’s, like, one step below being a celebrity.
6. You can eat ethically sourced food.
We’d all love to eat organic, locally sourced foods, but that’s somewhat impractical; ethical foods are, well, expensive.
According to a report from the University of Guelph, that’s just one of the problems of the ethical food movement. Ethical foods are more expensive—but that’s not the only reason they’re unavailable to lower-income people. Markets that sell ethical foods tend to focus on foods that appeal to upper-class social groups (kale, we’re looking at you).
Researcher Kelly Hodgins claims ethical eating is only really possible if you’re in the upper- or upper-middle class. People in lower classes often feel out of place when shopping in, say, a Whole Foods, and they don’t always have easy access to transportation to get to those places.
“These [ethical food] spaces are classed and sort of yuppie, but they don’t have to be as much as they are,” Hodgins told The Globe and Mail. “Even if we were to eliminate that cost barrier, there’s still a lot of social issues to overcome.”
7. If you go to jail, you can upgrade your cell.
Let’s say you live in California, and you’re convicted of a minor offense that requires jail time. If you can afford about $82 a day—and you know the right people—you can upgrade to a nicer jail cell.
“It’s clean here,” inmate Nicole Brockett told The New York Times in a piece about the luxury jails. “It’s safe and everyone here is really nice. I haven’t had a problem with any of the other girls. They give me shampoo.”
Free shampoo sounds nice, but there are, of course, some caveats: You have to get your upgrade approved by a judge, and if your jailers don’t want you there for any reason, you’ll have to go to the slum jails with everyone else. Still, provided you’re willing to jump through a few hoops, money can actually make your debt to society a little bit easier to repay.
The program started in the 1980s, and it was intended to fight overcrowding in southern California prisons. However, it’s still an option for the wealthy (and the slightly-less-wealthy, provided they know how to secure a spot).
From 2011 to 2015, the average cost of a pay-to-stay prison term was $1,756, so it’s not an option for most impoverished folk. However, it’s a small price to pay for a more comfortable sentence. Eric Lund, a criminal who spent a year at one such facility, said he decided to plead guilty because he knew he could avoid a harsher environment.
“Once I knew I would get private jail versus Orange County jail, the year was a no brainer,” he said, per a piece in The Los Angeles Times.
8. You can steal candy from children (without feeling bad).
Look, we’re not going to say that all rich people are selfish. We’ll let science make that case for us.
“The effect of power is sadly one of the most reliable laws of human behavior,” Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley, told The Washington Post.
Keltner has spent his career studying the personalities of the wealthy, and some of his experiments are, well, hilarious. Along with a group of researchers, he staked out four-way stops and recorded the make and model of every vehicle that cut off other cars. Drivers of expensive vehicles were four times more likely to break traffic laws than people in rusted-out Ford Focuses.
And in another study, Keltner and fellow researchers gave subjects a jar of candy, mentioning that the candy was intended for children—but giving the subjects permission to take some, if they so desired. You can guess where this is headed: Wealthier people were significantly more likely to literally take candy from children.
There’s also the matter of empathy. According to a series of studies from the University of California, poorer people are better at reading emotions on others’ faces.
“Lower-class environments are much different from upper-class environments,” study co-author Michael Kraus told Time. “Lower-class individuals have to respond chronically to a number of vulnerabilities and social threats. You really need to depend on others so they will tell you if a social threat or opportunity is coming and that makes you more perceptive of emotions.”
So, if you’re not rolling in big piles of gold coins like a modern-day Scrooge McDuck, there’s a silver lining: The people around you care. They’re worse at lying, they don’t get extra time on their tests, and they’re probably not going to steal candy from children. All the money in the world can’t buy great company.