associating with the ‘appear-to-be-rich’ folks

Should you make a cold-hearted effort to hang out only with rich people? In several of my favorite inspirational/self-help sources (Rich Dad, Poor Dad; Think and Grow Rich; The Secret – and before you get all snooty they are inspirational, not technical advice on money management) the idea is promoted again and again that you need to associate with people who encourage you in your pursuit of wealth. You should associate with people who have similar mindsets toward action and living below their means and focusing on wealthbuilding. Recently I’ve taken stock of some of our neighbors and friends and found them wanting in their behavior, but not in their example. Huh?

If you want to be around people who inspire you to wealth, who is better? Someone who is just starting out in life, with few assets – a horrible apartment, moldy furniture, a bank account in the teens – but a great attitude towards wealth? Or someone who has a wonderful, pleasant home, a nice car, a happy family – and a mountain of debt and a devil-may-care attitude about the future? It seems like an easy question for a second, but then I start to wonder: maybe it’s a good idea to hang around some people who outwardly have the life you want, even if you know they’ve built their castle from sand.

I have known people who had an amazing discipline about wealth-building. A married couple I knew always drank water when out and drank alcohol at home; they studied investing and researched the cost of living in different places, and even studied for second careers at night to advance themselves. But they lived in a dump. They ate the cheapest crud they could find. And this lifestyle became a habit, and as they grew wealthier (and they did, but not remarkably so) they did not alter their habit. Selfishly speaking, they did nothing to encourage ME in wealthbuilding. Their ideas of wealthbuilding were spartan and seemed without purpose – other than to accumulate wealth.

On the other hand, another couple I know live like millionaires. They are not, I know for a fact. They are deeply in debt and may even lose their home. Yet at the same time they have an enviable home (now). They are living a grand lifestyle (European vacations, nice cars, etc.). I find that being around them makes me want what they have. I know I could have it tomorrow if I went into debt, of course, and I don’t plan on doing it. I’m going to get my bling the old-fashioned way, by earning it. But at the same time, their “how can we make more” attitude is interesting, their lifestyle is inspiring and their contribution to MY wealthbuilding seems somehow greater than Couple #1. I’m not a grubbing materialist, either – by ‘enviable home’ I also just mean the location, the character of the home, the closeness to schools, and so on… not just their plasma TV.

I think while it would be ideal to be surrounded by people like me (no debt and firmly focused on wealthbuilding, living in the twilight world of consulting between corporatist and entrepreneur, making six figures with a stay-at-home parent), that population is pretty small. I sometimes suspect that the New York area is comprised solely of multimillionaires (in debt), the middle class (in debt) and the working poor and immigrants who don’t use credit and consequently probably have no debt (but scrape hard for cash). That means I’m left with some unusual choices for my master mind group in relation to friends and acquaintances. It also means that I have to consider that sometimes I may be better off hanging around people who appear to be wealthy, simply so the appearance (and hopefully not the core) rubs off on me.

I watched The Secret again this weekend. It’s an entertaining movie. I know a lot of people criticize it for being a “lazy” or “greedy” way to approach wealthbuilding (“think about money and you will attract it”) but the more I watch it, the more I realize it’s right. If you sit around being negative and critical about anything – life, relationships, money, even your own health – you certainly won’t succeed at much. Negative thinking simply isn’t a productive activity. Just thinking more positively won’t guarantee much, either, but it does open you up to the possibility of success much more than a negative mindset does. Buy a copy or get it on Netflix or even watch the first 20 minutes on I think it’s worth it.