The Millionaire Next Door

Perceptions of the Wealthy by Ranger X. Rich

It seems like everyone has an opinion about the “rich” these days.  Take for example Ranger X. Rich.  We first noticed the ranger as we hiked out of the large parking lot adjacent to the wilderness area.  He was just opening his ticket book when my wife said to me, “did you put your parking pass [self administered] on the dashboard?”  I had not; I had left it on the console.  With that I said to the ranger, “I better run back and put my pass on the dashboard; otherwise you are going to give me a ticket.”  He smiled, pointed to the parking lot and asked me what kind of car I drove.  I reported to him  “a Toyota 4-Runner.” 

He then said something that shocked us.  “I’ll probably never get around to the Toyotas.  Most people who drive Toyotas. . .Fords. . . Chevrolets pay the $3 to use the park.  It’s the people with Mercedes, BMWs, Jaguars, the worst, and Range Rovers who usually don’t pay. [He checks those first]. I’ve been doing this a long time.  It’s the working man who pays in this country.  Rich people don’t pay taxes, they don’t pay to park.”

My empirical research does not cover the parking habits of the rich.  So I cannot say whether Ranger X. Rich is correct in his assumption that people who drive status makes of motor vehicles are more likely to scoff at the notion of paying parking fees.  Further Ranger X. Rich asserts that those people who drive these status cars are by definition “rich.”  But as I pointed out in Stop Acting Rich . . . 86% of those who drive status motor vehicles are not millionaires.  So it may be that many people who drive expensive cars don’t have enough money left to pay the parking fees or tip the waiters, the caddy, etc. 

What do you think about Ranger X. Rich’s perceptions of the rich? 

9 thoughts on “Perceptions of the Wealthy by Ranger X. Rich”

  1. Ranger X. Rich’s perceptions of the rich are typical. They are the way most people look at it.
    In Holland I often get the comment that the big cars are the most antisocial drivers and that the rich thus do not care about others.

    I would like to ask different questions.
    Why do people who are not millionaires/rich/financially safe already drive such cars?
    And why do we have such a negative view of rich people?

  2. I think this correlates to what I have observed, of people I know who drive a “status” vehicle. I think in the cases I have seen, if a person is loose enough in their judgment to accept the cost to own/lease a “status” vehicle then they are either not worried about the possible repercussions or they feel that they likely won’t be held accountable and so why worry about it.
    I think Ranger X’s perceptions are correct for “status” vehicle owners, but as you point out they are likely not all rich.

  3. This ties in so well with a conversation the husband and I had over the weekend. We are noticing even among our friends, a tendency towards enviousness of the rich. That is to say that they seem to not want anyone to have money if they don’t. This comes out in conversations especially about the potential tax increase on those who make over 250,000. I always expect people who I know to be of good will when it comes to other issues, to have good judgment about this as well, but it’s not happening.

    So the question is: What has caused this? Do everyday Americans feel hopeless about achieving financial prosperity? Or are they reacting to the behavior of people they think are rich (BMW drivers, for example), but who really aren’t? I don’t know the answer, but I’m disturbed by what I am witnessing.

  4. If you change the word rich to status-oriented the ranger’s observations match what I’ve seen in my professional career. Those who are concerned with what is real tend to be very conscientious in their actions. Those who are primarily concerned with what others think often take actions that only benefit themselves.

    What is sad is that many still equate status-oriented with rich. The two are most definitely not related.

  5. i say that the problem is the non-millionaire status-type has fooled most of us into believing they are well off. They treat the rest of us as lesser than them. They truly believe, after all, that in order to feel “rich” you have to be above the poor and middle class. So when the average American thinks of the “rich” they think of these pseudo-rich, these fakes who have us mad at the wrong people. We don’t want to tax the actually-rich people who provide us jobs and create opportunities in the free market we want to kick these pseudo-rich people off their high horses and the only way I can see that happening is to use their status-mindset against them. Raise the money factor on luxury automobile leases and watch these fakes come crashing into their own bankruptcy party. I’m tired of Americans being mad at the wrong people. Rich people aren’t bad and we need them to thrive because when they win, I win.

  6. 40 years ago when I was young and worked as a beautician it was the working women who tipped generously. The stay-at-home status seeking wives were the most difficult to please and the cheapest with tips even when they were pleased. It was like I was lower class and should be happy with what I got.

  7. I drive an 11 year old Honda Civic. I sure wish the people giving tickets at my local university – where I sometimes give lectures – would read this so they’ll pass over my car and not ticket me. I’ve had so many tickets there it is nuts – they are on any kind of violation like a hawk. 2 minutes late on the meter and I’ve got a ticket!

  8. I’ve read Dr. Stanley’s books and I definitely see and agree with pretty much everything that’s been written. But I don’t get it…if someone who’s not rich who drives a bmw (me by the way) is looked on in a negative way. If I choose to drive the car because I like the drive on it better than any other why am I being frowned upon? I don’t walk around like I’m rich or anything I’m able to afford the $400 payment and choose to drive this type of vehicle. I also have a 2010 civic (wife drives the bmw except for weekends) but still the bottom line here is just because someone drives a particular car doesn’t mean they are trying to portray a status level. I’m realistic about where I stand in society and it’s not amongst the wealthy but I enjoy my cars. Any comment?

  9. PAT,

    If you’ve read Dr Stanley’s book the Millionaire Next Door you’ll know that most wealthy (NOT high income) people don’t have $400 monthly payments on their vehicle. They buy reasonably priced cars in cash.

    Those monthly car payments you are making are not making you wealthy, they are reducing your net worth.

    You may enjoy driving a BMW but there is a price to pay for that.

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