Money changes people, and it’s not always for the better. Wealthy people struggle more than most realize, and this struggle is often seen regardless of how much money you have. Whether you were born wealthy, a self-made millionaire, a high-income earner, or just well off for your area, you may find that money alters a person’s behavior without them realizing it.
Is it True that Money Can Change an Individual?
Money can change people, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Much of it has to do with the preconceptions money creates. Our society has a lot of factors influencing how we look at money, and wealth can be seen as a social threat. Of course, money can’t buy happiness, but most people don’t realize that even well-intentioned motives can backfire.
Does money change people? Yes.
Does money change everyone? No, it doesn’t.
But, if you aren’t aware of how having money can affect your behavior and how you treat others, you could fall into the same trap.
Especially for those in upwardly mobile communities looking to increase their wealth, it’s essential to understand the psychological effects of money so that more of it doesn’t lead to negative behavior.
How Does Money Affect Human Behavior?
We all could use more money, but believe it or not, it can make us less empathic. A study conducted in the journal of Psychological Science found that wealthy people are more selfish and less likely to show empathy toward others. However, it also found that people with less money tend to read other people’s emotions better, making it easier to empathize and help them.
Some experts believe it is because people with less money have to depend more on others for various needs. So when they perceive a threat is coming that could affect other people, they are more likely to warn everyone and help where they can versus the more affluent who already have enough money and don’t need to rely on others.
Sometimes money can make a person more aggressive too. This aggression could be due to their selfishness, making them more boastful and less mindful of the people around them.
Negative Ways Money Changes People
They say the more money you have, the more problems. While money problems are the least of the wealthy’s worries, money can lead to other negatives. Even though not struggling financially can bring greater peace of mind, it can also do many negative things.
Here are some negative effects of money.
It’s more difficult for the rich to feel empathic when focusing on themselves. They are less likely to look at the people around them and see or care about what they need. They are more likely to indulge in self-interest maximization, spending money on themselves rather than using their wealth to help others.
An empathic person will react when someone around them is struggling, has needs, or experiences distress. Conversely, a non-empathic person will seem unaffected by what’s going on around them and is less likely to do anything about the situation unless it has to do with themselves.
Also Read: Fun money and why it’s important.
Wealth and Moral Judgement
A UC Berkeley study demonstrated that money and moral judgment are directly linked. Researchers conducted seven separate studies to see how wealth affected moral judgment, and in each case, it had a negative relationship.
In each study, the wealthy were more likely to cheat, lie, cut people off or make immoral decisions even in the workplace. Many experts believe this is due to the selfishness many wealthy people feel. Because they don’t have to look out for others, they make fewer ‘good’ decisions and instead focus on themselves. As a result, they don’t care nearly as much about how their actions affect others.
Wealth Linked to Addiction
Money doesn’t cause addiction directly, but because there is a more accessible pathway to get drugs or alcohol, the rich are more likely to have addiction problems than the poor. As income increases, so do the rates of alcoholism in adults and substance abuse in teens. Young adults in the upper-middle class are three times more likely to suffer from addiction or unethical behavior than those in lower classes.
Aside from substance addiction, money itself can become an addiction that leads to compulsive behavior. The need to get more money is a process addiction in which a person feels good when they acquire cash or possessions. People could also become addicted to spending money, known as shopaholism.
No matter the addiction, it’s clear that the compulsive nature of habits and consequences to your body or pocketbook is not suitable for your long-term well-being.
Wealth Often Perceived Negatively
There’s a consensus in society that wealth is bad and it makes people evil and rude. But, even if it’s not true, many lower-class individuals won’t give the rich a chance because they already perceive they will be negative, mean, or have ill intentions. With such vast income inequality in this country, it’s easy to see how those without would perceive those with way more than they need to live comfortably in a negative light.
Thoughts of Inequality
Income inequality has always been an issue in our country. As Associate Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
We saw this in action after the housing crisis of 2008 that brought the economy down. Wall Street financiers were rescued without question, while everyone else had to figure out their situation themselves.
This feeling of inequality has made the rich act superior, while the middle class and below feel inferior to everyone else.
Children and Substance Abuse
Addiction problems don’t just affect young adults. The higher class a family is, the lonelier children often feel. Those born to wealthy parents sometimes make up for loneliness and isolation by accessing drugs and alcohol. Since upper-class children have access to a lot more money, they are more likely to get addicted to dangerous drugs and alcohol and have compulsive behavior.
Also, children from upper-class families feel pressure to perform better in school and life but have less parental supervision than their lower-class counterparts. As a result, children often find it difficult to cope with the pressures of society and their lack of connection to their parents.
Distrustful of Other Economical Classes
All economic classes have different views of one another. Lower classes often feel like the rich are ‘stuck up,’ untrustworthy, and unhelpful. They tend to avoid the upper-classes because they think they lack empathy and would never help them if they were in a difficult situation.
The rich often look down on the lower classes too. They look at anyone in a class beneath them as criminals and untrustworthy individuals. They also may look at those with less as undeserving instead of someone constrained by socioeconomic circumstances.
However, it’s important to note that the perceptions of the wealthy and the lower classes come from different places. For the rich, it’s more about perception than actual experiences or feelings. Conversely, stereotyping the upper classes is often based on personal experience and negative consequences for the lower classes.
Wealthy Children and Psychological Disorders
Wealthy children often suffer the most from psychological disorders because of pressure. But, unfortunately, some children do it to themselves, assuming they have an image to uphold and standards to live up to so they can be just like their parents.
When children feel like they are ‘less,’ they may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Unfortunately, some children also have eating disorders or suffer from severe anxiety or depression because they don’t feel good enough for their families.
Materialism Linked with Lower Satisfaction
When you don’t have money, you often think, ‘if I only had more money, I’d be happy.’ But once you get that money, you quickly realize that it’s not the material things that make you happy. Yes, money can buy you peace of mind, which is helpful, but that’s about it. Money is only beneficial until you can comfortably meet all your basic needs.
However, money doesn’t buy love, and material things can’t make you permanently happy. They can’t fill the void of loneliness or make someone feel less stressed. Money may make you feel good temporarily, but when you realize it can’t change how you feel inside, it quickly loses its power.
Money can make you feel more powerful than you are or make you feel invincible when you’re not. This distorted image can affect how you carry yourself and how you act. There’s nothing that says rich people are better or poor people can’t make wise decisions.
Money doesn’t define us, but it can change how we see ourselves, talk to ourselves, and eventually conduct our lives.
The more money people have, the less helpful they tend to be. Again, this stems from the lack of empathy many wealthy people have. They can’t think outside of themselves, so they focus on themselves instead of the world around them.
People of different economic statuses were introduced to different things, including fake money, Monopoly money, or money-related words. Then, the other groups were exposed to something other than money. Both groups were then put in situations where they needed help. Unfortunately, the groups exposed to money were less likely to help those in need.
Positive Ways Money Changes People
Fortunately, money doesn’t always have adverse effects on people. On the contrary, there are some positive attributes to having more money.
Some people may think wealth makes you selfish, but another way you could look at the wealthy is self-sufficient. In the same Yale study, researchers found that groups exposed to money-related items and words were less likely to ask for help when exposed to situations where support was right outside the door.
However, the group not exposed to money was more likely to reach out for help, demonstrating that wealthy people tend to do things on their own for as long as they can. Wealthy people prefer to achieve their own goals and hold themselves higher.
Wealthy families have more resources to share with others, and the rich often spend money to help charities or other causes. However, you don’t have to be famous to be a philanthropist. You don’t even need millions of dollars.
The most significant benefit to wealth is the ability to help others better and impact the world in ways you deem necessary. Money talks and those with it have the opportunity and responsibility to help move society forward so that everyone can succeed.
Money changes people, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals and have as much money as possible. It all comes down to the social psychology of having money and how people perceive you.
Stay aware of how you act, treat others, and even how you use your money. This will help you avoid the bad behavior many people with a lot of money fall into, giving money a bad name.
Now that you know how money changes people, often for the bad, you don’t have to be one of them.
Samantha uses her BS in Finance and MBA to help others control their finances through budgeting, saving, investing, side hustles, and travel hacking. Due to following the FIRE Movement’s principles, she was able to quit her high-stress job in the financial services industry in July 2019 to pursue her side hustles. She is now a full-time entrepreneur, freelancing coach, and blogger.