Would you know a wealthy person if you saw one? What is a wealthy person? How do you define stealth wealth?
Everyone will have their own idea of how much you need to be considered wealthy. Many will think of the millionaire definition, which simply means you need a net worth of a million dollars, but is this considered wealthy? According to a 2019 modern wealth survey conducted by Schwab, you would need an average net worth of $2.3 million to be considered wealthy.
Once you achieve wealth and become financially independent, do you flaunt it or hide it? Some choose to make sure everyone around knows they are very rich. However, increasingly wealthy people choose to live a modest lifestyle and hide their personal finance from friends, family members, and everyone else while becoming rich. The wealthiest people have a millionaire mindset and practice what is known as stealth wealth.
There are many benefits of practicing stealth wealth, which will be covered later along with tips on how to be stealthy. First, what is stealth wealth?
What Is Stealth Wealth?
Stealth wealth is when you actively work to keep knowledge of your wealth hidden.
Practicing stealth wealth can boost your financial independence as it involves not showing off with money or, in other words, spending less. People with money often practice stealth wealth as it helps their financial future and often become richer.
Examples of stealth wealth include:
- The rich tech worker that wears hoodies and drives a cheaper car instead of wearing expensive suits and driving an expensive car
- A super rich business owner that prefers a beer at the local bar with friends over champagne at a country club
- The college student empathizing with his friend about student loans even though they secretly have a trust fund
Why someone chooses to practice stealth wealth is personal to them. Chances are you will never know as, after all, they are keeping quiet about their financial freedom!
The purpose of this guide is to give you some insight into how to practice being stealth wealthy wisely. If you are already wealthy or on the way to become wealthy, then this guide can help you understand the benefits of stealth wealth, how to be stealthy, and why you should be.
Pros vs Cons of Stealth Wealth
Ultimately when deciding whether to practice stealth wealth or not, there are some considerations to keep in mind.
Pros Of Stealth Wealth
When people become rich, they will always doubt that someone is only close to them for financial reasons. If they don’t know you are rich and successful, it’s easier to know they genuinely want your friendship or a romantic relationship.
Another aspect of this is not having to always talk about money. If people know you are wealthy, they want to know how you got rich and can you help them. This conversation topic can often become so frequent you no longer talk about anything else other than how you became rich or stay rich.
If people know you have a lot of money, there is a good chance a cousin you have never heard of will contact you asking for money. Extra money often means people you considered friends or family, or people you don’t even know, will ask for a handout. Stealth wealth helps stop this as no one knows you are wealthy!
No Obligation to Pay Every Time
There can be an expectation that the richest people always pay the bill when you go out, or perhaps you are always expected to make a sizable contribution to charity. Practicing stealth wealth helps eliminate these expectations. Plus, you can still treat your friends or family when you want to, maybe tell them you saved up, especially for the occasion to avoid questions.
Avoid Looking Like a Cheapskate
Some people assume that if you are extremely wealthy you should always tip generously or be willing to spend more than others. What these people aren’t understanding is how you got wealthy. You got wealthy by being financially disciplined, which will involve frugality, investing, and saving. Spending money frivolously is not the way to get wealthy or stay wealthy.
By hiding your wealthy status, you avoid people forming a low opinion of you even though they don’t understand why you shouldn’t spend extravagantly.
Pay Less Wealth Tax
When we talk about wealth tax in this scenario, it’s not a wealth tax imposed by the government. Instead, we mean the wealth tax imposed by others when they believe you have money. Examples of wealth tax include taxi drivers overcharging as they feel you can afford it, patrol officers stopping expensive cars to give tickets as they feel bad giving them to poorer people, or sales agents targeting you as you appear wealthy and can buy more. Situations like this are easily avoided by taking simple steps to keep your wealth status hidden.
These pros are the main benefits of being stealthy with your wealth. It can help maintain your wealth, and your mental health will be better without the constant attempts of all around you asking for money or constant advice.
Cons Of Stealth Wealth
Are there any downsides to living a stealth wealth lifestyle?
Hiding your wealth involves never talking about it. This can be difficult for some and could mean you feel lonely as you have no one to share your successes with when you want to celebrate.
Keeping your real status secret from everyone, including friends and family, could leave you feeling guilty. Although you are not lying outright, you are not entirely honest about your wealthy lifestyle. Even though it’s for a good reason, you may still have guilty feelings about doing this.
How to Be Stealthy With Your Wealth
As you build wealth, keeping your true wealth hidden from others isn’t as difficult as you might expect. Here are some tips on practicing stealth wealth:
Don’t Show Off
Once you have reached financial independence, you may have the urge to spend extravagantly. Although this is a natural reaction to having wealth, it won’t help you keep your wealth a secret!
As you make money, avoid spending on things like a big house, fancy car, or other expensive items such as jewelry or designer clothes. If you try to live a really rich lifestyle, not only will everyone know you are a rich person, but there is a good chance the money will run out. Many rich people have gone bankrupt after living excessive lifestyles, including Nicolas Cage, Burt Reynolds, and even Michael Jackson!
Not showing off your wealth helps you keep it a secret, plus it means your wealth will help you reach your financial goals and will likely last for your lifetime.
Empathize With People That Are Not as Well Off
To keep up the facade of not being independently wealthy, you must blend in with your friends, family, and co-workers if you have them.
This means showing empathy with those that are struggling with unexpected bills. Show interest when people are telling you about a financial success even though you may already be incredibly wealthy.
A great way to remain financially undercover is for everyone to believe you are in the same situation as them. Let people think you sometimes struggle too or that you don’t know a lot about finance.
Staying grounded is a good way to keep friends as no one wants to be friends with a show-off!
Watch Who You Tell
Telling anyone about your wealthy status could result in everyone finding out. Even telling a parent or best friend could mean the secret gets out. If you must share your secret, make sure you are absolutely sure your secret will be kept.
As we mentioned earlier, many people feel guilty about keeping something secret, especially something as important as being wealthy. A tip here is to not outright lie but rather tell people you are working towards financial security. What you are doing here is leaving out what you have already achieved and focusing on what you still want to achieve. Most people are going to respond with encouragement.
Also, when talking about your goals, be careful how you word things. If you are excitedly talking about your idea for a side hustle and how you expect to earn six figures, this may trigger more attention. It’s always best to play it down, by all means, mention the side hustle but avoid talking in detail about potential earnings.
Covering Up Successfully
Can you spend extravagantly and still keep your wealth a secret?
Yes, you can. Once you achieve financial independence, no one is saying you can never spend any. You should get something that you want, but to remain hidden, you should limit how much you spend and don’t spend unnecessarily. You don’t have to look rich to be rich.
If people ask how you could afford something expensive, tell them you saved for it or got a good deal. Never say, ‘oh, it was only $5000’, speaking like that will give your secret away.
One more tip here is to tell people that something is fake. Perhaps you have bought yourself some expensive clothes. Instead of confirming they are real, tell people you bought fake items. Be amazed at the quality of copies these days!
Stealth Wealth Cars
Now that you are wealthy and managing your money well, buying a nice car might be a dream you want to fulfill. There is nothing wrong with that, but are there such things as stealth wealth cars?
Not really, no. If you buy a nice car, then it’s obvious. One way to keep your wealth a secret is to have a cheap car for daily use or even use public transport. Driving to work, the store, or for trips out in a cheap car will help keep your wealth a secret.
Also, if you are only using your nice car occasionally, then it will be kept in better condition and lose less value!
Don’t Give Out Your Address
The first tip in this section was advising you not to show off. However, we also said you shouldn’t deny yourself something that you really want. For some people having a large house may be a desire, or perhaps you have a large family, and it’s necessary.
Owning an expensive home is an easy way to let people know more about your living expenses and that you are very wealthy. An excellent way to prevent it from becoming public knowledge is not to tell anyone your home address. If someone has your address, they may look it up, and once they know the property value, it’s not going to be hard to work out you have more money than you let on.
Ultimately, if you buy an expensive home, it’s unlikely you can keep that secret forever, so always ask yourself if it’s really needed before going ahead with the purchase.
Keep Your Income Secret
Often people will ask how much you earn. To practice stealth wealth, you should never answer that question honestly. It is best to either be vague or be aware of your state’s average earning and give an approximate figure near that.
If you have decided to enjoy early retirement, you should spend time enjoying activities that keep you busy, or just don’t let on how much free time you have. You’ve worked hard and earned enough money to enjoy your time the way you like. Don’t let on the amount of time you have available.
If your family and friends are low earners, then be mindful of this when discussing finances. Keep your secret by downplaying your earnings will also help maintain good relationships as you aren’t bragging about how much you have while others are struggling.
Stealth Wealth FAQs
Where Do Billionaires Keep Their Money?
Billionaires have truly little of their money in cash. After all, it would be a lot to fit under a mattress! Instead, most of their money is tied up in real estate, assets, investments, and their own companies.
As a general rule, most billionaires are trying to increase their wealth, so they continually reinvest and add to their property portfolio.
Can You Be a Billionaire Without Anyone Knowing?
Many people prefer not to discuss money. This means it is possible to hide how much you are worth. If you follow the tips above and live a ‘normal’ lifestyle without any extravagant spending, then no one will have any reason to doubt what you are saying.
One well-known example of this is Chuck Feeney who founded airport retailer Duty Free Shoppers. Chuck built up a fortune of billions but maintained a simple, frugal lifestyle. No one knew his secret until it came out recently after Chuck had donated almost his entire wealth to charity, over $8 billion!
How Can You Tell if Someone Is Secretly Rich?
If someone is hiding their wealth, then there probably won’t be any obvious signs. Here are three possible ways that might hint someone is richer than they appear:
- They know a lot about finances. A good indicator of wealth is someone that has strong knowledge about all financial products and systems.
- Their credit card. If you can see the credit card, this could indicate their credit rating and monthly spending.
- They outsource household tasks such as gardening and cleaning. The richest people want to increase wealth as much as possible. To save time, the wealthy often hire others to do work for them.
As you build your wealth, the time will come when you must decide if you want to keep it a secret or not. Keeping it secret forever may not always be possible, but the longer you can do it, the easier building wealth will become.
If you follow all the tips given here, and maybe even try the Roth conversion ladder, then you can easily maintain stealth wealth for as long as you want.
Would you be able to keep your wealth a secret if you became independently wealthy? Let us know in the comments!