The Difference Between the Rich and the Poor Mentality

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind" by T. Harv Eker. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the difference between the rich and the poor mentality? In what ways do the rich and the poor differ when it comes to handling money?

Your thoughts and beliefs about money tend to fall into either a rich mindset (an attitude that moves you toward financial success) or a poor mindset (an attitude that moves you away from financial success).

In this article, we’ll explore the difference between the rich and the poor mentality.

The Rich and the Poor Mindset

The key difference between the rich and the poor mentality is that the former think of money as a tool to earn while the latter think of money as a resource to spend.

Does Rich Mean Successful?

In his book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, T. Harv Eker claims that your thoughts and beliefs about money fall into two categories: rich and poor.  It’s also clear that he considers wealth to be the root of well-being and success—if you’re rich, you’re happy and successful. On the other hand, if you’re poor, you’re unhappy and unsuccessful.

While self-improvement literature does support the concept of classifying our thoughts into distinct groups that determine our likelihood of success, it tends to provide a more well-rounded definition of well-being and success than Eker provides. For example, Carol S. Dweck (Mindset) argues that your traits and tendencies determine whether you have a “growth mindset” that leads you to success, or a “fixed mindset” that inhibits your success. 

Dweck’s focus is not on what you have or achieve, but on your general attitude and approach to all areas of your life. According to her, you’re successful if you have a growth mindset, consistently embrace challenges, and take steps to move forward and improve your life. Therefore, even if you have very little money, you’re more successful than someone who may have more money but, due to their fixed mindset, fails to move past self-imposed limitations due to a lack of confidence or motivation.

Poor People Have a Negative Attitude and Mismanage Their Money

Eker argues that, if you have a poor mindset, each time you engage in negative thought patterns, you reinforce the belief that you’re powerless when it comes to money. This is because you deny your role in your financial situation and reinforce the negative conditioning you adopted throughout your childhood—the more you engage in this type of thinking, the more you associate money with the feeling of powerlessness. As a result, you’re incapable of achieving the financial success that you want.

(Shortform note: The Happiness Advantage sheds light on Eker’s claim that negative thoughts lead you to feel powerless. The book presents the latest research in neuroscience and positive psychology to argue that happiness is the cause of success: When you cultivate the habit of thinking positive thoughts, you train your brain to find opportunities in adversity and more easily overcome challenges and setbacks. On the other hand, when you habitually think negative thoughts, your pessimism blocks you from perceiving opportunities and trains your brain to shy away from challenges. This stops you from moving forward and leaves you feeling powerless to improve your situation.)

How Negative Conditioning Manifests

Eker claims that this negative conditioning is easy to identify once you start taking notice of how you think and talk about money. But, he argues, instead of investigating why they’re unable to overcome their financial problems, poor people deflect attention away from themselves and seek external causes for their problems. They blame others for their misfortune, resent people who have what they want, and justify their poverty and their negative attitudes with false beliefs such as, “Rich people are greedy and corrupt.” 

Eker claims that poor people use these tactics to relieve the stress of feeling poor and powerless. Unfortunately, these stress-relievers leave them locked into operating from a negative mindset that keeps them in poverty. 

(Shortform note: The negative mindset that Eker describes is more commonly referred to as a victim mentality—the belief that bad things always happen to you through no fault of your own. This belief creates a feeling of apathy because, when you feel like other people are always trying to thwart you, you find it difficult to build the motivation to take positive action and change your life. Instead, people with a victim mentality often magnify their problems and their perceived injustices in an attempt to seek attention (comfort, sympathy, reinforcement of their beliefs) from others. The attention they receive from others validates their powerlessness and keeps them from moving forward.)

Rich People Have a Positive Attitude and Effectively Manage Their Money

Eker argues that rich people always have a positive attitude towards their finances. They hold themselves accountable for the state of their finances and they take full responsibility for the impact of their thoughts and decisions. They understand that their positive thoughts lead them to take actions that produce successful results. 

(Shortform note: While many people characterize a positive attitude according to multiple factors, such as how well you treat other people or how ethical you are, Eker focuses solely on the productive thoughts required to build and maintain wealth—not general personality traits or ethical behavior. This arguably makes his definition a little limited.)

How to Cultivate the Rich Mindset

Eker believes that you can consciously reprogram your money mindset to improve your finances by replacing your unproductive thoughts and beliefs about money with the productive thoughts and beliefs that rich people have. The more you think like a rich person, the more you’ll improve your money mindset and raise your financial setpoint so that you can comfortably accumulate and manage more money. 

(Shortform note: According to Eker, you only need to replace your unproductive thoughts and beliefs about money with productive thoughts and beliefs to increase your financial setpoint. Similarly, lots of self-help books claim that you just need to improve your thoughts to improve your life. For example, Louise Hay (You Can Heal Your Life) argues that you just need to “affirm” what you want to make it come true: Change the statement “I’m not rich” to “I am rich” and repeat this multiple times a day. Eventually, you’ll come to believe this thought and your programming will align with your new beliefs. As a result, you’ll find yourself naturally taking actions that lead to more money.)

The Difference Between the Rich and the Poor Mentality

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  • The difference between the way rich people and poor people think and feel about money
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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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