Episode 025

Thoughts About Wealthy People

What did you learn from your parents growing up about wealthy people? The way we relate to and approach money is so much connected to our money stories, the things we tell ourselves about money, and the life circumstances in which we find ourselves. And your thoughts about wealth and wealthy people are downloaded into your subconscious mind through your experiences and environment.

So many of us have unhelpful, unconscious pre-programmed thoughts about wealth that don’t serve us in our journey to create more money and long-term wealth. So this week, I’m encouraging you to explore your deeply wired programming about wealth, and showing you how your thoughts could subconsciously be affecting your business.

Join me this week to discover where your thoughts about wealth come from, how my perceptions about wealthy people were shaped by my experiences growing up, and what we make these thoughts mean at this point in our lives. Hear how your thoughts could be unhelpful and blocking you from making more money, and how to rewrite your story about wealthy people.

If you want a flash of fresh financial inspiration and actionable tips to rewrite and master your relationship with money every week in your inbox, sign up for my email list! When you sign up, you’ll receive my free Money Mindset workbook that has been known to get people making more, investing more, and having warm, fuzzy, money conversations with their partners. I’ll see you in your inbox!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Some of the money stories around wealth that I created for myself growing up.
  • Where your thoughts about wealthy people come from.
  • How your thoughts impact who you are today and how you decide to pursue or not pursue wealth in your life.
  • Why we need to look at our thoughts about wealth and wealthy people.
  • How to rewrite your story about wealthy people.


Read the full transcript now

You’re listening to the Mastering Money in Midlife podcast with Debbie Sassen, Episode #25.

Welcome to Mastering Money in Midlife, a podcast for midlife women in business to overcome financial anxiety and make more money without burning out or sacrificing their families.

Well hello my friends, and welcome back to the podcast!  This is the first episode that I’m recording since the Passover holidays, or as I say, Pesach. I had a lovely week away from my business; I spent a lot of time with my family, with my children, with my grandchildren. We went hiking in the mountains, we had all the big family over for a barbecue in our garden, and I was disconnected from business, and it was a very beautiful thing.

The weather was perfect, great hiking weather, tremendous time to be outdoors, and the springtime is really the perfect time of the year. Unfortunately for me because I love this weather so much, in Israel the season is very, very short where the weather is perfect. We take what we can get, and now I’m back at work, and I’m recording the next podcast episode for you.

Today we’re going to be talking about thoughts about wealthy people. Now, if you haven’t listened to Episodes 23 and 24, I did some interviews with two women who today are both money coaches, but they shared with us their getting out of debt stories. And the way we relate to money and approach money is so much connected to our money stories and the things we tell ourselves about money and the life circumstances in which we find ourselves.

And both Nicole and Rho who shared their stories are really doing a tremendous service to so many people who find themselves in debt for whatever reason, whether it’s school loans or credit card loans or personal loans, health crisis, whatever it is. And their ability to just talk openly, and as I like to say, really un‑shame debt and rewrite the story that we tell ourselves about debt, is a tremendous service, tremendous gift to everybody who has thoughts about debt.

Now, today we’re going to go to the other extreme, which is thoughts about wealthy people. And I’m starting to do this excavation for myself because I’m growing, and I’m upleveling in my business. I recently did a calculation, this evolution of my business since I pivoted from financial planning and coaching and decided to focus exclusively on coaching, so that business is just over three years old, and I have crossed the half‑million-dollar mark in my business in the last just a teeny bit over three years.

I’ll be telling you the story about that next week, and my journey to half a million dollars, but as I think about where I’ve come from, where I am today, and where I’m going to, it was time for me to go and excavate a little bit again because I do this work from time to time. We all have a money story, we all have thoughts about, whether it’s debt, spending, income, wealth. And those thoughts, some of which are in our subconscious, they’ve been programmed in, and we have to go in deep, and we have to excavate.

Sometimes we can’t just mindset our way out of what’s going on because our programmed thoughts are deeply embedded inside us, and we need to go and uncover them so that we can deconstruct those stories about money, rewire and reprogram our brains so that we can go to the next level.

So I’ve started excavating my thoughts about wealth, my thoughts about wealthy people or rich people, and I was looking at my money story from when I was young, and I was really digging deep to understand what the messages about wealthy people were that I downloaded into my subconscious mind from my parents. And if this is work that you have not yet done, I strongly encourage you to do it.

It’s really to find yourself some quiet time, 10, 20, 30 minutes, and just ask yourself: What messages about wealthy people did I hear from my mother? What messages about wealthy people did I hear from my father? What did I learn from my community? My religious community? My peers in school? To really understand what are the deeply engraved and wired‑in programming that you have about wealth. Because so many of us have unhelpful thoughts.

Subconscious, preprogrammed thoughts about wealth, that are not serving us in our journey to earning more money and creating long‑term wealth. And I really tried hard to find some thoughts and messages about wealth that I downloaded from my parents, and I have to say that I couldn’t find any. And that might sound strange, and either I’ve done the work already and I’ve cleared them, or I need to work with a coach to help me find some, I just really couldn’t.

So here’s my particular story. We’ve talked about it maybe a little bit in the past. I grew up in a middle class/upper‑middle class neighborhood from the age of six, and then onward till I was 18, and then I went away to college. My two sets of grandparents lived pretty close to us. One of my grandparents, my father’s parents, lived in I would say a middle-class neighborhood, a small house. I remember when they paid off their mortgage and they threw a party. It was a huge celebration that they had paid off their 30‑year mortgage.

And if you remember my story a little bit about my grandparents, all four of my grandparents ran away from Nazi Germany in 1938 and rebuilt their lives in the United States. My dad’s parents were older already when they arrived in the United States, they were in their late 30s. My mom’s parents were in their 20s, they had more time to settle down and build a thriving business.

So my dad’s parents were in a smaller house in a middle‑class neighborhood, it had two bedrooms, it had wonderful fruit trees and we used to pick the peaches and the avocados and the apricots from those fruit trees and my grandmother made delicious jams and pies and everything you can imagine from the fruits, and avocados and guacamole were quite abundant in my life.

And there were some little strawberry bushes, and we used to go into their quaint little garden, and we used to pick the strawberries, and that was part of my childhood, and it was a lot of fun. They drove an older car, and it was a very nice, pleasant life. I don’t remember anything about wealth pro/con. That was their situation.

My mother’s parents lived in Beverly Hills, and they actually had the ZIP Code 90210. It was only after I left Los Angeles, went to school, that there was that television program 90210 that I never saw, but I have to say I had a touch of pride in me that, “Oh, yeah, my grandparents actually have a house in Beverly Hills in that neighborhood 90210.”

It was very clear to me that my grandparents lived in different houses. My mother’s parents had a much larger house, more bedrooms. There was a pool. It was a small pool. Now, the funny thing is, as I think about their house, when my grandparents passed away and their house was sold, it was a one‑story house, and it was a tear‑down.

All of the houses in the neighborhood over time had been built into at least two‑story houses, and I was kind of even thinking, as I was preparing to speak about this podcast, I almost was wanting to justify to you listeners that, well, my grandparents, they only had a one‑story house. They didn’t have a two or three‑story house, and then it was a tear‑down when they passed away. It was almost like justifying that they were wealthy but not that wealthy, because we have judgments around wealthy people.

And I didn’t really have the wherewithal to go and excavate that, like what was going on with me, we’ll talk about more of some of my thoughts about wealth, but it’s interesting for me to notice where I wanted to moderate a little bit and take away from their wealth by comparing the size of their house with their neighbors.

It’s something that’s fascinating to notice, that there is this little voice in my head that, “Okay, you can be wealthy, but not too wealthy. Not like those other neighbors around who had fancier houses, two‑ and three‑story houses.” Interesting to note. Anyway, both of my sets of grandparents drove different types of cars. My father’s parents drove a simpler car, I don’t remember the model anymore, but it was definitely an older car. And my mother’s parents had newer fancier cars, probably a Cadillac if I remember correctly.

Anyways, that’s how I grew up. But I don’t remember my parents telling me anything specifically about wealthy people, and, “People with wealth are evil, people with wealth are shallow, they only care about themselves, they’re greedy,” I didn’t learn any of those messages from my parents growing up.

Now, as I got older and I went to school, of course we notice who our friends are, who our peer group is, and then as children, we also start comparing ourselves and placing ourselves to the people around us. So for example, when I was in elementary school, and I was doing this work recently about my money history, there were a few kids in school who used to go skiing in the winter.

And I grew up in West Los Angeles, it’s not a place with snow at all, so you had to go away on a ski trip, and it became sort of a badge of honor to come back to school, at least this is what my child mind thinks, right, it was a badge of honor to come back to school in your ski parka with your lift ticket still attached to your jacket.

And many years ago, five or seven years ago, my sister and I even talked about this with each other, we shared this money memory that we felt less‑than because we didn’t have those ski parkas with the lift tickets attached. That we somehow felt we were not as wealthy as the other kids in our school. And what’s fascinating when I recently again looked at this story, it occurred to me, my parents never took us skiing at all. They never, as far as I know, expressed an interest or desire to go skiing.

We went to San Diego where it was warmer. My dad took us on a camping trip. This was after my parents got a divorce, he took us on a camping trip all around the Pacific northwest; we went away for a whole month. I went away to sleep‑away camp. So a child can create a money story in her mind, that “Oh, those kids, they’re wealthy, and I’m not because I didn’t get to go skiing and I didn’t have one of those fancy lift tickets on my jacket.”

But maybe that is a story that’s not serving me, and my parents were just never interested in skiing, and it’s very possible that we did have the money to go skiing, but it wasn’t something that they were interested in. They didn’t want to risk breaking legs, they didn’t want to take four kids up to the ski slopes, have to give them lessons, deal with it, they don’t like cold, I don’t know what the reason is that we never went skiing. I do remember them taking us to the snow and throwing snowballs, but never skiing.

And it’s possible that it’s just something that they never enjoyed and never wanted to go after. Now later when I was in my 20s, I did go downhill skiing, I went cross‑country skiing. It’s not something that I ever pursued as an adult, it was never like a love of mine that I felt like I had to go after, but I did have that experience.

But again, it’s just fascinating to notice what stories that your child, your inner child, could be telling you about wealth and about the other kids in your school or in your community, and what money means, and what thoughts you have about wealthy people because of what the kids on the other side of the track were doing.

So I encourage you to look at your experiences when you were a student in school and what were the other kids doing, what stories are you writing in your mind, and what are you making those stories mean, and then just like I did, how would you like to rewrite those stories? And maybe the story isn’t that we couldn’t afford a ski vacation, maybe the story is as simple as, “Oh, my parents never liked skiing; it was never something that they wanted to pursue.” And that’s the beginning and that’s the end.

And really, you can tell that story any which way you want, and in fact, I might ask my dad if he ever considered going skiing, he’s never gone skiing in his life as far as I know, it’s possible that it’s just not interesting to him. He has a tremendous amount of interest in his life, and I imagine that if skiing had been one of them, he would have done that.

Now, when I was a little bit later, when I was a teenager, I was involved in a youth group in my synagogue. And here’s where some other thoughts about where wealthy people come from because I remember very clearly that there was this click. It was a youth group, we would go on activities, sometimes it was bowling, sometimes ice skating and there was this clicky group of girls who I thought were always into their hair and their makeup and their clothes, and I thought they were very shallow, vapid, they weren’t into spiritual, like, this is a synagogue youth group.

I didn’t think that they were interested in spirituality, and I, as a teenager, judged these girls. And I think there’s also some money story that I’ve created for myself, that you can’t be spiritual and deep, and wealthy. And that was something that was fascinating for me to uncover and unravel, and now I get to ask myself if I like that story or if it’s a story that I want to rewrite a different way.

Now, I, as a teenager, was also into my makeup and my hair. I remember it was very popular when I was a teenager to get a permanent. So my straight hair, it’s normally pretty straight, a little wavy, I got it really kinky/curly because that was the style. Of course I was a normal teenage girl; I wanted to look pretty. And I bought clothes, I worked, and I can’t imagine that I was significantly different, and it’s just possible that I was feeling like an outsider from this click.

So I created a whole story about these young women were not spiritual, and they were very shallow, and they were just into their materialism and their looks, and so I don’t want to be like that. But it’s curious to notice, like if you dig into your teenage years, what stories and what thoughts you have about wealthy people, because that will definitely influence and impact who you are today and how you decide to pursue or not pursue wealth in your life. Let’s fast‑forward a little bit.

I get to college, here I am, this nice Jewish girl from West Los Angeles, I went to Smith College, which, if you don’t know where it is, it’s in Western Massachusetts. It’s a very small town. My four‑year college had less students in it than my three‑year high school. I really felt like I was a fish out of water in this quaint little New England town. It was a very, as I would say, waspy, white Angelo‑Saxon town.

I’m this Jewish girl from Los Angeles, I don’t feel like I ever, in the four years I was there, actually my junior year I went to New York where I felt very, very comfortable, I never found my place there. And there were many students in my college who came from families with long histories of wealth, like blue‑blooded Americans, who wealth was part of who they were. It wasn’t something that was unusual. It was just in their family for generations.

They went away to boarding schools, names that I had never heard of until I went to college like Eton and Exeter, and I don’t remember all the names, but it was something that was so unfamiliar, that again, there was this gap between me and them. And there were some thoughts that I had about wealthy people, like, I wasn’t one of them. And it’s just interesting to notice where our thoughts about wealth are coming from, and what we’re making them mean in our lives today, like, 30 or 40 years later.

And then after college, I went to work on Wall Street, which you know if you followed my podcast from the beginning, and here’s something else that I uncovered. First of all, in order to earn well and build wealth, you had to work very hard. We had to be in the office probably between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning, and we had to work a 12‑ or 13‑ or 14‑ or 15‑hour day, we had to work very hard to earn very well. And then some of my colleagues were not what I would consider morally appropriate.

One of my colleagues, who shall remain nameless, his wife and kids were away for the summer. Whether it was the Hamptons or Martha’s vineyard I don’t remember, but one of my single friends from college was working in a different bank and she came to visit me, and he hit up on her. And I remember her asking me, “Is he single?”

And so again, here come the thoughts in my mind, “Oh, wealthy people, they are not morally okay. They’re, you know, adulterous,” or whatever. But I started having thoughts about wealthy people that they’re not upstanding, upright citizens. Or I remember I started working in July and three months later it was nearly Halloween and I asked my male colleagues what are your kids dressing up as for Halloween and they didn’t know.

And that for me, as a woman, as someone who aspired to be a mother at some point in the future, was sort of mind‑boggling, like, “You’re working here all day long, but you don’t know what’s going on with your family?” And again, here’s that connection, “Wealth means you’re not a family person.” Right?

So think again, what are your thoughts about wealthy people, and where are those thoughts coming from? And then go through your 20s, go through your 30s, go through your 40s, I’m in my 50s, you can go through the different generations of your life, where you were working, where you were living, and notice what your thoughts are about wealthy people, and how they’re serving you or not serving you today.

And now speaking of today, we’re going to do a quick fast‑forward into 2022. Just a couple of days ago, Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion. And if you don’t know Elon Musk who owns Tesla, like, he is the wealthiest person on our planet at the moment in our generation. And $44 billion is a very large number.

Now, I actually don’t have a lot of thoughts about that purchase. He wanted to purchase it for freedom of speech, whatever, I’m not going to go into that story, but what’s interesting is I do have thoughts about what happened roughly nine or ten months ago: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson all sent rockets into space.

All three are very, very wealthy men, they’re self‑made men that they’ve made incredible amounts of money, and some of my thoughts at that time were, “Wow, it’s costing so much to get these rockets into space.” And I think that Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have had this war, not a war like what’s going on in Ukraine, but between them, to see who’s going to be the winner getting out into space.

It’s sort of like this feud between them for about fifteen years to be one‑upmanship, who’s going to be the wealthiest person. And it depends on the stock price of Tesla, the stock price of Amazon, who’s going to be the wealthiest. So then they both had to build these rockets and send them into space.

And I remember at that time having this conversation with my husband and saying, “There are so many hungry people in the world. All of the money that they’re pouring into these rockets so that people can have like a five‑minute experience to see the curvature of the earth, wouldn’t it have been better to take that money and feed hungry people? To solve the hunger crisis, whether it’s in India or Africa, so much good could be happening with that money.”

So again, we have to look at our own money thoughts, our own thoughts about wealth, and our own thoughts about wealthy people, like, are they moral? Are they upstanding citizens? Are they doing what we think is the right thing to do? And who are we to judge what other people do with their money? And these are just really questions that I’m putting out to you. I’m not giving you any answers today, but I’m giving you the opportunity to explore your own thoughts about wealth.

Now, I certainly know and believe for myself that the more money that I make, the more good I can do in the world. And we’ve talked about this before, my husband and I are very, very careful to donate at least ten percent of our income, and it’s usually much closer to 15 and sometimes even 20 percent of our income. We give away to charities and causes that we support, a tremendous amount of our income and our wealth. So the more money that I earn, the more good I or we as a family can do in the world.

But again, if I have these unhelpful thoughts in my mind about wealth that are blocking me and stopping me because I’m thinking I’m going to be vapid or shallow or not spiritual or I’m going to be wasting money on space exploration, those kind of thoughts are not going to help me. They’re going to be this like refrigerator hum, this bubbling current underneath in my subconscious mind that might stop me from showing up fully.

And again, they could stop you from showing up fully and being willing to take up space to own your worth and to own your wealth and to build it wholeheartedly. So I encourage you to take some time to look at your history.

Again, I’m going to go back to the beginning and recap a little bit, what did you learn from your mother about wealthy people? And I’ve had clients say, “Oh, we’re not like those people on the other side of the tracks, and really wealthy people are mean, they’re underhanded, they’re greedy,” like, we don’t have positive feelings.

In fact, think about the stories we read as children. Think about Disney stories, whether it’s Cinderella with the wicked stepmother or 101 Dalmatians with Cruella de Vil. Wealthy women are not portrayed in our nursery rhymes and Disney stories as upstanding, moral, spiritual people. And we were nurtured on those stories. Think of the television shows that we grew up on. Certainly the ones I grew up on, whether it was Dynasty with Alexis, and she was an unsavory character, let’s say, right?

Or Gilligan’s Island with the millionaire and his wife. I was never a big television watcher, so you’ve got about the end of my repertoire of television shows. But think about the books you read. Robinson Crusoe, if you were stranded on a desert island and you’re figuring out how to put everything together by yourself. That’s an amazing thing. But if you were wealthy and you couldn’t figure it out, well, wealthy people are sort of laughed at and scorned because they can’t figure out how to make it when all of their creature comforts disappear.

So those are messages that we have in our mind, so pay attention to what you learned, what you downloaded into your nervous system. And then look at your peer group as you were growing up, whether you were in elementary school, high school, college, the colleagues that you had in various work environments, and just understand where your thoughts about wealthy people come from, and ask yourself, “Do you want to keep those thoughts? Do you want to rewrite your story about wealthy people and the thoughts that you think about them?

And what is your long-term goal if you want to earn well and build wealth?” It might be that now is the time for you to rewrite your thoughts about wealthy people and rewrite your money story.

All right, my friends. That’s what I have for you in today’s podcast. I look forward to seeing you again next week. And if you want to follow me, you can come and follow me on Instagram @debbiesassen, or you’re invited to join my Facebook group, Savy Money for Women in Business, which is debbiesassen.com/group, and I look forward to seeing you online. Thanks for tuning in today, and bye‑bye.

Thanks for listening to Mastering Money in Midlife.  If you want more information on Debbie Sassen or the resources from the podcast, visit masteringmoneyinmidlife.com.

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