The Myth of Get Rich Quick


There are some myths that never die no matter how many times they’re disproved and no matter how many people get burned chasing them down.

Get rich quick is one of those myths.

In our minds, we know get rich quick isn’t legitimate, and we’ve been told as much again and again by parents, teachers, friends and coworkers.

Then why does it seem that there’s some part of us that might believe that get rich quick is possible?

Because sometimes rich looks like get rich quick—to us


When we look around us it can sometimes seem as if wealth is all over the place.

This is especially true today when there are more millionaires than ever before.  It can sometimes seem as if the rich are all around us, and since there are so many of them, there must be some quick, secret way to get rich, just waiting to be discovered.

After all, if there are so many rich people, then getting there can’t be all that hard, can it?

What we’re looking at when we see the rich has nothing to do with how—or more specifically, how long it took—for them to get to where they are.  What we’re looking at is the end result, the palatial homes, the expensive cars, the extended vacations to exotic locations and the like.

We have no idea how long it took them to get to where they are, nor do we know anything about the struggles they endured to get there.

All we see are armies of wealthy consumers doing what it is the prosperous do, and our own imaginations fill in all the details in explaining how they got there.

get rich quick

Why do so many people think it’s possible to get rich quick?!?

  • Attaining an education in a very technical field, like medicine, law and engineering, that most of us would rather avoid
  • Working to build up a business that required many years of effort with little pay
  • Living beneath their means and saving the difference
  • Taking investment risks most of us would never consider
  • Spending many years sacrificing family and social time, as well as “the good life” to pursue a dream career and the wealth it can produce

That’s the part of a rich person’s story we never see when all we see is the end result: the wealth that the efforts produced.

And none of it happens quickly.

Get rich quick for sale

This is the kind of wealth-building we wish to be true, and those who peddle get rich quick programs know this.  They produce books, video programs, TV infomercials and print and internet advertisements that sell us on the good life that wealth provides.  It’s all stuff that feeds the imagination and gets us in the frame of mind to write a check or provide a credit card to buy what they’re selling.

It’s a pure play on emotions, not logic.  Our inner selves want to be rich, and think we can if only…

Why do we fall for it?

  • We want a way to get rich that will be easy
  • We want it to happen quickly
  • We think we deserve it
  • And maybe, sometimes—we’re desperate

If you think about the people you know who are rich, you will realize that there is a serious disconnect between how they’ve achieved their wealth and what get rich quick programs are trying to sell us.

Nothing in life is ever that easy, not if it’s legitimate.  But the get rich quick programs sell us on the promise—an empty one—but it keeps us thinking, maybe, just maybe…

Not everyone who looks or claims to be rich really is

Credit can enable people to look rich, at least for a while, and there’s more credit out there than ever before.

Some people do live out of all proportion to their wealth and income and credit is often the reason why.  They may live like the nearly rich for enough time that you’re convinced that they have some secret source of wealth.

Even if you know the truth—that they really aren’t rich and credit is the method—if you’re surrounded by enough people who live this way there’s always the temptation to throw caution to the wind and enjoy a slice of the good life for as long as it lasts.  As seductive as that can be, it’s far more likely to lead to poverty than riches.

But its allure is that it can give the appearance of riches, and give it quickly.

The occasional get rich quick story that turns out to be true

Finally, as much as we may not like admitting this, there are situations out there where people do actually get rich quick. Here are just a few:

  • Winning the lottery
  • Inheriting a large amount of money
  • Winning a substantial law suit or insurance claim
  • Having an investment in a stock or a piece of real estate where the price goes into the stratosphere in just a couple of short years

There are any number of other reasons a person might experience a legitimate get rich quick event, but here’s the thing…everyone of them has everything to do with luck!  None of them are events that you can plan or even buy into.  But each of them can reinforce the idea that get rich quick is possible.

Finally

In the end, the whole idea of get rich quick is sustained by our emotions.  We know that in order to get rich we’ll have to do a whole bunch of things we really don’t want to do—but that never stops us from thinking how great it would be to be rich.

If you ever entertain that idea, stop and put this thought in your mind: the only people who get rich from get rich quick schemes are the people who produce and sell get rich quick schemes. If you buy into their “program”, all you’re doing is helping them get there.

Have you ever bought into a get rich quick program? How did it work out for you?

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Published or updated May 24, 2013.

Comments

  1. It would be nice to get rich quick, but only a few people are lucky enough to get it. It’s much harder to work hard and get rich slowly, but it’s much more of a sure thing. Eventually we’ll all be millionaire if we work hard enough (and give inflation the time to work…)

  2. I bought Carlton Sheet’s “No Down Payment” Real Estate program in High School.

    Most of the info was outdated at that time (no more assuming mortgages), but I did learn a lot about real estate contracts and some interesting negotiation techniques.

    It certainly didn’t make me rich overnight, but it did spark an interest in Real Estate. An interest I still have today. I even got my real estate license (although it’s expired now).

    • So overall was the purchase worth it? Were you able to make your money back?

      I remember commercials for Sheets. They made it seem real easy to buy up properties. I can’t say if the program works or not but late night commercials are certainly a breeding ground for get rich quick programs.

  3. You mentioned the very few ways to get rich quick which does not require any personal effort. It is likely those riches will be lost equally quickly. There is no easy way to get rich, it requires a lot of effort.

    • That’s a good point, if you don’t have the habits and skills to take care of your finances then you are likely to lose and riches you may gain anyway. It doesn’t happen to all who gain quick riches but if you’re looking to live the good life like you see on TV then that money you got will disappear quickly.

  4. Sometimes rich does look like hget rich quick. Just like overnight success does look like it’s overnight. But it never is. There is a lot of work and elbow grease that goes into both.

  5. Glen,
    I’ve never been tempted or desperate for any get-rich-quick schemes. My dad raised me well and taught me that hard work will pay off. It may not happen overnight, you might work hard for awhile, but eventually it’ll be worth it.

    For some reason, I thought of the Madoff scandal after reading this. His method to getting rich was a several decade long Ponzi scheme, but do you think it made the public more hesitant to spend money on get-rich services or products?

    -Christian L.

    • Madoff was get rich quick for other people. He told them they could get something like a 25% return for investing with him. People asked him to take their money. We know now how that was possible.

  6. A lot of people don’t understand how the rich get rich they just see that they are rich. I think if people understood the time and work it took to get them there they wouldn’t be as likely to fall for the get rich quick schemes.

    • True. But how un-glamorous is that? We don’t see most of the hard work on TV we only see the palatial estates and dozens of cars as such, do we?

  7. Get rich quick is so appealing, though! You see those infomercials and think, gosh if they can do it, I bet I can, too! The internet has made some people very wealthy very quickly, though (Instagram?).

    • Yeah, the infomercials do dig into your skull, don’t they? Especially when it’s late at night and you aren’t quite your sharpest.

      The internet has made many people wealthy for sure. Luck has its place in it but we create our own luck. Make a product or site that fills a need and you are on your way to wealth.

  8. What do they say in Texas? Big hat, no cattle. “In the end, the whole idea of get rich quick is sustained by our emotions”…and it’s usually envy of other people’s wealth. I’d love to get rich quick though, like Kathleen says, but I’m going to have to think very carefully about to achieve it!

  9. I read a profile of self-made multi-millionaires once. Usually their wealth accumulation was very sudden (i.e. quick) but came after many years of hard work building their businesses. Thus it’s very possible to get rich quick — but usually only after a long time lol.

  10. An overnight success is ten years in the making.

  11. I have known a few people who were in the right field at the right time, but you cant predict or count on somehing like that. Personally I’d like to succeed on my own. Learning the knack of building wealth will keep your wealth for a lifetime. Those that get rich quick often get poor quick.

  12. Terrific post. You nailed it. Most people want the riches, quickly and without the work. My friends and I jumped into a Don Lapre deal. Setting up a toll free number and a newspaper ad. We worked on it during a summer and lost steam.

  13. “The only people who get rich from get rich quick schemes are the people who produce and sell get rich quick schemes.” I totally agree with you! It would really be nice to find the fastest way in getting rich, but if it would mean fooling people and selling stuff I know does not work, I would prefer to do get rich with lots of hard work and discipline.

  14. Excellent post and from my experience very true. Most of my clients are folks who have worked and saved (including via their 401k or other retirement plan) and are at a point where they feel they need help managing the investments and their overall situation. No trust fund babies or lottery winners among my client base. Also they all share the trait of living within their means.

  15. Tried one of those “create a website and make thousands” programs. Realized all it was selling was that false hope mentioned in the article. Not all was lost though. I did learn a lot about selling things on the internet and how to drive traffic to a website. Good for my blog I guess.

    • Ughh, sorry to hear that. You CAN do well with the interent but you need to put the work in, like anything else.

      Glad to hear you were able to get something out of it though.

  16. I never believe the quick rich myths. To reach wealth, we have to work hard and work smart. Do not let any people cheat you with the myth.

  17. Perhaps we are all lazy? It also depends on the definition of “quick”?

    I think becoming a millionaire within 10 years is relatively quick. Others might scoff and think 3 years or else!

  18. Glen,

    I am really curious as to what was your muse for this post? Who approached you with what dumb program?

    • Haha, no it wasn’t anything like that (though I’ve seen some in the past). It just seems lots of people are either looking for the quick buck OR they don’t understand the hard work that goes into making money.

  19. Hmm… So what your saying is it’s a myth… Except for x, y, and z reasons. I think there are too many generalizations in this article, the comments and how people think about rich people and getting their quickly.

    Clearly it IS possible to get very rich very quickly through your own hard and smart work. Sometimes it is even relatively easy. It may be ultra rare, but it happens to people every year.

    • It may happen once in a while but when you look at the overall odd of getting rich quick it’s pretty small. I think it’s better to tell people it’s not going to happen then to give some strand of hope. Too many put time and money into get rich quick ideas rather than putting their energy into things that will help them grow wealth in the long run, over time.

  20. Eduardo Mora says:

    I do believe in getting rich quick with a fastlane business. Quick meaning 5 or less and not waiting till I’m 65.

    • Glen Craig says:

      How do you mean a ‘fastlane business?’ I think I have an idea of what you are saying but most readers probably don’t.

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