Have you ever been treated like royalty?
For most, the answer is probably “no” or “once or twice” (typically after spending a lot of money on an expensive meal or hotel stay). Constant five-star treatment, after all, is exclusively for the rich and famous – completely out of reach for the rest of us.
Or is it?
Before I get into specifics, allow me to explain why being mistaken for the 1% can be beneficial.
From an economic standpoint, we are living in an increasingly imbalanced world. While the degree of inequality varies by country, there is a growing divide between rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots.
Let’s take the U.S. as an example: according to recent findings, the top 1% wealthiest Americans now own 40% of the country’s wealth. At the top, corporations are hoarding profits and trimming staff in pursuit of efficiency. At the other end, millions are unemployed and/or saddled with consumer debt. Battered by poor job prospects and stagnating wages, the middle class is shrinking. Some are suggesting that Social Security benefits may soon be a thing of our past.
But I’m not here to preach doom and gloom. Or to try and explain the complex market forces that have led us to this point. There are already many sites that excel at both (if you are curious, try searching the web for “Glass-Steagall” or “quantitative easing forever”).
Instead, I ask you to imagine how all this will affect society.
For one, it means that there will be more and more businesses catering solely to the rich. Concentrated wealth allows for many new niches to flourish: if your product (or service) costs 10,000 dollars, for example, you only need 100 customers to make a million in revenue. Seven star hotels, limited edition handbags, trips to outer space, bespoke drugs – you name it.
Consequently, expect that more and more people will be employed primarily to serve the rich – to open doors for them, drive them around, cook their meals, answer their questions, provide companionship, and so on. Modern day Hong Kong is a perfect example: once the de facto financial and business hub of Asia, it is steadily turning into a giant shopping mall for wealthy tourists from China’s mainland (one now gets better service from shopkeepers by speaking Mandarin instead of the local Cantonese). Unable to keep up with rising rent prices, family-owned businesses are disappearing. Hong Kong is now a playground for China’s 1%.
Finally, rising inequality is a worldwide phenomenon. If one has enough money, national borders cease to matter. This development has already manifested itself in the form of rapidly rising housing prices in the world’s major cities – real estate is now a global market (check out the housing price trends for London, New York City, Vancouver and Sydney). The rich are highly mobile, and services catering to them flourish anywhere that’s accessible by plane. In other words, there’s no getting away from it all (excepting a 100% “off the grid” lifestyle).
The rich are the modern day royalty – they control the corporations and exert considerable influence over politicians and policy-makers around the world. They can be powerful allies or formidable foes, depending on the situation.
It’s not easy to become a member of the 1%. If you aren’t born into wealth, the alternatives are to marry into it, inherit it, steal it, or earn it (many books have been written on these methods).
My goal here is to teach you how to fake it – to convincingly appear to be in the 1%, so that you may be treated with dignity and respect wherever you go. Once in a while, you may have to act like a member of the modern aristocracy in order to achieve your goals (gatekeepers are known to move aside and make exceptions for the ruling class).
Please note: I am not promoting or condoning con-artistry. The following are techniques of improvisational acting, and are closer to performance than deception.
To act well, you have to get in character.
Which means: you must know the person you are trying to imitate. You have to get into their head, and spend the time to understand their fears, goals, and motivations.
First, you must adopt a new mindset about three important concepts: time, money, and rules.
Concept 1. Time
You should treat time as the most important thing.
The rich recognize that their time is limited and very, very valuable – not a second is to be wasted on unproductive or unpleasant activities. They will gladly pay money to save time (“you can always earn more money, but you can’t turn back the clock”). It is very common for the 1% to employ professionals (e.g. secretaries or assistants) to manage their time – to block off calendars, take their calls, keep track of appointments, etc.
Simply put, the rich are not going to spend an extra hour driving across town to save 5$ on gas.
Start being stingy with your time.
Learn to say no to things you don’t want to do. If you no longer enjoy doing something, be vocal about it – tell the others that you’re done and won’t be attending/participating anymore.
If you find yourself having to wait for something, see if there’s a way to fast-track things. Look for alternative ways to get what you want – but faster (e.g. don’t spend an hour on the phone with tech support if you can simply email them and do something else in the meantime). Remember: your time is very valuable, and you will not give it up needlessly. Be demanding.
Do not, however, make the mistake of appearing desperate (or overly rushed). The rich are not desperate – they are impatient. If anyone questions you, let him or her know that you have more important things to attend to (i.e. things you actually enjoy doing).
Let people know that you live by your own schedule.
Concept 2. Money
The 1% view money somewhat differently from the rest of us. Some key differences:
- Those that struggle to make money are often “financially illiterate” – that is, they do not have a good understanding of capital and markets. The wealthy, on the other hand, make it a priority to stay up to date on financial news, trends, and developments. The rich educate themselves (and their children) on financial concepts and, at minimum, basic economics. Money is not an unknown (or “evil”) concept to them – it’s something to understand.
- The poor see money as a scarce resource – as something elusive, or hard to come by. Meanwhile, the rich view money as abundant, and know that there are endless opportunities out there to acquire more of it. The poor think about how they will lose the money they have earned, while the rich focus on figuring out where to gain even more of it.
- The poor think of wealth creation (or loss) as one-time events, and often get very emotional when there is a big change in their net worth. The wealthy may get emotional too, but they understand that the amount of money is not static – capital is always flowing in and out. Therefore, they see “making money” as a process, not as a single event (such as winning the lottery, an idea that the poor are often enamored by).
- To the poor, money is a means of survival (after all, it puts food on the table, keeps the lights on, and provides for the basic necessities of modern life). The rich, however, see money as a tool – as something they can harness to work for them, through investment and strategy.
- The rich do not hesitate when it comes to accountants and financial advisers – they employ the best that they can afford. The poor often think they can do a better job themselves, and view accountants as an unnecessary expense. The truth is that a good accountant will pay for himself many times over – money management is best left to professionals.
There is also a difference between “new” and “old” money. The so-called new money rich are the ones that you see on TV – always spending large sums on luxury goods and extravagant parties. These people often go bankrupt. The “old money” class knows better than to blow their savings on displays of wealth – to them, money is something to be preserved across generations. It is important that you seek to emulate the latter type. Those that stay rich know the difference between what they can and can’t afford.
Remember: money gravitates to those with class. Even if you don’t have much, try to stay classy! Educate yourself on the concepts of economics (there are plenty of free video courses online), and start being honest about the way you view and handle money.
Even if you are currently in a tight financial situation, try to reorient your thinking – just because you have very little does not mean you can’t treat your finances seriously. During every transaction (or even at the hint one), think and act like a rich person would.
Here are some mindset “hacks” on how to start seeing money differently:
- If someone is trying to sell you something, be rational about it. Poor people often overspend on goods and/or buy things they don’t need (or can’t afford) simply to demonstrate to others that they have the money to do so – don’t be that person! Carefully weigh the pros and cons, and make a calm decision as to whether you really need the product.
- At minimum, you should wait 24 hours before making a big purchase. Don’t get talked into buying things you know you don’t need.
- If you are even thinking about whether or not you can afford something, you probably can’t.
- If you’re going to spend money, be like the rich: seek to acquire appreciating assets (e.g. land, businesses, shares in index funds), and avoid spending on things that rapidly depreciate in value (e.g. cars, boats, electronics).
- Treat money like a point system – it’s a game, and your goal is to score as many points as possible. This will help you keep calm and rational about money.
Realize that every price is negotiable. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, or inquire about special offers. Be confident when you negotiate, and always be willing to walk away.
If anyone ever asks about your finances, answer like a rich person would: in other words, laugh. Your finances are private, and should only be discussed with an accountant or close family members (and the latter is debatable).
Don’t ever blush or be embarrassed about your financial situation.
Concept 3. Rules
You may have noticed that the rich act as if the rules (and sometimes, laws) simply don’t apply to them. To a certain extent, they’re right – money and power make a lot of roadblocks go away.
I’m not necessarily talking about laws (although there is a lot to be said for the judicial system greatly favoring those who can afford the best counsel). By “rules” I mean anything from admissions policies (“minimum SAT score of 2100”) to posted employment requirements (“candidates must have 5-7 years of prior experience”). There’s no admission requirement that a hefty donation to the school/university won’t solve, and the “5-7 years of experience” turn out to be entirely unnecessary for children of the employer’s clients. Rule bending occurs everywhere.
The 1% are well aware that these arbitrary policies and conditions are just that – arbitrary (and therefore bypassed, if necessary). Change your mindset – be more inquisitive, and start questioning any “rule” or “policy” that you come across in daily life. The secret here is realizing that being rich isn’t even necessary – people tend to get out of the way when they realize that you are adamant about getting what you want. Don’t give up just because something looks like a roadblock.
* * *
People sometimes go out of their way to help the rich. Some do it in the hope that this will improve their own situation (“maybe he or she will throw a couple of coins my way”), while others are simply conditioned to do so by modern society and the culture of celebrity worship. In any case, it’s a common phenomenon – and there’s little use in protesting the matter.
Don’t let the 1% have all the fun! Reap some of the benefits yourself. As you deal with gatekeepers standing between you and what you want, act like a member of the modern aristocracy. Look them straight in the eye. Be confident, and demand exactly what you want.
Acting is not how well you lie, but rather how well you tell the truth. If you truly believe that you deserve it, you’re far more likely to get it. Ultimately, your confidence level and body language will dictate how well you get treated.
Final piece of advice: society is shallow – what you wear matters. Arrive either in casual dress, or be overdressed. For men: either jeans and a t-shirt, or a well-fitted suit. Anywhere in between the two is the unfortunate dead zone of looking like a chump with a 9 to 5 job. If possible, aim for the more formal option – be dressed for a cocktail party at all times. You’ll be surprised at how much better you get treated if you show up with formal wear – this applies to restaurants, airports, hotels, bars, clubs, shops, etc.