Admit It.

You’re not rich.

You just aren’t.

It’s no use looking surprised. Along life’s meandering road you meandered even more than most people meander — and substantially more than the kind of people who become rich. You dilly-dallied. You “smelled the flowers.” You temped. Then you worked the espresso machine. You worked mostly part-time. There was no 401(k) plan. You spent long hours learning obscure David Bowie lyrics by heart. You did some sketches. Now you teach. You’re thinking about starting to work on your thesis again, but you’d also like to spend more time with your kids.

Rich people don’t whisper about you. They don’t even notice you.

“Normal” people do whisper about you, under their breath, to their friends, and say, “you know, so-and-so, the one who ordered the roast chicken, only contributed nine dollars to the check. And I think so-and-so ordered a beer, too. And when everyone else put in an extra dollar because we were short, so-and-so didn’t put in a dollar. So-and-so is always broke. It’s getting a little irritating. Have you seen so-and-so’s car? My kids make fun of that car.”

Your kind of not being rich is not about being poor. It’s not about going hungry. It’s not about needing medical attention you can’t afford. You’re not worthy of a tax-deductible donation.

BUT I DON’T FEEL NOT RICH!” you protest. “Why, I read sophisticated magazines like this one. I dress in black. I’m thinking of getting laser vision correction. I know what is in style. I have most of the credits toward an advanced degree, and some of my friends are rich. And many of my friends’ friends are rich. True, my children attend public schools, but the public schools my children attend are not so awful. There are many people less fortunate than me.”

Not being rich is about numbers.

As an exercise, take a look at those bank statements and credit-card bills and student-loan payment books you tossed in that box under the sink. Tally it all up.

See? You actually owe more money than you have. You have negative money. Take a moment to consider how much money you owe to various large financial institutions.

Underline the total.

Now underline it again.

To a rich person, that isn’t very much money at all. But do a quick calculation. See? It will take you 35 years, with your present income, making realistic monthly payments given your current average weekly expenditures, to eliminate this piddling debt.

Now, to be in a lot of debt is good. It’s not as good as being rich, of course. But a lot of debt gives a person leverage. If you have substantial debt, (enough debt, that is, for the high-ranking representatives of large institutional creditors to notice you as an individual) then the high-ranking representatives of large institutional creditors won’t want to loose face and feel silly by cutting their losses and forcing you to liquidate. They’re likely to lend you more.

But you don’t have nearly that much debt. One of the points at which a person is not rich is the point when they realize that their debt, while insurmountable, is nevertheless inconsequential.

Your lack of wealth is insignificant.

Welcome to the kind of advertising that appears in the magazines that you read when you lie on the survey forms that independent market research firms send you. You know — the form with boxes to check indicating your yearly income and the kinds of purchases you make. Remember? The survey that came with a crisp one-dollar bill enclosed for motivation.

Rich people don’t have time to fill out market research surveys. Rich people keep the dollar and throw away the survey.

But you. You carefully filled out the survey, but you lied on almost every question. You pretended that your yearly salary was ten times what it is. You indicated that you purchased two cars, diamond jewelry, and a bicycle last year.

Did you think, perhaps, that your lies would help support this culturally important magazine with the lagging circulation? Perhaps you thought something along the lines of, “If I pretend I’m rich, this fine culturally important magazine will be able to pitch itself to advertisers as a publication with a limited, but sought-after wealthy readership.”

Perhaps it’s simpler than that. Perhaps you were just fantasizing about what will never be.

Whatever it is, we’re not falling for it.

And you’re still going to have to pay your bills.

Do you really think a company that has been dealing exclusively with the rich since before your great-grandfather was even born would be taken in by your deceptions?

Go ahead and say, “I am not rich.”

And try not to forget it.