Is Being Rich or Poor a Matter of Luck?

In 2013 I did an interview with Dave Ramsey.

Dave was so impressed with my Rich Habits research that he posted an article about it on his website: 2o Things the Rich Do Every Day. Almost immediately the article went viral.

A prominent CNN blogger posted a scathing rebuke of the article. mind set rich money lesson think motivational learn teach money

The Huffington Post put their two cents in, as did the Daily Kos and many blogs around the country.

Thousands voiced their approval or disapproval of the article via social media.

Clearly, that article hit a nerve.

After the fog cleared I realized there were two opposing schools of thought surrounding poverty that were driving the controversy and responsible for it going viral.

These two schools of thought are as follows:

  1. Can’t Do – Victim Ideology
  2. Can Do – Self-Reliance Ideology

Can’t Do Victim Ideology

This school of thought argues that poverty is outside your control.

It all comes down to luck.

You are poor because of your circumstances you were born and raised into and there’s nothing, other than an act of god, that will lift you out of poverty. 

Essentially, this school of thought means that you are a victim of circumstance.

Individual responsibility, behaviors and habits do not matter.

Life screwed you because you were born into a poor or dysfunctional family, or you were raised in a bad neighborhood, or you chose to work in an industry that pays low wages or (fill in the blank).

Those who subscribe to this victim ideology chalk their poverty up to bad luck.

What makes this outlook justifiable, it that at the margins (meaning for a small minority of poor people), there is some truth to it.

Disabilities, medical ailments, and any number of random bad things life throws at even the best families, can undermine an otherwise good life.

For example, my self-made millionaire father’s warehouse burned to the ground when I was nine years old and for the next 14 years my family struggled with poverty.

And for most of my adult life, I believed that wealth and poverty was dictated by luck.

Can Do Self-Reliant Ideology

Individuals in this group believe that you have the ability to change your circumstances and that you can rise above poverty if you work hard, engage in continuous lifelong self-improvement, make good choices in life and form good habits.

They believe you are individually responsible for your life’s circumstances. money coin price work job struggle balance rich man

After interviewing 177 self-made millionaires and 128 poor people over a five year period, my entire belief system came crashing down.

Wealth and poverty, I learned, was not circumstantial. 

Wealth and poverty are manufactured.

The tools we use to manufacture wealth or poverty are our habits, thinking and the choices we make in life.

When Dave Ramsey posted that 21 Things piece, it hit a nerve because it challenged the belief system of the poor who were conditioned to believe that they were victims of poverty.

What’s frightening about this victim ideology is that it is growing in popularity.

Proponents of it are waging an all out assault on the American Dream and the American way of life.

They seek to redefine the American Dream from one of individual responsibility, unlimited opportunity and unlimited prosperity to one that espouses victim status, dependence and limited opportunity.

Not surprisingly, these proponents also happen to be the politicians and special interest groups who are pushing for more government.

Here’s what I know thanks to my research:

  • If you do not change your daily habits, you will stay poor.clock money alarm panic time watch age wealth coin
  • If you do not read every day to become more knowledgeable at work or in your industry, you will stay poor.
  • If you read every day to become more knowledgeable at work or in your industry, you will make more money.
  • If If you think you cannot become successful, that belief will keep you poor.
  • If you associate with other poor people, you will stay poor.
  • If you associate with other rich and successful people, you will eventually become rich and successful.
  • If you spend more than you make, you will stay poor.
  • If you spend less than you make and save and prudently invest the difference, you will retire a rich person.
  • If you pursue a dream, you increase your chances of becoming rich tenfold.
  • If you pursue and achieve goals around your dreams, you will eventually have the life of your dreams.
  • If whatever you do adds significant value to the lives of others, they will pay you a lot of money and make you rich.

Want more of this type of information?

Tom Corley


Tom is a CPA, CFP and heads one of the top financial firms in New Jersey. For 5 years, Tom observed and documented the daily activities of wealthy people and people living in poverty and his research he identified over 200 daily activities that separated the “haves” from the “have nots” which culminated in his #1 bestselling book, Rich Habits – The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals. Visit the website:

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