But the reality of the rich is often exactly the opposite, according to research that looked at the behaviors of over 250 high net-worth households.
"Wealth accumulators tend to more frequently develop and adhere to a budget, they tend to save money on a regular basis, and they report being more likely to create plans for the future," concludes a report published in the Journal of Financial Service Professionals.
In other words, the wealthy are more likely to engage in frugality over consumerism. It's a lifestyle approach modeled by none other than Warren Buffet himself, the anti-flashy "oracle of Omaha."
One of the co-authors on the study is Sarah Stanley Fallaw, PhD, who is also co-author of the new book "The Next Millionaire Next Door," a follow-up to the classic "Millionaire Next Door" by her father Thomas J. Stanley, and William Danko.
The new tome is based on years of related research that furthers a philosophy of wealth-building that isn't so much counterintuitive as it is counter-cultural.
Another recent report co-authored by Stanley Fallaw looked at risk-taking among the affluent and a less affluent comparison group. It found that while the the richer among us frequently take above average risks when investing, the same group is also more likely to understand risk and return in their investments and the appropriate level of risk to take for their portfolio.
Again, the takeaway is the primacy of the relationship between prudence and planning and building wealth. But it can all be broken down into the three-pronged approach of budgeting, saving and planning moves related to your finances and then sticking to the plan.
Pulling the plan off requires an understanding that what what you make is your income, while what you save is your wealth. In other words, your wealth sits in your bank account or other assets, not in clothes, cars and other consumable items that quickly lose value.
One exception to the rule of living wealthy by saving rather than spending is using your wealth for experiences that add true value to your life, like travel.
As the above video puts it, the ultimate goal of building wealth isn't the wealth itself, but to balance satisfaction and sustainability in your daily labors. The approach outlined here can help give you the financial wherewithal to make that possible and achieve the sustainability piece. Deciding what will bring satisfaction is up to you.