Social media is filled with aspiring influencers who try to project wealth they don’t have with flashy jewelry, fast cars and fancy homes — usually rented — which they use as stage props to dress up like they imagine a rich person might.
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But people with money don’t have to prove they have it.
If an ordinary person meets a millionaire, it’s likely that they might not even know it. But those who work with rich people for a living have learned to spot the subtle signs of unadvertised affluence.
If you meet a seemingly average person exhibiting one of these telltale traits of the low-key rich, you might be talking to an incognito millionaire.
They Have a Calm, Confident and In-Control Vibe
Brittany Greene, familiar to her social followers as The Credit Crusader, is the founder of Crowned Financials, where she specializes in helping college students build and maintain strong credit profiles.
In her experience, wealthy people don’t need to flaunt their success with cars and clothes because they have an air about them that projects it naturally.
“True wealth can often be felt in a person’s aura,” she said. “Look for individuals who exude a calm and peaceful energy. Their ability to maintain serenity amid life’s challenges is a subtle but powerful indicator of an inner wealth transcending material possessions.”
They’re Educated — or at Least Knowledgeable and Worldly
In Greene’s experience, education often precedes the accumulation of wealth, and the many people who get rich despite a lack of formal schooling pursue it urgently as soon as they have the means.
“Wealthy individuals often prioritize continuous learning and education,” she said. “Their investment in knowledge and skills speaks volumes about their focus on long-term success.”
Even if they’re not book smart, the wealthy are likely to have innate intelligence and experience-derived sophistication that makes them come off as sophisticated people with impressive life experience.
The path to self-made riches is fraught with setbacks, disappointments and frustrations. Many who make it big recall having to start over after losing it all along the way — often several times. By necessity, they develop grit and determination that serves them well in the face of hard times.
“Wealth goes beyond financial abundance to include emotional resilience and adaptability,” Greene said. “Look for individuals who navigate challenges with grace and maintain composure in the face of adversity.”
They Have an Elegant but Understated Sense of Style
Ashley Akin is a CPA, senior tax associate and expert contributor at the accounts receivable management platform MakeGood. A tax compliance specialist, she worked with some very wealthy individuals during her time with a Big Four firm, and she has noticed that while they’re less likely than the posers to be gaudy, millionaires reveal their fortunes through what she calls “stealth wealth” or “quiet luxury.”
“Sophistication is more subtle than shouting ‘affluence,’” she said. “It’s showing a more refined understanding of what it really means to be rich at its deeper level. Quiet luxury is all about a subtle sense of style. It is not about displaying your brand names or flashy lifestyle but purchasing classy and classic attire.”
She cited high-end brands like Bottega Veneta and The Row, which both incorporate the stealth-wealth concept into their lines.
Akin said the notion also applies to interior design, “where it means luxury, welcoming spaces, quality and sustainability.”
“These interior designs are meant to be tranquil and serene,” she said, “unlike the gaudy luxury designs that wealthy people are often linked to.”
They’re Well Connected
Money can buy influence, but it doesn’t always have to come to that. While wannabes are adept at name-dropping, authentically wealthy people cultivate and nurture vast and varied webs of contacts on their journeys to prosperity.
“One way you can tell someone is wealthy is if they have a good network and connections,” said Baruch Silvermann, financial expert and CEO of The Smart Investor. “Wealthy individuals often cultivate strong networks because they recognize that relationships are invaluable assets. Networking provides access to opportunities, insights and collaborative ventures, contributing to both personal and professional success.
“Wealthy individuals understand the power of collaboration and the potential for synergies that arise from diverse and influential connections, making networking a strategic element in their wealth-building journey.”
They’re Financially Literate
No matter what industry, investment, product or path led them to wealth, rich people tend to understand money, how it works, how to gain it and how to lose it.
“Another sign of being wealthy is having a good grasp of financial understanding,” Silvermann said. “Wealthy individuals are often financially educated because they recognize the significance of making informed and strategic decisions about their money.
“Knowing how to handle money well helps them deal with tricky things like investments, taxes and managing their wealth wisely. A strong grasp of financial matters enables wealthy individuals to diversify their portfolios intelligently, plan for long-term goals and build generational wealth.”