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The Problem With Wealth: Narcissism?

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Some psychological research has explored the idea that wealthier Americans are more narcissistic than others — that because they have money, they’re more likely to be self-centered and have feelings of superior self-worth.

Paul K. Piff, a social psychologist and post-doctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, studies how people’s upbringing and social class affects their behavior toward others, and his findings don’t flatter the rich. His studies suggest those from privileged backgrounds have a greater sense of entitlement, and those with less-privileged upbringings “see themselves as deserving of lesser outcomes.” (Participants ranked themselves relative to others in terms of different income, education and occupational prestige.)

A Reflection of Wealth?

An aspect of Piff’s research touched on the root of narcissism. One of Piff’s studies involved observing whether people would look in the mirror before having their pictures taken, and wealthy subjects were more concerned with their appearances than others.

Of course, wealth isn’t a certain path to narcissism, just as it’s not an automatic ticket to great credit scores. You can have all the money in the world, but if you’re not using it to pay your bills on time or are incurring high levels of debt, your credit scores will suffer. Having more money may mean it’s easier to meet your debt obligations, but that’s the only way wealth plays into credit.

Context matters. Credit reports — and as a result, the credit scores on which they are based — don’t include income information, even though many loan and credit card applications take it into consideration. Scores act as a balancing factor to income, in a way, because a great credit score can make a consumer with lower income more attractive to a lender than a rich applicant with a history of unpaid bills. If you want to see where your credit currently stands, you can get a breakdown of your credit profile and two credit scores with the free Credit Report Card.

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