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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Andy Huynh

In Thomas Corley's rich habits study, he conducted interviews with 233 wealthy and 128

poor individuals with different geographical locations, race, gender, and age over three years.

Through a total of 51,984 questions regarding daily activities, he gathered data on careers,

education, ownerships, health, inheritance, and habits of the sample population among other

data. Through analysis of such data, he concludes that your habits (behaviors, thinking and

emotions) dictate if you will be rich or poor in life. For example, he discovered that 63% of the

wealthy spend less than an hour per day on recreational internet use compared to 74% of the

poor who spend more than an hour per day. Thus, to be successful and rich in life he suggests

that one limit TV, social media, video games and cell phone use to no more than an hour a day.

Corley's solution for escaping poverty by simply changing one's habit is unjustified

because it fails to take into account the social environment necessary for these behaviors.

By definition, someone's social environment is defined as the physical and social setting

in which people live in or in which something happens or develops, including the culture that the

individual was educated or lives in and the people and institutions with whom they interact.

Socialization is the process through which we are trained and learn how we are expected to

behave in society or in a particular social setting. An important aspect of socialization is that it

varies depending upon social environment -- your culture is influenced by your living area and

people that are usually in those areas (McCoy 2017). The list of habits presented by Corley is

nothing more than ideal expectations for behavior. For example, Corley argues that one rich

habit is to live by the 80/20 rule where one spends 80% of earnings and saves 20%. However,

many poor are born into a social environment where it is hard to develop this habit of saving. For

example, when it comes to storable goods such as toilet paper, shoppers can save more in the

long run by buying in bulk. However, “shoppers have to pay more up front to reap savings over

Abbey Berghaus:

Abbey Berghaus:

Andy Huynh

time. And the poor often can\'t afford to do that — to pay $24 for a 30-pack instead of $5 for a

four-pack. Then, because they can\'t stock up, they can\'t afford to wait until the next sale comes

around. When the toilet paper runs out, they have to run to the store for another small quantity of

it — whatever it costs in that moment” (Badger, 2016:6). By failing to buy in bulk, the poor

“paid about 5.9 percent more per sheet of toilet paper — a little less than what they saved by

buying cheaper brands in the first place (8.8 percent)” (Badger, 2016:4). In addition, “the poor

face a lot of other obstacles to reaping savings, too. They may not have access to larger

supermarkets that offer a wider variety of cheaper items. Or they may not have the car you\'d

need to transport home 30 rolls of toilet paper, or the closet space you\'d need to store them”

(Badger, 2016:10).Given the circumstances, it is possible that the poor have created a poverty

trap around storable goods such as toilet paper. Possible solutions such as pushing deals to the

beginning of the month so that the poor can reap these benefits have been suggested, but stores

would “only be incentivized to do that — to help their customers pay less per unit — if they have

to compete for these shoppers” (Badger, 2016:12). As a result, the problem isn't that those who

are poor are unaware of how to save as Corley suggests, but their social environment promotes

an expectation to spend more for less and that we should “reconsider how poverty can prevent

people from making smart financial decisions” (Badger, 2016:12). We can take this even further

not only considering poverty's effect on financial decisions but on all decisions and expectations.

For those living in poverty, especially the young, the main agent of socialization is their parents

(primary socialization) and surrounding groups (secondary socialization) (McCoy, 2017). It is

unlikely that parents living in poverty would teach their children the expectations listed by

Corley. As an example, Corley argues that children should read one nonfiction book a week and

write a one page summary of what they learned for their parents to review. Children in poverty

Andy Huynh

may not have access to books as easily as the wealthy or even a writing utencil or computer to

write a one page summary review. In addition, parents in poverty may not have the time to do

such review since they have to work harder and longer in order to support their family. As a

result, a parent in poverty instead might teach children other habits such as picking up cans and

bottles from the streets to help bring in a small income for the family. This just goes to show that

it is unfair to say someone will be rich if they follow the habits Corley listed because

socialization differs depend on family priorities, values, social class, and even race.

Personal troubles are privately felt problems that spring from events or feelings in a

person's life. Public issues are problems that tend to affect large numbers of people and society

as a whole (McCoy, 2017). Someone entering poverty because of indebtedness is an example of

a personal trouble. The relative low national savings rate is an example of a public issue (Ritzer,

1995:145). The institutions within a person\'s social environment are responsible for creating debt

and not a person\'s habit as Corley suggests. Take, for example, the government “which is

seemingly unable and certainly unwilling to restrain its own spending” which forces them to

“tax at a high level and thereby to drain funds from individuals that otherwise could be used to

increase personal savings and to draw down debt” (Ritzer, 1995: 136). Businesses are to blame

for indebtedness too, especially “those in manufacturing, retailing, advertising, and marketing

(among others) [that] devote their working hours and a large portion of their energies to figuring

out ways of getting people to buy things that they probably do not need and that many of them

cannot afford” (Ritzer, 1995: 137). For example, there has been a “dramatic proliferation of

seductive catalogs that are mailed to our homes” which “allow us to spend our money quickly

and efficiently without ever leaving our homes” (Ritzer, 1995: 137).Banks and other financial

institutions contribute to indebtedness as well. Historically, banks encouraged savings, but today

Andy Huynh

lead us astray and towards debt by having low interest rates that are less than the inflation rate

causing the saver's money to decline in value over time (Ritzer, 1995). Perhaps banks should

take the most blame for creating debt because of the invention of the credit card, creating a

medium that “can lend large numbers of people what collectively amounts to an enormous

amount of money” that if not paid back, sends people into perpetual debt (Ritzer, 1995: 138).

While true that people have a choice in obtaining a credit card, “it has become increasingly

difficult to function in our society without a credit card” as “it is difficult to get other kinds of

credit, like home equity loans, car loans, or even mortgage loans” without a previous credit

record (Ritzer, 1995: 139). In addition, “newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media are full of

advertisements offering various inducements to apply for a particular credit card” and many are

“bombarded with mail offering all sorts of attractive benefits to those who sign up for yet another

card” (Ritzer, 1995: 139). All this goes to show that instead of putting the blame on a person's

habit for being poor as Corley implies, these institutions should take action to ease the burden of

debt. For example, the government should “ lower the taxes on income from savings accounts or

even make such income tax-free” and “levy higher taxes on organizations and agencies that

encourage individual indebtedness” (Ritzer, 1995: 136). Nonetheless, we see that the

government, businesses, and banks all play a role in creating debt which ultimately perpetuates


On the macro scale, social structures are responsible for social stratification, the division

of society into groups arranged in a social hierarchy, leading to social and wealth inequality.

Corley argues that there isn't a wealth gap but rather a parent gap. Taking a more theoretical

approach, functionalists would argue otherwise that some degree of social inequality is required

for society to run smoothly and is therefore inevitable (McCoy, 2017). Simply saying that

Andy Huynh

anyone can become rich by changing their habits goes against this theory and would lead to the

collapse of the social structure. For example, if everyone changed their habit and suddenly

became rich, division of labor, the specialization of different people or groups in different tasks

would no longer be a thing since everyone would essentially be at the top. In addition, there

would be no such thing as hierarchy or power since everyone would be equally authoritative

(McCoy, 2017). Overall Corley does not take into account the social factors that make the

distribution of wealth systematically so saying that one can become rich by simply changing

their habits is unjustified.

It is not that the poor are unaware of how to save, but that their environment prompts

them to spend more. The poor are also socialized differently than the rich because the poor have

different priorities and expectations than the rich. The government, businesses, and banks are

also responsible for creating debt and promoting poverty. The system we live and are born in

distributes wealth unfairly, but it keeps society running smoothly. Therefore, it is unjust to

simply say someone can become rich by simply changing their habits without taking into account

the social environment and factors.

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