Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires and the Problems Associated with Being One

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“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

These were the wise words of John Steinbeck, who was a famous and widely read writer of the 20th century in America. He used the phrase “temporarily embarrassed millionaire” to describe the attitude and the thinking of those people at the disadvantaged end of income inequality.

What Is Meant by Being a Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaire?

After these words were said, the phrase “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” became popular and is commonly used for the people who believe that they will be rich in the future. The word “embarrassed” here refers to being deficient in wealth.

This phrase can define most people in America as they don’t think of themselves as poor but as millionaires-to-be. However, no one can become a millionaire just by believing.

Why Is it a Problem?

Even those who try to rise economically believe they can be rich. They face major hurdles as the society is still designed to keep the wealthier, wealthy. A handful of people may get out of being a temporarily embarrassed millionaire and become rich eventually.

Such few success stories have led people to acquire this false belief. It makes them think that people on the negative side of the income gap will become rich and that all their hard work will eventually pay off.

The Real Truth

The truth, however, is quite different. This can be seen from the facts of American society. According to surveys, approximately 85% of wealth is owned by 20% of the population only. It usually stays with them too. The bottom 40% of the population owns only 0.3% of the total wealth in America. If hard work made everyone rich for sure, then these statistics would have been different.

This suggests that, generally, poor people remain poor and are just wasting time expecting otherwise. This is also due to the policies in place supporting the wealthier section of society. Under the false impression of becoming rich eventually.

Poor people also vote for policies that cannot help them achieve the “American Dream.” So temporarily embarrassed millionaires actually help the affluent to remain wealthy.

Why Expecting to Become Rich Is a Waste of Time Even in Today’s Modern Society

The rich made sure to keep themselves among the elite by having a class system in the past. There were the bourgeoisie or the business owners with all the wealth. The proletariat were the workers who were exploited by the bourgeoisie.

All the major institutions such as the media, government, education and financial systems were under the control of the upper class. They made policies to ensure that they remained rich.

Did Democracy Benefit the Workers?

After the system was demolished and replaced by democracy, people believed that anyone poor could become rich. They started thinking that they were not just there yet, but they could make it, hence giving birth to temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

The truth, however, is that even though there is not a definite class system in American society today, it is still difficult for the poor to rise. In fact, even the middle class is gradually turning into the proletariat. This happens due to the differentiation in education, health, and other economic factors. The tax structure is also feeding into this problem.

People who are wealthy can live in affluent neighborhoods with more facilities. They send their children to expensive private schools and colleges. This way, their children can achieve better education, leading to success.

Moreover, students graduating from such expensive private institutes are usually preferred over others when applying for universities and high-level jobs. This again leads to the children of the wealthy becoming successful. Hence, the major part of the total wealth stays with them.

Problems Associated with People Being Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires

Such people with their false beliefs and general attitude towards wealth and success are the underlying reason for many infrastructural and social problems that Americans are facing today.

It is a first-world country but is still facing many issues that people face in a third-world country.

You Lose the Goal of Life

Being temporarily embarrassed millionaires, life’s actual value and goals are lost. The only purpose of people is to earn money and become rich. By continuously thinking about it, they stop thinking about everything else. This makes for a materialistic society that equates success with money. A materialistic mindset has also been found to have a negative influence on health too.

Such an attitude also leads to a society where many people face depression due to the unachievable and invaluable goals they have set for their lives. The plans that are valuable, such as being healthy and becoming educated, are under-prioritized.

The thirst for money never dies no matter how much money one has. One could never be happy unless they live in the moment. Instead of dreaming about something that is probably unattainable, society today would be very different if people stop being delusional and focus on what is essential.

How to Get Out of This Delusion?

Just thinking about becoming rich cannot possibly make anyone rich. The best way to be successful in life is to focus on self-improvement and also to work towards achievable goals that have actual value. Doing so will benefit not only the individual alone but also the entire society.

People need to understand the reality, the system, and society. They need to get out of the false impression that they will eventually become rich. This way, they will vote for the right policies that will benefit the middle and lower class.


People are under the false impression that eventually they will become rich. Such people are called temporarily embarrassed millionaires because they think of themselves as to be. This also becomes the only goal of their life, and in most cases, this goal is unachievable due to the system and policies that favor the rich.

These kinds of people will never be happy with life as they associate happiness and success with money. Moreover, society faces various social and infrastructural problems based on such an attitude. This is why it’s essential to get out of this delusion, set worthwhile goals, and stop being a temporarily embarrassed millionaire. It will only improve your life for the better.


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