Billionaire David Tepper once called himself a “middle-class dad trapped in a rich man’s body.” Most millionaires, it turns out, have similar feelings of wealth denial.
A majority of millionaires polled describe themselves as middle class or upper middle class despite being among the wealthiest 10% of Americans, according to the results of the third CNBC Millionaire Survey.
Fully 44% described themselves as middle class, and 40% said they were upper middle class. Only 4% described themselves as wealthy or rich, and 5% described themselves as upper class.
Even those Americans worth $5 million or more—among the wealthiest 5%—still think of themselves as more middle class than wealthy. According to the survey, 49% of those worth $5 million or more define themselves as upper middle class, while 23% define themselves as middle class. Only 11% of the $5-million-plus millionaires define themselves as rich or wealthy.
Wealth experts say the findings stem partly from the psychology of today’s wealthy and partly from the growing economic divide between the super rich and the merely wealthy.
Studies show that more than three-quarters of today’s millionaires made their money themselves and started out in the middle class or lower. Wealth experts say these self-made millionaires may still see themselves as having middle-class values of hard work, humility and family despite their increased wealth.