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As the name implies, stealth wealth is the practice of keeping your accumulated assets private. Doing so can help prevent awkward situations, like friends and family hitting you up for money. It might also protect you from identity theft and robbery.
What Is Stealth Wealth?
Stealth wealth is all about keeping your finances to yourself. That includes your income, net worth and assets. While some may feel tempted to call attention to these things to raise their social status, it could actually have a negative effect. (More on this shortly.)
There isn't one right or wrong way to be financially stealthy. Some folks may feel comfortable talking about their lifestyle—which may include things like luxury travel or pricey home renovations—but draw the line when it comes to divulging their actual income. Others may choose to live well below their means, giving the illusion that they aren't as well off as they actually are. From the outside, they may appear comfortably middle class. The fact that they have a thriving financial portfolio might be under the radar.
To be clear, that doesn't mean you're deceiving your loved ones. You're simply choosing to keep your finances out of your relationships. It's a simple move that can be good for your mental health and financial well-being.
Why Choose to Be Stealthy About Your Wealth
There are lots of reasons why someone might want to be stealthy about their financial situation. Having a lot of money could impact your friendships and romantic relationships—it might be hard to tell if people really like you for you or if they're attracted to your wealth. There are other reasons you might want to keep your assets private. Stealth wealth may help you:
- Avoid uncomfortable conversations: According to a PayPal survey, almost half of Gen Z and millennial respondents said that money had strained their friendships. Being covert about your finances can help you avoid awkward conversations that could make friends and family members feel self-conscious about having less money than you.
- Reduce the odds of becoming the community piggy bank: According to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest Household Pulse Survey, 28.6 million people—a little more than 11% of U.S. adults—had borrowed money from friends or family to cover household expenses. Being discreet about your wealth might prevent friends and family from asking you for loans.
- Protect against theft: You may be more vulnerable to identity theft if word gets out that you've got a lot of money. The most prevalent forms of abuse include credit card fraud, government documents or benefits fraud and bank fraud. You might also be targeted for robberies if people know you have valuable assets in your home or car.
- Live below your means: Stealth wealth often means living below your means. Instead of falling victim to lifestyle creep (when your discretionary spending increases as you make more money), you can funnel extra income into your savings or investment accounts, helping you reach your financial goals faster. It can also allow you to leave a financial legacy to family, friends and charities you care about.
How to Practice Stealth Wealth
Money doesn't seem to be a common topic of conversation in social circles. One Business Insider survey found that friends are more likely to discuss health, sex and politics than finances. That might make it a little easier to practice stealth wealth. Below are a few tips, even if you've previously been open about your finances:
- Avoid discussions about debt.
- If conversations turn to income or assets, casually change the subject or focus your attention on the other person.
- Keep sensitive financial documents safe from prying eyes.
- Do your best to keep your lifestyle in check as your net worth increases.
- Be mindful of what you post on social media.
The Bottom Line
Stealth wealth is a form of financial privacy that untangles your money from your personal relationships. While it may feel right for some folks, we're not suggesting that talking about money with people you care about is a bad thing. If you're in a stronger financial position, it's possible to provide emotional support while maintaining healthy boundaries—or even provide financial support if you're comfortable with doing so. In the end, you have to do what feels right for you.