It’s hard to gauge your wealth without comparing it to others', especially when you’re a kid. Even as an adult, you often don’t know where you stand financially until you’re faced with a situation that makes you go, “Oh, I have money.” These Redditors shared their stories of the moments that made them realize they were better off than most. Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something about yourself in the process.
1. The Disney Dream
When I started talking in school about the pros and cons of Disney World vs Disney Land, and people were like "YOU'VE BEEN ON VACATION?! LUCKYY".
2. The Shake Memory
I realized I lived in a bubble when I went to In-n-Out with my friend. I had money my parents had given me for lunch. My friend's mom and her son debated if he could get a shake with his meal because they were tight on money. She ended up buying him one, but I could see the worry on her face of eating out in the first place. I'm currently 21 and still think about that memory.
3. True Poverty
It didn't truly hit me until we went to visit an orphanage in Tanzania and I saw all the little babies with old clothes and rips. At that moment I realized the building they were in was as big as the downstairs of my house and I just burst out crying. On that trip, I gave what I had on me to all the children I came across and I have never taken anything I got for granted.
4. World Standard Rich
For me, traveling overseas to much poorer countries really snaps me back to reality. By American standards I’m “only” upper-middle-class, but by worldwide standards, I’m uber-rich.
5. Borrowing From Kids
I'm not super rich, but things really hit home when I was with a friend and his mother started to panic because she couldn't afford to buy milk for her toddler son. I was just walking around with $40 in my pocket for no real reason, so I gave her $20. She was embarrassed to be taking money from a 13-year-old but swallowed her pride for the sake of her children. I knew my friend wasn't as well off, but it never fully hit me what that meant before then. To me, being poor just meant someone couldn't afford nice things.
What it meant to struggle with basic necessities like milk never really struck me before then.
6. Dinner’s on You
I used to live in a pretty poor developing country. My wage wasn't good by American standards, but I was talking to a local friend of mine and realized I made six to seven times what they did. And they were a college grad working in a pretty decent job. I bought dinner.
7. What are Student Loans?
When I went to college and had friends who were complaining about student loans.
8. A Slow Realization
First came the realization that I lived in a rich country, when I was around 10 and on vacation in Southern Europe. Then while in high school I made friends with people who had a working-class background and went to state-funded schools. Up until then the concept of renting was completely foreign to me. I honestly thought everyone owned the flat/house they lived in.
9. The Other Side
This isn’t a great response because I didn’t grow up rich, but rather very poor. I feel like I should share though. I met my first best friend in grade six, when she brought me to her home I was flabbergasted. They had a vacuum that plugged into their walls, they could even vacuum downstairs with it. She had a trampoline and Xbox. She had a small alcove with a mini-fridge that was full of pops and different sodas. I remember thinking I should take more than one because I wouldn’t get another chance.
When they invited me over for dinner her mom always made me take extra because I was nervous to ask for seconds. I couldn’t believe the amount of food in the house, and we all would have a huge glass of milk with dinner. Milk was always a treat and being able to drink as much as I wanted was so overwhelming. I just remember being astounded by everything. Three years later they adopted me.
10. Groceries Cost
When I started helping with our shopping and I saw how much the food I eat actually costs.
11. The Big House
I was about 12, I think. When friends would come over they would go on and on about how big the house was and how I had more games and computers and stuff than them (they especially seemed freaked out about the maid). That's when I started to realize that I didn’t have the same circumstances as most.
12. The Little Burger, Please
When I was young, I lived in an upper-class family, and one day in sixth grade, my mom took me and a school friend to McDonald's to eat. My friend was in a really poor family, they were seven children in a small flat and him and his parents had just immigrated from Lebanon a few years before. But when we ordered, he asked me what was the cheapest burger (not even meal) in order to make my mom spend the least money possible.
It was a huge shock for me, because I never thought about how I spent my (or rather my parent’s) money.
13. Rich is Relative
Rich is relative. I grew up in a trailer park, so definitely not well off. Made a new friend one day and invited him over for dinner. Kid was blown away by the size of the hamburgers we were eating. And you could have another one if you wanted. Just typical 1/3 lb. or so patties. We were poor, but they were "rationing serving sizes" poor. We had HVAC, they didn't even have window units. We didn't have holes in our floors/ceilings, it rained inside and out at their place.
That kid was always welcome at our house, as was the next neighbor kid that moved into the same place a couple years later. My folks were good people, and presumably far more aware than I was at the time of how different our little life was compared to that of our neighbors. And that's really the thing... it wasn't like we lived in a better part of town, went to different schools or anything like that.
The difference was my parents. I had two of them, and they both pulled 40+ hour weeks. That was it. They could afford to buy a new trailer. They paid for daycare in the summer so they could put in the hours. My friends had stay-at-home moms or single-parent homes, not bad people (save for a few), just spread too thin. We had two reliable cars, they were lucky to have one that ran.
We were "poor" due to the cost of living...they were poor due to the cost of life.
14. The Family Chef
When I was like five or six I thought everyone had their own chef for their house. When I was at a normal middle-class friend’s house I asked his mom if she was their family chef and a stay at home mom, then finally it clicked.
15. Chipping In For Shoes
Not rich—but in high school, there was this one kid who wore the same shoes from sophomore to senior year. I kept telling him to buy a new pair, but he would claim that they were broken in and he didn't want to waste money on uncomfortable ones. I decided to do that thing where the class would surprise him with a new pair of Vans for his birthday. But when I asked our classmates to chip in, they all said they didn't have any money to spare.
That didn't make sense because most of them had after-school jobs—that's when I found out I was the only kid in class who wasn't working to help support their own family. I ended up getting him the shoes on my own.
16. More Bacon
When we played a game called "steal the bacon." For those of you who don’t know how to play, you are broken down into teams and given numbers and when your number is called you go out and try to take a dodgeball from the middle of the playing field. So at one point, they are saying stuff like “come out if you’ve been to another country” and they were increasing the number and my hand stayed up while everyone else’s were down at about 12-15 other countries.
That was when I realized that I actually was a quite privileged kid (I was 12 at the time).
17. Pancake Supper
The first time I went to my best friend's house. His circumstances were the exact opposite. His parents tried their best, but his dad often didn't have much work during the winter, and his mom didn't work outside of the home. They had six kids, and usually had things like pancakes for dinner. I'm in an upper-class part of DC, with every toy and electronic imaginable, and he had none.
It was a good lesson for me to learn, but it was a shame that it was at the expense of a person I loved so very much.
18. What I Want, When I Want
I always got what I wanted whenever I wanted it. No matter the price. But one day I grew up and went on this vacation with my friends. I had only brought $1k with me and I learned how to spend money wisely. From now on whenever my dad tries to give me money or something I just say no and try to earn it myself first.
19. Just Get More Allowance
Conversely, I remember a summer where me and my mom lived in a car and I thought it was the coolest thing. Turns out we were just homeless. Meanwhile in university there was a guy who didn’t understand why we didn’t all have our own condos right by the school. He also never understood why we didn’t have money to go to Mexico on reading break and would just tell us to ask for a bigger allowance from our trust.
He learned to just stop talking after someone fed him a left hook when he made a comment about how stupid we were for taking out student loans and not just paying tuition upfront.
20. Celebrity Relations
My uncle was in a famous rock band. We didn't have a ton growing up, but whenever I went to my uncle's it was always super fun with all the toys and snacks he'd get me. He wasn't crazy with his money (his favorite restaurant was the waffle house) but his home was on the beach, nice cars, etc. so I recognized the wealth. It wasn't until I was like eight years old that I realized not everyone was related to a celebrity.
He died a couple years ago and my heart still hurts.
21. Working Hard for the Money
Since I was young my parents always told me I had to work for my money. I would do chores and stuff at first if I wanted to get something but when I grew up, I worked hard and earned some money. My parents help me out because I’m an excellent student and do sports. But stuff does not always come easy even though my family is rich.
22. The Richness Spectrum
I grew up thinking I was poor because there were very few white kids at my school, I never got a car from my parents, I worked since high school, there was a ton of theft & crime in my neighborhood, and my parents were always working. I recently got a high paying job online and went "digital nomading" for a bit in central and south America. I met some people who were truly broke financially.
They were making almost no money while everything's really expensive, working 10-hour days six days a week, can't afford to buy much food, and so on. Made me feel like a rich American jerk. The point is it's a completely relative question to ask. You're a lot richer than a lot of people, and a lot poorer than a lot of people.
23. Get The New iPhone
It’s embarrassing looking back but I was in sixth grade. A girl in my class had a shattered screen on her phone. I asked her why she didn’t just upgrade it to the latest iPhone. She explained that she didn’t have money. I asked why she didn’t ask her parents to help. She explained they didn’t have money to buy her a new one. I reached into my pocket, handed her 25$ and bought her an ice cream from the cafeteria. Her jaw dropped and asked why I was being so generous.
I was confused and said, “It’s only one week of allowance.” The whole class was staring at me, stunned. It was that day I learned most kids don’t grow up with their parents having $170K annual jobs.
24. My Private Beaches
I was talking to a friend about going to the town's public beach and they were saying how horribly crowded it gets in summer, and I suddenly realized (I was well into my 20s) that I had never had to go to a public beach because I always had at least two private family beaches to go to, one with cabanas, outdoor showers and space for cooking. I always took it for granted.
25. Contrast is Key
I'm the daughter of a single mum, who's always had a good job and is good with money in general. We took trips all around Europe every year (we're European, so nothing too fancy). She bought a (new) car on a regular basis, we would go to theme parks/cinemas/theatres/zoo and all sorts of other exciting things very often. We weren't super-rich and I wasn't spoiled, but I had a good life and I took all of these things for granted.
I eventually chose a wrong career and lived off welfare/benefits for a couple of years. I now work a job that pays less than minimum wage. I currently have 1,80 Euros to my name until tomorrow. Having a car and taking vacations seems super unrealistic to me now.
When I found out my friend didn't have a scholarship and her dad paid out of pocket the $35,000 per year for the college we went to, not counting books and housing.
27. Lesson Learned
I was 8 or 9 and we were on a family trip for one of my sister's tournaments. We were driving through a somewhat run-down neighborhood of multi-family homes and trash in the streets. I remember my sister and her friend saying how gross everything was and laughing about it. My dad, the sweetest most soft-spoken midwestern country boy ever, piped up and almost yelled “Hey! This is how most people live. You need to understand what you have!”
Everyone in the car just sat there in silence and he drove on. We grew up upper-middle class. I am a pediatric dentist now and will always accept Medicaid largely because of this moment when I was a kid.
28. Google Rich
Friends came to my wedding and flew in from Pennsylvania. We were at the post-wedding brunch and they were saying their goodbyes said they needed to get going to get to the airport to fly home. I asked which airport they were leaving out of because we are two hours from the closest big airport. Nope, they were flying on a chartered plane. I googled him later...I was blown away.
29. The Small Things
I grew up upper-middle class. Not private jet rich, but was definitely able to enjoy life's luxuries (nice vacations, newer products, etc.). Honestly? I think it was the small things that were a lot bigger for other people. I never really cared much about the price of a meal. I simply ordered based on whatever sounded the best. Add on some sides? Sure, why not! Same thing with driving.
I always volunteered to be the driver on long trips because I never really thought much about swiping my card for gas. Just fill up and go, no need to check my account. I definitely realized in college that a lot of people didn't have that privilege.
30. $30k to Not Play Golf
At a charity auction sponsored by one of our corporate customers, lowly vendors like me normally sit and watch rich people bid ungodly amounts of money for things I will never own or trips I will never take. A guy I work with won a bid to spend five days at Augusta National (golf course where the Masters is played) to tour the course, caddy for a pro (on a separate course) and watch the Masters tournament, but never actually play golf on Augusta National.
He spent $30,000 on it. I don't even know why he needs to work.
31. I Love You Guys
My best friend tripped into the whole "I freaking love you guys" rant one time when he was drunk. He slowly worked his way through our friend group talking about why we were important to him and when he got to me he mentioned how when we were younger he'd try to not be home around dinner time so that his mom wouldn't have to worry about feeding both him and his sister and that my family and I always took care of him and made him feel at home.
This is something that never crossed my mind in the 20 something years we've been friends from him practically living at my home for an entire summer or the weeks he'd stay over during the school years when we were in high school. I never gave it any second thought and just wanted my friend to be around whenever he could be.
32. In Tears
Junior in high school, long story, but I ended up going to the prom at the very last minute with a girl I had joked around with but really didn't know all that well. She gave me her address and the night of the prom I went to pick her up. The house was a small cinder block building with no windows. It was right next to a railroad track, and I would have thought it was some sort of storage building for the railroad.
Her father came out and invited me in. The girl looked beautiful and her father was very welcoming and kind to me. My mother insisted I bring the girl back home to our house so she could take pictures of us all dressed up. The girl was fine with it so I drove back home. As we pulled up the girl said: "You live HERE?!" Yes, though I didn't know what she thought was wrong with it. We went inside.
My mother was always a super fun-loving, "never met a stranger" kind of person, 20 minutes after meeting her you were old friends. She also had a super quick sense of humor, though her joking could turn some people off, she could easily be entirely overly familiar and joke a little too hard with someone new. She was doing her joking routine with the girl. I ran around a bit finding the camera and batteries and did a few other things that left the girl alone with my mother for a few minutes.
I came back, mom took some pictures and left, then the girl and I got ready to leave the house. The girl was obviously near tears. Uh oh, … mom did it again. "Don't let my mom get to you. I promise, she is joking, she didn't mean to make you uncomfortable" I said. The girl started crying. "Your mother is an absolute doll, she's wonderful, and I've never felt more instantly welcomed anywhere I've ever been." She motioned and looked around the house. "I've never been in a house like this. I can't believe it. I didn't know they even existed."
I honestly didn't know how privileged I was until that moment.
33. The College Home
I wasn't really even aware of how wealthy my dad was until recently, but he did a pretty good job of raising me with a middle-class outlook. My high school ran from pretty poor to upper-middle-class, so I never stood out. College, I lived pretty normally, and I was on a major scholarship, so loans weren't an issue anyway. When I started my PhD program and he bought a freaking house for me to live in, it was an eye-opener.
The other people in my program are generally renting, sharing a place with other grad students, and trying to get by on a stipend that means they can scrape by if they're frugal. I don't have any expenses for housing and own my car outright, and that means my stipend feels pretty generous.
34. One Side to the Other
In my late childhood, we were going through our poorest phase. We lived in a public housing home. It was heartbreaking when we had to move into this place after leaving such a nice little street. Christmas/birthdays became sparser in terms of gifts. Even the contents of my school lunchbox were meager compared to what my friends would get, I was hungry a lot.
After a few years of that my mother met someone else who pretty much pulled us out of the gutter since he had a good job. Now it was time to enjoy the opposite end. Took us a while to warm up to the guy but he did put us back in a bigger house in a nicer street. We actually got to eat out once every while, actually had family holidays once a year etc.
Nothing too extravagant—in fact just the stuff that's expected of the middle class, but to me, coming from where I was before—middle class felt like the good life.
35. Carpet: Pulled
My dad worked in IT. International company, bunch of business trips to like every major country in the world. He got fired/company filed for bankruptcy. This happened when I was eight. Suddenly the only income we had was from my mum, working in the public sector for the state, helping mentally ill people. We went from expensive toys, Nutella for breakfast, and expensive lunch items to buying birthday presents at basically dollar stores and hoping for hand me downs so that I could get clothes that fit me.
Whenever we had a school trip, we had to save up two years in advance and ask relatives for help. My dad only got a job after nine years of looking. My teen years consisted of hand me down clothes, worrying about social events and lunch. I still haven't grown out of the mentality despite my dad having a well-paying job now. It's crazy what the 2008 crisis did.
36. Always Be Considerate
Before my father started his business, he grew up extremely poor as one of six children in a one-bedroom house. From a very early age, he always taught my brother and I just how good we had it compared to what he had as a child. This helped broaden my perspective, but because we lived in a very affluent area, it was difficult to see until I moved away. I attended a small college in a rural area, and to be honest, I had a massive culture shock.
Most of the people I met were struggling to survive on student loans, working multiple jobs, and had little to no financial help from their families as they tried to get through school. I had never been around so many people going through financial hardship and it really made me appreciate how lucky I was to grow up in an affluent household. Aside from realizing how lucky I was, I also had a strong feeling of guilt, especially because in addition to being more than able to pay for school, I was on a full-ride scholarship for athletics.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how hard many of my friends were trying just to make ends meet, and how unfair it was. From that point on, I always try to be considerate of those who are less fortunate, and help them in any way I can. The people I met at college are still some of my best friends to this day and without a doubt the nicest individuals I have ever met in my life. I’m grateful for the lessons they taught me including, that while money may be a facilitator of happiness, it does not automatically lead to a happy life.
37. The “Ghetto”
During high school, there was a place in town that we called "the ghetto." It came mostly, I think, from most of our parents telling us not to go there at night and the fact that the houses there were smaller (both in property size and square footage in the house) than the typical home in our town. During college, some friends wanted to know where I came from and we eventually got to the topic of "the ghetto" in my town.
After some googling, we found that those homes were $300,000-$400,000. I don't know why but, even though those prices were still lower than what is average in my town, putting an actual dollar value on them really opened my eyes.
38. A Trip to Costa Rica
My dad grew up super poor though, so he made sure we understood how lucky we were. But to be honest I didn't REALLY understand until my teenage years when he took me to Costa Rica to visit where my older brother had lived for a couple years. We didn't go to the beach or touristy spots, and I got a much better idea of what poverty can look like.
39. No Loans, No Problem
I thought we were comfortably middle class until my dad took his savings and started his own federal defense contractor. That's when I realized that though we never did anything extravagant, there was always money to pay for things when we wanted them and my dad paid for college for four kids out of pocket with no loans. I realized how relatively rich I am when my son became best friends with the poorest kid in school.
40. Playing Poor
I realized from a very young age we were wealthy. Each of the examples below are just moments where I encountered others and they reacted with surprise and awe. I had mentioned them in passing like it was nothing special and their reaction told me otherwise. I would then reevaluate and realize "oh I guess we're better off than such and such" but as you get older you encounter different levels of wealth and I just never realized how high on the scale we were. How different my childhood was from others...
Example 1: We would play pretend that we were poor. We would open the windows in the winter in the playroom to make it cold. Then we would take our baby doll blankets and wrap them around ourselves and feed our babies "soup water" and tell them it was all we could afford (It sounds way more messed up writing it out now).
Example 2: My parents gave me a brand new Rav4 when I turned 16 so I could drive myself to school. It wasn't a present, it was considered an essential. I got to pick the color and interior.
Example 3: My sister and I wanted horses. They gave us lessons from the time we started asking until they decided to purchase a property with a barn. Then they purchased two horses and paid a horse trainer to drive up once a week to make sure everything went smoothly. When I went to college, I decided I no longer could care for a horse and asked them to donate to a local ranch that brings troubled city kids and horses together to try and heal them. It is actually pretty cool and my parents were happy to donate my mare.
Example 4: We were told from age 10 or so that when we turned 16 we would be allowed to pick anywhere in the world to go for our 16th birthday. I chose New Zealand and my sister chose Europe. Example 5: My sister and I danced for over 12 years with multiple $100 or more costumes per dance season, multiple dance classes, and multiple performances. Didn't dent the bank.
I am now married, and my husband and I barely make it sometimes and I really, really appreciate knowing that I was not happy when I had money, and I am so happy barely making it (sometimes) with this amazing man I married.
41. Apartment? Ew.
Not rich, but upper-ish middle class. I went to a play date when I was 10 and his mom was single and they lived in a tiny apartment. I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t have a house or a dad. Sad to say I was so uncomfortable that we didn’t stay friends much longer after that. Sorry Darren, you were a good dude and I was dumb.
42. You’re Richer Than You Think
Wasn’t rich but realized I was far better off than I was led to believe when I tried filling out FAFSA forms to go to college. My mother freaked when I told her I needed income information. Turns out, she’d been lying about our financial state for years and didn’t want to see any of that money spent on college for any of her five kids.
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