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"There's something you don't know about me... I'm rich."
Hodgins, Bones, "Aliens in a Spaceship"

In fiction, it's apparently very hard for the wealthy to avoid being either a Rich Bitch or Spoiled Sweet, both are scorned by the average man. Many Genre Savvy characters spot this trend and hide their wealth. For some they've even been separated from the family, and are wealthy in name only. Expect these characters to be kind, caring and generally the opposite of a Rich Bitch, so that the reveal of their wealth is more shocking.

In Real Life, there is an advantage to attempting this, being rich makes members of your family a target for kidnapping or yourself a target for lawsuit.

Compare King Incognito, where the secret can be wealth, but must be that the character is powerful in some way or another, and Slumming It, where this is done for fun. See also Non-Idle Rich, for when the wealthy person works a "regular" job for fulfillment and/or helping others. Contrast Mock Millionaire.

Examples of Secretly Wealthy include:


Anime and Manga

  • Fairy Tail has Lucy, who ran away from home to get away from her overbearing father, whose thoughts were only about profit.
  • In One Piece, Vivi fell under this trope before her Heel Face Turn.
  • Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai has Saori.
  • Brief in Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt, specifically, he's the heir to the Rock Foundation. And He Cleans Up Nicely too.
  • The female protagonist of Onidere is from a wealthy family but nobody at her high school knew about that until her younger sister came for a visit.
  • Yuuichiro Kumada from the Sailor Moon anime, who ran away from his rich family to be free and now works in a Shinto shrine.
  • Sayako in Mahoraba lives in near poverty with her daughter. She makes plastic flowers and such for money and often needs help from Ryushi to complete whatever junk she and her daughter are making to survive. Their furniture and bedding are the cardboard boxes for shipping the flowers. Turns out she ran away from home to marry someone her father disapproved of. She comes from an extraordinarily wealthy family and she and her father appear to make up their differences though she continues to live with her daughter in poverty.
  • Konoka Konoe in Mahou Sensei Negima is very rich, with only the fabulously wealthy Ayaka even coming close... but no one would this by looking at her. Even her roommate Asuna was unaware until she actually visited Konoka's Big Fancy House. Even after the reveal, she never makes a big deal out of it, the only real mention of her wealth was when Jack Rakan nonchalantly billed her father 5,000,000 drachma for helping her friends.
    • Very late in the manga, it's revealed that Ayaka and Natsumi's roommate Chizuru is also extremely wealthy... but like Konoka, she never makes mention of it or flaunts her wealth.
  • Dr. Hiroshi Amano from The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird is believed by Inspector Satsuda to have been involved in a 3 billion yen robbgery because he can mantain a pretty large (but not overly fancy) house despite having limited actual income.

Film

Literature

  • In The Truth by Terry Pratchett, William DeWorde has had a falling out with his family and lives on around $50 a month, although since Discworld is a pastiche of Middle Ages/Renaissance fantasy, 50 Ankh-Morpork dollars ($AM) a month is a fair amount of money.
    • For comparison's sake, members of the Watch, the police force, make 30 dollars a month and are considered reasonably well paid.
    • William gets his income from various rich and powerful individuals outside Ankh-Morpork who pay him for writing to them about the general going-ons of the city. He figures out that the rich do not really want to see a member of their class live in poverty so they support him under this pretense. Only later does he realize how powerful what he does can be.
    • Susan Sto Helit is technically a Duchess, but has no patience for the job, and instead takes jobs like governess and school teacher. Her employers, a wealthy couple in their own right, were rather shocked to discover they one of their servants was more posh than them.
    • A minor Running Gag in Discworld is that the really rich can afford to act poor. Those who are only pretty rich will buy fancy clothes and jewelry and homes to try to make themselves seem much richer, but those who are supremely wealthy don't need to. Why buy new furniture when the stuff your grandparents bought was so good that it has lasted all these years? Why dress nicely when you don't need to work so you can devote all your time to messy hobbies like raising swamp dragons? And ironically, this allows them to stay rich. Sybil Ramkin is the best example, but Lady Margolotta and the Dowager Duchess of Quirm also qualify. And Sybil's husband Sam Vimes was born poor, but is now the richest man in the city. So naturally he prefers dented armor and cheap boots to the finery his station allows.
  • In Percy Jackson and The Olympians, Rachel Elizabeth Dare is pretty much an enigma, but one time she walks up to a random chauffeur, says a few things, and suddenly he ditches his customer and takes the Olympians where they want to go. Turns out she's this trope
  • In Fear Nothing and Seize The Night by Dean Koontz, Christopher Snow's best friend Bobby is this.
  • This genre convention was mocked in The Grapes of Wrath. Two Okies discuss a Broadway play about a rich man and a rich woman who pretend to be poor in order to find true love. The entire premise confuses the heck out of the second Okie, who doesn't understand why a rich person would screw out with such a ridiculous Zany Scheme. There's a depression going on, and the Okies are standing in line hoping to get work so they don't starve to death. The second Okie explains, very annoyed, that if he were rich he'd just sit in his penthouse eating steaks all day and he's incredulous that an actual rich person would do anything different.
  • In the Soviet/Russian novel The Little Golden Calf Alexander Koreiko is hiding his millions because he can't use his money in the Soviet Union and so he lives as a poor man (almost bordering on poverty), working on extremely low pay job, and basically all his posessions are two iron kettlebells to keep himself in good health — all to live for the day soviet regime falls. The book is set in 1920s...

Live Action TV

  • Hodgins from Bones, partly because he's a conspiracy theorist who thinks that old money, like his family, totally controls the world.
    • Considering how influential his family is as major supporters of the Jeffersonian Institute, he probably also hides his connections so he will be judged on his own merits.
    • He actually lives in a mansion, but since nobody from work ever visits him at home, nobody realizes that he has lots of money.
    • Averted over the course of the first two seasons as all the other major cast members find out about his wealth.
  • Everyone is shocked when Dr. Carter from ER is revealed to be from a wealthy family.
  • In The OC, Summer meets and is courted by "Che", a hippy student who claims to have "grown up on a reservation" and is generally very mellow and seemingly down-to-earth. After his final failed attempt to win Summer's heart, his chauffeur turns up to escort "Master Winchester" home.
  • Casey Shraeger, the star of The Unusuals.
  • Nick Knight from Forever Knight turned out to be this; in a subversion of Vampires Are Rich; the Vampire world discouraged it because it led to unfortunate questions that threatened the Masquerade if one's current role didn't match the funds they had. He was slowly and secretly giving it away.
  • In Boy Meets World Shawn is shocked to discover that Mr. Turner comes from big money and became a high school teacher after turning his back on his parents' wealth.
  • Hal from Malcolm in the Middle comes from a very wealthy family, but is estranged because his father was so eccentric and childish that Hal felt he was never a very good parent, while the rest of the family strongly disapproves of Hal's wife. Averted in that Hal and his family don't seem to receive any financial support from the family, despite their frequent money troubles.
  • In one episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, London Tipton pretended to be poor to date a man who hates rich people. However, when she had enough of the poor lifestyle, she confessed the truth and her boyfriend said he doesn't mind because she turned out to be nicer than he expected from rich people. She was just acting nice but didn't believe when people told him that.
  • The TV adaptation of The Dresden Files. Harry Dresden, as in the book series, lives in a small apartment without much in the way of amenities. However, here he is the sole surviving heir of Justin Morningway, Harry's uncle and an extremely wealthy and powerful wizard in his own right. Justin died after attacking Harry after Harry found out he had killed his father several years earlier. Both out of guilt and contempt, Harry has always refused to claim his inheritance, sticking to his apartment, refusing any money from his uncle's estate, and keeping Morningway's mansion in mothballs.
  • Sid Hammerback on CSI: NY appears to be this at least in part. Jo knows about his success, and it's possible Mac knows, but no one else has given any indication of knowing it thus far. Although as of "Kill Screen", the piano in the morgue might have been a tipoff...

Western Animation

  • Samantha Manson of Danny Phantom is secretly rich, something even her two best friends didn't know for a long time. Every other rich kid at school is sort of a Jerkass, and as it is her parents' WASPish attitudes don't really mesh with her Perky Goth persona or Granola Girl activism.
  • Jordan of The Kids from Room 402, is wealthy but keeps it a secret from her classmates out of fear they'll think she's stuck up. In one episode, Nancy Francis found out the secret and promised not to tell anyone at school Jordan is wealthy. However, since she didn't promise not to tell she had a rich friend, Nancy bragged so much about this she was eventually treated like the stuck up girl Jordan was afraid of being perceived as.
  • Cheryl, the ditzy ISIS secretary on Archer, reveals that she's actually the heiress of the Tunt ("Tum again?") railroad fortune. She kept working as a secretary just so she'd have something to do.
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