Non-Idle Rich

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Victoria finds the galas, furs, and limos are just to pass the time between assassination jobs.

Bruce Wayne: Is that where you work?
Thomas Wayne: No, I work at the hospital. I leave the running of our company to much better men.
Bruce Wayne: Better?
Thomas Wayne: Well, more interested men.

A rich character does a job involving public service (often a cop, soldier, or doctor) despite obviously not needing the pay. Instead, they do the work to help people or for personal satisfaction—or even to avoid boredom. They will often have conflict with both their family, who wonder what they're doing down in the muck with the "common people", and their work peers, who class them sight unseen as a dilettante after thrills. They spend all their time having to prove themselves.

Sometimes overlaps with Fiction 500, Crimefighting with Cash, Rich Idiot With No Day Job (when they pretend to be idle in public).

Note that in some cultures, certain professions are expected of a Blue Blood, such as military duty. This trope applies when it is not part of the upper-class culture—either this job, or any job.

This may be Truth in Television, especially with how some people earn their fortunes, or philanthropists.

Inasmuch as it contrasts the Spoiled Brat trope, in many Real Life cases it may overlap it, for the person may think wealth is not a purpose, but a tool for his or her purposes, even if the respective purposes may lack sense. To study and acquire skills which are interesting, but don't pay back is an innocuous example.

A Sister Trope to Royals Who Actually Do Something.

Contrast Spoiled Brat, Rich in Dollars, Poor In Sense, Upper Class Twit, Idle Rich.

Examples of Non-Idle Rich include:

Anime and Manga

  • Roger Smith from The Big O could fit this or Rich Idiot With No Day Job, depending on one's point of view.
  • In at least one of the continuities of Tenchi Muyo! Mihoshi might count, as in the OAV, her and her family are apparently Nobles in Seniwa space, yet most of them still work for - and run - the Galaxy Police.
  • Soul Eater: Thanks to being Death's son, and having a privileged position in Death City (Death apparently runs the place, they're clearly rich), Kid could just wait for someone else to make him a Death Scythe to use. Instead, he decides to make one to his own particular specifications, and joins his father's school simply because it allowed him to help out a group of students in trouble.
  • Most of the nobles in Black Butler have important jobs such as Angelina Durless (AKA Madame Red),who is a doctor, Ciel's father Vincent Phantomhive, who was said in the anime to have done lots of work to help the poor and needy, and Undertaker (give a wild guess as to what he does). Ciel himself works as the Queen's Watchdog, taking care of problems in the criminal underworld (though sometimes the work he does enters more dubious territory).
  • In the Lewis Carroll-inspired manga Pandora Hearts, the 19th-century land in which it is set is governed by four dukedoms, which are in charge of running the organisation known as Pandora, whose job it is to protect the public from and take care of matters involving the dimension known as the Abyss.
  • While Detective Shiratori's rich family background may help him to climb the bureaucratic ladder in Detective Conan, he is certainly one of the more competent police officers there.
  • Yuichiro in Sailor Moon comes from a very wealthy family but works regularly, eventually taking a steady job as a short of "chore boy" at the shrine Raye's grandfather owns. Partly because he liked Raye and partly because he's ashamed of his rich, self-absorbed family.
    • There's also Ami/Sailor Mercury's mother who also comes from a very wealthy family (in one continuity, she collects diamonds) but works full time as a doctor. Ami herself intends to follow this path as well.
  • By this point,[when?] Golgo 13 owns property in multiple countries, has several Swiss bank accounts, and owns his own island. He still takes assassination jobs.
  • Who can forget Alice Malvin of Pumpkin Scissors? It's this part of her personality that usually wins over those still consider her just another of the idle rich.

Comic Books

  • Scrooge McDuck, in any incarnation. He cannot live without undertaking a ridiculously difficult treasure hunt or a potentially fatal adventure at least twice a week, and nearly shows signs of depression if he's idle too long. The Carl Barks comic The Status Seeker, later adapted into an episode of DuckTales (1987), had Scrooge deal with his rich peers looking down on him for not "acting rich."
  • Tony Stark. Sure, he attends parties all over the world (though, for understandable reasons, he no longer drinks), gambles, plays sports, and dates glamourous women. Still, the other half of the time, he is either holed up working on some new invention, negotiating deals for his company (sometimes overlapping with the playtime above), or, sometimes, running major government agencies, having been appointed once to head the Defense Department, and later to lead SHIELD.
    • You forgot his standard pastime, "putting on a suit of armor and kicking ass for justice."
    • Stated rather explicitly in a trailer for The Avengers:

Steve Rogers: Big man in a suit of armour. Take that away and what are you?
Tony Stark: A genius billionaire playboy philanthropist.

  • Mento of Doom Patrol. Wealthy enough to make Batman look middle-class, runs his own research and development firm, designed his telepathy-and-telekenesis enhancing helmet just to impress the girl of his dreams, but still puts it on and kicks butt - when he isn't having some... mental health issues, that is.
  • Wayne Enterprises and Kord Industries are controlled by people who use their companies to do lots of good as a Mega Corp and a R & D company respectively.
  • Norman Osborn isn't exactly someone who is involved with social causes, but he's definitely "non idle", personally putting his corporation's dollars and scientific work to "practical" use, whether it's broadening the extent of his power over other criminals, taking over the U.S. government, or orchestrating a massive, convoluted plot to dick with Spider-Man involving loads of clones.
    • Likewise, Bullseye recently revealed to Osborn that despite getting highly paid for his assassination gigs and presumably being able to retire, he lives rather modestly and continues killing for fun. In fact, Bullseye even claims he probably has more money than Osborn.
  • Lex Luthor is very much actively involved in LexCorp's scientific research, personally building groundbreaking prototypes and conducting cutting-edge experiments with his own genius.
  • Herschel Clay from PS238 is implied to be the owner and main stockholder of Clay Industries (which makes sense, since he's eventually revealed to be an Expy of Iron Man). His day- night- and apparently only job? Janitor at a grade school. At a grade school for superheroes, mind you, but a janitor nonetheless. It's eventually revealed that the entire teaching staff of the school belonged to an old superhero team and had to hang up their capes and become teachers as part of a non-disclosure agreement over an illegally elected metahuman president. Said president became the school's headmaster for good measure.
  • Richie Rich; pretty much the whole point of his comic. Whether it's for diplomacy, exploration, investigation, and/or philanthropy, or foiling crooks bent on stealing his family's money or someone else's, he always has a lot to do. His parents tend to be this as well.


  • Bruce Wayne's parents in Batman Begins; Thomas Wayne has that huge company but he's still a doctor as a day job.
    • Bruce himself qualifies too. In both personas. He's just really good at confusing people into thinking he's a Rich Idiot With No Day Job.
  • Will Smith's charcter in Bad Boys is a rich-kid playboy as well as a bad-ass cop.
  • Det. Tracy Atwood in Mr. Brooks.
  • Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future was this before blowing the family fortune on his inventions. He still has enough to have a ready supply of period cash for any time. He could easily get the money back, but refuses to misuse time travel. Still, he ends up happy.
  • After Forrest Gump became an early investor in Apple, he began to cut the park's grass for free because he liked doing it.
  • Hooper from Jaws is so rich he has a yacht with advanced equipment sent to a tiny little Massachusetts island on a moment's notice. He also happens to be a scruffy marine biologist.


  • The protagonist in John Sandford's Prey series of novels, Lucas Davenport, is still a police detective, despite having made a fortune by selling his own video games.
  • Lady Sandrilene fa Toren in the Circle of Magic series is filthy rich, but, as a stitch witch, loves to work with cloth. Her foster-siblings Briar and Daja both start out poor, but end up making money with their powers as well, and they all continue their humble work.
  • Louise Dimatto of the In Death series is a "New York blueblood" who starts in a free clinic and moves to the Dochas abuse shelter established by Roarke.
  • Samuel Vimes of Discworld, following his marriage to Lady Sybil Ramkin, is still a policeman to his core. Lady Sybil herself could also qualify, running a dragon sanctuary out of her home.
    • Lady Sybil's papa may have left her millions, but she spends the better part of the day in rubber boots and overalls mucking out dragon cages. This doesn't stop her from preferring that Samuel wear his hated official ducal costume.
      • She's probably intended as a parody of those upper-class English ladies with a passion for animals: the Queen, for instance. (Margaret Thatcher was allegedly horrified to find the Queen washing her own dishes.)
    • Some of the Black Ribboners may qualify, as most are presumed to have accumulated wealth over the centuries, yet now spend much of their time being helpful (or in Otto's case, funny) to show themselves worthy of trust as Friendly Neighborhood Vampires.
    • In The Truth, William de Worde's father is one of Ankh-Morpork's "old money" aristocrats, but William turned his back on his family's fortune for integrity's sake, even going so far as to reimburse every penny his dad spent on raising him. Ironically, William now exerts more political influence through his newspaper than he could've ever held through wealth.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey, aristocrat detective, though he often pretends to be a Rich Idiot With No Day Job.
    • His brother-in-law also qualifies: after marrying the very rich Lady Mary, Chief Inspector Parker remains a detective. (And they even put her money into a trust for their children, just in case Parker is ever tempted.)
  • Terisa Morgan, the protagonist of Stephen R Donaldson's Mordant's need duology, is the daughter of a rich business man. She volunteers as a secretary for a charity that needs one, but can't afford to pay. Her father thinks it's a stupid thing to do.
  • In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, Lady Muriel does school-teaching and cottage-visiting, which is not too remarkable in her era—but is lampshaded:

"Then she, at least, is not one of the "idle mouths" one so often meets with among the upper classes. I have sometimes thought they would have a hard time of it, if suddenly called on to give their raison d'être, and to show cause why they should be allowed to live any longer!"

  • Harry James Potter has plenty of gold left to him from his parents in his Gringotts vault (actually, inherited from his paternal grandparents, who were presumably old money). But as a kid, he already didn't like to rely on that cash, therefore when he grows up, he takes on the job of full time Auror (technically Wizard Police). His wife Ginny could have easily stayed at home with their three children, but she decides to become a Quidditch star player instead and, once she retires, she keeps working as a quidditch reporter.
    • James and Lily Potter count as well. James, due to his parents' wealth, didn't really need to work for a living, but the Potters risked their lives daily to fight Death Eaters for the Order of the Phoenix until they died. Like parents, like child, indeed.
  • The titular heroine of Honor Harrington cannily invested much of her prize-money from early in her career, took advantage of the investment opportunities when she was made a member of the Grayson nobility, and was awarded some rather rich territory when she became a member of the Manticoran nobility, making her one of the richest people in the Manticoran Star Empire, but she still goes to work as a military officer every day.
    • Another such character is her valet, who could have easily retired from his share of prize money and his own investments, and the millions he received in her will when she was thought dead (and she refused to accept back) but insisted on retaining his position, even when he officially retired from the navy.
  • Rick Castle[who?][context?]
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, Freckles is much impressed by meeting such people.

Now here was another class, that had all they needed of the world's best and were engaged in doing work that counted.

  • Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October. He is considered a more valuable analyst because he has tons of money he gained speculating on the stock market and tons more from marrying the daughter of multi-millionaire (who herself works as a very high paid ophthalmologist.) The reason that makes him more valuable is that this makes him invulnerable to pressure when he gives an opinion.

Live-Action TV

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer gives us Giles, who is extremely rich to the point that when he dies, Faith is able to retire from Slaying on his money, which he leaves all to her.
  • Officer Ben Sherman on Southland gets extensive grief from his training officer, John Cooper.
  • John Carter of ER regularly conflicted with his parents, and especially his grandmother, regarding his job in a Chicago urban ER. In the Grand Finale, he mentions that his grandfather would be rolling in his grave, if he knew that the Carter fortune was being sunk into an indigent care center.
  • Detective Casey Shraeger, from The Unusuals, conflicts with her parents. She tells a friend who knows about her family to not speak, or the other police will "never let her in".

Casey: If you tell them I'm rich, I'll kill you. I have a gun.

    • This is actually useful in an episode, when the victim/suspect, the second richest man in the city, tries to bribe her and her ex-baseball star partner
  • Peter Petrelli was this (a nurse) before becoming super empowered. In his case, though, he likely didn't accept any money from his family because they're ridiculously corrupt.
  • Dr. Hodgins in Bones. aka the "bugs and slime guy".
    • Bones herself. She makes enough from her books that moving money to the Caymans makes sense, yet still works with decomposed corpses.
      • Brought up in The Three Bodies in the Book, her publicist would like her to know that she doesn't have to work at the Jeffersonian. Brennan thinks that idea is insane.
      • In another episode when a funding cut will result in one of the interns having to go, there end up being two "anonymous" donations of funding, each of which is enough to allow the Jeffersonian to keep the position. Both Hodgns and Brennan look rather smug when this is announced.
  • Thomas Lynley of the Inspector Lynley Mysteries. He works at Scotland Yard though he's both rich and titled, as the "eighth Earl of Asherton."
  • Amos Burke from Burkes Law, the millionaire Chief of Detectives of Los Angeles.
  • Charlie Crews from Life, whose wealth comes from a $50 mil compensation for a wrongful 12 year stint in prison after being sentenced to life, he's a detective because that's what he was before and what he considers himself to be.
  • Pretty much the whole point of The Philanthropist.
  • Divya Katdare from Royal Pains is a member of a wealthy, traditional Indian family from England (they summer in the Hamptons). She goes ahead and becomes a physician's assistant for HankMed, all the while hiding it from her parents.
  • Everwood's Dr. Brown, whose personal fortune amassed as a world-renowned neurosurgeon is large enough to set up his own private medical practice, free of charge.
  • Patrick Jane of The Mentalist was once a minor celebrity, and apparently retains a lot of money. He casually continues unruly behaviour in court as he racks up hefty fines (he keeps it up until he ends up with a full $16,000), and buys a pony as a gag gift.
    • Though he has shown to be very good at gambling
  • Simon Tam from Firefly used to be a doctor, at least until he turned into a runaway outlaw to rescue his sister.
  • Ilsa Pucci from the second season of Human Target. Impressed by Christoper Chance's ability to protect her, she decides to finance his operation, and increasingly gets involved in the nitty gritty, to both her and Chance's aggravation. By "The Return of Baptiste," she's even started helping out in the field, in the process breaking several laws.
  • Similarly to Charlie Crewes above, Jim Longworth from The Glades got his money from a lawsuit before he moved to Florida, where he lives in a mansion, but continues to work as a detective.
  • Richard Woolsley from Raising the Bar. Works as a public defender instead of at his father's prestigious law firm, and donates his trust fund payout to set up a civil law division at the PD's office.
  • David Rossi on Criminal Minds is revealed to have made a fair bit of coin from his writing career before he returned to the FBI.

Rossi: I don't have a house, I have a mansion.

Video Games

  • Trauma Team‍'‍s Tomoe Tachibana is the heiress to a wealthy Japanese family. However, she rebelled and became an endoscopist in America.
  • Agent 47 from the Hitman series. Sure, his job is assassin-for-hire, but he's one of the highest paid assassins in the world, likely giving him quite a large bank account. And as shown in the second game, when not "on the clock" he actually lives in a monastery, working as their gardener and caretaker.

Web Comics

  • Mr. Ackerman from Sam and Fuzzy runs a taxi service: He's apparently independently wealthy and doesn't need to, but states that he needs a hobby to stay active. It also explains why he decided to hire Sam.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • There's this Illinois farmer named Howard Buffett who's devoting his life to improving farming techniques in Africa, in hopes of reversing the famines there. How's he funding this? Charitable donations from his dad - and the world's second richest man - Warren Buffett.
    • Warren Buffett probably also qualifies. The man could have retired decades ago, filthy rich, but says he keeps running Berkshire Hathaway because it's fun. He also generally lives off his $100k salary, despite being worth 62 billion dollars.
  • Anderson Cooper, who was born into obscene wealth and privilege: his mother is Gloria Vanderbilt, which besides making him part of the venerable Vanderbilt clan (i.e. the closest thing the US has to nobility), makes him, well, the son of Gloria Vanderbilt. He went to school and became a journalist who routinely travels to war-torn and/or disaster-stricken nations to directly speak to those affected. And he seems to genuinely care, too.
  • Oliver Stone, who was born into a wealthy family, dropped out of Yale to join the Army and fight in Vietnam, where he won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Magnificent Bastard around at university faculty (especially business and science departments) you may be surprised how many of them made a fortune and took the job just because they wanted to teach.
  • Award-winning actress/comedienne/producer Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Her family owns the Louis Dreyfus Group, a multinational corporation worth more than twenty billion dollars. Her father, the late Gérard "William" Louis-Dreyfus, was the chairman of the company and had a personal fortune of nearly three and a half billion dollars at the time of his death in 2016.
  • Bill Gates left his position as CEO of Microsoft to work full time at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Would actually have qualified as this as the CEO, given that someone worth $54 billion doesn't need the work.
    • Since most of the hugely successful tech companies of the 80s and 90s started off very small, today's hyper-rich tech magnates tend to be engineers who personally developed the stuff that made them worth billions.
  • Saturday Night Live writer Simon Rich was born into a wealthy family (his dad is New York Times legend Frank Rich) and attended Harvard and elite NYC private schools. Also doubles as an Incredibly Lame Pun.
  • Jackie Kennedy Onassis became a book editor following the death of her second husband, Aristotle Onassis.
    • Likewise, her two children. Eldest daughter Caroline works as a lawyer, and before kicking it her brother John Jr. worked as a magazine publisher/editor.
  • Philanthropist Brook Astor definitely qualifies.
  • Athina Roussel Onassis could have easily lived from the money inherited from her maternal family, being the last living Onassis. (There's still the matter about her actually inheriting only her mother Christina's money or the whole Onassis fortune, though). She, however, is a show jumper and a sponsor/patron of the Global Champions Tour.
  • Many entertainers (actors, musicians, etc.) continue to work for love of the job, or at least the fame, long after they're set for life financially. Oprah Winfrey, for example.
  • Jill Biden is a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College and is thought to be the first woman to hold a paying job while her husband was Vice President.
  • New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is the 20th richest person in the world. He's also a very popular and, by most accounts very effective, three term mayor. Also probably incorruptible, for the simple reason that it's hard to bribe a man who has $22 billion.
  • You probably. If you have internet access (like everyone here) and live in a place of high technology and reasonably competent government as do a good portion you are by comparison definitely rich, even if it doesn't feel that way. You are, it follows, either Idle Rich or Non-Idle Rich or each by turns depending on the situation.
  • According to legend when Marshall Ney's (noted general under Napoleon) neighbor was drooling over his mansion, he told him, "Tell you what, stand over there and I will take ten shots at you. If you are still alive you can have my mansion." When his neighbor was understandably reluctant, Ney pointed out that he had had far more rounds shot at him from that range to get that mansion.
  • Juan Trippe (he was actually as Yankee as they come; the out-of-place name comes from his great-uncle's wife), was one of the founders of the Pan Am Empire. He was born to Old Money and leveraged that into his real interest which was airplanes. He was a Yale man and a member of the Skulls & Bones society, and would sponsor Yale's first flying team. Later he became one of the bosses of one of the most recognized commercial lines in the world and incidentally, through under the table subsidies, an instrument of secret power projection at a time when the US Army was a skeleton, the Navy and Marines were busy with constabulary duties, and when there was no OSS. This helped increase his private empire as well as incidentally increasing Uncle Sam's, not to mention preparing for World War II secretly during the time of Isolation. This was also, not incidentally, the time of the famous "Clipper" flying boats, which invoked romantic memories of ships in the sailing era. During the war Pan Am provided a route for fast travel including the only route to China for a long time.
  • Donald McKay was a famous shipbuilder and was known for some of the most beautiful ships in US history, ships which appeared in paintings and in poems.
  • The various clipper merchants could qualify. They were with the exception of one company drug smugglers, but we have to at least grant them Magnificent Bastard status for the way they dared the winds and raced each other.
  • Later Captains of Industry such as Railroad Barons and Cattle Barons helped develop America. They were all a hard-nosed lot, and go down in history with varying reputations. On the one hand, not only did they bring about production in wealth, when they retired they usually devoted themselves to philanthropy. On the other hand they were often involved in bitter and sometimes deadly labor feuds. However whatever your opinion they sure worked hard for their money.