Rich in Dollars, Poor In Sense

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Lois: Daddy, did you go to the bathroom this morning?
Carter: Yeah.
Lois: And did you... clean up afterward?
Carter: Nah, I used to have a guy for that.


Basically when wealthy people have trouble grasping concepts that people without money take for granted. These people have been spoiled all their lives, so they have had all these things taken care of for them. So when they try to do these things (by choice or not), they just don't get them.

Usually this is Played for Laughs, since it's a form of saying "Money can't buy common sense". Yet it can be Played for Drama, particularly if the character, through no choice of his own, lived in a Gilded Cage and so is not to blame. The Prince and Pauper often has the prince facing this problem.

Can overlap with:

  • Socialite (most instances are, if the character is a lady)
  • Upper Class Wit (brilliant as they are, they tend to be severely deficient in common sense)
  • Upper Class Twit (if this character doesn't really do much even by upper class standards)
  • Valley Girl (if this character is fashion conscious and inarticulate)
  • Rich Bitch (if this character is also malicious)
  • King Incognito (if the royal is doing a poor job of blending in)
  • The White Prince (a handsome and rich male who can be either malicious, naive or stupid)
  • Royal Brat (spoiled youngster from a royal family)
  • Lonely Rich Kid (rich kid, very isolated)
  • Spoiled Sweet (sweet rich girl who may have a good heart while lacking in common sense)
  • The Ditz (if this character's ignorance would be at least somewhat present even if they weren't rich)
  • Nouveau Riche (if a lower-class character becomes wealthy and is very crass about it)

Conversely, a Rich Idiot With No Day Job would pretend to be like this, to make his masquerade more convincing.

This does apply in Real Life, but no specific examples will be put here to avoid Natter. And in some cases, contrary to the usual course of the trope where it's someone who is born into money, this can happen to people who were originally poor only to gain money. Unfamiliar with the amount of money they now possess, they do silly things.

A Sub-Trope of Idle Rich.

A Super-Trope to City Mouse.

Compare Fish Out of Water.

Contrast Country Mouse, Non-Idle Rich. Subtrope of Captain Oblivious.

Examples of Rich in Dollars, Poor In Sense include:

Anime and Manga

  • The boys of the Ouran High School Host Club can't grasp normal 'commoner' things like the supermarket. Haruhi, in the meantime, feels her blood pressure rising. Most of them love experimenting and experiencing 'commoner' things - especially Tamaki.
  • Nagi and Maria of Hayate the Combat Butler show this pretty well, though Maria is just Nagi's maid. When Hayate suggests using the subway, they're amazed. Nagi has gotten better about it due to Hayate's teaching.
    • When Hayate is asked to go away for three days, he's given a million yen (about $10,000) for living expenses. He tries to protest, saying he could live in the lap of luxury for a year with that kind of money. Maria asks him to not bring any of it back.
    • On their trip through Greece, they use a helicopter. When Ayumu asks how expensive it is, Maria casually lists off a number in the billion yen figure.
  • Particularly in the anime version, Kodachi Kuno of Ranma ½ could be seen as a rather dangerous variant of this trope—while she has the right background, she seems to be vaguely aware that the way she was brought up is not the way the world works. So she's determined to change the world to fit her views. This, then, is why she does stuff like cheat before fights or paralyze her potential love interests—she's so used to always having her way, to always winning, to always being the center of attention, that the possibility that things might not turn out this way drives her to overcompensation.
  • Originally Sachiko from Mariasama ga Miteru.
  • In Pokémon Special, as Platinum Berlitz grew up as a Spoiled Sweet Lonely Rich Kid, she has trouble dealing with Castle Point system at the Battle Castle, as this is the first time in her life that she has to deal with a limited budget to achieve her needs.
  • Lucy's father in Fairy Tail.
  • Pretty much every Noble in One Piece aside from a very few seem to think that anything can be done if they just throw enough money at it and have a high status. Also due to this they are morally bankrupt, and believe that the lower class are worthless trash due to the fact the lower class didn't "chose to be born noble".

Comic Books

  • Veronica Lodge of the Archie Comics doesn't know that camping is not telling your butler to bring you a first class dinner by helicopter to the woods.
    • Also, she seems to think that, because she has such immense wealth, she must never ever have a job of any sort, even if it's just to pass the time.

Film - Live-Action

  • In Troop Beverly Hills, the main character is leading a troop of ersatz Girl Scouts, and at first treats it like lounging by the pool, including spending their first trip "roughing it" wearing a mink coat, smocking a cigarette, and drinking chilled wine.
  • In Roman Holiday, Princess Ann gets so fed up with the demands and restrictions of royalty that she runs away and lives as a commoner for a day so she can experience "freedom." She's rather naive about a lot of things, particularly the fact that being a commoner has its own demands (such as actually having to work for a living).
  • Largely the point of the movie Arthur.
  • Used in The Parent Trap: the twins and their millionaire rancher dad are used to camping, but his Gold Digger girlfriend isn't.
  • Played for Laughs in Overboard - Joanna, the Rich Bitch, finds herself a Princess in Rags.
  • Subverted and played straight in Coming to America. Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is actively trying to avert this trope after becoming disillusioned with his opulent lifestyle until then, cheerfully and determinedly struggling with living as a blue collar janitor at a local burger joint in order to woo Lisa into loving him for who he is. And he actually acclimatises quite well. It's actually his servant, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), who bitterly and reluctantly has to go along with all of this and complains about this manner of menial work and lifestyle being beneath him.
  • In Mel Brooks's Star Wars parody, Spaceballs, the bratty Princess Vespa doesn't fare as well as the two smugglers she falls in with when the three of them get stranded in the desert. As the leader of the group struggles across the sands moaning "Water....Water....", Vespa feels like she's dying because she doesn't have "Room service....Room service...."
    • Then there's the fact that she refuses to be rescued without her matched luggage, thought a hot-air hair drier was vital for traversing the desert, and the worst torment that can be inflicted on her is having her original nose restored after plastic surgery.
    • Her father also thought keeping her original nose from being restored was worth the death of his entire planet. He's not too bright either.
  • Grace in Dogville. Oooooh boy. And stubborn to boot.
  • Too many people in Titanic.
  • This is done to a disturbing degree in The Cook the Thief His Wife And Her Lover. Albert Spicca is rich enough to own a high class restaurant but is uneducated, rude, ignorant, racist, and a Complete Monster.
  • Prince Edvard from The Prince And Me goes to an American college where no one recognizes him and he pretends to be normal student. He actually keeps everyone from realizing who he is (until the tabloids find him) but his disguise is somewhat hurt by the butler who works for him in his dorm room.

Film - Animated

  • Princess Jasmine in Disney's Aladdin never had to deal with money, so she nearly got in horrible trouble when she left the palace.
    • Especially with the Islamic "eye for an eye" policy. Since she couldn't pay, that counted as thievery. And Islamic practice dictates that a thief get their hand cut off. Good thing Aladdin was there.


  • Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan has Alek, a sheltered rich sort-of-prince, who, when disguised as a commoner, doesn't even know how to pay for a newspaper.
  • Mary in The Secret Garden. She doesn't even know how to dress herself because "it was the custom" that she stood there like a doll and was dressed. Her gaining knowledge is rather helped by the maid not being a proper lady's maid who knows it's her job to brush hair and the like so Mary has to do thing an upper class lady would not normally have to do even in England.
  • While his precise age isn't given, it's implied that Kal Zakath of David Edding's Malloreon managed to reach his late thirties to forties without ever having learned how to shave. Belgarath points out how surprising it is that the emperor of a culture that breeds ambitious backstabbers regularly let someone other than himself hold a razor to his throat. Belgarion, on the other hand, takes it as an opportunity to establish a peership between himself and Zakath.
  • Michael Sevenson is the son of a wealthy baron on the Knight and Rogue Series, and even though he's been traveling and earning his own money for a year by the start of the books seems to have no ability to estimate the value on anything. Fisk often has to stop him from paying with the largest gold currency what's only worth the smallest brass coin.
  • A theme of The Millennium by Upton Sinclair.
  • Wooster of Jeeves and Wooster literally can't function without his valet.

As I stood in my lonely bedroom at the hotel, trying to tie my white tie myself, it struck me for the first time that there must be whole squads of chappies in the world who had to get along without a man to look after them. I'd always thought of Jeeves as a kind of natural phenomenon; but, by Jove! of course, when you come to think of it, there must be quite a lot of fellows who have to press their own clothes themselves and haven't got anybody to bring them tea in the morning, and so on. It was rather a solemn thought, don't you know. I mean to say, ever since then I've been able to appreciate the frightful privations the poor have to stick.


Live-Action TV

  • London Tipton from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, most notably in "Poor Little Rich Girl" in which her father loses all his money and she has to learn how to live like "normal" people.
  • On Cheers, Woody's rich girlfriend doesn't understand why Woody "refuses" to buy her expensive presents. If he doesn't have the money, why doesn't he just stop at an ATM?
  • Arthur from Merlin in the episode The Once and Future Queen, when he's staying with Gwen. He says he'd like to take a bath, she tells him that might be hard as she doesn't own a bathtub, and he just stares at her, speechless.
  • Most of the Bluth family in Arrested Development, the the point where, among the adults (if you could call them that), nobody but Michael and occasionally George understand the concept of work as anything other than an abstraction.

Lucille: You couldn't give Gob a banana? It's one banana! How much could it cost? Ten dollars?
Michael: You've never even been inside a grocery store, have you?

  • Absolutely Fabulous.
  • Bianca Dupree of Beverly Hills Teens is forced to drive herself one episode, and she's horrible at it.
  • Shannon on Lost. She's painting her toenails and sunning on the beach while the others are trying to figure out how to survive on a deserted island.
  • Tracy Jordan from Thirty Rock was likely poor in sense even before he got rich, but he's certainly no good with money now. He wears shirts made out of money and shoes made out of gold.
  • True to an absurd extent of Summer's family from Power Rangers RPM. They attempt to force their daughter into retirement from her job so that they can marry her off and get their wealth back as a dowry, despite her job being keeping the last human city on earth from being destroyed by killer robots.
  • In one episode of Night Court, Dan is forced to go on a date with a mob boss' plain-Jane daughter, and ends up connecting with her on a deep emotional level. But her father doesn't want them getting deeply involved, so he threatens to cut her off if she doesn't break up with him. She reluctantly agrees, explaining that she's lived such a sheltered life that she doesn't know how to live without her father's support—she once got mad him and ran away to her summer home, where she nearly starved to death because she couldn't figure out how to use a can opener.
  • In the Firefly episode "Safe" Simon walks into a General Store and can't figure out what a postholer is. Later this contributes to a Crowning Moment of Awesome as River's It Has Been an Honor is "Postholer, digging holes for posts."
  • Frasier where Maris completely and instantly falls to pieces over the simplest things. Often done with Frasier and Niles also but Maris is practically the avatar of this trope.
  • Hilary Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
  • There was a Reality TV show where millionaires went to live with lower-income folks for a week/month/whatever, that seemed to use this as part of the premise.
  • The show Undercover Boss features the owner/CEO/president of a large corporation working anonymously (with a cover story given as to why a camera crew is following this person around) at an entry-level jobs within the corporation. It's fairly common for them to be really bad at it. The premiere episode actually featured the president of the company being fired (in his fake identity) by his supervisor for being so inept at his job...of cleaning out Porta-Potties.
  • Stingy from LazyTown has trouble functioning in regular life because he wants to own everything he sees.
  • Rachel Greene from Friends is a mild example of the trope. She was raised in a wealthy family and was set to be married to someone, but she wound up running out on her wedding and crashing at her not-so-rich-friend Monica's apartment. For a long time, Rachel had to learn how to do things that were autonomous to everyone else, such as taking out the garbage and serving drinks to people in a cafe. She does get better in the later seasons.


  • That's the topic of the Pulp song "Common People": a ditzy rich girl asks a lower-class guy to introduce her to his world.

Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school
But still you'll never get it right
‍'‍Cause when you're laid in bed at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you call your Dad he could stop it all
You'll never live like common people
You'll never do what common people do
You'll never fail like common people
You'll never watch your life slide out of view
And dance and drink and screw
Because there's nothing else to do.


He got no sense but he got money
He got no sense but he got overnight success
Exceed excess, exceed excess

  • The title character of the Jim Croce song "Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown" is a tough guy who seems to have a lot of money, owning both a Lincoln Continental and a Cadillac Eldorado (both very expensive cars at the time) wearing "fancy clothes" and a lot of diamond rings that he loved to flaunt. But he was also a compulsive gambler, and eventually gets beaten up badly when he flirts with a tougher man's wife.

Video Games

  • The Carrington sisters in Elite Beat Agents don't know how to eat bananas; they're too used to French or Italian food.
  • Mitsuru Kirijo, the Ojou of Persona 3, is at a loss as to how to function in a fast food restaurant and (in a classic case of situational irony) is unable to buy food at a vendor's stand because it doesn't accept credit cards.
  • Luke Fon Fabre of Tales of the Abyss starts out like this, as an effect of his Laser-Guided Amnesia and the fact that ever since he lost his memory, he hasn't been allowed outside his parents' manor. As a result, he doesn't even know how to buy things at a shop.
  • Cave Johnson of Portal 2 fame owned Aperture Science, a major research corporation, and it is implied that he was at a time astoundingly rich. However, his own issues (such as the obsessive development of the Portal Gun and his original job, selling shower curtains) and idiotic financial decisions (or marketing Mobility Gels as pudding, compulsively buying moon rocks while his company was in financial straits) led to his downfall and may have contributed to his insanity.
    • Two of the "core tenets" of Aperture, the Heimlich Counter-Maneuver and the Take-a-Wish Foundation, couldn't have helped, either.

Web Comics

  • In Drowtales, when the drow search party reaches the surface:
    • It's played straight with The Ojou, Ariel, who gets agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), and Liriel, her pampered slave, who doesn't know grass isn't "weed".
    • Subverted in that Kyo, probably the wealthiest member of the group, has been to the surface before and likes it.
  • Almost always subverted in A Magical Roommate, with the only exceptions being Lettie (who is deluded!) and Alassa (who is also deluded).

Web Originals

  • As you would expect, (The Customer is) Not Always Right is full of stories about customers trying to weasel their way into getting a discount. However, on the other end of the spectrum there are just as many extremely stubborn customers who will pay the price posted and only the price posted, no matter what sales or discounts are in effect despite not being advertised. It's like they're hardwired to believe that no matter what the store workers do, they're trying to rip them off.
  • Sympathetic Example with Ayla from the Whateley Universe. He was raised in a super rich family, and when sent into abject poverty, he realized how very good he had it. Sympathetic, however, as he regularly repeats the family mantra, "Goodkinds don't complain, they fix things," and dedicates himself to learning how to live in his new conditions in a professional manner, and other than occasional shock at conditions- both his and those endured by others-, he does indeed not complain.

Western Animation

  • Pops from Regular Show. He was raised in a wealthy, isolated way, resulting in him having a child-like fascination with EVERYTHING. He's an old man who acts like a very young child due to his naivety. But this is also partially due to him being from another land entirely.
  • The Earl of Lemongrab of Adventure Time is a presumably rich heir of royal blood... but he's exceedingly sheltered and relies on his servants for basic things such as having food prepared for him.
  • Mr. Pewterschmidt from Family Guy turns out to be like this when he temporarily loses his fortune. He can't even go to the bathroom properly.

Bill Gates: What's a quarter?


Token: I'm just so happy you guys moved into town. You see, I used to be the only rich kid. All the other families here are kinda low to middle-income.
Lisa: Why? What happened to all their money?
Token: Well, they never really had any money.
Lisa: Well, then, why don't their daddies just act in a movie?

  • On the Animaniacs, the Hip Hippos tried to do all their own chores when their maid quit, and failed miserably.
  • Dethklock had trouble shopping at supermarket, or "food library", as they thought it was called. In fact, most episodes are about them trying to do things outside their comfort zone. This despite the fact that their music isn't exactly the kind clueless rich people would play.
  • Mr. Burns from The Simpsons was lost in the "real world" when he lost his fortune.

Mr. Burns: Ketchup... catsup... ketchup... catsup... I'm in over my head here.

    • There is also the time that he started to do things on his own. Hilarity Ensues
    • Mr. Burns subverts this trope once when he's attacked by Homer after Homer is put in charge when Smithers left on vacation (Smithers expected Homer to do such a terrible job that Mr. Burns would be glad to have him back on his return). Things go horribly right and Mr. Burns is so terrified of Homer that he's forced to learn to do things on his own resulting in him firing Smithers for not needing help anymore.
  • The Bluff family from Doug seems to have this problem in spades. In one episode, Mr. Bluff is trying to "inspire" Doug with the story of how he started his bumper sticker business all by himself before he remembered he was filthy rich and hired people to do all the hard work for him. In another, Beebe needs to have the meaning of "broke" explained to her.
  • Courtney Gripling from As Told by Ginger seems to have a hard time with this.
  • Rhonda from Hey Arnold! also had to learn how to live poor after becoming such.
  • If we are led to believe that the sheltered, spoiling, lavish life of an earl living in a faraway castle is wealthy, then Lemongrab of Adventure Time fits this trope. There are many factors in his lack of common sense- immaturity, mental illness, stupidity- but a sheltered royal life probably had a lot to do with Lemongrab not having ANY idea how to act like... well, a person.
  • Adonis from |Hercules: The Animated Series. In one episode, he accidentally had Hercules trapped in holding up the sky (Greek Mythology) and Atlas was ready to leave him there. Realising he couldn't bribe Atlas into taking back the burden, the only thing he could think of was tricking the god into temporarily holding the sky so Hercules could give back Adonis' purse.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Tony and Gene have a few moments of these. However Justin Hammer takes the cake with his Psychotic Man Child personality, often believing anything can get done if he throws enough money at it.

Real Life

  • More than one lottery winner has been burned by this trope. Some have no idea how to manage all their money and blow it all in record time. Others end up getting conned or even just robbed of their newfound wealth.