Victoria finds the galas, furs, and limos are just to pass the time between assassinations.
: 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
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 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 proving 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, it also overlaps 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
open/close all folders
Anime & 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 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 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 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.
- Detective Conan: While Detective Ninzaburou Shiratori's rich family background may help him to climb the bureaucratic ladder he is certainly one of the more competent police officers there and he works hard as well.
- Yuichiro in Sailor Moon comes from a very wealthy family but works regularly, eventually taking a steady job as a "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 Saeko, who also comes from a very wealthy family but works full time as a doctor. Ami herself intends to follow this path as well.
- By this point, Golgo 13 owns property in multiple countries, has several Swiss bank accounts, and owns his own island. He still takes assassination jobs.
- Pumpkin Scissors , It's this part of Alice Malvin's personality that usually wins over those still consider her just another of the idle rich.
- One episode of Medabots had our heroes visiting a private school for the fabulously wealthy. One of the students was periodically seen cleaning and doing chores, and everyone assumed that she was a poor girl working off the fees for her education. At the end of the episode, it turned out she was actually the richest student there, and owned her own theme park... she just really enjoyed doing housework.
- The Netherlands and Switzerland are among the richest Hetalia nations, but they still work hard and do their best to not spend money unless it's really needed.
- 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, had Scrooge deal with his rich peers looking down on him for not "acting rich."
- Iron Man: 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),putting on a suit of armor and kicking ass for justice or, sometimes, running major government agencies, having been appointed once to head the Defense Department, and later to lead SHIELD.
- Stated rather explicitly in The Avengers:
Big man in a suit of armour. Take that away and what are you?
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.
- Batman's late father, Thomas Wayne, was a practicing surgeon as well as heir to the biggest fortune in Gotham City. His ancestor Solomon Wayne was a judge and one of the founders of Gotham, bonus points for him being a Self-Made Man.
- 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, who eventually teaches a shop class as well. At a grade school for superheroes, mind you, but a janitor/shop teacher 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.
- Largo Winch: Largo may be the smartest guy in the boardroom, but he much prefers to serve as his group's private detective. (whether they like it or not)
- 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 in both personas. He's just good at confusing people into thinking he's a Rich Idiot with No Day Job.
- Bruce in Batman Forever is shown (briefly) running Wayne Enterprises. It's definitely a job, but considering he's not only CEO but also Chairman of the Board and a majority stockholder, he doesn't actually have to answer to anyone if he decides to take a day ... or a decade ... off.
- 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 of 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: he's 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.
- In The Edge by Dick Francis, the main character has enough money not to need to work, but does anyway (as a private investigator) because he doesn't want to be useless. Turns out the villain is rich and idle.
- 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.
- Eve herself, from the same series, becomes this after marrying Roarke. She cares absolutely nothing about money, even asking Roarke to take back the fortune he put into her account. He doesn't, but manages to make it a non-issue. She's not above Crimefighting with Cash, initially offering what even she calls a bribe for Dimatto's help, in the book in which the latter is introduced.
- Roarke joins in too, because it lets him spend time with Eve (as well as forcing her to rest when needed), and because it's fun. She usually tells him to go buy a planet and stay out of her way. Eventually, she usually finds a use for the "expert consultant, civilian".
- 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.)
- In the Aunt Dimity series, Dimity founded and ran her Westwood Trust ("an umbrella organization for a number of different charities"), which Lori later heads in her place. Both Lori and Dimity also did hands-on volunteer work; some of the novels' plots involve such work. In Aunt Dimity and the Duke, Grayson's grandmother (wife of the twelfth Duke of Penford) was on the board of Dimity's trust, and the secretly wealthy members of Grayson's staff include a novelist and a fashion designer.
- 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'Ítre, and to show cause why they should be allowed to live any longer!"
- Harry Potter: Harry has plenty of gold left to him from his parents in his Gringotts vault (inherited from his paternal grandparents, who were presumably old money) but as a kid, he didn't like to rely on that cash. Therefore when he grows up, he takes on the job of full time Auror (Wizard Police). His wife Ginny could have easily stayed at home with their three children, but she decides to become a Quidditch star 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 the Honor Harrington series 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
- 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 a 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.
- The Exile's Violin: Clay volunteers at a detective agency because his family is so rich he doesn't have to work. While Jacquie is grateful for an employee she doesn't have to pay, it also irritates her because he treats her bread-and-butter missions like a game.
- In Poul Anderson's "Time Lag", the Freeholder or his representative must go circuit every year. Elva is doing it when the story opens because her husband has to work on something else.
- Sidney Sheldon works:
- Elizabeth Roffe in Bloodline. Despite being able to simply sell her shares of her family's company, she decided to run the company.
- Though she will inherit the company when Kate dies, Alexandra Blackwell decides to get herself a desk job at Kruger-Brent in the meantime late in Master of the Game.
- A good many of the characters in the Vorkosigan Saga. Many are Vor nobility who devote their time to defense, administration, or judging civil and criminal cases, one or two are enterpreneurs or industrialists, the Emperor's wife was a lobbyist from a family of Merchant Princes and the commanders of the Dendarii are mercenaries. Even poor Ivan isn't really idle rich although goodness knows he tries hard enough to be.
- In Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon series, Max Bennett is a multimillionaire from the software startup he took public in the late 90s. He now works as a Private Detective specializing in missing persons, in memory of his wife who went missing mysteriously while he was traveling.
- Downplayed except when it gets brought up as part of a gag or a disguise, Polgara from The Belgariad is the Duchess of Erat and has been earning thousands of years of taxes from her duchy. Yet most of her life has been spent to further a prophecy, and after the whole thing's over, she prefers to spend her life being a housemaker and in the end a mother.
- 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.
- In Worm, both Gallant and Triumph easily qualify, being sons of wealthy families who became superheroes.
- It's implied through some dialogue and Word of God that Walter "Doc" Hartford from Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers is actually from a very wealthy background. But we never find out why he's in the Rangers, aside from series creator Robert Mandel saying he joined it "reluctantly." A common Fanon theory is that he's a Boxed Crook who ran afoul of the law with his Playful Hacker antics.
- Will Harangue on Ben 10: Ultimate Alien works as a TV news anchor and pundit, but he can somehow afford to spend $170 million on a giant combat mech for the sole purpose of attacking Ben Tennyson.
- Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender really hated being an Idle Rich locked away in her parents's huge estate, so she ran away from home to kick ass and be awesome. Zuko and Azula also qualify, but their trope is specifically Royals Who Actually Do Something.
- Bruce Wayne in Batman: The Animated Series certainly qualifies, even more so than in other adaptations. Though he still has Lucius Fox to do most of the heavy lifting, Bruce is shown several times to be informed and active in the running of his company, catching onto one of his subordinates violating environmental protection laws, interacting congenially with day-to-day employees, and endowing many charitable causes. In the DCAU, his reputation as a playboy is as something he does in his free time, rather than constantly, of the "work hard, play hard" variety.
- Amanda Carey in Hurricanes. She could have simply sold the soccer team she inherited from her father or let someone manage it for her and it's a miracle she's not forced to do either, considering she's a teenager.
- Cheryl Gimple/Tunt of Archer is Malory's secretary, despite being the heiress to the Tunt railroad fortune (it's explained that after her parents died, her inheiritance was put in a trust fund controlled by her brother).
- Stunt Dawgs member Splat.
- Trauma Team's Tomoe Tachibana is the heiress to a wealthy Japanese family. However, she rebelled and became an endoscopist in America.
- Punch-Out!! gives us Super Macho Man, who's apparently quite wealthy (certainly enough to live in L.A. and have the chicks hanging off him wherever he goes), but who stays in the boxing circuit anyway, presumably because his ego wouldn't let him stop beating people up.
- Shizune Hakamichi of Katawa Shoujo is very rich, but expresses a strong intention to become a philanthropist after graduation, so she can put her money to good use.
- 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 by going to Myanmar, then in the midst of an uprising against the military government, on his own with a fake press pass and interviewing youth protesters, producing what amounted to freelance reports. He now 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 earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, then drove a cab in New York after the war. Platoon was based on his experiences there, and he claims Taxi Driver was based on his experiences driving a cab.
- Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Her family owns the venerable Louis Dreyfus Group, a multinational corporation worth twenty billion dollars; the Louis-Dreyfus clan was known in the early 20th century as one of "the five great fortunes of France". Her father, William Louis-Dreyfus, is the chairman of the company and has a personal fortune of three billion dollars. She could have spent her life not doing a damned thing; instead, she's one of the best comic actors on television (noted in the industry for being a quite demanding job), and is one of the few actresses to have anchored two well-regarded but very different sitcoms.
- If you look 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.
- 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.
- While one wouldn't really consider investing in start-ups to be part of this trope, he is notable for investing in TerraPower, a company trying to develop a type of small nuclear reactor called a "travling wave reactor", which uses un-enriched uranium to generate power.
- 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. The Cartoon History Of The Universe is one of her editions (Volume 2, published shortly after her death, was dedicated to her); she also oversaw the translation of the Cairo Trilogy by Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz. Both of these were difficult literary undertakings.
- 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.
- The entire Kennedy family (which Jackie married into) was brought up by Joseph Kennedy (John F. Kennedy's father) with the firm notion that it was the duty of the rich to make the world a better place (Noblesse oblige). Most members went into politics or charity work as a result, and during World War 2 Robert, John and Joeseph, Jr. served in the Navy (Ted Kennedy was too young).
- The Kennedys possibly got their idea from another great family of the US, the Rockefellers. Founded with shady roots, the patriarch John D. Rockefeller nevertheless managed to parlay his obscene wealth (he was quite possibly the richest man anywhere, ever) into all manner of charitable causes, and his descendants are noted for their commitment to public service. The most notable of these is probably his grandson Nelson Rockefeller, who was a highly effective four-term Governor of New York and then was appointed Vice President of the US by Gerald Ford about a year before the expiration of his fourth term.
- Nelson's son Michael served in the army and became an anthropologist. Unfortunately, he went on an expedition to New Guinea that didn't end well.
- 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, for example.
- Jerry Seinfeld's personal fortune is esimated at $800 million. He still insists on spending part of every year traveling the country, doing live stand-up like he's always done.
- 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 is Vice President.
- Incidentally, Joe Biden himself was consistently listed as the poorest member of Congress—he came from a working-class background and was elected to the Senate at age 29 (the minimum age to serve is 30; he turned 30 a few weeks after the election and thus met the qualification), and thus had little accumulated wealth prior to politics (he had served as a public defender and then as a small-time corporate lawyer in Delaware for a few years).
- New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is the 20th richest person in the world. He's also a very popular (if eminently easy to to make jokes about) and, by most accounts very effective, three term mayor (although his connections to Wall Street and incessant nanny-state policy proposals started to chafe by the end of the third term). Also probably incorruptible, for the simple reason that it's hard to bribe a man who has $22 billion.
- Howard Hughes. After he flew around the Arctic circle he even said, "What's that they say about the idle rich again? I must not have heard." Though born into money he greatly advanced his personal wealth by ventures into a variety of fields. First he financed and directed Hells Angel's the first multi-mullion dollar production, and one of the most successful movies of history. Then he ventured into aviation, patenting and inventing a number of innovative concepts like powered control surfaces and grounded in rivets. As a pilot he set numerous records, some of them in planes of his design. Hell no one was able to build a more massive aircraft than the Spruce Goose for decades. In his later years he became a reclusive hermit who pretty much owned Las Vegas. Many speculate if he didn't have such horrible Germophobia and other mental illnesses that he would have made much more than Rockefeller.
- Not to mention various undercover work he did for US government, many of which remain unknown. His involvement in the Project Azorian, the secret CIA plot to steal a sunken Soviet nuclear missile submarine, is about the only such project that is reasonably well-known to this day. Word of Stan Lee has that Tony Stark is significantly based on Hughes.
- Did Hughes really suffer from serious mental illnesses near the end of his life? Project Azorian took place in 1972, when Hughes was supposedly well in the depth of his madness. Maybe the apparent insanity was just a cover?
- Lord Dunsany got so much grief from the assumption that a peer could not be a serious writer that he seriously thought of changing his byline to Edward Plunkett — but he had built up too much reputation as Lord Dunsany to give it up.
- At the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, one of the line cooks at Gasperilla's Grill and Games (a quick service/fast food restaurant at the hotel) recently was acclaimed by the company for donating a million dollars to one of the company's sponsored charities. Turns out his family is to Florida what the Kennedys are to Massachusetts.
- David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, is the son of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon and nephew of HM The Queen—he's loaded, is what we're saying. He makes furniture. Bespoke furniture, yes, but he does seem to have handled the physical assembly, at least in his younger days.
- Chinese sanitation worker Yu Youzhen became wealthy when she and her husband were compensated after the Government seized their land for development. Despite this, she kept her job to set an example for her children.