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Get-Rich-Quick Scheme

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"Is this a get rich quick scheme? Of course! Who wants to get rich slow?"

Most people have careers that allow them to live comfortably, some people have very well-paying jobs, fewer still have jobs that would allow them to be "rich", and still even fewer have Big Bux.

When a character wants to get Big Bux, they often don't try more common varieties of accruing wealth like bumping off rich relatives, stealing, or being a miser. They go for a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme sometimes resulting in an If I Were a Rich Man moment and often overlapping with a Zany Scheme or Missing Steps Plan.

A common variation of this trope is that the Get Rich Quick person thinks working is a get-rich-quick scheme or that they fall for someone else's scheme instead. In situations where the scheme does end up getting someone Big Bux, the story often follows up by the participants then totaling up any taxes/fines/expenses/etc incurred over the course of the scheme, and realizing that their actual profit is negligible at best.

Beware: every Con Man knows exactly how appealing the prospect of easy money can be and is eager to exploit it as part of The Con to take advantage of the mark's naïveté. Or, alternately, if someone else hits on a scheme that works, he may step in to help make sure A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted. Remember: if it sounds Too Good to Be True, it probably is.

A Sister Trope to Ponzi, and a favorite pastime of the Schemer and the Ambitious, but Lazy.

Compare Mock Millionaire (who's typically involved in one way or another).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable: Josuke, Okuyasu, and Shigechi come up with a way to use Shigechi's Stand to get rich in a hurry (have Harvest seek out discarded lottery tickets). They actually expected a more modest return than the ticket Harvest did find, but that one was plenty... but Josuke's mother confiscates his share of the winnings (in part to ensure that he doesn't gamble it away).
  • Many of the plots in Kochikame involve Ryotsu trying to get rich starting a business selling a fad product or food.
  • Pokémon: The Series's Team Rocket has an endless supply of these, many of which actually work - in contrast with their actual jobs as thieves.
  • Sgt. Frog: Quite a lot of Keroro's plans are just to raise the invasion budget...usually so he can buy more Gundam.
  • Many times when Doraemon lends one of his gadgets to Nobita, the latter will use it to earn some money. Unfortunately for Nobita, he often fails as the he doesn't know about the gadgets' limitations.

  • Fables. One of Jack's get rich quick schemes was to become a hero of the Civil War and then marry into a wealthy Southern family.
  • This trope is a regular staple of Superhero comics in that their Supervillain enemies often rob banks and knock over jewelry stores as a way of achieving this trope. Frequently overlaps with Cut Lex Luthor a Check when the villains are using skills, powers or technology that could have earned them a huge fortune if the villains had acted legitimately.
  • How to tell if Phoney Bone in Bone is hatching one of these: 1) See if he's breathing; 2) There is no step two. The main characters only get involved in the main plot to start with because they got run out of town on a rail after Phoney's latest stunt went south.
  • Donald Duck engages in such schemes on occasion. They usually backfire due to bad luck or Donald's habit of overestimating his own cleverness.
  • Foxtrot:
    • Jason is forever trying to make money off of people (mostly his parents), though it always fails since he has a 10-year-old's understanding of the world.
    • Bumbling Dad Roger buys a booklet explaining how to easily become a millionaire. Step one: Create a product that sells for $200. Step two: Sell it to 5,000 people. Congratulations, you are now a millionaire.
    Jason: That booklet cost you, what, $199.95?

    Films — Animated 
  • Anastasia: During the song, "A Rumor in St. Petersburg", Dimitri boasts that the "greatest con in history" was his descision to find a random girl that just looked like the missing former duchess, fill her head with enough information to pass, send her to the Grand Duchess, who is offering a handsome reward for her safe return, and get the money with the Grand Duchess nonethewiser. Turns out the red-headed street rat he picked up off the street, Anya, really WAS Anastasia.
  • Pocahontas: Ratcliffe's Evil Plan is to dig up the land, get boatloads of gold, and return home a rich man. Too bad for him and the Englishmen that there's no such gold to find.
  • Before the events of Shark Tale, Oscar apparently borrowed money from Sykes numerous times for different money-making schemes. The money never gets paid back when the schemes inevitably fail, leading Oscar to eventually owe Sykes a whopping 5000 clams by the time the movie takes place.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Mel Brooks' The Producers, two theatrical producers sell 25,000% of the production to investors and plan to create a play that will close on opening night, receiving almost no income, and therefore net them a substantial profit from the unused investment, since the IRS doesn't investigate flops. Their efforts to create a flop result in a blatantly pro-Nazi musical called Springtime for Hitler, a production starring a spaced-out hippie as Hitler. Unfortunately for the producers, audiences mistake the musical for a satire and love it. Because the play does not flop, the producers will be completely unable to pay back their investors, resulting in their exposure in investment fraud. The musical and its 2005 adaptation swap out the spaced-out hippie for the Camp Gay director; the results are the same.
  • Layer Cake: The protagonists' boss, Jimmy Price, has lost a bundle on stupid investments and fires off a bunch of these, chiefly by stealing a bunch of ecstasy from some other gangsters, but also by embezzling the savings of his underling, shopping his villainous colleagues to the police, and attempting to have a fellow crime lord's daughter kidnapped and ransomed. The latter two end up getting him killed when the fellow crime lord decides to alert the protagonist to the fact that he's due to be handed over to the cops as soon as the ecstasy deal's done, prompting their betrayal and assassination of Jimmy.
  • Alluded to in Maverick.
    Maverick: I had to hot-foot it out of there, as it wouldn't be long before Joseph had a scheme to help me reinvest my newly-acquired thousand.
  • At the start of The Pursuit of Happyness Will Smith's character is struggling due to having bought in to an MLM selling high-density bone scanners.
  • Boiler Room deconstructs the get-rich-quick mindset by revealing the ugly side of the people involved in such scams.
    • The stockbrokers at J.T. Marlin are knowingly robbing investors of their savings via securities fraud. They deliberately project themselves as honest businessmen with fancy-sounding titles and names while duping customers. J.T. Marlin also uses various tactics such as altering records and lining up new office space to hide their fraudulent activities. Realizing he duped countless investors, the protagonist becomes an informant for the FBI.
    • Hoping to make a quick buck, the investors in turn are investing in deals Too Good to Be True. The unused ending reveals that one such client plans a workplace massacre after he lost his life savings and family.
    • The protagonist is unaware that J.T. Marlin is a boiler room, where pressure sales tactics are used in coercing people to buy bogus products. New sales become house accounts, meaning the trainees are working for a senior broker's profits. Management also imposes absurd requirements on the trainees, berates them when they don't meet their quotas, and pays them potatoes so they'll eventually be replaced with an endless stream of New Meat.
  • The Edge: Styles unsuccessfully tries to persuade his billionaire guest to develop his Alaskan wilderness property into a big resort.

  • Deconstructed in The Adventures of Pinocchio. Pinocchio goes with the Fox and the Cat to earn money easily by planting his coins in the Field of Miracles. The Cricket unsuccessfully tries to convince Pinocchio that this schemes don't work. Pinocchio plants his coins, but the Fox and the Cat were tricking him all along to steal his coins.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Sally": Gellhorn's scheme involves taking the positronic brains from "retired" Automated Automobiles and putting them into brand-new bodies, forcing them back to work. The profit for each car would be tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Encyclopedia Brown: Brown is always foiling the scams of a local high school dropout named Wilford Wiggins who keeps trying to get the local kids to give him their money via some new and exciting scheme. Examples include a genuine painting of the Liberty Bell (which cracked 13 years or so after the artist died), building a museum containing an accurate scale replica of the solar system (even with a half-inch model of the Earth, the solar system is still too big), or a muscling powder (if the test subject had really put on that much muscle in so short a time, the jacket he bought before bulking up wouldn't still fit).
  • P. G. Wodehouse's Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge passes through life engaging in an endless string of these.
  • Heavy Object: Lt. Colonel Farolito invests heavily in the "immortanoid" market while crowing about the guaranteed 100% profit, even investing a large portion of her unit's funds. The bank which manages the mineral goes bankrupt and the value of immortanoid plummets, leaving Farolito holding the bag.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Workaholics, drug-dealer and Cloud Cuckoo Lander Karl shows a crazy version of this when the guys are staying in a hotel-he calls the front desk, asking if the ice is free. He then whispers to the guys, "Ice, currency of the future. I'mma be rich." Later on, he's somehow hauled an ice machine into the room.
    • In a slightly more normal example, Adam and Ders try to get rich by making an unburnable American flag.
  • The Phil Silvers Show was all about this. It was originally called You'll Never Get Rich.
  • The plot of Sneaky Pete revolves around two of these - they try to do this to Vince who is not conVinced.
  • On The Honeymooners, Ralph is constantly throwing away his and Norton's wages on foolish get-rich-quick schemes.
  • Billy Kulchak of Chicago Sons does this frequently, starting in the "Pilot" where he gets a woman to do photos for a billboard, as his older brothers try to get him get a job.
  • Doc Martin: Bert ends up pulling a number of these over the course of the show. While he originally had a job as a plumber and was apparently doing pretty good at it, he decided to sell bottled "spring" water that he was getting from a stream next to a sheep pasture, resulting in a bunch of people getting sick. He later quit working as a plumber to open a restaurant, which lasted for a while before going under when he tried cutting corners on quality. Eventually, he started a moonshine operation on Ruth's property, which ended up being successful for him after Ruth tried a jar of his whiskey and decided that it was good enough to help him get a legitimate distiller's license in exchange for charging him a modest rent and the occasional free bottle.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Father's Day", Rose meets her father, who's up to his neck in get-rich-quick schemes. Rose calls him a 'bit of a Del Boy'.
    • Subverted when they travel to a parallel Earth where her father was not killed in a car accident/time loop. The Get Rich Quick Scheme mentioned in the previous season took off and made Rose's father into a millionaire and legitimate businessman.
  • Arthur Daley's stock-in-trade on Minder.
  • Makes up most of the plots of Only Fools and Horses; Del Boy's catchphrase is "this time next year, we'll be millionaires!"
  • Cedric and Lovita did many of these on The Steve Harvey Show.
  • In I Love Lucy the girls, and sometimes the boys, got involved in get-rich-quick schemes. For example, Lucy and Ethyl selling cuts from a side of beef they inadvertently bought; making and selling salad dressing, which cost more to make and sell than they charged; Ricky and Fred buying Canadian Allied Petroleum stock based on Lucy's note: Can All Pet (dog food for a neighbor). There are others.
  • Al Bundy tried several of these on Married... with Children. They worked out about as well as you'd expect.
  • Trevet from Walker, Texas Ranger was prone to doing this, and failing miserably. It didn't help he would get Walker involved, without his knowledge.
  • Joe Dominguez from Nash Bridges.
  • A hallmark of Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street.
  • The gang of Paddy's Pub in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. They always find and think of new schemes every episode, and they fail at them all the time. Frank, an Affluent Ascetic with all the money he could ever need, willingly funds and participates in the Gang's schemes just for the sheer depravity of it all, not for the money itself.
  • The Pretender episode "Collateral Damage" did a spoof of Tom Vu's ads (where he promised seminars to teach people to make millions). The ad even had a couple ladies in bikinis and fur jackets to add Sex Sells to how rich the customer might be.
  • The Adventures of Slim Goodbody: Mary Pickfood and Phineas Finicky often are attempting to make money by selling worthless stuff as if it were nutritious food—for that matter, most villains tried that kind of scheme at least once. Despite his Big Eater motivation in his introduction, even The Gobbler gets in on these, as well.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Bulk and Skull sometimes concocted a few of these during the first season. In the second, their whole stitch revolved about them trying to learn the Rangers' secret identities for the fame and fortune this could bring them.
  • Kenan & Kel: The show's whole premise revolves about Kenan's schemes to get something, and dragging Kel into it. They always fail either due to Kenan not thinking things through, or Kel's clumsiness doing them in.
  • One episode of Family Matters has the Winslow family try to monetize Carl's heirloom lemon tart recipe. After working ALL weekend (without sleep), they manage to fill an order for 12,000 tarts. They get a lot of money from the sale, but after accounting for ingredient and equipment expenses, their total profit is $20, which they use to pay someone else to clean up the kitchen.
  • Young Sheldon: Georgie is always looking for ways of making money fast so he doesn't have to rely on George, who is tight with money and finds the things Georgie wants to buy dumb.
  • The Golden Girls has the episode "One For The Money," which, thanks to its Three Shorts format, features stories of five attempts the ladies had to make a quick buck. In the "Present Day" Frame Narrative, Sophia is trying to make extra money for a new TV set by selling "bottled water" that came from their garden hose. This leads them to flash back to several other attempts to make extra money... catering a wedding that fell apart when the couple chose to elope instead, a story about Sophia's life in Brooklyn when she was doing clothing-alterations, and a story of the ladies entering a dance contest at a hospital (which worked since Blanche won.) It ends with a final attempt... Sophia planning to jar and sell her tomato sauce in stores... which ends when Dorothy points out nobody will buy her sauce if it's sitting on a shelf next to jars of sauce with Paul Newman's picture on it, at which point Sophia gives up.

  • Discussed with utter contempt in Styx's "Rockin' the Paradise":
    Don't need no fast-buck, lame-duck profits for fun
    Quick-trick plans take the money and run
    We need long-term, slow-burn, gettin' it done
    A straight-talkin', hard-workin' son-of-a-gun


    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • The basis of every part of Crystal Caves. The main character, Mylo, keeps bungling into one Get-Rich-Quick Scheme after another (he's so famous for this that this got him a entry in the Galactic Encyclopedia) and isn't afraid to cooperate with people with names like Mr. Rip Eweoff. Each episode involves him trying to collect enough crystals to buy another inevitably fail-prone business (such as the farm of Explosive Breeders who turn out to be too explosive in this regard, or a farm of slugs which happens to be built on top of a salt mine). His luck turns around in the end of episode three; after a solar system he just bought explodes, Mylo sets up a burger shop near the resulting scenic nebula.
  • Mission's older brother Griff from Knights of the Old Republic has a bad habit of trying these. The last one is a plan to ferment beverages from tach glands—falling for it is technically the only way to clear his (optional) questline.
  • Reimu Hakurei, protagonist of Touhou Project, carries these out all the time — though it this case it's more like "Get Any Money, Period" Quick Schemes, since the Hakurei Shrine is almost always dirt poor due to the rumors of Yōkai hanging around scaring away would-be worshipers. This crops up primarily in official Expanded Universe materials, with Reimu pulling one in every alternate chapter of Touhou Ibarakasen ~ Wild and Horned Hermit in particular.
  • Penelope in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time intends to use Bentley's skills to make a fortune in designs, weapon designs, in order to Take Over the World. It doesn't work as intended when Bentley finds out and dumps her, owing to her lack of patience and empathy.

  • Mr. Kornada from Freefall attempts one of these on a planetary scale. The main issue is that it involves essentially lobotomizing half a billion sapient robots in order to untether the 90% of the planetary economy they control. Said robots are also essential workers for the terraforming process that the planet is in the middle of.

    Web Original 
  • The appropriately named Scott The Woz episode "Get Rich Quick!" has Scott attempting to join a multitude of get rich quick schemes in order to pay off 20 houses that he accidentally bought.
  • In StewdioMACK episode "Mack the Bank", Mack tries to dig himself out of debt by starting his own bank and an associated Ponzi scheme. He ends up ruining his life and attracting police attention, before finally deciding to try his hand at cryptocurrency, as the bank repossesses his assets.

    Western Animation 
  • TaleSpin. Many of Baloo's Get Rich Quick Schemes are successful, but the prize is always taken away by some unfortunate stroke of luck.
  • In The Simpsons, Homer is frequently involved in this kind of thing to the point where one episode ("A Father's Watch" in Season 28) would give him the Freudian Excuse that it's all been an unconscious ongoing bid to finally impress his dad.
    Homer: After years of disappointment with get rich quick schemes, I know I'm going to get rich with this scheme... and quick!
  • Family Guy. Peter needs to raise $50,000 fast or he'll lose his house.
    Quagmire: Well, you could whore yourself out to 1,000 fat chicks for 50 bucks each. Or 50 REALLY fat chicks for 1,000 bucks. What? Don't look at me like that. Fat chicks need love, too. But they gotta pay.
    • The second half of "Peterotica" focuses on Peter and Carter performing a series of bizarre get-rich-quick schemes, including stealing Lois' wallet, selling pot to Meg, and robbing a train.
  • Yogi's Gang: The target audience for Peter D. Cheater's school is made of people wanting to get rich quick.
  • The Looney Tunes cartoon "Get Rich Quick Porky" (1937, Clampett) has a con artist swindling Porky and Gabby out of their money over a parcel of land gimmicked as if it were an oil windfall. When Porky uncovers the scam, the con man offers him $1 for the deed, only for Gabby to uncover actual oil underground. A fight for the deed ensues.
  • Most SpongeBob SquarePants episodes featuring Mr. Krabs that don't focus on defending the Krabby Patty Formula have the greedy crab plotting some sort of elaborate plot to earn extra money such as selling garbage at a yard sale, adding a new item on the menu or turning the Krusty Krab into a hotel.
  • In the Futurama episode "Put Your Head On My Shoulder", Bender has a deviously clever scheme to make money by pimping. Unfortunately, the city has a no-pimping policy and he was arrested. And this is just one of his many schemes that doesn't involve stealing from somebody.
  • King of the Hill:
    • In the episode "Bill of Sales", Peggy and Bill get involved in a pyramid selling scheme. Peggy is only in it for the opportunity to be a manager, and Bill for the opportunity to be near Peggy, though.
    • In "The Year of Washing Dangerously", Kahn tries to set one up by watching Dr. Money's VHS tapes, which only contain vague advice such as "leverage your assets" or "take a shortcut". When taking over a car wash isn't enough, he starts his own VHS scheme under the alias Dr Quarters, whose advice is even more asinine than Dr Money.
    • In "Cops and Robert", Dale applies for a job at a "Hooters" Expy called Bazooms! with the expectation that they will turn him down for being male, letting him sue them for gender discrimination. When he is instead offered the job, he accepts it in hopes that they won't tolerate a man working as a waitress there for very long (again, letting him sue for discrimination). His plan completely fails when he starts giving away free food to get bigger tips, giving them a perfectly valid reason to fire him.
  • As Told by Ginger: Carl and Hoodsey constantly make one each episode. From fortunetelling to opening a food stand. Most end in failure.
  • DuckTales (2017): Louie Duck likes getting money almost as much as his great-uncle Scrooge, but he's much less willing to actually work for it. Numerous episodes involve him trying to find a shortcut to wealth but often either ending in failure or wasting the money so he ends up back at square one soon after.
    • In "Storkules in Duckburg!", he sets up a monster catching business which proves to be successful until all the monsters get caught, and it turns out he wasted all their payment on merchandise that he isn't able to sell.
    • In "Happy Birthday, Doofus Drake!", Louie teams up with Scrooge's on-and-off flame (and fellow con-artist) Goldie to swipe the jewel and gold-filled gift bags from Doofus Drake's birthday party. While he almost succeeds, Goldie ends up taking all the gift bags and skedaddling while his back is turned (as Scrooge warned would happened).
    • In "Timephoon", he steals a Time Machine so he can travel back in time and space to retrieve lost treasures before they were lost (so there wouldn't be any risk of temporal paradoxes). However, his repeated use of the time machine ends up causing a Time Crash that nearly rips apart the fabric of reality, so he's forced to put all the artifacts back in their correct times.
    • In "Glomtales", Louie is able to trick all of Scrooge's enemies into handing over all of their money to him, and in the process winning a bet that grants him total control over Scrooge's assets as well. By the end of the next episode Louie gives it all back to Scrooge when he realizes he's absolutely not prepared to handle suddenly acquiring Eleventy Zillion dollars.
  • Half the episodes of Top Cat revolve around this, with the gang getting involved in some scam, inevitably failing, or, if by some chance they win something, fate will have it so they go back to poverty by the end of the episode.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In the episode "Moral Decay", this is Buttercup's motive for knocking out others' teeth, and the purpose of this was to buy a new punching bag; first, it was Bubbles (unintentionally one time, then eventually intentionally until it fails), then eventually to the villains, even when they're not doing anything. When the villains convene at the the dentist office and tell Blossom and Bubbles what she was doing behind their backs, they work together to set up an ambush for Buttercup in order to teach her a lesson. Buttercup, as a result, has her teeth knocked out by the villains in return and then loses all the money she obtained through her scheme when the Professor uses it to pay her dental bills.


Video Example(s):


"Welcome to: Triassic Garden!"

Natsumi & Fuyuki get caught up in Sgt. Keroro's latest get-rich-quick scheme: opening a theme park full of cloned dinosaurs. It goes as well as you'd expect. Even Fuyuki wonders if the lawyers approved this.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / JurassicFarce

Media sources: