Follow TV Tropes


Non-Idle Rich

Go To
Victoria finds the galas, furs, and limos are just to pass the time between assassinations.

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 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 Kid Turned Social Activist, or 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 and Affluent Ascetic. Contrast Spoiled Brat; Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense; Upper-Class Twit; Idle Rich.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
    • Also in the Tenchi Muyo! GXP we have Amane whose family is one of the richest in the galaxy and a former supermodel. But ditched it to join the Galaxy Police despite her dad's protest.
  • Soul Eater: Death the Kid. 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. However, he decides to go the old-fashioned way (and indeed, because of Death the Kid's obsession with symmetry, he ends up with Liz and Patty, the Thompson sisters as his Weapons, so he has to do twice the work technically) and joins the school to do so properly. He becomes an invaluable ally and friend to the rest of the group and he himself matures and overcomes his own faults along with helping his partners overcome their shady pasts.)
  • 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 PandoraHearts, 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 comes from a very rich family, he is certainly one of the more competent and hardworking police officers there and there's no evidence about him using his family influence to climb the bureaucratic ladder.
  • Yuichiro Kumada in Sailor Moon comes from a very wealthy family but works regularly, eventually taking a steady job as a "chore boy" at the shrine Rei's grandfather owns. Partly because he liked Rei 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.
    • In the manga, Rei's father Takashi Hino is not only stinking rich but he's also a very important politician. Problem is, he is also incredibly neglectful so Rei far prefers to live with her maternal grandfather at the shrine.
  • 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.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • The Netherlands and Switzerland are among the richest nations, but they still work hard and do their best to not spend money unless it's really needed.
    • The Netherlands's younger siblings Belgium and Luxembourg are also very affluent and, while less stingy than the other two, also work hard to keep their and their people's living standards. Belgium is even seen as a finances whiz as a little girl nation, before Netherlands started amassing his fortune.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: This sums up Kudelia Aina Bernstein. Ever since she was a little girl, she's been interested in helping the lower classes of her poverty-stricken home of Mars. And while she's a bit naive in how the world works, one certainly cannot fault her for effort. This results in her becoming a symbol for the oppressed and a heroine of the common people, giving her a measure of political influence that she intends to use to correct the problems with her society.
  • Shinobu from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is an Ojou who works as a dishwasher at the local cafe owned by her boyfriend's parents.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Kashiwagi's family runs a major shipbuilding company and her grandfather is the head of the Japan Business Federation. She's also the president and founder of the school's Volunteering Club, which does charity work.

  • Disney comics love this trope:
    • Scrooge McDuck, in any incarnation. Aside for running his own company, 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."
      • Before their falling-out, Scrooge's sisters could count on his fortune... And ran the company's daily operations while Scrooge was traveling the world to become the world's richest duck. They also followed him in his travels to Panama and Africa, the latter leading to their falling out.
    • Scrooge's main rival Flintheart Glomgold, who also runs his own company, may show up once in a while trying to one-up Scrooge in a treasure hunt or a difficult adventure, mainly to try and become richer. Unlike Scrooge, Glomgold has no morals and will sink to whatever means to beat Scrooge (yes, he is not above murder.)
    • Scrooge's other rival John Rockerduck does the same, but that's usually because he wants to one-up Scrooge. He too runs his own company, and is a noted philanthropist. Unlike with Flintheart, John is just a competitive rival to Scrooge, but the two are still affable (contrast to the mutual intense loathing Glomgold and Scrooge have to one another). This also applies to his known relatives:
      • Rockerduck's father Howard, who built the family fortune from scratch in a gold rush, used to run the family company, routinely inspects the companies he's an investor of, and for 2 cents he may come down and teach you how to be a prospector. The latter two helped to create Scrooge's fortune, as they met during one of Howard's inspections and Scrooge, then inexperienced as a prospector, reacted to his criticism by paying him those 2 cents.
      • In the late 19th century, Howard's unnamed brother ran a construction firm near Duckburg, with John being one of the foremen. This led to John Rockerduck directing the construction of Scrooge's original Money Bin, as Scrooge hadn't set up his own construction companies in Calisota yet.
    • Everett Ducklair ran the operations of the company he built from scratch thanks to his inventions. He may have had help running the company (most notably his personal assistant Birgit Q and his analyst Anymore Boring), but he was still CEO... And still developed most of the company's hi-tech products himself.
    • The series The Amazing Adventures of Fantomius-Gentleman Thief provides three examples:
      • Lord John Lamont Quackett. The second son of a British duke, he's filthy rich... And took part in World War I as an Ace Pilot. He also moonlights as the title character to punish the hypocrites of Duckburg while playing the part of a Rich Idiot With No Day Job.
      • Lord Henry Quackett, John's older brother. As the first son of a filthy rich British duke, Henry is just as rich as John, he's slated to become a duke... And works as an architect, having built, among other places, John's American homes and the cathedral of Notre Duck, before disappearing mysteriously.
      • Andrew Quackett, Henry and John's father. He's a filthy rich British duke, and is known to administer his fortune personally while being involved in politics. It's implied that Henry got his work ethics from him and influenced John to get over his slacker phase.
    • The Italian saga "C'era una Volta... In America" ("Once Upon a Time... In America") provides multiple examples, and turns this into the hat of Mickey's family:
  • 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:
    Steve Rogers: Big man in a suit of armour. Take that away and what are you?
    Tony Stark: 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-telekinesis 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 mother Martha was a social worker. His ancestor Solomon Wayne was a judge and one of the founders of Gotham; bonus points for him being a Self-Made Man.
    • He raises his son, Damian, to be this way as well. He’s still a kid but he’s been shown to have chores and such like a normal kid, rather than one who’s an heir to two huge fortunes.
  • 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? A 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)
  • In Astro City, Starfighter observes he doesn't need the money from his writing career, not when he's married to an empress, but he likes to keep busy.
  • Sunspot, Brazilian billionaire turned mutant superhero. At one point he's deported back to Brazil and has to temporarily return to a 'regular' rich lifestyle, and he finds that he hates being idle and not helping people.

  • In The Question Volume 01 Victor Sage and Oliver Queen are teenagers who live in a small town that have an unnumbered fortune that is worth billions from tech companies that are global giants. They are so non-idle rich neither of their parents know they have that much money. The fortune was actually left to them by Richard Dragon who was non-idle rich as well have made the original investments into the newly rising tech companies decades before the present story takes place.
  • Skye Stark - yes, that Skye - from Sometimes I Hate the Life I Made is the only daughter of one of the richest men in the world. She needn't ever do anything worthwhile. What does she do with her life? First, she becomes and anti-government hacker trying to hold S.H.I.E.L.D. to account, then she becomes a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent herself. The whole premise of the fic is that she is willing to pretend to be a supervillain siding with Ultron in the hope of saving lives.
  • In the Pony POV Series, Silver Spoon's father Silver Ax/Tongue was this when he was younger, being in the Royal Guard despite his wealth. He retired but comes out of it during the Changeling invasion.
  • In Tarnished Diamonds, Silver Bullet, Silver Spoon's father, is a royal guard despite the family being filthy rich. This was directly inspired by the Pony POV Series example above, as the two creators are friends.

  • Bruce Wayne's parents in Batman Begins. Dr. Thomas Wayne has that huge company, but he prefers to leave the management of the company to more interested men.
    • Bruce himself qualifies in both personas. He's just good at confusing people into thinking he's a Rich Idiot With No Day Job, as he is at being Batman.
    • 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 only has to answer to himself if he decides to take a day ... or a decade ... off.
  • Will Smith's character in Bad Boys is a rich-kid playboy as well as a bad-ass cop.
  • Det. Tracy Atwood in Mr. Brooks has a net worth of over 60 million dollars, yet works as a homicide detective.
  • 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.
  • Another example of this trope related with Time Travel is Mr. Peabody. And not only that: He's a badass, an accomplished sportsman, doctor, chef and an All-Loving Hero in addition to being rather wealthy
  • After Forrest Gump became an early investor in Apple, he began to cut the park's grass for free because he liked doing it.
  • Matt Hooper from Jaws: he's a younger guy and 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 with the scars to show for it.
  • X-Men: First Class: Dr. Charles Xavier could live off his inheritance if he wished, but he's passionate about science, and his career goal before he is approached by the CIA is to become a professor of genetics.

  • 2666: Mrs. Bubis runs the publishing business well and played a key role in getting Archimboldi's writing career started.
  • 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.
  • 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 businessman. 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 Potter: Harry has plenty of gold left to him from his parents in his Gringotts vault (inherited from his paternal grandparents, who were old money but his grandfather compounded the wealth by inventing and patenting several potions) 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 only time they had to be still was when in-hiding from the Death Eaters. James took this harder than Lily, though namely because he couldn't be with his friends (which given the subtle implications they were falling apart and how everything went to hell, is much more serious than it sounds.)
  • The titular heroine of the Honor Harrington series cannily invested much of her prize-money from capturing smugglers early in her career, took advantage of the investment opportunities (among other things financing a company set to build domes over cities on the Death World Grayson) 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.
  • 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.
  • The titular protagonist of Ngaio Marsh's The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries series, Roderick Alleyn, is a working police officer despite being the younger son of a baronet, having found his previous work in the Foreign Office too unchallenging. Later, Lord Michael Lamprey asks to join the force in the short story "I Can Find My Way Out", and his assists Alleyn as a constable in Opening Night (American title Night at the Vulcan).
    • Alleyn's high-bred manners tend to confuse non-police people he interacts with, especially since while he has no troubles using his inheritance for things like buying his mother an overpriced painting, he's almost religiously by the book with little regard for the sensibilities of the people he questions; correspondingly, people tend to peg him for an upper middle class background and are surprised to find he's hereditary gentry.
  • 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 entrepreneurs 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.
  • Phryne Fisher works as a private detective - mostly to stave off boredom, but also because she has a natural talent as a detective - despite being wealthy enough not to have to work at all.
  • Hercule Poirot, although a retired police officer and war refugee, is implied to be of some means. He can afford a high-end London apartment, a secretary (later a valet), and first-class travel in Egypt and on the Orient Express, after all. Another Agatha Christie detective, Parker Pyne, is similar, though that may be due to the fees he collects from clients.
  • Really a common trope among private detectives in general.
  • Lock In: Chris Shane is rich enough to ruin four expensive threeps in the course of the novel. All of them are wrecked in the course of Chris' duties as an FBI agent.
  • Keita Mori in The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street is a baron from the most important samurai clan in Japan, who first joins the diplomatic service and then goes to London to work as a watchmaker.
  • In David Drake's RCN novels, protagonist Daniel Leary was cut off without a farthing by his rich and powerful father, but gets absurdly rich during the series from the payouts for capturing ships. He honestly has little use for his money other than making sure he has food on the table when he's at home between missions for the Republic of Cinnabar Navy.
  • In Angel in the Whirlwind, the obscenely wealthy Duke Lucas Falcone is the very active CEO of a Mega-Corp and is named Minister of War Production near the end of the first book, and his youngest daughter, protagonist Kat Falcone, is a Commonwealth Navy officer. In Kat's case, as the youngest of ten, she'd inherit a negligible share of the family company and is also of little interest in Arranged Marriages, and she doesn't want to be a trust fund baby like one of her older sisters.
  • In Worm, both Gallant and Triumph easily qualify, being sons of wealthy families who became superheroes.
  • In Trueman Bradley, the titular protagonist inherits $5.2 million from his dead grandfather. He uses it to move to New York City and rent almost an entire floor of a building so he can pursue his childhood dream of being a detective. His grandfather is also an example, as he kept working as a detective despite being a millionaire.
  • In MARiiMO, Tammy's parents owned a large robotics firm, and since their deaths she receives a percentage of the firm's profits as an allowance, allowing her to buy needed equipment and materials and spend 14-hour days in the family home's prototype lab.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer gives us Giles the school librarian, 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.
  • Harold Finch in Person of Interest, hacker, software engineer, businessman, para-legal insurance executive and uses his unaccounted billions to fund his own crime-fighting organisation.
  • 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. Her partner even comments on this, "You just picked the wrong cop to bribe."
  • In Heroes, 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.
  • Bones
    • Dr. Hodgins, a.k.a. the "bugs and slime guy" is an heir to the Cantilever Group, a powerful corporation.
    • 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 one episode when a funding cut will result in one of the interns having to go, there end up being two "anonymous" monetary donations, each of which is enough to allow the Jeffersonian to keep the intern's position. Both Hodgins 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 Burke's 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.
  • The point of The Philanthropist.
    • Teddy wasn't always so hands-on. It started in the pilot by accident and since then, he prefers to get personally involved instead of just cutting a check. Naturally, the board of directors is very concerned that the face of their company (not to mention a part-owner) is risking his life somewhere instead of doing his job and looking pretty on camera.
  • Divya Katdare from Royal Pains is a member of a wealthy, traditional Indian family from England (they summer in the Hamptons — that's how you know they're ludicrously rich: they not only use "summer" as a verb, they cross the Atlantic to do it). 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 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.
  • 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.
    • She initially has no idea how they work and starts asking if they need things... like a tank. The answer? "Not immediately."
  • 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.
  • Subverted with Tony Dinozzo of NCIS. His parents come from serious money and his behavior makes it easy to assume that he has plenty of his own money. However, it is later revealed that his father lost most of the money in bad investments and is now merely presenting a facade of being rich. When Tony covers some of his father's bills it's a fairly big expense for him. This was played straight in Tony's early life when his family was still wealthy but he chose to become a Baltimore police officer and then got a job as an NCIS federal agent.
  • Despite being a Mafia Princess, Meadow Soprano of The Sopranos works for a time as a social worker: hardly good pay, and you work with the poor.
  • In Castle wealthy novelist Richard Castle spends a great deal of his time with the NYPD, participating in murder investigations. This is initially so he can use them as source material for his books, but he grows attached to the work and also falls in love with his partner Detective Kate Beckett.
  • Dennis Farina's character Joe Fontana on Law & Order. There was even a B-story in which Detective Green notes that Fontana dresses in tailored suits, drives a $100,000 car, and lives in a penthouse condo and wonders how he can afford all that on a cop's salary. Turns out that Fontana's grandfather was the "original Chef Luigi" (a Bland-Name Product version of Chef Boyardee) and Fontana has been living on his share of the family fortune since he was a teenager.
  • The eponymous married couple in the 1980s TV series Hart to Hart (played by Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers) were multimillionaires. They also happened to be private detectives who doggedly pursue whatever cases they've taken on.
  • Posh Nosh: Minty fits this, with Simon pretending that he does.
  • Medical examiner Sid Hammerback from CSI: NY made millions from selling the patent on his specially-designed neck-support pillow. Not only did he keep on performing autopsies, he never even told most of his co-workers he'd become a millionaire, and gave most of the money away to a university for a forensics school.
  • Succession: The fantastically wealthy Roy is personally involved in the day-to-day running of its media empire, with the octogenarian family patriarch Logan hold onto his position of CEO in spite of health concerns. He's placed his sons in high positions of power in the company (though they don't deserve them) and his daughter has a career as a campaign manager for the Democratic Party. Only his eldest son Connor "does nothing," though Connor resents this description.
  • Dr. Maura Isles has lots of family money on Rizzoli & Isles and is not averse to spending it on herself and her friends yet she works as a medical examiner.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase was more than happy to buy off his opponents, after all, everyone has a price, but he was just as likely to choke them out with the Million Dollar Dream and then stick a dollar in their mouth. His son Ted Dibiase Jr does not even bother with trying to buy anyone over first.
  • Former Toryumon Mexico, Dragon Gate, UWA, CMLL, NWA (and others) mid carder and TNA jobber, the gold chain brandishing Rainmaker, Okada Kazuchika, who got tired of being sent all over the world by New Japan Pro-Wrestling and decided to help Chaos takeover (which earned him a lot of money). Not that his work rate decreased since making big money but there's a reason his finishing move was dubbed red ink.
  • Montel Vontavious Porter, "The Highest Paid Free Agent In Sports Entertainment", who was a spoof on Rod Tidwell and Terrel Owens. However, he would lose his funds after Smackdown general manager Teddy Long decided not to pay him what was in his contract on account of a really long losing streak. He'd bounce back once the fans started feeling sorry for him, leading to him winning matches again and fulling his half of the contract again.
  • SHIMMER and SHINE menace Made In Sin have ditzy tendencies but tend to be ruthlessly effective at anything they set their minds to and were at least part of Valkyrie's high jacking of the latter promotion. They also like to think themselves high-class ladies(Allysin Kay especially).
  • The sailor Ashley Remington of Chikara, who inherited a fortune from his uncle, Darkness Crabtree, and decided to use his new found wealth for the good of pro wrestling. He gives his defeated opponents fruit baskets.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Gary Gygax noted that many adventurers in a Dungeons & Dragons world may, in fact, be the second or third children of nobles and aristocrats who won't inherit much from the family estate and become adventurers so they can earn their own fortunes. Alternately, they may be Impoverished Patricians who want to rebuild the family wealth or they may, in fact, be the legitimate heir to the estate but have to prove themselves worthy of it by bringing glory to the family name.
    • Most high-level characters have the gold to just retire and get fat. But then again, that ancient tomb isn't gonna raid itself and someone has to slay the dragon ruining the neighborhood.
  • The default background for a PC in Legend of the Five Rings is this. As members of the samurai class, no player ever needs to worry about affording food, shelter or clothing, and every samurai starts with enough money to sustain a normal person for roughly three to four months (on top of their starting gear). However, every samurai is expected to serve their Clan and the Empire in some capacity, even if it's as simple as negotiating or politicking in the court, and most have at least rudimentary combat training just in case.
    • Of particular note are the Crab Clan, who are tasked with the duty of defending Rokugan from the Shadowlands. Due to the constant influx of goblins, oni, gaki, and other malevolent creatures, the Crab Clan have essentially been at constant war since the founding of their Clan, and field the largest army of all the Clans as a result. And command positions are always filled by samurai.
    • Subverted if you're a ronin. Lacking proper Clan status, ronin do not possess nearly the same rights and benefits as a regular samurai, although they do tend to be somewhat better off than the average peasant.
  • If you're a Rogue Trader in the Warhammer40000 universe, you are less "non-idle" and more "constantly fighting for your life". Rogue Traders are individuals that have been granted a special Warrant of Trade that gives them extraordinary freedoms and rights, allowing them to operate on a scale that normal merchants simply can't. They generally work on the very edges of the Imperium, where they have very little protection from Imperial forces and are thus vulnerable to xenos threats and the legions of Chaos. On the other hand, there are all sorts of riches to be gained from these poorly explored places, including once-colonized planets that became separated from the Imperium, as well as Lost Technology from a bygone era of humanity.
    • Rogue Traders are among the few people who can accumulate enough wealth to personally own a starship, and each ship employs thousands, or even tens of thousands, of workers. This gets even more ridiculous as a Trader passes his Warrant down to his descendants, creating a Dynasty with enough wealth to purchase entire planets.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Suikoden V has the main character as the Prince of Falena, a youth whose job is basically diplomatic functions, but quickly following a coup where his parents are murdered and he must flee the same fate, becomes leader of an army. It's hinted that, before his mother died, she was preparing him to be a major power player against the Salum Barows and Marscal Godwin. This also extends to his aunt, Sialeeds, who does many of the same things.
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End has the Big Bad, Rafe Adler, relentlessly pursuing Henry Avery's pirate treasure. He's far wealthier than the treasure itself, but he does so anyway because he wants to accomplish something on his own without reliance on a hollow Idle Rich lifestyle.
  • Phoebe from Battleborn is an extremely wealthy lady who non-idly devotes her talents to defending the last star in the universe from a legion of cosmic horrors.
  • In EVE Online, the player character pilots use a currency known as an ISK. A single ISK is multiple times the money a regular person in the EVE universe will make in their entire lifetime.
  • Streets of Rogue allows you to invoke this when playing as an investment banker or upper cruster, which are both implied to be quite wealthy by the standards of the setting and have advantages that reflect this.

  • Mr. Ackerman from Sam & 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.
  • The Girl from A Girl and Her Fed is independently wealthynote , but insists on holding down a real job: As a reporter as the comic starts, and later as a med student. This is actually enforced by Ben, who feels his charges can focus better on higher pursuits when they don't have to worry about day-to-day expenses.

    Web Original 
  • RWBY's Weiss - despite being the proud, pampered heiress of the Schnee Dust Corporation - is determined to become a Huntress note  and do well at Beacon Academy. Most of her conflict with others comes from them not living up to her high standards, instead of the other way around. She's also hinted that she intends to take over and reform the Schnee Corporation in the future, which while it isn't necessarily evil, is known to have some unsavory business policies and practices.
    Weiss: My father was not the start of the Schnee name... and I refuse to allow him to be the end of it.

    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 is 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. He has lived and worked in the same field in Omaha, Nebraska for over seventy years, the only difference in what he does between now and his twenties being one of scale. He lives in the same house (admittedly a very nice 5-bedroom, but nothing on the scale expected of a billionaire) he bought back in 1957.
  • 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. He's also stated that he's actually disinherited from the family fortune because Gloria believed that their family's money was bad luck as well as wanting to teach him the value of having a work ethic and earning your own money.note 
  • 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 City 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 that dates back to the 1850s; 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 "traveling 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 or in other words, Noblesse oblige. Most members went into politics or charity work as a result, and during World War II Robert, John and Joseph 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, everestimate  ) 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 the 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 estimated 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 was Vice President.
    • Incidentally, President 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).
  • Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York 2002-2014, 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.
  • In response to accusations that he is a rich, tenured professor and thus in no position to lecture anyone on the working class, Noam Chomsky responds that responsibility "accrues through privilege", and that responsibility is amplified by the freedoms Americans and Europeans enjoy.
  • 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 Hell's Angels the first multi-million 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 Gasparilla'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, 2nd Earl of Snowden, is the son of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon and nephew of HM The Queen. He makes furniture. Bespoke furniture, yes, but he does seem to have handled the physical assembly, at least in his younger days.
    • His father, Antony Armstrong-Jones, was an award-winning photographer with a career spanning several decades, including during and after his marriage to Princess Margaret. One theory holds that the reason their marriage lasted as long as it did was that he would be away from home for weeks and months at a time on newspaper assignments and other projects, such that the couple would not have time enough together to be sick of each other.
  • 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.
  • R&B/Soul superstar Bill Withers got his start in the music industry rather late in life and didn't start charting hits until his thirties. Still, he managed to make a pretty penny from his musical career, enough to where he was able to retire early. He didn't rest on his laurels, however; he started up his own construction company and was known to be very actively involved with his own business.
  • The Food Network program "The Pioneer Woman" shows the Drummond family to be this. The Drummonds are one of the richest ranching families in the U.S., owning many thousands of acres of land and hundreds upon hundreds of cows. They raise their children to be hard workers, however; part of the reason why Ree Drummond home-schools her and her husband Ladd's four children is so that the children can help out around the ranch, which demands that they wake up along with the other ranch employees at 4:00 in the morning and devote all of their early morning to doing real work on the ranch. It's implied that Ladd and his brother were also raised that way.
  • Matt Farah is the creator of automotive enthusiast website The Smoking Tire. His father? None other than Roger Farah, former Chief Operating Officer of Ralph Lauren.
  • Vince McMahon could have stayed behind the scenes running the Wrestling/WWE without ever appearing on television. Instead, he's done everything from ringside commentating on WWE shows to personally testing safety equipment to personally competing in wrestling matches himself at an age when many men would be thinking about retirement. A lifelong amateur bodybuilder, even in his seventies he has a physique that would shame most men half his age. His children Shane and Stephanie followed in his footsteps, appearing as characters and competing in their own grueling wrestling matches, Shane in particular notorious for his borderline insane stunts involving him jumping off high places onto someone else.
  • While not to the wealth levels of some of the other examples, Joe Bryant played almost a decade with the NBA and then almost another decade in Italy. After that he coaches basketball internationally, most recently with Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka. His son Kobe didn't have to play b-ball (or do much at all), but he's one of the NBA all-time greats, has contributed to various business start-ups and charitable organizations and won an Academy award for Dear Basketball.
  • Bruce Springsteen's son Sam grew up in a life of luxury thanks to his dad's extremely successful music career. Upon reaching adulthood, he trained to became a firefighter and spent several years doing the job on a volunteer basis before he secured a paid position with the Jersey City Fire Department.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: