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What does It Mean to Have "Deep Pockets"?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 16, 2024
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If you have ever heard someone say, “They went after him because he has deep pockets,” you might have wondered what the reference means. To put it simply, it means that the person in question has a great deal of money or resources. When referring to a company or other entity, the phrase "deep pockets" once again refers to wealth or assets.

When seeking damages in a lawsuit, it is an individual or company with deep pockets that will be targeted. Often times, the richest person or entity will be chosen, because there is a good possibility of arriving at a settlement in order to avoid bad press. If the sum seems minor to a wealthy person or business, they are much more likely to give in to a settlement to avoid the nuisance and publicity of going to court.

The object of a lawsuit is generally to get as much money as possible, so even if one company has greater guilt in the matter, the one with deep pockets will still be the target. Sometimes, the monetary figure isn’t as much about greed as it is about making a statement. Someone with a cause can garner a large amount of publicity for the cause by winning a huge settlement.

As noted, "deep pockets" is slang for wealth but it can also be used in many ways. For example, the phrase deep pockets may also be used to describe a “mark” or someone wealthy who might be taken advantage of in a scheme. In other cases, the phrase might also be used to describe wealthy investors. If someone is looking for an investor, he or she is obviously going to be interested in finding one with deep pockets.

The phrase began as a way to describe someone who is better able to absorb risk than others are. The idea of reaching into someone’s pocket or letting him foot the bill for a risky venture led to the terminology becoming popular. While still used today, the phrase "deep pockets" is not used as frequently as it once was for various reasons.

Some feel that "deep pockets" is a tacky reference while others assume it’s use has decreased because there is much greater wealth and far more wealthy people and entities today. Great wealth is not uncommon these days and the idea of going after the wealthiest individual or company in order to achieve the largest settlement is a frequently used concept.

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Discussion Comments
By manykitties2 — On Sep 18, 2011

@lonelygod - It really is interesting how people with deep pockets attract attention to themselves. I really agree that if they were quiet about their wealth that they would have happier lives.

There was a show a few years back about secret millionaires who lived perfectly normal lives and never showed up in fancy cars, or had huge mansions. They chose to live simply so as to not attract unwanted attention. So I think the real key to their happiness seemed to be living under their means but having the security of knowing they had money to fall back on.

I am curious what others think. Do you believe it is better to flaunt your money or keep it under wraps? Which scenario is more rewarding?

By lonelygod — On Sep 18, 2011

Having deep pockets can be more trouble than it is worth if you don't keep your finances a secret. One of my good friends is always complaining that people are asking him for cash all the time. My only retort is that perhaps if he stopped showing off, then perhaps people would stop pestering him for money.

I think that those with deep pockets need to realize that if you are going to flash your cash around, people will use you for your money, or try and get some out of you. Smart folks keep their wealth to themselves in my opinion.

By aLFredo — On Sep 17, 2011

"Deep pockets" seems pretty self-explanatory to me. If you have "deep pockets" you must have a lot to fill them up with, and if you have "shallow pockets" you must not have much to put in them.

I would say that I identify with "shallow pockets", because I have little/small assets and big liabilities.

There should also be a slang term for someone who doesn't have any assets, "no pockets".

It should just be used as an identification tool, not as a way to get the best of anyone, or the best of how deep or shallow someone's pockets are.

You can't take anything with you when you die, so what is the point in being caught up in wealth and money?

By cloudel — On Sep 16, 2011

People with deep pockets can become paranoid that everyone is out for their money. This stems from bad experiences. My cousin inherited a large sum after his dad died, and all his friends suddenly needed loans.

It got so bad that he stopped talking to his old friends altogether. He freezes up and shuts down anytime anyone asks for money now. He just felt so used.

He got new friends with wealth of their own who have no need to ask him for money. People back in our hometown call him stingy, but they don’t know how bad it hurts to go from being viewed as a friend to a loan officer.

By StarJo — On Sep 16, 2011

I was about to go into business with my friend, and she told me that she wanted to try to find an investor with deep pockets to fund us. We needed a loan to get started so that we could buy a building and inventory. We had a good business plan set up, but we had no way to pay for it.

Her dad was friends with a wealthy lawyer. She decided to pitch the idea to him. Of course, we would pay him back with interest and give him stock in the company.

He thought we had a good idea for a business, so he loaned us the money. Without his deep pockets, we never could have worked for ourselves, and it has been very rewarding.

By wavy58 — On Sep 16, 2011

@OeKc05 - I understand your friend’s reasoning for wanted a wealthy man. However, some women are just evil and out to ruin men with deep pockets.

I had a friend once who sought out rich men to date. She took me to a prestigious party once and pointed out a man she had been eyeing. I asked her what was special about him, and she said, “Deep pockets.”

Her scheme was to con the man into marrying her without signing a prenuptial agreement and then divorce him after a few years. He would owe her half of his belongings.

What’s sad is that it worked on more than one occasion. It’s amazing how a woman’s good looks can blind a man to the soul beneath.

By OeKc05 — On Sep 15, 2011

My college roommate told me she was seeking a husband with deep pockets. At first, I thought this meant a style of clothing, but she clarified that she needed a rich man to take care of her so she wouldn’t have to work.

She had worked hard as a teenager to save up enough money to go to college. Her parents were very poor, and she didn’t want to live like she had been accustomed to anymore. She felt that she wasn’t smart enough to study medicine, law, or any other subject that would allow her to earn lots of money, so she relied on her good looks to supply her with a source of money.

She didn’t find that man at the university, but she did pick up some modeling jobs. She ended up getting hired to model for several department store catalogs, and she got some deep pockets of her very own.

By robbie21 — On Sep 15, 2011

@jholcomb - I don't disagree with you, but tort reform is complicated, especially with medical malpractice. On the one hand, a jury of average people isn't really qualified to judge what happened. On the other hand, doctors, who *are* qualified, are reluctant to inform on each other.

At least one study showed poorer childbirth outcomes in states that had tort reform; that is, if the law limited the amount of punitive damages, women and their children were more likely to be killed or injured during childbirth. Ouch!

So maybe tort reform needs to go along with malpractice reform - better systems and a better culture for identifying bad doctors. My sister is a nurse and they all know who the bad doctors are, but they can't do anything about it.

By jholcomb — On Sep 15, 2011

It's a problem with our tort system in this country that often the only option is to go after the one with "deep pockets."

I heard about a case where a woman who was not a good candidate for home birth had one anyway. Her baby suffered a brain injury and requires special, expensive care. A court-appointed guardian for the baby had to pick people to sue to recover some of that money. Well, the midwife who did the delivery does not have malpractice insurance.

So who did he pick to sue? An OB that the mom had seen only once, and who had told her not to have a home birth! Why him? Because he had malpractice insurance - "deep pockets." And the insurance company would probably just settle.

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