Do You Judge Someone’s Financial Worth By The “Cover”?

credit: freedigitalphotos.net by stock images

credit: freedigitalphotos.net by stock images


Appearance

My uncle went to a nice restaurant by himself for dinner while traveling. The staff ignored him for most of the time he was there, and provided poor service to him. This is not how they treated their other diners. It is pretty obvious that the staff was inattentive to my uncle because of his appearance. He is not someone who cares too much about how he dresses or being fashionable. Based on the photos he shows me when he travels, I’m assuming he was wearing shorts, a polo shirt, and possibly carrying a fanny pack. The restaurant staff probably assumed he couldn’t afford his meal at the restaurant or that he wouldn’t be able to leave a sufficient tip.

My uncle is a dentist and is financially well-to-do. So what did my uncle end up doing due to this poor service he received at this restaurant. Well, of course, he left them a huge tip! He wanted to show them that he indeed had money. Oh yeah, that’ll show them! While I think that leaving a big tip for such poor service in this circumstance would be a hard pill to swallow, I can understand why he did it. If he left a low tip because of the way he was treated, it would only confirm the staff’s perceptions that he could not afford to give a good tip.

Status Symbols

When my wife and I were looking for an apartment to rent a few years ago, we contacted a rental agent. We met him in front of the building and he told us that he “accidentally” forgot some forms in his car, asking us to accompany him there. We walked to his car. He drives a Porsche Cayenne. I guess I was supposed to be impressed. When you see someone carrying a Louis Vitton handbag and wearing Jimmy Choo shoes, do you assume she has money? When you see someone driving a Mercedes Benz, do you assume he is wealthy?

Occupation

I am an attorney. I intentionally left this information out of my “About page.” Who would listen to frugal living advice from an attorney I thought. There are 3 assumptions most people make when I tell them that I’m an attorney.

1) I make lots of money
2) I’m a jerk
3) I know all aspects of law. They then proceed to ask me questions about some obscure part of the law that I do not practice.

None of these assumptions are true for me. Well #2 is subjective…but I swear it’s not true! I make a good salary, but it probably no where near what most people think it is. Plus, I work in government and have a significant amount of student loan debt. Sure, there are attorneys who secure jobs with the top law firms and make $150,000 starting, but they are the exceptions. (They also work 80+ hours a week). Many entry level positions pay $40,000 to $60,000, even here in NYC.

I’ve had people openly wonder why as an attorney, I was still driving my 10 year old Nissan Altima and that I didn’t have the other symbols of luxury expected of an attorney: expensive watch, bottle service at the hippest night clubs, and Armani suits. Speaking of Armani suits, I used to peruse a forum targeted at and created by unemployed or underemployed new attorneys. They often mentioned that they were able to spot a fellow underemployed attorney by their J.C. Penney suit and beat up Honda Civic. According to them a financially success attorney wouldn’t shop at J.C. Penney or drive an older model vehicle.

With the story above of the rental agent driving a Porshe Carrera, I didn’t think the rental agent was financially well off when I first met him, mainly because I assumed rental agents didn’t make a high income. I was a little surprised by his car. Although I guess driving a Porshe Carrera doesn’t make him financially well off as it could be a lease. It is still very expensive. However, I do understand that certain professions do need to have an appearance that they are successful to get clients.

We try not to judge a book by its cover, but it’s human nature to have first impressions. What other factors do you look at to determine how much money someone has? Has anyone judged you to be poor or rich based on your appearance, occupation, or what car you were driving?

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89 thoughts on “Do You Judge Someone’s Financial Worth By The “Cover”?

  1. Chris Peplinski

    This article hits home. My wife and I make great money, but on the outside no one would know. Our mantra is “the less you spend the wealthier you’ll become.” We could drive BMW’s or wear the nicest clothes, but instead we save 55% of our large income and spend money on experiences, not things. In my closet are a lot of shirts and jeans 5-10 years old.

    By working as a financial planner, I’ve noticed that most peoe who have nice things and toys are in debt up to their eyeballs! Then when they ask me what the magic elixir is of wealth, they don’t and won’t follow a more frugal plan. They want to stay where they are with spending and buying things. It’s frustrating, but I can only give my recommendations, I can’t force them to do anything.

    Gen Y and baby boomers are in trouble.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I actually prefer that people not think I have money…not that I have much…but if I were wealthy, I definitely wouldn’t flaunt it. I also have a closet full of 5 to 10 year old shirts and jeans! It’s interesting that people go into debt to ACT rich but won’t take steps to actually Be rich by following your frugal plan!

      Reply
    2. theFIREstarter

      I agree with this. Even if/when I get a few quid in the bank I am not going to go out and buy status symbols so I am guessing no one will know. It’s already started in fact – a colleage the other day sounded surprised when I mentioned I could go out and spend £300 or more on some fancy gadget if I really wanted to, I guess because of my usually frugal nature at work (e.g. bringing in lunches, random comments and conversations I suppose)

      Although the point I was trying to make to him was that the reason I would be able to afford to do that, was due to the fact that I don’t usually want to or just don’t do it, but unfortunately I think it went well over his head.
      theFIREstarter recently posted…A Conscious ConscienceMy Profile

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      1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

        Yes, I read your interview with a ShamFIRE. I am the same way…I can probably afford to buy some status symbols but don’t think it’s worth it. I’m sure some might be surprised by that. I think people who have the consumption mindset just think in a different manner so it’s is hard for them to understand our perspective.

        Reply
  2. Elroy

    Someone who asks how much things cost and are willing to talk price. I find those who just blindly throw money around aren’t rich. At the very least, it is something that puts me off to them.

    I still drive my car I had in college. And I make more money than 99% people on the road. My car is nowhere near nicer than 99% of the cars on the road.
    Elroy recently posted…Getting $*@% DoneMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I’m also very put off by people who like to show off their money or status symbols their money buys them. It doesn’t impress me…though it seems to impress a lot of other people.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks Michelle. Interesting…it would seem that businessmen with more money would tip more…but that’s not always true. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Reply
  3. DC @ Young Adult Money

    I definitely think people judge your wealth based on appearances. Our renter (we rent out half our basement as a studio apartment) said “oh, but you guys have lots of money” simply because we own a house and I work at a health insurance company in finance. In reality we have a lot of student loans and are FAR from wealthy. I also get judged a lot because I look younger than I am so people assume I’m less capable or are shocked to hear that I’ve been working in corporate finance for three years. Anyway people, including myself, constantly judge others based on appearances. It’s not right but it’s human nature, unfortunately.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…5 Ways to “Get” Money this Holiday SeasonMy Profile

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Here in NYC, if a young person owns a house or nice co-op/condo, the assumption is that their mommy or daddy must have helped them buy it. Yes, I’ll admit that I think that too sometimes! Since I’m a renter…maybe it’s envy!

      Reply
  4. Brad @ RichmondSavers.com

    People absolutely judge others on how they look and what brands they wear, what car they drive, how large their home is, etc., but I think they get it completely wrong!

    Being rich is entirely about net worth and zero about what kind of car you drive. There just aren’t enough high paying jobs to justify all the $500k+ houses and the $50k+ cars that people buy! So you know by definition that these people are not saving, because there’s just no money left over.

    You would have thought that the financial crisis of the past 5 years would have woken people up to this fact, but it hasn’t and I guess nothing ever will.

    Those of us who do save have to take solace in the fact that we will be the ‘millionaires next door’ some day and nobody will know it…
    Brad @ RichmondSavers.com recently posted…Lending Club Update December 2013My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      “Being rich is entirely about net worth and zero about what kind of car you drive.” So very true! Unfortunately, too many people don’t think that way. Either that or they prefer to look and appear rich rather than actually trying to attain wealth. I’m a big fan of the Millionaire Next Door book.

      Reply
  5. E.M.

    That’s awful they gave your uncle bad service. Whether or not they think he’s going to tip well should be irrelevant. It’s not worth making people feel indignant over. Personally, I would have walked out leaving a normal tip because I’d never go there again! I don’t see the point in caring too much about what strangers think of me.

    I do think most people expect attorneys to be wealthy, but from studying criminal justice, I know it also depends on the level of experience and field of law they’re in. Criminal defense attorney’s aren’t going to make $100k their first year at all. I think salesman subscribe to this, too. Fancy cars and suits are like a pre-requisite to the job! Meanwhile, the best attorney could be the one that’s actually passionate about his job and willing to fight tooth and nail for justice, not for the money.
    E.M. recently posted…The Benefits of Living in a Low Cost-of-Living AreaMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      That’s a good mindset to not care what strangers think of you. It really shouldn’t matter.
      I’ve also notice salesmen, and just people who need to get clients (which include many attorneys) who need fancy cars and suits to look the part. In a way, I guess I understand because if that’s what potential clients are looking for (someone who they think is successful meaning they are good at their job), then that’s what you have to look like to get clients and be successful in your job.

      Reply
  6. Joshua @ CNA

    Great post here! You know, I never really try to judge anyone’s financial worth. If they want me to know, they’ll tell me. That’s because when we try to judge, we’re usually wrong. For instance, my car isn’t that great, I’m wearing the same clothes I’ve had for years, but I’ve got money in the bank, and in investments. I just don’t spend much because I’ve got savings plans and goals for early retirement. So, even if we try to judge based on this or that, chances are, we’re wrong…why even waste the time?
    Joshua @ CNA recently posted…The First Steps To Take When Repairing Credit ScoresMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks Joshua. You’re right that it’s useless to try to judge but it does seem like human nature to try nonetheless.

      Reply
  7. Richie @ Practical Cents

    Interesting post! I agree that most people do judge one’s financial worth by the “cover.” Then if they get to know the person better, they may realize that the person has made his/her purchase decisions based on financial priorities, not status symbols. Some people also assume that a high salary equals wealth but they don’t consider the person’s lifestyle (grand or plain) or even if there’s a history of mounting personal debt.
    Richie @ Practical Cents recently posted…My Frugal Christmas TreeMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks Richie! It’s true that once you get to know a person better, you have a better understanding of their financial priorities. Some people may have nice things, but then you realize they are in mountains of debt or on the other hand, someone can live modestly but saved much of their money.

      Reply
  8. Kathy

    I have to plead guilty to judging people by their appearance. But I don’t make assumptions about their finances. Instead I look at people who are heavily tattooed or pierced and think they look dirty. I’m sorry but you asked and that’s just the way it is for me.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      No need to be sorry. You’re not the only one who feels that way. Appearance is the first thing you observe when you see someone so it’s normal to make some determinations from what you see. As long as you’re open to knowing a person better…it’s all good.

      Reply
  9. Liz

    It really does seem like it is all about appearances doesn’t it! We make a decent amount of income but we save and what we dont save pretty much goes towards debt. We try not to get too caught up in the “stuff” culture

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Good for you guys! We’re also aren’t caught up in the “stuff” culture either, but so many others have that consumerist mindset and can’t see any other type of lifestyle.

      Reply
  10. Ryan @ Impersonal Finance

    I’m right there with this article and all of the commenters. My wife and I are super frugal, and most people assume we aren’t necessarily well off. What they don’t see is all the behind the scenes stuff, like how we save about 60% of our income in long and short term savings, use space heaters for a room instead of an entire house, buy a $20 couch cover instead of a new $2000 couch, and wear nice clothes instead of nice and expensive clothes. What I’ve learned by being both poor and not so poor is that I really don’t care how people judge me based on my car, clothes, or spending habits. It’s very freeing. But, that being said, I still judge others… but I’m working not to.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Wow 60% of your income, that is excellent! I really should care how people judge me either based on car, clothes and spending habits…and I usually don’t. But I’m still working on that. And I definitely agree that it is very freeing not care what others think.

      Reply
  11. H @ Minding My Cents

    What other factors do you look at to determine how much money someone has? Has anyone judged you to be poor or rich based on your appearance, occupation, or what car you were driving?

    Yes, I’ve been judged poor based on my appearance. When my kids were little, there was no time to worry about how I look and often times, I had spit ups and what not on my clothes while running around town doing errands. I remember a bank teller double checking my info after she pulled my account up. She wanted to make sure she pulled the right account cause I probably looked like penniless.
    H @ Minding My Cents recently posted…A Frugal Gift For Moms (Free Printable Nursery Wall Art)My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks for sharing that story. With a little baby boy, I can definitely understand looking a little ragged. One time when I ran out to the store to get something looking like a bum and returned to my apartment building, the lady opening the door didn’t want to let me in asking whether I was the delivery guy or something. Never happened to me when I come home from work wearing a suit and tie.

      Reply
  12. dojo

    My husband looked like a hobo, when he was still working as a civil engineer. And yet it didn’t prevent him from shopping, even if many ‘sellers’ were looking at him as if he tried to steal something from the store. I dress casually most of the time, don’t wear jewelry etc, so many people don’t know if I’m doing well financially or not. And it’s irrelevant. If I want to eat at your restaurant and there’s no fancy dress code (and I don’t come dirty or unkempt), you need to server me well. I wouldn’t have tipped the waiter, I’d have made a HUGE fuss to the management and paid to the last penny. People need to understand that crap service doesn’t deserve any tips and I don’t have time or willingness to convince people I ‘deserve’ to be treated like a human being
    dojo recently posted…Home based business: Should you quit your job to pursue your freelancing career?My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Great point…if there is no fancy dress code you dressed appropriately, you shouldn’t have to convince people that you deserve to be treated properly.

      Reply
      1. Nanci

        My Daughter n Myself Love Clothes …..we dress clean n nice …Not Big Name Labels …just clean n Nice …..We are Looking for an apartment to rent and the Man accused us of Looking Like Partyers ….WHY ???? Because we are Both Tiny Blondes ,,,he even made the comment that we are soooo alike …..Well, we Should, I Am Mom and She Is Daughter …a Nusing Student in College !!!!
        I Am So Tired of Being Judged By My Cover Because of my Size :(

        Reply
        1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

          Yea, it seems like many people like to stereotype blondes! I guess it could be a bit of a compliment too…you must be a young-looking mom if he mistook you for a partier! =)

          Reply
  13. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter

    It’s so true that people (myself included) judge people’s financial worth by the “cover”. When I dress in my expensive coat/boots and go shopping, I get much better treatment (and, oddly, more discounts) than when I go run into the store for something dressed in my gym clothes.

    My mom’s wedding and engagement rings are pretty big because they lost her first ones in a fire and they replaced them with bigger diamonds (as they lost other jewelry too but they amalgamated the cost into the rings) and if she doesn’t have gloves on you can tell that sales people are all over her when she goes into a store.

    Reply
  14. AverageJoe

    Great post. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to look “behind the curtain” at people’s finances. Dr. Thomas Stanley (Millionaire Next Door) is absolutely correct. There’s often a huge negative correlation between conspicuous spending and the amount of money someone has in savings. Now whenever someone is trying to impress me with their toys I think, “Wow, you’re broke!”
    AverageJoe recently posted…Stop the Holiday Office-Spending Insanity! with John Schmoll – The Short Stack 33-7My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks Joe! The Millionaire Next Door is a great book that more people should read. Yea, when I see people with expensive toys I often think they’re probably in debt.

      Reply
  15. Done by Forty

    Just yesterday a guy in a Porche pulled into the spot next to my buddy and I when we were picking up some pizzas. He opens the door right as my buddy is, and my friend says, “Oh sorry,” but this d-bag just ignores him and moves on. Anyway, besides the fact that this guy sucks, I was telling my friend that when I see someone in a nice, new car now, I just assume they are broke or stupid, or both. I used to think people in nice cars were the ones with money. Now, when I see a middle aged couple in a 10+ year old car, I wonder if they’re loaded…
    Done by Forty recently posted…One Case of HomelessnessMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, I know the type with their fancy cars and nasty attitude thinking they are better than you. Haha, now when I see a middle aged couple in a 10+ year old car…I might start wondering whethery they are loaded too.

      Reply
  16. anna

    That infuriates me that your uncle received poor service just based on looking normal – he’s definitely a bigger person than I am for leaving a big tip, though I understand that had he left a little tip (or none) that it would have probably enabled their bad behavior. I just hope they learned from that! I admit sometimes I judge (like if someone can really afford something mostly, especially living in Cali), but hey, if it makes them happy then they just have to do their thing. For the most part, I just keep my business to myself and respect people’s personal decisions.
    anna recently posted…K.i.s.s.’ed my debt good-byeMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, I don’t know if I would have left a big tip. Just wouldn’t be able to stand thinking they benefited from poor service. I try not to make judgments either…but sometimes I can’t help myself!

      Reply
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  18. Bryce @ Save and Conquer

    Good post. It underlines many of the things in Millionaire Next Door. My mom is a multimillionaire, yet she lives in a trailer park. Some of the clothes she wears are older than I am, and I’m 57. She certainly does not worry about appearances, and spends most of her money on family. She recently paid for one of our nieces to finish her nursing degree.

    P.S. If I had been your uncle, I would have left a small or no tip. So what if it reinforced the waitstaff’s impression of him. He will likely never see them again, I certainly wouldn’t go back, and I doubt that the large tip had much teaching value.
    Bryce @ Save and Conquer recently posted…CharityMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks Bryce! Many commenters have mentioned the Millionaire Next Door…I think that’s an excellent book. Wow, I’d love to hear more about your mom and her frugality. And yea I’m sure the large tip my uncle left won’t stop them from mistreating other diners who may not look like they have a lot of money.

      Reply
  19. David

    Awesome article!!!
    I completely concur.
    I actually had a similar experience to your uncle’s story while eating in an expensive steakhouse.
    I came back after a long day of hiking in the desert, and I was picked up by my father to go to a family reunion (how ironic) in a steakhouse. I was extremely sweaty, and surprisingly I was the only one to order a steak. The steaks were extremely expensive (about $50 for one person). I assume that because I was a sweaty, dirty, man, the waiters thought that I wouldn’t be able to afford the steak. So, they served me a small steak (about $20).
    I complained to the waiters, but I didn’t leave a big tip.
    However, the steak was out of this world.
    Thanks,
    David
    David recently posted…Summer Adventure ProgramMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks David for the compliment and for sharing your story. What did they say when you asked them why they served you the smaller steak? I figured they would assume even if you couldn’t afford it, others in your group could. Were they separate checks? It seems hard for the waiter to know how someone tips if it’s a big party.

      Reply
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I agree…I don’t understand why people focus on status symbols. I used to be impressed by fancy cars and brand name things…but not anymore.

      Reply
  21. Tie the Money Knot

    Really good post. I think a lot of us, even if well-meaning and not interested in keeping up with the Joneses ourselves, still assess others to at least some degree, based on appearances. That said, I’ve known a few people who have WAY more money than meets the eye, but you would think that they’re lower income. In reality, they’re multi-millionaires. Don’t underestimate people based on appearances, that’s for sure!
    Tie the Money Knot recently posted…100 Ways to Make Extra Money on the SideMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks! Definitely can’t underestimate people based on appearances. Like Done By Forty said…next time I see a couple in a 10+ year old car, I might think they’re multi-millionaires!

      Reply
  22. C. the Romanian

    Great article! I tend to feel poor when I wear some of my old clothes when I go out and a bit more confident when I wear my new pants and shirt. I consider it extremely strange because it’s actually me and I know how much I worth, no matter what clothes I wear. So it’s no surprise that others judge a book by its cover.

    Living in Romania, I have learned that the car people drive is the last indicator of their wealth – most of the people here try to keep up with the Joneses and they lease extremely expensive cars. There’s even a joke around here that they sell their apartments just to afford a car.

    However, I do look at the overall appearance of the people around me to decide upon their financial worth. In my opinion, people with more money do look different – their hair is always in top shape, their overall appearance is fresh and nice… and they somehow radiate confidence. People with financial (or other type of problems) don’t really care about their appearance, keep their head down and seem to lack confidence completely. Of course, I can be totally wrong, but that’s how I judge a person based on what I see :))
    C. the Romanian recently posted…Which Mortgage Is Best – 10 Year, 15 Year or 30 Year?My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks C. for the compliment and for sharing your experience in Romania. I guess this type of mindset is prevalent in other countries too.

      Reply
  23. charles@gettingarichlife

    When I was younger I thought people with nice cars and clothes were rich. Now when I see that I wonder how much in debt they are in.
    I had a friend once ask me how do I afford my lifestyle as my wife and I go on nice vacations and have a nice house. He thought we were broke. I travel for my work so most vacations for airfare and hotel is free. Our house more than half the mortgage is paid for by my renters.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I feel the same way…sure some people can afford the nice cars and clothes, but so many people go into debt to try to appear rich when they really aren’t. What made your friend think you were broke?

      Reply
        1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

          If you traveled a lot staying in nice places and lived in an expensive neighborhood, I’d just think you were rich! =) Well, it would depend on your occupation. There I go judging again.

          Reply
  24. Broke Millennial

    Without a doubt people judge. I know I certainly have (and likely will continue to do so) because as you said, it’s human nature. My parents are like your uncle. Neither one is really into what’s fashionable and my Mom has a pair of Nike shorts from the 90s that she still rocks when she’s exercising. But, part of the way they amassed a decent amount of money is from living well below their means and investing well. Often when I see people with flashy clothes and cars I just wonder how exactly their bank accounts matches up to their lifestyles. It seems the harder you try the more you’re trying to compensate for something…
    Broke Millennial recently posted…Sales Lessons from the StreetsMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Living well below ones means and investing well is a great way to amass a good amount of money. No need to try and keep up appearances.

      Reply
  25. Nick @ Step Away from the Mall

    I tend not to think about it much, but it would depend on the “symbol.” Cars, for example, make my stomach ache. I happen to have a pretty awesome car but it’s provided to me for free. I’m a Honda or Ford guy when it’s time for me to open the wallet… Saw a chrome lamborghini once… guy probably had money. Once you get to that level it’s tough to get without substantial income or net worth. But boy was it obnoxious. Scored a few pics though… naturally.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, a nice chrome Lamborghini…just some rich guy who needs attention. Even if I could afford it, I don’t think I would get one. I might take it out for a test drive though. I don’t like the unwanted attention and don’t like to be flashy.

      Reply
  26. Financial Samurai

    Gotta admit, not putting Attorney on your about page is very telling and intriguing! You should write an entire post about that!

    I try and dress simple but always neat and clean. I enjoy my 13 year old car named Moose. It was once a luxury vehicle but it’s now a little too old to be deemed one but don’t tell him.

    It’s all about stealth wealth baby! But also stealth intelligence and stealth education too! The article is linked above.
    Financial Samurai recently posted…Asset Allocation Review – How Much Richer Do You Feel In This Bull Market?My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Haha! Yes, you psychoanalyze me and try to figure out why I didn’t include that. I’m definitely not someone who is flashy and likes to show off. Also, I’m an attorney who works “behind the scenes.” I’m not in the courtroom yelling “you can’t handle the truth!” I don’t have that type of personality. Actually I don’t even really mention that I’m an attorney to people I meet in person unless they pry. I remember your article about stealth wealth! A very good one…and I do follow some of those tips.

      Reply
  27. KK @ Student Debt Survivor

    Great post. The other day bf and I were having an interesting discussion about some of the people he sees/hears on the train. People who are wearing designer labels, carrying shopping bags from expensive stores and talking about the travel they’ve recently done (all over the world). Bf made a comment something to the effect of, that those people seem to be doing so much better than we are. I immediately reminded him that those designer labels and worldy trips could easily be charged on a credit card that’s maxed out. I also reminded him that we don’t have any consumer debt or student loan debt, and that for people our age that makes us pretty unusual. We have nice things and we both make good money, but we’re not showy with it, nor to we buy stuff we don’t need or can’t afford. People usually assume that I make poverty wages because I’m a social worker. Ironically, for the opposite reasons of what you said, I usually don’t tell people my profession when I first meet them 😉
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted…Bad Retirement AdviceMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Well in NYC, it’s possible that they are just rich! haha. But you’re right, just because someone has all the accoutrements of the rich does not mean they are rich…often times, they are just in debt! Social Worker is a noble calling…not sure I’ve heard that about the legal profession =)

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Knowing that you can afford it is good enough for me too! Sure I want new safety features, reliability and other things from a newer car but I’m not paying the luxury name.

      Reply
  28. Grayson @ Debt Roundup

    My dad had a good friend that was a multi-millionaire. He didn’t flaunt his wealth and in fact, he dressed close to a homeless person. He had torn shorts, a simple tattered t-shirt, and flip flops. One day he walked into a Ferrari dealership and wanted to buy one of the cars. They didn’t even look at him. They left him alone. Before he left, he walked up to a salesman and pulled out enough cash to pay for a new Ferrari. He told the salesman that that could have been his money and then walked away.

    That is why you shouldn’t judge people.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted…Got Expired Coupons? Don’t Throw Them AwayMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Interesting story. I’m be scared carrying around that much cash around with me unless I had body guards with me! Maybe my uncle probably wanted to do that too…but probably wasn’t a good idea to pull out a big stack of cash and taunt the staff even if they deserved it.

      Reply
  29. Evan

    I think it is only natural to make assumptions based on perceptions. Everyone does it, anyone that doesn’t is just lying to you lol. That being said what we perceive could obviously be wrong. Part of my job is to work with financial planners and you wouldn’t believe how many times I see a high earner, 300K, 400K, 1mil income with next to no assets (relatively speaking of course). It makes me get so mad. But you know they look wealthy while they aren’t saving!

    Is that the rule? Obviously not, but there are people that b/c they are spending a lot assume they don’t have assets and that is wrong also. Judging could go both ways.
    Evan recently posted…Mastering the Markets: Why Education is KingMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Absolutely…everyone makes some types of assumptions based on initial perceptions. As long as you’re open to getting the know the person better even if you have a preconceived notion of how they are, I think that’s fine. That would drive me crazy too (higher earner with little to no savings). But to each their own.

      Reply
  30. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living

    lol at the legal questions. my bro is a lawyer (mostly banking and mergers for a large firm) and he gets questions from me all the time, but probably more on legal cases I see in the news. My sister is also an attorney but for the public service (she’s a drug court attorney) so she used to get questions about alimony and child support from my one crazy aunt alllllll the time.

    I will say that my brother gets wrapped up in image because he works at a major NY law firm and gets the big bucks (and does work the 80+ hour schedule) but I try to bring him down when I can because he was raised the same way as I, in a modest lifestyle without fancy things. It’s funny how easy one’s tastes can change because of some money and some sense of entitlement as a result of too much work.
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted…Paying off debt blowsMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I’m an court attorney too! Not in drug court though. I kind of understand having to keep up an image though. I work with people who don’t drive fancy cars, who bring their lunch from home, etc. If I worked in a big law firm where everyone was wrapped up in an image, I’m sure there is pressure to do the same. Plus, I guess to get clients, you might have to look the part too.

      Reply
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  32. save. spend. splurge.

    Yes. I will admit honestly that I do judge people by the way they dress and what they drive…. but not in the way you’d imagine.

    If I see someone with a fancy car, all decked out with fancy attire, I don’t immediately assume that they’re in debt, but it gives me a feeling that they are, based on what I have gathered so far about what they do for a living, how they seem to spend their money and how they value a dollar (or not).

    If I see someone in tattered clothes, mismatched and generally looking like a hobo, I don’t immediately assume that they’re poor, but wonder if they’re secret millionaires. Of course, then I change or adjust my judgement based on how I see them act towards money and spending.

    I can usually tell within about a month of getting to know someone (if we chat about topics other than work), what kind of person they are in terms of spending and saving — if they are able to or not.

    It’s all in the signs of how they respond to questions about vacations or their life in general.

    Otherwise, at first glance, yes I do judge people, but I also consider the other side of what their appearance could mean.

    (Note: I myself like to dress really nicely, so I can also assume people think I am either rich or faking that I am rich because I like to look nice.)
    save. spend. splurge. recently posted…How I reached a No-Gift Minimalist Christmas or Holiday SeasonMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      It’s always good to get to know someone better before making judgments about them. I think dressing nicely is important too…but dressing nicely doesn’t have to cost a lot necessarily.

      Reply
  33. Refinerr

    Hi LRC just found you off of Twitter! I love this post. I used to make assumptions when I was younger and impressed by money. I came out of college working for a CPA firm in Newport (fancy shmancy) Beach. Everyone was/is about appearances. We all talked money because we only went into that field for money. In fact when we were sad about the fact that our salary, adjusted for our 80 hour weeks, really amounted to nothing impressive we would always brighten up our days with saying well at least we aren’t attorneys! (Sorry about that btw)

    My mom recently purchased her first Louis Vuitton handbag. She isn’t using it because she was getting too much attention. She even bought a version of it that didn’t show off the LV. I told her that’s what she paid for so return it. There are many women who leave their luxury handbags out on their desk here at work for everyone to see. I’m pretty sure it’s some kind of territory thing…

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks! My sister is a CPA and worked crazy hours too. And while she was making good money…you’re right, with the hours, it wasn’t as impressive and I could see that it was quite stressful. No worries about the “attorneys” comment! haha. I work in government so I don’t have those crazy hours…but I don’t have the high wages either. I remember my sister making the same comment…there would be cots for the attorneys to sleep over. I’ve often wondered about the luxury bag phenomenon…what is the purpose? To show it off to other women?

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yes, I’ve heard stories of taxi drivers doing this…it’s very unfortunate that it happens.

      Reply
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