How much stock do you put in the appearance of wealth?
I came upon a blogger, Morrison at All Doors Considered, who said that she cultivates “an aura of wealth” so successfully that all her friends think she makes $200K when she has never made more than $50K in her life.
For years, I have always projected an image of wealth and success. But the bottom line is correct. My husband and I never really earned more than $50K per year. Ever. Yet, we have always given the false projection that we earn more by living a $100K lifestyle. I thought it was due to my unique marketing talents and savvy buying capabilities that helped fuel our lifestyle projection (emphasis mine). And it is. Apparently I was doing a fantastic job creating our image.
Hat tip to Grace at GRACEful Retirement for linking to her post.
This brings me to an interesting question:
Do you look more well-off or less well-off than you actually are? What is your “lifestyle projection” as Morrison calls it?
One of the great things about America, I think, is that the way you look might be very different from your actual economic status. Which is to say that it’s hard to make snap judgments about people, even if you see the clothes they wear, the house they live in, or the cars they drive. So why try so hard to convince people of a certain “image” when that image is not very reliable to begin with? I know people who have cashed out their companies for a million and they look like regular Joe Schmoe walking down the street.
As far as my lifestyle projection goes, my goal at work is to look smart and put-together, and I’d like my home to be stylish and comfortable. While both of those “images” are easier to construct with money (if all else fails, you can hire professional stylists and decorators if you have the financial resources), I think they can be achieved on smaller budgets as well.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy having nice things. Of course I do. I have my favorite brands and indulgences (ahem, spa treatments), but I’d like to think that those things are for myself, and not really for any image of wealth that I need to project to the outside world. In fact, wouldn’t it be depressing to make people think you are richer than you actually are? That’s one reason why I never carry knock-off items – there is nothing satisfying, to me, in making people believe I have a Louis Vuitton bag when I am not carrying an LV.
My parents, on the other hand, are probably the quintessential “millionaires next door.” They look much less well-off then you’d expect them to be. If you saw where they live, or the cars they drive (my mother’s car is even older than mine), or the way they dressed, you would never expect that their income bumps along the $200,000 mark, or that they have several rental properties, or that they accumulated their net worth after starting their careers in their late 30s. They spend on what they need and what they value (good education, medical care, etc.), not to impress anyone else. And that’s pretty fantastic to me.
Photo by Mike_Fleming via Flickr