Recently, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to appearances. There have been two instances, recently, in which I have seen people I know desperately trying to look as though they are rich. One of them is throwing a lavish wedding that he can’t really afford, and the other is trying to figure out how to pay the bills that keep piling up without having to give up his expensive luxury SUV.
Both of them are stuck in the idea of looking rich, rather than worrying overmuch about whether or not they have true wealth. They have enough money to qualify for the debt required to meet their ideas of how their lives should look.
I’m going to write that again: They have enough money to qualify for the debt required to meet their ideas of how their lives should look.
Neither of them can actually afford what they are doing. They don’t have the money to pay for their expenses. From the outside, the casual observer would probably think that they are rich. One is having a wedding that will be the height of fashion, and the other has a nice house and the latest model luxury SUV. How could they not be rich?
The reality is that they only look rich to outside observers. It probably doesn’t occur to these outside observers, and probably not even to many of these men’s friends, that these guys aren’t rich. Their so-called wealth is actually debt.
When Image is More Important than Financial Security
For these men, the problem is that, to them, image is important — more important even than being financially secure. Being rich comes with a certain status in our society, and they like the idea of being looked up to for their wealth. And, of course, the wedding, the house, the clothes, the car, and other trappings are all indications of how much money they have.
Neither of these men is what most of us would call “poor.” They make good money. They have a little something set aside for retirement. They don’t even have bad credit. However, their resources aren’t such that they can afford all the things they spend their money on. Most months they live paycheck to paycheck, and when they want something extra, they borrow the money.
My friend with the SUV is worried about a drop in income, since he can’t really afford his lifestyle, but he doesn’t want to go through the pain involved to get back on track, probably selling his expensive house, and trading in the SUV for something a little more downscale. He’s afraid that his friends and family won’t think as much of him when he’s no longer “rich.” The friend throwing the wedding is trying to impress his bride’s family by showing them how “rich” he is.
In both cases, the drive is to maintain an image, and financial security isn’t important at all. They’d rather live as though they’re rich, and have others think they’re wealthy, than make changes. Unfortunately, that type of behavior is not financially sustainable. Eventually they’ll run out of credit, or something unexpected will strain their finances, and everything will come crashing down.
True Wealth: Live Within Your Means
Being truly rich isn’t about the things you have, or how you look to others. It’s about having financial security, and it’s about having actual assets, rather than using debt to buy things that look fine and fancy, but really just represent a drain on your resources.
In my mind, being rich doesn’t even have to do with a specific amount of money, or a type of car, or big house. To me, being truly wealthy is having enough for your needs and most of your wants, and spending time with the people you love in good health. I know people in my modest neighborhood who live within their means, and build their futures, who are wealthier than those who live in the “rich” section of town, in a big house.
Instead of concentrating on the trappings of what you think represents wealth, consider what truly makes you rich in your life. Do you really need — or even want — those things? Create the life you want, based on your own goals, and live within your means. You’ll find your wealth growing, and you won’t need to prove your worth to anyone.
What do you think?