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You Look So Wealthy. You Must Be Broke!

Before I began my foray into the world of finance, I was like most other people: I looked on in amazement and awe wondering how a guy not much older than me was so successful. Clearly, he must be successful! The smell of freshly printed cash wafted from the tailpipes of the Porsche he was driving, I could hear the roar of the trading floors coming from the engine compartment.

The smartphone he was holding most likely had secret stock plays that no one knew about. I’m sure he must be on his way to a really important meeting, maybe a business acquisition, or a new proposal on some huge and undoubtedly successful idea. I hope I can be that successful someday.

Related: Money Making Ideas

Why do people try to look rich?

The look being exhibited has been honed over the course of the last few decades. Marketers have been working feverishly to convince us that success doesn’t come first, the look does. Finance the look, and success will be yours. This sounds silly, but it works perfectly. You know what the truth probably is about the businessman described above:

  • Porsche: Financed, by the skin of his credit score. They definitely didn’t get a zero interest new car loan!
  • Business Suit: Credit card. He only owns one, and hates paying to get it dry cleaned.
  • Sunglasses: Credit card.
  • Designer Watch: Credit Card, or it could also be a convincing “replica.”
  • Leather shoes: Credit card. Had to make a payment to free up enough credit.
  • Smartphone: No stock quotes, just excited text messages about the job interview.
  • Important Meeting: Job interview. Hopefully his sharp look will land the job.

Now, this won’t always be the case, but from the statistics I’ve seen, most people who look successful, only look successful. We’ve bought into the image being portrayed. Frugality is looked upon with disgust, and disdain. Rarely will you see a frugal person portrayed in a positive light, especially in an advertisement.

Peer Pressure Abounds

Ultimately, much of this can boil down to peer pressure. The advertisements don’t have to work on everyone, just enough people who can persuade others. If you’re surrounded by a bunch of close friends who are hungry for success, you’re most likely going to fall in line with what they are doing. After all, who will be taken more seriously, your suit clad peers or you in your polo shirt and slacks?

The problem is, those financed suits, shoes, sunglasses, and car will eat at your income so terribly that you’ll have a really hard time building savings, and interest income. When you’re young and making very little money, that is the absolute worst time to be paying high amounts of interest. Not only are you losing that income to interest expense, but you’re losing all of the future interest that money would have been earning.

Should I Try to Look Rich at a Job Interview?

I don’t often tell people to do the bare minimum, but when it comes to image, only portray what you need to portray. The manager at McDonald’s won’t care that you’ve got an iPhone, and the corporate recruiter at Cisco won’t care about the Porsche you drive, mainly because they’ll never see it.

Go ahead, put on a tuxedo and interview for a construction job.

I can assure you that most managers won’t verify the designer of your suit, nor will they be verifying the brand of your sunglasses. Should you wear a suit instead of a Polo Shirt? It depends on the business environment, but a $300 suit at JC Penney will serve just about every purpose that a $2,000 Armani suit would.

Save Money Where You Can

Sometimes, it is hard to go against the grain, but while your friends are paying tons of interest on financed goods, you’ll be banking that money and earning income. That is a huge step to financial independence. Years up the road, while your friends are still paying tons of money on interest for financed image enhancers, trying to continue crawling up the corporate ladder and win the rat race; you’ll be able to enjoy your financial independence while running your own business if that is what you want.

People, especially young people, underestimate their money’s ability to work for them. Because of this short-sightedness, we don’t allow the pennies of interest grow into dollars of interest. We don’t allow those dollars of interest to grow into supplemental paychecks. And, we don’t allow those supplemental paychecks grow into a main source of income. We see pennies of interest/investment income, say “what’s the point”, and spend it on the next shiny thing we see.

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