Smart Reasons to Save, Use and Invest Money

Do You Look Poorer Than You Are?

A recent conversation with a colleague at work made me realize that I look and dress poorer than I am.

During a soccer tournament this past fall, my daughter’s team went to a water park called Kalahari Resort where her soccer team competed.  Now to participate in this tournament, the parents would have to pay for a few nights at this expensive (but still affordable) water park.  Now in the past a younger me would have said “WHOA!” wait, that’s crazy expensive…  The trip came to around $500, and while not cheap, still doable.

Now here is where it gets interesting…

The work colleague that I mentioned earlier was in the break room talking about the trip to a subordinate in her department.  I commented on how great her son was and she started talking about the tournament to me.  I agree and said I thought it was a great time for my daughter too.  At that point, she got a funny look on her face.  She said “YOU, were there?”  Which I replied “why yes, it was a wonderful experience for my daughter“.  She then started asking me about the trip and if I went inside the water park.  So then I actually had to prove to her that I was there by pointing out some of the highlights of the park and some of the game play that happened on the field.



I didn’t put much though into it at the time, but now I realize that she was really questioning me to see if I really went.  It was a pricey trip, and she’s a VP, so I guess she thought such a trip would be out of my price range.  I think she started asking about features of the park because she didn’t believe I actually stayed at the hotel!  Now I don’t know her well, so I guess if you judge me by my clothes and car, it would make sense that such a trip would be out of my affordability range…  Perhaps if it was an event that happened every weekend, it really would be outside of my price range…

While I’m not rich, it made me start to wonder how many people are out there that are very rich and dress like they are poor?

This might surprise people, but I bet the majority of people who are rich don’t necessarily want things that are fancy, no flashy cars, or Armani suits…  I’m not just talking “millionaire next door” types either!  Look at Sam Walton or Warren Buffett, both were super rich, but didn’t look the part, no Great Gatsby’s there!

If you were rich, do you think you would look the part?  I know I would buy a little more trendy clothes, but not much!  And for my car, a normal sedan or SUV would be enough for me, although perhaps a Lexus for the car, that’s not too luxurious, right?

Anyway, I just thought I’d share my story with you, I hope you got a chuckle out of it, I did!


39 Responses to Do You Look Poorer Than You Are?

  1. Hahah. This story reminded me of my parents. I’m almost certain they look “poorer” than they are – they drive Hondas (my mom’s car is almost 20 years old), live in an unassuming apartment, wear generic-looking clothes and don’t really do anything extravagant. But they have several rental properties, make solid six-figures, and paid for the bulk of my college education. So if you just “look” at them, I don’t think they look rich. But if you see what they’ve been able to do with their money – it’s pretty obvious that not everyone can do what they’ve done.

  2. I loved this article. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to let friends know I have some money probably why I like to post my finances on-line.

    What one might think is nothing another might think is more than they could dream of.

    If I was rich my answer would be NO as I feel the simple life suits us fine.

    I remember a couple weeks back watching ” How the lottery changed my life” and this guy who won millions lived in a Hotel room although he had a flat screen and ate out everyday he enjoyed the simple life. Looking at him you would not even know he was rich.

    • Thanks!

      I think not flashing off that you are rich is a more peaceful lifestyle too. Although I’m sure it’s nice to be able to jump on a plane and go anywhere you wanted to go on a spur of a moment.

  3. In most cases, I dress down. My jeans may be designer, but I buy them at a discount store. The only way you may know I have any money are my shoes. I like good shoes and I keep them forever! I also wear an expensive watch that I have owned since 1985. I never really though about what people who I do not know think of me anyway.

    • Comfort is important too! I have some nice jeans, but usually the shirt I’m wearing isn’t tucked in so nobody knows…

      There isn’t anything wrong with dressing to match your income, but I just don’t prefer it in my case.

  4. I wonder if maybe the VP is living beyond her means and couldn’t even comprehend how you could afford it. Maybe she wanted to pick your brain for financial tips! 🙂

    • Ironically she’s married to another VP, so they are loaded… But one never knows, anything is possible.

      That would be a trip if she were to ask me for financial advice. I know that both the lady and her husband have pretty fancy cars… We’re quite the contrast at such events.

  5. You are spot on with the Warren Buffet reference. I have been to two Berkshire meetings and I am always fascinated by Buffet’s lifestyle.

    This post also reminds me of something recent in my life. My parents suggested I start saving for a new car, and I thought, “why, my car is practically new. It is a 2008 with less than 50,000 miles.” I reminded my Dad that Warren Buffet didn’t get rich by spending all of his money.

    • Warren is great! I so want to own some of Berkshire’s stock so I can go to a shareholder meeting before he steps down some day…

      I would be tempted to try and record the session.

  6. Funny I get this all the time heck I get it from my wife but at least she knows. I don’t care to spend money on what other people value. The thing is from being in banking and investments I have learn that some of the wealthiest people just dress normal and drive regular honda accords. One of my old clients when I was in banking was worth well over 12 million and she drove a honda accord and brought coupons to my office on every visit. Seems like a lot of the people(some but more than a few) with flashy cars and clothes usually are the ones who are broke.

    • If I had 12 million dollars, I would want to keep it undercover too! Money destroys friendships and causes other problems. If you keep it a secret, it’s a win-win.

      Go on nice vacations and enjoy life, but why dress like you’re a prince when you live in a normal city…

  7. I think I look poorer than I am. If it wasn’t for my mother-in-law adding to my wardrobe on bdays and Christmas, I would be in a tshirt and jeans every day and the tshirt would have holes. I just don’t usually care about clothes. I also don’t care much about replacing my crappy Chevy Aveo. So, yeah, I probably look like a broke college kid, but Mr. BFS and I are bringing in about $10,000 a month after taxes and we save 60% or more of our income every month.

    This made me think about an acquaintance of ours that implied I couldn’t afford one of the mini-mansions across the street even if I wanted it (she doesn’t know what we do). I had to carefully explain that those homes are $250,000-$350,000 each, which meant we could probably buy one in cash in 2014 but I wouldn’t want to deal with the maintenance. That shut her up. 😉

    • HA, you sound like me! My mom still buys me work shirt and jeans… lol

      With respect to housing, I was wondering if you are thinking of trading up. The financing is sooo cheap right now, and house are too! I’m thinking about doing it, but if I were you (esp with what you make), I’d really be thinking hard about it!

      • Nah…we are paying off our home in April and will stay here until we need more space for some reason (aka, kid). We haven’t caught that procreation drive yet, so we will probably be here for at least 3-5 more years at a minimum. 🙂

        • At your age, and considering how well you are doing… I think I would travel before having kids, at least in the near term…

          Congrats on keeping your head after doing so well online! I’m very impressed.

  8. Hmmm… I think I look the part. I don’t think I’m rich and I’m not a natty dresser. Warren is a fellow Uker! Now, we’ll have something to talk about if we ever get stuck in an elevator together.
    If money is no object, I’d probably get a Mercedes SL500. 🙂 I’m pretty happy with my Mazda5 though.

    • For work, I can’t get too natty. But, I know I’m not as polished as my peers. It also depends on where you live, you have to fit in. Where I live, I easily fit in, the VP, on the other had wouldn’t in my city.

  9. Wow that’s funny! But sad. But I agree, most wealthy people don’t look their part, which is good! You shouldn’t need fancy things or look a certain way.

  10. I love this article! I’m fortunate enough to be able to hide under the “poor student” cover for right now but when I was working full-time before university I would get strange comments all the time about how I shouldn’t have an iPhone because I don’t earn enough or how I can’t *possibly* afford a trip to XYZ place. I never told anyone that I saved 50%++ of my income each month or that I *chose* to travel/invest over buying new clothes 😛

  11. For about half the year I have to wear a suit to work, so you would probably think I have more money than I do. On other days I will be in jeans and a t-shirt driving a small grey sedan with a paint scrape on the bumper. I’m not sure how I’m perceived.

    If I won the lottery I would not buy a new car though.

    • lol, that’s quite the dichotomy for dressing!

      I don’t think I would buy a new car either (unless I really needed a new one because my current one would be too old).

  12. “YOU were there?” lol

    At first I might not like to experience that, but in reality it’s a positive thing. Doing well but not showing off, or simply being unassuming about money successes or not excessively valuing things, are great traits.

    Having said that, I don’t look poorer than I am based on comments I hear. Frankly, I’m not sure why that’s the case, but I’d rather have it the other way and look poorer than I am. Better way to be, I think.

    • I think she let her question “You were there” roll off of her tongue too quickly. I blew it off, but later realize how rude that was. But, I’m cool, didn’t bother me long 🙂

  13. Guess it depends on how much weight one puts on appearance or perceived appearance. The whole dress to impress thing. I don’t get it. I dress for comfort, if it happens to look expensive it’s not.

  14. At work, I almost always wear suits when I’m at customers, so I don’t look poor..but at home or on the weekends, you’d never guess what my financial status was traipsing into home depot with paint stained work clothes. Alternatively, seeing me at a tag sales on saturday mornings haggling isn’t what most people would expect. Many of my engineer friends are frugal and do it yourselfers though, so it’s not like we’re strange. We all act like that. It seems like other functions act a little different.

  15. Our house is about as nondescript as they come. So are our vehicles. I dress average most days in the office, saving the fine threads for those meetings where it counts to look good. I guess we have similar outlooks.

  16. Besides my car that is pretty nice, I look much poorer than I really am. I live in a one bedroom apartment when my friends and colleagues own their own homes. I cook my own meals and eat leftovers for lunch when my co-workers eat out. I buy groceries with coupons, buy drinks at happy hour specials and go straight to the clearance sections at stores to spend as little as possible. I even buy the cheap brand of household/personal care supplies while my friends make fun of me. All in all, I could buy all the expensive things if I wanted to, but I’d rather save for things and a future much more important to me!

  17. I lived in Taiwan for 15 years. When we first moved there in 1992, my wife and I were constantly amazed at a totally different sense of value. You could never ever judge someone’s wealth by their clothes or appearance. Here in the USA I think the same is true. There are those with lots of money who don’t dress the part. Lots of stuff might just equal lots of debt.

  18. I think I probably look poorer than I am. I tend to dress in second-hand clothes and we have an old, fat TV instead of a flat-screen. Our possessions don’t suggest that we’re rich, and we’re not. We’re content, though.