Trying to Look Rich vs being rich

Trying To Look Rich Versus Being Rich

There’s a huge difference in trying to look rich versus being rich. The term “rich” is subjective and we can argue over exactly what that means. I really love the definition of rich that Jen Sincero gives in her book, You are a Badass at Making Money.

“RICH = Able to afford all of the things and experiences required to fully experience your most authentic life.”

Our current culture is obsessed with the outward appearance of wealth and success. Media fills our feeds with the latest celebrity endorsed products that will make our lives complete. Credit card companies gladly extend our limits to buy the things that allow us to look rich, even when we’re living paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, people with paychecks large and small fall into this trap.

Years ago, I worked with a guy, we’ll call him “Jake,” who earned a high income but had almost no net worth. Jake looked rich. His McMansion backed up to the golf course. He drove an Escalade and wore designer clothes and shoes. In fact, he bought the best things money could buy.

Yes, his income was high, but Jake spent the bank’s money because he’d already blown through his own. Every single thing he “owned” came with a monthly payment. On more than one occasion, Jake asked for an advance on his commission so he could pay his bills. This guy was making twice my income, but likely had one-tenth my net worth! Trying to look rich will make you poor, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Jake eventually ends up in bankruptcy court.

Trying To Look Rich versus Being Rich:

  • People who are trying to look rich buy things that decrease in value. People who are rich (or want to be rich) buy things that increase in value or provide positive cash flow.
  • People who are trying look rich get their worth from the approval of others. Financially healthy people have a strong sense of self-worth that’s not dependent upon the whims of other people.
  • People who are trying to look rich are always living on the edge financially with little to no money in savings. The rich know that saved money will allow them to comfortably handle emergencies and seize opportunities to invest.
  • People who are trying to look rich accumulate debt for impulse purchases and non-necessities, like vacations and designer clothes. Those who are financially wise exercise patience to save up the money and wait for the right deal.
  • People who are trying to look rich are “all about me.” They are wrapped up in themselves and their possessions. Financially healthy people have the resources to help others and support causes and charities close to their hearts.

If you can afford to pay for luxuries and not go into debt for them, then by all means, have fun and enjoy! However, if you are trying to look rich without being financially healthy (living within your means, having adequate savings and minimal debt) you’re going to end up living on the edge of broke. The financial health and security of your family is of much greater importance than the opinions of others.

Rather than just trying to look rich, watch my free training on

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Comments 11

  1. I think you really said it all, and I hope the many people who need to hear your message find it!

    Your point about buying things that decrease in value versus investing in things that increase in value or provide positive cash flow really stood out to me. I’ve been doing that for many years, long before I was considering pursuit of financial independence and early retirement. I’m fortunate my parents set that type of example for me and encouraged that type of thinking. As you note, many people are more concerned with appearing to be rich than actually attaining wealth.

  2. What an insightful post. Definitely lots to think about. As a full-time work, I don’t live outside my means, so that I don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. It’s awesome have that little bit of extra every month!

  3. Such a great post! We have a friend that is a millionaire (several times over) and we love chatting with him about money.
    They totally don’t think the way you would expect them too. I love how you said that if you can afford the luxury then to spend the money and not go into debt doing so. He has the money but doesn’t go all out! For example my daughter wants to plan a vacation for 10 days to Greece next summer for a grad present. I told her to chat with a travel agent but he recommended getting cheap flights and booking an Airbnb. Honestly there is so much to learn and I would rather have the money and not look rich then pretend any day 😉 .

  4. I think this day and age everyone is trying to keep with all the social media posts of celebrities. My kids are starting to get wrapped up in it and I keep reminding them that a good pair of sneakers does not need to cost $200+.

  5. Here in England there are loads of rich people who couldn’t look more poor if they tried! You definitely can’t tell how much money someone has just by looking at them.

    And I love the moral of this post too. When my daughter was a toddler I tried to give her everything, and I ended up with very little money left at the end of each month. These days I’m much more sensible and only treat the kids now and again so I can have that little nest egg incase of a future emergency 🙂

    Louise x

  6. I agree and pretty much do everything except I do take nice vacations. You only live once and you’ll enjoy all the memories when you are older. I do however use money made from my investments and not my earned income. You enjoy the vacation better when its other peoples money.

    1. Post

      Hi Jonathan, I’m definitely NOT against enjoying your money! I think many people confuse their outer image with their net worth. Most millionaires don’t look like millionaires. And congrats for using your investment earnings for vacations! I think that’s awesome.

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