What is stealth wealth? Stealth wealth is the desire to conceal your net worth from others. While some millionaires like to flaunt their riches, others do their best to hide it.
Why would someone want to hide their wealth? That’s an interesting question. Ask a wealthy individual why they practice stealth wealth, and they’ll most likely talk about preserving their assets.
They may also rattle off a list of rich people’s problems. Here are a few:
- Wealthy individuals face more lawsuits.
- Contractors and businesses charge higher prices.
- They can’t distinguish real friends from fake ones.
Have you heard these reasons? They all focus on the need for wealthy individuals to protect their money. The premise is that you’ll be a bigger target if people know how much you’re worth.
Are These Assumptions Accurate?
As a millionaire myself, I don’t believe this list is entirely accurate. Here’s why:
- The average person isn’t getting sued for tremendous amounts of money. If they do, umbrella insurance can mitigate most lawsuit fears.
- Contractors and businesses may charge higher prices, but you can easily shop around for better deals.
- Ordinary people don’t cling to the coattails of wealthy individuals. Fake friends may be a problem for celebrities, but this isn’t likely to happen to the millionaires that live next door to you.
Money is a Detractor, Not a Magnet
Contrary to popular belief, money is not a magnet for friends, relatives, or acquaintances. In real life, it often acts as a repellant. It’s easy to feel jealous, angry, disgruntled, or just plain annoyed by those who have a lot more money than you do.
People tend to tense up around financial conversations and public displays of wealth. They don’t clutch on to the people talking about their fortunes. Instead, they run from them.
That doesn’t mean stealth wealth isn’t important. It just means the standard list of reasons might not be applicable.
In my opinion, the real reason for stealth wealth isn’t to protect your assets. It’s to protect the feelings and perceptions of those around you.
Why Should You Practice Stealth Wealth?
When I first graduated from college, I began working for a successful financial institution with substantial perks and benefits.
In the beginning, friends and relatives would ask questions about my job. How was the company stock performing? How many days of vacation did I receive? When did I expect to receive my next big bonus?
After a few years, I began working from home several days a week and took the opportunity to work from our beach house. Close relatives began making snarky comments, and jealousy began to rear its ugly head.
Success is tricky. We can cheer for those aiming to succeed and still feel jealous when they reach the pinnacles of success. We can applaud those who attain more, then quickly feel like they already have more than enough.
Do you know what happens when you become successful? Some people begin to compare their success to your own. That can lead to complicated feelings and severe jealousy.
By practicing stealth wealth, I shield myself from those negative emotions, but I also protect my friends and relatives from feeling them. Why create emotional turmoil where it doesn’t need to exist?
Leaving the Door Open for Honest Conversations
I’ve written before about the negative aspects of being rich. It’s easy to judge others based on how much they have and how much they earn. In many circles, rich is a dirty word.
In the United States, the gap between rich and poor is continually growing. I recognized this early on in my career.
As my earning power grew, I became more aware of the privileges my wealth afforded me. In the beginning, I lost friendships over my newfound wealth and created unnecessary family tensions too.
Practicing stealth wealth allows me to fit in just about anywhere I go. When I sit on the beach, no one knows I own a house just up the hill. Most beachgoers assume I am renting a home.
As a former small business owner, I can talk easily with a neighbor who owns her own plumbing company. Answering the door in jeans and a t-shirt, I can also chat easily with a plumber who comes to fix a leak in my home.
As my wealth has grown, I’ve become a better listener. I base what I share on how other people are speaking and what they are saying. I hope to make others feel comfortable. To do that, I can’t openly talk about all that I own, nor should I.
Practicing stealth wealth leads to more genuine and honest conversations. We treat others as equals, and in return, they do the same.
Stealth Wealth is More Difficult Than You Might Imagine
My family doesn’t know about my blog. They don’t know I’m worth millions of dollars either. I’ve been writing here for over 15 years, and I’ve never told them about the money my husband and I saved. Most of my friends don’t know either.
To practice stealth wealth, you can’t let anyone know how much you earn or how much you’ve stashed away. Unlike some millionaires, I’m not the kind of person who likes to flaunt my money.
In general, I prefer to blend into the background rather than come into the spotlight. For me, modesty and financial success fit hand-in-hand.
How Your Possessions Impact Stealth Wealth
Some people will say it’s easy to hide your wealth. They’ll tell you to avoid buying fancy cars or the biggest house on the block, but those material possessions aren’t the only signs of financial success.
What other status symbols exist? How about expensive vacations, trips, and experiences?
To practice stealth wealth, you have to consider your material possessions alongside your adventures. Social media images of trendy hot spots are just as flashy as fast cars and big homes.
How Your Profession Impacts Stealth Wealth
Even if you try to hide your wealth, your profession may give others a clue. It’s easy to Google for the salaries of doctors, lawyers, and engineers. It takes a few short clicks on a web browser to estimate the average pay rate for most careers.
In reality, most jobs have rather large pay ranges. Imagine a software engineer earns between $50,000 and $200,000 per year. No one knows if you are at the top or bottom for your selected profession, but that fact doesn’t matter. Many people will hear your job title and assume you make a hefty salary.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Just because you earn a high salary doesn’t mean you’re wealthy. Student loan debt and poor spending habits can eat away at high wages, but the average person doesn’t consider that when judging your financial success. To them, the job title indicates wealth.
The ability to attain stealth wealth depends in part on what you do for a living. A doctor or engineer will have a more difficult time hiding their wealth than a teacher or social worker.
I am a stay-at-home parent living just outside of an expensive city. Where I live, a 1600 square foot house costs $750,000. The cost of living is so high that most families require two working parents to pay the mortgage.
I can wear t-shirts, jeans and drive an old stealth wealth car, but the minute I tell someone I stay at home, they assume my husband earns a lot of money.
How Your Experiences Impact Stealth Wealth
Exotic trips and pricey excursions also undermine stealth wealth. I rarely discuss my beach house with others, but even new friends and neighbors begin to wonder why we travel out of state multiple times a year.
I often say our beach house is a “family home.” Some new friends may assume it belongs to my parents or in-laws, but subsequent questions often follow.
“Does your family rent the house?” they’ll ask. “Would they rent it to me?”
At this point, I tell them the truth. “My husband and I bought it years ago,” I say.
Some proponents of stealth wealth condone lying, but I don’t wish to cover up my wealth that way. As I mentioned above, practicing stealth wealth leads to more genuine and honest conversations. I can’t be genuine if I cover up the truth.
Should I Share My Financial Knowledge?
Proponents of stealth wealth often avoid the topic of money. In fact, many suggest you lie about your wealth or pretend you don’t know anything about financial matters.
I’m afraid I have to disagree. It feels selfish to hold back on financial wisdom that could help others become wealthy. I talk openly about money. I just leave out personal facts and figures.
My husband and I recently talked to a friend about buying her first house. We openly shared the thought processes behind fifteen-year mortgages, bi-weekly payments, and using bonuses to pay off balances. Then we discussed the importance of balancing saving goals like investing in the market while paying down her first home.
We didn’t jump in with our ideas. Instead, we let the conversation flow freely into these topics. We discussed all of these matters in general terms. Of course, this may blow our cover, but we don’t intend to keep all of our financial knowledge to ourselves.
I’m not willing to keep these financial details to myself all in the name of stealth wealth. We didn’t mention the price of our home or the fact that we are mortgage-free, but we provided a ton of helpful information.
To hold back feels selfish and stingy.
Stealth Wealth Leads to Real Wealth
We also talk to others about the lure of consumerism, including advertisements and lifestyle inflation. It’s easier for some to part with their hard-earned money than save it. The fewer status symbols you feel pressured to purchase, the more money you can stow away.
We don’t discuss our net worth, but we do talk a lot about how content we feel. A rich life isn’t just about having a bunch of money in the bank. It’s about being rich in other ways too.
I could keep these keys to success to myself, but I want to share my knowledge with those who are open to receive it.
We’re Not Trying to Hide Our Net Worth
Some people may feel the need to hide behind stealth wealth, but most of us aren’t intentionally hiding anything at all. We aren’t purposefully avoiding the purchase of fancy stuff. We just don’t feel the need to buy much of it.
My husband and I prefer cooking at home to eating in fancy restaurants. We choose backyard barbecues over hosting meals on fine china. We aim to be true to ourselves. By living simply with less, we can typically blend in with our neighbors.
That is until we head out to of town. If we’re gone for awhile at least a few friends and neighbors will notice, and ask where we’ve been.
The average family can’t afford to spend a month away from home. We could hide the truth, or openly enjoy our money, and tell people we were away on vacation.