“You Are the Richest Person I Know”

“You are the richest person I know,” she said. Not in any special way, but just as a matter of fact. I was taken aback by her remark. I could feel my face flush and my palms get a little sweaty. I cracked a nervous grin. “What makes you think that,” I asked her.

“You own a big house in a fancy neighborhood and you drive a new car. Most of the people I know live in apartments and the ones that own homes don’t own ones as large as the one you live in.”

She didn’t say this in an accusatory way, but for some reason I felt uncomfortable. For years my husband and I saved our money, worked hard and made wise investments, but to most people I thought we portrayed the picture of an ordinary, middle class family. If you stepped into my home you would’ve seen mismatched furniture and cracked walls.

These days we’ve painted the house, bought new couches and rugs and recently renovated one of the bathrooms. Still I didn’t think much about our house. It’s in a nice neighborhood, but we bought the house in 2001 when the price of homes was half the amount you’d pay today.

We rarely tell people about our beach house, our company or anything else that may indicate the amount of money we have in the bank. Though I discuss money on this blog, I often downplay our assets here too. I’m not ashamed of the money I have, but I don’t like people to think differently because of it.

I began to feel a shift in momentum when I bought my new car. When I drove my 1999 Toyota Camry no one thought about the amount of money in my bank account. In fact, if anything they figured I didn’t have any.

The first time I drove my new Highlander around town I felt slightly exposed. I know that lots of people lease new cars and many more have car loans, but the truth is I do own my car. I wrote a check on the very day I drove it off the lot.

I told my new friend that I just bought a new car after 14 years and that we bought our house when the market was very, very low. Still I was surprised by my own reaction to her comment.

Why did I feel the need to downplay my wealth? I’m really not sure.

10 thoughts on ““You Are the Richest Person I Know””

  1. So many people look at all the “stuff” and don’t consider all the work that goes into it. Or that you are able to get through all of it without debt because you’ve saved and waited. My Sister-in-law is about 12 years younger than us and once asked if we were rich, because we have a nice car and a nice house. I explained to her that we are older than her, we’ve paid off our student loans using ever penny we had and then took that money and started saving for the nicer things. It is always surprising to be considered “rich” for working hard and seeing the fruits of our labors.

    • I’ve faced similar situations where people think that family members or pure luck have helped us get where we are. One younger family member in particular thought the exact same thing. We tried to explain how we reached our place in life, just as you did, but I’m not sure that it sunk in. When people see the nice house and car they definitely don’t think about the work it took to achieve them.

  2. Those kind of comments make me so uncomfortable too. Plus, appearances can be deceiving, for all they know you’re broke and one layoff away from bankruptcy (I know you are not, but you know what I mean). I have a SIL that is convince we are rich b/c my husband and I have jobs and therefore “owe” her since only her husband works – but at the same time she refuses to look for work and is only unemployed b/c she wanted to be a stay at home mom – which she hated, so my in-laws are paying for the kids to be in daycare. It is a very very frustrating situation even though we are on the sidelines of it.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your situation. As you know from reading this blog I’ve had many disagreements with in-laws over the years. In this instances all you can do is ignore your relatives the best you can. Live your life and don’t feel guilty for a second for the things you have accomplished.

  3. But you could easily be construed as poor as well, because I tend to view people who drive nice cars and live in nice homes as full up to their ears in debt that they can’t afford.

    Then again, it might all depend on your demeanor and the way you act, which I am sure is humble and sweet.

    • Great comment! I often think the same. When I see people driving very expensive cars I often think they must be broke beyond belief. In fact, many people I know who live in expensive houses and drive expensive cars are leveraged beyond belief and living paycheck to paycheck.

  4. My husband recently got a similar comment after telling a coworker that I was heading back to work next week after my maternity leave. I took 5 months off and my husband took 9 weeks earlier this year after our second daughter was born in January. (And we both work for government agencies, so no paid leave for us.) his coworker couldn’t imagine not getting paid for that long and acted like we were “rich” because both of us took so much leave this year. We actually started a “maternity leave” find shortly after getting married so we would be able to take time off when our children were born. i think there is a large number of people who just don’t think ahead like that, so it sounds unbelievable to them.

    • Some people live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to put aside a maternity fund. You were apparently able to put aside enough money to live comfortably for three months without anyone working. For some people, all the planning in the world can’t make up for the fact that there just isn’t enough money to put aside.


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