“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.