Home > 2015 > Personal Finance

8 Things Rich People Buy That Make Them Look Dumb

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

A few years ago, I was invited, along with a group of my friends, to a party at a waterfront mansion here in Fort Lauderdale. The house featured two elevators, about 20,000 square feet and a living room that resembled an upscale hotel lobby.

As we stood in a small group marveling at a side of life we’d never seen, one of my friends said, “Doesn’t this make you wonder what you did wrong? I mean, why don’t we have houses like this?”

My response: “Really? I was just thinking about how long it would take to walk from the garage back to the master bedroom when I left my keys on the nightstand.”

Since my first mansion party, I’ve been to many others. I’ve also ridden on mega-yachts, kicked back in vast home theaters and otherwise enjoyed the spoils of other people’s good fortune.

I’ve learned something along the way: It’s fun to know rich people.

But I’ve also learned that trying to impress people with ostentatious displays often creates the opposite effect. In other words, things you think are earning envy may be causing people to think you look silly.

Here are some of my favorite examples…

1. An Expensive Sports Car

“Want to see how fast it will go?”

That’s the question I’ve been asked all three times I’ve been a passenger in a Ferrari. My answer was consistent: “Please, no. I’m begging you.”

It doesn’t work. Instead, it’s zero to 100 in 5 seconds on a city street.

I’m sure there are lots of people who enjoy riding in loud, cramped cars that can theoretically go more than 200 miles an hour. I’m not one of them.

While these guys (yes, in my experience they’re always guys) probably imagine themselves envied at every traffic light, are they really getting the status for which they paid?

They’re getting attention, all right, but maybe not the kind they wanted. When I’m stopped next to a Ferrari, all I’m seeing is someone who’s combined a midlife crisis with a big checkbook.

2. A Boat

If you take a ride down the Intracoastal Waterway here in Fort Lauderdale, within 5 miles you’ll pass more than $100 million in largely unused boats.

But if boating’s a crime, I’m guilty. As I write this, I have two 30-foot boats docked behind my modest waterfront home. I love boating, and I love working on my boats.

But the only advantage to actually owning one — especially a big, complicated one — is that it makes any other indulgences you have seem practically free. I’ve owned boats for many years, and I can state unequivocally that I’d be better off if I paid $1,000 to rent a boat for the day whenever the mood struck.

When someone asks me, “What’s the best boat?” I say, “Someone else’s.”

The only thing you can do to make boat ownership more foolish is to borrow the money to buy one, or to buy a new one. Think cars depreciate when you drive them off the lot? Chicken feed. Boats sink in value so rapidly that it’s truly astounding.

They also tend to sit unused for long periods of time, which is the worst way to maintain one.

Boats are no way to stay afloat. And unless you have money to burn, this pastime may not bring you the status you think it will.

3. Plastic Surgery

You think you look younger. What you might look like is someone who’s so insecure they had to have plastic surgery so they could pretend they weren’t getting older. And don’t even get me started on breast enhancement, especially the (literally) over-the-top variety.

4. Jewelry

Tasteful jewelry can definitely add to one’s appearance. But if you’re wearing too much, you might as well just wear a dress made of $1,000 bills. It’s brassy, not classy. There’s a fine line between good and gaudy.

5. Houses

I get it: If you have millions of dollars, you’ve got to put it somewhere, and where you live is as good a place as any.

But if you’re borrowing heavily to impress your friends with a house that’s way bigger than you need or can afford, you’re not looking rich, you’re looking crazy.

Besides, who wants to walk the length of a football field to let the dog in?

6. Servants

Nothing wrong with having some maid service if you can afford it. But live-ins?

Maybe if I was rich for long enough, I could get used to the idea of having people I don’t know all that well living with me. But I’ve had friends with live-in drivers, butlers, cooks and “personal assistants,” and to me it feels awkward having employees standing around.

I’ve always wondered: Do rich people have to get dressed if they want to raid the refrigerator in the middle of the night?

It’s a house, not an office building. If it’s so big you need a bunch of employees to run it, maybe it’s too much.

7. Clothes

Clothes may make the man, but super-expensive clothes can make that man look like he’s trying too hard. As with jewelry, there’s a fine line between good taste and tasteless.

In my 10 years as a stock broker, I learned there was an almost inverse relationship between a person’s true wealth and his or her apparent wealth. In other words, the guy in the jeans driving the station wagon is the rich one — the guy in the fancy suit driving the Porsche is the one trying to sell him stuff.

8. Conspicuous Consumption

Upstaging your friends with gratuitous material possessions or other forms of conspicuous consumption might do more than make you look rich: It might make you look shallow.

Ever see the bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys wins?” Dumber words were never spoken.

If You’ve Got It, It’s No Crime to Flaunt It

If you’ve spent money on items in the list above, you probably found my critique inaccurate — even insulting. That’s not my intention.

Having wealth is good and spending money is fun. So what separates the shallow nincompoop from someone leading a life well-lived? It isn’t about the amount of money you spend or what you spend it on. It’s all about why you’re spending it.

If you don’t like yourself or live in fear that others don’t like you, no amount of money or possessions will change that. That’s what makes you look dumb: spending to boost your self-esteem.

On the other hand, if you like yourself and are spending to indulge a passion, or to make your life more interesting, good for you. You’re the type of spender I want to hang out with.

But I still don’t want to see how fast your Ferrari will go.

This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.  This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

More from Money Talks News:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team