The funniest thing happened to me just yesterday, something I really wasn’t expecting: somebody sincerely told me that I am rich. Which got me thinking and I had to write this post on how to trick people into thinking you’re rich (even though the title is, in the end, a bit misleading).
Either way, here’s how it happened: one of my oldest and best friends, who’s living abroad now, visited her family during the holidays. She came with her new boyfriend, who is 5 years younger (which makes him 24). And eventually, they both visited to play The Settlers of Catan (one of the greatest board games there are).
As soon as they walked in, my friend’s boyfriend said, looking around: “Whoa, dude, YOU ARE RICH! How do you do it?”
I was caught completely unprepared and my first reaction after the initial shock was to laugh at a joke I wasn’t understanding. But it turns out that he was 100% sincere. He really considered me and probably still does – rich.
And that is something that I clearly am not – as you probably know already if you’re a blog regular. I live with my mom, I drive a second hand car, I don’t afford to buy all the stuff that I want (fortunately, I don’t really need all that crap!) and my net worth is well under $30,000. And even though, despite all these, I still live a good life, at least one I am extremely pleased with, I am far, far, faaaaaar away from considering myself anywhere near rich.
So how did I (involuntarily) trick that young fella into thinking that I am rich?
It’s all about the first impression: as soon as he walked in, he saw my big screen TV which is indeed impressive but is already three years old and I got it together with my wife as our only Christmas present three Christmases ago for $550. Near the TV was my iPad. Under the iPad, there is my old laptop. On the table, there was my wife’s laptop (a cheap, $300 laptop) and my smartphone (again, an old Samsung model). We fortunately keep the room tidy and the furniture still looks new and modern enough. Still, it’s cheap Ikea-like furniture that is already years-old. On the table, there was a bottle of expensive whiskey that we drank from (which I have received as a Christmas gift). And for some reason, my skin tone that day simply smelled rich.
Although I didn’t ask the guy what exactly makes him think that I am rich, it couldn’t have been anything else. For some people who don’t know the big picture, anybody could seem to be rich. And then it hit me. I was rich from his point of view:
He is 24, which means he’s just out of college. He lives in a foreign country and shares a cheap room with his girlfriend, in a two room apartment that he shares with another couple. He is “between jobs,” living off his savings and whatever his parents can spare to send him. He does not afford to have all those gadgets that he saw me have (although I NEED them all for my work and they’re all two generations old) and probably his net worth is lower than mine. Because he is 5 years younger.
I remember that back when I was in college, living in a disastrous room where my bed was a mattress thrown directly on the floor, most people seemed to be richer than me.
So being rich, just like all things in the world, is a relative. You might consider yourself poor, but you are not. You might consider yourself just average, but you are not. For some, you will always be rich. For some, you will always be poor.
What I learned from all this is that what matters – the only thing that really matters – is how you feel. I wasn’t blown away, I didn’t feel proud, I didn’t feel better, I didn’t feel special when that guy told me I was rich. The complete opposite could’ve happened – and he could’ve told me “Dude, you’re so poor” after looking around and even though that would’ve probably hurt a little, it wouldn’t have mattered at all.
Because I know where I stand. And you know where you stand too. And no matter where that is, you should be proud of yourself. You should be proud because, just like this guy who shares a flat with three people, just like me who slept on a mattress on the floor, you started way lower than where you are right now. And you keep going up, and you keep doing better. That’s what should make you proud!