Some say that status is an important quality or characteristic for people. I would argue that the appearance of status is much more important.
When I wear my plain Levis jeans I’m not making the same statement as someone in a more fashionable brand – a name I would not even know. In appearance, our relative affluence may seem out of alignment.
When I drive my 12 year old get-out-of-debt-car, I may appear on the brink of poverty to someone rolling up in their new BMW, Benz, or SUV – especially if the green bean is gasping smoke as it is sometimes want to do.
But, as the saying goes, beauty is only skin deep. There is no Visa receipt in the back pocket of my jeans nor is there a payment book tucked away in a desk drawer – only a clear car title in a lock box.
I read recently about a conversation between the driver of a 19 year old van and the driver of a much newer full size pick-up. The conversation started in awe over the age of the van but ended in perceived insult as the van driver jokingly commented that the van’s “payment is right”.
The story resonated with me because the perception of affluence was not in accord with the reality of financial well being.
Inserting my pervious and current fiscal selves into the scene, I – as the truck driver – want my ability to finance such a rich vehicle to equate to your recognition of my wealth. I want you to want a truck like mine but to not be able to afford it. That you simply elect not to make my same bad decision crushes me twice – first that you have the fortitude to refuse self and drive a heap, on-lookers be damned, and second, you’re not strapped to a payment the size of my head for the next 3-5 years.
In this mano a mano showdown the van driver wins every time. His vision is set on a prize more valued than empty and fleeting glances of approval. His end game is freedom and security… and he’s not as broke as you think.
Special thanks to Jason at Frugal Dad for providing the inspirational spark on this article.
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