How often do you judge people based on their money?

That was the title of an email I got recently from a reader who thought I’d enjoy this post over on on how to build your housekeeping muscle. Here’s the rest of it:

I read an article recently that I really appreciated and thought you might like it too.  It is actually focused on housekeeping issues, but it starts out with a story about people’s perceptions about personal finance, and then the steps she suggests for getting better at managing everyday home maintenance are really applicable to PF too.

It was a good wake up call for me: 1) I shouldn’t look down on people who aren’t great at managing their $ just because (I think) I am, 2) maybe it’s not such a moral failing to not be good at keeping my floors clean!  Maybe a non-saver will never have as much in their 401k as they should, and maybe I will never have a spotless kitchen, but we can all make improvements!  :-)

I thought this was great because whether we want to believe it or not, we DO judge others based on how we think they are with money.  I try really REALLY hard not to, but it’s tough to stop the first impressions from hitting your brain when they’re completely out of your control ;) So instead I try and wipe them out after I think of them and try concentrating on something more productive. Like, as our reader mentions above, something that they probably ARE good at instead.

Let’s take my friend, Tom, for example. He doesn’t ever invest into his 401(k) plan but the crazy part is that he teaches people they should invest in their 401(ks) AS A JOB!! Like, that’s what he does 40 hours a week!!  I cringe every time I think of that, haha… But the guy is AMAZING with other parts of his life instead. Like, with being almost obsessive about time management and working out. Never have I met someone who works so well on a schedule and can get so many things done, and on time.

Another example – my friend Angel (not his real name, but I’ve always liked it for a guy :)). Angel has never saved a penny of his earnings in the 8+ years since I’ve known him. There’s always a new BMW he wants, or a club he has to attend, or the latest electronic gizmo that’s about to change his life. Despite my constant hints that he needs to start saving at *some* point here, it goes through one ear and out the next. Because according to him “life’s short so you should enjoy it before you die.” True indeed, but WHAT IF YOU LIVE UNTIL 100??? ;) I’ve tried being better at this and just letting him do his thing without being a nagging friend, but it’s often times hard. The guy is incredible at cooking and always being there for you as a friend though. I’ve never met someone so willing to go out of their way to help another person in my life. Great with relationships, sucky with money!

So it’s definitely true what our reader mentions above – we’re all good at *something* and it doesn’t necessarily mean with money.

This also got me thinking of other *judgements* I come into generally during life too. Reactions to things like fancy cars, houses, jobs, etc. In fact, here – I’ll list some of them out along with my initial feelings, then add the justifications I usually think shortly after to give people the benefit of the doubt ;)

  • Fancy cars -“SEXY! I want that!!!… If only I had the balls to pony up the cash like that dude did.”
  • Fancy home – “Yuck. Just the *idea* of having to manage that thing would stress me out… I hope that person has a BIG family!”
  • Fancy clothes – “Love it! Not going to lie. I can appreciate a well-dressed woman, or even man for that matter… They must need to do that for their job.”
  • Fancy jewelry – “The blinger the better! But I couldn’t tell the difference between a fake diamond and a cubic zirconia, so it doesn’t impress me much (and this from a guy who paid hundreds of dollars for the earring currently in his ear!)… They probably got it as a gift.”
  • Fancy job – “Good for them!… It takes a lot of hard work and focus to pull off becoming a high-paying lawyer, doctor, real estate mogul, etc, so I respect a gig like that…”
  • Fancy electronics – “Meh. Waste of money… Hopefully they play with ’em all the time and thoroughly enjoy them!”
  • Fancy food – “Double meh… they’re probably out celebrating a special event.”

And so on and so forth. I bet we come across half these items every single day actually. And again, they’re all judgements – just mainly on *things* this time over *people*, though of course it always comes back to them in the end too  (thus my rationalization after feeling each of those ways ;)). I doubt I’m ever right 90% of the time, but a financial guy’s gotta hope for the best, right? And regardless, none of it really matters in the end anyways since it doesn’t affect US personally.(Though it IS good that we know ourselves well!)

Anyways, I’m rambling… The takeaway today – especially after celebrating the day of “thanks” giving! – is to keep an eye on those judgements and try to redirect your focus on the positive when possible. Especially those that directly concern you and your family/lifestyle/money. That’s really what’s important in our lives – all the rest is just noise.

Now have a happy rest of your holiday weekend, and tell your family Uncle J$ says hi! :)

Photo credit: maura_monahan

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  1. HP November 29, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    Does this also mean I should stop judging guys I see around the workplace who still wear diamond studs, when in fact they may actualy be ballers like yourself? : D

    In all seriousness, this post brings up good points; I’m guilty of judging every day (especially when I see friends choose luxury over quality).

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      Haha… Yes, that’s exactly what it means. No more judging blinged out man ears ;)

  2. Kathy November 29, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    I have to plead guilty on being too judgmental. I try not to be but when a tenant who struggles every month to pay rent had a 4th child last year it about took the top of my head off! I know babies are blessings, but if you are constantly struggling financially, they sure aren’t going to help your bottom line. I don’t judge people on what they HAVE in the way of money, but I unfortunately do judge based on what people DO with the money they have. Especially if they have little to begin with.

    1. C The Writer November 30, 2013 at 7:55 AM

      Yeah, definitely NOT your business how or when someone has kids, whether they pay rent on time or not. I find your attitude a little disgusting. That goes beyond judging into wtf territory.

      On another note, I judge landlords. For being landlords. Many of them are greedy, keep their properties in horrible condition, and make their tenants’ lives hell.

      1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:39 AM

        I pretty much just hit both of your topics being a landlord with a baby on its way, haha… but fortunately we can afford him/her and we also use a property management firm which has a pretty good reputation, so hopefully I’m safe ;) But yeah, lots of problems out there caused by both tenants and landlords really…

        Appreciate both of you speaking your minds here though, even if you’re fired up. Nothing wrong with having opinions/judgements as we know we’ve all got ’em :)

        1. C The Writer December 2, 2013 at 4:08 PM

          Oh, update. My landlords stole money out of my security deposit for cleaning fees and stuff that was already like it was when I moved in.

          Can’t say that’s improved my opinion much. In my experience, landlords don’t do what’s necessary, steal security deposits, and, overall, suck.

  3. Aimee November 29, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    So guilty! It’s even worse when I’m tired because I blurt things out. I just don’t want to see my friends and family struggle with something so manageable as money, and I want to help everyone. I try to remind myself that it’s their life and they can live it they way they want, but it’s hard sometimes to shut my big fat mouth. Thank you J and reader for sharing this! I could use a reminder like this just about monthly!

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      Haha… okay, then I will email you this post on the 2nd of every month ;)

  4. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) November 29, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    Super hard not to judge (and really who am I to judge since I am plenty in the red!!!) Right now I’m watching the news and judging all the hoards of people on Black Friday but I’ll try to hold back. ;)

  5. This Life On Purpose November 29, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Guilty. I definitely judge people on how they spend their money and how they manage their finances. I will judge you if you take out a cash advance from your credit card just to purchase a drink at the bar! Yeah, that drink is actually going to cost you $20 when all is said and done…..

    But I do need to realize that just because they do it differently, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

    1. Financial Samurai November 29, 2013 at 10:39 PM

      Thanks for sharing. I understand better your comment now on my post on how to save lots of money. It’s pretty amazing how much we can save when we open ourselves up to being judged.

    2. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      What if they were buying the drink for YOU? Haha…

  6. Erin @ Gen Y Finances November 29, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Yeah, I tend to get a bit judgy and I have ABSOLUTELY no right. It’s not like I’m a financial badass or anything.

    I always feel guilty when I get judgy, but I try to keep my comments to myself.

    You bring up a great point though. Not everyone is good with money but they usually have some skills you don’t. Money just seems to be the focus because it’s important for pretty much every aspect of life. Next time I go all “judgy wudgy was a bear” on someone, I’ll just try to remind myself about their special skillz :)

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:42 AM

      It’s the hardest too when you can’t find any of theirs ;)

  7. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel November 29, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    It’s always hard not to judge someone who (seemingly) disregards something you believe so strongly in. It’s kind of funny because I’m good at not judging someone because they have a different religion than me or because they have a different political preference (both of which are super important to me), but when it comes to money, I start to hyperventilate when I hear some of the things people do lol. Looks like I’ve got some work to do!

  8. Kevin Vesga November 29, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    I am guilty of this and even worse, I (silently) judge how my parents spend their money. I do love and appreciate them very much, yet I feel their financial habits and decisions could be improved. Maybe I’ll send them a link to your blog ;)

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      Yikes! Now that is dangerous territory, haha… you keep me out of it! ;)

  9. Bobby @ Making Money Fast and Slow November 29, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Until about a year ago, I never actually cared about what people wore. I didn’t even know what any of the brands’ logos looked like. However, now that I’ve entered the corporate world, I not only judge people on clothing, but also judge them on their jobs and salary.

    However, I still laugh at people who have nice cars knowing they probably can’t afford them. Really, only if they have a Porsche or something more exotic can you start to imagine that they can really afford it.

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      That’s interesting… I feel like it’s much more competitive in the corporate world too. Not that I have much to go on considering its’ been a solid 10 years, at least, since I was last in that space :) The rest of my “real world” experience before becoming a full-time blogger was at startups where people were too busy to care about what others were wearing, haha… Plus, we all wore t-shirts and jeans anyways so we were all in the same “bucket.”

  10. One Frugal Girl November 29, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Oh yeah! I’m definitely guilty of this one!

  11. MakintheBacon November 29, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    I even judge people (silently, of course) on what they purchase at the grocery store. lol. While I judge others on how they spend money too, I feel like people would judge me based on how rarely I spend my money. They may think oh, she never has any fun, she doesn’t have anything new, etc. That’s not true because I do have fun. It’s just spending money on frivolous things, fancy dinners, cars or houses is not my way of doing so.

    1. Aimee November 30, 2013 at 12:53 AM

      Great point! People do judge based on how much of a “tight wad” they appear to be, and how little fun they must be having. I spend my time and have fun doing different things than most people too. Different strokes!

      1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:47 AM

        Agreed! Perhaps everyone here gets judged more than those we’re judging! So it all evens out in the end! Haha…

  12. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life November 29, 2013 at 10:59 PM

    I’m an offender! I TOTALLY judge people based on their financial habits (and on their eating/exercise habits). I guess I just don’t get it, the two most important things in your life- fiscal health and physical health, why wouldn’t you care enough to take care of yourself?

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      I’m guilty on the exercising habits :( I seem to prioritize my hustles and then family time to the point I leave out working out.. Something I need to def. get better at now that I’m no longer on a soccer/football team which used to do the trick. Just NOT fun at all I think is the problem, haha… I think I need a work out buddy. Want to come down to VA a few times a week and help me? :)

  13. C The Writer November 30, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    My mother has a $60k student loan that she has never paid. She ran up thousands in credit card debt and did nothing about it. She also has an outstanding electric bill for $20k that she has no intention of paying. She keeps her electric on by begging the electric company and claiming illness.

    I feel very ashamed to be her daughter, and I vowed never to make the same mistakes she did. Unfortunately, I did run up $25k in credit card debt and had to declare bankruptcy last year. But moving forward, I’m being honest, paying my debts, and trying my best to do what’s right.

    I am hardly in a position to judge anyone for being bad with money. I can’t think of many people worse with money than I am. No savings, recent bankruptcy, $46k in student loans…sometimes I wish I could just go back in time and change everything.

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      At least you KNOW the position you’re in and you’re now *working towards a better life!* That’s more than I can say for a lot of people in debt. You can only change the future, so keep on going strong my friend. Every little bit helps!

  14. Brad Yzermans November 30, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    I think it’s very easy to judge people on how much money they make because that tends to reflect how much a person is valued in their chosen line of work or how good they are at their job/career. But it can reflect many other things that we don’t initially think of.

  15. Kathy November 30, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    C, The Writer
    How do we know each other that you know what kind of a greedy landlord I am? Most of my acquaintances don’t even know I have rental property. You can find my attitude disgusting if you wish but what you don’t know is that I allowed the tenants to suspend their rent payments for 4 months until they could get back on their feet after delivery. I then allowed them to repay the back rent a little at a time with the amounts repaid each time set by them based on what they could afford. If that makes me greedy…so be it. But most landlords – greedy or otherwise- are not in the rental business to provide free housing to people. That is the government’s job. So unless you can tell me how we know each other for you to make such a slanderous statement about me, then please leave me out of your diatribe.

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      Wow – that’s pretty awesome of you to be so lenient with your tenant!! I’d be so pissed if ours couldn’t pay for so long – especially since we lose money each month on ours anyways :( Good for you on trying to work it out with them – I hope things get back to normal soon over there and you finally get paid up!

    2. C The Writer December 2, 2013 at 4:10 PM

      Blah blah blah.

  16. Mike Carlson December 1, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    I have to admit there are times that I judge people with what they wear or what they have. But that is not actually the case at all times.

  17. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen December 3, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    I guess you can apply this to everything in life! Try not to be so judgemental and just focus on the positive. I have a tendency to be more a pessimist honestly so I have to really work at this to really make it happen!

    1. J. Money December 4, 2013 at 9:08 AM

      That, and also stay concerned with OURSELVES over others too, since at the end of the day that’s all that matters :) Well, that and our family and friends and what have you, but you get the point. What other people are doing usually doesn’t affect us regardless.