I Don’t Dress Like a Bum, Mom.

Anytime I tell people I’m a personal finance blogger, they get this look of shock on their face. Not because they don’t know what blogging is (which as many of you know is probably a good 75% of people out there), but because I don’t dress all financial-like. In fact, as my mother likes to say, I “dress like a bum.” (she just doesn’t get style these days, my jeans are supposed to have holes! haha…).

But regardless of how you label it, most people can agree that I don’t look rich. And if the clothes weren’t enough to give it away, my ‘hawk sure does. But how do they know how much I have in the bank? What if I were a super-billionaire disguised like some punk kid? Do you think those millionaires next door flaunt fancy clothes all over the place? Noooooooope. Some do of course, but there are many more fakers out there than the real deal. Some people find it important to LOOK rich over actually BEING rich.

Have you ever read The Millionaire Next Door? Great great book that goes over a lot of the lifestyles that true millionaires actually live. It’s probably one of my favorite financial books I’ve read (next to The Richest Man in Babylon and I Will Teach You To Be Rich) and it’s actually pretty eye-opening. Most millionaires are pretty boring! Haha… I seriously recommend reading it if you haven’t already – you can see my review of it here.

So the point to take home today is this: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Pretty damn obvious, but pretty damn true. Just because your neighbor is rockin’ the gator boots and that Laguna Blue M3, doesn’t mean he’s all that. Odds are the “bum” down the street is actually worth more.

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  1. Lulu October 5, 2010 at 7:56 AM

    So true…but really sad that we are caught up in a world of appearances instead of appreciating what people have done. I don’t drive a fancy car but is PAID OFF and guess what it gets me where I need to go just like my friend’s expensive (still paying to the bank) car does.

    Enjoy your jeans with the holes and just know that if you WANTED To buy a $700 pair you could…….but that is not what makes you happy….then use that money for another awesome trip and get the experiences that you friends don’t have.

  2. sarah October 5, 2010 at 8:10 AM

    I have read 2 of the of 3 those books, I really enjoyed the Millionaire Next Door. I used to work at a Brokerage firm, and I learned real quick to not judge a book by it’s cover. I was always AMAZED at the poorly dressed client, who got a ride from someone else, that ended up having close to a million bucks. Because they SAVED, instead of spending. Because they worked, saved, and were “thrifty” they were the ones able to retire at 47! And on the other hand, I would see executives and doctors that could figure out how they were going to put their kids through college.

    I am a blend of the 2. I LOVE nice things, my husband likes nice things, and heck my kids are spoiled beyond belief. But you know what, none of that happens with out sacrifice. We dug our way out of close to 90K in debt (less then 30K to go – student loans) and I learned how to save a buck in the process. Savings, and retirement contributions ALWAYS come first… and without debt, there is plenty left over for the fun purchases!

  3. Everyday Tips October 5, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    I have totally found that many that flaunt the most are treading on water. Sure, some people I know that dress fancy truly are rich, but for the most part, they should probably be spending their money on things like paying bills instead.

  4. Techbud October 5, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    Currently reading the Millionaire Next Door. Now here the complete opposite story for you, my wife who works as a part time cashier at a food store often sees people buying food with food stamps but they have the latest cell phones, designer handbag, sun glasses etc.

  5. StackingCash October 5, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    Why am I envious of all those fakers? :/

    Sometimes I feel like life is too short to be depriving myself :/


  6. Andi B. October 5, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    That is so funny; I had this conversation with my grandmother. Some of my family gets concerned that I took on debt when they look at our older cars and small studio and I told my g-ma they have it backwards. We live in a sufficient place we can afford and I drive an older car because it’s paid off! If I had a brand new nice car and designer jeans (with or without holes ;) ) THEN they should be worried. Dressing “like a bum” may be a sign of fiscal genius.

  7. FrugalRichLife October 5, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    Appearances don’t mean much…prime example: Mark Zuckerberg! Usually the people riding the fancy cars and wearing fancy clothes are in financial distress because they need to buy things to feel happy. People who are financially stable usually are content w/ their lives and emotionally-stable :)

  8. Lauren October 5, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    I need to read this book. I remember a meeting with the CEO and the V.P. of Business Development during my first internship at a credit union. The V.P. of Business Development asked all the interns, ” would you rather look rich or be rich.” I rather be rich anyday even though that’s easier said than done. I like nice things and to spend money. I’m trying to control my spending by having a budget. It’s hard sticking to it, but at least I know where my money is going. I’m not trying to be like Teresa Guidice from Real Housewives of New Jersey. She spent all this money on parties, shopping, vacations, and buulding and furnishing her new house. Now her and her husband declared bankruptcy of $11 Million. A mess!

    @techbud. How do they have all these fancy gadgets when they on food stamps? That’s also a mess, but I do realize that their is an education problem. Many of these people didn’t have someone to teach them how to properly handle money and they don’t know how to access resources to learn. But who are we to judge right? We buy stuff with credit cards that we can’t afford.

  9. me in millions October 5, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    So true! I love the Millionaire Next Door because it changed the way I think about people who have money.

    Totally agree with @everyday tips.

  10. Money Funk October 5, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    I really need to read Ramit’s book! I really enjoy Stanely’s, The Millionaire Women Next Door, too. I hope to be there one day. As for you, I have no doubt you’ll reach that goal far sooner than you plan. :)

  11. Ramona October 5, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    Need to read the book :)

    And I agree .. clothes don’t make a person. I am dressed in jeans and t-shirts and actually earn way more than some women who laugh at how “poorly” I dress. There’s stuff worth spending on and stuff not worth spending on

  12. MoneyMan @ FinancialOdyssey October 5, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    I find it pointless to impress people I don’t even know by wearing expensive clothes or driving a fancy car. If I really wanna impress someone then I’ll show then my financial statements.

  13. J. Money October 5, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    Oooh, I also forgot to mention that it’s still OKAY to own fancy things like cars and clothes and whatever your little hearts desire, I’m just talking about perceptions here. You can bet your sweet a$$ I’ll be riding along in a Benz whenever my old school Caddy burns out! There’s nothing wrong with living V.I.P. esp if you know what you’re doing…

    @Lulu – I might have to pick up another pair of jeans soon, the hole on my butt-pocket just got bigger and there’s a major draft going on down there today! Haha…. and interestingly enough it’s a pair of Armani’s (that I got on sale for $30 down from $180 – W00T!)
    @sarah – That is awesome :) You can enjoy the finer things in life but also know how to save and become financially stable – that’s great. You go and enjoy yourself!
    @Everyday Tips – That’s a good way to put it – “Flaunting usually = Treading on water”.
    @Techbud – Wow… that’s bad. Guess it just shows what their priorities are.
    @StackingCash – You’re jealous because they are big pimpin’ it! Just like we’re all a bit envious too ;) It’s totally natural as long as you don’t obsess or compare yourself to them every other minute. The nice thing about having lots of money in the bank is that you CAN go out there and splurge any time you want! You probably wont’ most of the times, but every now and then you’ll allow yourself to slip ;)
    @Andi B. – Haha, amen to that sister! Can you now call my mom and tell her this? :) (actually, there’s a very good chance she’s reading it here… and if you are, mom, make a note!)
    @FrugalRichLife – Haha, good point. If you Zuckerberg though, might not want to watch Social Network Movie ;) Man does he get slammed in that.
    @Lauren – I know, you’re right – it is a lot easier said than done. But reading blogs and articles, and talking about it sure does help! :) At least it did me. I should calculate the % of saving vs spending I’ve since moved to since starting this blog. That would be interesting…
    @me in millions – One of my faves! (even if parts are kinda bland and boring – it just REALLY gets your mindset right)
    @Money Funk – Thanks darling :) And yeah, Ramit’s book is SO GOOD at keeping you on top and just really entertained. Seriously, even if you hate money and dealing with it he gets you to laugh and wake up! Which is HUGE in this field because it all really is inherently boring. Ya gotta keep things spiced up, baby.
    @Ramona – haha, yup. although it’s okay if you DO find clothes important too – just as long as you’re prioritizing the other stuff differently then. (Like, don’t spend $500 on clothes today AND $3000 on rent AND $1,500 on a new bike, AND etc etc… gotta cut back on the crap you don’t care about and try only spending on the stuff you do)
    @MoneyMan @ FinancialOdyssey – haha, yeah but that’s not why everyone does it ;) I’m not gonna pimp my Benz to see heads turn, I’m gonna get that bitch to enjoy some nice luxury and driving for once! Same with clothes – I rock whatever makes me FEEL good, which obviously doesn’t impress others with holes in them and what not… but expensive clothes can look cheap too.

  14. Jenna October 5, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    I totally agree with this post! I literally look half my age and always run into problems when I order a drink or when I’m trying to get help while shopping. Agreed most kids don’t have money, but adults that look like them do!

  15. Chris October 5, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    I think it takes some courage and self-confidence to go against the grain on some things. Not everyone has that in them. I think that mostly we want to be at least equal to our friends or neighbors, and it’s hard to be the one who SEEMS to be the odd man out.

    Unrelated question… I’ve read several references to your ‘hawk, J. Is it a real ‘hawk or is it a fauxhawk? And do you listen to punk while you’re sporting the ‘hawk?

  16. Pat @ Do Not Wait October 5, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    This is a really interesting topic. Sometimes I walk around in sweats and people think I’m a bum. The next day I put on my nice jeans, dress shirt, and dress shoes, next thing I know and heads are turning. What? I’m the same person still!

  17. Jonha @ Happiness October 5, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    haha! I couldn’t help but laugh with the post’s title. Well sometimes people would judge us with how we would look and sometimes it’s really important to make a great impression. But then again, it may be nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.

  18. Serenity October 5, 2010 at 10:30 PM

    I could have written this post, except it would be about me not looking the “teacher” role, especially on the community college level. I get comments all the time, especially from my mother. “You look too young to teach college!” And I got my “short & cute” genes from her side of the family! Yeah, I do wear the occasional pencil skirt, but a new “teacher” wardrobe never materialized for me because my first job didn’t pay anything (don’t you hate it when that happens?). So most of my wardrobe consists of older dress pants, khakis, and THANK GOD I can wear JEANS every Friday! I also still drive the same car I drove in college (and high school) and use a large bookbag instead of a fancy briefcase to tote around my students’ papers. But ya know what? I might look 17 on a good day, but my students don’t treat me any differently than the guy across the hall with silver hair and a three-piece suit.

  19. Barb Friedberg October 5, 2010 at 10:43 PM

    Hi-You wrote my story! Thanks! I am so not into spending tons of $$$ on depreciating assets!

  20. Bryan October 5, 2010 at 11:20 PM

    I buy all of my work shirts at the thrift store. I work for a farming operation so I’m constantly getting dirty and I figure what better type of shirt to put a hole in than one that cost $3.00. The funny thing is that I look very professional for my profession and that’s the source of my clothes. I have a closet full of Ralph Lauren, Chaps, and Nautica shirts that I paid a fraction of the retail cost for. . .

  21. Jaime October 6, 2010 at 1:35 AM

    I don’t want to sound weird but don’t you think its kind of cool that you are what people don’t expect you to be? I’m an atheist, something that people don’t expect me to be and I like that. Religion is not for me. I don’t go to atheist forums and debate with christians like a lot of atheists tend to do. I just live my life and do what I want. I don’t care what people believe just as long as they leave me alone to live my life.

    Looks aren’t everything. My bf has to work with the accountant department at his job, one accountant a lady in her late 30s, is in debt, her husband hasn’t worked in years so she’s the main breadwinner, he ruined her credit, they filed for bankruptcy, just bought a house with land, a car, etc. We both find it ironic that she’s an accountant but can’t keep on top of her finances.

    She’s exactly what you’d expect an accountant to look like, but her financial life is a complete contradiction. Its kind of sad because your late 30s is the time when a person needs to take their PF seriously and prepare for retirement. If you didn’t do it previously then this is the time to actually get going. Its one thing to be poor in your 20s and 30s, its another thing to be poor in your golden years.

  22. Lauren October 6, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    @JMoney. I recently put myself on a budget. I have always been a consistent saver, but this budget definantely shows where all my money goes. According to my budget, I’m a shopholic that likes to go out a lot. Just shameful.

  23. Evan October 6, 2010 at 7:50 PM

    This reminds me of my neighbor growing up. Guy always looked like a schleb just a mess, in a neighborhood when most people rocked out luxury cars he had a POS minivan. One day I was making a joke at this guy’s expense and Pops took me a side and told me that the neighbor could buy and sell the entire neighborhood!

  24. paavels October 7, 2010 at 4:02 AM

    I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you. The Millionaire Next Door book is piece of crap. I wouldn’t call it a book. It is a mumbling on how you should not spend on luxury items when you cannot afford it.

    Sure, buying suit for 5000$ seems idiotic to me, but that doesn’t mean I should buy clothes at Wallmart or Gap.

  25. J. Money October 7, 2010 at 11:25 PM

    @Jenna – Haha, agreed!
    @Chris – Most times it’s a faux hawk, but when I get it shaved it starts out as a real hawk ;) So the answer to that is both. Now as for punk, nope – there are a few songs I really enjoy a lot, but I mainly blare hip-hop. I’m pretty much the opposite of what people think, and totally by accident.
    @Pat @ Do Not Wait – Yup! Perception is a powerful thing. And also you usually feel better/more confident when you’re dressed up more so I’m sure that plays a part too :)
    @Jonha @ Happiness – Haha, forgot about that quote there at the end. True!
    @Serenity – That’s cuz you’re an awesome teacher! And confident too, I bet. Keep it up :)
    @Barb Friedberg – Thanks for stopping by!
    @Bryan – I used to shop at thrift stores alllll the time. But now I don’t have the time to sort through it all unfort :( But I still go every now and then, I just look for furniture/LPs/etc instead of clothes.
    @Jaime – Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool too :) I mean, going against the grain always takes a little bit of balls and it either pays off for you or it doesn’t. In this case, it does so it’s really cool! But even if it were dorky (which, let’s be honest all this finance talk can be!) it’s still all good in my books. Whenever you do things for YOURSELF you can’t lose.
    @Lauren – Haha… at least you have proof now ;)
    @Evan – Wow. I bet you’ll never forget that too! That’s a great story. You already blog about it? (you should)
    @paavels – It doesn’t mean you *should* do anything actually, just that perceptions aren’t what they always seem. If you want to spend $500 on a t-shirt or $5, it’s totally cool. Just do what YOU like and are comfortable with financially over what you think is appropriate or all your friends are doing.

  26. Peter October 8, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    The Millionaire book isn’t telling you what to do Paavels, it merely looks at studies that the author and other have done on millionaires, and how they behave, act, dress and how they live in general. It’s pretty eye opening when you realize just how millionaires are wealthy because they’re able to live far below their means, and not have expensive tastes and high consumption behaviors. Yes, some of the glittering rich as he calls them – do have high spending tastes, but for the average joe, if they want to end up a millionaire, emulating the behavior of people in Stanley’s book is a great idea!

    It is funny – in my neigborhood, the family that drove the super nice cars – the Hummer and the Jaguar – are the ones that had their house foreclosed on. Go figure.


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