I’m Rich Cuz I Have a Lot of Credit Cards?

Hahahhahaa…. that’s what I was just told at Auto Zone today!  I went in to pick up some WD-40 (the ol’ Caddy is getting a little squeaky in it’s old age) and the cashier told me “it must be nice” when I whipped out my money clip to pay.

“Huh?  What must be nice?” I retorted back.

“Having all them credit cards!  It must be nice to be rich!”

“HAH!  How do you know they’re not maxed out?” I laughably responded

“I dunno.  Just figured you were a baller!”

Well you don’t hear that every day, haha… and I’ll take it! ;)  Haven’t been called a baller, well, since never… though it really puzzles me how the heck he can get me being rich from holding credit cards?  Doesn’t it seem that I’m in a lot of debt instead?  It’s not like I flashed any Black Cards around or anything, they were just my usual personal credit cards and my business Amex (maybe he focused on that one?  It IS pretty sexy looking ;)).  Or maybe he saw a few $20 bills in my clip and his brain put that together w/ the plastic cards to come up with the idea I was wealthy?  Either way, it shocked me into a stupor. Which I loved :) It takes a lot to stop me in my tracks now when it comes to money stuff, I’m getting so used to it.

It also makes me wonder what other things our brains conjure up about those who are “rich?”  I know the fancy cars and  houses does the trick – even though we all know that that is CERTAINLY not always the case (*Ahem* The Millionaire Next Door) – but I wonder if things like the way someone walks or uses makeup or something throws up the rich flags too?  I remember once seeing this dude strut down the streets in nothing but jeans and a white tee, but his swagger was so strong that I remember thinking he was doing alright in ALL departments.  And his bling necklace probably helped me sway that direction too ;)  But I also think some people just come off rich purely based on LOOKS.  Which is awesome for them!  Even though you can’t really control what God gave you, haha… (well, you can, but that’s a whole other discussion)

I also remember once, when I was young, visiting my cousins in Cali one year and this “bum” asking me for the time before he got into his car and putted off.  I didn’t think much of it really cuz I was only like 15 and hardly watched anything outside of cartoons, but I remember my aunt coming out and saying “OMG do you know who that was?  It’s Mickey Rooney!” who I later found used to be a famous actor.  Or maybe still is?  I dunno.  But either way he was apparently rich and famous but I was just afraid of talking to weird strangers ;)  Who did NOT look rich and famous, haha…

Anyways, it’s all fascinating how easy it is for us to assume someone’s well off  or not especially since it has nothing to do with our own situation. Unless you’re gonna approach them with the intent of getting advice or tips, it shouldn’t matter whether someone’s rich or not, right?  Even though I know it still interests us cuz we’re all weird  human beings like that :)

Do any of you have interesting experiences with the rich, or “pretend” rich? Did it  help put things in perspective, or did it not really matter either way?  I think the Auto Zone may have a new big fan going forward…  Whenever I’m doubting myself I may have to stroll up and flash my pretty little cards again to keep up w/ my new status ;)  It feels good to be The King every now and then!

(Photo by taberandrew — not my car, but pretty close!)

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  1. Romeo November 15, 2011 at 7:56 AM

    Lots of credit cards with a few twenties…seems rich to me. After all, rich is relative.

  2. Adam November 15, 2011 at 8:17 AM

    A semi-related event happened to me a few weeks ago. I’m a federal gov. employee working in IT. We have a branch office in a small town. One of those towns that has a 4-year public university and absolutely nothing else. I went there to install a new copier and stayed overnight. I asked the hotel for the government discount rate, and while the hotel clerk was processing my info, he was asking me about what I do, how did I get my job, etc. At the end of the conversation he said that “he wished he had my job”. That made me chuckle, mainly because I know what it’s like working in IT, occasional overtime, always putting out fires without a thank you, and having to stay abreast of the latest IT topics, etc.

  3. Kim November 15, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    “Pretend rich”..haha! When I was a kid, I grew up in a tiny fishing village where even being middle class was not particularly common. My house was right across from the elementary school playground, and although it was only a bungalow, my parents took care of the landscaping and yard, and had newer vehicles which were always clean. Some of the other kids thought we were “rich” simply because my parents took care of their property a little better than most of the other people around.

  4. J. Smith November 15, 2011 at 8:39 AM

    Most of the people I know who have millions stashed in the bank or in net worth live the most modest lives. A few even look like bums. You would never see them on the street and assume they were as well off as they are!

  5. cashflowmantra November 15, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    What an asinine comment! No wonder that individual is a cashier.

  6. Kay Lynn November 15, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    You just made me feel old with the Mickey Rooney section. You really don’t know who he is?

    Anyway, I feel sad for that Auto Zone employee. He’s the type that’s going to go into debt with credit cards because they make him feel rich.

  7. tea November 15, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    From my experience, most of those wearing their wealth, are doing just that, wearing all of their wealth. Personally, I prefer those who invest their wealth in sounder investments than “bling”.

  8. Trinnie November 15, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Every time I go out to dinner w/friends or shopping, and I pay w/credit cards, that’s the immediate thought. Little do they know that we consciously pay w/our Discover to get the cash back and pay if off every month,. Also, whenever we go on a vacation, a few people have commented on “omg, either you’re lucky or rich.” Um………………..no, more like work hard, save our cash, so we can do what we want to. :)

  9. Josephina November 15, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    A friend once told me she thought her now-husband was rich when they first started dating because he always paid for dinner with a credit card. They were only 19 at the time, so she was so impressed. It wasn’t until they got married and merged finances years later that she realized that all those dinners were STILL on the credit card in the form of a stubborn balance.

    When I first started dating my now-husband we went to a charity event where he spent $3,000 on Dallas Cowboys’s club level season tickets. I thought to myself, wow, he must be doing well. Then, when we went to buy a house later in our relationship, I found that he had about $45,000 in credit card debt, a big car loan, student loan, and NOT A DIME saved anywhere…401(k), etc. Meanwhile, I was 5 years younger, a single mom, with an old beat up VW and the only debt I had was my mortgage, no credit card, student or car debt. And, I had about $125,000 saved in my 401(k) and stock plans. At that same charity event, I had seen a necklace and earrings set I liked, but limited my bidding to $35. It’s funny to me that anyone that saw us that night probably thought, oh, she’s so lucky, a single mom, to hook up with someone doing so well! LITTLE DID THEY KNOW!
    We’ve been married for 8 months now, and I am in the midst of my big paydown of his debt initiative. Hi brother and sister are like him as well….I thought they must be doing well, new fancy SUVs, big half-million dollar house, kids always dressed in polo and gymboree, etc. But, I am realizing that they are struggling for the sake of appearances/image. I don’t hesitate to take my kid to a museum, or show, or movie, or DisneyWorld. He wears hand me downs though! They, however, seem strapped to their house and cars, don’t have spending money for anything. I would rather have the money to live a rich life full of rich experiences, than just LOOK like I live a rich life!

    Looks and image can be deceiving!

  10. Lynn November 15, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    What is rich? I will never forget the story my mom told about one of her students at a school that was considered blue collar/poor. She put a picture on her desk after my niece’s first Xmas (first grandchild on both sides) of her and her “loot.” The student was amazed at how many present she got. None were probably very expensive (we all pay cash at Xmas) but the number to include those from extended family was a little excessive but the child thought we were terribly rich because of that. At the time my niece’s parents were making less than $40,000 a year, I was making around $20,000 and my parents were probably making $50,00 (not what I would consider rich) I think rich is a relative thing.

    Also I just read in a study that I am rich now. I make around $25,000 more than the average household in the United States. I also live in one of the most expensive areas (metro DC) where I live in 600 sq ft and my mortgage in some places would buy a 2000 sq ft home. Again I think it is relative.

  11. LB November 15, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    I always thought my father was rich because he owned a business and was always busy. Plus he always had cash in his pocket. Come to find out he has no retirement fund, and still spends like crazy.

    People think I am rich when I go visit my mom. I don’t get it. Maybe because I dress nice and fix my hair and makeup. It is a small town though and most people I have seen there, wear blue jeans, older styles and wear tennis shoes or boots for working in. I must just look rich to them.

  12. SmartAssetTeam November 15, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    I try not to judge people before I really get to know them, I try not to make assumptions before I really get to know them. But it is true, sometimes we as humans just can’t help it. A friend of my parents used to tell me a story about a mushroom farmer. Apparently that is a line of work that turns out to be pretty profitable, but farmers may not always look like what we expect rich people to look like. One mushroom farmer wanted to buy a car, but all the car salesmen wouldn’t even approach him at one dealership because of the way he was dressed. Humble, and I think he had a little dirt under his nails. So, he went to the next, and finally someone asked him if he needed help. He pointed at a tasteful and expensive car, let’s say it was a cadillac, and he payed for it in cash on the spot. I have no idea if this story is true, but I like it.

  13. Jen @ Master the Art of Saving November 15, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    That’s so funny, but kinda sad too. That poor guy thinks having lots of credit cards and a few 20’s makes somebody rich. :-(

  14. Ashley @ Money Talks November 15, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    My mom is a dentist, so people assume she has a lot of money. Which she does now that she’s reitred but for the first half of her career she sure didn’t have any money. We didn’t have money when I was growing up thats for sure. Anyways, she was at some dentist conference or something and was wearing a fake diamond bracelet. Someone was admiring it and she whispered “It’s fake.” to them and they whispered back “Yeah, right!”


  15. Matt, Tao of Unfear November 15, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Haha. Reminds me of one time when I went out to lunch with a friend. I dressed smart, and was apparently exuding confidence as a result of how sharp I looked. A random guy totally bought me a drink… presumably he thought he was schmoozing with someone that was made of money, but the joke was on him. I was a poor kid, fresh out of college, that just happened to pick up some nice clothes in the thrift store. :)

  16. Annette November 15, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    i can see someone associating the two. I remember my mom always being looked at like candy when she was paying and they peeked into her wallet (at department stores, they would always try even harder to get her to apply for a department store card)

    maybe it’s associated with a good credit score? like ‘oh that person has a lot of credit cards’ ties in with probably pays bills and thus has money. i dont know many poorer people with many cards since they dont get approved.

    my mom always has had an excellent credit score so people just assumed “$$$$”

  17. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager November 15, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    I agree with @Trinnie on this one. I remember being in middle school and my dad drove this complete junker of a car. One day I asked him why he couldn’t buy a nicer car and he simply said “I could go buy a new car, but I’d rather save the money and take the family skiing. Does that seem fair to you?” Ever since then I secretly pretend people driving terribly old cars are living a double life of wealth. (And yes, I do understand that I’m really blessed to have a family that can afford to go skiing together.)

  18. lora kathleen November 15, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    People think I’m rich based off the day job I had… most of them had no idea I was holding down two jobs at 70 hrs a week just to pay the bills (well, and my debt).

    That aside, at the coffee shop I see all walks of people. Every weekend we have a lot of tourists come in (based in a shopping center) with bags full of purchases and I can’t help but wonder if they’re really rich or just appearances rich.

  19. Nicole November 15, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    Sometimes when I am out with my 5 year old son, he gets a case of the gimmes.
    I used to say, no Braeden, mommy can’t afford that.
    But, then I realized I was doing him a disservice (though admittingly giving myself an easy way out). The truth was I can afford it, but I choose to not waste the money on stuff he doesnt need and save it instead for his college account or a family vacation or whatever.
    So, I started using those moments as learning opportunities. If I say no to something, he usually asks, don’t you have enough money? And, while it makes for a tougher sell, I say, I have enough money Braeden, but I would rather use it to save for vacation next year or go to a play or whatever, rather than a $5 piece of plastic when he has a thousand toys already. I want him to learn that just because you CAN afford it, doesn’t mean you need to buy it.
    One more thing…I once heard wealthy people have big portfolios, poor people have big TVs!

  20. J. Money November 15, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    Love these stories, guys! Thanks so much for sharing ’em!

    @Romeo – Really? That sounds so strange to me…
    @Adam – Yeah, people usually only concern themselves with the POSITIVE parts of jobs :) It’s a lot easier to dream working for another place too, over actually DOING SOMETHING about it. I always tell people they can do everything I do too if they wanted to put in the time! That’s usually too much effort though, haha…
    @Kim – Awwww, we all have our own versions of “rich” I guess. I admire your parents’ job on maintaining everything so well though! That’s a trait I really need to work on ;)
    @J. Smith – That’s my favorite part! They just blend in and go about their business as usual – I hope to be the same way one day!
    @cashflowmantra – Awwww, now that’s a low blow my man ;)
    @Kay Lynn – I had no idea at the time! I’ve heard the name come up a few time since (which I now understand more), but I’m still not all to familiar with him. I wouldn’t recognize him again, that’s for sure ;)
    @tea – Yeah you’re probably right. Though I do like my bling every now and then!
    @Trinnie – Wow, really? I still don’t see the connection though? Unless it’s like a “credit limit” kinda thing? Like people think you have all this money cuz you can just charge it and it’ll magically get paid for? Oh well… not my problem, I guess ;) I’m glad you guys are so conscientious with your cards! Can’t wait to meet you in real life finally!
    @Josephina – Oh wow, what a PERFECT example! That’s crazy, such a life that I really REALLY don’t want for us at any time in our lives… it really is about that freedom to breathe and still be able to buy nice things whenever you really want to. Anytime you get to one extreme or the other it’s usually not good. Thanks for sharing your examples with us, thy were great :) (And Dallas Cowboys?? Boooooooooooo)
    @Lynn – For sure, it’s totally relative. I guess “rich” to me is someone who has $1 Million or more in net worth. Though obviously we could all “look” rich by the way we act and present ourselves… I’m probably considered rich too if you compare me to someone in high school ;)
    @LB – Oh yeah, the way you dress can always make someone look richer/fancier for sure. Which is kinda fascinating to me, I actually like that ;) But mainly cuz I’m all about fashion. I always used to think business owners were crazy rich too! Haha… now that I’m a small biz owner myself, I know that’s not always the case ;) And even if it were, you still have to be willing to put the 15 hour days in almost every single day. That’s probably not worth the money to most people.
    @SmartAssetTeam – Awwww I like that story too :) And I totally bet mushroom farmers make some bank! Some of those things are rare and super expensive in stores! I’m fascinated by “odd jobs” like that… I really want to try a whole bunch one year. (and then blog about them!)
    @Jen @ Master the Art of Saving – It def. caught me off guard, that’s for sure.
    @Ashley @ Money Talks – Ahahahaha… that’s awesome. I’ll admit I always think dentists are rich too ;)
    @Matt, Tao of Unfear – Love it! Amazing how clothes can make such a drastic impression like that. Way to rock it!
    @Annette – Hah! I don’t think many people even *pay attention* to what a credit score is. But if they were, I’d give them 10 extra “sexy” points! Haha…
    @Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager – Awwww that is a GREAT answer to your question!! I LOVE THAT! And totally gonna use it when I have kids of my own one day :) That’s the best comment you ever left on here this year, haha… thanks, friend! (And tell your dad I say he’s a P.I.M.P!)
    @lora kathleen – Ooooh you work at a coffee shop now? That is hot! It’s still on my list of jobs to try out one day – I think I’d love it :)
    @Nicole – YES!!!! I used to get pissed off at that saying! Haha… Have you read this post of mine by chance? Cuz it’s pretty much exactly what you just said ;)


    Also, I like that last line :) Good one!

  21. retirebyforty November 15, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    Hahaha, awesome! I only have two cards – my usual visa and the Costco Amex card. I guess I’m poor. :D

  22. AverageJoe November 15, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    I’ve always thought of you as a baller, j. ;-) (I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of anyone as a “baller” actually, but now I have a new word…..thanks!)

    The richest person I know totally looks poor. He’s the classic Millionaire Next Door dude. Beat up car, ragged clothes. Looks disheveled. Kind of like me…but with money.

  23. Paula @ Afford Anything November 15, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    I agree with Kay Lynn, I feel bad for the AutoZone guy who confuses “having credit cards” with “rich.” That sounds like a recipe for heading into serious debt.

  24. Romeo November 15, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    Well, J, there WAS just a bit of sarcasm in my comment. ;-) But, on to reality. Rich is relative in the sense that there is no dollar amount that makes someone rich. Let’s assume that the Auto Zone employee earns $25,000 annually, give or take. Why would someone who earns $100,000 not seem rich to them, just as someone who earns $400,000 may seem rich to the 100K earner. After all, the common mind set of “what’s rich” is the ability to purchase grandeur things that is normally out of someone else’s reach.

    In his culture or upbringing, maybe it’s not easy to get a credit card, and to have a pocket full of money is uncommon (because its quickly used to pay bills), therefore you represented someone unique and “financially together,” or in other words “rich.”

    Hey, here’s an idea for a blog post that is sure to get you hundreds of comments: “What does it mean to be rich?” Just put your spin on it and make it fun. See what happens. Seriously. ;-P

  25. Dannielle @ Odd Cents November 15, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    Sigh… I agree with Trinnie. It’s because of the benefits that I use my credit card. I bet the banks would love all of their customers to have that mentality… They would make a killing off of their credit card fees. I heard about this lady who racked up $50k plus on credit cards alone! Imagine what her fees are like!!!

  26. TJ November 15, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    When i was a pizza delivery driver in high school, I had a lot of cash in my wallet from tips and I remember being at a fast food place or someone and someone was all wow’ed that I had “so much cash”. It was awkward.

  27. StackingCash November 16, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    Hmm…net worth of 260k in your late 20’s equates pretty rich to me :)
    As others have said before, it really is relative. To the cashier who probably has a negative networth, you are truly ballin. Also it is easy for us to obtain multiple credit cards on a whim whereas the cashier probably cannot.

  28. serena November 16, 2011 at 5:47 AM

    J Money, I hope you used that experience to educate that poor, misguided clerk! It’s sad to think he associated credit with being rich. I would have taken the time to school the ignorant person about how you rrall6 should only have no more than one card….that you should never use credit without cash to pay it off, etc. Instead of walking away with an inflated head, and a perplexed look, use it as a teaching moment to the unfortunately misguided.

  29. Natalie @ Mango November 16, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    Ah, the old “never judge a book by its cover” saying rears its head again. I swear, I think of this axiom about once a week; there always seems to be something surprising lurking under the surface in almost any situation. Take Warren Buffet for example; he looks more like a kindly grandpa than one of the wealthiest men in the world. Mark Zuckerberg? Bill Gates? Donald Trump… okay, The Donald is a bad example: he pretty much looks like, well, what he is. I do think it’s admirable, though, when somebody is well off and you can’t tell; it means they are not boastful or showy about it. They probably don’t go around showing off their credit cards ;o)

  30. Jeff November 17, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    My favourite pretend rich? Sitting up front in a plane. It’s easier to sit in first/business on domestic flight with credit cards that earn airline miles than it ever has been before and you board first, so being in my mid-20s and sitting with my wife in 1A and 1C when a hundred people walk down the aisle past me. I know what those looks mean.

    On a side note, I still roll my coins in those paper wrappers, I find it helps me relax by being able to focus on a single simple task, and it was infuriating when I took my rolls to the bank and the teller ripped them open and counted the coins herself.

  31. quizshow November 17, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    Until, I started educating myself in personal finance, I felt the same way that autozone cashier did. Changing that view was a huge step in my get out of debt plan.

  32. J. Money November 17, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    @retirebyforty – Haha, I guess so!
    @AverageJoe – You’ve never heard of baller? We need to pump more hip-hip into your ears ;)
    @Paula @ Afford Anything – It probably is :( Maybe my questioning him up will sink in?
    @Romeo – I like the way you think, sir ;) And you’re totally right – rich IS relative! I guess if credit cards are uncommon or hard to get in someone’s lifestyle, it *could* come off as more of a wealthy thing… all good things to think about! (Will give you a shout out if I ever write that post. But I’m gonna hold you to the 200+ comments ;) You better be ready to leave a lot!! Haha… just kidding. sort of.)
    @Dannielle @ Odd Cents – Wowwwww, now THAT is scary. I hope she bought land or stocks or something with it! :)
    @TJ – Haha, more awkward than if you got it at a strip joint? All ones, baby! ;)
    @StackingCash – Oh for sure, I totally agree that $260k is “rich” to a lot of people (including myself sometimes!) but to someone who’s never seen my blog? I’d never think Credit cards = rich, but ofcourse that’s also cuz of my upbringing I’m sure. Interesting stuff to think about either way :)
    @serena – Haha, well first off I didn’t come away with an inflated head or perplexed look (I know I write like that, but it goes out my brain the second after something happens), but I did question him and try to get more answers. It didn’t really work, but maybe he’ll double think the next time it pops in his head?
    @Natalie @ Mango – Haha, right? I like not being able to tell too whether someone’s rich or not – I don’t think it really matters more than just good ol’ curiosity. It’s not gonna change MY way of doing things ya know? Unless I wanted to ask questions and learn *how* they did it to see if I can work on that too.
    @Jeff – YES!!! EXACTLY!!! I’m one of those people that are doing the staring too! Haha… though I’m always looking for celebrities or sports players ;) It’s kind a fun to be in that position as well, whenever I fly first class I’m always feeling like a pimp! I could get used to that life ;)
    @quizshow – Good job! I’m glad you’re working it all out :) Are you still in debt, or have you wiped it all away? Keep rollin’ with it either way!