How to Look Like You’re Rich

For some of us, getting rich feels too hard. If you’d rather just look like you’re rich, I’ve done some research: here’s what you need to buy and how much it costs.

You don’t want to be nagged by a budget.  Frugality is an “F” word.  Even if you save, you don’t want to be too old to enjoy money when you actually get it.

What’s an aspiring affluent to do?

Well, if you can’t be them, look like them. You’ve got two things in your favor. First, we think success is visual. Pretty, shiny things catch our eyes. We are easy to fool. Second, you have many conspirators to call on for your con and they’re practically begging to help you.

The 3 Things You Need to Have to Look Like You’re Rich

1.  The Flashy, Fancy Car

The car is, without question, the number one thing you need to look rich. It’s your “I’m Rich!” marketing brochure that you hand out all over town.  Your house can’t travel with you, so it doesn’t spread the word quite as well.

Which car?  Here’s what happens when I show up in my Honda: The valet drives it straight to the back, hidden, parking lot so that diners aren’t scared away at the thought of eating with middle class me.

No. If you’re going to look rich, do it right. When you hand the keys to your valet, you want to look in their eyes and know. You want that subtle acknowledgement that your car makes the cut for front of the house parking.  Even entry model Mercedes, BMWs, or Audis might not cut it.  You want to instantly convey rich, not upwardly mobile.  So let’s go with the next level.

The cost:  A 3-yr lease on a 530i sedan is $549 a month with $3,800 at signing. The first year cost is $6,588 plus that initial $3,800 is $10,388.

(Yeah… I think this Ferrari pretty much assures your car will always be parked out front.)

2. The House

While a house may not have the far and wide reach of a car, when you do happen to let your zip code slip into a conversation — which seems to happen an awful lot now that you have a totally ace pad — it’s a tacit dialogue between you and that person that says, “yes, I’m rich but please don’t make a big deal out of it now. Save it for when I get into my GLS and drive to my glamorous house.”

(I don’t have much personal experience with this feeling, though. When I tell people my where I live, one of the more common reactions is: “I would have never stepped foot there 10 years ago.”)

But let’s have fun and pretend it’s a sexy name. You know, something like… Malibu.

The cost: Malibu rentals below $5,000 are few and far between, but I did find a decent one for $3,700 a month.  So annual cost is $44,400.

3. The Clothes

This can be the most subtle. If you step out of your Audi in just a T-shirt, jeans, and flip flops, people will assume you’re relaxed rich. In many ways, that’s sexier than a suit.  So while you don’t need super fancy clothes to look rich, you do need the right pieces.  But don’t forget, people’s assumptions about your being relaxed rich is contextualized by the car you drive.  If they don’t have that data point, they’ll look at what’s on your wrist or feet for clues.

Since I generally wear shirts and pants less than $30, I’m relying heavily on a mix of names I heard in my younger days, brands mentioned in rap songs, and what’s on Barney’s website to inform me about the latest trends.  (Do you see the extent of research I do for you?)

The Cost: For women, I would think it’s a fancy handbag, designer jeans, and nice shoes. Here’s what I see on Barney’s: Saint Laurent bags start at $2,000. Rag & Bone jeans are $225, but let’s say you need 3 for variety. Flats by Manolo Blahnik are $650. That adds up to $3,325.

For men, also on Barney’s, a pair of Maison Margielas is $600. A Google search of a standard looking Rolex (I have no idea about these things since I don’t own a watch) looks to be $7,500 for a Submariner.  The total is $8,100.

Adding it Up

It will cost you between $58,000 and $63,000 your first year to look rich. This is after taxes and doesn’t include other things you might be wondering about: you know, food, utilities, literally anything else… In any case, the second year is cheaper since you’ve already made your car down payment and bought your watch or bag (although the bag, at least, might go out of style). Let’s just say you need to make at least $100,000 to afford this lifestyle.

But who says we have to afford anything?

$100,000 places you in the top 5% on an individual basis (when it’s the combined income of everyone in your house, $100,000 drops you to a still nice 20%).  Most of us don’t make $100,000.  The whole point is to look rich even if you don’t have the income or savings, so don’t let a small income or no savings stop you.  But…

You’ll need help to pull it off.

Partners in Your Illusion

You’re in the right place and the right time to pull off this ruse.  If you’re part of the vast majority of people who can’t afford this lifestyle, then you need to spend someone else’s money.  Lucky for you, you have a lot of “friends” willing to let you spend their money.

The names of these friends are big and loud: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover.  They are all fighting for the chance to conspire with you, but you’ll probably need more than one of them to get that rich look in any case.

The Reality of Looking Like You’re Rich

You know what?  Many of us are doing this. The New York Federal Reserve just reported that total household debt was $12.6 trillion, more than any time since 2008, which wasn’t a great year (to put it mildly).

While there was a “1.6% increase in mortgage balances, a 1.9% increase in auto loan balances…and a 2.4% increase in student loan balances,” credit card balances rose 4.3%. In other words? The most expensive debt rose almost twice as much as any of the others. No one said looking rich wasn’t pricey.

Too bad this rich look is only temporary.

The Aftermath

You probably have a 5, maybe 7 year window to look like a million bucks (basically, the same amount of time before a new version of your luxury car is released).

After these few years, your debt payments will cause you to downsize and move out of your Malibu rental. Your next car might be a used, unsexy Honda (which is something I do know the feeling of).

If this “rich” lifestyle isn’t for you–or if it was you and you want a change–there is an alternative.

The Alternative

The good news is that by simply moving out of your expensive rental and into a cheaper one, you’ll free up a lot of cash that can go toward debt reduction. The initial months may be painful, but before too long your debt payments will shrink into nothing. The several months of pain upfront will be worth it. You’ll get lower debt payments, more money to invest, and get used to a simpler lifestyle. You’ll be moving from financial weakness to financial strength, maybe even before the year is over.

There’s another side to it. When you start getting positive cash flow, invest it. Paying off more debt leads to less debt, and more money. Investing that money leads to more money. To put it briefly:

How do you look like you’re rich? Spend money on things that lose value.
How do you actually become rich? Spend on things that gain value.

Are you tired of trying to look rich and actually want to be rich?

Looking rich is nice until the bills arrive.  Being rich is much better.  Enroll in this FREE JMC Financial Boot Camp and you will learn:

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Related: How to Create Lasting Wealth

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