We’ve all heard of the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”. If you have a personal finance blog, or regularly read such blogs, you might have read advice about how it’s not necessary to make spending decisions based on impressing other people. I’m with that school of thought, which probably won’t surprise you.
Based on this way of thinking, I tend to get amused with the people who fall into the “big hat, no cattle” category when it comes to money. These are people, as the saying implies, that talk a big game, but have nothing to show for it. I truly don’t get this way of doing things.
Don’t get me wrong – I do get some of the underlying drivers. They want to feel like they belong, or they want to prove that they’re successful, they want to show that you’re no better than them. And so on. I get the thinking. I just don’t think the way those folks do.
I knew a guy who, back in his early 20’s, bought a brand new SUV. He in no way could have afforded it, as he and I were both modestly paid employees just starting out. But he felt like the “needed” to feel like he had “made it”. Huh? If you’re in your early 20’s, just having graduated college, you haven’t made it yet. Unless you’ve survived some harrowing health scare, or something extraordinary – or are a pop star or athlete – you’re in the category of “just starting out”. But this guy wanted to feel like he was established, to the point of spending tons of money on something he didn’t need. Good guy, and he seems to be responsible now, thankfully.
Fast forward a number of years, and I’ve seen this with a couple who bought a brand new McMansion in a great new development. They didn’t seem to have jobs that could substantiate that purchase, so I assumed that they must have sizable savings. Actually, I didn’t really care, it just struck me as unusual. Well, a few years later, they put the home on the market and had financial concerns from what I was told. Didn’t seem like they needed the massive new, impeccably furnished house. They just wanted it, and beamed with pride over living that existence. They’re nice people, so I do feel kind of bad for them.
Anyway, these are examples of people who fall for big hat, no cattle syndrome when it comes to money and material things. They take pride in wanting everyone to know what they’ve accomplished, to the point of making harmful financial decision.
Does this make sense to you?
Personally, I like the “small hat, big cattle” approach. Sounds funny, but I think you get the idea. Live your life modestly, based on what’s visible to the others. If you have money, keep it for security and other needs – and of course to enjoy – but no need to show off. What’s the point?
Of course, I’m not at the “big cattle” stage yet, so I’m living modestly and being quite accurate in how I present myself However, in the future, as things continue to evolve (positive thinking here), I would rather live the same way and not let lifestyle escalate in order to show off to others.
This brings me to my questions:
- Would it bother you if people assumed that you had less money and were less accomplished than you really are?
- Or, would you take pride in living under the radar so to speak?
- Or, do you just not care one way or another how you’re perceived by others?
Keep in mind, I’m not talking about workplace situations, where people are undervaluing you. I’m talking about friends or acquaintances, and how they perceive your financial situation.
What do you think?