100 Words On: Why Many ‘Rich’ People Are Only Fooling Themselves

Pablo Picasso said, “I’d like to live as a poor man, with lots of money.” Sage advice. That’s because doing the exact opposite is a recipe that’s guaranteed to eventually bring financial trouble to anybody brazen enough to try it. Still, that doesn’t stop many folks from living beyond their means in a misguided attempt to keep up with the Joneses, get noticed, and impress others. Sadly, they’re only fooling themselves because, ultimately, the others don’t really care.

The bottom line: Always strive to be anonymously rich rather than deceptively poor; over the long run you’ll be much better off.

Photo Credit: The Welsh Poppy


  1. 1

    Jenny W says

    I love the Picasso quote. I find it so offensive to see politicians who have control over our pursestrings flaunt the extravagant lifestyle with limos and expensive vacations at a time when many of us are worried sick about tomorrow and indeed much later into the future. Such insensitivity shows that they are totally disconnected from those who voted for them. Even the media- anchors say they “love” the 90 degree plus weather; they obviously have access to air conditioning! An increasing number of people cannot pay for this!

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      Hi Jenny. I have to say I’m with Shawanda on one point; I don’t have problems with people flaunting their wealth either. However, it isn’t healthy when people flaunt wealth that they really can’t afford. As for the politicians, I’m with you, those who flaunt their wealth — deserved or not — hurt their image as public servants and only add to the growing public cynicism toward government workers in general. (How’s that for a diplomatic answer?) 😉

    • 3


      Totally agree on the 90 degree day thing. Actually I resent the news anchors for constantly telling us that uncomfortable weather is wonderful and then being a downer on those wonderful days of fall. I’ve never actually heard about any politicians taking vacations other than presidents, and they are required to use state limos for security reasons. Obviously they all take vacations–I just never hear about it. Now that I think about it, I guess Kerry and McCaine both took high profile time off from their respective campaigns. The broader point of a bit more income security is a good one though.

  2. 4


    @Jenny W – I don’t have a problem with people who flaunt their wealth. After all, it is their money. If being anonymously rich works for you, then work it. Personally, I derive great satisfaction from knowing some of my money is safely tucked away in an FDIC insured bank account and the rest is occasionally afraid for its life in the stock market. If I ever get so wealthy I can afford to be outwardly rich, I’ll make no apologies for it.

  3. 6

    Cemlyn Jones says

    I like nice things. Nice things like me. We go well together but you’d never know it , we are rarely seen together !! I’m a little in the middle on this one. Showing off is not nice. The biggest joke I see is the name given to our elected citizens “Public Servants” they are anything but. I think it is obscene the salaries that some of these people get. I suppose it is the same in any ‘profession’ . Some deserve every cent they get while others seem to defy logic of how they got the job in the first place.

    I think it is one of the reasons why people that are born into money or ‘old money’ as it is sometimes called never look out of place. Yes they have expensive things but it never looks wrong. They simply live their lives buying the things that they want and like. I hope that if I am ever in that position that I behave like that. Others are anything but. They suddenly have a lot of money and go and buy the flashy car, big gold jewelry, seem to wear it all at the same time simply drawing attention to themselves. It’s not natural to them so they go over the top. If Mr Lottery comes calling at my door I hope I go away somewhere, go nuts for a few weeks, and then return and live a reasonably normal life but with the ice things and me inseparably close friends. Class is sometimes used as an obscene word these days but I think behaving with a bit of class befalls those who have the resources especially when they interact with those that don’t.

  4. 7


    Picasso was a smart man. I have been saving money my whole life, as many people do, but throughout life, unexpected expenses come up and sometimes, we have to dip into our savings. Now, I’m at the point of planning for retirement, which is a bit of a challenge, but one that I’m ready to take on so that I can enjoy a comfortable life after work. I don’t need to be a millionaire, and I know I never will be, but I do want to have enough money when I stop working to spend as I see fit. However, no matter what kind of money I have when I retire, I will definitely not flaunt it because it is just plain tacky, and like you said, other people don’t really care.

  5. 9


    My favorite quote on this topic –
    “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six,
    result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure
    twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

    – Wilkins Micawber in Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield

    I remind my daughter as we drive by some big houses that we don’t know who owns them, those inside or the bank. Are the fancy clothes bought with cash (paid in full when bill comes in) or ‘rented’ by paying the interest on a credit card?

  6. 12

    Matt says

    Wow! This post couldn’t of come at a better time. As our friends in their late 30’s are now purchasing $500k+ homesmy wife and I contemplate moving up in home as well. Problem is we have no interest in being slave to our home mortgage. It’s not easy to remain a peasant amongst wanna be kings. But knowing I may retire much earlier than most is much more appealing then the big spacious, flashy home.

  7. 13


    Growing up there were a lot of “wealthy” people in my neighborhood. I always wished I could be in some of my friends’ families. But now that I know the truth, I’m glad I wasn’t learning those toxic lessons.

    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      Ben, about six years ago or so, I lived among a lot of folks who thought they were really wealthy too. Then the real estate bubble popped and, much to their surprise, the illusion was broken.

      Some of them are still trying to recover.

  8. 16

    kammi says

    I’ve honestly never met anyone who was super rich and flaunted it. If they were, they were usually new rich (less than three years having made their wealth, first generation) and even the old rich kind of look down on that sort of behavior (it’s in bad taste). When I was growing up, I had friends whose biggest problems were that their neighbours’ pools were leaking into their property, etc. But you’d never know they were wealthy because they were taught it was improper and tacky. Plus, the families would associate with other affluent families, and if you’re surrounded by other wealthy families, it becomes not such a big deal if you all have a lot of equity and capital.
    Btw, There is a story about an indian actress who was bragging on set that she was wealthy to two fellow actors and they ended up kidnapping her and eventually they found her head severed from her body after they asked her parents for a ransom. Turns out, she wasn’t even wealthy. Sad story but another reason if you do have the $$, just be quiet about it.

  9. 18

    Olivia says

    My dad was a sculptor. Mom would say we “lived like rich people, only without the money.” She meant we were surrounded by art work (either dad’s or other artists), my dad did work he loved, he had stimulating colleagues, and we got to attend some pretty posh events. We had an uncle, very wealthy, and he earned it. He did not flaunt it. My mom called his home one day to talk to her aunt and uncle and the aunt said her husband was outside painting the garage (at 90 something). He did belong to a country club to spend time with colleagues golfing, but their home was modest. They bought a good new car but kept it for years. Aunt did all of her own cleaning until she was no longer able to do heavy stuff and they hired help to work with her. She’d look through the discount racks at good stores for clothes, and went out of town to get less expensive haircuts and dye jobs. Their son, was not the same. His dad handed over the family business and he purchased 5 Rolls Royce’s.

    • 19

      Len Penzo says

      Wow. Thanks for sharing that, Olivia! Isn’t it amazing how people are “wired” differently when it comes to our spending patterns and how we handle our finances? It’s truly fascinating.

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