Updated: Dec 28, 2022
Several years ago, a good friend came to visit me in Atlanta, GA. At the time, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with a spacious living room, sleek kitchen, and a reasonably sized bedroom in the Austell area. It was more than enough space for me. I was single, had no kids, and was focused on my career. As an auditor, I wasn't at home much anyways - especially during the busy season.
Man, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was eager to show off my apartment. It really represented me to the core. It had a minimalist feel with high-end accents. I had expensive artwork and collector's items hanging on my walls. The type of stuff that you wouldn't know was worth anything unless you were into those types of things. But, more than anything else, I was saving a ton of money on this apartment and stockpiling it away into my 401k plan at work. I was comfortable, enjoying life, and ensuring that my future self would have the opportunity to do the same.
To make a long story short, my buddy finally arrived, came up to the apartment, and had a look around. When I say he had a look around, he probably had to walk no more than twenty steps to see the entire apartment - my crown jewel! After a few moments, he looked at me squarely in the eyes and said, "This is all you got to show for being an accountant." I was floored. And, honestly, I didn't know how to respond. Instead of responding irritatedly, I acted like I had more stuff on the way. I made up a lie about getting ready to buy a new entertainment system and getting a top-of-the-line life flat-screen television mounted on the wall. None of which was true, obviously, but I did not know how to deal with the awkwardness. Up to that point, I was not even aware that there was an invisible scorecard within my friend group silently assessing who had what. I grew up in Gary, IN. I never wanted people to know what I had. If they did, they might try to take it from you. But I digress.
As I reflect on that story and the progress I've made on my own financial journey, it is littered with instances of random people, family, and friends, having something to say about my financial choices. Mind you; I was actually trying to make smart decisions and build wealth. For instance, I cut my cable bill before cutting the cable bill was cool. Most of the people in my circle thought it was ridiculous. I've driven the same vehicle for nearly seventeen years. Everyone still wants to know when I am going to get a new car. For years, no cap, I've utilized Straightalk wireless services and got my cell phone from Walmart, a cheap but dependable one. Why would I pay Verizon $100+ a month to get the same great service for $35 a month? Make it make sense - LOL!
Wanna know what's odd, though? Nobody has asked me how it feels not to have a car note or how I am using those savings to plan for the future, engage in planned giving, or generate wealth. In fact, nobody in my inner circle has ever asked me about my wealth position. My wife and I are closing in on .... Never mind. Don't worry about what I got. It's a lot ( in my Drake voice - LOL!).
From what I've found over the years, most people are more comfortable with the illusion of wealth than wealth itself. As a result, we settle for who appears to be winning and live vicariously off their energy until the next big thing comes along. Life is just easier that way - we can experience the emotional high of great achievement without actually doing anything to experience the great achievement. And, honestly, most don't keep up with their own personal finances enough to unpack the financial lives of those around us. Oftentimes, though, what we see is merely a distortion of reality.
For those of you working towards building limitless generational wealth, don't worry about the people who can't see the vision - your real wealth. Some people, especially loved one's, will not see the vision for some time. They are caught in the illusion of materialism and consumption. Unfortunately, they lack the capacity, at least for now, to discern that the path they are on is a bottomless pit. Show them grace and compassion, but do not apologize for living out your financial convictions. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with the path that you are on. What you are experiencing is par for the course. In the words of Nicholas Klein, "First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments for you."
Keeping striving towards what others can't or refuse to see. That's how you become what others desire and wish to be. Wealth is a Calculation, Not a Perception.
Until next time, you have more power than you think. Own it!