Author Topic: stealth wealth?  (Read 11350 times)

fatlittlepig

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stealth wealth?
« on: February 25, 2019, 06:26:09 PM »
Do you believe in stealth wealth? Why or why not? Any of you have pride in being financially secure or independent and let slip to people that you are doing "well"? Downsides to this?

Villanelle

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2019, 06:36:44 PM »
Do you believe in stealth wealth? Why or why not? Any of you have pride in being financially secure or independent and let slip to people that you are doing "well"? Downsides to this?

I generally don't discuss my finances in detail with anyone, with the exception of my parents.  They are FIRE, incredibly financially secure, frugal, and have more money then they will ever spend (so knowing about my finances won't change their behavior, but I know it gives them peace of mind). 

While an advantage of this is that no one is likely (or more likely) to come to us with a hand out, looking for us to fill it, that's not really why I do it.  I just don't think it's comfortable or especially polite to discuss finances in detail, especially when it would be to point out how much I have or how well I'm doing.  I'll mention that I love that my car gets great gas mileage or something along those lines, but that's about it.  If someone asked about how we handle our money, I'd talk about our strategy of set monthly amounts, using low-cost index funds, driving small and efficient cars for a long time after buying used, living in smaller homes that aren't necessarily updated, etc.  None of that requires me telling them that we've got $X in savings. In nearly all cases, giving details--especially when I know those details are better than 90%+ of those with whom I'd be discussing it--feels braggadocian and unnecessary.

martyconlonontherun

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2019, 07:20:45 PM »
Except for a accounting nerd friend of mine who reviews my strategy for nerdy conversations, no one knows the real number. I make it very clear that I want to retire by 45 and would need 2m+ for a skinny fat fire but I'm only 31 so people don't know where I'm at now. I bring it up for 1. Make it clear I'm trying not spend money on stupid crap 2. Plant the seed for them.

Then again if someone asks, I'm pretty much an open book. I work hard for the money I make and have gotten better at saving. I'm at the lower end of my friend group of current salary and family wealth, where they won't resent me for having x in the bank. It's not like, well his family paid for college and his house down payment so he can shove it.

seemsright

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2019, 09:28:10 PM »
For us stealth is the only way.

Others can never understand how we did it and it was not 'just' one thing. It was a ton of small choices over time that has gotten us to where we are.


sol

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2019, 09:40:02 PM »
There are different levels of stealth, and everyone practices one of them.  Nobody present posts their net worth on their front lawn every day.

Even if you never discuss your personal finances with anyone, people who know you will figure out something is out of the ordinary if you retire at age 35.

Metalcat

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2019, 04:46:20 AM »
I'm not sure what you mean by "believing in" stealth wealth...?

Do I believe people hide their wealth? Absolutely. Almost every extremely wealthy person I know plays down their wealth. It's a social norm among the very wealthy.

A lot of Mustachians also play down their wealth, but often not all that intentionally. By definition, being Mustachian means to live below your means significantly, so you are going to display fewer symbols of wealth than most people with similar incomes who are riddled with debt.

If you are living below your means, then the only way to alert people to your actual wealth is to walk around telling them, which is socially really unacceptable.

A lot of Mustachians take pride in living below their means, so yeah, many take pride in their stealth wealth as well, but it's not like most have gone out of their way to be as secretive as possible, it's just kind of a byproduct of the lifestyle.

It's also pretty hard to actually hide how well you are doing among your friends and family. If they know what your job is and see how you live your life, it's not hard to guess a ballpark of what you are saving. It's just that most people won't bother actually thinking about it.

I guess I just don't really understand the question...
« Last Edit: February 26, 2019, 04:48:37 AM by Malkynn »

Saving in Austin

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2019, 07:33:11 AM »
The financial services industry counts on stealth wealth. It keeps the masses in the dark in regards to average net worth, unnecessary spending and sound investing principles. It allows financial "advisors" to prey upon the unsuspecting. The lack of transparency among friends and family maintains the status quo.

trollwithamustache

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2019, 08:17:08 AM »
absolutely stealth. If 90% of people found out you had 100k of liquid assets, they would know you are rich and hit you up to do/pay for various things. Of the remaining 10%. a few might have the intellectual horsepower to understand that you aren't hookers and blow rich, but there would still be jealousy issues from at least 9 of the 10%.  All I can tell you with 100% certainty is I am no good at finding the 1% you can talk to in the real world.




merula

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2019, 08:59:39 AM »
To sol's point, in the western world virtually EVERYONE practices some level of stealth wealth. Being blatantly consumerist or flashy is interpreted as being poor or nouveau riche. (Did anyone see Crazy Rich Asians? There's a scene where the middle-class female protagonist has been VIP-whisked through the airport into a private suite on an airplane because of her boyfriend. In explaining, he says "We're comfortable", to which she replies "That's exactly what a super rich person would say.")

That said, the mustachian level of stealth wealth does differ from standard western culture. Standard western culture expects that people present a level of income that's within a standard deviation of their actual income. For example:
-It's acceptable to have either a fancy apartment or a fancy house if you can afford the rent or mortgage on either. It is not acceptable to voluntarily live in a rundown studio apartment if you could afford better.
-It's acceptable to have almost any late-model vehicle. It's not acceptable to go carless* or have a POS car. (*Carless is acceptable only if you're living somewhere with amazing public transit, like NY or SF, in which case you're paying enough in rent to show that you could afford a car if you moved.)
-It's acceptable to have a smartphone that's a few generations old. There are some subgroups that are more restrictive, but generally as long as your phone looks like it could be <2 years old, you're fine. It's not acceptable to have a dumb phone or no phone.

In contrast, the way mustachians live is not based on their income, but outsiders who are operating on the above rule assume that it is. We're not living the way we live specifically to hide our income or wealth; it's a side effect that happens to be generally beneficial.

For me personally, there are a lot of aspects of my life where what I need doesn't align with what I'm "supposed" to have based on my income, and I went with what I needed.

The only thing I can think of where I've deliberately taken action to hide my income was that I passed up an opportunity to get free tax prep through a charity I'm volunteering for, because it would've meant that the people I'm working with would see my income. I paid $1.10 to mail my state return instead of doing that, and believe me, I agonized over that $1.10.

thesis

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2019, 11:31:18 AM »
The problem with stealth wealth is that, at least from a mustachian standpoint, people don't get to see just how possible it is to live significantly below your means. If you're struggling and everyone around you is struggling, struggle becomes normalized. When people start speaking out about not struggling, suddenly things change. I'm pretty vocal about these issues on facebook, but when I first started talking about it, many people didn't believe me or thought I was arrogant. But other friends have reached out and said that the things I write are encouraging, and many have appreciated my thoughts on money.

I have a blog where I occasionally hint at my net worth, but I won't be talking about it beyond 100k, once I get there. I'm tempted to reveal my salary because even though it's decent, it isn't astronomical, and is well below 6 figures. I sometimes feel that if I revealed what I earned, more of my friends would realize how possible it is to do this FI thing. Sadly, I sometimes suspect people think I'm being boastful for clearly "being loaded" to afford such a high savings rate when they don't get it.

All to say, there's a delicate balance. I write on social media for the friends who are going to pick it up and make great changes in their lives. There will always be some who despise you for having any money, but I'm just focused on spreading the truth of what's possible. I am occasionally approached by friends raising money to volunteer over seas, but I'm pretty cautious and even sometimes offer to help in some way, even if it isn't monthly giving

Eric

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2019, 01:55:41 PM »
In real life, no one would ever guess how much money I have.  I live in an old apartment, ride a bike with an old milk crate attached to the back for most of my travel, share an old car with my wife, etc.  So in everyday life, I'm stealthy as fuck.  Then I went and made the second ever post on my blog about how I'm a millionaire.  So a little from column A, a little from column B.  hahaha

pbkmaine

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stealth wealth?
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2019, 02:05:27 PM »
We live in a relatively modest house in The Villages. Most of our furniture is inexpensive or was given to us. DH and I drive modest cars and have a 16-year-old golf cart. I buy most of my clothing at Goodwill. My golf clubs were purchased used. But because people know I worked in the financial district in NYC at a fairly high level and DH was head of IT for the US branch of his company, the general perception is that DH and I are 1) rich and 2) cheap. We find this amusing.

ixtap

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2019, 02:24:52 PM »
We have been told that we are an enigma. Most of our lifestyle choices are on par with grad students. But we have a 40' sailboat and plan to go cruising in our 40s/50s.

The irony is that many of our most frugal choices were not originally about money. I can't wear jewelry. I prefer to live in what other Americans consider small spaces. I have no desire to give up my 10 year old car while it continues to perform flawlessly, certainly don't want the stress of choosing another. We sold DHs car because we moved within walking distance of his work and parking sucks. We both travelled extensively in our youth and are planning a slow travel retirement, so we are happy spending our vacation time visiting family for now.

Holyoak

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2019, 07:22:35 PM »
In real life, no one would ever guess how much money I have.  I live in an old apartment, ride a bike with an old milk crate attached to the back for most of my travel, share an old car with my wife, etc.  So in everyday life, I'm stealthy as fuck.  Then I went and made the second ever post on my blog about how I'm a millionaire.  So a little from column A, a little from column B.  hahaha

Same here, in many ways.  I live in a very modest rental home, have an amalgam of old, unmatched furniture (came with the rental), 13 y/o car, take the city bus, walk everywhere, and am as you say "stealthy as fuck".  Especially so when I started dating after my divorce a few years back...  I wanted the ladies to accept me as I am, and it was interesting explaining "what I do" and "how I do it". 

For a time before ER, I worked at a county airport moving planes, refueling aircraft, helping the techs with repairs...  And pushing a broom and mop.  I always got a kick outa thinking the guy you think is down-n-out, Mr. thrifty pushing a broom is a millionaire.  This year I officially became a multi millionaire, and not a damn thing is going to change, well at least not much.

Stay stealthy my friend.


Metalcat

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2019, 04:30:22 AM »
To sol's point, in the western world virtually EVERYONE practices some level of stealth wealth.

Most people are stealth poor, going into debt buying things that make them appear wealthier than they are.

Linea_Norway

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2019, 05:12:05 AM »
To sol's point, in the western world virtually EVERYONE practices some level of stealth wealth.

Most people are stealth poor, going into debt buying things that make them appear wealthier than they are.

Exactly what I thought. Mustachians do stealth wealth and people with consumer debt do fake wealth.

iris lily

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2019, 07:21:21 AM »
We discussed net worth with my parents, now dead many years. That was to assure them we were doing fine.

 Among our friends we talk about net worth with one friend who is of similar mindset.  He wants to retire with $2 million in assets and he will get there or close.But then, he will be in his late 50s so that’s not early for you people. He is also our trust executor.

 I have dropped our asset figure to a another friend who has a similar financial picture, and doesnt have a job, but He is spending his pretty fast they have to borrow money from his mother, so I’m not sure I would call him FIRED.

martyconlonontherun

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2019, 11:16:03 AM »
Is anyone on here the opposite and extremely open about their information?

I am extremely open with one friend and he obtained every number imaginable looking through my FI projections. Others, if they ask I have no problem sharing salary, savings rates, balances, etc. I'm kind of in the in between where I made bad choices in the past, have a good salary (high-5 figures), good trend on net worth compared to my friends. It's not like I have a ton in the bank that is embarrassingly high, but I'm also in a position where I'm proud of my last 2 years.

I really want to find a group of friends on a similar path. I have one group that spends like me, but thats due to salary and won't retire early. Another set of friends makes the same or more, but we don't align on how we spend the money.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2019, 11:18:25 AM »
We practice stealth wealth to a degree.

From the outside looking in, we look like lower middle class. Except in reality we make nearly 2X median household income in our fairly HCOL area.

Anyone who is connected to me professionally knows I'm making 6 figures. They must assume I have a lot of debt/expenses because I flash no cash :)

FIRE@50

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2019, 02:37:42 PM »
I'm fairly open about my plans to FIRE but I do that mostly to force myself to be disciplined. If I tell a bunch of people about it, I know any failure to reach my goal would be fairly public. I like that motivation.

I don't feel that I have a lot of wealth to be stealthy about right now but either way, I do try to encourage people around me to be more open about their finances. Especially the people close to me that I feel I could help with a little bit of advice. I don't want to force my thoughts on them, so I dip my toe in the water with some allusions to money with the hopes that they will ask questions. Sometimes it works and sometimes it can backfire.

My wife recently mentioned to her parents that she had gotten a modest check from one of her clients. Her mom immediately asked what we were going to spend it on and then told my wife to remember her poor mother in her old age. I'm still working on the best way to explain to her that we don't work hard and save our money to further enable her lifetime of terrible spending decisions. Conversations like that make me want to be much more stealthy about our retirement plans.

merula

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2019, 03:23:44 PM »
To sol's point, in the western world virtually EVERYONE practices some level of stealth wealth.

Most people are stealth poor, going into debt buying things that make them appear wealthier than they are.

Exactly what I thought. Mustachians do stealth wealth and people with consumer debt do fake wealth.

I would argue that this is still "stealth wealth" in that they are not coming out and talking about how much they have. We think of "wealth" in the positive, but I think it's just as valid as the entire concept of how much money you have. Wealth is not like "heat", where its absence is called something different. Wealth is like temperature. Everything has a temperature, whether that's high or low or negative*. Everyone has a level of wealth, whether it's high or low or negative.

/Pedantry

*I'm talking C and F here. K can mind its own business.

ender

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2019, 06:03:00 PM »
Is anyone on here the opposite and extremely open about their information?

I am extremely open with one friend and he obtained every number imaginable looking through my FI projections. Others, if they ask I have no problem sharing salary, savings rates, balances, etc. I'm kind of in the in between where I made bad choices in the past, have a good salary (high-5 figures), good trend on net worth compared to my friends. It's not like I have a ton in the bank that is embarrassingly high, but I'm also in a position where I'm proud of my last 2 years.

I really want to find a group of friends on a similar path. I have one group that spends like me, but thats due to salary and won't retire early. Another set of friends makes the same or more, but we don't align on how we spend the money.

It's very easy to share finances with people who are close to your financial picture.

Once you are further away that will become more and more difficult.

iris lily

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #22 on: February 28, 2019, 10:38:21 AM »
To sol's point, in the western world virtually EVERYONE practices some level of stealth wealth.

Most people are stealth poor, going into debt buying things that make them appear wealthier than they are.

Exactly what I thought. Mustachians do stealth wealth and people with consumer debt do fake wealth.

Linda, that is a great quote I really like it!

BookLoverL

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2019, 11:00:00 AM »
I only have 5 figure net worth right now, so not that much yet. But I tell a lot of my friends that I like to save money, but I'm more selective about who I share my actual figures and plans with. I think a lot of casual acquaintances probably think I'm broke, because my various work things add up to part time hours, I live with my parents, and I'm always saying things like "I can't do X because it's not in my budget". But I certainly have a lot more savings than the majority of my friends of a similar age group.

ixtap

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #24 on: February 28, 2019, 11:36:10 AM »
I see stealth wealth as lifestyle choices, independent of whether or not you talk about it. No one who looks at you would guess you are a millionaire, but you may have reason to talk with some people. Our friends and colleagues can probably tell we are millionaires because of our plans. Some of those people think $1m is a LOT of money. Some think it is cutting things mighty fine for a normal retirement, much less for quitting a high paying job in your 30s.

FindingFI

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #25 on: February 28, 2019, 01:37:05 PM »
I guess we fall under moderately-stealthy. I have no problem talking to immediate family about money and finances. We all have above average, but not crazy high pay and no one is looking for handouts so I'm fine with sharing retirement savings strategies, account balances, and budgeting ideas. I also have one friend, who knows just about everything because we have shared our tracking spreadsheets and compared notes as a way to learn from each other. She follows the MMM philosophy so its like talking to someone on the forum without the anonymity.

Outside that small group though, we try not to spend frivolously, but no one knows the details of our financial situation. They may be able to surmise that we spend less than we make based on lifestyle and assumed incomes for our careers, but that's it.

DadJokes

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #26 on: February 28, 2019, 02:13:23 PM »
I am fairly open about our frugality and intentions to retire early, though I don't think I'll share my actual net worth with anyone.

Fomerly known as something

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #27 on: February 28, 2019, 07:36:29 PM »
I work the US federal Government so basically know the salary of everyone I work with.  I'm semi-stealthy with them, I talk about how I Max out TSP and what the balance is, but I don't mention that I basically have the same amount between my IRA and taxable investments.  When the shut down was happening I complained as much as anyone else because it was a major Pain in my Ass.  But I was complaining more about having to cancel my monthly automatic transfer into Vanguard than thinking about how to pay the mortgage.

My Mom has a pretty good overall idea of my finances but the rest of the world.  If they don't know my salary they probably think I'm in debt up to my eyeballs or something living my normal looking to the outside middle class life.

dougules

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #28 on: March 01, 2019, 11:28:16 AM »
The problem with stealth wealth is that, at least from a mustachian standpoint, people don't get to see just how possible it is to live significantly below your means. If you're struggling and everyone around you is struggling, struggle becomes normalized. When people start speaking out about not struggling, suddenly things change. I'm pretty vocal about these issues on facebook, but when I first started talking about it, many people didn't believe me or thought I was arrogant. But other friends have reached out and said that the things I write are encouraging, and many have appreciated my thoughts on money.

I have a blog where I occasionally hint at my net worth, but I won't be talking about it beyond 100k, once I get there. I'm tempted to reveal my salary because even though it's decent, it isn't astronomical, and is well below 6 figures. I sometimes feel that if I revealed what I earned, more of my friends would realize how possible it is to do this FI thing. Sadly, I sometimes suspect people think I'm being boastful for clearly "being loaded" to afford such a high savings rate when they don't get it.

All to say, there's a delicate balance. I write on social media for the friends who are going to pick it up and make great changes in their lives. There will always be some who despise you for having any money, but I'm just focused on spreading the truth of what's possible. I am occasionally approached by friends raising money to volunteer over seas, but I'm pretty cautious and even sometimes offer to help in some way, even if it isn't monthly giving

So what you're saying is that we should come out of the FIRE closet?  Maybe FIRE pride?  There probably is actually something to that. 

Car Jack

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #29 on: March 01, 2019, 12:06:22 PM »
There's a lot of stealth wealth in my town and there's a lot of show off rent-a-wealth in my town.  So much so that it seems that if a family appears wealthy with a couple Mercedes, big house in an expensive neighborhood, they probably aren't.  Parents of one of my son's friends is a classic example.  The husband drives a Mercedes E class and the wife just got a Mercedes SUV of some kind.  They recently were talking while we were picking up the son and they can't afford braces for the kid and don't know what to do.  What?....I wonder, in my 10 year old Ford Fusion.....with $2.3M in liquid assets and dressed in my weekend clothes which are 3 steps below what you'd find at Goodwill. 

On the other end, I know a family who has a very modest home, a 5 year old explorer and an old barn behind the house.  You'd think....."meh, they're maybe middle or low middle class for the town".  I happen to know that inside the barn shell is a 2 level garage for the husband's collection of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and muscle cars along with an elevator to move cars to the second level. 

Probably the biggest break for myself has been a few of my cars.  I've been a car guy forever.  Either show or autocross or road racing.  Have owned an E30 M3 (2 track records with it), built a replica of a Shelby Cobra and owned a Lotus Elise.  The Lotus was the most fun because people have no idea what it is.  It's only worth $30k but the previous owner, who's a friend once came out of the supermarket and ended up in an argument with someone standing next to it insisting that it was a $275k car.  It does look much more expensive than it is.

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #30 on: March 01, 2019, 12:19:17 PM »
Our friends are mostly people with very average incomes - teachers, speech therapists, secretaries, etc. - so we fit right in. There's no reason to "hide" our wealth, because we live exactly like most of our friends do. Older cars, not much eating out, camping instead of cruises and overseas vacations, a nice but not ostentatious home. There's no reason for them to assume we're worth over a quarter million, because we look and act the same as they do. Hell, they could be stealthily wealthy, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit.

bluebelle

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #31 on: March 01, 2019, 03:59:14 PM »
Our friends are mostly people with very average incomes - teachers, speech therapists, secretaries, etc. - so we fit right in. There's no reason to "hide" our wealth, because we live exactly like most of our friends do. Older cars, not much eating out, camping instead of cruises and overseas vacations, a nice but not ostentatious home. There's no reason for them to assume we're worth over a quarter million, because we look and act the same as they do. Hell, they could be stealthily wealthy, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit.
I think this is me....I had to assure my mother we were 'okay' and that I drove an old car because i wanted to, not because I had to....and we've pretty much outed ourselves.....we've bought water front and we're having a 'retirement' house built.   People don't know what that costs (it costs more than I expected), but they have to know 'something' is up.....but we're not 'young', I'm 55, young by society's standards, old for this forum.

ender

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #32 on: March 02, 2019, 07:42:48 AM »
So what you're saying is that we should come out of the FIRE closet?  Maybe FIRE pride?  There probably is actually something to that.

Honestly, most people just want the end result without any work.

It's like losing weight. In-out=change. There are complicating factors to both weight/saving money but it ultimately boils down to that formula.

The problem is that reducing out is hard. Complicating factors exist there, too.

I think this is me....I had to assure my mother we were 'okay' and that I drove an old car because i wanted to, not because I had to....and we've pretty much outed ourselves.....we've bought water front and we're having a 'retirement' house built.   People don't know what that costs (it costs more than I expected), but they have to know 'something' is up.....but we're not 'young', I'm 55, young by society's standards, old for this forum.

My parents (and in-laws) stopped telling us we need to "live a little" when we bought our last car new. Granted, it was a heck of a deal (less than $17k for a brand new Ford Escape) but it is amazing how simply that purchase stopped questions about how we spend. And that is from folks who are very Boglehead-like.

aceyou

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #33 on: March 02, 2019, 07:55:19 AM »
No.  I'm a math teacher.  During the exponential unit, I've created a week-long project on financial planning.  We explore:

  • The growth rates of various asset classes...stocks, bonds, real estate, gold
  • The math behind the Trinity Study and the Shockingly Simple Math Chart for early retirement
  • How income/taxes are related to which job your take and which state you work in.
  • Then students research different careers paired with various savings rates and present to the class the career/savings rate/retirement date of their choice. 

During this project I am transparent about my household income and my savings rate, and about my retirement projections.  Money is taboo in this country, and I believe my students need to have SOMEONE willing to share a real-life example of what is possible. 

I get more students/parents emailing and thanking me for doing this project than any other thing I teach/do over the course of the year. 

Since teachers have publicly known salaries anyway, there's no real shocker for me to disclose this information.  The only shocker to my students is that we save 60% of it...suddenly they think my 4k paid for prius is a whole lot cooler in the staff parking lot:) 

sol

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #34 on: March 02, 2019, 08:13:36 AM »
Quote
No.  I'm a math teacher.

I don't think that "stealth wealth", as originally proposed, was meant for math teachers.  It was supposed to be an encouragement to live modestly and not flaunt your assets, as a way of protecting them.

Very rich people are vulnerable to predation.  Did someone slip and fall at a property you own?  Will you pay off that tabloid to not report your martial indiscretions?  Is your BIL really having a recurrence, or is it another scam to get you to cut another check?  If people know that you have money to burn, they want a piece of you.  Every friendship becomes suspect.  Every asset becomes a liability.

For such people, stealth wealth is just an easy first line of defense.  Your business associates will still try to take advantage of you, but maybe your family and friends won't.  It's a way to attempt to have some semblance of a normal life, with normal relationships, instead of having to be constantly quite so guarded.

Math teachers are probably safe from blackmail and silly lawsuits.  But for some people, stealth wealth is a prudent protection policy.  Flaunting your wealth is just asking to have it taken from you.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2019, 08:15:51 AM by sol »

freeat57

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #35 on: March 02, 2019, 08:35:12 AM »
I think it is enough to simply tell people that you are retired and do not plan to ever have a job again, while it is obvious that you are not "retirement age".  A picture is worth 1,000 words.

Fun story:  I enjoy foraging for wild fruit, berries and nuts in my urban area.  One Sunday afternoon, I was collecting wild pears to make jelly with from a tree growing in a buffer zone behind an office building.  A man came out to his car (poor slave working on a Sunday) and saw me.  He came over and from the conversation, he appeared to think I was homeless and hungry! 

phildonnia

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #36 on: March 02, 2019, 08:55:09 AM »
Not that I want to subvert this whole stealth wealth thing, but are there any fairly reliable "tells" that you can use to spot a millionaire at the Goodwill store?

iris lily

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #37 on: March 02, 2019, 09:31:18 AM »
Not that I want to subvert this whole stealth wealth thing, but are there any fairly reliable "tells" that you can use to spot a millionaire at the Goodwill store?
for one thing, they shop on half price day.

That is what my multi millionaire cousin did.

aceyou

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #38 on: March 02, 2019, 09:38:44 AM »
Quote
No.  I'm a math teacher.

I don't think that "stealth wealth", as originally proposed, was meant for math teachers.  It was supposed to be an encouragement to live modestly and not flaunt your assets, as a way of protecting them.

Very rich people are vulnerable to predation.  Did someone slip and fall at a property you own?  Will you pay off that tabloid to not report your martial indiscretions?  Is your BIL really having a recurrence, or is it another scam to get you to cut another check?  If people know that you have money to burn, they want a piece of you.  Every friendship becomes suspect.  Every asset becomes a liability.

For such people, stealth wealth is just an easy first line of defense.  Your business associates will still try to take advantage of you, but maybe your family and friends won't.  It's a way to attempt to have some semblance of a normal life, with normal relationships, instead of having to be constantly quite so guarded.

Math teachers are probably safe from blackmail and silly lawsuits.  But for some people, stealth wealth is a prudent protection policy.  Flaunting your wealth is just asking to have it taken from you.

Fair enough.  And you are correct, despite using my financial plan as a teaching opportunity, there are currently zero people trying to get a piece of our investment assets from working in public education:)  We are in a good sweet spot I guess.  Wealthy enough to pursue FIRE, but no bling to attract unwanted attention. 

sol

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #39 on: March 02, 2019, 11:45:04 AM »
Not that I want to subvert this whole stealth wealth thing, but are there any fairly reliable "tells" that you can use to spot a millionaire at the Goodwill store?

As maizeman has previously pointed out, there are some symbols of affluence in modern America.  They're not unique to goodwill, of course.

The first and most reliable, in my opinion, is good health and a trim figure well into their 60s.  Poor people are fat, for a variety of reasons.  You don't see fat billionaires very often.  When you give people unlimited time and resources to focus on the things that really make them happy, good health seems to rise to the top of the list.

Another, only revealed by conversation, is casual (but not bragging) mentions of their vacations abroad as if it's totally normal to spend Christmas in Prague, or go surfing in Santiago. 

Capt j-rod

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #40 on: March 02, 2019, 01:43:53 PM »
I think it's safe to say that I practice "stealth wealth"... I have rentals and my own business in a small community. I have no desire to own a fancy car or expensive clothes, but I could easily afford them if I did. It would not benefit me at all, it would actually hurt my income if I did buy a shiny new truck. From the outside looking in you'd never guess my situation or finances. That being said if my friends ask for help with finances or a purchase I am always willing. My close friends know that there is definitely something going on. My best friend and I share the same ideals and he too is well on his way to fire early. Am I stealth? I guess.

better late

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #41 on: March 02, 2019, 02:23:04 PM »
No.  I'm a math teacher.  During the exponential unit, I've created a week-long project on financial planning.  We explore:

  • The growth rates of various asset classes...stocks, bonds, real estate, gold
  • The math behind the Trinity Study and the Shockingly Simple Math Chart for early retirement
  • How income/taxes are related to which job your take and which state you work in.
  • Then students research different careers paired with various savings rates and present to the class the career/savings rate/retirement date of their choice. 

During this project I am transparent about my household income and my savings rate, and about my retirement projections.  Money is taboo in this country, and I believe my students need to have SOMEONE willing to share a real-life example of what is possible. 

I get more students/parents emailing and thanking me for doing this project than any other thing I teach/do over the course of the year. 

Since teachers have publicly known salaries anyway, there's no real shocker for me to disclose this information.  The only shocker to my students is that we save 60% of it...suddenly they think my 4k paid for prius is a whole lot cooler in the staff parking lot:)

I love this. Those students are very fortunate to have you as their teacher. The lives you’ve changed...

aceyou

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #42 on: March 02, 2019, 08:58:37 PM »
No.  I'm a math teacher.  During the exponential unit, I've created a week-long project on financial planning.  We explore:

  • The growth rates of various asset classes...stocks, bonds, real estate, gold
  • The math behind the Trinity Study and the Shockingly Simple Math Chart for early retirement
  • How income/taxes are related to which job your take and which state you work in.
  • Then students research different careers paired with various savings rates and present to the class the career/savings rate/retirement date of their choice. 

During this project I am transparent about my household income and my savings rate, and about my retirement projections.  Money is taboo in this country, and I believe my students need to have SOMEONE willing to share a real-life example of what is possible. 

I get more students/parents emailing and thanking me for doing this project than any other thing I teach/do over the course of the year. 

Since teachers have publicly known salaries anyway, there's no real shocker for me to disclose this information.  The only shocker to my students is that we save 60% of it...suddenly they think my 4k paid for prius is a whole lot cooler in the staff parking lot:)

I love this. Those students are very fortunate to have you as their teacher. The lives you’ve changed...

Thank you.  If I am treated as well in 12 years as I am being treated now, I may go a few years longer before FIREing.  I'm in a good spot in my career.

actonyourown

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #43 on: March 03, 2019, 10:40:59 AM »
I am not currently wealthy at this point, as I started my journey 21 months ago.  This has not prevented me from being very open to my closest friends and my family involving my plan to eventually retire early.  I am single, and circumstances change, however, I do not want anything to stop me from my pursuit. 

I try to give my friends and family encouragement as FIRE being a possibility for all of them, and I have even convinced my sister to save 30% of her income to max her 401k now at 24.  She has some medical issues, so this is even more wise than I expected from her.  Two of my siblings still live at home with full-time jobs, and I have encouraged them to take full advantage of living mostly rent free (they pay a little something to our parents) because I have never had that option and I started at lower incomes than they did.

To friends I'm not so close with, or my manager/friends at work, I have never mentioned retiring early but have stated I have financial goals of being debt free and saving (and investing) $1,000/month.  These are things that can show my direction, but is not really clear as to my wealth.  I do keep a spreadsheet to track my NW on a month to month basis, so I know it to the penny.

Eventually, when I am on strong financial ground, I might be more encouraging.  I like to discuss taboo topics like money with people.  This makes them feel uncomfortable, but I do it to show that there is no shame in discussing money.  You only feel shame because you are comparing yourself to someone else who has entirely different set of circumstances and attitudes.  Some of these can be changed quite easily, some is just optimization that can be fixed, but money should never be used as a yardstick to show one's self-worth.

So that being said, I personally have no problem telling anyone what my NW is but nobody really asks since no one around me is doing what I am doing.

thesis

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #44 on: March 04, 2019, 11:58:31 AM »
So what you're saying is that we should come out of the FIRE closet?  Maybe FIRE pride?  There probably is actually something to that.

I don't think I'd take it that far :). But I do think a lot of people would benefit from a culture that talks more about money, and we can affect that amoung our friends and associates. In some ways I have found that it is, instinctively, as controversial or more controversial than politics and religion, but being open gets people to think. Showing some of your numbers gets people to imagine the possible, or maybe even realize how their own habits have been holding them back.

Although, I do agree with the other comments that 'stealth wealth', in general, is a viable asset protection strategy. Many of us pursuing FI are life-hacking our way to $1m, but there are those who really do make tons of money just as a part of the rarity and (usually) skill of their job duties. Those who live the common lifestyle of the wealthy can be and sometimes are targeted. I just think it's ok to speak out about money, though even I'll be keeping my net worth hidden beyond that $100k, for precisely this reason (and also not to be obnoxious to my friends)

Linea_Norway

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #45 on: March 05, 2019, 01:08:10 AM »
Although, I do agree with the other comments that 'stealth wealth', in general, is a viable asset protection strategy. Many of us pursuing FI are life-hacking our way to $1m, but there are those who really do make tons of money just as a part of the rarity and (usually) skill of their job duties. Those who live the common lifestyle of the wealthy can be and sometimes are targeted. I just think it's ok to speak out about money, though even I'll be keeping my net worth hidden beyond that $100k, for precisely this reason (and also not to be obnoxious to my friends)

Indeed, I don't want to appear rich. Here in Norway we recently has a abduction of a very rich person and she has not been found back after 4 months. You don't want to become a target for criminals.

In Norway there is also an other aspect and that is that income and tax are public information that you can retrieve. That is to check that the mega rich pay enough taxes. In the past, everyone could check each others information anonymously. That is luckily no longer the case, as it is no longer anonymous. But it means that newspapers sometimes publish statistics of the 10 richest people in a certain city, or from famous people. By seeing such a top 10 list, we found at that a friend of us is registered with 4,5 million $ in his name (inherited from his dad). Luckily for us, our FIRE stash is much lower than the number that our friend has (especially spread over two people), so we shouldn't stick out that much. But if we would live in a small town, we might still be in the top 10 statistics. Let's hope they don't publish them for every community in the country. Or that we move somewhere with richer people than we are.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2019, 01:33:36 AM by Linda_Norway »

jojoguy

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #46 on: March 05, 2019, 04:20:13 AM »
My parents live with us and I don`t tell them anything.

HipGnosis

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #47 on: March 05, 2019, 10:23:24 AM »
I heard on NPR this past weekend that most people that are millionairs live inconspiculously frugal and that most people that appear to live like millionairs are deep in debt.
I've got roughly $500K in assets and live on about $20K/yr.
So, yeah, I believe.

Kookaburra Risotto

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #48 on: March 07, 2019, 12:48:39 PM »
Definitely stealthy here. We have family members who think £4k is A LOT of money and that £10k is unimaginable. They would definitely be looking for a handout if they knew how much we have, and we don't even have a particularly high net worth yet, having come to this fairly late. It's a shame, as these individuals could be in a much better position than we are by now, they all earnt decent salaries from age 18, no university debt, live in a LCOL area but they spend money like they can't bear to be around it.

sol

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Re: stealth wealth?
« Reply #49 on: March 10, 2019, 10:03:51 AM »
This BI article is about "The Rise of Discreet Wealth" and mostly focuses on how the country's wealthiest individuals have changed their spending patterns in the past decade to reflect "experiential" purchases instead of material ones.  It touches on many of the same points we have discussed in this thread, including the desire to spend their money on low-key status symbols instead of big opulent ones.  They're all about building social capital.

For example, the top 5 categories of new "discreet wealth" spending are described as
1.  Education, for themselves and their children.  Includes things like private tutors and SAT prep courses, but also living in the best school districts.
2.  Health and Wellness.  Includes gym membeships, organic food, spa vacations, etc.
3.  Travel, including sabbatical trips to de-stress from their horrible jobs.
4.  Secrurity and Privacy, including houses that aren't visible from google street view and digital protections
5.  Exclusivity and Customization, which are apparently just generic terms for overpriced luxury versions of normal things.

The relevant summary quote, I think is “Eschewing an overt materialism, the rich are investing significantly more in education, retirement, and health – all of which are immaterial, yet cost many times more than any handbag a middle-income consumer might buy.”  That part, at least, rings true for me.  There is nothing I could possibly buy that I value as much as my retirement.  Having all of your time back to live your own life is priceless.  Like a plantation slave buying his own freedom, it's literally worth everything else you own.

I mentioned this list to my partner this morning over coffee, because I thought it funny that my own family has achieved so much of that list with modest spending.  We live in the best school district around, we both have graduate degrees, our neighborhood isn't on google street view, etc.  It seemed somehow backwards to me that "the rich" are supposedly spending so much money on stuff that we already have without being rich.  She reminded me that we are, by most accounts, rich.  So this article could be read as about us instead of, as it was intended, about other people who are rich.