Spend five minutes in any upscale restaurant or lounge in the downtown core, and you may notice these guys too. You know the type: dressed to the nines in designer labels and expensive watches, surrounded by their entourage of slick friends and hot young women. They sit at their reserved VIP table, flaunting bottle-service vodka that’s been marked up by 75 per cent, enjoying the best nightlife the city has to offer. One look at these guys and you think to yourself, “Wow… he must have it made.”
Until you realize they’re complete frauds, that is.
The issue of the “$30k millionaires,” as they’ve been accurately labeled, is not a phenomenon exclusive to Vancouver. Spend time in the core of any major city and you’ll run into guys spending like they’re rolling in cash just so people think they’re rolling in cash. I even noticed a few of my girlfriends dating some, pairing off with guys who were bringing in $30k a year if lucky, but charging lavish nights out on three or four credit cards. Unfortunately, that’s typical behaviour for these guys. Sure, some may have a house with five per cent down payment, but more often than not it’s most likely rented.
This is assuming, of course, that these “established male professionals” are living independently to begin with, because behind those pricey sports cars and weekend party binges, these grown men are often still living on mommy and daddy’s dime. Or, if they’re real winners, they’re still living with mommy and daddy.
So why do men in our society feel like they have to live well above their means to create an illusion of wealth? Well, it probably has a bit to do with some pesky old-time attitudes that we just can’t shake. A man’s worth in our culture is largely defined by his position in the work world, and whether many like to acknowledge it or not, money, style and status still mean a lot. Instead of putting in the years of hard work and discipline to develop a truly successful career, though, many young men are trying for the “easy” route. Why strive for self-attained wealth when you can simply trick people into believing that you already have it, right?
Wrong. What these guys are doing might seem like the easy way out at first, but they’re creating nothing but a world of trouble for themselves in the future. They have no savings, multiple lines of debt and spend so frivolously that it would take a single missed paycheque for their entire financial structure to crumble. If these men simply took five minutes to assess their long-term financial futures, they would realize just how dangerous their living-in-the-moment approach to spending is. Money wasted on the illusion of wealth can be used in smart investments and personal development so as to build actual long-term wealth. In the end, it’s a sensible, modest lifestyle that could actually contribute to making these guys into the successful individuals they’re pretending to be.
Take my grandparents, for instance. My grandfather was a labourer for most of his life and slowly worked his way up. Both he and my grandmother saved and invested as the years went by, living in modest homes, setting aside what they could and, with that money, making sound investments. By the time they retired, they were millionaires. Due to years of fiscal responsibility and living within their means, my grandparents were able to travel the world and live a comfortable, secure existence for the remainder of their lives.
In the end, the saddest thing about these young men isn’t so much that they’re pretending to be rich, but that they’re so completely oblivious to how pathetic it makes them look once their cover is blown. And it will be blown, because they can’t keep up the facade forever. There’s nothing cool about living off of debt and borrowed money because your condo and luxury car are literally costing you every penny you have. That’s just plain stupid. It’s understandable for people to want money, recognition and status; they’ve been deemed the pinnacles of success in our culture for ages, and we grow up hardwired to believe in their value. But there’s a massive difference between wanting a certain lifestyle and ruining yourself simply to pretend you have it. The $30k millionaires are living proof that image is not everything; their attempts at being what they’re not ultimately come off as transparent, juvenile and self-destructive.
For those of us in tight financial situations (and believe me, there are a lot of us), we need to remember the importance of defining one’s own idea of success, not following a prescribed one. It’s fine to splurge now and then on something expensive, but to have it affect every other area of your life is madness! Why spend crazy amounts on designer fashion and luxury cars if it means you can’t afford groceries? Why scrape by living in a flashy downtown apartment when you can live much more comfortably in one farther away? If the people in your life who truly matter judge you for any of that, then I suggest you start finding some better friends. The world is rapidly changing, and if we as a generation don’t change our attitudes towards success and personal worth, we could all end up like the $30k millionaires: surrounded by junk, buried in debt, and living a lie.