Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Class of One's Own

Morrison has an interesting post regarding the appearance of wealth on her blog "All Doors Considered."

I admire her skill at maintaining her family's appearance of having money while living on a limited income. I also agree that often that appearance can be enhanced due more to careful shopping and a high degree of cleanliness than an actual expenditure of dollars. As Morrison herself put it, she has done a remarkable job of marketing her family.

I guess my question comes down to "market to whom?" and ultimately, "Why?"

I am reminded that most of the millionaires interviewed for Thomas Stanley and William Danko's book, "The Millionaire Next Door" didn't worry nearly so much about the appearance they projected. They wore clothes off the rack and drove mid-range vehicles.

I think it comes down to the 'why'--if one is a fashionista, then buying a pair of expensive Italian shoes on sale in Milan and taking good care of them for years makes sense. It goes to one's confidence, and the image one wants to project.

But if the only point is to impress in-laws that one rarely sees? I don't quite get that.

Then again, I'm the last person to talk about style. Let's just say that when the fashion genes were handed out, my sister got my share. (In fact, if you see me wearing anything the least bit fashionable, it's a good bet it was a gift from my sister.)

Still, I enjoy many activities that appear to be aimed at the wealthy--I go to the local Art Museum; I attend the symphony and the opera; I love the various lecture series offered throughout my city. It's just that I never buy season tickets. Instead I'm dependent on friends (Always make friends with doctors' spouses--they have season tickets to everything and their spouses are often unavailable to go.) and Groupon and waiting in lines for last minute empty seats. Once I'm sitting in the audience, no one really knows how (cheaply!) I got there.

Morrison's final observation is that "It is better to look good than to feel good."

I can't relate to that one either. I'm much more attracted to the idea of feeling good, whether it's about clothes, money, or lifestyle.


Anonymous said...

I like being middle class.

Even if I'm upper income (e.g. make more than median income in the US) and hoping to someday be high wealth... I like middle class values.

It sounds difficult to try to be one of the upper class... I'd rather have the money to spend on what I care about and just stay right here all solid and boring. We look fine... we could look better, but we sure feel good, and we sure are happy.

Much more fun to read about catty folks who snipe at each other (or watch them on Real Housewives, if we had a tv) than to actually spend any time in their circles.

Grace. said...

Boring? Excuuuuse me????

Lacking class? Sure. Lacking Money? Got that right.

But please do NOT call the middle class BORING! We can be just as catty and 'fun' as the upper classes. Well, at least speaking for myself. . .

Anonymous said...

I dunno, I just don't think my life would make a particularly interesting reality show! The Real Middle Class Dual Income Family With One Pretty Well-Behaved Preschooler just doesn't scream out for Neilsen ratings. My life is interesting to me, but I imagine not so much to an outside viewer. And I'm fine with that. I'd rather not experience "interesting times" (like in the Chinese curse) of my own.

Anonymous said...

Grace, I do 'it' because I like it. It's fun, creative and it makes me feel good and smug. I don't do it to impress anyone. I do it because it affirms to me I don't have to work 90 hour weeks and give up my life in order to live wealthy. If I'm creative and smart and educated about trends and styles and customs, I can achieve the same goal as others more fortunate than me without the effort.

That's what I like. No effort. Call me 'the lazy millionaire next door'. As you said, no one knows the difference. No one knows how you got to see the latest opera or theater hit. The fact that you are there in the audience, seeing the show is all that matters.
Hint: Did you know you can see any opera at NYC Metropolitan Opera House or Lincoln Center for only $15? It's called The Family Circle' and yes, it's up there in the stratosphere BUT you still see the same opera as everyone else. Bring binoculars.

Oh, and the line 'It is better to look good than to feel good' is a quote from SNL's Billy Crystal...."You look marvelous" comedy routine. V. funny.

Anonymous said...

PSS: The greatest comedy sit-com on TV of all time was 'All In THe Family', a strictly middle class (at that time) family. Not boring at all.

Grace. said...

Sorry Morrison--I didn't recognize the SNL quote, and I'm nothing if not literal!

But you are right about the creativity and fun involved in outdoing some of the rich folks for a fraction of the price! It sounds like you are quite the expert at that, hence you have my permission to be smug!

Nicky at Not My Mother said...

I applaud her approach to buying on sale, DIY and keeping things clean and neat, but I cannot understand her comment that she won't wear her italian shoes because they can't be replaced. What's the point of having something beautiful that you can only look at? it's not like she's even showing them off in public. She may as well just take a photo of them and then sell them on ebay.

I don't know. I also find being thrifty fun, but I don't feel "smug" about it. I just like playing with numbers :-) And her comment here that she doesn't do it to impress anyone, doesn't ring true with what she put in her post about the "status (she) craved" or her "illusion of wealth and success".

Seems to me if she really didn't do it to impress anyone she wouldn't care about that illusion. Not that it matters, I understand her underlying point about doing it all thriftily and within her means (even if I can't relate to her details).

Anonymous said...

Hey I like being middle class!!!!


Terry said...

Grace I so agree with you, I saw that post too and though What? who cares about this. I am fairly upper income and dress nicely but definitely not too impress. I don't see what class and dressing well have to do with being classy. I also agree with Nicky that "Seems to me if she really didn't do it to impress anyone she wouldn't care about that illusion", however, some people do need to dress to impress, although for me the standard remains being well groomed, clean and professional. Bruno Magli or JC Penney's doesn't matter in the grand realm of things.

Anonymous said...

I also see a conflict in messages in the post and the comment. I'm very familiar with Bruno Magli shoes and the reason they are so expensive is because they are high quality and meant to be worn constantly and comfortably. To bring them out for special occassions only defeats their inherent purpose and really only satisfies one-- a specific image.

There is NOTHING wrong with wanting to impress people. As a matter of fact, it's mandatory. You are putting an impression on people every minute of every day. The type of impression you make is your creation. So, everyone that puts effort of some type into some sort of image (professional, feminine, wealthy, down-to-earth) is working on image and appearance. I hate the argument that people in the millionaires book generally don't care about what people think of them or their appearance. That itself is creating an impression and it IS caring about what people think. It's self-defense. If you put out the image "I don't care what anybody says/thinks about me" you're putting up an excellent wall against unsolicited critique, opinion, etc. You are requesting people to not judge you based on certain pre-determined generally accepted criteria set forth by society.
We choose the types of things we put effort and thought into. By the way, that's another contradiction. I don't know how on earth you'd consider yourself lazy when you just wrote about all of the hard work you put into your boat and home. Again, there is a major discrepancy with what constitutes wealth and the appearance of wealth. Working 90 hours a week does not automatically equate wealth as I'm sure many of the working poor can attest to. Income DOES NOT equal wealth. You're living proof of that and I would argue (based on the value of your home at least and the fact you have no debt, I'm guessing your net worth is high) you are not faking wealth at all, you ARE wealth embodied and that's that.
By the way, regarding your gorgeous shoes. Art is meant to be shown off. Take those damn shoes out of their box, put them on a shelf, and shine a pin light down on them. I completely know what you mean by shoes as works of art but for the love of god don't hide those beauties away!!!

Barb said...

I love getting expensive things for nothing-its now I manage to look good on a fixed income now. But I do these things because I like them, not because I care about impressing others (obviously theres the first impression stuff, but thats different). In other words, I get coach purses for a few bucks at yard sales because I like the purses, not because I want people to see me carrying a "coach". The same way with concerts and events. Im happy to go through groupon or on matinee days-the point is to enjoy the event. And as I said to morrison on her blog, if I had gotten my husband italian loafers, damn straight he would have worn them every chance he got, not just hide them for "church" days

Maureen said...

I am having a no new clothes year, and I am having the most fun buying second hand or wearing hand me downs from my sister.
The fun part is receiving compliments from fashionistas who have no idea how little you have spent.
With me it,s not a class thing at all, i,s all about saving money towards my retirement.

Living Almost Large said...

Heck no I wouldn't hide anything. I am not into super expensive clothes or fashions. But if I buy something expensive it's to be used until it's broke. I bought it for a purpose like BARB! To me things aren't meant to be admired through a glass case and shown off for others.

The money spent is to make my life more comfortable and enjoyable period now and in the future.

MasterPo said...

Morrison - MasterPo gets a much biggetr kick ("smug" feeling) by knowing that even on a bad day MasterPo can buy & sell any two of the people around him! ;-)

But MasterPo enjoys not flaunting it. Besides privacy and security issues, people treat you very differently when they think you have $$$ even if you really don't. You'll learn a lot more info from people who think you are just as "poor" as them compared to if they think you are "rich".

Anonymous said...

Now she's a millionaire apparently?? A few months ago she wrote that her net worth was now under $600k!! A lorry load of salt I think.