Pretend to Be Wealthy, Not Rich

Self-promotion is all about choosing what to emphasize, not outright deceit — usually

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Some guy pretending to be rich and pretending to be Leo DiCaprio — created in Midjourney

Twenty years ago, I wrote an article titled “How to Pretend to Be Rich”. I suppose I was the ideal person to write it since I had declared bankruptcy only a few years prior, but it still strikes me that I was always pretending and then it actually happened. I can’t say it feels like a proper strategy, but it worked for me, so it might work for you.

Here’s the original article, along with my current view.

At least half the fun of having money is having other people know you have money. The other half is spending the money, of course, but it turns out you can have a lot of fun without actually being rich.

Fun is based on your choice of friends, not how close you sit to the DJ.

Before we get started, you may be wondering why you’d want people to think you have money if you actually don’t. It’s simple — people want to be around other people who are ‘winners’. And that means people with fame, looks, or…money. It’s hard to fake fame or looks. In fact, if you figure out how, please let me know.

So the perception of being one with many dollars helps develop popularity. You may think that that is a shallow sort of popularity, to which I answer, “Grow up! All popularity is shallow.”

Here are my eight tips for getting a better life by pretending to be rich.

1. State that you have money

This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many people who don’t have money go ahead and say they don’t have money. Stupid. Tell people you have investments that aren’t liquid — land in a foreign country is always a good option.

Ouch. Land in a foreign country is almost always a bad investment.

2. Complain about taxes

Complain about taxes, but don’t complain about paying taxes. There’s a fine line here. You should talk in vague terms about how taxes are too high and the government is reckless, and for virtue signalling, say the rich should pay more of their fair share. But you should never say, “My tax bill last year was huge!” The rich don’t pay taxes, and everyone knows it.

Surprisingly, I agree, the rich should pay more taxes. The other rich, I mean.

3. Dress nicely

Have a few nice things, and dress carefully. Shoes are particularly important. A nice, full-length winter coat exudes class and money. Don’t wear an ascot; that’s going overboard. But do wear a nice scarf. Wear sweaters. Don’t leave your shirt untucked—wealthy people aren’t trying to look cool.

Wealthy people don’t give a damn how they look, other than being thin because they have personal trainers.

4. Know things

Know esoteric factoids that one would assume only rich people know. Like that Jaguar makes horribly low quality vehicles. Or that Singapore Airlines is one of the few profitable airlines in the world. Feel free to make stuff up too. Did you know that rubbing US currency on your child’s face makes acne go away? Only with $100 bills though.

It’s because of the cocaine residue on US Benjamins. Seriously. No! It’s made-up!

5. Have a nice car

If you can afford either a nice car or a nice house, choose the car. Your close friends won’t be fooled by appearances anyway, and they’re the only ones you should be inviting over. For everyone else, they’re going to see your car. If you live in an urban centre and can’t afford insurance and parking, a good option is to complain about how people who own cars are destroying the environment.

Rich people drive Teslas. There goes that idea.

6. Throw a party

Throw one big party a year, and go all out to dress up your house/apartment for that event. The rest of the time you can live in a dump, but people will remember the party, especially since you won’t be inviting them over except for that once-a-year soiree.

Parties are important. That one big party gets you invited to all the other parties. Do it. Invite me.

7. Don’t eat out

Wealthy people eat out a lot and spend a lot when they do. So when people suggest meeting up for lunch or dinner, or the infamous “drinks”, decline as often as possible on the grounds that you are too busy (wealthy people are quite busy). When inescapable, go to dinner but make it clear you don’t drink, and you don’t abide people who do. Rich people are opinionated and eccentric. And wine is really, really expensive.

Wealthy people let other people pay the bill.

8. Read the right magazines

Read the magazines that rich people read. Robb Report and Forbes are probably the most well known — leave copies lying around during your annual party. Don’t mention you read something in People or even Time, as they are more common or commonly pretentious.

Have fun practising pretending to be rich. You’re not hurting anybody, and when done correctly, you can make actual rich people feel inferior. Well done.

Fast forward 20 years.

Looking back now, I realize that there’s a vital distinction between having wealth and being rich. Being rich means impressing people with an extravagant lifestyle. Having wealth means you don’t need to impress anyone, least of all with an extravagant lifestyle.

So it turns out there is one aspect of having wealth that is worth emulating, and you don’t need money to pull it off. The coolest people at any age and at any socio-economic level are the ones who care the least what other people think.

Do what makes you happy and what you can afford. Have solid friendships. Optimize for sleeping well at night, not for financial gain. Wear a nice watch if you like watches. Drive a nice car if you like cars.

Don’t do these things to impress other people. Be true to yourself.

I started the original article by saying pretending to be rich is a good way to be popular, to have people like you. I said pretending to be rich would make you more attractive.

But the most attractive quality in people? The quality that wealthy people have?

They don’t give a damn what you think.

  1. How to get rich the way I got rich

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