The Trappings of Wealth

I’ve spent over a week in Scottsdale, Arizona on vacation. I would have been happy to stay anywhere around Phoenix, since I have friends and family in the area. We were offered the use of an apartment, so we stayed in Scottsdale. I noticed a very different perspective from what I’m used to.

The trappings of wealth are everywhere. The apartment was beautifully furnished, but definitely not child-proof. In fact, my children seemed to be the object of curiosity. There are not many children in the shopping district, and I wonder if it’s because people have chosen to have fancy cars and high-power careers instead of children. People are either complimentary of our children, or they remember when they had children. It’s like their focus is on something else now.

There are fancy cars everywhere. The parking lot is full of Lexus, Range Rovers, Mercedes, BMWs, Nissan Zs (at least five) and full size Hondas and Toyotas. These are people who rent their housing. It makes me wonder if they rent (lease) their cars, too.

If that’s the case, are they really wealthy? They have beautiful apartments in a gated community, drive impressive cars, wear lovely clothes and eat in all the right restaurants. And that lifestyle costs a lot of money. What happens if someone loses their job? They immediately lose their ability to maintain their lifestyle. All of the trappings of wealth will disappear.

Real wealth, on the other hand, is related to financial freedom in my mind. I’m not suggesting that you need to own your housing or your car. For example, you could own a business that produces regular dividends which support your lifestyle. Whether or not your work, your lifestyle is sustainable.

To me, the most important things in life aren’t things. I have found that having stuff doesn’t really make me happy. But that’s not a reason to never enjoy some of the finer things in life. The most important point is to ensure that you have established your wealth before reaching for the finer things. Otherwise, you will put your wealth in jeopardy, at the mercy of your ability to earn income. That would also preclude the ability to retire, without reducing your quality of life.