Think back to a time 100 years ago in this country, or any country. Now picture a well-dressed man or woman walking down the street, his clothes neatly pressed and a little nicer than the norm. Out of his pocket dangles a shiny pocket watch. On top of his head sits the hat of a gentlemen or lady or whatever term they used to denote status symbols back then, and in his clutch a walking stick with a brass top, not for walking, but more for effect. Sounding old-timey enough yet? Now stop, and picture the exact same man in the present. Also dressed in current modern-equivalent flashy clothes, perhaps with a large faced wrist watch, a modern smart phone, a high end woven shirt, and stepping into a new Mercedes.
I know, I know. Not the best picture for a status symbol.
It may seem like these are just two people playing out their respective fashions in their era-equivalent settings and perhaps peacocking a bit, as men and women of a certain age are known to do. There are however some small but important differences in the causation and manifestation of the style of each that makes all the difference.
The man from 100 years ago could only have possessed the items that made him stand out through a few means: family money, personal success, connections, … maybe theft. Outside of that, there weren’t a lot of options for buying things if you didn’t legitimately have the money. The modern version of the same man can have everything he flaunts with merely a job at Walmart-Cars, clothes, phones, watches, can all be bought on credit, meaning you don’t need money to attain them. You simply need to go into debt. You will also need to keep working to repay this surging debt that is slowly burying you. By the time you figure this out, a new generation will have been marketed to replace you in the debt funnel. His status symbols are not the indicators they once would have been and here’s why….
1) Status symbols no longer represents financial success.
7 year car loans, 30 year mortgages, 10 year student loan repayments, rolex financing, home improvement loans, cruises, lodging, vacations, and general purpose credit cards can all be had within a few years of reaching legal adulthood. Every 20 year old can display an illusion of financial achievement that would make George Vanderbuilt (He was a super rich dude) a little jealous (He never had a smart phone).
2) Status symbols are no longer the same indicator of emotional maturity.
I think it was Harrison Ford who said something like ‘Success is meeting the right people and not pissing them off’. This takes emotional intelligence-an ability to understand your own emotions, see them in other people, know what they’re feeling, lead, and interact with people in a way that doesn’t limit you due to rough edges in your professional and personal interactions. This ultimately increases your chances of success in life and it all started with building your emotional EQ. A person doesn’t need to adhere to this model if they are simply going to borrow money to get what they want. The rough edges can remain and the repercussions may not catch up for much longer.
3) Status symbols increase the likelihood that the possessor is trendy, doesn’t think independently, plan ahead, or understand value.
This is likely an indicator that they have not witnessed enough business cycles to demonstrate an understanding or mastery of whatever their chosen subject may be.
Do you know which demographic is the most susceptible to marketing? It’s whichever one doesn’t realize they’re being sold something. On some level this has to be an indicator of a persons perception abilities. Those that maybe don’t realize they’re being trendy are most likely to jump on the current trend along with the next one to come, fore-fitting their long term financial prosperity in order to not be an outcast to materialistic modeling.
Since only 6 percent of individual earners (According to the 2013 census) earn more than 6 figures(It was closer to 20% for married couples), it’s simple math that everyone living the 100k lifestyle is not as financially robust as they are presenting themselves and there’s only a couple of ways that could be possible-No debt, or tons of debt.
Doing and achieving are often separated from looking successful. Take action and accomplish whatever it is you have your mind focused on and forget about looking successful. Being successful in your contentment is both, infinitely more authentic and rewarding. Ironically, in a world of debt slaves, it also gives you a huge leg up at actually gaining two of the hardest things to buy-financial security and peace of mind. Financial security, because you truly own the things possess, and peace of mind because you don’t need to make financial decisions out of fear anymore.