Webster’s defines cynical as “inclined to question the sincerity and goodness of people’s motives and actions.” I received an e-mail in which Will writes:
. . . having a hard time not being cynical about people based on where they live or what types of car they drive. We go to a church that is considered ‘rich’. . . a lot of people drive the nicer vehicles, Escalades, BMWs, etc. . . . we jump to the assumption that they are hyperspenders not wealth accumulators. [Our children] go to the church’s school . . . hard to tell them that they don’t need all the status items, North Face, Abercrombie, expensive shoes, etc. that the other children have. . . . my wife looks at these people and wonders where they get all their money to purchase expensive items. How do you not become cynical?
In Stop Acting Rich, I reveal what balance sheet affluent parents tell their children who want the expensive consumer products their peers have. First, never judge the true quality of a person by what can be purchased. Second, often people who dress and drive as if they are rich are not.
In America, 86% of all prestige makes of cars are driven by nonmillionaires. There is, however, a correlation between wealth and the price that people pay when purchasing their cars. But it is not substantial. Look at it another way. I recently examined the correlations between the price paid for motor vehicles and the net worth and income characteristics of the drivers. The respondents (1,340) had annual household incomes ranging from $80,000 to the mid 7-figures. Net worth ran from $100,000 well into 8-figures. What percent of the variation in price paid for a motor vehicle is explained by net worth? 10.5%. Income does a little better: 17.2%. This means that more than 80% of the variation in purchase price is unaccounted for by either wealth or income. In other words, you wouldn’t want to bet the farm that the fellow sitting next to you in church who drives an expensive car is a millionaire. And the proportion of explained variance is considerably less among those who lease their vehicles.
Perhaps it is best said in the Old Testament: . . . man looks at the outward appearance, But the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
High satisfaction in life abounds among those who focus on what is inside a person and not on what they drive, wear or where they live.